The Camera Sometimes Lies.

I buy some pens on eBay. You may be familiar with the eBay layout – one or more photographs and a sentence or maybe a paragraph of description. Quite commonly these days, the phrase “the photographs form part of the description” is included. These are the words I dislike most in the pen world.

So far as I’m concerned the only things that form part of the description are the words the seller uses. The photos may have some use in identifying the pen if the seller doesn’t know the exact model, and they may give you some idea of the colours if it’s a patterned pen. Other than that, they’re as good as the seller chooses that they should be. Even with several photos a multitude of sins may be concealed.

As happened to me recently, a seller included the information that there was a slight crack above the clip. That didn’t seem too serious to me and I was confident that I could repair it. It was a good pen and I bid appropriately given the damage. I was content with the transaction.

However, when the pen arrived it had a severe crack in the cap lip, a thing that requires much more time and effort to repair successfully. Had I been aware of the lip crack I wouldn’t have bought the pen. I re-examined the photos in the advert. Though the pen was shot from a variety of angles, none showed the area of the cap that bore the crack. I have difficulty in believing that such an omission could have been accidental.

I immediately contacted the seller attaching a photograph of the lip crack. It was very easy to photograph – it wasn’t one of those subtle little cracks that you can only find with a thumbnail.

The seller made an offer of a partial refund which was enough for me to feel that I won’t be out of pocket, though a repair will take a lot of time. Of course, when I come to sell the pen I will make it clear that repairs have been made.

Apart from the few occasions when I can handle pens before I buy them, I am at the mercy of the seller’s description, whether I’m buying from eBay or elsewhere. Living in the northern tip of Scotland I don’t have the opportunity to buy stock at pen shows.

That’s just one example of why I don’t believe that “photographs form part of the description.” Photographs will show only what the photographer wants them to show.

People who buy from me are, of course, in the same position, which is why I give as detailed a description of the condition of the pen as I can. It’s very rare for me to miss flaws or damage but it has happened. Having to repay the buyer for the cost of returning a pen from overseas sharpens the powers of observation!

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About goodwriterspens
I restore fountain pens, and used to trade as redripple52 in eBay. I also have my own fountain pen sales website, www.goodwriterssales.com

8 Responses to The Camera Sometimes Lies.

  1. Pentermezzo says:

    “Photos form part of the description” is a cop-out at best, a con at worst. If there are moving parts inside, such as a camera lens, I won’t touch it with a barge pole.

    It’s quite obvious your seller was pulling one over on you by avoiding photographing the crack on the cap lip. A hairline can be missed, as I missed once selling a Senior Duofold (lesson learned). But a noticable crack? You were gracious: I would have reported them to both eBay and PayPal, and made them think twice.

  2. pderl says:

    Yes indeed Deb! I had a recent experience: what I thought was a pretty decent Swan 1060. It was the buyer who spotted the hairline crack in the cap lip. Of course I refunded him in full. On examination of the pen I found the crack and then two other tiny ones less that a millimetere in length. I am still working on the damned thing!

    As you say such experiences are apt to make one very meticulous indeed!

    • The hairlines are easy to miss. Between my very sensitive thumbnail and my x20 loupe I don’t miss much these days. It does give one a sinking feeling when it happens!

  3. Paul Stirling says:

    I sympathize – unrelated to pens, but still via the internet market place, I’ve ordered two copies of a particular book recently, both of which had to be returned as the description was flawed in a way you wouldn’t believe.
    But coming back to the cracks in caps and cap lips – I had thought these were impossible to mend, permanently – material is too thin – pressure/stress in that area too great to prevent re-cracking.
    Not a problem possibly if you don’t intend to write with the pen, but if a daily user than these little devils have a habit of opening up again…………………. unless I’ve missed some now innovative method of repairing them.

    • It depends on the material. Celluloid can take a reasonably permanent cap lip repair. If the value of the pen merits it, a new cap lip can be made and joined under a cap ring.

  4. David says:

    Hmmm… I seems to me that in your case the only thing in dispute here is that the seller stated there was a “slight crack” on the cap lip; but in your opinion the crack is far more than “slight”.

    Since the seller omitted (either intentionally or not) a photograph of the disputed crack, the seller stating, “the photographs form part of the description” is strictly irrelevant in this case.

    Lacking a photograph of the crack, you decided to risk that the seller’s description of the crack in words was (in your opinion) sufficient and true.

    Moral of the story: Never buy sight-unseen.

    • I suggest that you read what I wrote again. The seller did not state that there was “a slight crack” on the cap lip! That’s the whole point!

      Your “moral” is somewhat adrift. Living where I do, I have no option but to buy at a distance. That means always buying sight-unseen.

      However, having been doing this for almost two decades, I know how to deal with these people. I came out ahead on this deal as I always do when people try something shady.

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