Caveat Emptor

Disclaimer: I thought long and hard about publishing this post, and I finally decided not to name the vendor that I dealt with. If you think you figured out who I am talking about I kindly ask you to refrain from exposing any names. Thank you.

Over the past few months I have been dealing with a particularly nasty situation that I have gotten into with a vintage pen dealer.

I was interested in buying a Pilot Murex. Reading up on the pen I ended up on the site of a collector and vendor that I would consider an expert on this very model, and his site has a comprehensive history of the pens. Encouraged by his expertise I browsed the pens he offered for sale and found a listing for a NOS (new old stock) Murex with a lose clip on the cap and a pen in non-working condition that had a cap in good shape as a bonus. The pictures posted gave a good impression both of the NOS pen and the cap on the additional pen. Our mail conversation was swift and pleasant, we agreed on a price and after I made my payment I was notified that the pens had left Japan for Germany.

Weeks later I received a notification from my local customs office to pick up a parcel from Japan. The packaging was in perfect condition, so where the cardboard envelops that the pens where separately packed in. The NOS pen was in the condition presented to me in the pictures, but when I examined the second pen with the “good” cap I found this:

What follows are excerpts of the e-mail exchage that resulted:

Tim: I was able to pick up the pens from customs the other day.
As you can imagine, I am very disappointed with the condition of the cap on the second pen. It looks fine from the front, as seen on the pictures you posted, but the side you didn’t show has major dents and scratches.

I would like to arrange a return and full refund.

Vendor: I don’t recall any dents or scratches at all. I also don’t give refunds for used pens. Sorry!

V: I should also point out that you paid for the new pen with loose cap. The second pen was a gift. No refund available for a gift. Sorry!

T: I understand your position, but I am fairly sure you remember the markings you can see on the picture I attached to this email. I checked the packaging, no damage there, so I am sure that the pen left you in this condition. You carefully worded your offer in a way to present the second pen to make up for the lose clip/damaged cap on the actual pen, and you took the pictures of the second pen in a way that was clearly meant to hide these issues. I feel mislead by you and I kindly ask you to reconsider your position on a refund in this case.

The next answer honestly made me speechless, something that does not happen often:

V: That does not look like the cap I sent. Those dents are not in the photos I have of that pen’s cap. I have been burned by someone in the past by this very thing. A woman sent me photos of a damaged Murex cap and wanted me to send her another cap (apparently she had a second Murex with damaged cap). I swore I’d never believe such stories in the future.

Anyway, scratches and small dents are not eligible for refund on a used pen that was sent as a gift along with the new pen. You have a perfectly good pen with a loose clip. And you can choose between the two clips.

Not only was the item that would be shipped to me presented in a way that hid some major flaws, now I was being being falsely accused of trying to scam this person. Just because apparently he had a bad encounter in the past. This was my response:

T:I am very sorry that you have had bad experiences in the past, and I am even more sorry that you have decided to amplify and pass on these bad experiences to another enthusiast by feigning ignorance on the issue. I can assure you that this is the cap I got from you. Unfortunately I feel like I have plenty of reasons to complain about our interactions and since you have decided to be unreasonable about all this, I will have to vent my frustration via other means.

The next day I recieved a notification about my money being refunded. Over the next week I send 3 e-mails asking where to return the pens to. I had no address since customs had made the address on the parcel illegible, as I explained to the vendor.

A full month later I receive an answer with an address, the excuse that my mails went into spam and a request to

be honest and do the right thing as I did

Since my messages did not go to spam before I suspect the person on the other hand marked them as spam. I was genuinely upset by his request for me to do the right thing and him falsely putting himself in the position of acting with integrity. His late answer leads me to believe that he might have found another buyer that he is probably going to treat the same way…
I have since returned the pens to the vendor, having spend time, money at customs and emotional energy for nothing but an education in buying vintage pens online.

So what have I learned ?

    Pen people are still the best, even if some of them aren’t. I will not, like this person did, put my negative experiences on the new people that I meet through this hobby.
    I should never buy vintage pens online. I’m sorry, but the risk is just too high. Unfortunately that means that I will never own or experience the vintage pens that I am most interested in because the European market doesnt offer many of them, but that’s just how it has to be from now on.

Watch out for yourself.

P.S.: I have changed the statement “Never buy vintage pens online” to “I should never buy vintage pens online”. Although I think that the preface “So what have I learned” puts my original statement in the correct perspective, I have been informed by vendors I respect that the original statement could be received as overly broad. I hope this clarifies things.