Buying on eBay: hints and tips

Having been a buyer on eBay since April 2004 I thought it was about time I wrote about the experiences for those who may be a little worried about using this great online auction site – it’s easier than you might think and there are great bargains to be had if you keep your wits about you.

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eBay in a nutshell

If you’ve browsed on eBay you’ll have seen that almost anything can be bought – from businesses and caravans, collectables and memorabilia to sweet wrappers and crisp packets – but you won’t find pets,arms, tobacco or non-prescription drugs for sale. eBay is tight on security and most illegal, offensive, dangerous or fake items are, more often than not, quickly removed making it a safe site to use. The team at eBay is on hand should you have any queries or problems and the main way of paying for items is via Paypal which is safe and secure. For more information have a look at eBay’s guidelines and advice on their pages – they are very informative and well worth reading. Here I wanted to give you my personal experience and add a few tips of my own which may be useful.

How to buy

Basically there are 3 types of buying an item:

  • Buy it Now – this means after you’ve agreed to buy it’s yours ( you’ll have clicked a ‘confirm’ key which means the transaction is both legal and binding) so all you need to do is pay.
  • Buy it Now/Best Offer – here you can make an offer to the seller if you don’t want to pay the full Buy it Now price. The seller will let you know via message/email whether or not they’ll accept it, decline it or suggest a mid-way price.
  • Auction – here’s the fun part in my opinion! An auction will start a low price and you have the opportunity to bid what you think is a reasonable amount. Don’t get carried away though as auctions often have many ‘watchers’ or bidders who jump in at the last moment and it is a part of human psychology to want to be the winner in life!

Hints & tips for buying

Over the years I’ve made several mistakes and it may be helpful if I shared them with you.

In November one year I ordered some lovely Christmas decorations which were very unusual and very cheap – I thought I’d got a real bargain until, when paying, I noticed the seller was located in China and shipping took 10 weeks!

Always read seller’s feedback – a low score need not necessarily mean the seller is no good – it’s worth reading through the comments left by buyers who can sometimes be unreasonable in their expectations. It may be though that the seller sells poor quality goods or is very slow in posting in which case you’re taking a chance. I’ve bought from sellers with low feedback and have not had any problems. If you’re unsure check eBay listings to see if anyone else is selling a similar item if you feel happier buying from a better rated seller.

I once bought some craft embellishments which were expensive and so small I couldn’t use them – all my fault because I only looked at the photo and didn’t read the measurements. Photos can be deceiving to the eye so double check the size of the item if you don’t want to be disappointed.

A couple of items I bought got lost in the post but luckily both sets of sellers sent out replacements – don’t forget you have access to both the sellers’ addresses and contact numbers as well as being able to message/email via eBay’s system – communication is the key.

A nail varnish I once bought was described as green – perfect for an outfit I wanted to wear – but when it arrived it was more blue than green – luckily I’d seen that the seller accepted returns so, although disappointed, I wasn’t out of pocket.

I bought an item I needed quite urgently but hadn’t seen that the seller had posted a holiday notice in her shop and was away for 2 weeks – my fault again!

In summary

The key to successful buying, in my opinion, is to take the time to shop around on eBay, decide the maximum price you’re willing to pay, check the seller’s reputation, the location and whether or not they’ll accept returns.

Happy bidding and buying!

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