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  • Read this before buying any minilab

    Dear Future Used Lab Buyers,

    Over the past ten or twelve years I have posted several thoughts on how to buy a used lab or whom to buy one from. In the past few months I have seen numerous letters posted from people who get ripped off one more time. Please take your time before buying a lab and read what I have to say, it just might save you some of your hard earned money.

    I would like to offer some general rules in buying a lab and then give you some of the people in this business that I am familiar with, whom I trust and would do business with. Please understand that those people or companies that I list are just my opinion or ones I have done business with and always got what I paid for and when it was suppose to be delivered. There are people out there that I would not do business with, ever! There are people and companies that want to take your money and give you nothing in return but most of the dealers and brokers are honest, ethical people.

    I should first point out that there are two kinds of people in this business, a dealer or a broker. I am a broker. Both a dealer and a broker are similar with some exceptions. A dealer is someone who owns the used lab and it is normally in his location. His price might be slightly higher in that he will normally do some additional work on the lab once he receives it from the person who sold it to him. A broker is someone who works normally on behalf of the seller and collects a commission or profit from the sale. At no time do we take possession of the lab and in most cases do not normally even see the lab.

    The advantage of using a dealer is that you can go see the lab. The disadvantage is that under most circumstances they will remove any additional equipment, such as 120mm lenses, extra paper magazines, leader pullers and so on and should you wish to purchase those it will be at an added expenses.

    The advantages of using a broker is that normally we charge less money, we just don’t have the expenses of the dealer. You will also, normally, get all the parts that come with the lab from the seller. The disadvantage is that because several of us might be trying to sell the same lab at the same time, you need to act faster. Also because we do not have possession of the lab you will not be able to see the lab (kind of). With a deposit on your part, we will give you the name and address of the seller so you can go see the lab. Now, if for some reason you decide to deal directly with the customer in an effort to cut out the broker, he keeps the deposit you paid him as his commission. A broker normally acts on behalf of the seller, not the buyer. I also will act on behalf of the buyer, for a fee of $1,000 per lab, always paid in advance, to get you the lab you are looking for at the price you wanted to pay for it.

    What do you do before you buy a lab? Let me try to list out the steps you should be taking in some order.

    1. Know what lab you want. Do some research into the different labs and decide which one is right for you and the area you live in.

    2. Know who is your competition and what they are using. You might have to use a similar type of lab. If they are digital and you are sill looking at a lab that isn’t, maybe it is not worth it to open up next door to them!

    3. Know how much you need or can afford to spend. Set a limit and stay within it. If you can only afford to spend $20,000 and you are looking at a one-year-old digital lab with all the bells and whistles maybe you should stop and rethink what you are doing. Don’t get yourself into something that you cannot get out from under in the future.

    4. Know whom you are buying from. This is always the hard one, because how do you know whom they are and if they are honest? Twelve years ago when I got into this business there were about 20 broker/dealers in the US and about 100 of us in the whole world and now there are thousands and it is hard to keep track of them all. Read the forums, ask other labs in your area or your state, and check with PMA or some of the other organizations to see if they know anything bad or good about someone.

    5. Go see the lab if you can. I know that this is not always possible but try. If you are going to send someone, even me, money, find out if I even can get what you need. If the dealer or broker will not allow you to fly in and take a look at the lab, don’t send them money!

    6. Know all the prices. I know there are times, especially when dealing with a broker, that they might not know the exact freight charges until they know for sure where the lab is coming from but they should have a good general idea. Don’t let anyone surprise you with a huge charge you didn’t know you would have to pay.

    7. The last rule….if the price is too good to believe, it is! Go with your gut feeling. If the little hairs on the back of your head stand up when you talk with this dealer or broker or the feeling in your stomach isn’t just right, listen to them. Find someone else to deal with.


    If there is any additional information I can give you or help you in any way, please let me know.

    Thank you,

    Mike Fitzpatrick
    World Wide Minilab Sales
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