If there’s anything that makes me angry in this world, both as a consumer and as a business person, it’s scammers. I’m not just referring to the people in foreign countries who lure you into a “get rich quick” scheme, I’m referring to the local scammers here in the United States – and some of them like to sell or “repair” pinball machines!
Buying a pinball machine is like buying a car, minus the “Lemon Law”. If the game doesn’t work as advertised, and the seller refuses to make good, small claims court may be your only venue for recourse – but then, the question will likely arise about whether or not you did your due diligence as a consumer before you purchased the game.
I’m currently repairing a game for a gentleman who purchased it from an ad on Craigslist. Reportedly, the game was advertised as running fine and was for sale for $800. The gentleman also paid a neighbor $100 to pick the game up in their truck. When the game arrived, it didn’t even have a plug on the power cord! So far, he’s into GAME 1 for $900 for a non-working game.
He wanted to get his new game working, so he went back to the internet to find someone in the Boston area who repairs pinball machines. He found one – this “repair person” came up first on his Google search. The “repair person” came by, looked at the gentleman’s game and told him he’d be better off “parting it out”, meaning sell the backglass and playfield (on ebay) and throw the rest of the game in the trash. He might get $600 for the parts. This “repair person” charged the gentleman $75 for little more than his advice.
The gentleman wanted a working pinball machine, so he asked the “repair person” if he had any games for sale, which he did. The “repair person” charged him $600 for GAME 2 (which was $200 over book value for an “average copy” of this particular game), and delivered the game shortly thereafter. Total investment between the two games so far: $1575
The “repair person” sold GAME 2 with just a 30-day warranty. Shortly after the 30 days was up, GAME 2 broke and needed to be fixed. The “repair person” didn’t want to service the game, and referred him to a “younger kid” who worked “for less money”. The kid came, fiddled around with the game, got it “working” again, and charged the gentleman $50. Total investment: $1625
Tired of dealing with the first “repair person” the gentleman called a second person, a friend of mine, and asked him to look at both of his games.
Dave does fabulous work. His restorations are top-notch and, like me, he stands behind his work! When he arrived, he noted that GAME 1 had numerous mechanical problems (this was the advertised “working” game), and was in need of a heavy overhaul. Dave’s schedule was chock full for several months, so he suggested that the gentleman speak with me about GAME 1 and turned his attention to GAME 2.
Dave repaired several outstanding complaints on GAME 2. Total investment now: $1750 – book value for both of his games in average, working condition, but only one game was working and the other still needed a heavy overhaul!
I spoke with the gentleman and we agreed upon a time for me to pick up GAME 1, and overhaul it.
When I arrived to pick up GAME 1 and bring it to the shop, the gentleman asked me to look at GAME 2. The right flipper had stopped working. I don’t normally carry parts with me on a pick-up call, but since GAME 1 and GAME 2 had similar flipper assemblies, I scavenged the needed parts off of GAME 1 before packing it into the van, and told the gentleman that GAME 2 would still need some work to make it play like new – but for now it’s working.
So, we’ll have more to discuss as GAME 1 gets overhauled. However, the moral to the story is to buy from reputable people! Just because someone comes up on a Google search, or because something’s for sale on Craigslist doesn’t mean it is as advertised!
If the AD says the game is working, have the seller make sure the game is set-up and playable before you get there. Look at the game and play it. Watch the points count up when a target is hit. Do the bumpers “punch” the ball around the table, or does the ball just get “coaxed” around by the bumpers and flippers? A good, well maintained pin will play very lively. Even old pins will play lively when tuned up properly!
Then, look inside of the game! When all of these games were made, they were wired in a professional-looking manner. Maybe you don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, but if the wiring looks “unprofessional”, you likely have a problem that will cost you more money down the road! Pinball manufacturers did not use wires with alligator clips. If you see games with “jumper wires” inside, the game was not repaired properly. Does the game come with a warranty? Will they give it to you in writing?
Just because someone comes up first on a Google search, does not necessarily mean they are a reputable person – they just paid money to be first! When you hire someone to work on your game, speak to them; ask them questions. Do they sound like they WANT to work on your game, or are you annoying them? Do they warranty their work? If so, for how long? Will they give it to you in writing?
For myself, I warranty the games I sell for one year, for all parts and labor except for circuit boards (then the warranty is manufacturer’s warranty for new boards, and whatever the warranty is that I get from the board rebuilder if you choose to go in that direction). I prefer to replace old, worn out parts with brand-new ones. Sure it costs a little more in the short-run, but it’s a better product in the end!
My goal is to see your game play like the day it first came off of the assembly line! All of my customers are satisfied customers, because if they call for help, I get to them ASAP. Also, I prefer to build a long-term relationship with my customers, and most of them are repeat customers!