Wednesday, November 19, 2008

How to BUY things on Ebay

I always see cool posts with tips and tricks on selling things on Ebay, but I rarely see anything on how to BUY on Ebay.

I've been selling and buying on Ebay for years. I'd like to think of myself as an early adopter of Ebay - using it before it became mainstream and as big as it is.

Having bought on Ebay for several years, I've noticed one huge issue with Ebay: It is becoming harder and harder to find good deals on Ebay. When I first started out, pretty much anything that was traded on Ebay usually ended up being a good deal. Things were often bought well below the retail value of the item.

But now, due to the traffic on Ebay and also due to many people trying to "exploit" Ebay to earn money, it seems much harder to purchase things on Ebay at reasonable costs. In this topic I'm going to delve into how to use Ebay to make frugal purchases.

Saving Money With Ebay Purchases:

1. Always comparison shop! Before you even begin to look at Ebay, I strongly suggest that you evaluate the actual retail cost of getting the item elsewhere. Visit places like or other online outlets and check out the going rate for these items. Know what the item is really going for. I think this is imperitive because I've seen Ebay sellers make statements that are misleading, like "Suggested Retail Value: $200!" and then try to get $150 for the item, only to see that a local store has the same item on sale for $130.

2. Know Your Limit (And Stick To it). Before searching for an item, also know what your absolute highest limit is to pay for an item. Make sure to include in your limit price any shipping and handling fees associated with it. Even if you don't put your limit as the highest you're willing to go on the auction bid, make sure you mentally know where you are going to stop. Nearing the end of one auction, I made the mistake of getting caught up in the bidding process. I started wanting to win the item and outbid the other person, that I ended up paying more than I wanted to (and also more than I should have).

3. Be Careful of Shipping. Always check out the shipping cost of the item and factor that into the price. Yes, that $.99 table and chair set looks appealing, but did you also notice the $600 shipping and handling fee?

4. Read the Fine Print. Read the entire auction details. Some will mislead you with the information. For example, I recently looked for a bottle of Estee Lauder perfume on Ebay. Frequently I saw the picture of a full size bottle, under the listing title that says "Estee Lauder Beyond Paradise Perfume!" for only $9.99 including shipping. Many inexperienced buyers may think that's a steal - but when you look at the print in the description it says that you're bidding on a small sample size. You could probably get that for free at a counter yourself.

5. Don't Get Caught Up on Things You Don't Need. It is easy to get caught up on Ebay. I for one have been suckered into nostalgia items ("Wow! A mint in package She-Ra doll???? Let me bid on that now!"). Or I've also been caught up on great deals ("Only $2 for a set of dishes? I can't pass that up, right?"). Even if it is a good deal, if you don't need it, then any money spent towards it is a waste.

6. Pay With PayPal. This may be controversial to some. I know that for many who are afraid of internet fraud or ID theft that making monetary transactions online is scary. But I can tell you from experience that PayPal is the way to go when paying. Unfortunately, not all sellers are good people. Though I've been Ebaying for year, I had my first "issue" with Ebay recently. I bought some shirts from a seller for my brother on Ebay. I paid with PayPal and assumed the transaction would be completed. The shirts never came. I contacted the seller several times and got no response. So I filed a complaint with PayPal explaining the transaction and then after doing their own due dilligence, they refunded my money. Had I paid with a cashier's check, personal check or money order - I'd be SOL or up a creek without a paddle.

1 comment:

  1. I've bought a few things from ebay. Being a Canadian resident, I find the shipping and import fees usually kills the frugality behind the find. When the Canadian dollar was above par (to the US) THAT was when ebay rocked my world. :D