I ran into a situation (thatís putting it politely) with a customer (uh, now a former customer) who bought something from me and was not satisfied with the material. He was very upset. OK, that happens to every dealer at some point in time.

He emailed me about how upset he was. I replied and apologized that the material was not acceptable. I asked him to send the material back and Iíll make a full refund on the purchase plus the postage cost to return the material to me. (I always refund the return postage because I feel thatís the right thing to do).

Now it gets sticky.

The customer emailed me back saying that he didnít have any money to return the stamps to me. He insisted that I send him a full refund right now and then he would return the stamps to me. He needed some of the money from the refund to return the stamps to me.

My radar goes off. Something is fishy. The order was for about $25 of stamps. And he doesnít have a couple of dollars to return the material to me? This guy shouldnít be buying stamps. He should be buying food and medicine.

I replied that I would not issue a full refund without the return of the material first. He was very upset. I pointed out two things to him. Pick any department store you do business with. Will they give you a refund without the return of the merchandise? No! You canít tell them, ďGive me the refund and then Iíll go home and bring back the items later.Ē They would politely escort you out the front door. And second, the risk is all on me. If I send a refund, what guarantee do I have that heíll send the stamps back? None.

Here is an important point.

As a dealer who belongs to the APS and ASDA, you (the buyer) have some recourse if this is a bad business deal. You could file a complaint with the APS or ASDA and if the evidence holds up, I could be reprimanded or expelled by those organizations. I take my reputation seriously and if I canít display the APS and ASDA logo, that adversely affects my business. Therefore, the customer has some leverage in that they can bring charges against me.

Put yourself in my shoes. Suppose I gave the customer his refund and he never returns the stamps to me. Now I have no money and my stamps are gone. I donít have the time or money to travel to Boise, ID (or whatever the town is) and file charges against you, the customer, for failing to return my stamps. Especially when this is $25 of stamps. In short, I have no recourse against the customer if they keep the stamps. I have to eat that loss.

Thatís why I encourage collectors to do business with dealers who are members of the APS and/or ASDA. As a buyer, you have some recourse against any dealer member. If the dealer isnít a member of either organization, then yes, you the customer are taking a chance that the dealer is honest. And if heís not, then youíre the one who loses out without any possible recourse.

Back to my customer. He never returned the stamps and I never heard from him again. I suspect he was just trying to get his money back and keep the stamps. I removed him from my mailing list. I hope I never have to deal with him again.