I tend to agree with this. I don't think that CN should be policing what buyers offer. A strict adherence to first offer gets it simply turns the classifieds into a lottery for who has the fastest trigger finger (or who writes a script to ping the page periodically) instead of one governed by economics. Sellers often guess at a reasonable price. If they receive offers for more, it stands to reason that they underpriced the item and they should benefit from a prospective buyer that chooses to make a higher offer.
Similarly, what if a seller does not want to ship an item, but I am willing to offer enough to cover shipping costs, plus a bonus for the seller's hassle? I think such an offer should be allowed. Or what if I suggest a trade (something like $2500 plus an AT92)? Do I have to keep the total value below the cash asking price?
A classified ad is much different than a vendor or store that publishes a list of prices. In the case of a vendor, the transaction might be legally consummated at the time the buyer expresses an intent to purchase (sorry, its been a few years since I read the Uniform Commercial Code), in which case I agree with your dog food analogy. However, my understanding of classified ads is that they are less a firm offer to sell and more of a starting place for negotiations. This makes them much more like a real estate transaction.
Regardless, I agree that unless CN makes a statement, this issue won't go away. I also agree that this scope was priced far too low. Hopefully, the seller doesn't read these threads and feel that he or she got cheated. My guess is that if the seller would have listed it for $5,000, they would have gotten offers somewhere in the $4,000+ range in a week or so. Hell, I didn't consider putting mine up as a potential trade for my CFF160, despite the seller asking (which I was totally fine with BTW).
Excellent observation! There have been a few times where I've gratuitously offered and paid more, sometimes far more for an item than the seller was asking. One of the widows in our astronomy club was selling off her beloved husband's stash. There was his nice lathe. She asked $500 and I forced $1000 on her, "Honey, I'm still getting a bargain and he is probably looking down with a smile on his face." Most people are reluctant to pay too much. Me... I'm reluctant to pay too little! I'll leave it up to the reader to decide who is the unethical one... Tom