From: [email protected] (Jeffrey Herman)
Subject: FAQ: A Guide to Buying and Selling on Usenet
Date: 6 Nov 2001 19:25:51 GMT
Message-ID: <[email protected]>
Summary: A guide to the newsgroup, providing a
         description of the group and its charter, net-wisdom on the
         best use of this forum, and some brief netiquette notes.
         Also provides general guidelines for the other forsale and
         marketplace forums.
Keywords: faq ham amateur radio cb scanner shortwave lmr buy sell swap
X-Last-Updated: 1998/09/15
Posting-Frequency: Monthly

Archive-name: radio/swap-guide

This message is a guide to buying and selling over Usenet. It is intended to
serve as a guide for users unfamiliar with common conventions used in the
Usenet marketplace. Questions and comments may be directed to 
Jeffrey Herman KH6O, [email protected]. 

Thanks go to readers of the personal radio newsgroups, who provided feed-
back to the net about proper use of this forum, and especially Paul W.
Schleck, K3FU, [email protected], who compiled most of the net wisdom
and suggested the creation of this article.

Usenet has proven to be a valuable resource for many folks. Along with lots of
discussion, argument, and good, solid information, it's also a good place to
buy or sell equipment, and many people have done so successfully. As with any
other medium, though, there are conventions that make everyone's life easier
if they're followed as much as possible.

The following are some suggested guidelines for using the
forum, based on general net-wisdom from users. Most of it is basic common
sense, but it is unfortunate that some users have consistently abused this
forum by not following such basic common sense. The general guidelines will
serve as well for other groups on the net, such as and

What is appropriate to post in

Any offer to buy or sell radio and electronics equipment, such as
transmitters, receivers, antennas, electronics parts, and radio-related
computer equipment is appropriate for this forum. Posts concerning
non-hardware (but still radio-related) items such as documentation manuals,
books, radio-related software, and publications, are also welcome. Sirens
and emergency lights would surely find a more appropriate audience in one
of the public safety newsgroups.

It has become common practice to append "FS" ("For Sale"), "WTB" ("Want
To Buy"), or "WTT" ("Want To Trade") to the subject line of an ad. With
the new online auction service, eBay, we ask that you include "FA" ("For
Auction") and also "eBay" to your subject line if you choose to place
an auction notice. (Note that a recent straw poll revealed that many
readers are not happy seeing auction notices on r.r.swap - post such
notices at your own risk! If you fail to append "FA" and "eBay" in your
subject line, you will surely be flamed.)

post, please do so to the appropriate discussion group. Use email whenever
possible, especially if you feel someone has committed a breach of

Articles concerning illegal equipment (such as CB linear amplifiers and police
radar jammers) are not welcome. Not only will you be severely "flamed", you
are also opening yourself (and possibly the owners and administrators of your
news site) up to civil and criminal liability. Individuals who are involved in
the regular business of buying and selling for profit are requested not to
abuse this forum by using it as a "free advertisement" service for their
business, although they are welcome to participate as individuals. The
distinction here is that there is a cultural bias on Usenet, and an actual
prohibition on some networks that carry Usenet traffic, against using the net
for commercial purposes. Let your conscience be your guide.

Doesn't this article violate its own guidelines?

Well, yes and no. In the strictest sense, this article violates the rule that
only buying and selling advertisements belong in the newsgroup.
However, since those using this newsgroup are most likely to see articles in
the same newsgroup, and since this newsgroup serves readers of the*,,, and
newsgroups, posting it here provides the greatest visibility with the least
intrusion. Other suggestions which achieve the same goals are welcome.

If you are looking for something specific...

Try to first find the item through other channels before resorting to the net.
If the manufacturer is still in business, you may be pleasantly surprised that
they still have the items on the shelf. Other companies specialize in
discontinued and surplus parts and equipment and are your best source for
tracking down items. Consult the mail-order electronics list, available from in file ~/pub/ham-radio/mail_order, or the advertising
sections of most popular radio and electronics publications.

Once you have exhausted all other channels, then certainly do post. State
clearly what you are looking for (e.g. "a part# 345X56 Bakelite Frobnicator
for an American Hawk Fubar 2000, circa 1968-1970"), and how much you are
willing to pay (or that you're willing to negotiate). Avoid sending out
"equipment-wanted" posts unless you are willing to pay for shipping from
wherever it may turn up (this newsgroup is read throughout the world), or
state clearly where you're willing to accept items from. Use the Distribution:
header line to limit where your posting will go, but be aware that it's far
from an absolute restriction; articles with ba (San Francisco Bay area)
distribution, for example, are imported to places like Boston, London, and
Singapore regularly.

If you are selling equipment...

Be specific in your first post about what you are selling and how much you
want for it (or that you're willing to negotiate). State clearly whether or
not the price includes shipping, and if it does, be sure to allow yourself a
reasonable amount to cover the cost. Avoid sending out "for sale" posts unless
you are willing to arrange for shipping to whomever in the message
distribution wants to buy it (and remember the comment above about
Distribution: headers...); if you cannot limit the posting's distribution for
one reason or another, be clear in your message about where you will and will
not ship. The US Postal Service has a 50-pound limit on the weight of packages
sent through them, and United Parcel Service has a 150-pound limit; other
carriers have similar limits. Check with your carrier before shipping.
Anything heavier will have to go by motor-freight (read: EXPENSIVE). Don't
advertise equipment that you cannot ship within a reasonable amount of time.

Once you have made a deal, state clearly your intentions and follow through on
them. Nothing angers a buyer more than delays and excuses. Once you do ship,
have it securely packaged (insurance is strongly recommended). Payment terms
should be whatever you and the buyer are comfortable with, and commonly
include options such as money up-front, COD (Collect on Delivery), or payment
upon receipt and inspection. Don't be offended if the buyer wants to take
steps to protect his position, since he probably doesn't know you. Most
readers of this forum are basically honest and want to maintain their
net-image, but the few bad apples should encourage you to only deal with
honest, reputable people and to reasonably protect your position in any

Remember that COD stands for "Collect on Delivery" and not necessarily "Cash
on Delivery."  The carrier collects the funds from the buyer, and then hands
him the package; they then send the payment on to you. They are not a party to
the transaction, and so they don't care if the buyer gives you a bad check.
Therefore, you may want to specify the collection of cash, money order, or
other certified funds for your COD. Check with your carrier for exact COD
options and policies. If you choose this option, make sure the buyer knows up
front so that he can make the necessary arrangements. One thing to remember
is that UPS, at least will send whatever is Collected on Delivery to the
shipper's address as recorded in their files, and NOT to the return address
on the package. If you use a commercial packing and shipping service, you'll
have to go back there to pick up your payment; if you send from your office,
make sure the shipping department knows what to do with the check they'll
get from UPS in the mail.

If you are buying equipment...

Respond to an advertisement in a prompt manner. (The item may well not be
available if you don't!) Don't skip a message just because you think the price
is too high; offer the seller a price you think is reasonable instead. You
might be pleasantly surprised. State clearly your terms and intentions and
follow through on them. Nothing angers a seller more than delays and excuses.
As radio equipment is generally bulky and fragile, allow for a reasonable
amount of money to package, insure, and ship your purchase properly. Payment
terms should be similar to those suggested under seller's guidelines, and
should reasonably protect your position (remember, you are probably buying
equipment sight-unseen from a relative stranger), but remember that he needs
to protect his position as well. If you are unsure of a given seller, ask a
net-regular discreetly via E-mail. He or she will be more than happy to either
ease your concerns or confirm your suspicions.

In general...

When you post to, be sure to use a meaningful Subject: line.
"FOR SALE" or "WANTED", by themselves, give little information to the person
skimming through the group by looking at the message subjects. "IC-32AT dual
band 144/440 handheld for sale, $400" is much more useful; if the reader is
looking for HF transceivers, he can skip right past your message. If you have
lots of different things for sale, try to give as much information as you can,
but remember that most systems get unhappy at Subject: lines longer than 80
characters, and a few older ones truncate them at 40.

It's generally a good idea to include your geographic location and a phone
number where you can be reached somewhere in your posting as well. Besides
reassuring your potential buyer or seller that you are a real person, it's
often easier to bargain and make other arrangements on the telephone than
through a protracted electronic mail exchange. Some buyers prefer dealing with
folks in their local area, too, as that makes it easier for them to inspect
the equipment before paying money.

The Usenet marketplace groups in general, and in particular,
are a great place to buy that piece of gear you've had your eye on. Items go
quickly for reasonable prices. I've sold a radio within three hours of posting
the for sale message. The usefulness of these groups depends to a large extent
on the people who inhabit them, though, and a few unscrupulous users can
easily sink the whole thing. Whether you are a buyer, seller, or seeker of
equipment, remember that your honesty and integrity reflects on the general
reputation and usefulness of this forum and amateur radio in general.

Jeffrey Herman, KH6O
Telecommunication Specialist          Mathematics  Lecturer
      U.S. Coast Guard             University of Hawaii System
   jherman @             jeffreyh @