1. Please take 30 seconds to register your free account to remove most ads, post topics, make friends, earn reward points at our store, and more!  
    TalkBass.com has been uniting the low end since 1998.  Join us! :)

Open Letter to the World: International Transactions

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous [BG]' started by Dr. PhunkyPants, Nov 5, 2005.

  1. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    Flame on.

    I have to get this off my chest. Over the past week, I have been attempting to sell a very nice bass on this forum. I've had a lot of interest, mostly trade offers.

    But on two occasions, I've had what I believed to be firm offers from TB'ers overseas to buy the bass for cash. I spent considerable time and effort communicating and let other deals go. Yet in both cases, the deals fell apart at the last minute solely because I would not declare the parcel a "gift" and worth 50 or so bucks.

    What's more, BOTH buyers attempted to guilt trip me for not being "understanding" of the plight of poor, poor EU consumers. Listen up guys, it is against the law in the US and in nearly every other country to misrepresent the value of parcel contents during shipping.

    I don't care if everybody on every other forum is doing it, I believe Talkbass'ers aspire to a higher level of ethics. For those of you approaching sellers on this forum, please factor in, up front, the cost of full VAT and/or other applicable duties and taxes. If the seller cuts you a break later, well, that's your business. I'm just tired of the default expectation being that sellers need to break the law for you in order for you to buy their bass.

    Many sellers flatly refuse to do business across international borders. I'm trying to keep an open mind, but this declaration/insurance stuff is lame. Bottomline: If you can't afford to buy someone's bass legally, PLEASE do not waste that person's time.
  2. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    Phew. Flame off.
  3. Wilbyman


    Sep 10, 2003
    Parkersburg, WV
    This should maybe be in the Misc forum, BUT...I agree. I don't know how often customs investigates a package (might be 1 in 1000 for all I know) but messing around with federal offenses "isn't my bag baby". Getting a target letter from your friendly local U.S. Attorney's Office wouldn't be fun in the least.
  4. BassMorpheus

    BassMorpheus Supporting Member

    Jul 31, 2004
    The Crescent City/NOLA

    I do know that international shipping is a bugger. Yet, the British pound and the Euro are kickin' the absolute crap out of the U.S. dollar. Remember this when you feel sorry for the Brits or the French or the Germans or whomever...It cost them less to buy the same item than yourself....

    Opinion may be wrong, but it is MINE. :meh:
  5. I agree 100 percent. Its wrong. End of story.

    Thats why I dont ship outside the US. Flat out, no questions asked.
  6. Personatech

    Personatech Supporting Member

    I'll ship outside of the US and have done it in the past, but the buyer knows up-front that I won't play games with customs. In one situation, a buyer in Australia purchased a near-mint StingRay from me: US$825 + US$500 for shipping, taxes, customs, the lot. You know what? He was happy to pay it because a used Stingray is pretty near impossible to find down under AND when one is it usually costs more than buying one from the States.

    Also, don't forget that you can't claim the item as a $50 gift then insure it for the full value of the bass. If anything happens to the bass in transit (we're talking thousands of miles over oceans and through whatever political/natural upheavals that may be going on along the way), the BUYER is up the creek!... It's in your best interest to pay the full ticket.
  7. The least an overseas buyer could do is ASK before making a deal. Then it's up to you what to do. It just says a lot about the attitude of those kind of buyers who assume that you, as a seller, will do something illegal. I have bought a lot of stuff from the US (from Ebay, The Dudepit and here) and (almost) always have had very good experiences and I would like to keep it that way. So my point is: as an overseas buyer I apologize for your bad experiences, but please don't close the door for the trustworthy people out there.

    Best regards, Werner.
  8. bmc


    Nov 15, 2003
    So..just for clarity sake, what type of bass guitar is being sold here? :eyebrow:
  9. Wow, I definitely don't share your ethical considerations for shipping, even in the most far fetched manner I fail to see how this "crime" affects anyone negatively, well, other than the government, lord knows that they are underbudgeted and need to have these fee's taken care of to stay afloat ;) . That being said, I understand the implications of getting caught and being fined and or prosecuted, and as such that should be a deterrant. I guess I just don't always think that the laws are necessarily moral, and don't consider it evil to ship something to save both partys a bit of green. Just my $0.02.

    edit: also, on further reflection, i.e, after reading other posts, I wasn't aware of the fact that you couldn't get insurance on it, that right there would spell no for me unless the buyer somehow waived his rights to a refund if something happened to the bass in transit.
  10. remo


    Jan 15, 2005
    +1. our government already has it's fingers in nearly every pie where money is involved. Trust me they are looking after themselves quite well enough.

    I can understand a store not wanting to undervalue an item on shipping but a private sale for a second/hand item should not be a problem. Especially as someone would probably only buy one or two basses like this in their lifetimes it's not like they are importing a container full of them. ffs paying GST and duty on a secondhand item is just plain wrong.
  11. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    + 2

    I personally think it should be illegal to tax used items twice, three, four or however many times governments see fit. That said, it is up to the seller whether or not they want to devalue the price. Personally I would do it anytime but within reasonable limits. But that's me. If a seller has ethical concerns I respect that.
  12. bigbeefdog

    bigbeefdog Who let the dogs in?

    Jul 7, 2003
    Mandeville, LA

    Ethical and "greedy government" considerations aside, this statement alone makes it clear that it's a TERRIBLE idea....
  13. Yggdrasil


    Aug 16, 2001
    Any time I've been asked to do this, the buyer has been very clear that he is aware of the lack of insurance issue. It's a risk for the buyer only.

    The taxes and fees that are based on value go to the buyer's country ( and a bit extra in brokerage paperwork charges from UPS)- US customs/government gets no cut at all.There's absolutely no reason for US Customs to get involved - the buyer would get hit on the other end.

    There's no pragmatic reason for a seller not to do this; a moral stance is the personal reason of the seller.

    I am surprised that this issue came up only after the good Doctor Phunkypants put in a lot of work on the sale - I've found the question is usually asked in the first email - asking it at the end is like renegotiating - but it hasn't in my experience, been the norm.

  14. bassaussie


    Oct 6, 2001
    Yeah, that's a fair call. I won't deny, as a European buyer, I'd prefer the declared amount to be reduced, but it really is up to the seller to make that decision. If you (the seller) don't feel comfortable doing it, then I can completely understand your point of view. Also, when a value is declared, it has to be realistic. For example, consider a purchase involving a bass - any bass. To declare a bass for $50 is just stupid. These customs guys might not know the current market value of a '75 Jazz bass (for example), but they're not so stupid as to think that a bass is only going to be $50 - they'd require some pretty firm evidence to prove that that was the actual purchase price. Sure, I can get a bass from Rondo for, what, $89 or something like that? The thing is, they'll also provide a commerical receipt, plus there'll be payment details supporting that purchase price (eg. a credit card transaction). Simply saying "oh, the bass cost $89" most times will not cut it with customs - they'll hold the bass until they've got paperwork that convinces them that the price declared is the price paid. Obviously there are ways around this, but that's where we get into fraudulent efforts, and if the seller doesn't want to be involved with that, then that's his or her decision.

    Dr.Phunkypants, I think it's cool that you're willing to work with people outside the USA. A lot of guys won't, and I can completely appreciate their choice as well.
  15. sweetpie

    sweetpie Guest

    Oct 19, 2005
    i'm an overseas buyer and i agree with Dr. PhunkyPants, do not declare as a gift, using USPS is already nice because it's less expensive than UPS or fed ex for example and with USPS you may not pay taxes (sometimes you'll have to pay, sometimes you won't), i've bought 4 basses from usa and had to pay a tax for only one of them (all of them were shipped with USPS)
  16. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    I've got nothing more to really add beyond the first post. Except:

    I can respect that there is a difference of opinion as to whether governments taxing goods in this manner is "morally just". However, it is--for now--the law of the land.

    My request to all interested buyers is that you start off with the expectation that the item WILL be declared at value. And then if the seller is sympathetic and cuts you a break, great--consider it an added benefit. My recent experience has been the vice versa--buyers expecting a break right from the start, which is simply not appropriate.

    Last, I will continue to work with international buyers on a case by case basis. I've lived in Hungary and went to grad school in Italy. I have sold two basses to Europe.

    I understand that with the exception of a little extra paperwork, dealing with those abroad can be just as easy as dealing with those in the US. And also, I feel good about helping bassist brothers and sisters abroad get access to nice gear that's not always available in their home countries.

    Alas, despite my frustration with this week, I am really just trying to make international transactions smoother and easier for everyone by building consensus and managing expectations.
  17. Wolf


    Jan 30, 2004

    I reaaaaaaaaaaaly don't think you americans realise how
    expensive things can get out here in the real world -
    and it's not just basses!
    FOOD! CLOTHES! GAS!!!!!!! (the kind you put in your car ; )

    Underaged drinking is also, in fact, illegal.
    Just use common sense...
    The buyers weren't being sneaky, or underhanded about it.
    They were honest with you.

    Sellers who respect the law to that extent,
    should just add, underneath the usual "NO SCAMMERS" line -
    Problem solved!
  18. Dr. PhunkyPants

    Dr. PhunkyPants Guest

    Aug 11, 2002
    Once again the default expectation, and thus, my problem with this issue.

    Why should I have to make an explicit statement to you at the outset that I intend to adhere to the law?
  19. purfektstranger


    Apr 10, 2003
    Sellers who respect the law to that extent,
    should just add, underneath the usual "NO SCAMMERS" line -
    Problem solved!

    + 1
  20. C-5KO


    Mar 9, 2005
    Toronto, Canada
    Being an international (Canadian) buyer, here's my take.

    If people don't want to sell to international buyers... oh well. Too bad for us, something we miss out on getting, and too bad for them, something they may actually sell, but won't because the buyer may be out of country.

    As for undervaluing a shipment? I can see how saving on taxes/duty/etc may be the point of an international buyer asking to devalue the item shipped. But it's really up to the shipper... I don't see any harm in asking for it, but to make the shipper feel guilty about it is pointless. Accept it. If the shipper doesn't want to take chances, then too bad - you're lucky they're shipping it out of country in the first place. If they do, then the purchaser saves - hooray...

    In hindsight, after having a few run-in's and scares with shipping companies, I'm probably going to always ask for full value. It's not worth it for me to save on taxes, and take the risk of losing the shipment completely - and only collect on the devalued amount.

    When shipping something - devalued - I wouldn't be so worried about the law getting you, I'd be more worried about the package getting lost or damage, and only collecting on the devalued amount.