Buying Music Gear From Online Classifieds Is Scary and Awkward

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Despite the lure of cool, cheap gear you might get stabbed to death

There are plenty of reasons to shop for music gear on website classifieds like those on Kijiji or Craigslist. You can usually find a rare and cool guitar, an unwanted rack tom drum or a less-than-new effects pedal that was supposedly used only once and then put back in the box because it “just wasn’t the vibe I was going for.” Yawn.

Cool, cheap gear is paramount. Duh.

That and retail music stores can be off-putting or intimidating if you aren’t in the mood to listen to some 14-year-old kid ripping on those blues scales you were too lazy to bother learning.

But buying gear from strangers from online classified sites is like using an adult dating websites for musicians – odds are you’re going to go home and feel weird about telling your roommates what you just did.

Except instead of the possibility of sex you’re getting something far more valuable out of the deal. Concurrently, every time you send that message out on an online classified ad you are putting your neck on the line. Literally.

For the record, most gear transactions go buy without incident, awkward shuffling about notwithstanding.

To get some insight on this exercise in rockstar packrat mentality, Ominocity talked to some musician pals and rehashed their best, most depressing stories on getting invited into a complete stranger’s house to touch their belongings.

No Returns Please

I was living in Montreal at the time and I found a really sweet deal on an acoustic guitar. The dude gave me his address, which was way out in some weird neighbourhood that took hours to get to by bus. I got lost several times which was compounded by the fact that he said he didn’t have a phone. I finally made it to his apartment and he was nice enough but I couldn’t help but notice that absolutely everything was packed in boxes. After about two minutes of noodling on his guitar he broke down and revealed that his girlfriend had dumped him and he couldn’t afford rent on his shoebox in the sticks alone. He then proceeded to tell me his life story over the next couple of hours, and I would have hugged him if I weren’t convinced that he would never let go.

The worst part? I didn’t buy the guitar because I secretly hoped that his girlfriend might take him back.

Loud and Cheap

I needed a new amp and after some searching finally found an insanely-priced cab. Something told me there was probably a catch, but it was too cheap to ignore. I just hoped it wasn’t stolen or anything. I get to the guy’s jam space and he’s nice enough. At first anyway. He asks if I’m in a band and without waiting for an answer he starts telling me about how his own band sucks and how the guitarist skipped out without paying for their new CD. Whatever. After an hour-long history lesson on the most banal bar rock band ever, he finally shows me the amp. It’s loud and it’s cheap so I decide to buy it.

“How long have you owned this?” I ask.

“Me? I don’t play. I’m the drummer.”

It suddenly dawned on me that this guy was pawning off another guy’s gear. I felt like a scab, but I figured that maybe this way maybe he got his money that he was owed. Along with a nagging sense of guilt, I got an amp that was loud and cheap.

These Pedals R The Shit

While the majority of the people I buy gear off of are nice to a fault – one guy once insisted on making me breakfast even though I was only buying a $20 ukulele – some are scary. Some are even abusive. One time I answered an ad for some boutique fuzz pedals that were pricey but cool nonetheless. Twenty emails later I finally get a straight response that isn’t “these pedals r the shit” and “text u later about the fuzz”.

I got around to trying them out and, despite being told otherwise, these pedals were in fact not the shit.

“Sorry,” I said. “These aren’t really what I’m looking for.”

“Well why the fuck not?”

I wasn’t expecting this, so I went into defense mode and made up a bunch of stories, which only served to make this guy more and more irate. Suddenly his house, which was nice enough before, became completely sinister. The lamp looked like it could cave in my skull and my torso could have easily been stuffed in the broom closet.

I started backing towards the door while the guy paced around and ranted about how I would never find quality pedals like this for any sort of price anywhere.

“Don’t waste my time ever again.”

Fair enough. When I got home he had sent nearly a dozen threatening emails. I got so freaked out that despite using it for everything it was actually just easier to get a new email address. And to start buying pedals in an actual store where I only get mildly belittled by the clerks and not full on harassed.

-Photo taken from Flickr user “Xelcise” – Creative Commons.