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23 February, 2008

Caveat emptor, II

Repeated title, repeated message: when buying from unknown sellers via eBay or Amazon Marketplace, remember to check past feedback ratings first.

A few weeks ago, I bought two Sylvan albums, 'Posthumous Silence' and 'Presets' from an eBay seller – the sample tracks I'd heard at the Rogues' Gallery impressed me enough to try the CDs, though not necessarily enough for me to risk full retail (Amazon) prices. The listed Seller Location was in the UK, but something about the wording of the auctions hinted the goods could be despatched from elsewhere, so I wasn't worried when the package took a while to arrive.

However, I hadn't expected the CDs to come from Moscow, labeled "for sale in Russia, CIS and Baltic states only". There's nothing inherently wrong with such releases, of course, and I don't object to the distributor's preferences being ignored, but Russia is the primary source of counterfeit Porcupine Tree albums sold in Europe, so it's natural to be cautious. That minor doubt was slightly fueled by the 'Presets' case insert stating the wrong release year, but that too could be easily explained if this edition was released a little before the main EU & N.American edition(s), or perhaps the artwork was prepared in late 2006 for an early-2007 release and the date was overlooked. There's certainly nothing wrong with the quality of the booklet and CD.

The 'Posthumous Silence' case insert and booklet are similarly fine, but the CD is... absent. Again easily explained as an innocent mistake, and I've contacted the seller for a refund or replacement.

The problem is the cumulative effect: a UK seller providing Russian CDs without stating the source up-front (if I'd wanted the CDs quickly or if I'd been a collector specifically wanting the UK/EU edition, I'd have been annoyed) AND there being some doubt about the legitimacy of the releases AND a CD being missing – together, they inspired a little (inconclusive) research into whether there are any known scams involving Sylvan CDs.
Oh, and the packaging wasn't great: two CDs loose in a padded envelope with no additional padding to stop them banging together.

The point of all this is that had I looked at the seller's feedback ratings, I'd have known immediately that he/she/they sell Russian CDs and have a reputation for inadequate packaging, and I could have made an informed choice about whether to proceed. There's no hint there that their stock might be pirated or that others have received empty cases, so I've no reason to think they're fraudulent, but others have mentioned severe delays obtaining refunds for problematic orders....

Don't make the same mistake: check first. There's more to an auction listing than the seller's own text.

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