You have your eye on a container on either eBay or Craigslist, but your natural inclination to protect yourself. What do you need to check to make sure it goes well? Well, after the Hanjin bankruptcy, even more care than before.
Back in October of 2011, we posted Thinking of Buying a Container on eBay or Craigslist? 4 things to think about, a post about things to consider when buying from eBay and Craigslist. To recap, the questions were:
- Where is the container you want? Moving the container long distances quickly negates any savings on a good deal.
- How will it be delivered? If they are including delivery, get the particulars so that it really gets to where you want it and is set on the ground, if that is what you need. If delivery is not included, can they put the container on a truck? Can a truck get in to pick it up?
- Is that the actual container you are going to get? You don't want to get sold on a beautiful container only to find out the one you get is a piece of junk with tons of holes.
- What about common sense safety? Think about all the usual stuff you think about when buying on those sites. Since our original post, some police departments have set up safe zones for finalizing online sales in the real world. Unfortunately, that rarely works for containers. So use your common sense and protect yourself.
But what about this business with the Hanjin bankruptcy? How does that change anything? Well, it would mean an increase of stolen containers on those sites. The news talked about ships and crews stuck at sea because ports didn't want to risk being stuck with the bills to offload those ships and the huge fees that come along with that. But that really is the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of Hanjin containers already in the US. Hanjin owns most of those containers, plus leasing lines own plenty of them too.
Those containers are stored in different cities throughout the US in private yards that the shipping line and leasing lines have contracted with for storage needs. And there are plenty of Hanjin containers that have already been sold by Hanjin and the leasing companies over the years. This adds up to quite a few containers out there that in the container market. The vast majority of people dealing with these containers are taking great pains to make sure that these containers are not stolen or sold illegally. But whenever there are this many containers out there and people know that there is turmoil, someone will try to exploit the situation.
Most of those shady players will steer clear of the traditional container market. It is easier for people who deal in containers on a regular basis to spot these stolen containers. They are vendors we have never heard of, or have containers from different series or prefixes that send off warning bells to us. But to people who do not buy containers regularly won't be in a position to identify stolen containers as easily. It stands to reason that these players will go to the eBays and Craiglist sites of the world to cash in on these stolen containers.
So what can you do? Find out if the vendor is a container seller or if they are doing this on the side. Check if they are members of the Better Business Bureau or the National Portable Storage Association. If they are not a regular container vendor, I would not buy a container that says HANJIN on the side of it. There is also a question about leased containers. They will not necessarily say Hanjin on them, but could be containers stolen off of Hanjin ships that didn't belong to Hanjin, but do belong to a leasing line. Those are much harder to spot and confirm. So if anything feels off about the transaction, we recommend erring on the side of caution. If they are a regular container vendor, check them out the best you can and make sure the company didn't just pop up in time to sell these containers and lack the usual basics - a website, a real address, a phone number, etc.
The bottom line is at least for the time being, use caution and common sense when buying containers from classified-ad and auction websites.