Not being able to trust the person selling you something is as old as time. For the ancient Greeks, it was “caveat emptor.” These days, you might tweak that to “never buy something from someone you won’t be able to find and sue later.”
To take it a step further for the times we’re living in: “Never buy anything that you can’t disinfect or pay top dollar just because there’s a perceived shortage due to the current pandemic.”
Either way, any time you buy something from someone you don’t know — or at least someone working for a company you don’t know — you’re taking a chance. And in the case of some items, an enormous chance. Because while you can only get bilked so badly when you’re paying $5 for a bucket of used golf balls, finding out that “vintage” engagement ring is actually glass is something entirely different.
So, here’s a look at 8 things you should never, ever buy from a stranger.
If you’re just buying something you think looks nice from someone at the local art fair, don’t think twice. If you think the price is fair for the enjoyment you get from looking at it, fire away. That’s what it’s for! However, if what you’re paying has anything at all to do with wanting to own an original by a particular artist, don’t buy from anyone who’s not a reputable dealer. Forgery and fraud in the art world are as old as, well, art.
At first thought, buying baby items at garage sales might seem like a great way to save cash, but it’s not worth the safety risk. Consumer Reports warns sellers not to put recalled items up for sale, but that doesn’t mean they’ll abide. The publication advises garage sale hosts against selling high-risk baby items like cribs, bike helmets and car seats, so that also means you shouldn’t buy them.
Laptops, Tablets and E-Readers
Electronic devices are expensive, so you might think you’ve hit gold if you stumble upon a seemingly working laptop, tablet or e-reader at a yard sale. Despite what it might appear like on the surface, this is a risk you don’t want to take because you don’t know the device’s history. It might black-screen shortly after purchase, leaving you to foot a hefty repair bill.
Tires are expensive, so if you find one at garage sale prices, you might think buying it is a no-brainer. However, even if it appears in great condition, it might’ve been driven overloaded, underinflated or at an extremely high speed, which could cause internal damage that won’t be visible on the surface, warns Consumer Reports. It’s best to play it safe and invest in brand-new tires.
No matter how magical your new saucepan is at letting beautifully over-easy eggs slide from pan to plate, it’s eventually going to lose its nonstick coating if it’s not well cared for. If you’re buying a pan at a garage sale, you can’t be sure how the current owner has been maintaining it. While big scratches or missing patches of coating are easy to spot, plenty of damage from wear and tear isn’t.
Vacuum cleaners do not age well. No matter how good of a deal you feel like you’re getting, you might be getting an aged model that’s on its last legs. If it stops working in a few months, your money is not well-spent. A new vacuum might cost, but you can get a warranty.
Memorabilia (Especially If It’s Signed)
Do you know what Carl Yastrzemski’s signature looks like? For that matter, how sure are you it was just spelled correctly in the previous sentence? If not, why would you pay an extra $100 for a baseball with his John Hancock on it? Given that thousands of middle schoolers are successfully passing off forged signatures on sick notes every week, maybe don’t trust the veracity of any memorabilia or autographs to the word of someone you’ve never met.
A used digital camera has any number of things that could be wrong with it. Cameras are handheld and therefore stand a much greater chance of having been dropped repeatedly. Unless the exterior shows visible damage, it can be impossible to tell. And if you’re thinking that you’re safe as long as you go analog, think again. Even the tiniest of light leaks will mean every picture you take is ruined before it even gets developed.