Recently, given the large number of transactions gone wrong, myself, Bud, SteveI, diredesire, Fearsome Forehand, and others have decided to write up a user's guide to trading and buying on TTW. The following is what I have come up with.
So You're Thinking About Trading or Selling on Talk Tennis Warehouse?
Before you read any further, read this following thread. It contains vital information that you NEED to know. It should clear up some confusion that you have.
TTW has been up and running for more than a decade now, and for most of the time, scams and problems were almost unheard of. We traded and sold based on trust. We trusted each other, each others ratings, each others listings. Back in the earlier days, scams were unheard of.
While most transactions will not result in you getting scammed, more and more these days are resulting in unfavorable situations for one or both parties. Here are some helpful tips that I recommend you implement in the way you trade.
1.Check references. Check references. CHECK REFERENCES!!!!! I cannot emphasize this enough. We have a section on the forum dedicated to references. Use it to your advantage! If somebody has a lot of positive references, then you can be pretty sure that making a transaction with him/her will be safe. You can be relatively certain that you will receive your rackets, strings, or money in a timely manner, and the equipment will be as it was listed. If somebody negative references, or simply doesn't have references at all, BE ON YOUR GUARD! Be intelligent, and protect yourself with the following.
-moderator side note- When checking references, be sure to look deeper than "one level" of references. If someone has 50 references, but all of the references posted are from new traders with 0 posts, proceed with caution. There have been cases in the past where new traders will create new/false accounts just to pad their reference count, and falsely increase trust in their usernames. Do your research, and do it properly!
2.Unless making a transaction with somebody with many positive references, NEVER USE CASH. Money orders, checks, and Paypal are acceptable forms of payment on the boards, but they are NOT the most secure method of payment. The best way is for you to pay using your credit card. That way, if your deal goes south, you can just pick up the phone and call your credit company and reverse the transaction. This protection is not inherent in money orders or in checks. Paypal does offer this sort of protection, but it is less secure. An “intelligent” scammer can easily remove the money from a Paypal account after payment. Paypal is also notoriously slow. Do yourself a favor, and pay using a credit card. To elaborate on this, the reason cash and money orders are not desirable (in general) in online trading is because they are essentially impossible to recover (and in the case of cash, trace). There is also no "receipt" or proof that payment was ever truly sent/received (by the correct person). In the case of personal checks, it is not desirable to accept personal checks without references due to the fact that checks do take time to clear, which is annoying to both the seller and buyer. There is also opportunity of scamming due to this latency. A shady buyer could have $0 in their checking account, which would create a "bounced check" situation, and the seller would be out their product, and receive no cash.
Paypal is the most popular form of online payment. Other payment modes include Google Checkout. Alternatively, if a user does have lots of E-bay feedback, there are cases where it is beneficial to both parties to sell their racquet through e-bay (once the deal has been finalized on the board) just to add a layer of accountability to the transaction. Of course, both parties will have to agree upon the fees imposed by E-bay. This is rarely done in "real life," but is seen in cases where a party does not have much feedback in person to person online trades. Paypal allows a seller to accept credit card payments, but requires an "upgraded" account that also requires a fee per transaction. Due to the paypal rules and regulations, sellers are NOT allowed to request a $/% fee above the asking price to "cover" paypal fees.
3.In all transactions, make sure that you secure some kind of personal information. Get the other person's phone number in addition to his/her address and name. Always make sure that you have multiple ways to contact the other person. We understand that things might come up. Maybe Verizon decides to knock out your internet for a few days (hey, it happens). When this kind of thing happens, you want to have some other way to reach the person you're transacting with. It also makes tracking down people a LOT easier in case the deal goes south. A home (landline) telephone number is recommended. This step is largely ignored by most traders, and can be the single pit-fall that most people fall victim to. A shady and/or dishonest trader is not going to be willing to provide this information, so this adds a layer of security. Do note, however, that some people are not willing to provide detailed personal information about themselves. Please respect this, but proceed with caution. Protect yourself if you decide to proceed in other ways listed.
4.If you insist on using Paypal and are planning to be transacting using a large amount of money, you can protect yourself by getting all of the other person's information. Request that the seller send you a small amount of money using Paypal ($1 will suffice). This gets you the seller's information, and helps protect you. Later, when you're sending your payment, you can just return that $1 payment.
-moderator note: This is uncommon in "real world" practice, but not a bad idea. In general, paypal isn't inherently flawed, it is the transaction that is flawed. If you protect yourself properly to begin with, and have decided the other party you are dealing with is honest and on the "up and up," this step is not generally necessary.
5.CONSTANT COMMUNICATION! Keep the other person notified of everything. Keep in touch, answer those emails, call back. A lot of things can be avoided if you just keep in contact with the other person. Again, we understand that things may come up. Maybe your brother suddenly becomes very ill. Maybe your grandmother dies. It happens, and we can understand. But when it happens, tell the other guy. Don't leave him hanging. Poor communication is one of the most complained about issues in trades.
6.When shipping anything, get tracking. For the most part, getting tracking doesn't cost anything in addition to shipping fees (if you're using a carrier like Fedex or UPS). If you're using USPS, tracking usually costs an extra quarter. A tracking number can erase a LOT of problems that might come up in a transaction. Not to mention, tracking is a proof of delivery, and can help alleviate problems that are encountered in the future.
7.When trading, whomever has fewer references should ship first. This should be more or less common sense- if you have no references, we don't know if we can trust you. This makes things a little more secure for everybody involved.
-moderator note: this should be stressed when one party does not have any references, HOWEVER, many, many people on the internet are not comfortable with this, so please proceed accordingly. I would personally not ship first as a new trader unless the other party was well established (2+ years trading, with several good references that check out). This isn't generally a straight "rule of thumb"/commonly accepted practice everywhere on the web.
This should give you some help. If you think you've been scammed, first contact the person you're transacting with. If he/she doesn't respond within 48 hours, tell the TTW community IMMEDIATELY! Begin by posting an alert thread, and if the user does not respond within a reasonable timeframe (3-4 days, 1-2 business days), post a negative reference. Tell us your story, and we may ask you for more information. NEVER post the person's personal information, it is a violation of their privacy rights.
-moderator note: I edited the above a little bit, many users are very "gung ho" about calling out trolls and bad traders, and as a tight knit community, we have good reason to be. However, there is NO NEED to go on a personal crusade. The purpose of the reference section is simply to inform other users, so that they can utilize this information for future trading. The first step to protect yourself is to put a "stop" on the payment you sent. If you sent a personal check, contact your bank and arrange a stop payment to cancel your check. This is generally possible with money orders as well. Paypal also has means to do this. If you do this within approx 96 hours, you generally are able to recover your cash. (At the very least, the seller will have his/her account frozen). It generally takes 3-4 business days to withdraw money from your paypal account, so please keep this in mind when deciding what kind of time frame is reasonable before blowing any whistles.
If you're sure you've been scammed, things depend on the method of payment. If you took my advice and used a credit card, call up your credit card company and get the payment canceled. If you paid using cash... you're out of luck. If you used Paypal, open a Paypal dispute IMMEDIATELY.