School is about to start up again for my kids, and I'm on the hunt for instruments. I need to find a used alto sax and a used trumpet in good condition. So where do I turn? Pawn shops and eBay. The pawn shops are a great place to find flutes and clarinets, probably because the bands around here seem to have more kids playing those instruments than any others. Unfortunately, saxophones and trumpets don't show up nearly as often in our favorite pawn shops, so that leaves me looking at eBay.
eBay has changed a lot since I first started using it in 2001. The two aspects of eBay that drew me to using it back then were getting a good deal and helping the environment by buying used rather than new. You can still find plenty of used items on the site, but the great prices aren't there. The majority of sellers that I run across now are actually businesses. It is much more difficult to find an item being sold at a killer price by an individual who is cleaning out their garage.
This is where the descriptions come in. I have a soft spot for the auction with a description that says something like, "I bought this instrument for my son. He played it one month and then decided he didn't want to be in band any more. It has a few dings and scratches but it still plays real good." Maybe I'm a sucker, but I feel like I want to help this parent out by purchasing from him rather than from the guy using eBay as an online storefront. I'm not saying that I've never bought items from a Power Seller, but my preference is to help the little guy.