Welcome back to your daily dose of guitar information, the Trogly’s Guitar Show! Today, I felt it necessary to dive into another commonly asked viewer question – What is this?!?!
Why are there so many different listings for the same guitar offered at varying price points by multiple sellers and are always located in Japan when shopping on eBay? Let me answer this for you.
First off there are TONS of scams on eBay but this is not one of them. I repeat, this is not a scam. You have no reason to fear these listings or make posts complaining about them. If you do in fact order one of these instruments, one of two things will happen. The guitar will arrive in a few weeks time OR more often than not you’ll get a message saying the item is sold out as well as an offer for a full refund or a replacement item. Here’s why…
If you look further into these shops, you’ll notice the same thing about all of them. THOUSANDS of listings with varying backgrounds usually with very vague descriptions. I don’t care if you’re Norms Rare Guitars, you don’t have 7,000 different guitars listed for sale online. You might have them stored away in warehouses, but they are not offered online by an artsy photographer setting up new photoshoots for each of them. These shops do not own a SINGLE guitar. They have no inventory at all. Most times they are young entrepreneurs with a dream. They dedicate all their time to making these listings.
Now, I know what you’re thinking… “Wait! I thought you said we’d get the guitar if we ordered and we have nothing to fear? I’m scared.” Here is what is going on…
When you choose to buy something from a shop like eastislandcrew or guitar_trading_jp, you are most likely unknowingly purchasing from a guitar broker. A broker is someone who buys and sells goods for others. How much they upcharge is up to them, hence why you get different price points. Here in the USA, most people associate the term with a stock broker. There are times when people hire me as a broker to help them find rare guitars.
Once you have completed payment for the item, the broker will then take your money, contact the shop and purchase the instrument. From there, the instrument is then posted off to you. Since they have advertised thousands of items they can’t possibility check each one’s available everyday so this is why, more often than not you’ll get that “sorry – out of stock” message.
Now that you know how this works, you might feel ripped off and that this is kind of a dirty business scheme – or you want to do it yourself to make some easy money. Ethics vary culture to culture so while this might be acceptable to do in one country it might not be in others. For example, if you try doing this in the USA, people throw a fit and shut you down so fast which is why these types of listings on Reverb. I’m not even entirely sure if its acceptable in Japan, but it happens. What most people have a moral dilemma within this situation is they never disclose to you they are just brokering the deal which makes them feel lied to. Many times, if you visit one of these listings – copy the image, head on over to Yahoo! Japan and search it, you can find the shop that is actually selling the merchandise at a much better price. If the brokers disclosed what they were doing, I wouldn’t have had to make this video – but would they be out of business?
Before you go sending nasty hate messages to these people (which I don’t condone) I actually LOVE that these brokers exist and for a few good reasons.
Availability of Rare Guitars
First off , they help aid you in the search for rare guitars. When you are a collector, sometimes certain limited editions are hard to find. While you might have searches set up on eBay and Reverb for them, I bet most of you aren’t scouring through Yahoo Japan translating posts to add to your family. These brokers do that job for you when they essentially copy a shop’s listing and post it to eBay – (the reason why the backgrounds are always different.) These brokers were very helpful when I was looking for the Goddess series of Les Pauls and SGs because I would’ve never stumbled upon the shop that was actually sell them.
Help you Get Guitars!
Next, they can actually help you get guitars! Even if you are a sneaky snake that’s sniffed out the guitar you so sensibly need to satiate your silly self , some shops just don’t ship outside of their country. You’d be out of luck. On top of that, you, most likely do not speak the native language of the seller and while Google Translate can get you so far, it’s not really helpful when asking questions and receiving answers about the detailed condition of a guitar. A break or repair might get mistranslated into a ‘scratch’ for example. These broker’s can speak to the shop on your behalf and get you the info you need – most times.
Returns and Guarantees
That leads us into the final point. Returns and Guarantees. eBay, though not perfect, does protect you and so does PayPal. When I’ve tried buying from some shops direct over in Japan, they wouldn’t accept Paypal – only bank wire transfer from international customers. Why is that? This protects the shop from chargeback claims. If you never get the item or it arrives damaged or it’s seized by customs, good luck – you have no recourse now. That doesn’t necessarily mean the shop is “bad” it just means when you agree to buying it as-is – you’re agreeing to buy is AS-IS as delivered (or not.)
By utilizing a broker on eBay, you’re guaranteed to be able to use Paypal and with that some protections (though usually limited with overseas purchases.) However, what happens if you get a guitar that is not as described or you’re allergic to it? In my experience of buying guitars from Japan, they almost all have a smoky scent to them. Not necessarily “bad” but its present. Maybe the guitar just isn’t a good fit for you after all. Whatever the reason, if you bought direct from the shop – good luck returning it. International returns are a pain, especially with customs and import fees. Though as a USA buyer re-importing USA made Gibsons, you shouldn’t ever have to pay an import fee, (though UPS may charge you a brokerage fee which is why you should alway go EMS or the USPS equivalent) – but if not returned clearly marked as a RETURN, the shop may have to pay up to 30% of the items value in duty and taxes in order to take the guitar back which they then deduct from your refund or decline the package. When it’s a $5000 guitar – that’s $1500!
I ran into this problem with a 1984 Gibson Les Paul Super Custom. It is a rare model that was a Japanese Exclusive run that I would’ve never found if it wasn’t for one of these eBay brokers. I side stepped the broker to save $500 and ordered it directly from the shop. It was sold to me as not repaired with no-over spray and all original. I was skeptical, but purchased it anyways – gotta document them rare guitars right? What arrived was most likely a headstock repaired guitar with definite overspray on the back of the headstock and many replaced parts. The shop denied the return and even when I did a chargeback claim with my credit card company, they said the only way to do anything would be by me paying to shipping it back and even if I did that, they had no way to guarantee a refund or that the shop would accept the package. They could just deny it and then I’d be out additional money for a round trip from the USA to Japan. I just kept the guitar and learned my lesson from there. Had I have just paid the broker his fee, none of that headache would have happened.
This isn’t true for ALL brokers on eBay, but many offer a very lenient return policy. The majority will ask that you pay for return shipping which is fair, but there are some as you can see here that offer FREE 30 and 60 day return policies. That’s insane. I’m not sure if these are errors on the seller’s part but eBay will make them honor that if they are advertising it. All you have to do is click the return button on your order summary and you’ll get a free return shipping label and full refund upon delivery.
The only part that really confuses me about this whole process is what happens after the broker gets your money. I’ve never really been sure if they actually then have the guitar shipped to them in which they then ship out to you or if they pose as you and have the shop ship directly to you. I’m sure it’s actually a combination of the two depending on if the shop ships overseas or not, but what happens to returns? Most shops don’t offer that kind of relaxed return policy on used and vintage instruments so they would likely then have to resell them themselves or offer you a very generous partial refund to keep it.
Think about it, if they have nearly 10,000 listings on eBay, they likely at least have one sale per day at a $300 profit margin after fees since that is around what the markup from the original sales price equates out to – sometimes as much as $800+. Over the course of a month, that would bring in at least $9000 profit. If they have to deal with 5 free returns out of those 30 sales where they just refund the buyer $1000 to be happy with the guitar or they end up losing that kind of money once shipped back resold, they would still be up $4,000 a month with minimal effort. Many of these sellers have good and high-numbered feedback ratings with a few people leaving neutral or negative feedback for cancelled orders. I’ve never really tested returning one of these to see what kind of attitude you may or may not get while doing it, but it definitely seems to make good business sense to me.
So when buying online from Japan are you ALWAYS unknowingly buying from a broker? No. The thing to look for are matching, similar looking backgrounds, watermarks on the photos that match the seller’s name and reasonable inventory numbers. While I have utilized a broker for some purchases, I’ve also purchased from a shop called Ishibashi many of times. Usually, when buying on Reverb, you can be sure you’re purchasing from the original shop.
In the end, the eBay brokers and Japanese shops have a nice symbiotic relationship. The brokers make money by advertising the shops guitars for sale which moves their inventory faster. But what I want to know if how you feel about eBay guitar Brokers. Would you purchase from one now that I’ve offered up some information on them? Let me know in the comments, don’t forget to like and share this video with a friend that needs to know this information.
Thank you troglodytes for watching and we will see you tomorrow on the next episode. Take Care!