View Full Version : Ethics question

Feb-08-2004, 11:49pm
I'm relatively new to the cafe, and maybe this has been hashed over before, but a couple of recent threads have inspired me to run this hypothetical situation by the members to get some reactions.
# #Joe is in the musical instrument business, selling both new and used, from the cheap to the holy grails. #He has been at it long enough to be known as a good source for whatever the player might desire. #One day he receives a call offering him one of those prized instruments; #they strike a deal, and Joe rubs his hands with glee, as he knows he can turn this little beauty for 5 times what he paid for it. #The word goes out about what Joe has for sale, and shortly Joe has a buyer.
Unfortunately, the buyer notices in the classifieds in a national magazine that his new instrument happens to have the same serial number as one being advertised as stolen. #When he calls the phone number in the ad, he finds that, indeed, the instrument he has just purchased had been stolen. #Joe, of course, had no idea that his recent prize purchase was hot, and both bought and sold it in good faith, and is on the horns of a dilemma when contacted by the purchaser. #What does he do? #Does he #(a) return the purchaser's money and help facilitate the return of the instrument to its rightful owner, writing off the loss of his purchase price. #(b) return the purchaser's money and try to recover the money he paid for the instrument, as it is returned to its rightful owner.© decide that, since his dealings were made in good faith, that he will leave it to the legal system to make whatever decisions are deemed appropriate and respond accordingly. #(d) pocket his 80% profit and walk away, accepting no responsibility in the matter. #
# # There may be other, more appropriate, responses that Joe could make that Cafe members will come up with. #So what do you all think? #Remember, this is a purely hypothetical situation and hopefully will never happen, but just in case. . .

Feb-09-2004, 12:19am
According to Stan Jay of Mandolin Brothers, this can and does happen (I tried to find the old thread where he discusses this, but apparently it dropped off the face of the Cafe - I'll try to paraphrase). Mandolin Brothers now videotapes all in-person trades because of getting "stung" a few times (don't know what they do if the person mails it in..). Of course they contact the authorities, return the instrument to the rightful owner and refund the buyer's money. Then they try to collect from the person who sold them the instrument.

BTW I'm assuming in your little hypothetical scenario the rightful owner KNOWS Joe bought and sold the instrument.. So if I'm remembering it correctly, that means Mando Bros would do A, B, and C. If Joe is a reputable dealer with a brick and mortar store, I don't think he could do D and stay in buisiness.

Of course given the other thread on Mando Bros, I don't know what to think! http://www.mandolincafe.net/iB_html/non-cgi/emoticons/tounge.gif

Feb-09-2004, 12:34am
If you buy a stolen instrument...even without knowing it...you have recieved stolen property and have no rights to it. You can be forced to give it back to the rightful owner and it is up to you to go after the person you got it from and then in turn the person you got it from is responsible to collect from the person they got it from or be arrested if they are the theif. Of course, all this is handled through the police so everything is legal and a legal record of the whole mess. The original owner does not have to buy it back. It is his to begin with and no one else has the right to it. He can give a reward if he wishes but is under no obligation.

The hard part about dealing in used instruments is you are responsible for the trades. In some areas you are required to provide the model and serial numbers to the police when you buy or trade for one and keep it safely for a certain number of days to ensure it is not stolen.

Feb-09-2004, 1:13am
In this hypothetical situation, the rightful owner knew that Joe had bought and sold his instrument only after being contacted by the purchaser. #Sorry about the dealer's name, Big Joe. #Guess he should have been named Nordelitellod, or something else that no one hopefully would have ever named their child.

Coy Wylie
Feb-09-2004, 2:03am
My .02 for what it's worth is that Joe or whoever should get the mando back to its rightful owner and if he cannot get his money back from the one who sold it to him he should be willing to claim a buisness loss on his taxes and go on with his life. What goes around comes around. What is done is secret will eventually be shouted from the housetops as the axiom goes. Anyone should be suspicious of a deal that is too good. As we say in Texas, "There just ain't no free lunch."

J. Mark Lane
Feb-09-2004, 12:12pm
Well, this was posed as an "ethical question" rather than a legal question. The law can vary slightly from place to place, and (more importantly) the procedures can vary. The local police can generally provide details. Most of what has been said here is, I believe, mostly correct.

As an ethical question, however, I agree that the seller (Joe) should refund the money to the buyer, get the instrument back, and should probably then turn it over to the police (who can then be responsible for ensuring that it gets back in the right hands). Joe should then try to get the authorities to prosecute the bad seller, and also try to recover his money from the bad seller in a civil action (or ancillary to the criminal action, if provided for by local procedures). The innocent parties -- the victim of the theft, and the buyer -- should be protected first. Joe comes only after them. Part of this involves the notion that Joe should, in the first place, be responsible for seeing that instruments he takes on trade or buys used are legit. That's a responsibility he has as a retailer.


Feb-10-2004, 2:00am
Which, all this in turn, reminds me of those thieves that ARE trying to sell "Stolen" merchandise (mandolins) on Ebay...they use photos of instruments from Elderly, Gruhn, wherever, and offer them for sale on Ebay...
Dale and a few others were getting quite adept at foiling them, but have not heard anything recently...

I did buy a 1973 D-18 one time for $200. This was in '93 or '94. And it was hotter than a charcoal briquette...I happened to be talking to the original owner on the phone, and I got to bragging on this incredible find I had aquired...a Martin D-18 for $200...there was silence on the phone...he asked a few details only he could have known, the contents of the case pocket and lastly, the serial number...
Trouble was I sold it two days prior by way of a newspaper add (this was before the net was really in use) Since we were friends, he was not mad at me at all...and I certainly 'fessed up that I had sold it, because I made like over a grand on it, and I was again, bragging about my turnover amount. He did not go after the guy that bought it from me, but he did go after the guy that stole it from his camper up at Bass Mtn. We both did. Then, we went to the individual I sold it to, and thankfully he was very understanding...
Haiku to end this:

Guitar recovered.
Money returned.
Thief allergic to Ruger...

Feb-11-2004, 7:39am
Three of us went to a festival in Asheville, N.C. in 2000. Myself and one of the guys went to listen to a band rehearsing for that nights show. My other buddy went to the vendor tables. He has a "thing" for vintage Gibson banjos and he doesn't mind forking over the cash if he finds what he's looking for. Two hours or so later he finds us and we asked him if he found anything interesting. He said yes but he thought the early archtop he looked at might be hot so he didn't buy it. He said a guy approached him as he was leaving one of the better known instrument dealers and mentioned that he was selling his personal instrument and if my friend was interested he could come out to his car and play it and make an offer. My friend went and the guy had a beautiful old archtop in pristine condition. My friend played it and asked the "owner" to play it so he could hear it from a distance. He said the guy couldn't play and he got suspicious but thought, hey there are a lot of beginners who own expensive instruments. My pal made a ridiculously low offer and the guy said ok but he wanted cash. My friend said he would have to go into Asheville and find an ATM.

I got out my cell phone and we got in contact with the Sherriff's department and reported it. In five minutes time (they had deputies there but we had not seen them) two uniformed deputies came and talked to us. They had my friend describe the guys car and the fellow he talked to. We found out later that the fellow was arrested and he and another guy he was working with were selling hot instruments that had been stolen from a music store somewhere in Indiana. My pal thought he would be called to testify in court but he never was. They had enough evidence on those guys without his testimony.

Feb-11-2004, 10:32am
Good goin Stringbender. If they can't sell them, they won't steal them.

Feb-11-2004, 10:50am
Funny thing is that (hypothetically) the individual that bought the stolen instrument from the thieving creep WAS named Joe.
And the dealer should have chosen your option (a) IMO.


Feb-25-2004, 2:58am
Sorry for the long delay in finishing this topic, but my computer decided to fail with one of those interesting intermittent glitches that drove the repairman crazy. Hopefully, it will function long enough for me to finish this post.
Thanks for all who responded. As some may have suspected, this "hypothetical" situation was comprised of facts drawn from several actual events, but with one incident providing the central theme. Some of the points the respondents made, such as legal jurisdictions, played a role in in the final outcome. And now, for the rest of the story...
The premise was that Joe had purchased and resold
what turned out to be a stolen instrument, and the question was how he should deal with the situation when the circumstances about its origins were revealed. We'll name the owner of the stolen instrument "Bill". I was going to, for simplicity sake,
identify the stolen instrument as an original 1934 RB4 flathead banjo, but there might be those of you who might not be offended at all at the thought of a banjo disappearing, so let's give Bill a 1925 Fern, something that you can all identify with.
Anyway, Bill contacted Joe when was discovered that the Fern had passed through Joe's hands, and Joe chose to personally assist in the recovery of the instrument, with one interesting and rather
bizarre twist. Joe's assistance in recovering the stolen Fern had a price tag attached; all that Bill had to do was to send Joe a check for an amount of approximately five percent of the value of Bill's Fern before it was returned to him. Because there were numerous jurisdictions involved, the hassles of trying to utilize the legal system to bring about an equitable ending seemed daunting at best, so Bill simply "bit the bullet" and paid the money as being the easiest and simplest way to recover his stolen property. As for all others involved, there were never any negative consequences, and as for Joe, "a guy's got to turn a profit if he's going to stay in business."