As I continue slowly ingesting the 900 classical LPs I inherited, I’ve developed a relationship with Discogs. It’s a good place to track your collection (here’s mine, in-progress). This is the story of my first attempt to use it to buy music, a laughable failure. It’s by way of public service, just leaving a marker, a warning others to be careful about charging into the marketplace.
There’s a lot to like about Discogs. The screens are unfussy and fast and their coverage of everything ever recorded is just awesome. The LP collection I’m working my way through has plenty of obscurities by no-hit wonders, but I’ve been through a couple hundred records now and only hit one that it didn’t already have (for your amusement: Music from The Golden Age of Silent Movies played by Gaylord Carter at the Mighty Wurlitzer Theater Organ).
Also, they’ve apparently taken a mere $2.5M in venture investment, show the world a human face, and seem to genuinely care about old recordings in a tone that’s enthusiast rather than unicorn-wannabe.
Fast Freight · Back when I was doing Songs of the Day, I wrote about Fast Freight, a standout on a generally-pretty-corny 1958 mono album by the Kingston Trio that I inherited from my Dad. It’s a lovely performance which I also use as an audio showpiece; when a technical friend looks at my audio setup and snottily wonders why I still play LPs, I use this to show what the technology can do. Which usually works pretty well
Only Dad’s copy’s getting kind of ratty, and it occurred to me that maybe I could use Discogs to replace it. Sure enough, there were plenty on sale, so I picked one on the basis that it was advertised as having “near-mint” surfaces and was offered by a seller with a good rep.
So here’s my sad story:
I jumped through the Discogs hoops, not terrible at all, and placed the order.
Almost instantly, the site came back saying the status was “Invoice sent”. I didn’t see any invoice on the screen or in my Discogs account or my email in-basket. I decided to wait, on the assumption it would show up.
A few days later, Discogs popped up a notice saying that payment was due and unless I did so within a day or so my reputation would suffer.
I fired off a barrage of messages to Discogs support and the seller saying, in effect “WTF, I want to pay, how do I pay?” Discogs was pretty prompt getting back, said “probably best to reach out to the seller.”
The seller eventually got back to me and said if I wasn’t set up on Discogs’ internal payment system, he could take PayPal. I poked around Discogs.com and couldn’t figure out how to set up to use their payment system (still can’t). He asked me to send it marked “friends and family” so “PayPal wouldn’t hold it”.
I sent him the money and PayPal did indeed put it on hold, and had deducted a big service fee. So he refunded it to me. This led to a hilarious, where by “hilarious” I mean “really irritating”, sequence of attempts to pay him, by splitting the payment up, by marking smaller amounts “Friends and family”, and I forget the rest. None of it worked, PayPal was determined not to let my money get through to him. This leads me to wonder how he’d got himself on PayPal’s hold-the-payments list.
The seller also said that somewhere along the way I’d accidentally left negative feedback, could I please remove it? I couldn’t find any feedback anywhere.
Finally, by routing PayPal to a different email address, he got the money and let me know he’d sent the record.
A reasonable amount of time later, the record showed up. It was all scratched to ratshit and there was a big cut in the middle of Fast Freight so that the needle kept skipping back.
My Discogs account still has a permanent notification that payment is outstanding for this order and my reputation is in danger.
I’m Doing It Wrong · That’s the only conclusion I can draw. I need to go and research how to buy things on Discogs without getting taken for a ride. I suspect it’s possible but it should be easier.
Comment feed for ongoing:
From: John Cowan (Oct 06 2019, at 11:01)
The Right Thing was probably to call the seller on the phone and give him your credit card details. You might could get a single-use credit card number if you're worried about abuse.
From: foresmac (Oct 07 2019, at 06:36)
I’ve bought and sold a fair amount of things via Discogs. I’ve only ever had one truly bad experience, but the guy did seem to genuinely be just kind of a fuckup and he tried to make things right by sending me extra records.
Since he was being cagey about using Paypal, my guess is he’s on hold for trying to have people send him money as a friend to avoid paying fees that he should be paying because he’s selling stuff.
The record he sent you was fraudulently listed as near mint, so he feels like a scammer. I’d give him bad feedback if you haven’t already, and normally you’d be able to reverse charges with Paypal but maybe not since he convinced you to send it as a “friend”, so I don’t think you get any buyer protection unfortunately. I’d try reporting him to Discogs customer service, as you can already see having to deal with someone like that will leave a bad taste in anyone’s mouth.
From: Steven Robertson (Nov 26 2019, at 06:02)
I've sold quite a few records, and bought more too. I've had one bad experience as a buyer and as a seller. As a buyer, an item seemed to get lost in the post. The seller refused to acknowledge any responsibility. Thankfully the record finally showed up. It got held up in the UK from being sent from the US, for about 6 weeks during which time the tracking was very unhelpful. As a seller I once sent the wrong record to someone, by accident, and then sent the right record - but I made a mistake checking if they'd actually paid. At the time I was selling a lot of records, and I'd even left them good feedback. I only really wanted to say that I found the Discogs support very helpful in removing that positive feedback. I didn't see those records though. The buyer vanished. Since then I've put a threshold on the buyers so not to get new accounts. Have fun :)