Can asking price be changed after offer is made?

Is it ethical to change your asking price after you receive many offers?

Last night some one ran TWO ads for the same model of Billy Bag stand for $200. I made an offer on one ad and the seller told me that he will make a decision later. Then on this same ad (same item number), the seller changed the price to $300.00. The other ad still has the price of $200 but it was marked SOLD.

Seems like greed speaks louder than ethics. Can an user do anything about the fact the item price is jacked up *after* the buyer made an offer? I wanted to contact audiogon service but cannot find any link to send them an e-mail.
A seller can do whatever they like in terms of refusing offers, changing prices, pulling their ad, etc... Disregard the idiot and move on or pay the higher asking price. Such is life and things are not always as we would like them to be. Personally, i would avoid dealing with an individual that pulled such a stunt. It speaks volumes about their integrity and as such, tells me that the item has a greater chance of being mis-represented than if sold by someone with a higher sense of morals. Sean
I agree with Sean, but would also point out that the total scenario in this case makes me suspect that the seller either made an unintentional mistake when he posted his ad which he did not know could be easily corrected, was having difficulty dealing with the procedural aspects of using the Audiogon data-entry fields, or both. Try contacting the seller if you are still interested - if it's still available, you might find out there were some extenuating circumstances involved you could cut some slack for.
I agree with the two previous post. I also believe he let you know what type of person you were about to deal with so,in one sense he did you a favor!Move on and Good Luck.
Sounds to me like he got several offers and started thinking he asked too low a price for his stand; since he got several offers, in his mind, the market will bear more than the original asking price for it. He should auction off items when he's not sure of the value, the market price will dictate what it's worth. Weird things going on lately, I was selling an item on Ebay and a buyer contacted me with a bizarre request; there were a few units like mine up for auction and he was trying to play each of us off against each other to get the best deal. Quote him a fixed price including shipping and he'd let me know where I stood vs. the pricing provided to him by other owners selling the same unit. A reverse auction of sorts. I ignored him, as you should ignore the seller of the Billy Baggs stand.
I'm not a lawyer, but, once you agree to a standing offer I believe you have a contract.
Have to agree with Unsound, though I'm no lawyer either. The problem is that enforcing such a contract is not usually worth the effort. Unless the seller has two stands to sell this was a pretty lame manuever.

Sellers really should do their homework BEFORE posting an ad, not afterwards, if for no other reason than respect for those of us who suffer from what society now considers to be a fatal character flaw: a strong lean towards wanting to do the ethical thing.

BTW, follow this link for AudioGon's contact info: Good luck in your quest.
No contract take your business elsewhere. I have had this happen to me as well. It really upsets me when people do this.

I'm not a lawyer either, but I do know that a contract requires the agreement of both parties, and placing an ad does not constitute agreeing to anything. And while it may be annoying to a buyer to make a full-price offer and then see the price hiked, that is well within a seller's rights, and I don't see anything unethical about it. Of course, if you're annoyed you don't have to do business with the guy.

Also, CW, if you will permit a mild criticism, why are you posting? It doesn't look like you followed up with the seller to find out what he was up to. That should have been your first step, before taking this public. (If you did and got no response, I apologize, but you didn't indicate that in your post.)
I found an item listed here on Audiogon which was being sold by someone 30 minutes from my house in the Phoenix area. The price was fair and probably too low for the seller's described reason to sell-changing to silver Sony SACD player to match Mark Levinson (the company) gear. I called & offered to pay his asking price in cash on the following Monday. He said O.K., then gave me the runaround until the next Tuesday, when he re-listed at a higher price.
Needless to say I was miffed! I told my friends & all the local dealers what happened....
He had 3 glowing positive feedbacks a week later. Probably because he sold all the items at such a big loss. This is what happens when someone:
A. Has big bucks.
B. Buys equipment by reading reviews & not listening to the components in a system context!

I haven't seen him on this site since. He probably moved on to video only..........
He deserves it.

Integrity Counts!
Bomarc, may be I was naive, thinking that once a buyer agrees to pay the full asking price, then the seller cannot up the price. I did contact the seller and was offered the opportunity to buy at a higher price.

So it looks like you give me a dose of reality. On Internet and even on audiogon, buying and selling is a wild wild west. Until the money changes hands, anything goes.
Just remember folks, "best offer" REALLY means "BEST offer". It does not mean that the seller has to settle for an offer that is below yet close to their asking price, especially if someone offers MORE than asking price. That would obviously be the "best" offer that they could get.

If you really want something and you know that it is marked well below market value, offer the seller just a bit more than what they were asking. This happened to me ONE time and i learned my lesson well. The next time a situation like that came along, i offered the seller 25% more than what they were asking and i ended up with the item. This happened even though the seller had received a dozen different offers to pay full asking price prior to my email. The fact that the item was worth at least four times what i ended paying for it was also a great motivator in not being cheap about it : ) Sean
I am a lawyer and legally, when there is an offer to sell at a certain price and an unqualified acceptance, there is a legally binding contract. However, the reality of the deal, as pointed out by others, is that there is no practical way to enforce that contract. If there are several offers, the seller is free to not accept any, and re-offer the goods at a higher price. Closing the deal quickly is the only way to make sure. Until then, you never know.
Moto_man: Not that I'm sure it really matters anyway as you say, but is your first sentence still the case as you see it legally if the "OBO" is included?
I think that from a legal standpoint, Sean is correct. "Best Offer" does not necessarily, although usually, refers to offers less than the asking price. But there is no reason "best offer" is limited in that way.
Moto_man: An offer to sell at a certain price and an unqualified acceptance is a contract. But I don't think any court in the US would interpret that to mean that a seller who places an ad is obligated to sell just because someone agrees to the listed price. And that seems to be the issue here.
Sean, Zaikesman, why bother with both auctions and classifieds if OBO is going to turn classifieds into unrestricted, unmonitored auctions? Since there is a place (auctions) that preceed the classifieds I think it is quite clear as to what we are agreeing to up front, and it's not an auction. Unless there are some unforseen changes (the equipment is no longer in the condition it was originally advertised as, etc.) it behooves us all to set some type of standard as to what constitutes a contract. This type of thing could get out of hand and we all could loose out on a good thing.
This item was offered at a fixed non-negotiable price. But it seems like from legal aspects, fixed price or BO is a moot point. Legally the seller can change his mind as many times as he wants. Practically, he can do so until money changes hands.

In the long run, I agree if we accept that it is okay to do what-ever-it-takes, even for a pitiful amount of money, then we end up to loose out on a good thing. For the old timers, do you remember How many of you still read that free-for-all unmoderated newsgroup?

My question is not just about a legal issue. It is about whether sticking to one's words is an outdated concept.
Unsound and Cuonghuutran, I appreciate your concerns, and also do not think that our real issues are either legal or practical, but neither do I believe that they are primarily moral. To me, the essential qualities of square dealing when selling online are a blend of honesty, communicativeness, thoroughness, straightforwardness, discretion, and common courtesy.

Here FWIW is my take: Since, as legal and practical issues, sellers are basically free to do as they please, and since a truly amoral seller merely amounts to a crook (in other words, someone intent from the start on giving the buyer less than they thought they paid for, a type from which I think we are relatively and thankfully exempt around here), it is what remains after those givens are accounted for that determines what constitutes good selling practice.

>Honesty: If a seller says it or prints it, they must make sure it's true, and then honor it.

>Communicativeness: When a seller solicits responses from potential customers through an ad, it is their responsibility to follow through and make every effort to communicate back in a timely and informative manner, to everyone, and for however many times are required, until a sale is satisfactorily completed and the ad ended (including fowarding the buyer information about when payment has been received and merchandise sent). This also includes updating the ad as needed to keep it timely and accurately reflective of the current status.

>Thoroughness: Taking the time to totally inspect and assess (and research if necessary) items offered for sale, and then writing an ad detailed and comprehensive enough to accurately and completely describe the item to potential buyers (providing pictures and/or links, if appropriate and able). The word thoroughness also applies to the study and consideration which must be given to the AGS scale criteria before assigning a number grade, and to the care and time taken which constitutes good packing practice.

>Straightforwardness and Discretion: This where I believe people often get into trouble, resulting in problems like the one this post is about. It is not incumbent upon the seller to reveal to potential buyers everything concerning the progress of their ad offer, but it is incumbent upon them to truly mean what they do choose to say, and to stick to facts. For instance, if a seller does not necessarily intend to sell to the first buyer to respond at their asking-price (as is their perogitive, because many other factors may come into play, but sellers must realize that 'first asking-price response' is very common practice, and words should be carefully chosen with this in mind), then they shouldn't tell anybody they were 'first', because that carries implications. If an unsolicited higher offer(s) is received, then it is appropriate for the seller to inform other potential buyers who inquire that the asking price has already been met and they are now considering their best offer(s), but not to start a 'bidding war' by quoting dollar figures above the asking price - for that, the seller needs to start an open auction. If market response informs the seller that they have unwittingly priced something much too low, or for any other reason the seller changes their mind about how they are listing an item or decides to start an auction instead, then they should admit their mistake and tell their respondents that they are going to pull the ad, and what they intend to do next. If a seller changes their mind and does not intend to re-list the item in any way, they should tell their respondents that the item is no longer for sale, but an explanation is not necessarily owed as to why. Basically, as long as a seller is truthful in what they choose to reveal, they not only reserve the right to play their cards close to chest if they so desire for strategic purposes, they also will often foster better customer relations by doing just that. This is what I mean about being straightfoward yet discreet. Telling potential buyers what they need to know and what they should know - but not necessarily everything the seller knows - as it pertains to ad response or the seller's decision criteria; not committing (or appearing to commit) to positions one doesn't necessarily intend to keep; and not leading buyers on, reversing position on them, or unecessarily letting them down by revealing privileged information they don't need to know (or posting two contradictory ads of course!) - these are the seller's equivalents of the 'better part of valor'. This is simply being smart.

>Common Courtesy: Being polite and thankful toward respondents, following up whenever needed or promised, not hastily assuming the worst concerning potential problems, but rather making true good-faith efforts to work out disputes in private before going public or to Audiogon dispute resolution, and utilizing the Audiogon feedback system conscientiously.

IMO, as long as sellers stick to general principles like these, there will be no need for questions of legality or morality to have to come into play.
Zaikesman, thankyou for your thoughtful and well worded reply. I still think that letting the seller off the hook is tantamount to turning the classifieds into a silent "auction". The inverse to an undervalued asking price is an overpriced asking price. The consequences of that would be either no sale or reaping a larger profit margin. Would we agree with a buyer who skipped out on a deal after agreeing to the price, because he latter discovered that it wasn't worth it? Just as the seller could complain that he may have lost other legitimate sales opportunities, so could the buyer complain that he lost other legitimate buying opportunities. We could turn this thing into a similar debacle that has plagued the restaturant industry, where an individual makes multiple reservations and then askes his companions where they would like to dine at the last minute, giving the impression of being a big shot who can just walk into any popular restataurant. Some restaurants now over book leaving some resaurants with empty tables and others with disgruntled customers waiting at the bar. Many whom have had their after dinner plans ruined (theatre tickets, air line reservations, etc). Even if the person makes multiple reservations and cancels, he has still altered the table and seating arrangements. Now the staff has to do twice what could have been done once for even less money and customers are forced to endure the havoc that ensues. What once was a courtesey is lost and our standard of living with it. Think of the consequences of emdorsing this type of behaviour. In my opinion ignoring it is the same as condoning it. Just as a buyer needs to do his home work before committing to a bid or a purchase, so must the seller. Once it's out there and it's accepted, it's a deal. Timeliness is an arbitrary perspective. I believe Audiogon requests all deals be completed in 10 days. That time period would also include the time involved in checks clearing and actual delivery. As such, at what time is the seller responsible for confirmation for the the sale to proceed? I think that when appropriate following the Audiogon guidelines for auctions should apply to sales as well. One purchase can set into motion a series of sales and/or auctions that involves many Audiogoners. Any hinderence to this mechanism can be construed to be a hinderence to the hobby and objectives of that brought us here in the first place, the opportunity to obtain the best possible sound within our own personal budgets. It's in our own best interest as a community of similar people with similar objectives to to come to agreement as to what is and what is not acceptable to us as a community. Encouraging this type of sales behaviour is a detriment to us all. All socities have rules, customs and laws, I think we can fit this topic into at least one of these categories.
Unsound, nothing that I am saying is meant to condone the behavior of the seller in Cuonghuutran's case. It is obviously an inconvenience to others for a seller post an ad that may cause certain actions to be taken by respondents, only to needlessly disappoint them. I still disagree however, that a seller accepting their best offer - even one above their asking price - carries with it any stink of impropriety. Rather, the seller in the above case violated two of the points I make above: A) The seller didn't thoroughly enough research the item they were selling in order to arrive at the proper asking price, but even more importantly for our purposes, B) The seller failed to be discreet about what they were doing to correct their first mistake. He shouldn't have so transparently tried to weasel out of his first ad by marking it "Sold" and placing a second one at a higher price as if nothing unusual had happened, and he shouldn't have offered the item to Cuonghuutran at a higher price than it was advertised for.

What the seller did NOT do - which keeps him free, to my mind, from accusations of immorality - was to tell Cuonghuutran that they had a deal at the advertised price and then renege on it. Cuonghuutran makes it clear that the seller never accepted his offer, instead telling him that he would "make a decision later", as Cuonghuutran puts it. It is entirely the seller's perogative to consider all the offers he receives if he so chooses, and then pick from among them based on whatever criteria he prefers to employ. Where he went wrong was in telling Cuonghuutran that Cuonghuutran could instead pay him $X.00 amount (above his asking price), and of course in the two ads business, which was just bone-headed. If he wanted to cancel his first ad and re-list the item at a higher price (instead of just accepting his highest offer on the first ad), he should have recontacted all his respondents, apologized to them, and explained that now realized that he priced his item too low, was going to withdraw his first listing (NOT mark it "Sold" like an idiot), and intended to re-list the item at a higher price. Then, any potential buyers who wanted to could make new offers on the new ad, and the seller could choose from among those offers. The point is, the seller should have done one thing or the other (either taken his highest offer quietly, or declared his mistake and re-listed), but not stupidly tried to do both. Had the seller done one of those things, instead of what he actually did do, we would probably not be having this discussion right now.

But leaving aside for a moment the two mistakes the seller made (not doing enough research, not being discreet in dealing with the fallout he created), what the seller essentially did was this: He placed an ad; he got many responses; one or more of his responses offered to pay the asking price; one or more of his responses offered to pay more than his asking price; he accepted his highest offer. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this in theory, as long as a seller is both straightfoward and discreet about it. I challenge anybody to state for me a cogent, compelling argument as to why, for instance, if a seller receives 4 equally qualified offers of $400.00 on an item he listed at $400.00, plus one equally qualified offer of $450.00 from a particularly motivated and savvy buyer, the seller should not discreetly give preference to the $450.00 offer. I would. What I WOULDN'T do is recontact the other potential buyers and announce that the going price was now $450.00, and ask if they cared to up the ante - I would just let them know the item was sold.

The example of the restaurant reservations scam is pretty funny; I hadn't heard of this behavior before, but then I'm fairly cloistered and naive. What it is not, however, is an applicable analogy to the issue at hand. In the reservations scam, the con artist knows at the outset that he is wasting the time and effort - and potentially losing business for - a number of the establishments he pretends to offer his business to, because that is part and parcel of his plan to look like a bigshot. In the case of a seller on Audiogon, there is no possible incentive to deliberately list an item at too low a price, and then tell potential customers who respond that they'll actually need to pay more to have a chance. The seller would just be inciting acrimony, and that can't be good for business. Almost any case of pricing an item too low and then deciding to backtrack can automatically be assumed to be the result of an honest mistake. This fact doesn't mean such a careless seller should be held blameless for any inconveniences they may cause, but it does mean that they are not the equivalent of an intentional liar like the reservations weasel. I challenge anybody to present a cogent and compelling argument as to why, for example, if a seller prices an item too low for the market through their own ignorance or carelessness, realizes what he has done after the responses come in - but never tells any of the respondents that they have a deal - it is reasonable to hold that the seller MUST still agree sell the item at the listed price to one of the potential buyers offering the asking-price, even if the seller has other offers for more than the asking-price. Such an argument would defy common sense - an argument harder to defend than it is to defend the occasional careless but not intentionally dishonest seller. Also, it would be prudent to keep in mind that 'the market' is never really known until an item is listed; even the most thoroughly researched and realistically priced item could attract an offer above the asking-price, through no fault whatsoever on the part of the seller. Is it then fair to ask that the seller disregard such an offer?

I stand by my outline for good selling practice above. If Cuonghuutran's seller had followed this etiquette, there would have been no problem. Even given the clearly-less-than-optimal way this particular case was actually handled by the seller, Cuonghuutran was not wronged in any tangible way. Nothing was promised him and later taken back. Any valid offer that anybody makes on any advertised item might prove to be unsuccessful for a variety of legitmate reasons. That's life. In fact, it's better than life: Life is supposed to be unfair. This was not unfair, it was just a failed attempt at happiness. For any one advertised item, there can only be one happily fulfilled customer at most. This time, it wasn't Cuonghuutran; other times, it's not you or me. Let's get over it. The important thing here IMO is that, if sellers follow common-sense guidelines similar to the ones I laid out above, then any one of us could have a seller/customer interaction with any other one of us, and whether or not it resulted in a sale, the customer would never have cause to feel wronged in any way.
I kind of agree with Zaikesman that the best story is a straight story. Unfortunately, the seller did not do that.

Rather than cancelling the ad and giving a straight explanation, the seller chose to: (1) mark one ad as SOLD, (2) increase the price in the other ad, (3) agree to sell to another buyer who offer to pay just the new asking price. The seller also said that he had TWO identical stands and sold one at a lower price, (4) offer to sell to me if I pay at the new price. He did this even after already having a "contract" with the above buyer.

At this point, the seller did not know that the world is small and that the other buyer and I know each other! We did swap war stories.... and figured out how the seller was weaving his stories.

I was annoyed but then amused. Anyway, it was a good lesson for me included.
And about those actions, Cuonghuutran and I certainly can agree that this seller employed all the wrong means (however reactionary and without malice aforethought) to try and justify what otherwise could have been an understandable end. Fortunately, I don't think too many of us A'goners are so clueless or inconsiderate. Thanks for sharing the good lesson for us all.
Zaikesman, perhaps I'm the naive one. My thinking is based on the following premise, unless there are provisions mentioned up front, I believe that a classified add is an offering of a specific piece of merchandise for a specific price. "I'll give you X merchandise for Y money", "I'll give you Y money for X merchandise" Done! Once that price is met you have a contract and the merchandise is promised and no longer available. Any other offers should be held as contingency only. Reselling the same merchandise that was previously sold (or inherently promised as such ) under the previous agreement is dishonest. Sellers and buyers take the same risk regarding actual value. If a seller could benefit from over pricing an item it stands to reason he could also suffer from under pricing an item. If a buyer suffers from purchasing an over priced item it stands to reason that he could benefit from buying an under priced item. Were all big boys and girls, there are no "do overs". All parties should do their home work before offers are made and agreed to. Of course should a mistake be realized before an agreement is made, retraction should be available. Should we allow sellers to accept multiple bids after the original asking price is met (especially in a fixed priced ad), we then allow buyers to make multiple offers on different pieces of merchandise even though they only have the true intention of buying one item, so that they may insure themselves the opportunity to back out of an agreement at the last momement should a better price avail itself or at the very least be in a less precarious situation to actually purchase a piece of merchandise. I'm sure that seller's would be just as upset by that practice, yet it would be fair if you codone the seller doing the inverse. This could have a domino effect that could effect many others who have made agreements based upon original agreements by others. All this can be avoided by honoring ones word. Should one breach this verbal contract there should be repercussions. Just like my restaurant analogy it all comes down to honor. While I have used auctions here on Audiogon before I never really liked them. This thread has forced me to reconsider. If we can't do business in an honorable way perhaps we should abandon the classifieds and stick to the auctions. As it now stands sellers can refuse buyers based on percieved race, religon, creed, etc. Furthermore if buyers resort to the tactics I've outlined to defend themselves it will most likely result in loss of privacy to all parties, as telephone numbers and addreses will probably be needlessly shared. We all know how that can spin out of control. We could add something to the effect that a minimum feedback rating would be required or something to that effect. Sorry, if I've been redundant and beat this thing to death, but I can't help but feel that the loss of honor is erroding our standard of living. If we can all agree to a standard of doing business we will avoid unnecessary complexties and hassles and enjoy better, less stressful lives.