Tips for Buying on Ebay


Ebay is the biggest marketplace in the world – full of just about everything and anything. You can buy goodies big and small from all corners of the world at great prices. Here are some tips:

1. If there is something that you really want, set up a saved search for it. This way you will be emailed every time Ebay finds something that matches your search criteria. This is good if you are looking for discontinued and hard to find items or if you are a collector. You can set your search up to be broad or specific.

2. Look at the seller’s feedback. If they have many sales and 100% feedback you are more likely to have a good shopping experience with them than with someone with less than perfect feedback or only a sale or two.

3. Check where they ship to. Not all sellers will ship to where you are so double-check before bidding that they ship to your location. You can set your Ebay up so that it notifies you if an item is not available to your country.

4. Know your item. Fakes abound on Ebay so know what the real deal looks like and check what else the seller is selling. If they sell multiples of the same item there is a greater chance that they are fake unless it is overstock or old merchandise from a closing down sale. Items like designer handbags or jewellery are not likely to be available in bulk at cheap prices unless they are fake.

5. Watch out for shill bidding. Sometimes sellers have fake Ebay identities which are used to push prices up by making fake bids. You can generally see this if you look at bidding histories.

6. Check for spelling mistakes – if a brand name is misspelled it could be a fake item OR the seller could have made a genuine spelling mistake which means you could end up with a bargain as no one else will find the auction on a search. Some of my best Ebay bargains have come from sellers who have misspelled names.

7. Check for auctions ending at odd times. This means that you could have fewer bids on the item.

8. Use an auction sniper to automatically snipe your auctions for you. If you find it difficult to bid on items ending at strange times or if you get carried away in bidding wars at the last moment, an auction sniper is just what you need. You set your maximum bid beforehand and your sniper will swoop in at the last moment to place a bid for you, just above the amount which was previously bid. I have never lost an auction using a sniper. I don’t have any preferences – I just register free for whatever one is top of a Google search. Bidnapper tends to be good as is Auction Sniper. If you pay you get a shorter lead time but I find the free ones work just as well. I honestly don’t feel bad for using one as everyone has the same access to them and the free ones work brilliantly. They are also very easy to use. All you need to do is register, put the auction number in and the maximum you wish to bid. Voila!

9. Remember to leave feedback afterwards. And ask any questions before you bid.

10. Use the Ebay guides available to you to help you buying what you like. I generally buy designer handbags, Filofaxes, antique books and pens, and silver charms on ebay and there are guides to recognising fakes and hallmarks.

11. Don’t start bidding too early. This just pushes the price up and alerts others to the fact that you are interested in the item. The only bids that count are the final ones.

12. The items which attract the most bids and the highest prices are those with professional photographs and descriptions. But sometimes the items being sold on an auction with bad photos and brief descriptions are just as good. You just need to know your item and trust your gut.

13. Do your research. You are more likely to get a genuine item if you buy Mulberry from England than from China for example. But some sellers are registered in USA and ship their products from China so read feedback. Lush Fashions is a company like this- registered in the US but their products are made and shipped from China. Good product but hell on wheels if you need to return something.

14. Check measurements beforehand and remember that sizes and measurements differ from country to country. Some people who are used to imperial measurements just guess at the metric equivalent. Do a quick online conversion to double check.

15. Don’t suffer from Unreal Money Syndrome – that’s my own term, created to describe what happens to me when I am shopping in another currency. It always seems so cheap, like paying with Monopoly money – until you convert it!

16. Set up saved searches for your favourite seller – you will then receive an email every time they put items online.

17. Regarding taxes and customs – if you buy anything within the EU, taxes are paid when you buy so your parcel will not cost any more when it crosses borders. From the US is another matter. One way around this is for the seller to undervalue your parcel or mark it as a gift. Some sellers do this automatically, others refuse to as it is not legal. I have seldom had to pay taxes, probably because the prices I pay are never that high and the items are vintage.

18. Note also that some countries have special rules for liquids or aerosols which cannot be sent airmail. And there are restrictions about fresh foodstuffs and ivory (even antique ivory) in place in almost every country.

19. Open a Paypal account. It makes paying safe and fast and you have backup in case a sale goes wrong. Never pay by Western Union or other methods which do not offer help if you are scammed. Ebay does favour the buyer rather than the seller in the case of disputes but it can be a long-winded frustrating process to get a refund or an exchange

20. Check shipping costs before you bid on something. Often sellers have a low price for their wares but inflated shipping prices to bump up the total price. If the price including shipping is good, then buy. If not, then decide how much you want the item.

Author: Janet Carr

Fashion, beauty and animal loving language consultant from South Africa living in Stockholm, Sweden.

6 thoughts

  1. Thanks for the tips! I Never heard about snipers. I never get the A5 balmorals at ebay- but maybe the next time:-)

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