Saturday, September 16, 2006

Adventures in Selling a Used Bike

Last summer I had a 2003 Cannondale Scalpel 3000 that I needed to unload. The bike is a high end cross country bike whose features were going to waste since I wasn't racing anymore. I considered selling it on eBay. But I just didn't want to risk letting the bike go for a rock bottom price on top of having to pay a percentage. So I put a $2.00 ad in MTB Reviews classified's and it ended up working out great. My ad had a lot of information about the bikes's condition and past use as well as a full view photo of the bike and a composite photo of the bike's major components; crank, rear derailleur, shifters, front brake.

Within a day I was contacted by one of many Nigerian scammers. I wished I saved some of the emails because they were hilarious. Their emails are so transparent that I wonder how anyone is ever fooled. They initially ask a few cursory details about the bike to which I dutifully reply with the slight hope they are legit. A very short time later they write back saying it is the bike of their dreams and offer to buy it immediately. They also offer hundreds or even thousands more than the asking price along with some crap about a friend picking it up or some other trash that entails my sending cash back to them(!). In the first few cases I gave them my cell number and my work address to send the check (I've heard these guys sometimes FedEx the funds all the way from Africa. Imagine how much that must cost!). Within a week or two I got a check. I think I received one or two checks via regular mail from the UK and Spain. The sender's name never even matched the person in the emails. These guys must have been trainees. The checks were obviously counterfeit; the small security printings would have misspellings and the typesetting would be misaligned.

Some people are actually fooled by this scam and deposit the checks. Shockingly some banks even accept them. Then the dupe ships off the item for sale along with the cash difference (minus some dough for their trouble). Eventually the bank gets wise and the dupe is held responsible despite the bank accepting the check in the first place.

In my case, the scammers waited a bit and then emailed asking if I'd received the check. I strung them along. I'd either write that I hadn't gotten the check yet or ask they send another one for one reason or another. One guy even called from Africa. Eventually I guess they got tired and went away.

I did receive a good number of legitimate inquiries though. The prospective buyers asked for a lot more information than my Nigerian friends. I took lots of photos and sent them off. I ended up saving an email with a half dozen photo attachments so I wouldn't have to go through the laborious process every time someone asked.

The eventual buyer knew much more about my bike that I did. He even informed me that I had the size wrong. After a lot of back and forth which included my taking off the front derailleur (he wanted to see if it had been put on too tight and pinched the aluminum frame-it did) he bought the bike for my asking price. He said he was buying it for his girlfriend. What a guy! Through my online investigating I learned he was actually a reseller and his girlfriend story was likely bogus. But why should I care? He paid the best price and I hope he made money on the deal.

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