eBay is simple, but there are many things to consider and be aware of when you’re considering purchasing an item. You’re buying from a person, not a store, so knowing what to look for is key to a successful buy. To help me guide you through the process, I’m using my friend’s hunt for a bag as an example:
She is looking for a classic style Coach bag. Following a Practically Spoiled lifestyle, she realized that purchasing a new bag was a little out of her budget, so she wanted to find a cheaper alternative. We started by identifying the styles that she liked. Looking at websites, image searches, etc., she narrowed it down to the style “Willis.”
So off to eBay we went. She logged in and typed “Coach Willis” into the search bar. It yielded 107 results. First thing we did was go to the “Shopping Profile” in the left sidebar. We scrolled down to location and selected “US Only”. This made the list of items slightly smaller. Why did we do that? When purchasing items from abroad, you are usually subject to import taxes. Import taxes are imposed by the parcel service you are receiving the package from. Now it’s not EVERY package that’s subject to this, unfortunately it’s random. But if you’re hit with a tax it can be pricey. Leather bags are subject to an additional 30% of the purchase price. To avoid this, I only purchase from US sellers.
Next, in the top right corner we went to the drop down menu and changed it to “Ending Soonest”. Why? eBay is an auction site. To shop by “Lowest Price” is silly because many times the lowest prices are the newest listings, without many bids. Clearly the prices will go higher. By searching “Ending Soonest” the first items you’ll see are auctions that are closing soon and have more realistic prices.
Now that the parameters are set, it’s time to search. When we found a link we were interested in, we opened it in a new tab or window (command+click on a Mac) so that we never left the initial list page. Hitting the back button can sometimes reset those parameters you just set, so beware.
When we were looking at items we considered the following:
- Checked the condition. Is it pre-owned, new or new with defects?
- Viewed the return policy, if there is one. A return policy is not required on eBay, but is a nice a bonus if offered. Be sure to read the terms though. Many are 3 to 7 days and require that you pay return shipping.
- Looked at the pictures and read the description carefully. You want to know what you’re buying. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or request additional pictures from the seller if you’re unclear about something (…and if you don’t get an answer, don’t buy from them! Good sellers answer questions.) If you scroll to the bottom of the listing you’ll find a link in the bottom right that say “Ask a question.” That’s where you can contact the seller.
- Considered who the seller was. Not personally, but how their feedback looked on eBay. In the top right corner of a listing you’ll find the seller’s name with a number and percentage next to their name. The number is how many transactions they’ve had on eBay (that people left feedback for) and the percentage is the amount of positive feedback they have received. The closer the number is to 100%, the better. If you click on their name you can view recent feedback and see how they ranked in communication, shipping time and more. I am always careful of sellers with little or no feedback or sellers with more than 2 negative transactions. Remember, it’s not a store, you’re essentially shopping someone’s closet, basement or garage. Unfortunately, not everyone is honest so it’s good to research the buyer before hand.
Once we found a few items she was interested in, we put them on my friend’s watch list. You can do this by pressing the “watch” button within the bidding box on each listing. Your watch list appears on your “My eBay” page. (See top right navigation)
Depending on what you’re looking for, you may not want to bid immediately. In this case, we found a number of bags that my friend was interested in. She’s going to watch them to see how high the bidding goes and what fair value is for the bag, so she doesn’t over pay. She may let a few go before she bids in order to get this information. And it’s okay, because the great thing about eBay is that with most items, there’s always more out there.
So get out there and start searching! Do your homework on the items you’re looking for, then check back in two weeks for the next eBay tutorial: Buying.