Deal gone bad: a reality check, please

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by megarat, Dec 30, 2014.

  1. megarat

    megarat (Not My Real Name) Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2013
    Hey all,

    I've recently had an eBay deal go bad, and I'd like some perspective. I'm going to leave out some details, because I'm not trying to defame anyone's character, but I'm currently resolving this issue with the seller and eBay, and I want to make sure that my own perspective isn't skewed before I stick to my guns.

    The deal was for an electric bass, advertised as fully working, but it arrived with an electrical problem, apparently a bad pickup. Getting it properly repaired will cost $150 to start, and that's assuming that my time is free. The seller is insisting that the bass was working fine before he shipped it. The bass was well-packed and shipped by UPS, and the box had no apparent damage when I received it.

    First, how likely is it that an electrical problem like this can happen during the shipping process? It seems extremely improbable to me, but know knows, maybe UPS has some new bomb-scanning technology that involves Faraday cages or something. I know there's a non-zero probability that the problem happened as soon as I plugged in the bass and turned on my amp, but given the vintage of the bass (1980), I have a difficult time believing that it would hang on for all that time until the very moment it got into my hands.

    Second, in the process of trouble-shooting the problem, once the pickup became suspect, I had removed the panel to the electronics cavity and took a reading with my multimeter. I'm not an EE, but I've been an electronics hobbyist for years (retrocomputing and vintage arcade games, mostly). Being cautious and inexperienced with troubleshooting these things, I was guided over the phone by my instructor who is also a guitar tech. Because of this invasive method of diagnosis, the seller is now claiming that the bass is no longer in its original condition, and thus he shouldn't be held responsible for it. (Never mind the fact that that the problem existed before I did this.)

    So, given the dodgy state of the sale, did I cross the line? And where is the line that separates "user-serviceability" versus "monkeying with the hardware"? Is there anything I should have done differently?

    That's it in a nutshell. Your thoughts would be appreciated. Thanks and happy holidays.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014
  2. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Not enough data to comment beyond if it is DOA it is up to either the seller or shipper to remedy.

    Did the invasive troubleshoot include a soldering iron? If it did, and the seller did not give permission before hand, it's on you.
    theduke1 likes this.
  3. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician - Retired
    If it was advertised as in good working order when you bought it, then you are entitled to a bass in good working order. However, once you opened the bass up you also opened the argument that you damaged it. I'm in agreement with 202dy on this except I would go a bit further and say you have a degree of liability if you opened the bass without the seller's permission. Once you opened the cover, the bass was yours, unless you had an agreement with the seller beforehand to do so.

    It sounds like the seller was giving you an argument about the condition of the bass, and you have fuelled his fire. It suspect you are in for a bit of a fight, and frankly I don't fancy your chances.

    Good luck.
    theduke1, OldPlucker and hdracer like this.
  4. What was so "invasive" in your method of diagnosis?

    Had I received a bass with any electrical issue, I'd go in there looking for wiring issues, and such, maybe even use a meter, but I wouldn't call any of that invasive. I'm just curious why you did.
    Joe Kyle likes this.
  5. Very good points here.
  6. Dug2


    Sep 24, 2011
    whats a faraday cage?
  7. Even if it was UPS who 'broke' it, it is still up to whoever paid UPS to sort out. So unless you paid for a courier to collect it is still the seller who has to resolve the issue.

    However there is now no way to 'prove' you didn't break the bass, if the invasive testing is evident. From the sellers point of view you could be trying to swindle him if there are signs of tampering.

    How is the bass otherwise? Is it nice enough to warrant fixing it up and having it playable? Even if it costs another $150 if it's the 'one' it might still be worth it.
    Matthew_84 likes this.
  8. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    Are we talking about a passive bass?
    eukatheude likes this.
  9. lfmn16

    lfmn16 Inactive

    Sep 21, 2011
    charles town, wv
    I would get this discussion off the internet. Sorry, but if I was the seller and saw this thread I'd grab an image of this page and use it to defend myself. I had a bass show up with a lose ground once, but I contacted the seller immediately. After talking with him I decided that it was sold in good faith and kept it. It looks like you have a different situation here, but once you opened it up, I think you bought it.

    The shipper is never going to pay a penny because even if it was their fault, there is no way to prove it.

    Good luck.
    SirMjac28 and Matthew_84 like this.
  10. wvbass

    wvbass Supporting Member

    Mar 1, 2004
    West Virginia
    I have a follow-up reality check to your reality check. If you suspect that the bass has a non-functional pickup, how is that a $150 problem? If you accept the TB opinion that it is your bass now, it is probably time to move on to discussing the repair...
  11. Decide if returning it is worth it to you, as you will most definitely have to pay return shipping (which I hear is very expensive for instruments).
  12. hsech

    hsech Work hard. My Social Security needs a raise.

    Jun 27, 2012
    Central Iowa
    I've sold a lot of gear over Ebay. In my opinion once you opened it up without contacting the seller it's yours, warts and all. Did you already leave feedback for the seller?
    SirMjac28 likes this.
  13. Dominick C.

    Dominick C.

    Jul 2, 2012
    Austin, Tx
    I don't like mean people or mean comments....
    It's that mesh on your microwave door.
    Dug2 and Fat Steve like this.
  14. Bret_Salyer


    Aug 21, 2014
    I think any reasonable person buying a used bass, especially one that has been well played, would do a full inspection including peering into the control cavity. Depending on what type of testing you did, and what type of failure there is, you may be able to prove you didn't cause the problem.
  15. Big Brother

    Big Brother

    Feb 13, 2011
    San Diego
    Roving sub-demon
    I'm waiting for the conversation to inevitably turn on the OP and blame him for the entire transaction. :blackeye:
    TripleDouble likes this.
  16. megarat

    megarat (Not My Real Name) Supporting Member

    Nov 12, 2013
    Hey all,

    Thanks for the feedback. It's been very helpful to get this perspective. It doesn't matter much, but to address some of the questions:

    (a) No, my work did not involve a soldering iron. My diagnostic involved grounding myself, removing the back panel, and touching the two probes of the multimeter to two terminals in order to measure the resistance. Then closing it back up. This is the same back panel required for getting access to the battery. (And yes, this is an active bass.)

    (b) Re: the "invasive" nature of the diagnostic. I personally don't regard my action as invasive (which is why I did it), but the seller clearly thinks otherwise, or is at least seizing upon it as a defense tactic. My motive was to identify, as best as possible, the root cause of the problem before reporting back to the seller. The problem existed before I opened it up. That said, I fully sympathize with the notion that opening up an electronics cavity is an easy way to introduce a problem, and if I were the seller, while I like to think that I wouldn't respond in the same way that he has, it would be trivial to imagine a ham-fisted noob messing about, causing problems, and then wanting to return an instrument that was more damaged than it (allegedly) originally was.

    (c) Re: the $150 repair. The bass is a minor boutique item, and non-original pickup replacements range from US$130 to US$220.

    (d) No, I have not yet left feedback.

    There was some other misinformation in the auction listing that I suspect was intentional, basically physical/cosmetic issues that weren't mentioned or not described fully, but I'm trying to give the seller the benefit of the doubt. I'll probably keep the bass, because (a) the feedback I received here was helpful, hearing that about half of the people here view that I crossed the line, and/or my chances for any sort of positive resolution are slim, (b) the bass includes an OHSC and other original case candy that is hard to find otherwise, and (c) worst-case scenario, once I get this thing repaired (finding the time will be the hardest part), I should be able to flip it for a tolerable loss. And, I suppose, (d) I'd rather not have an acrimonious dispute spoil my holiday vacation.

    Thanks again, everyone. Happy new year.
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2014
  17. You sound like a very rational person, and I sympathize with your predicament. I am reluctant to buy parts from the internet, but many people I know buy complete guitars via the internet... and every one that does has a horror story.

    Now, can you please answer a more important question: where the heck is Squirt Island? Surely you made that up?

    Enjoy the bass, and happy New Year!
  18. SanDiegoHarry

    SanDiegoHarry Inactive Supporting Member

    Aug 11, 2008
    San Diego, CA
  19. mapleglo

    mapleglo Ancient Astronaut Theorist Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    I seem to be in disagreement with the general consensus. Removing an access panel on an electric instrument is akin to opening the hood of a car to look at the engine - something I would think everyone would do when looking at a car for purchase. In light of the fact that the control cavity also houses the battery solidifies my opinion. Were I to buy an active bass, especially used, changing the battery is the first thing I would do. It's a user adjustable aspect of the instrument, like a tuning machine, truss rod, or tone control.

    If I were to sell an instrument, I would expect that any and all of the access panels would be removed for inspection at the very least. I don't know that I've ever owned an instrument without taking off all the panels for inspection. I would have taken the exact same steps as the op, and do not feel that is "crossing the line".
  20. punchdrunk

    punchdrunk Inactive

    Jun 22, 2013
    Cut to the chase already, what kind of bass is it? Also, I'm with you, sounds as if you were merely verifying that the unit was indeed inoperative before opening a claim. Next step, contact ebay, open a claim; if unresolvable leave negative feedback, fix the bass and enjoy.
    gorneyg, MTFD24 and DwaynieAD like this.