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As to good UK sellers- there are some fantastic ones, and I only now buy from UK sellers. If you pay quickly the good ones can have your pieces with you the next day and in excellent packaging - individually bagged items, with bubble wrap in flat boxes to minimise costs.
To name a few stores I use again and again (although it definitely depends on the type of pieces you are after) who do that:
A brick shiphouse
A slim chance
Yellow farm bricks
Hope that helps
This was all great, except that I should have chosen lower quantities for some of the more rare parts. I didn't think to realize that by setting a minimum quantity for certain parts, I would miss out on the opportunity to buy partial quantities from sellers I was already purchasing from. Now I'm stuck in a bind where I have to buy just a few parts from multiple sellers because the only sellers who have the full quantity are charging exorbitant rates and the smaller sellers tend not to have multiple pieces. I've been able to tack on a couple of extra pieces to some of the existing sales (that's the one good thing about the invoice process) but man I am mad at myself for not realizing this.
End result is that I'll spend $15-20 extra bucks on shipping from the extra 5 or so sellers I'll need to use. Lesson learned is to play around with the min quantity and not use your total number needed as your "min".
Overall, the experience was quite positive. Most sellers shipped quickly and the orders were complete and accurate. One seller got an extra gold star for catching an error after he shipped but before I received and letting me know so that I could throw some other items in the envelope with the correct items -- in other words, free shipping. One seller took a long time to ship without a reasonable excuse, which is kind of annoying because it was a seller I used for a large number of parts. And one seller made a couple of mistakes, so I'm hopeful he will make it right.
Overall, a good experience. I think it's a great site once you get to know the interface.
one of the more annoying things is: you placed the order and after invoicing you notice that you forgot to order some parts which you need.
As a matter of fact I am hopefully going to be making a fair sized order tonight for a Coruscant Underworld MOC. I have already received some fantastic decals from BrickBuildersPro which are a good start.
So it would say: "Buy these pieces: ______ from this seller, and these pieces: ______ from this seller" so that I can best combine shipping costs?
It won't break down exactly like you have it, but will show you who has the most items from your list. You can create multiple want lists, so once you find a seller who has most of the items you are looking for at a price you want (the By Shop doesn't take price into the equation either) you can then create another list with the remaining items and repeat the exercise.
You don't buy from it. You buy from sellers that use it.
Most sellers are trustworthy. Although I have found some definitions of excellent (for used items) not so good. I have received cracked and heavily scratched items described as excellent, so I only buy new unless not possible.
If buying from outside EU (if you are in the EU), remember you will probably need to add import duty. It makes an apparently cheap US purchase significantly more expensive.
One thing that is done badly is that sellers can add whatever fees they like. Some sellers use this to undercut more honest sellers but actually charge more. So they might seem 10% cheaper than another seller, but by the time you add 3% bricklink fees, 5% paypal fees, minimum lot fees, etc. they are more expensive. So read a sellers splash or profile page before even bothering to look too much at their stock, especially when purchasing lots of parts, rather than just one set. In the past, I have spent hours looking at building up a large purchase, only to realise that the seller adds on so many extras that they are not competitive.
Are credit card details and stuff safe? (I'm probably just paranoid about this. It's used by a lot of people, so I'd assume it was) So Bricklink takes a commission from every purchase, then?
Bricklink does charge a percentage fee for all sales. Many sellers absorb those costs in their prices, but some abuse the pricing system and add these on as extras so that you pay the fees. Just make sure you know whether a seller does this or not before you spend too much time in their store, as this can shift their prices significantly.
^Good to know.
BTW CCC, it seems that you are somewhat used to BL. I just spent some time remaking my splash and terms according to what people like most.
From a buyer point of view, would you like them? Anything to improve?
"remember that an order is a binding contract. However, if any problem happens, I will be happy to cancel the order without any penalty."
Its not true and as you'll cancel anyway is largely pointless. Might be better to say:
"Please only order if you're serious about paying as I'll pick the order and weight it before sending you the invoice to pay."
Its a balance between being as clear as possible and providing all the information necessary and not scaring buyers off by being too officious. I'd say you've got it spot on.
More in general, one thing I do notice with bricklink sellers is that they are often even worse than ebay sellers for not understanding the law. Those in the UK that say they're not responsible for damage in transit or lost items or its the buyers responsibility to pay for insurance are laughably out of touch. Also those that say placing an order is a contract - no its not, and without exact postage costs (and without knowing the weight of packaging let alone the parts its impossible to) it absolutely can't be, is another favourite.
One thing maybe to think about ... I will always ship to the address in bricklink. If the address in bricklink and paypal don't match, I will always ask before shipping.
It is a good idea to ask. But remember that if a buyer makes a claim through PayPal that you didn't send an item, you must prove that it was delivered at his PayPal address. They don't care if you shipped to his bricklink address, you have not shipped it to the one they have.
Having said that, be sensible. If they don't allow paypal or similar equivalents then that should raise a flag. If its a high value item then maybe contact them first, just to reassure yourself. Again, high value items - look at their feedback , consider their location. Rightly or wrongly Eastern Europe and further east would concern me, unless they had high feedback.
Bear in mind I don't think I have ever bought a set on bricklink, I am a parts buyer. I tend to want someone that charges honest prices for shipping, and then I will fill up to a certain weight with them, whether I need the parts right away or not. If I'm paying postage anyway, and they have interesting cheap parts that might come in useful, then I will buy them.
As I said before, my problems have been down to condition of used parts and sellers not being honest about it. I have bought "excellent" stuff that turned out to be cracked or bitten. I was refunded when I complained about it, but of course, may not have purchased from them at all if I had known that a part I wanted was not in the condition they said. I am sure most sellers are honest, it is the few bad ones that make you give up with used parts.
I should add the thing that often seems to get under the skin of new Bricklinkers: read a seller's Store Terms and Splash page before checking out.
My rule of thumb for looking for good sellers is prices under 6 month average with no lot limits, no minimum buys, and no packaging / hidden fees. I'll break these rules sometimes for super good pricing. I'll also pay more in some cases when the terms are not favorable.
As mentioned sometimes sellers will hide their fees (Bricklink & Paypal) in inflated shipping costs. They'll have the lowest price by far, but then make it up on hidden fees. This is super annoying and not much that can be done about it... I just choose to shop elsewhere going forward.
I've never had a problem in over 100 orders, but one thing I need to be better about is checking feedback. As long as someone has feedback count >20 I'm not questioning it and I'll order without ever checking it. That's a bad habit that will bite me someday.
Over time, you'll find how to make the site work for you and who the best sellers are. Almost all of my purchases now are from sellers I've purchased from before. Good loyalty programs like that Dad's AFOL Supplies are awesome. After a few orders, you work yourself up to a 20% off coupon for all future orders. If a seller gives me a coupon, chances are I'll be back. Jason's (@DadsAFOL) automated checkout is amazing and really takes some of the back and forth waiting out of the process. Love it. I'm sometimes impatient and I procrastinate on projects for my LUG - so waiting for an invoice and then waiting a few days for them to pull the order and ship it is sometimes painful. I shop at a lot of large stores that don't have the best pricing because they are usually setup to churn out many orders per day and decreases my wait time until the parts arrive.
Thanks for both of your tips! I implemented the "please order if" right now.
I know that about paypal, and if in any case I need to ask, I will only ship to a BL address if it's a somewhat reputable buyer. If not, I'll cancel the order or just ship it to the PP address.
Note that the sellers seem more inconsistent in leaving feedback for buyers and in responding promptly. Almost every eBay transaction I have ever done has resulted in a seller leaving positive feedback for me, and responding within a day to any messages. Bricklink sellers don't seem to leave feedback with the same consistency, and they can be slow to respond to communications.