User Ready? (The Rant Zone)
I recently had an experience with an eBay buyer who was "disappointed" with a plane that he'd purchased from me through eBay. If you've ever read one of my eBay descriptions you know that I go to great lengths to describe the bad stuff as well as the good stuff about the item I'm selling. I provide enough photos to give the potential bidder/buyer a good idea as to what they are purchasing and then I go to extra great lengths to encourage questions about anything not understood, unseen, errors in the description, etc. In other words, I want the buyer to know exactly what they are buying BEFORE they bid or buy. Says so right in the description. Well, needless to say, this particular buyer, who incidentally lives outside the USA, was unhappy because he believed that though the plane was "pretty" the bottom was not flat. My response to myself of course was: Why didn't you ask a question? Why did you buy something on eBay that's 75 years old expecting it to be perfect? Did you read the part in the description about the item being 75 years old and not perfect, not purported to be perfect, never was perfect even off the assembly line? My response to him of course was "I'm sorry you were disappointed with the plane. I'd be happy to accept a return and refund your purchase price." I went on a bit about my standards vs his standards and that we disagreed, yada, yada, yada. Unfortunately for him, his return shipping would have been prohibitively expensive so he chose to keep it, maybe as a paper weight. Funny thing though, I shipped it to an address in Southern California from whence it moved to an undisclosed location overseas (though I do know where it ended up). I'm sure there was no reason for this other than to avoid the high shipping costs to a foreign land.
I sell an average of 100 planes on eBay a year and unless stated otherwise, they are clean and usable to the degree that they work, the bottoms at least have been lapped to remove the significant imperfections but I don't run a flatness meter over them to make sure they meet some nebulous specification or someone else's definition of "FLAT". I sell mostly to new or learning woodworkers who don't want to spend a lot of money on a Lie Nielson, Veritas, or Bridge City Tool Works plane, don't know that much about them and want something that they can put on a piece of wood and make shavings. To those folks my planes are what I consider "User Ready" or "User Friendly" and they are priced accordingly. A professional craftsman or meticulous woodworker hobbyist shouldn't even consider my planes unless they expect imperfections that they themselves might wish to deal with should it not meet their expectations. Once in a while I do sell one to a perfectionist who will complain that the $80 or so bucks spent was a waste of money on a piece of junk that I claimed was an excellent user. OK, If you happen to be one of them folks, take your $80 or so bucks and save up until you can buy a Bridge City Tool Works plane for 10 times the price, guaranteed to be laser cut and machined to a ten thousandth of a millimeter flat, (until the first time you run it over a piece of hard maple or oak.) I'm OK with that as you are not my customer base and you might just be disappointed in your purchase, just like this fellow was.
If you buy a plane from me it will be ready to use unless otherwise stated. However, let me state emphatically the bottom will not be perfectly flat nor perfectly square in relation to the sides, the wood will have dings and dents indicative of it use over the 50-125 years of its life, the japanning will have marring, dents, scratches, etc. The cutter, chip breaker, lever cap and maybe the frog will be imperfect with a few chips or dings but IT WILL WORK AS IT WAS INTENDED at the time of its manufacture. If you don't like it, send it back. I don't want you to be unhappy with it so I will refund your money upon my receipt of it in the condition in which I sent it. I don't do partial refunds because you believe you overpaid for it. If you didn't like it at the price you paid, you won't like it any better with a few bucks back.
I make little profit on what I sell and generally put 2-3 hours of labor into taking one from a piece of rusty, dirty junk into something that can be once again useful. I take pride in my work and I believe that it's important to encourage new and learning craftsman rather than have them turn away from a promising interest because the initial financial burden of that process precludes them from participation. I also enjoy the process of rehabilitating an old relic into a usable, though admittedly imperfect tool. So to you, Mr. Disappointed Perfectionist, I make no apologies for your failure to ask a question or two.