$13k for that? That’s definitely criminal. Sadly, it’ll cost more than you could recover to go after the guy, so it probably is best to just cut your losses. Looks like Chris at HEP already has it, and you have found the path to what you wanted. Chris isn’t cheap, but you actually DO get what you pay for and then some, so I do still think he’s a very good VALUE for your dollar.
A story on these things....I once had a retail game room store. It went out of business, mostly due to eBay scam artists. We didn’t bleed money as we did sell some machines, but there was one recurring scenario and without it I think we could have made it. It went like this...
Customer comes into store and is very interested in a pinball machine. Would stay and play machines for an hour or two. Sales folks would let him be, and often he’d say “I just have to get the wife on board.” Wife would come in with him and look all skeptical, but she’d let us give our pitch and seem okay with it. They’d wanna think on it.
Guy would come back alone and try to beat us down on the price. We had a nice retail store in a nice retail location with “nice” retail rent. I did a good job of buying decent pins at decent prices, then we did a very good job shopping them (we didn’t restore and didn’t try to sell them as “restored”). Then we had a very good warranty with in-home service after the sale. We did delivery and setup. Our people had years of industry experience. Our prices were not insane.
Problem was eBay. For the titles people wanted (TAF, IJ, etc, of which we ALWAYS kept one or more in stock and ready to go), there was always some scammer with one listed for a grand less than our retail price. The pictures were always just as good as our machine, too, maybe better. So when the guy was trying to beat us down he’d say “but I can get the same thing off eBay for a grand less.” I’d say look, do your homework. There are posts out there that these guys are scammers. You won’t get what they have pictured, it won’t work right, and most importantly you won’t have anyone to fix it. He’d say he’s pretty handy and there are repair guides. He’s at least half right, and as a salesman I sure as hell can’t argue with him about whether he’s handy enough or not. So he’d want to think on it again and leave and I’d be pretty sure that was a lost sale.
That’s not where this story ends, though. Not by a long shot. Over and over and over the repeat versions of this guy would call us, sheepish. They would buy the eBay machine and it would show up just like *I* said it would. Garbage, mostly. And the call would go something like “so, I shouldn’t have done it, but I did the eBay thing and you were right.” And then it was “so what can you do to help me?” I’d say let me come over and see what you have and we can talk about it.
Invariably, I’d go to some McMansion in a gated community. In the garage would be a REALLY nice set of tools that didn’t look to have ever been used. Wife would be in a nice new Tahoe, husband in a big 4 door pickup with lots of chrome. Sitting on a pallet on the floor would be a pinball on no legs, head raised, shrink wrap on the floor still. And it would be garbage. Bare wood showing on play field (or worse, that plus burn marks if a TAF), cabinet damage NOT from shipping, and it wouldn’t work (and sometimes the hacks were so bad you could tell it hadn’t worked right in a LONG time). And there was a MAD AS HELL wife. Dude would keep his voice low when she wasn’t around and ultimately the part of the story you’d get to was simply “man, I can’t have a pinball machine any more, so what can you give me and make this thing go away?”
What’s bad is that these machines weren’t pins I even wanted. I didn’t buy pins for our store that needed play field swaps. I just didn’t do it. Prices weren’t so that it was worth our time back then. I’d end up buying them for like $1500 and then flipping to restorers for two grand just to make it worth MY time to haul it around a couple times.
We definitely weren’t good salespeople. We just told people the truth. At some point I should have kept one of these junkers under a cover in the store. Maybe showing off what you’d really get with a customer story would have helped. I don’t know. Another mistake *I* made was probably not being willing to sell more machines at cost in the beginning (or less!) just to get nice machines in wealthy people’s hands. Because it was wealthy people that were STILL lured to that $1k cheaper machine on eBay, and wealthy people have wealthy friends who might have bought machines. Getting more out there for their friends to see may have been a good thing since we always had happy customers. I think we had *one* lemon that we sold where we just kept having to go on service calls and the customer was getting pretty annoyed about it, and even him we simply upgraded to a nicer title for no money out of his pocket just because we felt bad for him, too, and he ended up happy as a clam.
I don’t know why this hobby attracts so many criminals. But the point here is it always has and apparently always will. Buyer beware on remote deals. You can get ripped off for thousands now and it’s STILL not worth your time to pursue criminal charges. *sigh*