COLLECTING THOUGHTS: When vintage toy transactions go horribly wrong!

I love collecting vintage Transformers toys.

There’s something magical about hunting down old specimens from decades prior, assessing each for playwear or imperfections, making sure all accessories are present, not to mention sourcing such a treasure for a half-decent price, before finally taking the plunge and hoping that it all pays off come delivery day.

I’d like to think I’ve become a bit of a dab hand at the whole endeavour in my own way, with enough experience under my belt now to avoid a lot of the common pitfalls that plague this area of the hobby. Still, vintage toy collecting also remains a cruel mistress at times, as I was recently reminded. How wrong can a simple toy transaction go, you might wonder? Well, read on and find out!

I’ve been searching for a Micron Legend Convoy (the Japanese version of Armada Optimus Prime) for a good long while, having passed over or missed out on more examples than I care to remember in an effort to procure one in great condition and, hopefully, for a great price! This isn’t a rare toy necessarily but it is nearly twenty years old and individual specimens have frequently come in for a lot of wear in that time. There are numerous examples where the motorised gimmick has ceased functioning, the paint is scuffed and worn, parts are missing or it’s just generally not in great condition and, needless to say, none of that is what I am after for my collection (one has to maintain a certain standard, darling).

I’ve been eyeing up listings for either sealed copies or, failing that, ones that are opened but exceptionally mint and well-cared-for and recently found one such example for sale, and on eBay, of all places. Now, like a lot of collectors, I have a bit of a love/hate thing with eBay. So much of it is overpriced or misrepresented, particularly in the case of vintage toys, and I don’t always find it to be a reliable (or reasonable) source for older imported items of the kind we’re talking about today. However, every so often you might strike gold and so it seemed here.

As soon as I saw that unmistakable box artwork in the listings I was excited. Upon inspection, the pictures presented a very clean and crisp-looking Convoy, all accessories accounted for, an immaculate box with all inserts and the instructions and paperwork still inside the original baggy (a small point but the kind of thing that shows the toy has potentially been cared for). So far, so good. Then the description started to get me even more hopeful.

Mint in open box“, it stated – great stuff! “In good condition, was used for display for a short time“. OK, so adult collector only, which sounds promising. Then, the key bit I wanted to read: “no damage or discolouration“. Fabulous!

Now, I should clarify that discolouration is, for me anyway, an absolute no-no. I make great efforts to procure vintage items that have never been sun-damaged or yellowed in any way, and I have whole shelves of minty white examples to show why I personally consider it worth the effort. Everyone’s mileage is going to vary with this – some collectors won’t be fussed about discolouration to begin with, and some will be all too happy to undertake restoration projects in an effort to bring worn specimens back to their former glory. However, for me, it’s just one of those things I’m quite particular about and actively seek to avoid. TL;DR: I don’t buy yellowed toys, end of.

Anyway, the listing all looked ship-shape, so I struck up a conversation with the seller to see if they’d be willing to take a reasonable offer and to double-check a few details. I was reassured when the seller came back to me swiftly to confirm that “It is in excellent condition and I could not find any damage or discolouration before I listed it and it has been in the box as pictured ever since.” Even better, they confirmed they were more than happy to accept my offer, so it looked like all was good to go!

Purchase made, I sat back content in the knowledge that my long hunt was at an end, and even did some rearranging of my collection shelves specifically to make room for the new Convoy when it arrived. It was, I’m sad to say, the last happy moment on this entire sorry journey!

The first problems came whilst the package was still in transit. I received a customs form from the courier, despite the item travelling from elsewhere in Europe (something I’m still wrapping my head around, but that’s a whole other topic!). However, after paying the charge, the parcel failed to arrive. I called the courier to enquire but after the third such attempt, they were still struggling to explain where it was or what was happening.

At this point, a second customs letter arrived, now with a new reference number but for the exact same amount from the same origin. Despite me protesting that this must be a mistake as I was only expecting one parcel of this nature, the courier insisted it was definitely two of them. Repeated attempts were made to help identify the error, even including a trip to the local depot and a further half dozen phone calls all initiated by yours truly, but still the matter dragged on until the courier finally conceded that yes, it was only the one parcel after all. Turns out they scanned the thing wrong and slapped a second label on it somewhere along the line.

I’d be lying if I said my enthusiasm hadn’t taken a bit of a ding by this point but still, the prospect of that minty Micron Legend Convoy finally being in my grasp was more than enough to lift my spirits again. I was thrilled to finally get it home and unpack it – my quest was finished, at last! Sadly, the story took another turn at this point when I saw what was waiting for me inside the package.

Yikes! That wasn’t the nice, pristine box I’d seen in the listing photos! Red flags were immediately popping up but I tried to reassure myself. “It’s just a box,” I thought, “it’s ok, as long as the contents are all good!” Unfortunately, this was not the case.

I’ll admit, I didn’t spot it immediately, but once I did, the discolouration on this guy was all but impossible to ignore. It had clearly been left on display with the front side near a window or something similar, as the back of the toy looked pristine by comparison. It was most obvious on the head, where the two halves were very visibly different colours and the ‘ears’ were a much darker yellow on the front side, however I could also see clear signs of it on the shoulders, legs and a few other places. Oh dear, oh dear.

Despite being hugely disappointed, I still figured this must be an honest mistake on the seller’s part, despite the listing stating there was no discolouration and me having specifically asked about it prior to making the purchase. I decided I would shoot them a message and hope for a reasonable response. What I got back didn’t exact fill me with confidence.

…you know it was used (for display only) and almost 20 years old. You now make it seem you wanted a brand new one and which it never was. It was never displayed in a room with sunlight or was in a dark closet in storage. I never noticed anything wrong with the blue parts not only because all the grey parts seemed fine. All in all I think you have too high expectations of an item of this age which is second hand.

Oof. This was pretty much the exact opposite to the conciliatory tone I was hoping to be met with, particularly given I’d made extra effort to be clear about the condition beforehand. I’d be lying if I said this message didn’t strike a bit of a nerve, although I have noted before that sellers can default to this accusatory style when they’re caught having misrepresented an item, often claiming it is the buyer who has ‘too high expectations’, as in this case. It’s nonsense, of course, and worse, it doesn’t aid an amicable dialogue when trying to find a resolution. I was further dismayed to find that similarly barbed messages were to follow, despite my best attempts to strike a civil discourse.

Then there was the matter of the box, now completely shredded along the one side despite that not being what was in the listing. This part of the conversation started on a very frosty setting too (“You can tell me anything but that is not the box I sent you… for me that is setting off my alarm bells that there’s something wrong here” etc.), furthering my fears that this was going to be a tricky situation to resolve! Fortunately, I had taken photos of the item in the packing box when it arrived, and we seemed to come to an agreement of sorts that this must have happened during customs checking en route. Still far from ideal, though!

So, what to do about it all, eh? Well, my position was very clear. The item had been misrepresented and was not in the condition I had asked about (nor as it was advertised) and so I wanted to return it for a full refund. I could tell the seller was less keen, particularly when the subject of return postage costs arose. Bear in mind I was still trying to be amicable in my approach instead of just straight away filing a claim through eBay (something I now regret, if anything), but the T&Cs are clear when items like this are misrepresented in such a manner – the seller pays return postage, end of. They even tried to tell me that this would “depend on the amount of the shipping costs”, even though the expectation as far as eBay goes is very clear.

Anyway, we finally agreed on the return and the full refund and therefore I got the whole thing packed up again and back off into the post. I was actually very glad to see it leave my house at this point, given what an all-round rotten experience it had been, although sadly we weren’t quite done yet! Next thing I know, there’s another snarky message from the seller, questioning the value I declared for the return postage: “I don’t know at what value you declared the package but I just got a message that I have to pay import tax. I so wish I would have said no when you asked me if you could buy it. You cost me money. But lesson learned.

By this point, it became all-too-clear that the seller was never going to admit fault for the situation at all, even though every cost incurred on their part was as a direct result of having mis-sold the toy. For what it’s worth, I declared the same value I paid for the listing in the first place, mostly as I didn’t want any problems should the package have been lost or damaged along the way, especially under the circumstances.

To their credit, the seller did process the refund very quickly after receiving the parcel, although purposefully neglected to include the return postage cost as we’d agreed. Instead, they sent another message asking me to “explain to me how this damage happened” to the toy’s box, leaving me somewhat dumbfounded given we’d already had this conversation at length and I thought we’d reached a consensus that they would take it up with their courier. It seemed as though the return postage being withheld was their one last attempt to make life a little more difficult, somehow. Fortunately, after contacting eBay and explaining the situation, they quickly ruled in my favour and the return postage cost was recouped along with the rest of the refund. It’s just a shame it took such lengths to get what was rightfully owed to me.

And thus ends our saga, I suppose. I’m content that I managed to come out of the whole thing without being out of pocket (or at least, I will have once I’ve finished claiming back the customs charge I paid via HMRC), but even then it’s hard not to let these sorts of experiences leave you with a bitter taste. It’s unfortunate that sellers misrepresent such items in the first place but at the very least, you would hope they might be big enough to acknowledge their mistakes when they’re raised and look to find an amicable solution.

However, life moves on and I certainly shan’t let it dampen my spirits when it comes to sourcing other such vintage toys, as, despite the occasional unpleasant experience such as this, there really is still a lot to love about the whole endeavour.

Which reminds me – does anyone have a mint Micron Legend Convoy for sale?

TTFN

About Sixo

Transformers collector from the UK, collecting vintage G1/G2, CR/RID, UT & Masterpiece/3P. Find me at twitter.com/SixoTF or on YouTube at youtube.com/SixoTF

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