Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Buyer beware....

If like me you like to collect LEGO sets, you'll no doubt have spent time watching items on eBay to see how much they sell for, not to mention buying the occasional item now and then.....

There are a few things that never cease to amaze me when I watch LEGO-related buying and selling activity on eBay. One of them is how some people just openly lie on their listings, for instance by describing an item as "Rare !" when it's actually available in pretty much every single toy store in the civilised world, and when there are hundreds listed at that moment on eBay alone. Worse is when an item is listed at well above the RRP (Recommended Retail Price) but when the listing nonetheless states "Less than RRP !". Naughty, naughty. I sometimes wonder if there's an eBay "cheat line" where we can report listings like this, and whether or not it's my civic duty to point out such "inaccuracies". I'm well aware I shouldn't get all exercised about stuff like this, but it's just so blatant that I find it hard to control myself - nurse, my medication please.

Then there's the description of used sets as "100% complete". Yeah, right - 100% complete apart from the 20 pieces which were the wrong piece altogether, the wrong colour, or just completely missing..... I once bought a set that was "100% complete" and I swear almost a third of the pieces were missing or just plain wrong. As I argued in a previous blog entry, I suspect that most of the time this isn't actually a deliberate attempt to con the buyer, it's just what happens when people who don't know anything about LEGO ask their kid if the LEGO set they want to sell is complete and the kid says yes they think it is. So not really dishonest, then, but still pretty rubbish. I just thank goodness for Bricklink, through which I've sourced an untold number of replacement pieces. Here's a quick tip - in my experience, used Harry Potter sets seem to be the worst offenders when it comes to missing or substituted parts. You have been warned.....

Used Harry Potter sets - 100% complete?

Obviously not strictly dishonest but still an affront to decency are those sellers who list new, currently available sets at well over the RRP, particularly if they have the temerity to describe their overpriced items as a "Bargain !". Clearly this is a use of the word "bargain" that I've not previously encountered. I do often wonder if anyone actually falls for it and buys from these people; presumably someone must, otherwise the sellers wouldn't waste their time with such listings. Dear oh dear. I just took a quick look on eBay and within moments found someone selling Set 4842 Hogwarts Castle for £145 + postage. That's close to a 50% mark-up on the RRP - shame on you ! Still, at least it wasn't described as a "bargain" I suppose....... Or perhaps you'd prefer Set 10199 Winter Toy Shop for £62.99 + postage, which is a whopping 40% over the the RRP. And this set is apparently "Sold Out and Unavailable" which is news to me since it was very much in stock through LEGO shop@home about 5 minutes ago..... The moral of the story ? Do your research ! I have to add that there are at least a couple of extremely well known high street retailers who also put extortionate mark-ups on some sets, so always check the RRP before you buy.

Related to this is why some people are willing to pay close to, or even above, the RRP for used sets that they could actually buy brand new direct from LEGO or elsewhere at a lower price. I know people do this - I've sometimes followed auctions and shaken my head in bemusement as the price goes up and over the RRP. I just don't get it. All I can think of is that perhaps there are lots of people shopping on eBay.co.uk who live outside the U.K. and who don't have access to a reasonably-priced source of new LEGO. How awful must that be ? So for them perhaps it still looks like a bargain. This of course doesn't explain why they don't just wait for someone to list a brand new set as a "Buy It Now" at the RRP or below, which will invariably happen sooner or later. Whatever, there must be a credible reason why people are willing to pay £180 or more plus postage for a used Grand Carousel set at auction when they could get one direct from LEGO shop@home for £179.99 plus about 3-4 quid shipping instead. Don't get me wrong - it's a lovely set, just not quite so lovely when bought used for more than the RRP. Especially if it's described as a "Bargain !". And even worse if it's "100% complete"......


  1. And how about the Marketplace sellers on Amazon.co.uk/.com? You can often see sets being sold at more than 10x their regular price when they go out of stock at Amazon itself. (It's not just Lego they do this on, of course)

  2. Hi Gareth. You're right, of course, but many of the Amazon Marketplace traders seem to deal in retired sets (i.e. those which are no longer available at retail), and I don't really have as much of an issue with sellers putting big mark-ups on these older sets. In this situation the seller has to tie up a fair chunk of money upfront and then store the sets away somewhere secure, often for a number of years, in the hope that someone wants to subsequently buy the sets for enough money to make it all worthwhile. Admittedly some of these sellers are pretty greedy, but for me there's a big difference between that kind of opportunism (which I think is providing a (genuine, if expensive, service) and the practice of flogging current sets for a big mark-up and pretending that the buyer is getting a "bargain".

  3. Ulli017/10/10

    Hi, first of all:
    Congratulation to this great Blog! I read it since the first minute, and I always wait for the new entry! Beside, it is the only Blog I read! ;-)
    To your "question" about the reporting on Ebay. In Germany, there is a Button ("reporting") with a little flag, right under the Box with "additional Informations" like the Art.No. the Place of the seller etc.
    With this Button, you can report the article, and to my knowledge, E-Bay is going to check each report!

    Thx again for your great Blog!!

    Greetings from Germany

  4. This is common practice on eBay for both sellers and buyers. I think that for some buyers, they don't live in an area that regular stores ship to. Otherwise, I think people just get caught up in the auctions. This happens with Playmbobil too, plus most other products. You see a castle that retails EVERYWHERE for $185, go for $193 plus shipping. Makes no sense, but then I don't know the situation of the person buying the item.

  5. Thanks, Ulli01 - delighted you like the blog. You're right about little flag on eBay listings - on eBay.co.uk it's under the "Other Item Info" box and it states "Report item" next to the flag. I hadn't noticed that before for some reason. I'd be fascinated to know what they'd do if someone actually did report a listing and accused a seller of including misleading information. I think they'd probably have a high threshold for doing anything about it. Interesting, though.