Updated: Mar 9
Buying a handpan can be a big investment and the prospect of sending all of that money off to someone you may have never met, for an instrument you may have never played, can be a scary experience for first time handpan buyers. And in today’s modern world getting tricked, sold a poor quality handpan, or just straight up scammed is easier than ever. If you have ever been worried about falling victim to a handpan scam, then this article is for you.
Tip #1: Don’t pay full price up front for an instrument that has yet to have been built.
*These first two tips are specific to handpans that are custom orders and not handpans that have already been built, so this doesn’t apply to every situation. However, in light of recent scams and business failures in the handpan community, these first two points are important ones to discuss.
Ordering a custom-built instrument can be exciting, after all having an instrument built to your specifications is every handpan players dream, however, spending money on something that doesn’t even exist yet can be a bit scary. When placing a custom order, you can expect most handpan builders to ask for a deposit payment up front for the creation of your instrument and the remainder of the payment when the instrument has been completed. The amount of the deposit payment can vary from builder to builder but in general you should never pay more than 50 percent of the total handpan price.
It’s never a good idea to pay the full purchase price upfront for a handpan that has not been built yet as this eliminates all of your negotiation power in the situation where something goes wrong. There could be unexpected delays on your instrument build, a mistake made, or the handpan builders’ business could collapse and they might take off entirely never to be seen again. While these situations are rare, I mention them only because they have indeed happened. For these reasons it is best to avoid paying a full amount up front so that in the unlikely event of these scenarios, you are not stuck in a situation where you are desperately trying to get your money back.
Tip #2: Have a set day the handpan will be completed by and delivered. (If a custom order.)
If you do decide to go with a custom build from a handpan builder make sure you have a set and agreed-upon timeframe of exactly when your instrument will be completed and delivered. Things happen, delays occur, and fortunately, most good handpan builders account for this when accepting a new custom order. For these reasons it’s to the benefit of both the handpan builder and the customer that an agreed-upon timeframe is set from the beginning to avoid any disagreements and keep you from waiting in limbo.
Tip #3: Always ask for a video of the instrument you are purchasing.
Custom order or not, you should never purchase a handpan that you have not listened to a high quality and accurate video of. If you happen to come across a handpan for sale with a sketchy low-quality video, or no video at all this is an immediate red flag.
No video = No Purchase
Since with most handpan buying you don’t always have the luxury of playing the handpan you are looking at in person, you need to be extra discerning with for sale videos. Make sure that you can hear every note of the instrument you are considering purchasing and make sure you know that the instrument in the video is actually the instrument you are purchasing.
Tip #4: Always speak with the seller/builder.
Buying a handpan can be a pretty confusing ordeal especially if you are a new player. For this reason, it is never a bad idea to reach out to the seller/builder of a handpan you are looking at if you have any questions. If you find yourself in a situation where you can’t find a way to easily contact this person this is a big red flag. Not only is this immediately indicative of a business that doesn’t prioritize the needs of their customers, but it can also make things extremely difficult in the future if you ever need to reach out to this person for help.
Tip #5: Ask the handpan community.
While there are plenty of handpan scams and rip-offs, luckily there is a much larger community of people who love this instrument and are always ready to offer some helpful advice to newbie players! (Myself included!) If you ever feel uncertain about a handpan for sale online, don’t hesitate to reach out to the community of handpan players for help! To start, check out handpan.org or the following Facebook groups.
Tip #6: Look for reviews.
Many handpan scams and low-quality handpans use some of the most trafficked platforms (i.e. Facebook, Instagram, Amazon) as hunting grounds for their next victim. Fortunately, with all of these websites all it takes is a brief stroll through the comments section or the reviews to see the truth. If you see more than a few negative comments, it might be time to look elsewhere.
Tip #7: Know the return policy.
This tip is something that you should follow regardless of how confident you are in the purchase of your new handpan because the reality is not every instrument will be a match made in heaven for you. If you find yourself in the situation where you just can’t connect with your new instrument, or it isn’t quite what you expected, you may need to return it. Fortunately, most legitimate handpan sellers and builders understand this and are willing to get something worked out with you. So, make sure you know the return policy of your handpan seller/builder prior to purchase.
Tip #8: Get it in writing.
Pay attention because this tip is important. Get. It. In. Writing. When it comes to as significant of a purchase as a handpan, you always want a “plan for the worst, hope for the best” mentality. While the vast majority of the time, if you follow the above steps, you will not have any problems to deal with, you always want to be prepared in case something goes south. As mentioned above, if you are ordering a custom instrument make sure you have an agreed-upon final purchase price, full order details, and completion date IN WRITING. If you are purchasing an already built instrument, at the very least ask for a detailed invoice, and keep records of all payments sent to purchase the instrument.
Tip #9: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
My last tip is a simple one, but one to live by. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Remember that Facebook advertisement you saw last week for a $99 handpan? Pssh, yeah right. A handpan, for $99? Even if you didn’t get your money stolen instantaneously, just try to imagine the quality of instrument you would end up with for $99, in a market where typically instrument prices still are in the $2,000 range. The bottom line is this: trust your gut. You’ll know a scam when you see one.
There you have it, my top 9 tips for avoiding a handpan scam. Follow these guidelines and you can be confident in the purchase of your next new handpan!
If you’re looking to buy your next handpan then head on over to my “Handpans For Sale” page. I think you can trust that the guy who just wrote a whole article on how to not get scammed—won’t be scamming you!