Author Topic: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract  (Read 7093 times)

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Knitterly

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Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« on: March 25, 2013, 06:31:29 PM »
This situation was resolved (at least I hope it has been) much earlier today.  But it did leave me with a few thoughts rattling around in my head.  I recognize that there are many countries where a verbal contract is legally binding, here it is NOT, so I am talking specifically about how you see this issue from an etiquette standpoint and not from a legal one.

Does whether you are the buyer or the seller affect your feelings towards a verbal contract or an intent to buy?  Does it affect whether you feel it is rude to sell an item to someone else (or offer it for sale elsewhere) when a first person has expressed an intent to buy that item - including making arrangements to pick up the item?

There is a specific story attached to this query, but I'm afraid it might be long, so I will post it separately and give people a chance to consider the "big picture" question.

Cami

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #1 on: March 25, 2013, 06:35:06 PM »
As a buyer, I've learned  that it's probably wise to assume that whoever shows up with money in hand is going to get the item, regardless of any verbal statements.

As a seller, I've learned that a verbal contract is worth the paper it's printed on.  So I always tell buyers, "He who shows up with money gets the item. No holds."

elephantschild

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #2 on: March 25, 2013, 06:42:24 PM »
Unfortunately, I have to agree with Cami. I'd like to be able to trust "verbal contracts," but I've been burned before. :P

That said, if the verbal contract was with a very good, close, trustworthy friend I would do my best to honor it.
"But there was one Elephant -- a new Elephant -- an Elephant's Child--who was full of 'satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions."
-- "Just So Stories," Rudyard Kipling

Knitterly

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #3 on: March 25, 2013, 07:12:15 PM »
I had the story all written out with pseudonyms for the item I am in the process of buying, etc.  That made it unnecessarily complicated.  So I've revised the story with the actual item, etc.  Hopefully it's more clear.  Please pardon any unnecessary background - I'm hoping that by including it, you'll get a feel for why there are emotions involved.

I am a spinner.  I spin yarn.  Yes, on a spinning wheel.  ;)  I own one right now, but the one I own is my third one since I started spinning.  mr K doesn't quite "get" the hobby and has (until recently) been adamently opposed to my owning more than one spinning wheel.  However, many serious spinners do.
So I've been casually perusing a particular website similar to craigslist for spinning wheels locally.  I have wanted a smaller wheel that is easier to transport to take to spinning gatherings and meetings.  I found one online that I fell completely in love with.
I contacted the seller.  It comes with only one bobbin where most spinning wheels have 3 or 4 (more is good to make yarns that are plied).  It is a vintage wheel of unknown origin, meaning it won't be possible to buy extra bobbins commercially. I would have to have them specially made.  No big deal - there is someone fairly locally who makes bobbins for vintage and antique wheels where bobbins are no longer readily available.
We negotiated the price in light of this.
She lives 4 hours round trip from me, so getting the wheel would be a bit of an issue.  If she lived closer, I would have had it in my possession by now, I am sure.  We arranged to meet at a particular location on a particular day. The day/location was to be at a convention of sorts halfway between our respective towns.  Convenient for both of us, as we both planned on attending.
As far as I was concerned, this was a done deal.
I requested closeups and measurements of the necessary area so I could get started on getting quotes for replacement bobbins.  I told her why I wanted the pictures (ie, "Can you please send me a closeup of X, Y, Z so that I can look into having extra bobbins made?).  I let her know that she could consider the wheel sold pending pickup.

Her reply was where I got confused and, if I am honest, a wee bit put out.  She told me that she never considered an item sold until cash and product have exchanged hands, and she hoped I wasn't offended by that.  Fair enough.  I suppose I understand if one has been burned before.
But then she went on to tell me that she would be offering the wheel for sale at an event two weeks prior to our arranged pickup day and time.  And that sent my poor brain into near-panic mode.  THAT did offend me.  It felt like she was assuming I was going to flake without giving me a chance.  At this point, 8 emails had been exchanged, including one where I'd inquired about a second ad.  A specific date and location had been arranged to pick up the wheel.  It made me wonder why she agreed to that date and location if she planned on offering the wheel at another event.  I felt put out that she hadn't mentioned it when I asked if that date and location would be convenient for her.  If she'd answered that query (which was in my very first email to her) with "Yes, but I also plan on offering it at X event prior to that, so it may no longer be available," I would have felt extremely differently. 

Now, the story does have a happy ending - I replied immediately to say that I understood that when one is selling something, it is wisest to sell to the first person able to pay and pickup, but that the distance was very difficult for me, which is why I'd asked about the .  I asked if she would consider delivering it and the other item I wanted for a fee.  She offered to have a family member bring it half the distance (the family member lives much, much closer to me), so it looks like I'll have it within a week or so.  I'm hoping she does not change her mind.
« Last Edit: March 25, 2013, 07:19:07 PM by Knitterly »

Amara

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #4 on: March 25, 2013, 07:33:54 PM »
Because of the high number of flakes on CL and Freecycle, I agree with her position especially as, apparently, the original exchange date was two weeks away. She had no way of knowing that you would honor your verbal agreement. It's awful when you know are reliable and you will keep your word. I have to say I am glad you were able to make alternate arrangements, but, having been burned a number of times, mostly but not exclusively, as a seller, I would have to stand with her. She probably wanted very much to sell it to you but simply felt she could not take the chance of passing up another and important selling opportunity and risk that you might bow out.

Verbal agreements should carry more weight but, alas, the number of people on CL and Freecycle who don't honor their word are numerous. If this specialized selling site has the same number of problems then I can see why she felt she needed to avail herself of more opportunities. I would be equally leery given you wanted to check out bobbin makers for this particular model. Who knows? If you hadn't found any would you still have bought it? Maybe and, from her point of view, maybe not.

elephantschild

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #5 on: March 25, 2013, 07:35:31 PM »
I think she definitely should have told you about that other event sooner. And I admit I would probably have felt exactly the way you did.

But I bet that while you wouldn't flake out on her, she doesn't know that ... and she might have had people do that before.   :(

That said, she had the order all screwed up. I think she should have attended the event, then put it on Craigslist if it didn't sell ... and certainly don't set up a sale and then inform the would-be-buyer it will be at an event sooner! That feels completely different to me than having a ready buyer turn up on the doorstep with cash in hand. (Maybe it shouldn't.)

(I'm glad you worked something out. :)  I have a friend who spins. I've witnessed her salivating over wheels. ;))
"But there was one Elephant -- a new Elephant -- an Elephant's Child--who was full of 'satiable curtiosity, and that means he asked ever so many questions."
-- "Just So Stories," Rudyard Kipling

Knitterly

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #6 on: March 25, 2013, 07:53:24 PM »
I personally feel that an item for sale should be first come, first serve - with certain limitations.
If I am selling something and someone makes plans to buy it and pick it up in 2 weeks and someone else contacts me and says they can pick it up tomorrow, I will contact the first buyer and tell them someone else can pick it up tomorrow.  If I don't hear from the first person, the second person gets it.  If the first person can't pick it up tomorrow, the second person gets it.  After all, I'm selling the item to get the money for it.

If I'm selling something and someone has told me they are coming from 2 hours away to pick it up and they leave, I'm going to hold it for the first person until at least the end of the day.

It's the whole making arrangements and then telling me about the event as an aside a full 5 days after the arrangements were first made that really got me. 

Amara to answer your question: yes, I would buy the wheel even if I couldn't get a second or third bobbin made.  We agreed on the price after I initially asked for the pictures and before she sent the pictures.
And sorry for the confusion - it's not a specialized site. Just a site that's not craigslist but works on the same principle.  More people in my area use this website than craigslist. 
« Last Edit: March 25, 2013, 07:55:16 PM by Knitterly »

TootsNYC

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #7 on: March 25, 2013, 07:55:33 PM »
She may have also wanted a faster sale and didn't want to be tied to you if she could unload it at this event closer.

She's selling it for her own reasons, for her own purposes, and she is not required to set those aside in order to make *you* happy.


(first come, first served--what do you mean by "first come"? First person there with the cash in hand? If our OP had said, "I'll pay you by Paypal/make a deposit," then she might be "first come." But to say "I really want it" is not the same as being "first come.")

blarg314

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #8 on: March 25, 2013, 08:12:05 PM »
When it comes to selling on something like Craigslist, Freecycle or an ad in the paper/internet forum, I consider it a deal when money and/or the object changes hands. Anything before that is planning only, whether I'm a buyer or seller.

It would be nice if it worked so that when someone said I'll sell/buy it to/from you it actually happened, but in reality the flake level is incredibly high, particularly among buyers.  Someone can be really interested, and asking for pictures and communicating regularly and then suddenly drop out of contact. People who make elaborate plans to pick something up from a distance don't show up, and you have to start selling it again.

I would say that in this case, the seller should have been open with you from the beginning that if she found a seller who would buy before you two would meet, she would sell it. But personally, my policy for sales like this is that the first person to show up with money and/or transportation for the item (as appropriate) gets it.  I will hold items only with a deposit. In the case of someone who wants it but can't pick it up for weeks (or months) I would tell them to contact me before they pick it up and see if it's still available. With a deposit of 1/4 to 1/2 of the purchase price (depending on the item) I will hold it, but only for about a week.


Knitterly

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #9 on: March 25, 2013, 08:12:18 PM »
She may have also wanted a faster sale and didn't want to be tied to you if she could unload it at this event closer.

She's selling it for her own reasons, for her own purposes, and she is not required to set those aside in order to make *you* happy.


(first come, first served--what do you mean by "first come"? First person there with the cash in hand? If our OP had said, "I'll pay you by Paypal/make a deposit," then she might be "first come." But to say "I really want it" is not the same as being "first come.")
I mean first there with cash in hand.  But, as I said, with limits on that.
For example - if someone else had contacted her through the ad and shown up right away with the money for the wheel, I would not have been offended or put off at all.  It's a far drive and you're right, she's selling for her own purposes.  Usually, for most people, that purpose is to get rid of an item and get cash in it's place.  First person to fulfill that wins the item.

It really was the whole thing about making the arrangements and agreeing on the price and then blindsiding me with "I'll be offering the wheel for sale at X event."  I literally did a little boggly head shake/blinky thing.  The event is an annual thing and she's there as a vendor, meaning she's known about it very likely for weeks if not months.

It's resolved now, but for a moment I just didn't know what to do.  I wondered if I was really off in my feelings of ...i think almost betrayal.  I couldn't help but wonder why she didn't mention this event 5 days ago, it would have affected the way I went about making arrangements.  If I'd known there was a 2 week time limit, I would definitely have found some way to make it up there to get the thing.  The only reason I was waiting was because she seemed willing - kwim?

I think it would be like me saying to someone "Yes, I'd be happy to hold that item for three days" and then tomorrow saying "Someone is coming this afternoon."  If I'm willing to hold, I'm willing to hold.  If I'm not, I should say so upfront.


katycoo

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #10 on: March 25, 2013, 08:13:05 PM »
IMO until one party has done they bit (either paid, or given the item) there is no contract.  if you have paid but are without item, or if you have given the item but are unpaid, then you have a problem.  But until then, no sale.

lady_disdain

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #11 on: March 25, 2013, 08:19:09 PM »
I think the seller was rude not for not wishing to hold on to the spinning wheel until the agreed upon date but for giving Knitterly the impression that they had worked out a deal when, in fact, she had every intention of offering the wheel for sale before that date.

In my view, if she had agreed to the terms (date, price, delivery) then she should stand by them. If she has been burned before and doesn't like those terms, she should have said so ("Knitterly, if I haven't sold the wheel by then, I will take it to the event for you").

YummyMummy66

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #12 on: March 26, 2013, 08:29:07 AM »
Well, number one, if I wanted an item that badly, I would not be asking the seller to deliver it.   No matter how far, if it was this important to me, I would be picking it up or I would have asked the seller that to be sure that she knew that you really wanted the item, you would send her payment now and we could arrange pickup at the venue where you both would be.

When I want to sell something, I don't want to wait "weeks" to do so.  I want it out of my house. First person to come and get it, gets it, because there have been to many times where someone says they are interested and then never show up.  And also, it has happened where a seller agrees to meet somewhere for the convenience of the buyer and that buyer never shows up.   

In this case, I can see the seller's point, because it would be weeks before said item would be transferred.

Now, I am confused as to how seller responded.  That does seem confusing.  It seems that she should not have posted said item until after the event she wanted to sell it at, if it did not sell.   But, if am wondering if after your response, she might have thought, here is another one, who wants me to make arrangements to transfer an item that she wants at her convenience and who knows if she will follow through?  Especially after seeing that you posted that the one event she will be going to is two weeks before the event you both will be attending. Exactly how far out is pickup for this item?
« Last Edit: March 26, 2013, 08:36:06 AM by YummyMummy66 »

Twik

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #13 on: March 26, 2013, 08:40:33 AM »
Well, honourable people keep their word. The problem is, in such situations, the honourable person (if a seller) may end up with unsold product waiting for someone who is not so honourable, so I understand why there is an impetus to play several hands at once, so to speak.

Once the owner of the wheel has accepted an offer, even a verbal one, she is morally (if not legally) obligated to hold the wheel until you have had your chance to purchase it. If she felt her chances of selling it were better at the event, she should not have advertised it, or agreed to sell it to you, until that event was over.
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Knitterly

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Re: Honouring the intent to buy - etiquette of a verbal contract
« Reply #14 on: March 26, 2013, 09:04:43 AM »
Exactly how far out is pickup for this item?

It was in a month - end of April.  So I can understand from the sellers perspective that if she has the opportunity to offload the item before then, of course she'd want to.  But then, why go to the trouble of negotiating a price and arranging pickup date and location without mentioning that this was all contingent on the item still being available.

Now the pickup should be Sunday.  Still waiting to hear confirmation on the specific day/time/location of pickup.