Friday, January 18, 2013

ebay Do's and Don'ts for Buyers

I've been selling on eBay (here's my shop) for more than a decade. In that time, the site has changed a lot, but the basic structure is still the same: it's the best place to browse or buy anything from a number of different sellers.

You can't always find a bargain on eBay. You can expect to pay a pretty penny for some rare items. But, there are a few things that will make your buying experience smoother and much more enjoyable. Over the years, I've compiled a list of tips for buyers. Here are a few things to do or avoid while you're bidding:
  • Do try to use the same address and email address for eBay and Paypal. Yes, it's up to the seller to double-check your correspondence and find out what addresses you prefer. But, some high-volume sellers make dozens of sales a day. Do you really want to take the chance that your email is the one they miss?
  • Do try to resolve conflicts with the seller before opening a dispute with Paypal. It's comforting to know that Paypal will make every effort to resolve all of your issues. But, most sellers are more than happy to accomodate you, too. Opening a dispute before you've contacted the seller is akin to contacting Target's main offices because the sweater you bought has a hole. In the end, it's easier to just return it to your local store.
  • Do give a seller time to respond to your inquiries. Most eBay sellers also have day jobs, and they need time to eat and sleep. If you've e-mailed a seller about an auction or a problem, give them 24 hours to respond before e-mailing again. And remember that not all sellers live on the same coast or in the same country as you. Your midday might be their midnight. I've had buyers e-mail me every 15 minuters starting in the middle of the night. It's frustrating because I don't have a chance to respond until 12 of their e-mails are already in my inbox.
  • Do open a dispute with Paypal if the seller hasn't made any effort to communicate with you regarding a problem. My rule is to e-mail a seller three times regarding an item that hasn't arrived or has arrived broken. I'll give them 24 hours to respond between e-mails. Then, if I still haven't heard from them, I'll take it up with Paypal. I've been buying on eBay nearly 15 years, and I've only ever had to file one dispute with Paypal regarding an auction I've won.
  • Do read the entire listing description. You'd be surprised by how often a buyer bids before reading. Most sellers don't allow refunds or returns for flaws stated in the listing description, so it pays to read before you click.
  • Don't wait to pay for a Buy It Now auction. As soon as you purchase your item, a link to Paypal appears. Most sellers have a policy of relisting if they don't receive payment within a couple of days, so it "pays" to finalize your purchase as soon as possible.
  • Do know the lingo. Here's a link to common eBay acronyms. Spending a few minutes familiarizing yourself with "eBay speak" will save you time in the long run.
  • Don't be afraid to ask questions. Most sellers are eager to talk about their item and are happy to help.
  • Don't challenge a seller. If you think an item is overpriced, or grossly misrepresented, it's best to just let it go. Attacking a seller's prices or policies is the fastest way to get yourself blocked. This is eBay, and another rare, one-of-a-kind item will come along soon.
  • Don't leave negative feedback until it's absolutely certain that the seller isn't going to help resolve your issue. It may sound unfair but, once you've left bad feedback, the seller has no incentive to help you out.
  • Do try to leave positive, or at least neutral, feedback if the seller was helpful and communicative, even if you needed to request a return or a refund.
  • Do let the seller know if you need to wait to pay. If possible, let them know this before you've even won the auction. Most sellers are willing to accomodate you as long as you let them know in advance.
  • Do open a Paypal account. It really is the fastest and most secure way to pay for an auction.
  • Do let the seller know if you have a special request regarding shipping, payment, or packaging.Send a message before you've even bid on the auction. If the seller can't accomodate your request, you've saved yourself time and heartbreak in the long run.
  • Don't bid on an auction with a vague or non-existent listing description. If you absolutely must bid, at least ask lots of questions first. Sellers should be up-front about the condition of their item. If they're not, they might have something to hide.
  • Do ask if an item is from a non-smoking or pet-free home if you have allergies or are sensitive to certain smells. This is information that isn't always included in the item description, but it's important.
  • Don't assume that a seller will combine shipping unless it's explicitly stated in the item description. Always ask first. If you need several similar items, it's best to shop around until you find someone who will ship them together for a low price.
  • Do pay for your auction. Sellers do realize that there are legitimate circumstances like illness and job loss that prevent someone from paying but I've had buyers back out of an auction because they found the item cheaper elsewhere, because they changed their mind or because their child decided they wanted something else. Those buyers get blocked. A bid is a binding contract.
  • Don't assume that eBay has the lowest price. Some sellers mark up their items assuming that they're rare or collectible. Shop around on Amazon and at local retailers before you commit to buying.
  • Don't try to haggle a price down after you've committed to buying an item. Your bid is a binding contract. You've agreed to pay the final price.
  • Don't ask a seller to end an auction early if you're not the high bidder. That violates eBay policy and is an easy way to get yourself banned from the site.
  • Don't wait until the last minute to place your bid. You can win auctions without sniping. It's better to bid early. Even if you don't get back online to snipe, the seller knows you're interested and might contact you for a second-chance offer.  
  • Do have fun. It's an online auction. It's fun if you win, but if you lose, there's always another chance. Don't take it too seriously, and have a good time. Good luck bidding!

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