Over the Gazelle.com Barrel

October 02, 2010

Recently we decided to try and sell an HD camcorder we own. The camera was easy enough to use, and took nice videos, but the AVCHD file format it used to store the images hasn't yet been widely adopted and transferring video from the camera to Windows operating system personal computers proved to be time consuming and difficult. The promise of taking a video, uploading it to the laptop and then to YouTube wasn't met and so we decided to sell the camera.

My first attempt was through craigslist. As always with craigslist, the majority of the responses were lowball offers or off the wall scams. The only legitimate  response came from some on in Las Vegas - and I wasn't interested in risking sending the camera away in hopes that their payment would be good.

Having recently heard ads for Gazelle.com on the MacBreak Weekly podcast I decided to give them a try. The idea behind Gazelle is simple - you fill out a form describing your device, they make an offer based on your description and if you like the offer they send you a box and a prepaid shipping label. You send the item, they inspect it and if it is what you said it was, you get your money. Sounded good, and the offer was very generous at $324.

The box came after about 5 days and I assembled it, put the camera and all it's accessories into its original box and packed it neatly into their box. It was in the outgoing mail the same day. A few days later I got an email asking if I had return shipped the camera yet as Gazelle hadn't yet received it. Finally on the 24th the status on my account page at Gazelle changed to show that they had received my camera and would soon inspect it.

Days passed and every time I checked the status the inspection still hadn't happened. On Wednesday, 6 days after they had gotten the camera, I poked the "live chat" option on their web site and chatted with Mike005. Mike005 said that there was a backlog of inspections due to a large number of transactions, and that my inspection would happen the next day. Thursday afternoon I again checked my status only to find I was still awaiting inspection. I opened a another chat and was again connected with Mike005. What are the odds?

He again promised me an inspection before the end of the 7th day. Later Friday afternoon I got an email from Gazelle with the subject line "Status Update - Your Attention Needed ." Opening the email I was shocked and dismayed to read:

When our inspectors checked your Panasonic HDC-SD10 SD Full HD Camcorder (SR56397161298), they found some conditions that affected the value of the Camcorder. Here's what they found:

We discovered that the Camcorder you sent in is actually a different model. Because different models have distinct values, this affects the offer we can make.

Because of this, we had to adjust our offer to $123.00 for your Panasonic HDC-SD10 SD Full HD Camcorder .

Not what I had hoped for at all. No details as to the model difference they claim they found. Just that what I sent them wasn't what I had said I would send them. And the offer is now roughly a third of what was initially made. I have 5 days (now 4) to accept or ask for my merchandise back.

The is free return shipping so there's no cost to me, but I am now wary enough of them to wonder if I'll get my camera back and in what condition. And, getting back means I am back to square one trying to sell it. Accepting their offer feels like giving in and letting them dictate to me. Having tried to sell it on my own unsuccessfully I now feel like I am trapped over the Gazelle barrel.

The live chat - seemingly the only way to contact them - isn't open again until Monday morning. I'll have just 2 days left to accept their paltry offer or ask for my camera back.

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Mark H. Nichols

I am a husband, cellist, code prole, nerd, technologist, and all around good guy living and working in fly-over country. You should follow me on Twitter.