|Hello fellow BrickLinkers and LEGO enthusiasts! Thank you for visiting my AboutMe page. This page is divided into two. First, I tell a little about myself. Second, I have some personal TIPS TO BUYING & SELLING ON BRICKLINK. I know it is long, but you can scroll down through the headings to find specific topics that may interest you. I am doing this as a community service for the benefit of my visitors, customers and other BrickLinkers. Please feel free to message me with your comments, constructive criticisms, advice or tips of your own. Have a great day and thanks again for dropping by. Foster T.
Thorz BrikTopia is the largest privately-held family-run international plastic toy construction bricks conglomerate in Apex, North Carolina. It is a work at home part-time job for my family, a useful way to teach our children about business and work responsibilities, and a means of off-setting the costs of our LEGO hobby. Costs my smokin' hot wife used to complain about and withhold marital favors for until I patiently explained how LEGO was so much cheaper than the more manly pursuits of golf, bowling, hunting, fishing and monster truck racing, and how LEGO kept me at home with the kids instead of at the country club surrounded by bikini clad babes and my pot-bellied redneck beer guzzling buddies.
LEGO is much more than a childhood toy or nerd accessory. It is a creative and relaxing way to unwind after a tough day at work taking abuse from a boss who knows half as much as you. And it is an excellent way to share quality time with your children without taking them out for fatty fast foods and window shopping at the mall. There is no better quality time a parent can have with their children than to just sit down and play with them. Except perhaps giving the troublesome ones away in marriage to unsuspecting love smitten eager courters. Some of the best memories I have of my children are building LEGO creations with them. Alas, they soon become teenagers and want you to quickly and quietly drop them off one block away from their friends.
Our family projects include a 100 pound 50,000 brick five foot tall fantasy castle built atop an island (see BrickShelf gallery under fosterbengoshi) as well as furniture, cars, buses, airplanes, boats, birdhouses, dollhouses and a 14 foot skyscraper displayed at LEGO Palooza in 2009 and 2010. Future projects include other large castles (Western and Japanese), a cathedral to go with the current castle, a 10-story dollhouse (doll apartment building), several skyscrapers, a beachside resort and a life-size fully operational outhouse. When we tire of the outhouse we may resell the used LEGO bricks on evilBay.
BrickLink is by far my favorite LEGO site, and I will probably spend way more time and money here than I should over the next few years to complete some of the projects my
family and I are planning. Still, it's a lot cheaper than golf and taking my wife and daughters shopping, and it keeps me home with the family where the wife can keep an eye on me. For those of you looking to spend more quality time with your children, LEGO is an excellent choice. It's fun, creative and very educational for the entire family. So give it a try, and watch it bring out the best in your children - and the child in you.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS & TIPS TO BUYING & SELLING ON BRICKLINK
NOTE: The following are my personal thoughts and ramblings on the issues based on my experience in over 10,000 transactions here on BrickLink. This site's Admin and others may disagree.
WHAT BUYERS & SELLERS CAN DO TO MAKE ORDERS GO SMOOTHLY: Follow the Golden Rule - treat your sellers or buyers the way you would like them to treat you. Courtesy and patience go a long way in making sure the order is a happy problem-free experience for both of you.
READ STORE TERMS BEFORE YOU BUY: This cannot be over-emphasized. READ THE TERMS! They are there for YOUR benefit so you know what to expect and won't be surprised. They also form the contract you make with your seller when you place your order. So read it before you commit yourself to its terms. Store terms are also a useful tool for buyers to assess the seriousness and professionalism of a seller. And, if you don't like a seller's terms, PLEASE do not place an order thinking you can get out of them. If you dislike them enough, shop elsewhere. Fortunately, there are many other great sellers on BrickLink for you to choose from.
CHECK SELLER FEEDBACK BEFORE YOU BUY: A lot of problems can be avoided if buyers check the feedback of sellers before they place an order with them. By checking feedback, you can see if the seller has a history of "lost" orders, slow shipping, sloppy packaging, low quality product, LEGO that reeks of cigarette smoke (my own personal big time yuck!), poor handling of customer complaints, and other order related problems. But keep in mind that almost every experienced seller will have some non-positive feedback. It just comes with the territory and the fact that no one is perfect and that you simply cannot please everyone all the time. For me, a seller with more than 99% positive feedback causes little or no concern. But anything below 98% will probably make me hesitate to place more than a small order with them. Just have common sense and use feedback as ONE factor when deciding with whom you will transact. Also take a look at how a seller responds to non-positive feedback. Their response (and the feedback they post in return) can tell you a lot about them and the credibility of the feedback they received. To understand the true measure of a person, look how they handle adversity and the inevitable bumps in life.
NEW NO/LOW FEEDBACK SELLERS & AVOIDING SCAMS: Every established reputable seller was once an inexperienced no feedback seller, and the vast majority of new sellers are honest and capable of handling your order. However, you do need to be more careful when dealing with any new seller with no proven track record. Although scammers come in all sizes, shapes and colors, they don't tend to stay in one place for long. As such, from a purely statistical standpoint, scammers are much more likely to be new unproven sellers. Again, common sense and gut instincts go a long way in protecting yourself from being a scam victim. The best rule to follow is that if it looks too good to be true then it probably is too good to be true. For example, a new seller with many expensive new sets, minifigures or parts listed for way below market value is usually a big red flag. If you decide to take a chance with a new seller, my advice is to first place a smaller test order for a dollar amount that you can afford to lose. I don't want to list all the other red flags here since that would only serve to educate the scammers. Thus, if you have some doubts about a new seller, place your order somewhere else, politely email that seller with your questions or concerns, place a smaller test order with them, or write an objective non-accusatory post in the BrickLink Forum seeking advice from BrickLink's more experienced members. You will find the Forum filled with mostly helpful enthusiastic LEGO fans who have an intense dislike of scammers and who take pride in self-policing this site to discourage such miscreants from setting foot here.
POSTAGE & SHIPPING: Many newer buyers complain that they do not know what shipping will be before they place an order on BrickLink. They are used to being told exactly what shipping will be when they place orders with online retailers such as Amazon, WalMart and Target. But there are good reasons for this when one considers the uniqueness of BrickLink and what you are buying. Unlike most BrickLink sellers, large retailers often make a profit on shipping because they can cut discounted bulk shipping deals with UPS, DHL, the US Postal Service or other carriers. If necessary, these large multi-billion dollar retailers can also afford to take a loss on fixed shipping because they generally get larger orders from many more customers for less variety of items where their weight, packaging and shipping rates are more easily known in advance. When was the last time you ordered 100 different things from one Amazon seller? On the other hand, BrickLink sellers are much smaller (usually one-person part-timers) who cannot make discounted shipping deals with the big shipping companies. And, unlike large corporate retailers, most BrickLink sellers try to charge their buyers only actual postage or as close to actual postage as they can. You also need to think of the product you are buying. There are more than 25,000 different LEGO items spanning the tiniest parts smaller than a pea to large bulky sets weighing 5 pounds or more. There are an infinite number of ways you can combine infinitely differing varieties and quantities of these 25,000+ different parts that will result in an infinite range of package weights and sizes. And the US Postal Service does not make this any easier. They have hundreds of different shipping rates that vary hugely depending upon weights, package sizes, destinations and different shipping services and options. Thus, without knowing in advance exactly what is in an order and then picking and packing those items, it is very difficult for any BrickLink seller to know exactly what postage will cost. Like large online corporate retailers, BrickLink sellers could simply charge fixed, tiered or percentage based shipping, but if they do so they will most likely err on the side of caution and result in buyers paying more than actual shipping for most orders. So, in essence, the BrickLink system actually helps buyers pay less for shipping. As strange as it may seem to some buyers, simply checking a seller's feedback can alleviate a lot of their concerns if they see few, if any, complaints about shipping. And, if you really need to know shipping before placing an order, you can always use BrickLink's new Request a Quote feature (if enabled by the seller) or email the seller and ask. Keep in mind, however, that you will usually receive only an estimate of shipping. And if you do email your seller to ask about shipping, please be specific. You would be surprised how often sellers get asked simply "What will shipping cost?" or "How much is shipping LEGO to Hong Kong?" Give the seller some details, such as WHAT precisely you are thinking of ordering and where you want it sent (for US buyers, always include a zip code). Better yet, send the seller a Request for Quote or cut and paste of your shopping cart showing the contents of your planned order and the BrickLink weights for it. And regarding those BrickLink supplied weights - don't consider them cast in stone. There are mistakes and variations regarding some of those weights (for example, some of the same LEGO parts in different colors can have very different weights), missing data and, most importantly, no information on the weight of packaging materials that may be used for your order. These weights also don't help determine whether your order can ship in a flat rate envelope or box (which usually ships for much less than weight-based shipping). And lastly, these weights mean little if shipping to or from countries which also use package size and volume to determine postage.
HANDLING & OTHER FEES: BrickLink is largely free of the eBay type sellers who charge excessive inflated shipping and handling. BrickLink buyers tend to be more savvy and intolerant of sellers who play the profit-on-shipping game. However, many good sellers do charge some kind of modest handling fee, particularly on smaller orders. These fees MUST be stated in their shop terms, so - again - please read the Store Terms. As a buyer, I have no problem with fees PROVIDED they are reasonable and clearly stated up front.
ADDING TO AN EXISTING ORDER: Like most BrickLink sellers, we welcome and encourage order additions. In fact, we will often tell our buyers if there is more room in the package to add items without increasing the postage. Why spend $12.50 to ship a half-full flat rate box of LEGO when you can get twice as much for the same postage? If you want to add to an existing order, it is easy. Just go back to the seller's store and shop and check out like you normally would. Unless your seller has marked the order status as "packed" or "shipped", your addition will be automatically added to your current pending order upon checkout.
ORDER CANCELLATIONS & ITEM REMOVAL REQUESTS: Unless you live in a jurisdiction with specific laws that say otherwise, placing a BrickLink order creates a contract and binds you to follow through on the deal. However, BrickLink does allow buyers to REQUEST that their entire order or only some items in their order be canceled. For valid and invalid reasons to request order cancellation, please see BrickLink's Order Cancellation Policy here: http://www.bricklink.com/help.asp?helpID=79 ... Item Removal Requests may be submitted by either buyers or sellers. Please note that buyers may REQUEST order cancellation or item removals, but your seller does not have to agree to such. Most sellers will agree if you send them a POLITE email promptly after placing your order and BEFORE the seller has begun working on it. However, demanding cancellation or delaying your request for such until after the seller has already spent time picking, packing and invoicing your order will usually meet with disapproval and non-positive feedback.
HOW TO SUBMIT AN ITEM REMOVAL REQUEST: Go to this page: http://www.bricklink.com/retract.asp ... Click on the link for "Item(s) in Order" and it will take you to this page: http://www.bricklink.com/retractOrderItem.asp ... Enter the order number in the box near the top and it will pull up the details of the order. Under each entry are two small circles to either "Delete Item" or "Subtract Quantity". If you click the later, enter the quantity in the box you want to subtract. Then click on "Verify Items" near the bottom. It will take you to another page where, at the bottom, it will ask you to select your reason for the removal and give you a box where you can message your buyer or seller. When you
are ready, just click on "Submit Request". Now it is up to your buyer or seller to approve this request. Send him or her a quick message to check their MyBrickLink page for a link in the upper right quadrant of that page noting your Item Removal Request. When the buyer or seller clicks on that link there will be simple step-by-step instructions he can follow. If the Item Removal Request is approved, the order status will reset to "updated".
SAFE PACKAGING OF ORDERS: Once again the Golden Rule applies here. Sellers should use common sense, use packaging that shows respect for the goods and one's customers, and basically pack things the way they would like their own orders packed. Do NOT just dump everything in one bag and ship it with no padding or protection. And ALWAYS use bubble or padded mailers or boxes. Regular unpadded envelopes with LEGO inside have a very high chance of being ripped and torn open by automated high-speed postal sorting machines. I generally avoid using cheap lightweight boxes, preferring instead to use bubble mailers or heavier stronger boxes when boxes are necessary. Using a lightweight box to save your customer money can actually increase the risk of loss or damage. That is because many US Post Offices separate bubble mailers from boxes. Thus, bubble mailers will be thrown in large bins with other softer lighter bubble mailers and regular letter mail, whereas a small lightweight box will be thrown in large bins with bigger heavier boxes, thereby increasing the chance that your puny lightweight box will be crushed by the big 50-pound box of the guy mailing auto engine parts to his cousin Billy Joe Jim Bob in Alabama.
ITEM SHORTAGES & INVENTORY MISTAKES: Stuff happens. Anyone trying to keep track of hundreds of thousands of tiny little plastic parts is going to occasionally make counting or other human errors. When this happens, my policy is to notify my buyers in an email or their invoice BEFORE they pay. I apologize for my error and usually give a full or extra credit for the missing item(s). If it is more than a minor shortage, I give my buyers the choice of a refund equal to or exceeding the value of the missing items or a coupon for substantially more than the value of the missing items. If the missing item(s) were an important reason for the buyer placing the order with me and a refund or coupon is not satisfactory to the buyer, I will offer to order the items from another seller and have them shipped to my buyer at my expense. These options work very nicely for my buyers almost all the time and, as such, it is extremely rare for me to have to cancel an order due to such shortages. While others may argue that buyers should be able to cancel an order if it is not 100% perfect, I do not think it is reasonable to cancel a 100-lot $50 order just because one or two penny parts are missing, especially if I can make the buyer whole by giving them their choice of a refund, coupon or me getting the item(s) for them from somewhere else.
INSURANCE & RESPONSIBILITY FOR UNINSURED PACKAGES: Like many of the best, most experienced and biggest sellers on BrickLink, Thorz BrikTopia disclaims liability for orders shipped without insurance. We do this NOT to evade responsibility, but to give our customers a CHOICE and an opportunity for them to SAVE very significantly on shipping costs. We are fully prepared to remain responsible for any order until it is actually received in our customer's hands. But if that level of service is desired, the customer must request and PAY for it. Even the huge US Postal Service with many thousands of employees and billions of dollars in annual revenues will not guarantee delivery of packages unless you request and pay extra for that service. And that service often comes at substantial extra cost. For example, shipping some international orders can cost several times more if insurance is included. Fortunately, the risk of loss or damage during shipping is very small. In over 1300 purchases as a buyer on BrickLink, only two orders with less than $100 in combined value were never received by us. If we had requested insurance on all those 1000+ orders, we would have paid at least $5000 more in additional postage and insurance costs. You do the math - $100 versus $5000. The only ones who win by requiring all packages be insured are the insurance companies and PayPal (which gets a percentage of the increased costs). For buyers who are willing to accept the small risk of loss, the savings in reduced shipping costs are many times greater than the potential loss. Of course, for larger more valuable orders, you should always request and pay for insurance and tracking. But for most small or medium sized orders, insurance is simply not economical or worthwhile. Some sellers handle this risk by quietly "self-insuring". This means they charge all their customers a little more by including it as part of their fees or slightly increasing the prices of their goods (even for the majority who are perfectly willing to accept the small risk of loss in return for reduced shipping costs). At Thorz BrikTopia, we do not believe in such a socialized mandatory (self) insurance Nanny State. Nor do we believe that those buyers willing to accept the small risk of loss should subsidize and pay for those buyers who are not willing to accept such risk. At Thorz BrikTopia, we are a capitalist free market democracy. Everyone pays their own way by paying only for what they want, and not for what others want. And, personally as a buyer, if I place a large big money order with a BrickLink seller and want it safely insured, I want that insurance provided by a large reputable "real" insurance company with sufficient assets and reserves; not by One Man Joe's Part Time LEGO Shop run out of their mom's basement or garage.
PAYPAL CLAIMS: Unless you have strong reasons to believe you are being scammed by a seller, filing a dispute or claim with PayPal should always be your last resort as a buyer. PayPal gives you six months to file a dispute or claim, so you have plenty of time. Communicate with your seller first and try to work with them to amicably resolve any problems. In the very rare event that you are scammed by a seller, PayPal is unlikely to help you. A true "hit and run" or "drive-by" scammer will not be foolish enough to keep your payment in their PayPal account for more than a few hours. If they have no funds in their PayPal account when you file your claim, you may win your claim but you won't get any refund. Ironically, PayPal claims only work against good honest sellers who maintain legitimate ongoing businesses and keep funds in their PayPal accounts. You should think twice about filing claims against experienced reputable sellers with good feedback, particularly if you opted for uninsured untrackable shipping and the seller's shop terms disclaim liability for uninsured packages. You accept such terms when you place your order and, if the seller can provide you proof of shipping, it would be wrong and dishonest for you to treat PayPal as free insurance. PayPal recommends that sellers ship all orders with insurance and tracking so they can protect themselves against buyer claims. However, insured trackable shipping is often very expensive (sometimes 100%-500% more expensive than uninsured untrackable shipping). A great many buyers would be shocked and upset if sellers always followed PayPal's advice and required such expensive shipping for their orders. Fortunately, many sellers will do their buyers a favor by ignoring PayPal's recommendation and offer to ship their orders via much cheaper uninsured shipping. But, in return for this favor, many such sellers disclaim responsibility for any loss or damage to uninsured packages. Basically, sellers must trust and rely upon the buyer's promise not to hold them responsible. So the buyer is given a choice. If they want absolute safety and guaranteed delivery to their hands, they can opt for more expensive insured trackable shipping. Or, if they are willing to assume the small risk of loss or damage during shipment in return for saving a lot of money on shipping, they can accept the seller's terms and opt for uninsured shipping. Unfortunately, there are some buyers who want to have their cake and eat it too. Thus, we sometimes see buyers who choose uninsured shipping so they can save costs, but who then file a PayPal claim when something is delayed or lost. If this happens, our policy at Thorz BrikTopia is (1) to give the buyer negative feedback so future sellers can be warned not to give such buyer the option for cheaper uninsured shipping; (2) to file a Non-Paying Buyer alert with BrickLink; (3) to stoplist or make a Note on Member for such buyer reminding us to always ship their future orders only via more expensive insured trackable shipping, and (4) to provide the buyer's name to other sellers so they also will require only fully insured trackable shipping for any future orders placed by such buyer. Such buyers may find that the additional amounts they have to pay for insured shipping in the future can be much more than the amount they get back from PayPal after breaking their word to the seller and filing a wrongful claim.
CUSTOMS FRAUD: NO! We won't do it! Don't even ask. Customs fraud occurs when a buyer requests or a seller knowingly declares the nature or value of an order with them to be less than what the buyer actually paid. It is a criminal offense in the USA and most other countries punishable by substantial fines and possible imprisonment. You can also lose your right to send and receive international mail, risk having your name red-flagged by customs for increased scrutiny and delays on future packages, and be subject to greater risks of package loss and confiscation which, in turn, increases the risk of PayPal payment reversals. A buyer who dishonestly requests customs fraud from a seller who foolishly agrees to such will not think twice about filing a PayPal claim against such a seller if customs confiscates their package. Customs officials have caught on to the absurdity of declaring a big box filled with LEGO as worth only $10 coming as "gifts" from overseas "friends" and "relatives." We suspect a large percentage of "lost" orders are packages where customs fraud was attempted and the package held or confiscated by customs. And, of course, as a reward for agreeing to the buyer's request to commit customs fraud, the buyer in this case will almost always file a PayPal claim against the seller. If they ask you to cheat their own government out of taxes, do you really think they will hesitate to cheat you out of their payment? Customs fraud can also be civilly actionable in many US states as a form of unfair competition or an "unfair and deceptive trade practice" subjecting you to minimum statutory damages of $1000 or more per violation plus attorneys fees and court costs. Who can sue? Among others, a competing seller who MAY have received the order instead of you had you not agreed with the buyer to commit customs fraud. But apart from the possibility of criminal fines, jail and civil lawsuits, customs fraud is just grossly unfair to all other honest BrickLink sellers who comply with the law. If you have to lie or commit a crime to get or keep an order, that is unfairly taking that order away from another. Competition is great. But only if it is fair and does not involve breaking the law or dishonesty.
PAYING FOR YOUR ORDER: Almost all BrickLink sellers accept payment via PayPal because it is so fast, easy and safe for buyers to use. But most sellers also accept other forms of payment. Check their shop terms for a list of acceptable payments. If you don't have a PayPal account, don't worry. It is easy to set one up and you can even use your credit card to send a payment via PayPal without having a PayPal account. Check the PayPal website for details. A NOTE OF CAUTION FOR BUYERS: One thing I must caution you about is PayPal direct payment links provided by sellers and a few unscrupulous sellers who demand or ask that you send them a "personal" "family and friends" payment or a payment for "services". Although almost all sellers are honest and will not do this, some direct payment links will be set up by the seller (without telling you) so that your payment is called a "personal" payment or one for "services". This is against the PayPal rules. LEGO is MERCHANDISE, not services, and when you purchase merchandise online from a stranger it is NOT a "personal" favor. It is business. More importantly, when you send a "personal" payment or pay for "services", you will lose your PayPal buyer protection rights should anything go wrong. Most of the relatively few sellers who do this are trying to avoid paying PayPal fees rather than trying to scam anyone (except maybe PayPal). However, these sellers always fail to tell their buyers the risks and how this removes some buyer rights. Just don't do it. It is sleazy and poor form. It also risks losing your PayPal account if PayPal finds out about it. So check direct payment links VERY carefully, or just log into PayPal yourself and pay via the normal manner by manually typing in the payment address yourself. And if a seller demands or asks that you send him or her a "personal" payment or a payment for "services", politely refuse or ignore the request and then make a point not to shop with them by least favoriting them. Good honest sellers do not use such trickery. And if the seller gives you a hard time for refusing their request to defraud PayPal, leave appropriate feedback for them and/or report them to PayPal.
COMMUNICATING PROBLEMS: Almost all problems can be amicably resolved with good courteous non-accusatory communication. BEFORE leaving feedback, buyers should let their seller know if there is a problem with their order and give the seller an opportunity to fix that problem. You can still leave non-positive feedback afterwards if that is truly how you feel, but it is generally frowned upon here as poor form to ambush a seller with non-positive feedback without first giving them a chance to make things right. Most BrickLink sellers will go out of their way to fix a problem, but will be less willing to do so once they have been hit with unflattering feedback. And sellers... ALWAYS communicate courteously and respectfully with your customers. And don't ever leave unflattering feedback for your buyer when angry. While the non-positive may be justified, a seller who responds to problems with anger or insults hurts themself even more because, regardless of whether the buyer's feedback was right or wrong, a poor response by the seller discourages me and many others from wanting to buy from them.
DELAYED OR MISSING PARCELS: Please be patient. Very few BrickLink orders actually end up "lost" or missing. Probably less than 1 in 1000 or 2000. In the vast majority of cases, a delayed package is just that - delayed and not lost. Don't just assume the package was never sent, especially if the seller has decent feedback. There are several other much more likely possibilities to consider when a package is delayed. International shipping has its ups and downs, its slow periods and its fast periods. Politics, terrorism, weather and holidays very often affect the speed at which international mail travels. And very often, packages are delayed because they are sitting and waiting for processing in customs in the buyer's country or waiting for the buyer at their local post office. Mail carriers are supposed to give you a notice if there is a package waiting for you, but sometimes they don't and sometimes those little notices are lost in the wind or misplaced. If your package is inexplicably delayed, first check with your own post office and customs, and then politely let the seller know. And please keep in mind that unless you purchased insurance, most international packages cannot be tracked by you or your seller. US customs form numbers can sometimes be used to track uninsured parcels *IN* the USA, but once they leave the USA those US customs numbers are usually useless for tracking outside the USA (mainly because other countries don't use US customs form numbers to track mail inside their own countries). Just be patient and reasonable. Almost every time, your package WILL eventually show up.
COMPLETING ORDERS: When you have received and checked your order, go to your My Orders Placed page on BrickLink and change the order status to either "received" or "completed". This is a courteous way of letting your seller know you received the order OK. Many sellers will not leave feedback for you until you change the order status in this manner.
WHEN TO LEAVE FEEDBACK: Buyers should leave feedback after they have received and checked their orders and, if necessary, given their seller a chance to resolve problems, if any. BrickLink says sellers can leave feedback either after they receive payment or after the buyer has received the order. No one way is right or wrong. At Thorz BrikTopia, we prefer to leave feedback after the buyer receives their order because only then can we judge the ENTIRE transaction. In our view, the buyer is part of the BrickLink community and has community-related obligations other than making payment. One of those obligations is politely working with your seller to resolve any problems that may arise after shipping. Many sellers believe that the way a buyer responds to post-payment problems is a part of the transaction and is a legitimate factor to consider when deciding what feedback to leave when assessing that transaction as a whole. If a buyer is difficult, demanding, unreasonable or threatening after payment is sent, or if they are polite and friendly in dealing with the seller regarding any post-payment problems, then leaving feedback which acknowledges only the mere fact of payment is premature, incomplete and does not accurately asses the entire transaction experience.
WHAT FEEDBACK TO LEAVE & OVERCOMING THE FEAR OF RETALIATORY FEEDBACK: Just be honest, factual and objective. Overly emotional, angry, rude or insulting feedback reflects much more negatively on the giver than the recipient. But don't be afraid to leave honest non-positive feedback when due. Some people are of the view that they won't say anything if they can't say something nice, or they are afraid to leave non-positive for fear of receiving retaliatory feedback in return. Both of these reasons do not help keep BrickLink's feedback system reliable. If you relied upon a seller's feedback to decide whether or not to place your order with them, the least you can do is post honest feedback which the next buyer can rely upon and use to help themselves decide whether to order from your seller. That is how the system works. The system does NOT work if you don't leave honest factual feedback. Remember, you became a member of this community when you joined BrickLink. As BrickLink members, I like to think we help look out after one another. Feedback is one of the best tools we have for keeping this community clean and safe, and for looking out after fellow LEGO enthusiasts. I would hate to see a kid get scammed or receive junk LEGO for Christmas just because some members were too chicken to leave honest feedback for that seller. As for retaliatory feedback, it rarely happens and should not concern you. For example, Thorz BrikTopia has given 105 non-positive feedback to other members (almost all for unpaid orders). But we have received only 2 or 3 non-positive retaliatory feedback in return. Other sellers report the same ratios. And if you do receive retaliatory feedback, it is not the end of the world. More often than not, retaliatory feedback is rather obvious and reflects more negatively on the giver than the recipient. And you can actually use retaliatory feedback as an opportunity to make yourself shine. Nothing shows character better than how one responds to adversity or injustice. BrickLink allows you to post a response to any feedback. A well written objective professional reply to unjustified feedback is very often much more valuable to you than dozens of vanilla cookie cutter positives. Like rubber-necking at car accidents, people read non-positive feedback and replies thereto. They don't read positive feedback. Just chill... and have some fun. For most people, especially buyers and any seller with more than single digit feedback, one or two retaliatory non-positive feedback won't hurt you at all (except for maybe your pride or ego) and you can still buy from and sell to whomever you like. Remember buyers, sellers don't pick you or look at your feedback before you place an order with them. Only buyers can do that.
FEEDBACK REMOVAL: BrickLink allows feedback removal under very limited circumstances. See: http://www.bricklink.com/help.asp?helpID=14 for a list of valid and invalid reasons. If your reason is not mentioned on this page, just suck it up and don't bother wasting Admin's time. Feedback rage has no place here.
OWNING YOUR OWN BRICKLINK STORE: Don't do it! At least not for money. OK, this is a bit tongue in cheek. Running a BrickLink store can be fun, but it is A LOT of work and will NOT make you rich. Most sellers will agree that they could earn more money working for minimum wage at McDonalds. But a BL store can help offset some of the costs of your LEGO hobby - *IF* there really is some LEGO you don't want or need. :)