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What is a group buy? Should I join one? Group Buy FAQ / Buying Guidelines

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HoffmanMyster:
What is a Group Buy?
A group buy is a process through which we, as a community, can use our collective buying power to purchase goods at a reduced price or at all.  Some Group Buys take advantage of price breaks to offer products to the community at a more desirable price, often at the cost of the GB organizer's time/efforts.  Others simply give us the ability to make something happen that otherwise would have too much cost/risk associated with it for a vendor to buy into it and bring it to market themselves.

Should I join this Group Buy?
Assuming the product in question appeals to you, the answer is "it depends". 
Group Buys are risky endeavors!
The fact of the matter is that there is a lot of risk inherent to every single Group Buy, even the most reliable.  You are giving your money to a stranger on the other side of the world and hoping that they will give you the product in exchange.  And it takes months, sometimes a year+ for group buys to complete.  Be prepared to wait.  If you're in a group buy to save a little bit of money, maybe you'd rather not take on the risk and just pay a higher price. 
Who do I trust?
However, many group buys, as mentioned above, are for items that are not otherwise available so you face a decision - should I trust this organizer?  The moderation team has recently started to screen Group Buys in hopes of cutting back on ill-prepared members running group buys and falling short.  I'd say the GB landscape is better in that sense than it was a couple years ago, but it's still far from perfect.  Determining someone's aptitude at running a complex operation such as a group buy is incredibly hard to judge unless you have past experience to go by - but at that point, they're not new to the process.  I urge you to use your own best judgement in every case.  As always, Caveat Emptor, but don't be afraid to ask questions about logistics/pricing/shipping/time commitment.  You are fronting your hard-earned money, after all, and I think we all deserve to know these details if the buy in question is the organizer's first.  Don't be a jerk about it and threadcrap, but clarifying questions are okay - you're probably not the only one wondering.

What if a Group Buy goes south?
As mentioned previously, Caveat Emptor.  However, the mod team is far from apathetic; we are also members here, after all, and participate in group buys just as everyone else does.  As I said above, there is some degree of pre-screening before a group buy thread is approved, but once money changes hands there is very little the mod team can do.  Remember that we are all just humans sitting in front of computer screens, and no matter how much we try we cannot force someone in another country/state to get in their car and drive to the post office.  It's an unfortunate truth, but one that seems to be overlooked from time to time.  Again, this is not to say that we don't care about the outcome of group buys (we do), but rather to reiterate the reality of the situation.

I want to contact a GB organizer. What's the best way?
BunnyLake made a very thorough post about this subject a few months ago.  I highly recommend reading it if you are new to Group Buys.


I'd like for this thread to be a centralized location for FAQs about Group Buys, any other helpful tips/guidelines for people new to the process, and any other relevant discussions about GBs.  I will be adding content as I see fit, and welcome anyone else to contribute as they desire.  :thumb:

HoffmanMyster:
Reserved because why not

UsualSuspectXXX:
Very good information here. Thanks for the post.

00zeRO:
Hoff is the man! Much thanks...  :thumb:

justnits:
These rules are mainly for groupbuy participants.
Should there be at least some certain guidelines for Groupbuy organizers to adhere to?

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