If you’re a regular reader of this website, you know that from time to time I find myself inspired to write about the state of the watch collecting community. Like all of you, I’m just a normal guy, who sometimes decides that it’s time to send a watch to a new home, and it’s off to the forums I go, with terribly lit photos and hopes of a quick transaction that doesn’t end in some kind of postal fraud incident. In the years I’ve been doing this, I’m happy to say that I’ve had many great experiences selling watches to strangers. But lately…lately, eh, I dunno. It kind of feels like things are going off the rails a little bit, doesn’t it? I’ve sold a few watches in the last couple of months, and, with apologies to @vandelayhouseofhorology, I’ve never felt more like George Costanza in that Chinese restaurant, reminding his fellow patrons that we’re living in a society. We’re supposed to act in a civilized way!
Maybe it’s just a run of bad luck, or perhaps karmic retribution for youthful indiscretions that have come back to bite me, but it seems like poor, sketchy, or downright inappropriate behavior is on the rise in the public watch trading forums. I’ve never been one to worry too much about getting scammed, or even having my time wasted, but in the current climate, it seems like you have your guard way, way up.
Before I go any further, I’ll say at the outset that in spite of some, let’s call them troubling, experiences trying to sell a few underutilized watches, I eventually found fantastic buyers, who I imagine are enjoying their lightly used, hopefully accurately described new-to-them watches as we speak. Hello to each of you, if you’re reading, and thank you for turning the tide after a season of frustration.
There are a number of small annoyances that I’ve observed ticking up a notch as of late, and hopefully documenting them here can serve as a gentle reminder of some basic etiquette we should all strive for in our dealings with fellow watch enthusiasts and collectors. Perhaps the most frequent faux pas is also the most forgivable, and one that if I’m being honest, I’ve been guilty of myself in the past, and that’s the lowball offer. It seems like you have a better chance of being lowballed these days if you indicate in your listing that you prefer not to be lowballed, which I guess is just how the universe works. I admit that I understand the rationale for the lowball as a negotiating tactic. Perhaps the owner is clueless or desperate, or both, and will be inclined to accept an insulting offer? As a potential buyer who does not, in fact, have unlimited amounts of money, I get the desire to spend as little as possible on a depreciating asset.
What I fear is that many of these lowballs are coming not from collectors looking for a piece to add to their collection, but from a new crop of wannabe dealers, trolling Reddit, WatchUSeek, and other platforms for watches that can be easily flipped. There’s a whole underground world of “courses” from “YouTube watch gurus” on how to “get rich” and “drive a Lambo” through flipping watches at a high volume, and whenever I see someone with two transactions under their belt offer me pennies on the dollar for a watch that I know is priced fairly, I just always think that they failed at Crypto, and are now trying to be a watch dealer.
Another problem, potentially more serious, is the apparent increase in scam activity across the board. Listing a watch for sale on r/watchexchange now generates an automated message warning of new tricks, and specific advice to not ship watches to certain locations known to be indicators of scam activity. When I list a watch on Reddit, I always request that anyone sending me a message of inquiry first comment on my listing, thereby confirming they are not banned in the Subreddit. Ignoring this request, especially if the message comes through a chat, which can be deleted later by the user to permanently wipe out evidence of the communication, immediately has me seeing red flags.
So that’s another tip for potential classified section shoppers: read the listing carefully! Diligent sellers take certain precautions to protect themselves, and you’re going to give off the absolute worst of vibes if you just completely ignore instructions or guidance that has been communicated in a sales listing. That includes what is almost certainly the most ignored line of text in any watch listing: not accepting trades at this time. I swear, I think this text, or anything mentioning a potential trade, is just wiped out of a listing automatically through some back end process, the same way eBay removes phone numbers and personal email addresses from private messages. What else could explain the fact that, no matter what watch I list, or for what price, within a day of it being live, I have multiple offers to trade (up or down) for a like-new Seamaster 300M? I must have been out of the town on the day these were being given away at the AD.
These foibles, however, pale in comparison to the one thing you absolutely must not do under any circumstance, ever, and that’s back out of a deal. In the watch community, particularly when it comes to selling watches in the Wild West of enthusiast forums, word is bond. If you commit to a deal, you buy the watch. You certainly don’t commit to a deal, hold the watch hostage for a week as you move money around, only to realize at the last possible moment that you’ll be charged a 3% fee on the credit card transaction, and scuttle the whole thing. While I’m sympathetic to a degree, the fee structures in these cases are not a mystery, and what’s 3% anyway? Seems about equal to the cost of doing business to me.
Am I being too harsh? I’d like to think I’m fairly patient and understanding, and I really do try to give people the benefit of the doubt, but it just feels like with the growth of the hobby, more and more people are filtering into the world of trading on the secondary, enthusiast to enthusiast market, and we might be experiencing some growing pains. At the end of the day, common sense rules. Be nice, pay attention, treat people the way you want to be treated, respect people’s time, and you’ll probably never have a problem. Maybe a better suggestion when you’re looking to buy a watch is to assume the seller is a cranky writer for a watch publication, and that whatever stunt or breach of decorum you pull, it’ll be turned into content, and documented at length. Multi-part podcast series incoming…