Clearing out the camera closet – the misery of selling on Facebook and eBay.

A few years back I became a collector, or more accurately a hoarder, of old games consoles. If you can recall it from your youth, I had it. This compulsive collecting started out quite innocently – I wanted a Sega Megadrive to play Flashback on, an absolute favourite game from my teenage years. For the princely sum of £25 I was hooked up and ready to go with a console that looked almost new out of the box.

After the novelty wore off, the mind starts to wander – I never could afford a Super Nintendo when I was a child and now… well, now I have a job, so I best get one of those too. Can you see where this is going? From there it was a case of “I wonder what it was like to have a Master System?” “My mate used to have an NES, that’d be nice wouldn’t it?”

Once this happens it’s game over. At one point I spent three hours neatly organising and routing cables behind my TV unit so I could hook each and every one up at the same time to save plugging and unplugging. Whilst a masterpiece of wiring, it was absolutely absurd in retrospect. By the time I’d lost the compulsion to collect (and could no longer afford it either) I’d purchased every single late 1980’s, 1990’s and early 2000’s console along with a selection of the best games for each.

It didn’t stop there. As I’m in to electronic repair, most of the consoles I bought were broken and needed fixing. I enjoyed the repair so much, I kept buying cheap consoles to repair as a “backup” and then as ones to give to friends who wanted a nostalgia hit – at one point I converted 3 Japanese Famicoms to work on composite video for other people who’d asked for them.

Things, as they say, had got out of hand. What has this got to do with photography? Everything.

In this post:

Recognising the problem

I don’t have too many cameras, you have too many cameras!

One day I sat there, looking at the wall of consoles, and realised that I just didn’t have the urge to use them any more. Of course, at some point in the future, I’m sure that urge could come back but if I was really honest with myself all I ever wanted was a Megadrive with a few games and possibly an N64 with Mario and Goldeneye. That’s it.

One thing I can’t stand is hoarding of anything that other people would really get some joy and use out of, that just isn’t ever being used by the owner, all just to fulfil some strange desire to have one of everything, or as many of something as you can possibly lay your hands on. It was time for change.

Within a few months I’d sold everything bar the Megadrive and N64. Within a few more months, they’d gone too. The fact is emulation is always there if I really have the desire, and now behind my TV isn’t an electrical fire waiting to happen.

I cannot tell you how liberating it all was. It felt good to clear things out. Some items went to really great homes, in one case to a little boy who had such severe learning needs that the only thing that ever engaged him with his family was old video games. I think I nearly filled that guys boot with gaming gear.

There’s nothing wrong with buying and keeping whatever you like, but for me I want to feel like I’m using the things I have, that they have a purpose or I’ll definitely need them at some point in the future. I had no intention of starting to collect things again.

Then came a resurgence in my photography.

It would be fair to say that due to reviewing various cameras on this site, I’ve amassed quite a collection of bodies that are now once more sat on a shelf gathering dust. In fairness, each and every purchase has had a purpose, has been used and tested but now due to having all the camera gear I genuinely need, it has got to the point where things need moving on to a new home.

After rationalising the reason why I need each body, I had around 12 cameras that no longer had a use or purpose. I don’t have any particular desire to get back the money I spent on them, but it would be nice to have a few quid in return that can be reinvested in things to talk about on this site. Inevitably, then, I had to face up to the utter torture that is selling on the internet.

Some electrical tat, nasty furniture and a horse cart. That’s what the algorithm thinks I need in my life…

Facebook Marketplace is brilliant in theory. A completely free place to sell items, no selling or listing fees and best of all people will come right to your front door to take away your old items. What more can you ask?

Within seconds of listing something the messages start.

“Is this still available?”

“Yes”

“Ok. I take it, but I’m busy with work so I’ll send a *insert name of courier company here* to collect it and give you your money.”

Wow! Sounds amazing. Please, tell me more! Scammers aren’t even trying very hard any more. If you didn’t know, this one ends with them telling you that in order to send the cash you’ll need to pay for it to be “insured” but not to worry, you’ll get that back when they come to collect. You’ll not be surprised to hear that should you pay for this fantastic service, you will never see your money again and there certainly will not be a shiny happy courier at your door to collect your item.

In all scams since the earliest Nigerian 419 emails up to the present day, scammers still haven’t learned that basic spelling and grammar is the first hurdle you need to overcome if you want to catch more people with your scheme. The second I see a message from someone who can neither spell nor use language to a reasonable level, I switch off. Moreover, they’re not even trying to conceal the fact that their profile is utter garbage, set up to simply provide some cover as they go about trying to take money from people.

It got the stage where I had so many of these interactions that I could tell the scammers instantly from the names they made up, its like they were using the random name generator from the wonderful 1997 System 3 game “Constructor.”

I once witnessed this game generate the name “Slasher Bonker” for a gangster…

Their profiles are, at most, a stolen profile picture, a few bizarre or meaningless posts to unrelated groups and the occasional stolen family holiday photo which often show completely unrelated people. This complete lack of effort does of course work in the favour of anyone who might be a little unsure and takes a few minutes to dig a little rather than just replying and getting sucked in to handing over their money.

Then you get the real people. They’re even worse. I genuinely had one person who obviously couldn’t be bothered to read the location which is clearly on each and every advert, when he realised we were approximately 150 miles apart he asks “drive to … I’ll meet you there!” Yeah. Ok. I’ll just jump in the car on the off chance you actually bother to turn up and in doing so spend more than the equipment is worth in petrol. Hmm.

Now, call me mad, but I really don’t like ripping people off. If I sell something, I’m more than content to sell it for the same price I bought it, or at a price which I think is completely reasonable. I can remember all too well the absolutely insane prices people were trying to charge for old games which did nothing but drive up prices and make collectors lose their minds and actually pay these crazy amounts that were being asked for.

“Why so cheap?”

“Why not? I’m happy to charge you more if it makes you feel better?”

I’d listed all the digital cameras as a lot together for one simple reason – they all take the same battery and I only have one charger between them all to give away. If I’d sold them individually, then they wouldn’t be complete which seems rather pointless. I wrote in the description “I will not split these items to sell individually.”

“Will you sell just one of them?”

Jesus.

Free is not always better

Goodbye, old friends. We had fun.

Once you’ve given up with Facebook marketplace there’s only really one place to turn to and that’s eBay. Ebay is wonderful as a buyer, but as a seller it is absolute hell on earth. Under the current rules of the platform, a buyer can throw their toys out of the pram for literally any reason they desire and you’ll end up out of pocket. It is a complete lottery as to whether you’ll get a buyer who’s satisfied or the nightmare where they decide that because they didn’t read a description, they didn’t get what they wanted.

Many years back, descriptions were the be all and end all on eBay. Today, they are almost worthless. It is shocking how many people will admit that they don’t read the descriptions at all, instead relying on the pictures to tell the whole story. The problem with this is that even if you do manage to win your case with the hidden eBay overlords, you’ll have had your money automatically taken away regardless. You really are utterly helpless on eBay as a seller and for that reason I normally avoid it like the plague, to the point where I’ve actually given bags rammed with stuff to charity rather than go through the pain of selling online.

Case in point regarding the irrelevance of descriptions was one person who messaged me to ask “are they all working?” I simply copy and pasted the entire description to him in reply and then got the response “you’re a good seller, most people don’t bother to reply.” I didn’t have the heart to tell him why that might be for him personally.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m being too hard on people. eBay have certainly made changes to their mobile application to make things like descriptions less visible and it can behave in really bizarre ways at times. I tried to list a Canon Dial 35 as for “parts or not working” only the app decided that for that particular category of listing, this wasn’t an option. Indeed, you couldn’t select any kind of condition whether you wanted to or not.

Poor software design really is inexcusable these days, we’ve had 16 years of smartphones and you’d think by now user interface designers would’ve nailed the basics, but it seems we’re still managing to take steps back by creating things which are either deliberately or accidentally difficult to use. Regardless, something is getting in the way of common sense prevailing, I cannot help but think there is a huge windfall awaiting the person who can come up with a trading platform that manages to not only take effective action against scammers, but equally reduce the number of interactions between people which are utterly meaningless or avoidable.

Turned out nice again

In the end, I think I’ve managed to move on the entire collection of cameras to new homes that will hopefully appreciate them. I say I think, because although the packages have been delivered, no one has sent any messages or left any feedback. No news is good news? You’d think so, but I’ve sold things before and had messages months later asking how something works, or why something doesn’t. I’ll let you know in September if I’ve truly got away with selling something without the misery of disgruntled buyers.

The ultimate learning here, though, is simple – I need to stop buying so many bits and pieces that I eventually run out of room and have to sell them on again. This was a sound and reasonable idea which lasted about 5 days. Then I bought a Canon 300X to review.

Here we go again.

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