Collector Tip: A Tactical Guide To Buying Online

As technology and social media keep expanding, this has become an incredible time to be a Transformers collector! No longer is going to a department store, online retailer, or just the big-name forums your only avenue to pursue and acquire. Collectors and dealers alike are using any and every possible way to make their available goods seen, and the chances of scoring just about anything you need are in favor of the seeker. However, like most things that relate to the general population when combined with internet access, there is a seemingly giant gap in common sense and overall knowledge of how to work a transaction that doesn't conform to the "see it/buy it" formula that is the norm when using a retailer. So, I'm going to try and lay out some basics that will make not only your life easier, but also the seller's. While every seller and buyer will have their own style and personality, these should be considered some ground rules for doing business on a personal level. I am skimming through and purposely avoiding some of the intricate pieces of the puzzle, including negotiating and problem resolution, in order to give a general idea of how things should go.


Yes, this is actually necessary for me to blurt out right off the bat. Whether you have Paypal funds available, a credit card, or will go out of your way to supply a Money Order, have the funds before asking. I have come across an incredible amount of people in the past few months who feel it is perfectly acceptable to shop 20140212_162613without money - and it isn't. Wasting a seller's time may not cost YOU money, but it could be costing THEM a sale while fiddling around with your crap and answering questions, taking pictures, etc. Respect the fact that someone is essentially helping you with your collection, and respect the fact they may need the money more, and sooner, than you will be aware of.  As a seller, I keep tabs on people who leave me hanging or have put me through unnecessary work and ended up not having the payment ready - and I'm not the only one. You lose connections and breed negativity among your peers when getting invested in something only to reveal you could never afford it in the first place. And #toykarma WILL catch up to you!


So, you've found a post that has what you want, and you're ready to initiate a purchase. First, review the post and look for any information requested by the seller PRIOR to sending an inquiry. Normally, this will include a Post Code or ZIP Code and not much more, and this is so that a seller can provide you an accurate cost total that includes the shipping price. You can save your full address for AFTER payment - but a Post Code or ZIP is normally going to be your best bet to a quick deal. If you need things shipped to a PO Box, make sure to disclose this prior to payment. Other pieces of information you may want to include in your initial inquiry will be feedback links, how you plan on paying, and how often you are online. Usually on forums, you can plug a link to your feedback into your signature, so if you do that, you're always covered. If you plan on paying, for example, as a Paypal imagePURCHASE - disclose that with the seller, and ask for a total that includes all the transaction fees. DO NOT assume the total you are given includes any fees if you have not disclosed your intent to pay as a purchase!!! Learn the fees yourself (for domestic purchases, 2.9% of the total sent, plus 30 cents) so you know what to expect, or if they give you a total that does not include fees, you can adjust accordingly and be accurate in your payment. If you are Screenshot_2014-04-03-15-54-44-1a person who is rarely online, or has limited access, it is VERY important to disclose that when initiating a purchase. Most people can check in multiple times a day, and take care of a deal in minutes. It's not always expected to go this way, but NEVER go longer than 24 hours without communicating, and ALWAYS inform the seller if you anticipate communications to be an issue for you. Not only is this just common courtesy, it will avoid the seller getting antsy or assuming you have lost interest and selling the item(s) to someone else.


So, let's say you just sent your inquiry and are waiting on a response to complete the purchase. If you haven't done it already, now is the time you should be researching the seller's feedback or basically thinking of any questions you may have. This can include things like: What shipping method will be used, how long before the purchase will actually be shipped, or any other particular details that may not have been included in the item description. Generally, people will post this information at the top of a sales thread on the forums - but even if they have, nothing wrong with double-checking. Research what you are buying, as well!! Even if you aren't worried about a certain aspect of a figure or set, make sure you know exactly what you should be getting. For example, you want to buy a Takara KISS Player Sundor cassette, but you don't TAK11770want the box. Listed as "100% complete, no packaging or CD." So, maybe you have collected Ehobby and Encore cassettes, and aren't worried about those. However, when you receive Sundor, you want to know where the hell the (normally included in other sets) collector card and clear case are?! Well, this particular set didn't include either of those things for the 3 cassettes. Knowing things like this ahead of time are YOUR job as the buyer!! And again, if you aren't sure, ask PRIOR to paying!! Sellers should be happy to provide details like this, and I know I always am. To simplify, if someone advertises something a certain way, you should always know what to expect versus what you receive. Very few people will knowingly mislead you, but you should always be observant for your own sake.


Hell yeah!! You found what you want, got the price, got it paid, and now it's on the way to your gentle - yet strong - nerd hands. This is not "I need to talk to my seller 9 times a day" time. While I haven't had this issue in a while, for a time it seemed like 20140122_174103EVERY new forum member who would make a purchase from me felt the need to message me multiple times a day, and talk about anything and everything. Being personable is one thing during a transaction - but being buddies is NOT a requirement in any way. Getting to know other collectors is always great, but in the appropriate manner. Unless you made some sort of life-altering nerd bond during the sale, you should basically just wait it out until the stuff shows up. Once an item is in the mail, there isn't really anything your seller can do for you anyway, and they usually don't care about whatever it is you want to talk about, or how much you can't wait to get your stuff. Especially avoid asking why the package went this way or that way or is late - sellers have absolutely no way to control or change the delivery patterns and problems. The appropriate time to contact while in transit (again, unless mega geek love bond has been achieved) is when the estimated arrival time has passed. If your item was dropped off on a Monday, and sent USPS Priority, if it hasn't shown up by Friday is when you need to start looking for it. Check your tracking information first. If the aO-SMALL-FRB-01-main-900x695numbers provided don't seem to be working, THEN contact the seller. Sometimes the tracking site is suffering lag, or is down, or whatever. But basically make sure you have the right information, and know that as long as the seller actually sent the item, there is nothing at this point he can really do. AGAIN, ONCE IN TRANSIT, A SELLER IS BASICALLY HELPLESS - this is not just some sort of of excuse, it's a simple truth. Once it leaves the seller's hands, he has no control of ANYTHING while in transit. Don't be that guy that blames him because the carrier dropped it on the dock and it showed up a week late.


FINALLY!! That magic plastic genie has popped out of the mailbox to grant your plastic crack wish!! Now that it's here, you still have some work to do. These things are quite often left out by a buyer, but are still essential to a clean and mutually beneficial transaction. FEEDBACK!! Assuming you have checked out your shipment, and everything is good and was described accurately - leave your seller some feedback! You don't need to be gushing with praise, but at least include enough to give other potential buyers an idea of how everything went. (Keep in mind this is for a transaction that has gone well - I will cover problem-solving another time. But if there IS a problem, you need to contact the seller and avoid this step until a resolution comes into place.)

  • Did the seller communicate with you in a quick and orderly manner?
  • Was it  packed well for shipment?
  • Was it shipped when expected?
  • Is the figure in the condition it was described in?

These are the essential pieces that most potential buyers will be looking for, and remember, in a forum setting you are part of a community. Providing accurate feedback about your experience not only shows that you fulfilled your Screenshot_2014-04-03-15-58-59-1-1responsibilities as a buyer, but it allows other members to understand what they can expect from the seller. On non-forum sites, such as Ebay, it is even more important to leave feedback quickly and accurately. Sellers rely heavily on this feedback for not only recognition and record-keeping, but it also helps them achieve certain goals and requirements that enable them to obtain discounts and in turn, offer lower prices. Having to chase around a customer for feedback is annoying, and leaves a negative feeling over the transaction. Remember this person (in this example) has provided you not only with a new item for your collection, but has taken the time to describe it, pack it, ship it, and communicate with you. Not completing such an easy task that helps a person who is responsible for your collection adding a piece is lazy and disrespectful, and can prevent a seller from dealing with you in the future. Losing a possible connection down the road may seem minor or frivolous, but you NEVER know who is going to have that ONE figure you can't find anywhere else. Don't let laziness detract from your ability to acquire! This can actually be done prior to leaving feedback, but it's usually common courtesy (even if not always requested by the seller) to contact the seller directly, and let them know everything arrived. If anything, this just shows the seller you are a happy customer, and going out of your way to not only provide feedback, but personally contact them and let them know your shipment arrived ok shows them you are a person worth dealing with again.


2 thoughts on “Collector Tip: A Tactical Guide To Buying Online”

  1. Very nice write up Swage. If I might add something to it? If you have a prefrence for shipping? TELL the buyer! Most are very accomodating. Like Fedex is all but useless where I live, but UPS and USPS are the best. It might be different where the seller lives. If you want it shipped via USPS, tell the buyer. 99% of the time they’ll work with you to make arrangements that will work for you.

    1. Excellent point! I was keeping it basic, but if a buyer has a preferred shipping method, it should absolutely be brought up prior to payment.


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