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Buying a Bass via the Internet

There can be many reasons for wanting to buy a bass via the Internet. Maybe you live in a place with no music stores? Maybe the only music store in your area only carries Fender? Maybe you came across a great deal on ebay? Whatever the reason is, buying on the Internet is not always as straight foreward as it might seem. There are some dodgy people out there who will rip you off if you're not careful. I've talked to quite a few people to whom this has happend, so here's some tips you can apply if you consider buying a bass via the Internet.
  1. Always make sure the person who is selling actually got the bass legally in the first place. There are a few ways of finding this out. You can ask for the serial number, and check it against records of stolen instruments in the seller's state. If the seller refuses to supply the serial number, then don't buy. In this case, the instrument is either stolen, or it's a fake. Also, many manufacturers have a database of serial numbers and owners, so if you check with them, you can verify that the seller is the bass' rightful owner. Smaller luthiers sometimes provide a list of reported stolen instruments on their homepages. Be sure to check that out as well.

  2. If everything so far checks out, you can start asking some more questions about the bass. Ask if the seller will supply pictures of the bass. Be sure you get close-ups of vital parts like the bridge, headstock and neck-joint. Most serious sellers on eBay usually have pictures like this in their auction description. Also ask if the bass has ever been damaged and repaired. If so, who did the repair? A licensed tech, or the buddy with two left hands? Ask if the neck is in order, and if the bass is set up properly. Make sure the electronics work too.

  3. This point is mostly for those who have access to the desired bass locally, but also who has a better price off eBay or overseas. Go to the music store that has your bass, and try it out. Play it as long as they'll let you; this way you'll be absolutely sure that this is the right bass for you.

  4. If you found the bass on eBay, check out the sellers rating. 100% positive feedback is good, but don't forget to consider the amount of feedback. 100% doesn't mean anything if the seller only has 1 feedback listed. See if you can get in contact with some of his/her recent buyers, and ask how they would rate the deal.

  5. If you buy from a store, give them a call. Ask about the bass and how they plan to ship it. Make sure you get the name of the person you speak with. You can use this as a reference if you have to call back later. Get information on the preferred method of payment. If they ask for you VISA number over the phone, don't give it to them unless you at least have the stores name and adress, and the stores banks name and adress. This will come in handy in case the seller decides to abuse your credit card.

  6. Lots of online auctions, like eBay, uses Paypal as a way of transferring your money to the seller. This is regarded as a safe transaction, so it's OK to use it. If you buy privately, ask for an account number to which you can transfer the money. Don't send a check in the mail! Before you transfer any money to a seller, you have to be sure that he/she is actually going to send you the bass after he/she recives the money. This can be tricky, so use common sense. If everything up to this point went well, you got all the info on the seller and t he bass, then you should be ok. A good alternative is to arrange for the payment to be made when you get the bass delivered. Cash on delivery is by far the safest way to go here. This way the bass will be paid for when you receive it.

  7. Before you pay though, make sure it's as promised. Open the packing and take out the bass. Check for any signs of transport damage. If the delivery persons gives you a hard time for doing this, just tell him that you're within your rights to check a delivery for damage. It's OK to be a bit of a pain in the behind towards the delivery person; it's your money after all. But, be polite. You don't wanna start a fight.
If everything is ok, you're home free. Tip the delivery person, and start jamming!

Thor Iversen is a bassist from Norway.