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Caveat Emptor
Buyers of used equipment should understand what they are buying and with whom they are dealing before entering into a purchase agreement. There are many reputable sellers of used equipment in the marketplace: companies that have been servicing the semiconductor and related industries buying and selling quality used and refurbished equipment for many years. Typically, these companies own the equipment they are selling and have in-house equipment repair technicians, who refurbish, repair, and service the equipment. They will often offer a warranty on the refurbished equipment they sell.

Many people looking to buy used equipment initiate their search via the internet. A simple web search will produce pages of potential used equipment buying opportunities. Often the same equipment will be listed on multiple sites. How can that be? Who actually owns the equipment? The fact is, there are sites on the web listing thousands of pieces of used equipment which they do not own and do not have direct control to sell. These sites scour the web and strip equipment listings from reputable equipment dealers, auction sites, and companies that are selling their own used and surplus equipment. Then they take these stolen equipment listings and place them on their site; they use creative marketing which includes sales people hounding prospects on both the buy and sell side to promote themselves. The end result is a polluted marketplace and a black eye for the entire used and refurbished equipment industry. Buyers are given the false impression that there are multiple pieces to be sold when, in fact, it may be the same piece of equipment listed in multiple places.

Buying used scientific and laboratory equipment can provide a high return on investments provided some simple guidelines are followed.

1.   Ask for the serial number of the tool.
If the sellers of the equipment actually own the equipment or have direct control to sell the equipment, they will be able to produce the serial number on the spot or arrange contact with the owner. If they cannot do this or if they tell you they need to get back to you, then most likely they do not own nor control the equipment.

2.   Ask to inspect the equipment.
If seller cannot arrange an inspection of the equipment or look to tie you up with a broker's commission agreement prior to inspection, then most likely they do not own the used equipment and nor do they have direct control of the equipment. If they had control of the equipment, they would have an agreement with the owner and they would be protected.

3.   Ask for specific details on the equipment including photos.
If these cannot be produced or if they claim they will need to get back to you, keep searching. If the seller is constantly badgering you or giving you the bums rush to close a deal or tying you up with a broker's commission agreement, put the brakes on and walk away. This is a sure sign they do not have control of the equipment. Why else would they push? They don't want you to find the actual equipment owner. Keep your cool and continue the search.

Dealing with a Broker:

So you have asked all the questions and they pass the sniff test. Now it is time to enter into an agreement. As an equipment buyer, you should stipulate many details in that agreement to protect your interest. Make sure you list everything you were promised by the broker in the agreement. Don't be satisfied with just a make and a model number of the equipment. If you were told the equipment was said to have certain options, list them. If you were told equipment was fully functional and there is a warranty from the seller, note that, too. If you were told it could delivered in three weeks, state that as well. As a final stipulation in the agreement, you should make the final purchase acceptance subject to your speaking with the equipment owner/seller. A reasonable broker should not have issue with this. There are inherent risks when not dealing directly with the equipment owner and sometimes the equipment can be misrepresented. Having stipulations in the agreement and actually speaking with the owner of the used equipment can reduce your risks.

To be fair there are used equipment brokers and used equipment marketplaces which are legitimate and provide value. Typically these entities will show you up front who the owner is or once contact is made they will put you in touch with the owner of the used equipment. They are usually being paid by the owner for their services.