Know the risks when buying your radar detector off eBay
"Is it worth it?"
Escort, Beltronics, Blinder and many other radar / laser companies have a disclaimer listed on their websites that states: "If your purchase is from an unauthorized dealer or Internet auction site including Ebay, U-bid or other unauthorized dealer your product will be excluded from warranty!"
Escort clearly state on their website:
"Purchase of Escort products from an unauthorized reseller may exclude you from Escort warranty, service or support. Also, you should be aware that certain unauthorized resellers have been charged with criminal misconduct."
Warranty does not apply to your product under any of the following conditions:
- The serial number has been removed or modified.
- Your product has been subjected to misuse or damage (including water damage, physical abuse and/or improper installation).
- Your product has been modified in any way.
- Your receipt or proof-of-purchase is from a non-authorized dealer or internet auction site including eBay, uBid, or other non-authorized resellers.
- You are not the original purchaser of the radar detector from an authorized dealer or did not receive it as a gift from the original purchaser of the radar detector from an authorized dealer
Escort and Beltronics do not sell their products to unauthorized dealers. However, many unauthorized dealers have been able to purchase counterfeit (copied) units from Asian manufacturers that have "reversed engineered" a genuine product to make cheaper copies.
They then sell these copies through channels such as alibaba.com in large quantities to resellers (like eBay sellers) at prices well under wholesale cost. This is how eBay sellers can sell "brand new" radar detectors cheaper than authorised dealers. In fact you could buy a quantity of Beltronics STi radar detectors for $245 USD each through alibaba.com!
"How do you know if you're getting a genuine radar
and not a cheap "knock-off" copy?"
Genuine factory radars have a serial number as shown below on the left. Copied units have either no serial number, fudged numbers, or ones like below shown on the right.
Some of these unauthorized dealers & eBay sellers will offer you their own warranty or warranty from companies such as "Square Trade". These persons and or companies CANNOT do factory service, nor can they update your products with new firmware/software, when they become available.
Some eBay sellers even make up stories as to why they don't ship their radar detectors with a serial number! Click on the image left to see a screen shot of one such suspect eBay seller.
Other excuses include:
"SINCE WE PROVIDE THE WARRANTY FOR THIS ITEM AND THE MANUFACTURER WILL NOT HONOR THE WARRANTY, WE WILL RETAIN THE SERIAL NUMBER FOR THE ITEM."
We were giving (free!) advice to one Australian shopper who was looking into buying a Bel STi radar detector off an eBay site. After listening to our advice, Justin took it on his own accord to email the eBay seller, and asked:
"Is this a genuine Bel factory item, or is it sourced from Asia? Can you please send me a photo of the the serial number, located on the base of the actual unit, please send to... (Email withheld)"
The eBay seller replied:
"Hello, Please be advised these are genuine beltronics units. these are factory fresh however the serial numbers are removed because the manufacturer will not honor the warranty."
Not satisfied with this answer, Justin asked again for a picture:
"Hello, I am unable to send you these pictures. Please look at our feedback, these are legitimate items."
Justin's response was:
"OK - I have a distributor in my area - would you be happy if he checked out the unit, and if found to be a copy, will you except my unit back for a full refund including shipping and handling both ways.
Would love if you would honour your product. Thanks"
To which our eBay seller replied:
"Hello, Thank you for the email however these are legitimate Bel units, to think that these are counterfeit is absurd and this is started by Bel themselves in order to get you to pay a higher price for the items. This is not an acceptable deal. Please refer to our feedback regarding these units and you will find that we have had no complaints regarding these items."
So Justin tried one last time as diplomatically as possible:
"Dear Sir, Thankyou for your reply. As you can appreciate being on the other side of the world, I need to "do all my homework" and ensure "all the i's are dotted and the t's are crossed". The RDD invisibility of a radar detector is imperative to my purchase, as I live in a state that uses many Spectre (in fact Aus invented the Spectre) Since you have such outstanding feedback from prior customers, then you must be a man of high customer service, which I deeply respect. And since you are focused on high customer service, I am sure you wouldn't mind sending me a quick photograph of the underside of the STi radar detector. This will set my mind at ease, as will (four) of my friends, whom also require a Bel STi driver here in Australia. They will order one from you too, as soon as I have received mine."
Not surprising however, our eBay seller declined:
"Hello, Please be advised that the units are genuine units factory fresh from beltronics. I am unable to provide you with a picture of the bottom of these units at this time. I am sorry for the inconvenience."
Delonix contacted Escort USA about a simlar situation with an eBayer selling Escort radar detectors under manufacturer's retail price. Their response was:
"Removing serial numbers can only mean one thing. The reseller is trying to hide something. This not only makes it impossible for us and local police departments to track stolen goods, (yours could be next) it is against e-Bays selling policy." Click on the image to read the full email
"Is there any difference in performance between a genuine factory radar detector and a copied radar - I mean, aren't most electronics made in China now days anyway?"
Whilst reverse engineer companies may be good at copying hardware, they aren't always so good at copying the software (firmware). Read Radar Roy's test results of one particular laser jammer that was copied from the original Blinder and tested at SML in 2006.
If you do a search on epinions.com for RX65 for example, you will see a few examples where buying from an unauthorized seller has led to faults not long after purchase:
"So how come then, do some eBay sellers claim they DO provide a warranty, and have great feedback scores?"
Escort & Bel do not warrant any of their products bought off eBay, so the eBay sellers have to "warrant it" themselves. It's a game of numbers. If they are buying the STi for $285USD (as seen on Alibaba.com) and selling them for $385USD then they are making $100 profit per sale. They then try and sell you a warranty upgrade for say $47. Thus, they have made $147 profit per sale.
So if they sold two units they would make 2 x $147 = $294 profit. Let's say one of these units died within 12 months, then they would have to replace it at their cost of $285 which means they still make $9 profit, because they make you pay the shipping back and forth.
So they can have a 50% fail rate and still be profitable!
Then they send the dud ones back to the manufacturer for replacement. Except the manufacturer is doing the same thing, and can also afford to have up to a 50% fail rate! So he just ships out (at the eBayer seller's expense) new ones to replace the duds. Which the eBayer then sells for pure profit.
Remember feedback can only be left on eBay after a short period of time (90 days after the auction has finished), so as long as the radar detector works for the first 3 months (or is replaced if faulty within 3 months) then the seller is usually awarded positive feedback. Once feedback has been left, it cannot be changed!
Then only down side to this whole scheme concerns the customer and how good (accurate) did they copy the design and in particular, the software. It will be very interesting when SML or GOL do a test comparison of factory detectors versus counterfeit detectors.
So before your purchase a radar detector from eBay or some other Australian "most trusted" website, make sure you do your homework and demand the genuine product.
**Update June 2007**
Here is yet another real life eBay example:
"Here's my story of how I got screwed over; I'm recounting it so that others don't have to make the same mistakes-
About nine months ago, I started getting into the forums and was ready for my first RD. After checking GOL, the forums, and other sites, I decided on the Bel RX65. It costs about $330 USD retail, but I'm an avid eBay user and decided that I shouldn't pay sticker price. There are many auctions on eBay that list for $100 off the retail price. The auctions say in clear language that the RDs are "Brand New in Box" and that the seller gives a 1yr/3yr/Lifetime warranty because Bel won't warranty auctioned RDs.
I even had the foresight to get a warranty from SquareTrade for $15 USD for 3 years. I figured that I was double covered. So, I get the RD in the mail, looks nice and new with charger, box, manual etc.
Everything is fine for about three months, until the lettering (e.g. 'City NoX') starts to blink intermittently. The next day, the RX65 goes into SelfCal and then starts flashing 'Service Required'. Daamn.
So, I get on the phone with SquareTrade to get it warranty repaired. They then ask me for the serial number. Hmmm...... it seems that the seller removed the serial number when he sold it... SO, they tell me that they can't warranty something without a serial number. So much for that.
So, I contact the seller and he tells me that he will send me a new unit. I send it to him and he then requests $20 for the shipping and handling. A bit offput, I tell him that I'll pay but I need to be guaranteed that this unit will work or that I will not have to pay shipping again. He agrees. The new unit works fine.
Fast forward to May. I'd been out of the country for a while, but I used the new RD for about a combined 3 months. It then starts to go into SelfCal again and flashes 'Service Required'. Daamn. So, I contact the seller again. He then shoots me an email saying that the last one was 'damaged so bad that he almost lost [his] license to sell them' and he won't honor the warranty. BULL. Mine wasn't damaged at all.
At least Bel will repair it for $59.95 with proof of purchase (even from eBay).
Lesson here: Don't buy RDs off of eBay, even if they seem like a great deal."
**Update July 2007**
"i just bought a sti radar detector and it is saying sirvice required, what does that mean? thank you. i bought the sti on ebay, it only does that when i have it on highway, is this system bad? i just got it today, thank you for your time, Valerie"
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