When buying on-line, it is easy to be cheated.  You send the money.  You wait patiently.  You get nothing.  Or, as more often the case, you get less than what you expected.  This is a major risk and you do need to be careful!

As mentioned, I have purchased bicycles through on-line opportunities on different occasions.  The first bicycle was my Limited Edition Miele, which was the one and only bicycle I have purchased through Ebay.  I should add, that I paid a pretty price for the bicycle.

Early, in my vintage bicycle collecting career, while scanning bicycles for auction on Ebay, I came across the Miele.  I checked the Seller’s Feedback Report and all seemed well.  As I recall, the seller had all positive feedback, but not all than many sales, to his credit.  I watched the auction closely, asked any and all pertinent questions that came to mind (not nearly enough, as it turned out) and made the buy.  I sent the money order, covering purchase price and shipping costs.  Then I waited for almost two weeks, before the bicycle arrived.  I should add that estimated shipping travel time from Toronto to Thunder Bay was only three days.  I assume that the seller used up ten days getting the bike packed up.

When the bicycle arrived, I was horrified!  The fool who had packed the bicycle left the saddle, stem/bars and rear derailleur exposed, before dropping (perhaps literally) the bicycle off at the bus station.  Well guess what?  The saddle got all scuffed up.  One brake lever was badly scratched and the rear derailleur (Campagnolo C-Record) was broken in half.

I contacted the seller about the poor packing job and the damages that resulted.  He offered to send me a spare C-Record rear derailleur.  Though not entirely happy with the offer, it was better than nothing.  Problem is, he never followed through.

I doubt that this fellow was a scam artist but I did get scammed, none the less.  I was unhappy with the results of the transaction at the time and the bad taste still lingers.  In all honesty, and this in no way exonerates this unscrupulous fellow for his careless actions, the Miele is a wonderful bicycle.  Today  it holds the number one position, in my humble collection of top of the line Canadian made road bikes.  I might add that I have completely rebuilt the Miele.  Today, Number 17 (that's the serial number) looks quite different wearing a full Campagnolo Super Record grouppo.

There is a lesson here.  When purchasing a bicycle from someone who doesn’t sell many bicycles, you need to consider how the bicycle you just purchased, will be packed, shipped and insured.  Be sure to ask:

"How the bicycle will be packed?  Who the bicycle will be shipped with? And, is the shipment insured?"

If the Seller indicates that he or she will have the bicycle packed up at a Local Bike Shop – great!  The people packing the bicycle will know what they are doing.  Additionally, they will have access to the proper resources to do a good job.  If the seller is packing a bicycle for the first time, you might consider requesting that the bike be taken to a shop for professional packing.  Expect to pay a packing fee, in either case.

And please don’t resent a fee for packing a bicycle or frame set.  I spend about two hours packing a bicycle and I am very careful doing it.  This extra care is REALLY good insurance against damage.  In addition to all of the on-line selling fees, it also costs a few bucks for the materials required to pack up a bicycle.  And it is a good idea to consider these things when a packing fee is mentioned.  The seller is just trying to let you know where your money is being used, in an up front fashion.  I might add, and this is not a criticism, that many sellers simply include the packing or handling cost in with their shipping quote.  Either way is acceptable to me, as long as I know all of the costs involved before I bid.

The second bicycle I purchased on line presented a really SCARY situation…

Through an on-line friend, I learned of a mid seventies CCM Tour du Canada that was up for sale.  (CCM, incidentally, is the acronym for "The Canadian Cycle and Motor Company".)  An on-line friend, who lives in Vancouver and is aware of my Canadian vintage road bicycle interest, informed me of the Tour du Canada opportunity.  At first, I thought that my chum knew the seller and, based on that, I sent a good sized money order off.  Then I waited as the CCM made its journey from Vancouver Island to Thunder Bay.  A distance of roughly two thousand miles.  Estimated travel time is approximately six days.

During the course of a two week wait (understandable since the bicycle had to cross water to reach the Canadian mainland) the CCM showed up, however…

While I was waiting for my brand new vintage, top of the line Canadian road bicycle to arrive, my on-line friend informed me that he did not actually know the CCM seller at all.  My chum had learned of the bicycle through Craig's List, another good source for finding vintage bicycles.  Lots of vintage road bicycles are offered up on Craig's List on a regular basis.  However, there is no protection mechanism built into buying from such an on-line source.  Buying through a website such as Ebay does offer buyer protection opportunities.

Once I learned that I had sent a few hundred dollars to a complete stranger, all kinds of alarm bells went off.  I spent the next several days floundering in a puddle of anxiety.  Finally the Tour du Canada arrived, and I must take this opportunity to thank the seller for his tremendous packing effort.  Things worked out very nicely for both of us.  He got nearly as much for the bicycle as he paid when he purchased it new.  I got a very hard to find Canadian made bicycle in my size.  And I heaved a well earned sigh of relief.  Things could have been much different…

The third bicycle I acquired on-line, and I used the word acquired because the transaction was based on an even trade as opposed to a purchase, was my absolutely beautiful and very hard to come by mid seventies Marinoni.  Even though there was no money exchanging hands, the RISK factor of dealing with a perfect stranger, outside of the boundary of protection offered by Ebay, caused my anxiety level to soar even before committing to the transaction.  Incidentally, the bicycle I shipped off in trade for the Marinoni was a very old French Rochet that was in need of a complete restoration.

Well, the ten to twelve days it takes for a bicycle to make its way to me from the Seattle to Duluth passed, and passed slowly, I might add.  I should also say that the bicycle was not being shipped directly to me.  Rather, the Marinoni was sent, at my request, to a friend in Duluth, Minnesota.  I really like to visit Duluth and ride the wonderful trails offered by the state of Minnesota.  Any excuse to go for a visit will be quickly snatched up.  Did I mention that Duluth is a pretty good place to vintage bike hunt?

When my friend in Duluth e-mailed me that the box had arrived, in a timely manner and with no external damage apparent, I was very relieved.  Excellent so far!  I wrote back, indicating that I would pick the bicycle up the following weekend - several more days away.

To make an already long story short, the bike is, was and I hope always will be, perfect.  The component grouppo was not to my liking and not exactly as expected, but so what.  I had been lucky enough to find a very rare and high end Canadian bicycle thousands of miles from where I live, and now it had arrived.  The cost was that of shipping only.  The feelings experienced that day I opened the box and saw this beautiful old bicycle for the first time, are fondly remembered.  This is one of the truly great things about collecting vintage light weight road bicycles – finding a gem and then having a great story to tell about it.

But what about the Scam issue?  Did I get scammed on any of these purchases?  In the case of the Miele, absolutely though to this day I do not believe that the seller intended to cheat me.  The CCM was about as scam free as you can get.  And the Marinoni arrived not quite as pictured.  The point is, once you send the money you are at the mercy of the person you are dealing with.  Avoiding intentional scams is one thing and, fortunately for me, I have never been intentionally scammed.  But with all of the scamming on-line pitfalls that exist, my bet is that sooner or later, the Big Scam Dog will bit me.  And there is nothing that I can do about it.  However, there are a great many other Risk Factors that will prevail with every on-line purchase I make.  Understanding what these Risk Factors are is the first step to take when avoiding them.