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10-20-2011, 03:56 AM   #1
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What is your "negotiation technique" when buying old lenses?

Hi all,

So as you may have noticed (or not noticed) I've been bitten quite badly by the LBA bug. This has resulted in me trying to think laterally about where I might acquire lenses. It has led me down the normal routes of ebay, online classifieds etc. But it has also made me notice places like Auction houses.

I have found Rico's buyer's guide in pawnshops truly invaluable. What I must admire most though is his chutzpah to have a lens qualify on all accounts and then offer $10 for it. Something I'm learning I don't have.

If anything, the more I do this (look for cheap lenses within my budget) the more I'm faced with the same question. Is there a 'best way' to approach buying a lens/offering a price that satisfies my budget while not offending the seller? Is honesty always the best answer? Or does assumptions and vagueness serve us better?

Let me be clear, I'm talking about buying from dealers or the general Joe Blogg off the street. Not from the marketplace here.

The first time I encountered this problem was when I went into see if a stamps and collectibles place sold any cameras. The guy looked me up and down dubiously and said he had some really old stuff but it's probably not what I wanted. I negated that statement quick fast and said 'my friend, that's exactly what I want.' We got to talking and I explained why I was interested and how Pentax could use all lenses no matter how old. He seemed very surprised dare I say it, even speculative? Now perhaps I'm just a cynical cheapskate, but I swear his eyes lit up and looked upon that box of cameras with renewed interest when I first stated why I was looking for old Pentax cameras.

It made me wonder if perhaps I was really doing myself a disservice by explaining that all pentax lenses can be used on a new Pentax slr, and if next time a Pentax lens comes in he might quote me higher than if he thought I was just a collector.

I know when someone says to me they are a collector, and what they collect is something I'm not really interested in, I tend to for better or worse think 'how silly, but hey whatever makes him/her happy'.

Now, would I have gotten the same response if I had simply said I like old cameras, or if I said I was looking for parts? Would he have perhaps simply thought, 'silly girl, don't know why she wants that rubbish but she can have it for nothing' rather than that speculative look he gave me as if to say 'hrmmm, there's a buck to be made here that I'm missing out on..'

It makes me wonder what other people say when they go into stores enquiring about lenses. Do you say upfront why you want them? Do you say you're looking for spare parts or that you still use a film camera? (although in some cases I'm sure that's very true for a lot/some of you) Or do you make vague statements like "I just like old things!"

As I continue searching for cheap lenses I find myself often faced with this question. How do I best negotiate in order to get a price that I'm happy with? Lately when I enquire on a lens listing and they will give me a crazy sky high price. I often explain I just want the lenses and not the camera body. That I'm just starting out in photography and have a tight budget.

In fact I pulled that line out just this evening when I came across a girl who was giving me her photography equipment for free (darkroom supplies) and she happened to have a SMC 1:1.4 50mm. In my excitement that she actually had a proper lens I must admit I didn't look at that lens properly or follow Rico's Guide to Buying very well. I asked her how much she wanted for it, and she told me to give her a price as I would probably know more about what it was worth than she. Having just received all this darkroom equipment for free I didn't want to look karma in the face so ignored my gut feeling to offer a cheeky $10. Instead I offered her $20, which she accepted although I got the impression that she was surprised. As we got to talking a little further after I'd given her the cash and I explained why I wanted the lens (honest truth about the kmounts etc) I again got that vibe that perhaps she wasn't all too happy and worried that she'd been taken advantage of. Was I right to offer $20? Should I just harden up already and offer whatever I wanted as she had the right to refuse? Or are you going to tell me, hey that's life?

Rest assured though I didn't *really* underpay, because when I got home, I discovered there was in fact some very fine fungus on the edges of the back lens and quite a bit of dust (or something) in the front lens. Do'h! Why I didn't think to check this baffles me. I think I was so excited at seeing a lens that I recognised that all I saw was the mint paint job and forgot to actually look at the lens itself. A rookie mistake, I'm sure.

If I had thought to check for the fungus perhaps I could've followed my gut instinct to offer $10 and feel totally justified about it. But I just didn't have that killer instinct to do that. Especially considering all the freebie stuff I got.

Anyway, I'm starting to wander. Essentially what I'm asking you is, do you have a particular buyers technique that you like to employ when buying/enquiring about lenses from the general public or an ignorant sales clerk? Do you spend any time educating them? Or are you really a pro and just harden your heart to sniff out the best deal?

10-20-2011, 04:24 AM   #2
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A 50mm f1.4 for $20 is still a good buy, even if there is some fungus. Tell you what, I'll give you $25....
I suppose it depends on the situation, in regards to how much knowledge you want to disclose to the seller. I'd happily walk into a second hand store and offer $10 for an "old" 200mm f4 macro. But if it was a young father/mother trying to raise money for the son's kidney transplant, then I'd have to offer twenty.

Regards
10-20-2011, 04:42 AM   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by sam-joseph Quote
A 50mm f1.4 for $20 is still a good buy, even if there is some fungus. Tell you what, I'll give you $25....
LOL. I'll think about it.

QuoteQuote:
I suppose it depends on the situation, in regards to how much knowledge you want to disclose to the seller. I'd happily walk into a second hand store and offer $10 for an "old" 200mm f4 macro. But if it was a young father/mother trying to raise money for the son's kidney transplant, then I'd have to offer twenty.
Fair enough. I didn't feel right offering $10 myself, and this was just a girl who was moving overseas. At the same time I got the feeling that towards the end she might have felt taken advantage of - which I certainly did not want her to feel. Esp since in my ideal world I would've preferred paying $10 but considering the situation I didn't feel right offering anything less than $20.

*shakes self* all these ethical and moral decisions!

ETA: and if the guy in the second hand store asked why you wanted the lens, what would you say? Would you explain abt the pentaxes? Or would you simply say you like collecting old things? I guess that's part of what I'm trying to ask, although I'm finding it very hard to be clear abt what I'm trying to say/ask. LOL

Last edited by wolfiegirl; 10-20-2011 at 05:02 AM.
10-20-2011, 05:38 AM   #4
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Hey! you dont have to explain to the seller anything. All he does is adding 50% of what he intent to sell for, safely, because the price might been low from start... Keep the knowledge for your self ;-)

As i going forward buying. First is doing my home work, knowing what to buy what to look for, and have your price statistics for these items. Then when you see what you want, estimate a price in your head, then estimate the selling price for what you can resell these items. Reduce some percentage just to be in the safe zone, in case you cannot sell as you want. And then make an offer, may be not one single item but the whole lot. In the end i got what i want, sell what i dont want for cheap. Still money out, but at least i dont suffer much. All depends on how badly you want the item.

There are few pitfalls:
The danger is you may keep them all as i did, I cant say no to quality cheap glasses.
Sooner or later you will have several unusable items, and started some weird projects by disassembling lenses and set them together, in different order... accidentally or not.
Or you ended buying other lenses than pentax k mount. I guess it is ok as long as they can be modified and usable.

Start saving now. Have a clear budget, and upper price each item you are willing to pay for, then never go above these. There will be more lenses than you or me can exploit in a life time.


Last edited by hoanpham; 10-20-2011 at 05:52 AM.
10-20-2011, 06:03 AM   #5
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Great advice hoanpham. It's a good point that most buyers have already factored in their profit margin when they quote a price. I'm still learning the fine art of negotiating. I think that's what makes ebay so easy/addictive. All you're looking at is a base number to start bidding on. And if the number's too high for your blood you don't bid. But when it comes to having a human that you can talk to, things become a lot more flexible. I had one negotiation where I started at 60 and the seller started at $160. Cheeky of me to say $60, I know, but I wanted to finish at $80 which I thought was a fair price. But I got thrown by their use of "my best offer is $120." and I think they were slightly offended I started so low. So I went above my gut instinct and said $100 and I'll get it picked up asap. And I was honestly surprised when they agreed. Made me feel a bit peeved that I believed his bottom line offer and I didn't stick to my gut instincts on that one. Ah well, you win some you lose some, and it's all a learning experience right?

I'm just looking into the lens review now for the M 1.4. OUCHIES. Someone didn't do their homework.

Average price is $86??? People have paid up to $200 for said lens??? You have got to be kidding me. No wonder Sam Joseph is so willing to offer me $25. I knew that 1.4 was a good lens, but I didn't know it was that good...

I worked off the basis that I paid $43 delivered for my 1.7. And I knew paid above average for that (alright so it was only $1 above, but still!). And lately all the threads I've been reading have implied that the 1.7 is often preferred to the 1.4. So in my head that meant I should pay less for the 1.4.

I guess at the end of the day the seller had an opportunity to counter my offer if she thought it was too little. I probably would've paid up to $30 for it (maybe LOL). Then again I could've prefixed my offer with, I've only just started looking into lenses and don't know that much more than she does. Looking at the pricing now I feel a bit of an ignorant fool. Whoopsies!

Ah yes, the buy the wrong mount phenomenon. Been there, done that! :ugh: And to think I only started buying lenses over a week and a half ago!
10-20-2011, 10:25 AM   #6
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I think you are over-thinking this.
If someone who is giving stuff away can get some cash for an item they didn't realize had any value, they should be happy. Especially if it requires little or no effort on their part. If you make an offer that's a good deal for you and someone accepts, you should be happy. You aren't misrepresenting anything. I would tell a friend "These go for $100 on eBay" because most people don't want to bother with eBay.
As for the pawn shop guy you told him too much. I'd be more vague, like "I have a camera that I think this will will work on.". It's not lying, it;s just not proving additional info that they could use against you.
10-20-2011, 10:40 AM   #7
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People have access to the same interwebs as we do. People list stuff on Craigslist for cheap when Google is just a couple clicks away. ebay accounts are free to research Completed Listings.

Someone is happy to get $50 for a $300 item, we both walk away satisfied

But on a serious note, most people don't care that old lenses can be used on new cameras. They see old lenses as old. I've even put lenses on my K10D in front of sellers before handing over the cash and they're like "...ok. Interesting. Have fun with it." They see it as if they were selling you a cassette player instead of an iPod Touch in 2011.

Nothing wrong with friendly small talk, though I don't take a whole lot of time to extol all the virtues of the Pentax system. Lots of people just want the money and extra space in their place.
10-20-2011, 10:44 AM   #8
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As with people, it s about respect. Anyone who has more than 3 primes, will probably know about their gear. Asking them nicely to take over their gear for a nice price. Most people treat their gear as babies, and of course would like to provide them a new home for a good use.

10-20-2011, 11:05 AM   #9
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QuoteOriginally posted by wolfiegirl Quote

ETA: and if the guy in the second hand store asked why you wanted the lens, what would you say? Would you explain abt the pentaxes? Or would you simply say you like collecting old things? I guess that's part of what I'm trying to ask, although I'm finding it very hard to be clear abt what I'm trying to say/ask. LOL
Do you really get asked that? Even if you do, there is no need to extol the virtues of Pentax backward compatibility. If you get asked, tell them that you want to get back to shooting film. Maybe they'll think you are 'soft' in the head and give you a discount. Another thing, don't be so eager to buy - from reading your posts, you seem to exude much enthusiasm which is fine for life in general but to a seller you are just a walking $ sign.
10-20-2011, 12:01 PM   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by wolfiegirl Quote
I explained why I was interested and how Pentax could use all lenses no matter how old. He seemed very surprised dare I say it, even speculative?
You should never do that. Say you like the old lenses and still use them with your camera, or say nothing.

QuoteOriginally posted by wolfiegirl Quote
I know when someone says to me they are a collector, and what they collect is something I'm not really interested in, I tend to for better or worse think 'how silly, but hey whatever makes him/her happy'.
Sellers are not like that, they have a business to maintain

What I usually do is look for the price. If it's already labeled, then there might be some room for negociation but not much. If there's no markup, ask for a price, then decide if you want it or if you want to negociate.

Two examples:

1-at a flea market, a fellow had a box with a Super program, A50 f1,4, and AF280T flash. I asked the price, he said 10$. I bought it... I thought I was stealing him, but then I realized he got the exact price HE wanted, so I felt even though I got a heck of a deal, he can't complain about it.

2-At the same flea market, a guy was selling a M80-200 in fair shape. The price was 40$. For about 20$ I would have bought it, just for the fun of playing with it, but at a starting price of 40$ there was little chance he would have met my target price. So I pased.

In other words, before discussing a price, decide for yourself the highest you are willing to accept, then ask for the price. You might be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise, you can always name your highest price and see where it takes you.
10-20-2011, 12:13 PM   #11
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in general I look at the starting price. My M200 f4.0 he asked $35, I pulled $15.63 out of my pocket and said it's all I have take it or leave it. He took it. (I had $60 in the other pocket )
same on my m 28 3.5 same guy got it for 15 down from 30 2 days later

now he hides when i walk in

one of my 50 1.7 i got in portobello for 10 pounds (about $16 at the time) As my wife hates it when i bargain i paid asking as I felt it was worthwhile

I bought a job lot of fleabay (2 bodies several lenses and a bunch of other bits and pieces. it had a buy it now of $200 and was about to expire, I emailed and offered $100 and they took it
Got a spotmatic, a super tak 50 1.4 am m42 generic 135 3.5 and a sigma m42 300 f4.5 for $60 from a guy on craigslist after examining the goods and pointing out some issues that needed to be addressed on the 135 (that I didn't want anyway)

so ultimately don't be afraid to lowball, don't bother explaining why you want it, and be willing to walk away if they don't meet your offer or come down to where you are willing to buy
let someone else pay a premium to the guy who over values his lenses
i rarely shop the big pawn stores because they research value on items before selling them, i want to pay what they did when they bought them not what they want to sell them for (in one pawn shop i saw a Russian Rangefinder in so so shape, he wanted more than one that had been refurbished by an expert in new york - the refurbishing is worth over $100 and you can get good copies from Russia for $30 he wanted $175 I just laughed and said good luck with that

Last edited by eddie1960; 10-20-2011 at 12:18 PM.
10-20-2011, 01:31 PM   #12
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Swap places. You're selling stuff from your past, or some dead relative's past. You found a box of custom potrzebies in Uncle Furd's hall closet after he died and now they're on your yard-sale table. Someone wanders up and says, "Oh hay, potrzebies, boy those look rough, willya take ten bucks for them?" You're glad to get them off your table and pocket the dime. They're happy to have a complete set of custom potrzebies they can use on their tluquepluque fermenter. Everybody is happy. (Later you find Uncle Furd's tluquepluque fermenter but you have no idea what it is so it goes for a buck at your next yard sale.)

That's commerce. Anything is worth precisely what someone is willing to pay for it at the time. No matter what somebody else somewhen else thinks it's worth. Here and now, this is it, cash and carry (you pay cash and you carry it away). Always barter and bargain. If the seller feels insulted by your lowballing, move on, there's always another.

** Tluquepluque: TLOO-kay-PLOO-kay, an esoteric fuel (made from banana slugs) for space-time machines, banned in many countries
10-20-2011, 03:40 PM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by excanonfd Quote
...there is no need to extol the virtues of Pentax backward compatibility. If you get asked, tell them that you want to get back to shooting film. Maybe they'll think you are 'soft' in the head and give you a discount.



I think that was part of what I was trying to figure out in my head. Does providing TMI/story of your life/backstory result in sellers having a connection with you and therefore giving you a discount or does pretending to be slow and ignorant provides the best means to get what you want?

I'm such a bargaining novice. Thanks for all the advice everyone. It's been really helpful and enlightening. And you guys have got some great bargains there!!

I love that story about the $60 in the other pocket. Sneaky!

Right, so no more extolling the virtues of pentax to ppl, claim that i like old things, and keep the poker face on = no more walking $$ sign = more cheap lenses for moi!
10-20-2011, 04:24 PM   #14
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I do that when I go to the flea market. Keep a $10 bill in a pocket, put the rest of money away if I have more than that with me so it looks like all I have is $10. You'd be amazed at how many things I can grab for that $10, smile. Depends upon how desperate people are really. I seldom see old camera gear out there anymore and when I do the prices are so high that I almost never buy. I still keep wishing I'd stumble across an old SPII with a few good Takumars for $20 but that's not likely to happen, except in my dreams. I find I can still pick up half a dozen old Barbies for $5 but good SLR gear, not hardly.

I'm pretty good at not giving away the game though. You have to be prepared to make a low offer than walk away if necessary. They have to know you mean business. I've been known to see a whole box of vintage Barbie stuff and to offer $10 for it. 90% of the time the person doesn't know it's worth more than that, and I don't enlighten them. I don't low ball my friend who sells that kind of thing. If she finds something valuable I tell her, but the person I don't even know out at the flea market, sitting there with an obviously vintage 60's era Barbie that they're apparently too lazy to look up the value for online? I'll take that doll for as little as I can get it for and RUN, flip it and make a few $$$, and think nothing about it.

That's how you get stuff like that, from people who simply don't have a clue and who apparently can't be bothered to learn. Years ago before the internet it was a lot harder to figure out the true value of something. Not now. People who don't know just haven't looked real hard and that's not something I have too much sympathy for. You do have to do your homework if you're going to sell vintage goods. If you don't then you can't sit there and cry when you don't get what it's worth. All it takes for most things is a "google search" and even my folks can manage that.
10-20-2011, 07:28 PM   #15
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So, you ended up with a lens with some fungus. Or you ended up with a perfect lens. Or you ended up with rubbish. This is the part of let the buyer beware.

So the seller ended up with $20 more than she had before. This falls under let the seller beware. She accepted your offer.

She could have sold it for more here, but she would have had to know how to sign up, find the proper value, inspect the lens properly, package and ship the lens, accept paypal, etc. That seems simple to us but has lots of value that should not be dismissed.

Last edited by Clinton; 10-20-2011 at 10:37 PM.
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