Warning about Cheap Trombones on eBayThe subject I most frequently get e-mailed about concerns certain cheap trombones being advertised on eBay. Rather than continuing to respond to these e-mails individually, I've decided to devote a page on my site to this subject. Before you read on, please take a few moments to peruse my disclaimer if you haven't done so already.
Essentially, the following are cheaply-made brands originating in China: Bestler, Lark, Nieer, Parrot, Song Lin, Steuben, Xing Hai. Occasionally, the advertisements include names along the lines of "German/Italian/French Engineering". My belief is that "German/Italian/French Engineering" in this context is being used either as a company/trade name or as a reference to attempts to copy German/Italian/French methods of manufacture, since there are no main-stream German/Italian/French brass manufacturers of that name. For example, Lark produces bass trombones that are based on an old design by Josef Monk of Germany. Another frequent gimmick is the use of the word "original" followed by the brand name. Well, ok, the instruments are probably genuine Steubens/Bestlers/etc, but that's rather like a car dealer saying that the car he's trying to sell you is a genuine "Lada". Of course, if that sort of thing is what you're after... (26/10/02 Update - firstname.lastname@example.org left this feedback for German-instruments on Oct-21-02 17:18:57 "Neutral: unable to fill order due to dock strike". The response by german-instruments was "strike is over you can fill and pay for order". These were obviously references to the West Coast dock strike, which impeded the entry to the USA of imports from the Far East - imports coming in from Europe via East Coast docks were not affected. Hence, German-instruments' instruments are obviously Far Eastern in origin and not German, despite the seller's misleading name!)
No trombonist I know who has ever had the opportunity to try one of these instruments would ever recommend them. At least, not if they valued their good reputations. And all have complained about the diabolical quality. Typical complaints include stuffiness (poor responsiveness), inferior build quality and in at least one case, the apparent absence of certain harmonics (i.e. poor design).
The following are the only circumstances I can think of in which someone would recommend one of the above instruments: if that person was a) trying to put you off the trombone, b) a sadist, c) recommending a cheap wall-hanging/lamp, d) playing a practical joke, e) the seller trying to make a quick buck.
If you want a good beginner's instrument, I strongly recommend getting a Yamaha. You can't go wrong with one of these - they're universally recognised as being of outstanding quality and are available at relatively low prices. The current Yamaha student model is the YSL-354 (this instrument is highly regarded by professionals and will keep its value relatively well if properly maintained). Other beginners' instruments of similar quality include the Bach TB300 and Conn Director but these will probably cost you more. If you're really pressed for cash, the cheapest trombone I'd suggest is a Jupiter (from Taiwan), but I'd really recommend spending a little bit more for the Yamaha instead.
Note: Whilst I have concentrated on Chinese instruments above, the reader should be aware that similar instruments are also coming out of India. Aside from instruments bearing their own brandnames, some Indian and Chinese companies sell unmarked instruments or instruments engraved with brandnames specified by importers in other countries. Also, it is now known that certain Besson trumpets/cornets being sold on eBay are in fact fakes produced in India, and the distinguishing feature of these instruments is that they all bear the same serial number. Your best bet to avoid landing an Indian or Chinese instrument is to e-mail the seller BEFORE you bid, asking for manufacturer's details (eg town/country of manufacture, name of manufacturer, manufacturer's website) and serial number. If the manufacturer turns out to be a well-known and respectable one, you can contact them about the serial number to verify the authenticity of the instrument on which you intend to bid.
Update: The sellers of German/French/Italian-Engineering instruments have since 2003 or thereabouts started including serial numbers on their instruments. I haven't gotten around to verifying if the instruments all have different numbers (limited good) or just the one same number (bad). The presence on an instrument of a sequential serial number is useful for identification if your instrument gets stolen. Unfortunately, the lack of manufacturer information means that the key reason I identified in the previous paragraph for having serial numbers remains unfulfilled.
I cannot stress enough the importance of doing your homework before you bid. Do not fall for "limited stocks" or "just a few left" ploys, whose purpose is to encourage you to put in a bid or better yet, use the "Buy-it-now" feature (where available). The sellers will often allow you to return the instrument after an evaluation period if you are unhappy, but the evaluation period is usually something like three or four days - if you are inexperienced, this in my opinion is insufficient time with which to properly evaluate your instrument. Furthermore, you will be out-of-pocket for shipping costs. If you do purchase an instrument you think might be dubious, try to have it evaluated during the trial period by an experienced trombonist or specialist trombone teacher rather than by a general music or band teacher (who might not possess in-depth knowledge of trombones and thus unwittingly give it an undeserved thumbs up).
Share Your ExperiencesFinally, if anyone who has purchased one of the Chinese or Indian instruments wants to share their experiences, good or bad, please do e-mail me. Aside from relating your experience(s) with the instrument(s), please make sure to include the following information in your e-mail: a) details about the instrument, b) relevant background information about yourself (e.g. how long you have been playing the trombone), c) whether you grant me permission to quote from or reproduce your e-mail on my website, d) whether you'd like your name and/or anything else appear in the credits or if you'd prefer to remain anonymous, and e) a declaration of vested interests, if any (eg if you are writing at the behest of an eBay seller, if you are a competitor of another seller, etc). Thank you!
1) One Parent's ExperienceA parent purchased a flute (Item # 910350492, 7th Oct 2002) from the eBay seller Great-tunes. Although this is a trombone site, he has asked me to publish his e-mail to me as he lacks a website of his own and the number of characters allowed for feedback on eBay is insufficient to tell his tale. A slightly abridged version of his e-mail follows below. The reader is reminded that I am not responsible for the contents of articles written by others, and that publication on this site does not imply my endorsement of their views.
"I purchased a 'Genuine New Silver school Flute... by German Engineering' in a time and money crunch for my daughter's band interest. I was not able to have the flute evaluated within the 3 day satisfaction guarantee, thus I am stuck with a ~$150 eBay lesson. Since the purchase, I have learned enough about flutes to know I was lied to by the seller's advertisement. Here is a list of lies about the flute i bought as advertised.
Seller Lie 1) 'German Engineering' - The exact same flute, same picture, same text is advertised as a 'Wexler', and a 'Morelli Model 794 of genuine Italian Engineering'. These are all the same flute, from the same seller –the only difference is the engraved model mark. Check other eBay flute sales.
Seller Lie 2) 'NOT one of those ‘Cheap Beginner Imitations? - See Lie #1, and check your local Sam’s Club. Most likely made in China - no ‘made in?or serial mark on flute/case.
Seller Lie 3) 'Normal Retail is $599.95' - For that price, you can buy a brand new flute produced by a reputable manufacturer at a local music store. For this flute’s true value, see your local Sam’s Club.
Seller Lie 4) 'Sturdy hardshell case' - The case is of low quality with plastic hinges and plastic peg slide closure.
Seller Lie 5) 'The DURABLE Steuben Flute will last for years' - Flute springs already loosening in posts so pads don’t tightly shut, killing low notes. One skin pad is slightly tearing. Flute needs to be repaired after less than 10 hours use.
Seller Lie 6) 'FAST SHIPPING... $19.90 shipping-handling' - Came by 3-day ground in an unpadded simple cardboard box, form fitting the flute case. Less than 4 lbs total weight for a 4x14?item. Bottom line: $20 for 3 day ground - seller padding price.
In my opinion, Great-Tunes is producing misleading ads about flutes, and this hurts eBay more than eBay profits from the transactions. If you choose to complain to eBay directly, let me know, and I will join you."
2) How to Get a Full RefundAnother parent and reader of this site has sent me an e-mail after reading the one published above. A slightly abridged version of her e-mail follows below. She too bought an instrument from Great-tunes, in this case a violin (Item # 906652277, 20th Sept 2002) for her daughter. The reader is reminded that I am not responsible for the contents of articles written by others, and that publication on this site does not imply my endorsement of their views.
"Numerous reports have been filed against Great-tunes for fraud. There is no such maker of instruments as 'Steuben' as you probably know. And Great-tunes definitely knows that there is no instrument named 'Steuben' because I had done research into it, found absolutely nothing and told him so - as have others. The seller then told me they were pulling all 'Steubens' off the market, but in reality didn't do so. I have retained a copy of the e-mail in which Great-tunes claimed to be pulling the instruments off eBay, and copies of auctions where Great-tunes was selling 'Steubens' after sending me that e-mail. Also, Great-tunes has been selling the same instruments under different brand names, which in my opinion shows that Great-tunes is fully aware that he is selling fraudulently. I have recently found out that what Great-tunes is actually selling are Chinese-made instruments 'Bestler' brand instruments which have been rebadged with names such as 'Steuben, Wexler, etc'.
Filing a report with ebay and www.fraud.org will get action. Great-tunes left a message on my answering machine threatening me with negative feedback (this threat was carried out). I went a month without hearing from Great-tunes again, I filed complaints. After the complaints were filed, Great-tunes contacted me. I was VERY firm with Great-tunes and I told him that I was not going to insure it, I was not going to ship ANYTHING until I had my money and reimbursement for my shipping costs and I wanted the money to ship it back TO him. I also told him his shipping policy was ridiculous. So, not only did I get my money back for the instrument and for the shipping I had paid, but I received money for shipping it back to Great-tunes BEFORE I shipped the instrument. Incidentally, I found out that someoneelse got taken after the instrument was shipped back. Great-tunes told the customer that the violin was never received.
I refused to remove the feedback that I left because all negative feedback works against Great-tunes, and with fraud complaints coming in, it might just get Great-tunes suspended off eBay. I am hoping to hear back soon from the Attorney General of the state of Idaho. The Attorney General's number is 1-208-334-2424 (this is the consumers affairs division - call them to get a complaint form)."
3) Yet Another Complaint About Great-tunesBelow is an abridged e-mail I received in early December from yet another dissatisfied Great-tunes customer, who bought (but did not receive) a trumpet from Great-tunes (Item # 917634358, 7th Nov 2002). The reader is reminded that I am not responsible for the contents of articles written by others, and that publication on this site does not imply my endorsement of their views.
"I have rarely been treated the way that Mel of Great-tunes talked to me. He used numerous words of profanity, was extremely rude to my wife, hung up his phone while I was talking, and refused to answer when I called back numerous times. I paid promptly (that very day) for the trumpet. Our cheque was deposited into Great-tune's account (within 7 days, we checked) and we had not heard from them. I sent an e-mail requesting information but received back an automated impersonal e-mail requesting more info. After getting little response, I posted negative feedback based on facts. They were furious and, of course, called me immediately. In their e-mail, they threatened to leave me negative feedback, which they did.
My biggest problem with them besides all the above is that they have these cute little Christain icons all over their pages as if to say "Trust Us we're good people, we'll do the right thing" etc. Not consistent with a person who tells you to "Go to hell". You wouldn't believe the emails this guy has sent me. And to date, the trumpet has still not been received."
Follow-up (received 11 December, trumpet has now been received):
"As we somewhat expected from our initial experience, this has gotten worse. The trumpet we purchased is anything but quality. Great-tunes advertised a trumpet that "normal retails for $699 ... not one of those cheap imitations." I had the trumpet inspected by 2 experts who not only never heard of Morelli Trumpets, but said that it is exactly what it was advertised "not" to be: A cheap imitation.
We are of coure returning it at our expense and minus the $35 shipping charge. There is still no guarantee we will get our money back... we'll see. Our biggest issue, aside from getting our money back, is to have the negative feedback they posted on our profile in retaliation for the factual negative feedback I posted on theirs. I am paying $20 to have this mediated out of principal as we have done everything possible to be good buyers. The issue, as I have told them, is not that they are doing anything wrong in selling instruments, but rather the unethical way in which they advetise/market them. Their techniques are more than just dishonest...their lies. This should absolutley not be tolerated by not only the consumers, but by ebay as well."