Buying musical instruments from China

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Buying a new musical instrument made in China is risky and you should think more than twice about doing it as well as meticulously checking the seller's feedback.  I have bought several instruments made in China (directly and indirectly) and I hope the following comments would be helpful to others:

  1. When considering price obviously remember that shipping is very high and (at least in the UK) duty and VAT is payable plus a handing surcharge by the shipper (ie customs clearance is not included in the seller's shipping charge).  For many instruments, especially the smaller ones this means buying direct from China is not commercially sensible.
  2. The seller often does not communicate well in English and is normally a dealer not a musician.  Consequently, he won't understand your questions and may even ship the wrong instrument (this happened to me despite the description and picture being correct).  Avoid sellers who have incorrect names or poor descriptions in their listings, if they can't tell different models of saxophones or brass instruments apart, how can you expect them to ship you what you want?
  3. Despite the quality of most Chinese manufactured instruments increasing dramatically in the last few years, their second hand resale value is low and the general prejudice against them remains.  Most new woodwind instruments are likely to need adjusting after shipping.  If you buy directly from a shop they will do this for you but otherwise you need to know how to do this yourself.
  4. Getting spare parts for many Chinese manufactured instruments is difficult.  Consequently, repair timescales and costs for woodwind instruments with a broken key can be problematic.  Some repair workshops only service known brand instruments for which they can charge high rates.
  5. The quality is not necessarily consistent and while a UK retailer of a known brand instrument will clearly describe B stock or seconds, there is a risk that a Chinese seller will ship you an instrument which failed quality control.  (Many known brand instruments are now manufactured in China).  You obviously don't get the chance to try the instrument before you buy it.
  6. Don't expect to be able to fall back on Paypal protection.  You may have some success if nothing is delivered but if the wrong instrument arrives or its damaged then because the return shipping cost is prohibitively expensive you can't meet the Paypal conditions to make a claim.  In addition, Paypal have no means of forcing a seller to pay a refund - it all depends on goodwill.  You may have better luck claiming directly from the shipper if an instrument has been damaged in shipping.

Despite my cautionary remarks, I would be happy to buy again directly from China when it makes commercial sense to do so and in my experience most known brand instruments are very overpriced.  Some people would say "you get what you pay for" but in realty you pay the market price which has little to do with quality or manufacturing cost!

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