A philosophical question

Feb 16, 1999
This may be a bad time for me to post a topic like this because I'll be out of town for several days starting Saturday. Let me start by saying I've had several dealings with fellow forumites buying, selling and trading and all have gone well---no complaints. My question is this, most sellers want a money order in advance before they are willing to ship the knife or knives. This seems to make sense. But logically it falls apart. Assuming buyer and seller are unknown to each other the implication is that the seller, merely because he is a seller is inherently more trustworthy than the buyer. Why is this? The logical flaw in my opinion is this. Money is fungible. Fifty bucks is fifty bucks. They are alot more people with $50 bucks than there are witha specific knife. The buyer is taking more of a chance. He is assuming the seller has the knfe he claims he has and that it is in the condition that he says it is. With a M.O. unlike a check, you don't get back a cancelled instrument witha name and account number on it. The seller doesn't have to worry that the cash he gets is not really NIB, or excellent or very good. The buyer on the other hand has to rely on the sellers word whereas the seller in many cases is unwilling to accept the buyers word (in the form of a check). I prefer to use checks for many reasons, not the least of which is convience. If the seller is willing to accept my check I always telltehm to feel free to hold the knife till the check clears. I think that this is only fair. The system just seems logically flawed to me but if I started insisting the the seller send me the knife first and when I got it and if it was what he claimed it to be then I would send payment I do think I'd being able to buy many knives. Any thoughts on this?


who dares, wins

I've also been doing a fair amount of trading both here on the forums and through eBay over the last few years. Not once have I been screwed, not even close, like on descriptions or condition. My experience seems pretty common. This is a phenomena that is pretty remarkable, IMO.

By and large I've done business using US Postal money orders sent before receiving the goods, and my impression is that this is the currency and method used. Why?

Well, transaction cost is one; as opposed to, say, a certified check, which goes upwards of $12 at some banks I've seen, the MO is, what, 80 cents. It *is* a record of the transaction, too, as a check is. And it's redeemable at a lot of postal offices for cash, no waiting. It's the *no wait* that I think is the key.

Checks can also take a week or more to clear. Add that to the common method of shipment like the PO and you're looking at a two or possibly three week wait, depending on geography; cut that by a week with the MO and it's worth a lot.

There's also the problem that many working people only have access to their banks on weekends. That's another 5 days, possibly, just to deposit the check. Even with an ATM it's a few days just to deposit. Or they may not have checking accounts. Or, possibly, they don't want the transaction done through their checking or personal accounts. Like with email, a MO and a PO box allows for a certain degree of anonymity.

To your main point, though, I don't have a real answer. The level of trust that's been established on this sort of trading is remarkable.

John G

I get awful bored sitting at home guarding my money, if the transaction is big enough use an escrow service, if it's small enough to survive a loss just send the money. In most cases I'm buying a toy that I can live without so it is obvious that I can afford to be cheated. If you're in a hurry use a money order so the product gets sent sooner. I usually just send a personal check and let the guy wait till it clears. It's easier for me to trace my own check than to get the post office into the tracing process. I virtually never go to the post office so the check is a lot easier.

I haven't been stung so far. I get such interesting stuff from ebay with so little effort that I think I'm way ahead of the game of life even if I do get stung.

PS. Did you hear that someone found a way to cheat sellers on ebay? I haven't heard the details, but someone found a way to bid then choke out competing bids. Sellers were stung selling things way under value.
Your questioning the current system is food for thought. I agree that it should be an even sided transaction. I really don't know the answer. Quick story of mine is about 15 years ago I started really getting into custom knives. I had gone to a show and met a new maker name of Paul Sheehan and was really impressed with his stuff. We talked a bit and I kept returning to his table. Well to make a long story short I ordered a knife and we exchanged phone numbers and addresses. Couple of weeks later he called and asked me if I wanted brown or black leather sheath I said brown and he told me he would call back.When he did a day later it was to tell me That he shipped my knife that morning. I had not even sent the check yet as I was waiting for his go ahead the knife arrived 2 days later. Well anyway to keep from rambling I always remember that transaction based on mutual trust.I wonder how many people still do business that way.

[This message has been edited by Strider (edited 29 July 1999).]
I sell them. I rarely buy them. I've never shorted nor cheated a single customer. I have been stung by several -- all when I sent the knife on the promise of payment.

I no longer do that.

Desert Rat

I've always had the same thoughts! It seems backwards to me! I am a lot more comfortable sending someone one of my sheaths and letting them pay after they're sure they want to keep it than I am sending someone a check or MO for a product and hoping they send it back. Maybe the reason is that money is a precious commodity for me, being a student, but my sheaths are a representation of my time, and therefore losing one along the way isn't so bad. Maybe that's backwards, too! Doh!

My Custom Kydex Sheath pagehttp://www.geocities.com/CollegePark/Lab/1298/knifehome.html
Palmer College of Chiropractic
On Two Wheels
I tend toward a harsher view of life, so I really just see it as a situation of supply and demand.

If you want to be supplied with the merchandise, the seller can demand the money upfront. The scarcer the merchandise gets, the more the seller can charge for it, and the more leverage he has to get paid up front.

A kinder, gentler view would be that since the seller will by conducting public buisness more than the buyer, he is more apt to play it straight so as to not develop a bad reputation.

Whereas the buyer is really just some anonymous stranger from the mist intrested in doing buisness and then disapearing, therfore is more likely to try to rip off the seller as the buyer will not likely ever be seen again making his reputation irrelevant.
The tangible object is worth either more or less (here we assume that the seller is in some manner dishonest) than what the buyer agrees to pay. If less, the seller wishes to have his money *before* the buyer gets to see the merchandise.

In the case of an honest seller, the item is worth either as much or even more than the buyer has agreed to pay. In these cases, tangibility takes on a higher ontological status than fungibility, and the seller has the most to loose; hence the payment from buyer to seller.

As to how far the seller should push his claim, or even if he should bother to make one, that is of course up to each individual and will usually be influenced by their prior experiences in these matters along with their "gut inclinations" after having met you. I think its much easier to trust a person you have met in person and shared some time with (not that there aren't professional con men that can fool you in an instant, but they usually don't waste their time over a $50 knife...) than someone encountered only through email.

The answer is simple really, if you are doing business on Bladeforums anyway.
Everyone here is a knife person, knife people are REALLY into what they sell/trade here. They know that if they were buying/trading and they got screwed, it would be all over the forums within minutes, and they know the delight that you get from a knife that you really want.
See, what we've got here is essentially the elite core of knife people, and we are all good people, especially where our passions lie.

So that being said, lets all tip our hats to Mike and Spark, what they've done is of more benefit than they could have intended, both to us, and to the industry as a whole.
'Nuff said.

Joe Glessner, owner
Sycotic Samurai Cutlery

[This message has been edited by SycoticSamurai (edited 29 July 1999).]
Charley, I have done several trades i recent months over this forum including a BF Native and sure there is of course that little nagging feeling of "I may never see that knife" with any transaction. I am sure you and I woul likely feel happier buying it in person, but no system is perfect. Posatl Money Order is federal, as is US mail and post ofice does trade mail fraud seriously, as does FBI. Maybe not as much as Atlanta, but they worry. I always do build a conversation with someone over the ether and possibly over the phone before a purchase. If do not like the conversation, I do not buy the knife.

Incidentaly, the sort of knives I buy are users not collectors, so in most cases NIB is irrelevant to me, but as I put it to MCSwiney, $50 to $100 is not going to kill me and if it is you or any sum, do not do the deal. Not my place to tell you or anyone else how to live, but you describe this transaction as gambling..if so, do not bet more than you can afford to lose.

Knives have been an obsession for years with me, but now as I get older the obsession changes to make way fo responsibility like groceries and mortgage payments. Aways keep that in mind. Do not take this as an attack on your person, merely as a reminder that common sense can be.
In a matter of speaking, the seller is most definitely more trustworthy, but by situation, NOT by character. It's not that, however, that really makes the golden rule of trading and selling that the buyer (or secondary trader if a trade situation) be the one to make the leap of faith and enter his part of the agreement first. The most obvious reason is that the buyer has far more rights then the seller, and in sending most any kind of payment short of cash (which only an idiot sends) the buyer has a greater means of making sure that his part of the transaction has been received. You check the money order with the USPS, you can call a toll free number to see exactly what credit card buys went through, and you get an endorsed and cashed check every month in the mail. The seller can, what now, see if the item has been signed for? That is by no means adequate for a seller himself to make the leap of faith. Also, the seller is the person with the desired service or item, in a matter of speaking "He has what you want, so he is in charge". Sure, the buyer has a precious commodity also, MONEY... But the tangible nature of an actual product always takes precedence over something like money. If you are trading, take into consideration that one of the people involved had to of instigated the trade, and in most situations that puts the person in a similar position to the seller.


Robert Joseph Ansbro

If it can be written, or thought, it can be filmed.
-Stanley Kubrick, 1928-1999
To me it's o.k that i pay up front as a buyer cause i stay all the way in MALAYSIA. So far that no seller is willing to take the risk and i understand that BUT if the seller even tries to cheat me by claiming what the product is but not....by all means neccesary, all HELL will break loose! (that is why, i deccided to ONLY buy from reputable and established sellers.)

[This message has been edited by keninshiro (edited 29 July 1999).]

[This message has been edited by keninshiro (edited 30 July 1999).]
As a knife maker, I have taken checks at knife shows, or through the mail. Almost always it has involved a personal touch,meeting face to face or referred by a former customer. Once I had an order not paid for of knife material (they had a personal crisis) and only one bad check (brother-in-law which he made good). All this in 10 years of business. When I get a check, I cash it. I have usually already sent the order. If the name and address is the same on the check as on the envelope, I don't see any problem. In the next year or two, I hope to get set up to take plastic because a lot of people don't like to carry a couple of hundred extra and if you lose plastic. You call and cancell.
I did have one person on a blacksmith page that wouldn't pay for the 52100 until he got it and I wouldn't send it. I didn't mind loosing the steel, but the shipping charges would eat me up.
Besides, I always put a spell on my knives and if you don't pay for them, they will cut you. Ray Kirk
Charley, I’m with you on this. I’ve had this same conversation with sellers numerous times and the majority has shipped simultaneously to me sending the payment.

The Internet has changed many things, one of which is how we conduct business transactions. In bricks and mortar stores, transactions exchange goods and services for payment simultaneously on the premises. Mail-order stores do receive payment up front but one has some security of an established business that has a business license and obvious capital invested in it’s web site and advertising. Here in the “Knives For Sale/Trade: Individual” forum we are buying from individuals (supposedly) and not established dealers. Therefor the buyer has no collateral while emitting payment. The bottom line, in nearly all cases, cash, check, or money order, the buyer takes on all the risk. Mail fraud applies here but the cost of prosecuting out weighs the value of the knife.

Good faith goes both ways. There isn’t one argument here that can’t be reversed to the benefit of the buyer (I won’t debate all points for the sake of brevity). But the worst is if you can’t afford to gamble $50 don’t play, why should any purchase be a gamble to receive goods. The second is the seller has more to lose than the buyer does, obviously the exchange is of equal value.

With that all said, being the good Libertaripublican that I am (not sure what I am lately), I am not for regulating this in any way. I only think that the “custom” of simultaneous transactions of individuals, in this case, should be better received.

That’s my rant and I’m sticking to it.
I think the escrow services (EBay has links) offer the perfect solution. Once They receive both the product(s) and the payment, they confirm things are right and then send the stuff on it's way. Only costs a few bucks, and it keeps things on the up & up for everyone.

Knowledge without understanding is knowledge wasted.
Understanding without knowledge is a rare gift - but not an impossibility.
For the impossible is always possible through faith. - Bathroom graffiti, gas station, Grey, TN, Dec, 1988

I've both bought and sold and here is what works for me. If selling, I ask the seller to purchase a USPS money order, e-mail me the MO number, date purchased, and PO number. Then drop it in the mail to me. Once I have the e-mail with the above information, I put the knife in the mail and acknowledge such. This way, the MO and knife pass in the USPS system. If either of us is dishonest, we have both used the USPS and are subject to Federal law with easily traceable evidence. So far, 100% satisfaction; however, I've found most sellers and buyers to be basically honest anyway.

Bruce Woodbury
Bruce has said a curious and wonderful thing, "I've found most sellers and buyers to be basically honest anyway". I agree that it is still true. I find myself getting more cynical by the decade and I've found that I've misjudged people at least a couple times in the last week. The world is actually a better place than I think it is. I'll have to start being nicer.
I have only had one bad situation here. It was with a business. He requested I send him the item he wished to buy before he would send payment. I figured he was a dealer and SHOULD be reputable. I couldn't find anyhting negative on him, so I agreed. It took me two months to get payment. I didn't post his name, But he has lost me as a customer forever. Even if he were giving things away, I wouldn't take them.

I didn't let that experience change my attitude. The majority of people are honest. When I do a deal, I will generally accept any form of payment and I try to ship the knife the same day the person says they put the payment in the mail. If I have never dealt with them before, I will ask for a MO and will hold the knife until I receieve the payment. Except for Senior Members. I figure they have been around for a while.
Dirk, why the fork aren't you posting his name? Why do you suppose you didn't find anything negative on him? Why do you want the next person to consider dealing with him not to find any information either? Why are you protecting yourself and leaving the rest of us ...

-Cougar Allen :{)
Per population of buyers to knifemakers,I think it's a matter of trust on the makers part, untill he/she gets burned by bad checks he must trust that you have some sort of honor. After all Makers and Smith's work very hard at their trade. Working steel, wood, leather, etc, etc to make something from the raw materials to a tool you can bet your life on is something rare these days.
I would send a check in a heartbeat, if the maker don't deliver the goods, how long do you think they will last in the business with a dull reputation. ;-) MHO