Chinese guitar rip-offs

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Chinese fraudulent listings for guitars 

This is such a HUGE problem that it really deserves its own guide as a warning. There are others on this same issue (showing just how big the problem is) but IMHO they miss a few things...

Is it really an issue?

Yes.

There are a few forums on guitar selling out there where you will find discussion of these issues. Some people even willing to suffer the embarassment and admit they have been stung. Others, less honestly, trying to flog the guitar they bought ( in the very rare case that any guitar even arrives) as original when they realised thay had been duped. So, yes, it happens. A lot...

Why aren't you seeing a lot of them on EBay Australia? The answer is simple. I look for them and report them to EBay and they get closed. Hopefully others do the same. Instructions on how to make these reports are at the end of this guide. In a 2-3 page listing I would get 10-15 fraudulent Chinese listings. Today, as I write this guide, I tried my favourite search and got none in three pages of listings. Mind you, I did report 2 yesterday, and about 20 in the last week.

If I ever get a life you will presumably see a lot more of these than you might at the time of writing.


If you simply avoid ALL Chinese guitar sales you will avoid the problem entirely!

This may seem like an over-reaction, but seriously, I have only found one that was not an obvious scammer... Every other guitar from China that I have looked at (and that is a lot) has been a scam.

Chinese sellers are most easily identified in your search results by the currency (in RMB).  If you really must click on them (maybe just for a laugh, as some of them are truly atrocious scams) you will notice a few very common characteristics, described below.


Characteristics of Chinese guitar scams
  • They come from China. That should be enough to raise suspicion! Try finding a Chinese guitar listing that is not a scam. To see a heap of them go to the source at EBay China (www.ebay.com.cn) and type in your favourite guitar brand in the search space. Don't worry that it is in Chinese... the listings will almost always be in English because they are usually lifted from legitimate sellers  and are targetted at overseas buyers. Really, go and have a look. China is apparently the land of vintage teles and strats and who-knows what else. I just looked and found on the first page of Fender scam results one seller with two identical listings of a 1953 telecaster...

  • Some are Chinese-manufactured fakes -- you need to both know your guitars and also look carefully at the photo(s)... Some poor sod actually bought a Gibsun (yes, it really was spelt that way!) from a Chinese site thinking it was a legitimate Gibson.

  • Most images, however, are of legitimate guitars because they have been stolen from legitimate sellers (usually) or from other web-sites (occasionally). If you spend a lot of time looking at EBay guitars you will find many of them familiar. Note some of the background images: English country gardens, or lounge-rooms with an American newspaper or a Simpsons comic on the chair. It would be funny if it wasn't designed to steal from you. Usually these scammers have a truck-load of guitars because they are after a quick killing before they get closed, so have a look at the images... never the same decor or garden or whatever in the background. Strange things afoot, methinks...

  • If the English is rotten, it will say little about the guitar (because they don't have it and because they know nothing about them). I saw one guitar described as a saxophone.

  • If the English is very good it is almost certainly lifted from the original (legitimate) seller. Look for give-away references such as "I bought this guitar from our local music shop in Sussex about 8 years ago". A few times I've even seen the email address of the original seller in the description! Yes, they really are that stupid!!!

  • You can sometimes locate the original listing on EBay. Search EBay using key words (especially if the heading appears stolen as well, which it often is as some of these guys are just plain dumb). And speaking of dumb, you will sometimes find the Chinese fake listed concurrent with the legitimate seller's listing! I've seen them on consecutive pages in a results listing. If you really feel the need, perhaps just to inform the original seller (as I sometimes do), try a couple of extra things. Try keywords from the heading (heading only in this case) AND select (on the left panel) "Completed Listings" to find matches from listings that have closed. Also, note that the sellers who they have stolen their listings from may not be visible from your country. Try do various searches in other countries such as the USA (www.ebay.com), the UK (www.ebay.co.uk), etc. If you are a reasonable EBay hunter you will find the original listings a good 50% of the time.

  • Often, when there is a wave of Chinese fraudulent listings, you will see duplicates - exactly the same listings posted shortly after each other and sitting close in the EBay results. There is no explaining this as it really tells buyers something fishy is afoot. I guess "dumb, dumb, and dumber" sums it up. Usually a bunch of different sellers appear at about the same time selling the same guitar using exactly the same advert! Stranger than that is that you will also see the same seller duplicating the listing under the one ID! How many identical (down to nicks in the headstock) rare Nighthawks with custom bodywork does this guy own? Yes, yes, the answer is none, but you wouldn't think they would be advertising that by claiming that a truckload appeared on their doorstep one night would you?

  • Look for currency clues where they have stolen a listing that mentions local currency of the original seller. Often you will see things like "1-pound no reserve" (using the actual English pound symbol instead of the word "pound")... easy to miss if you really want to believe that you have found a bargain, but slaps you in the face when you see it.

  • The feedback may be zero. This is common in the real dumb-ass scammers, but the vast majority of them are in this category. But don't assume that because they have a non-zero feedback score that they are not scammers (see below)! What is interesting is that many have been members for about a year but have never bought or sold anything and if you look at their other items for sale you will see 10-20 other guitars all suddenly listed and all good quality guitars.... Yep... And they don't own a single one of them!

  • In the case that feedback is not zero, have a look at the actual feedback comments. You will not see much of it, but note a couple of interesting things in what is present. Firstly, many of them are from the same person (or small group of people). Secondly, if the sale links are still active you can look at the items involved you will see that they are sold for almost nothing. If you look at the fake "buyer" you will see more of the same in their buyer/seller feedback. Basically, what you are seeing is a bunch of people (or the same person with a few different accounts) trading petty items to get a non-zero feedback score before they suddenly list a heap of guitars and hope to flog them off to some poor sucker. A non-zero feedback score does not give these "sellers" any extra legitimacy.

  • The guitars involved are often really good guitars at bargain prices. Not always: some prefer to "sell" a few non-existent guitars for a cheapish price while others prefer to "sell" a lot of non-existent guitars for almost nothing. They don't know guitars. They steal listings that have high prices (telling them that the guitars are valued) and simply change the price to a more attractive one. Yes, you see a lot of 1962 vintage guitars in China that sell for a couple of hundred dollars -- even a 1954 strat if you keep your eyes peeled.

  • If you email them general questions of interest such as "Nice guitar! How long have you owned that beauty?" you get a quick response telling that you need to bid quickly... if you email them something that indicates you suspect them of not owning the guitar they are selling (such as "Show me a picture of you holding the guitar and I'll bid on it") you will get no response. I kind of think a legitimate seller would be really offended by this and be on your case in a flash. In the case that the entire listing was stolen (i.e., the description is clearly that of a native English speaker) any response to email will be a lot more like Chenglish (Chinese English).

  • The one part of the listing that is very clear is the part that explains just how you and your money will be separated. Yes, folks, it really is all about the mighty dollar... or RMB... likewise, any responses to technical questions will gloss over your issue with some incomprehensible waffle and launch quickly into your need to bid on it.

  • Very occasionally the listing will include a link to their web page!! Yes, that makes them even more stupid than one dares to imagine. Have a look. Every hellish web-design issue that you have ever seen is in one site: flashing banners, incomprehensible gibberish, links to their own site that don't work, the strangest graphics that have no relevance to anything at all.... And the colours! Arrrggghhhhh! But note what is being sold. As well as guitars you see things like TVs, cars, handbags, computers, bicycles, and even (my personal favourite) "No product"... hmmm... Yeah, if you flog off imaginary guitars why not other things... its not like you need a warehouse to store them in...

  • There is at least one Chinese seller out there which actually delivers guitars... which is a bonus compared to the rest... but the guitars are FAKE. If you want a novelty item then fine. Every guitarist should own at least one "Gibsun". But be aware that these are illegal operators. You will be getting a FAKE, through and through. You will not get Gibson/Fender/whatever pickups. You will get a cheap decal and the body will be made of chunks of wood glued together. Why pay this money for a cheap fake (which will be spotted a mile off) when for the same money you can get an authorised Fender Squire strat at your local music shop without having to wait or worry if the thing will ever arrive. One more point on these crappy fakes... the big players don't like it... Fender and Gibson and the like have been informed of these operators and will close them. The probable reason they are not closed already is that they may be gathering evidence for prosecution... but they will be closed! That means two things for someone that really wants one of these pieces of crap. Firstly, you take the risk that between paying for your cherished "Gibsun" and it being shipped  the cops arrive and shut shop. You can kiss your money and your guitar goodbye. Secondly -- although not as likely -- who is to say that they big players won't also chase the buyers of these obvious fakes as well as the sellers? Yes, it may sound a little paranoid but remember when Metallica felt ripped off by Internet peer-to-peer downloads they sued individuals, not just the company. The big shops fiercely protect their brand when the poo hits the fan. You pay your money and you takes yer chances...

  • If you ever find a legitimate Chinese guitar seller check the shipping costs. I am not saying in this guide that legitimate Chinese sellers are not out there, its just that I have never seen one, and I see a LOT of guitar listings. If you are convinced that the seller owns the guitar they are selling, and you are convinced that it is what it appears to be (not a "Gibsun"), and you are convinced that they will exchange said guitar for your hard-earned dough then by all means go ahead. As my experience has never led me to this point I can only note the cautionary advice from buyers who have bought other items (not guitars, but just about anything else) from China; that is, insist on knowing the shipping charges for the item.  If they won't give a quote, walk away. Reports for other goods bought from China often mention unexpected shipping (i.e., "postage" plus the mysterious "handling" fee) that often exceed the cost of the item. This is often an attempt to avoid EBay fees (as EBay charges based on sale price, not inclusive of P&H). However, it can be a big sting for the buyer. Looking for a flute for my daughter I noted a number of Chinese flute sellers, all advertising various flutes (one described as "an exquisite and excellent treasure" and another a "100% new costly wonderful flute") -- for $0.99 AUD. Yes, you can be the proud owner of an exquisite treasure for less than one Australian dollar!!! And the postage? That must be a little bit more exquisite at a mere $250.00 AUD... oh, and don't forget the compulsory insurance... that's another $40.00 AUD. The local music shop was a much better (cheaper, quicker) option, and I actually walked away with a flute! You can (and should) complain to EBay about excessive postage and handling.

Is this cautionary guide racist?

No.

It is no more racist than a travel advisory is for stating that travellers should be wary of buying Rolex watches on their Indonesian vacation, for example. This is the way it is.

I don't really believe anyone would actually find this guide offensive and its certainly not meant to be, but its a weird world full of people looking for issues to get all puffed up about. All I can say is that if you really think this is about race, that's your problem. If you see race in every issue than maybe you are a racist. I am not. Go off and buy one of these guitars. Good luck to you! And then, perhaps, we could talk of this nice bridge I'm thinking of selling.


Please inform EBay of such sites to have them closed and save a few less wary buyers from being ripped off!

Before we get to "how" note that if you are not the original seller from which the listing has been stolen there is little point in complaining on the basis of copying without permission as only the original seller can do that. EBay's excuse, which makes broad sense, is that perhaps the owner had given permission for their listing to be copied. This is really unlikely in  the case of 1953 telecaster or a guitar with a one-of-a-kind paint job, but  I do get the general point.  So, you can either notify the original seller of the unauthorised copy and let them complain or you can just (much more simply) flag the listing as fraudulent and let EBay look into it. If you do that, and save the web page for later checking, you will find that EBay acts fairly quickly to close these.

Here's the low-down:
  1. Click on the Community tab at the top of the page
  2. Click on Security and Resolution Centre at the bottom right (next to the shield)
  3. There are four problem areas listed. Ensure that Report another problem is selected and then press the button to move on.
  4. Select Listing Violations and then press the button to move on.
  5. In the first box (sub-topic) select Fraudulent Listings... then in the second box select You suspect that a listing is fraudulent (you didn't bid) then click Continue.
  6. When the Email us link appears click on it.
  7. Copy and paste the item number into the box. If there is more than one (I usually find a heap) just separate each with a comma. If there are more than 10 you will have to send in batches of 10.
  8. Press Send and it is away. Done!
NOTE: The above is for complaining about stolen listings where the seller has no guitars to sell or they peddle fake guitars - the subject of most of this guide. To complain instead about postal rip-offs (where the item is cheap but the shipping is expensive) do everything above but replace step 5 by the following: In the first box click on Listing Policy Violations; in the second box click on Circumvention of EBay fees; in the third box click on Excessive Shipping and Handling; then click Continue.


The description is long but the process is easy. Save this guide to your EBay account in case you need it and close the bastards down as soon as you spot them.



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