How does this work?!

wileypickett

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If nothing else, maybe I can at least stump Ralf!

Recently this guitar turned up on eBay, supposedly for sale in Japan.


I have the same guitar. I don't mean the same model, I mean this exact guitar -- it's in its case about 15 feet from where I'm typing this in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Same serial numbers, rubber-stamped in the same places, same sparkle pickguard and headstock overlays (which are after-market substitutions, not stock), including the same torn spot near the D tuner string shaft.

None of the pics are ones I took, nor were they taken in any spot I'm familiar with.

I bought the guitar at a yard sale a few weeks ago, and only discovered the eBay ad while trying to research it. (BTW, this is one of TWO ads on eBay for this same guitar; sharp-eyed LTGers will recall seeing the same Guilds being offered by different sellers for different prices on eBay too, always with the same photos and always in Japan.)

I was thinking maybe the person I bought it from had tried to sell it online at one time, and the pics were ones he took for his ad. But I'm not seeing it among any "sold items" on eBay or Reverb. (Can you find old ads for items that were offered but didn't actually sell?) And the guy I bought it from didn't seem to even know what brand it was.

I guessed it was a Kay or Silvertone at the time, and Kay seems right, though having researched it, the serial numbers don't match Kay's: while it looks in most respects like other Kay 6116s, which is how this seller identifies it, the 6116 model number is not stamped anywhere inside the guitar. (I'm also not sure how anyone would know for sure it was from 1960; supposedly Kay's serial number system was haphazard and no one can determine the exact year anything was made.)

Maybe the guy I got it from bought it from someone whose pics these are, and the guy I got it from didn't like the guitar enough to keep it and so just tossed it in with all the other stuff he put out in his yard sale? (Though if he liked it enough to buy it, you'd think he'd know the brand!)

And though the guitar was pictured in his Craigslist yard sale ad (along with pics of books, knick knacks, jewelry, coffeemakers and such) it appeared in only one too-close-to-tell-anything picture, which just showed a small portion of the body and nothing else.

It's obviously some kind of scam, but what kind?! The seller has mostly positive feedback, though one or two buyers said they were refunded for items not really in stock.

How does this kind of scam benefit the scammer?

Mystified.

Thanks!
Glenn
 
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HeyMikey

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This is bizarre. Those pics had to have been online somewhere recently. Ask the seller for more pics…
 

wileypickett

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One other thing: when I first went looking for info about this guitar I searched "Kay jumbo guitar gold sparkle." Nothing came up.

The next day there were four listings for this guitar on eBay (from two different sellers, but both were also listed as sponsored items, which I think eBay charges extra for, no?) and each ad contained all four of my search words in the description.

Is this some kind of search algorithm, whereby unscrupulous sellers can see what search terms people are entering and then they advertise those exact terms?

And then link those search terms to actual historical ads?!

If so, these pics could be years or even decades old.

But I still don't see how it can possibly profit anyone to do this. If I (or anyone) was to buy the guitar, the seller would just have to refund the money when they couldn't ship it.

AND they're risking getting negative feedback.
 
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Opsimath

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That is scary strange, especially the search words coming up the next day. No description of the guitar and no item specifics in the listing, other than seller is in Japan. I hope someone can shed some light on this mystery.
 

SFIV1967

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Not a mystery at all, just a funny incident since Glenn has that guitar in his hands.
To start with, the guitar was also listed on 9/11 at Yahoo Japan:

The ebay listing shows "last updated 9/9", so it can't be based on that Yahoo listing.

I explained this a few times how ebay in Japan works. The ebay sellers usually never have the items on hand, they just relist things for international buyers which they find in local Japanese written adds in Japan, hence any international buyer would be not aware of them and those ebay sellers are the gateway to the outside Japan world. Usually they are honest and ship fast but since they almost never have the item on hand and have a lot of fellow competitors they often use disclaimers like: "We sell our items on other websites and in our retail stores in Japan at the same time. If the item was sold out before your purchase, your order will be cancelled and a full refund will be issued immediately." So a buyer cannot give negative feedback to them as they used such disclaimers. Obviously ebay tolerates this.

Now if the item is a fake local listing in Japan, the ebay sellers won't even know it! The ebay sellers are not the scammers in that case but some person locally offering the not existing guitar in Japan. Why, I don't know. Maybe that scammer is not even located in Japan.

Now lets see how they got hold of the pictures.
There was indeed an ebay listing in the US for
"KAY K-6116 acoustic guitar - vintage 1960s - custom gold sparkle luthier project"
from at least July till September 3rd with location given as "Canton, Massachusetts, United States"
and that listing was closed on Sept 03, 2021 with "item no longer available".

The guitars description read:
" Vintage Kay K-6116 acoustic guitar. This was Kay's high-end model in the early 1960s, with an adjustable truss rod (which most old Kays lack), SOLID spruce top, fancy checkerboard binding and other decoration. But for someone this wasn't enough bling, and at some point a custom GOLD SPARKLE pickguard and headstock overlay were added. WOW!
The guitar is in excellent condition, very nice and clean EXCEPT for one serious issue that makes it a PROJECT. It requires a NECK RESET. It is currently unplayable due to high action and will need to be repaired by a professional luthier. It appears that the tuners were also replaced and some work was done on the bridge. No issues there that I can see, just pointing it out.
Again, this is a PROJECT. However, it is a very worthwhile project. There are no cracks or other signs of abuse and the custom bling can be easily removed if you wish to bring it back to stock. Great guitar, bound to please whoever gives it the attention it needs to sparkle again. Literally.
Sold AS IS, no returns. Any questions - just ask!
Will be very carefully packed. Price includes gig bag or chipboard case (I will find something to ship it in).
See my other listings for more vintage guitars and other cool stuff!
"



This listing has even more pictures compared to the Japan listings, so it is clearly the source and somebody stole the pictures and re-listed it somewhere local in Japan and now the new Japanese ebay sellers are not aware of that scam.

The real Canton, MA based seller sells other guitars shown on that sofa as well:

The only thing that doesn't match exactly is Glenn saying "I bought the guitar at a yard sale a few weeks ago" but the ebay add in Canton was only closed on 9/3.

Hope that helps.

Ralf
 
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fronobulax

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Interesting.

We know there is an ebay subculture based in Japan where dealers scour CL and other websites for instruments and list them on ebay. It isn't really a scam because if you try and buy from the listing dealer the dealer will either buy the instrument from their source and ship it to you or tell you it had sold elsewhere and refund your money. Multiple "brokers" may list the same guitar and that is not necessarily a sign of a scam. It is a sign of a business model that is speculative - the seller doesn't actually have the item in hand and honest broker won't keep your money if they can't get it for you. This is not what I expect from an auction site - I want the seller to have the item in hand when they list it - but the outcome is not much different from a seller who has a listing that gets sold in person. Either way you get annoyed because you tried to buy something that was not available but no money has been lost by you.

So if your guitar was listed online somewhere (and at some time) and was not marked as sold, the Japanese seller could have found it and speculatively listed it. If they get a real buyer and then can't buy it, they just say "sold elsewhere".

The interesting question is where was your guitar previously listed and for that I have only speculation.

I cannot quickly find services that eBay offers to sellers. But there are numerous businesses that have a search capability and will sell someone a list of things that were searched for and how often. I can certainly imagine ebay offering a seller this kind of search data. The broker could look for searches that appear unusual in ebay and then do the same thing on CL or other sites. if they get a hit they make an ebay listing with the same terms in hopes that the folks who searched for that once will do so again.

So - I don't think there is fraud or a scam involved. At worst the implied contract that you don't auction something you don't already have in hand is being violated.

Accepting the claim that the pictures are of the exact same guitar, then it has to have been offered online at some point. A TinEye search for the images didn't help me find where and a quick forensic look an an image showed date and location data was either never recorded or was stripped by ebay. I expect the latter.
 

fronobulax

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Now that I see @SFIV1967 posted while I was writing, I concur with what he says and tip my hat to his ability to find things before I even start to look.

I believe there is a whiff of something unsavory and that is the listing of the guitar that the brokers are relisting, but not the brokers themselves.
 

Teleguy61

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All very interesting, but how is this not a scam?
 

SFIV1967

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All very interesting, but how is this not a scam?
Which one is the question... The Japanese ebay listings are most probably not scam as they follow the Japanese way of working with ebay. They almost never have the item in hand. You as a "Western" buyer need to be aware when buying from Japan and better find out where the guitar is actually listed (in most cases you can if you search the Japanese local sites). You would not be able to buy the guitar from whoever offers it locally. So in this case the only scam happened somewhere on a local site which would be similiar to Craigslist in Japan. And that scammer most probably is not even located in Japan anyway. But you should only buy from ebay Japan if you know the rules of play, otherwise don't do it. A few members here bought great guitars in Japan via such ebay brokers.
Ralf
 

fronobulax

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All very interesting, but how is this not a scam?

Define scam.

There are lots of non-scams where something is advertised for sale before it is actually in the seller's possession. Kickstarter is full of them. Stock options have some similarities. Paying a deposit on a guitar built as commission is one. So offering something for sale before it is in the seller's possession is not, by itself, a scam. If the intent is to obtain the item and money is refunded if it is no longer available then it is not a scam.

Since the ebay lister is presumably relying upon an ad posted by someone else on some other site, it is possible that the person who posted that other ad is a scammer. But like nesting dolls, it could also be that the other poster was also a broker.

I am uncomfortable with the practice of listing a specific instrument with the intent to buy it from elsewhere if necessary, but scam or fraud are stronger words than I would use until someone reports that they paid money and received neither an instrument nor a refund. Indeed there are a few LTGers who have bought from Japanese brokers and been quite pleased.
 

walrus

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Ralf and frono, those were impressive posts!

My question is why eBay allows it, but I'm not sure they could anything about it anyway.

walrus
 

wileypickett

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So much for stumping Ralf! (Thanks for doing some heavy lifting -- I wasn't able to find the original ad, I assume because the guitar didn't sell, and I was looking under sold items?)

But whether you call it a scam or simply an awfully weird business model, they're offering a guitar for sale they don't have and have no way of obtaining.

They have to know the ad they cribbed the photos from was posted by a US seller, and that's where the guitar was. They have to know the item is no longer for sale, which means they couldn't buy it and resell it.

How does it profit them then to offer it for sale? What's in it for them?

And BTW, the yard sale I bought the guitar from a few weeks ago WAS in Canton, MA. Maybe the seller just didn't take his ad down right away after selling the guitar?

I now know more thanks to LTG's Sam Spade, but I'm still mystifed.

Thanks again!
Glenn
 

fronobulax

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But whether you call it a scam or simply an awfully weird business model, they're offering a guitar for sale they don't have and have no way of obtaining.
This is the key point and where I respectfully disagree.

What makes this not a scam or not a business practice worthy of scrutiny or regulation is the fact that the seller expects to either get the guitar and send it to you or refund your money. If it is a business then they have a way of obtaining it unless it was sold before they got there.
 

wileypickett

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This is the key point and where I respectfully disagree.

What makes this not a scam or not a business practice worthy of scrutiny or regulation is the fact that the seller expects to either get the guitar and send it to you or refund your money. If it is a business then they have a way of obtaining it unless it was sold before they got there.

Hey Frono,

My use of the word scam was meant to imply dishonest or deceptive advertising.

The point you make is that the seller either expects to get the guitar and send it to me (how?!) or refund my money. But either way, they're offering something for sale that they don't have and can't possibly provide. (You really think when they ran these ads that they honestly expected to get the guitar?)

The fact that they'll take my money now and give it back to me later doesn't, to my mind, make it any less a deceptive ad.

"Scam," "dishonest," "deceptive," "fraudulant," "shady," "murky" -- whatever you call it, something is still rotten in Denmark, no?

A reasonable person can reasonably expect that by buying something offered for sale, that the seller will complete the sale. We enter into these kinds of business relationships all the time, whether you're buying a latte from Starbucks or a guitar on eBay.

A seller could offer Elvis's gold Cadillac for sale for 10 million dollars and I coud buy it (well, theoretically) but they couldn't supply said Caddy and would have to refund my money, right? OK, but what's the point of doing it?

I'm mainly trying to understand how doing all this work to make a sale that can't possibly be made benefits these "entreprenaurs."It just seems like a time-wasting excercise. How does the seller benefit from running these kinds of ads, ones they spend money to run, and more money to have those ads double featured as "sponsored" items?

I'm just perplexed is all.
 
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fronobulax

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Our core disagreement is that you believe the seller cannot possibly obtain the item they are advertising. I disagree.

Let us first assume that, unlike the specific case with your instrument, there is someone actually selling the instrument and the broker knows who that is and knew who it was before the broker also offered the same instrument for sale. As soon as the honest broker gets an order they try and buy it. If they succeed they keep your money and send you the guitar. Otherwise they refund your money and say it was sold elsewhere. As the buyer it is very much like ordering an instrument online that is for sale in several venues and finding out it sold at a different venue. The broker makes their money because they only (re)advertise instruments they can buy low and sell high.

Now it is quite possible that people are talking past each other. Most of my comments and those of several other people were made about the general business practice and not about the specific instance of someone offering your guitar for sale. In that specific case there is fraud involved. What is not certain is who committed the fraud - the broker advertising it on ebay or the person who listed it under circumstances where the broker thought it was a legitimate sale.

The general practice of offering something for sale before it is actually in the seller's possession is not in and of itself fraudulent.
 

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SPINACH.jpg
 

wileypickett

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Our core disagreement is that you believe the seller cannot possibly obtain the item they are advertising. I disagree.

I'm still not getting you Frono. It seems like you're making a theoretical argument, which goes something like this:

You offer a guitar for $300.00 on eBay; I copy your ad and photos and put up an ad for the same guitar for $1200.00. Someone buys it from me at the higher price; I then buy it from you at the lower price and sell it to my unwitting customer.

You make 300 dollars; I make 900 dollars after paying you.

If that's all you're saying, I agree -- that's good ol' capitalism in action and no fraud. Buy low, sell high. Hooray.

But I'm not asking in theory. Unless I sell this specific guitar to one of the two sellers now offering it for sale, how can they possibly obtain it? They can't.

Are you saying they can? Or they might be able to? Or they didn't know when they posted the ads that they couldn't obtain it --therefore just an honest mistake?

So far as I can tell, the two sellers in Japan copied an expired ad originally put up by the yard sale guy in Canton and posted it on eBay the day after I'd searched eBay using search terms very specific to that guitar. (That's kind of mind-blowing by itself, but we know every search term we post online has the potential to generate targeted ads, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.)

If those sellers know they can't obtain that guitar (how can they not know?, it's not for sale anywhere) but offer it for sale anyway, is that still just good ol' capitlaism and not fraud? (The ethics seem questionable to me at the very least.)

I'm merely curious how it's worth it to anyone to go to the trouble and expense of doing this. Maybe no one knows?

SIDE NOTE: I know tone is often misinterpreted in online discussion, so let me be clear: this is all in the nature of just trying to understand something that makes no sense to me.

I'm not angry or contentious in the least. Bewidered and slightly bemused about sums it up.

Thanks!
 
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fronobulax

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I'm still not getting you Frono. It seems like you're making a theoretical argument, which goes something like this:

You offer a guitar for $300.00 on eBay; I copy your ad and photos and put up an ad for the same guitar for $1200.00. Someone buys it from me at the higher price; I then buy it from you at the lower price and sell it to my unwitting customer.

You make 300 dollars; I make 900 dollars after paying you.

If that's all you're saying, I agree -- that's good ol' capitalism in action and no fraud. Buy low, sell high. Hooray.

We are in agreement.

But I'm not asking in theory. Unless I sell this specific guitar to one of the two sellers now offering it for sale, how can they possibly obtain it? They can't.
Agreed. If the instrument being offered is the one now owned by you then the ebay broker cannot sell it to anyone else.

I think there are two aspects to this conversation. First there were many general or theoretical statements being made that were not clearly identified as not applying to your guitar. Second, if I offer to sell someone else your guitar, take their money and then give it back to the buyer when I cannot get the guitar from you then that is not fraud or a scam. At worst it is disingenuous because as the broker I am expecting you to assume I have the guitar and not go searching and buy it directly.
 
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