(Any sales transaction should have return terms made clear before the purchase.)
Makes sense & many times so over looked.
Thanks for all the info, I will pass it on to the group I am with, since it's not something we knew.
Any sales transaction should have return terms made clear before the purchase. That's true for online purchases, retail stores, and yes even between friends.
Always find out seller's return policy before buying or commissioning any instrument, new or used!
Why? Because 'etiquette' is not legally binding in any way.. and it also varies tremendously. There is no standard policy for returns- different people/sellers all have different return policies... or no returns at all sometimes.
Paypal will usually help you if the item was damaged or misrepresented. But if it's a just matter of you changing your mind and the seller doesn't want it shipped back and had not stipulated a return policy, then paypal might not get involved. If the seller did not mention any return policy at all, then they have a right to say 'no returns' after the sale is complete. Unless they misrepresented the item or its condition.
As a buyer, you should ask for the return policy to be spelled out in writing if it's not already. Before money changes hands. We are talking about significant amounts of money here!
Time frame for return? I'd say two weeks. That gives a buyer plenty of time to decide whether you "like" an instrument or not, and determine that the instrument plays and tunes correctly. If the fret-spacing is off, or the tuners won't hold, or the baritone sound isn't what you expected, then a luthier or a store should take the instrument back, although, as Dusty sez, you'll probably have to pay shipping.
If you custom orders things like extra frets or custom sound holes or carvings, or color-dyed wood, and you just don't like it, then caveat emptor . You, the buyer, should have experimented with a taped on extra fret, or you and the luthier should have exchanged photos of carvings/colors long before the instrument was completed or shipped. IMHO a customized instrument cannot be returned, because a luthier or store will be hard pressed to find someone who wants that sort of customization, and will lose a lot of money.
Dealing with friends???? Good luck with that!!!
Marg, most reputable luthiers will refund your money upon return of a dulcimer if you are not happy with it. You might be responsible for the shipping costs, though. The same is probably true of music stores, although if you played the instrument before buying it they might be less than enthusiastic about the return. As for friends, well, I think you have to determine that on a case-by-case basis.
But I also think some responsibility rests with the buyer. If there is something truly wrong with a dulcimer, such as the intonation for example, you have every right to return it. However, if, for example, you buy a baritone dulcimer and just decide you don't like the lower register and want a standard dulcimer instead, well, I personally don't think the luthier or store should be responsible for your indecision.