Wednesday, 5 September 2012

eBay for Beginners: Part I

I have a love-hate relationship with eBay.

I have spent thousands of dollars buying clothing, shoes, electronics, makeup, arts & crafts and pet accessories from the auction site. Nothing beats the thrill of winning an auction. Unfortunately, that thrill can turn to despair when you realise that you overspent your weekly food budget on designer pet tags and fancy paint brushes. Especially when your cat doesn't even wear a collar and you have zero artistic talent...

Evidence for the prosecution: Exhibit A

I'm pretty sure there's a psychiatric condition and matching medication for my eBay obsession but I think I'd be worse off without it, even if my credit rating disagrees. Apart from when my computer shits itself (which, unfortunately, is often) I am the most badass bidder there is. And thankfully, now that I have set up shop, I can sell all the stuff that I'm never going to use and at least break even.

My cousin emailed me a while ago asking how to go about selling something on eBay. I replied with a (very) long list of dos and don'ts- enough to send her running for the hills. The best way to learn the ropes is to participate in eBay auctions. You get a feel for how things work, how ruthless bidding can be and also how to optimise your own auctions.

I have been buying and selling on eBay for over ten years and hope that the following tips will help you grab a bargain, avoid dodgy sellers and high-five yourself for being a winner (as opposed to face-palming as a loser).


1. Always pay with PayPal.
A lot of sellers prefer bank deposit but PayPal is a compulsary option for buyers. PayPal is the only method that guarantees your money back if the item never arrives. Do contact the seller first but if they are unhelpful or non-responsive then lodge a dispute with PayPal and they will refund your money.

2. If an item seems too cheap to be true, then it is probably a fake.
This is especially true of sellers from Hong Kong (racist, I know) selling half-price perfumes and Louis Vuitton bags. If in doubt, stick to local sellers from your own country. Always check a seller's rating before you buy. Do not buy from someone who has no feedback rating. The most trustworthy sellers have a rating of 99% and above. Make sure you read any negative comments because there may be a pattern of dodgy behaviour that previous buyers have left as warning for new buyers such as yourself. Hurrah for altruism!

3. Set yourself a limit when bidding for auctions.
And stick to it! Too often you can get caught up in the excitement of "winning" and continue to bid past your budget. From experience, regret will ensue and you won't enjoy your new purchase knowing that you paid twice the amount you wanted for it. Most of the time there will be multiples of your wanted item on eBay ending at different times. The same items can sell for vastly different amounts depending on several factors (which will be discussed in "SELLING"). So hold your horses (or donkeys) and bide your time.

4. Don't just narrow your search to auctions.
Some sellers are desperate to get rid of stock and will price their items at bargain prices. If there are multiples of the item you are looking for then "watch" the auction item (but don't bid) until it ends to see how much it sells for. If the "buy it now" item is of a similar price, then save yourself the stress and, er, "buy it now"!

5. If you're looking for a particular size/model/item then do a thorough search first.
A lot of sellers misspell brand names, which means they won't show up in a simple search. Narrow down the options using the left side panel eg. Women's clothing --> dresses, size 10. You may find that Alannah Hill dress is selling as an "Alanah Hill". Again, this narrows the competition.

6. WIN!
If you must, must, MUST have that Chanel purse then do not bid until the end. And I mean the end. It is an amateur buyer that frantically bids to their limit 4 days before the auction ends. This will only increase the final winning bid. You cannot bid ahead of time so the only thing to do is sit at your computer, watch the final minute countdown (listening to "The final countdown" may be somewhat motivating) and place your top bid i.e. the highest amount you are willing to pay for the item literally 8 seconds before the end. This will give you the FINAL bid and just enough time to confirm it (provided your hands aren't shaking too much frome the sheer thrill of it all). Should you lose the auction, you'll know you gave it every best shot. But should you win? Congratulate yourself on a job well done and now listen to this song.

7. Grab a real bargain!
Some sellers start auctions at $0.99 and have few or no bids near the end of the auction. If you're a night owl like myself, check for auctions ending around 3am- there will be fewer bidders and you are more likely to buy the item at a very cheap price. Set your options to search for the brand names you're happy with. Just beware that most crazy-cheap items are usually Kmart (or a similarly cheap) brand.

8. Always check that the postage costs are reasonable.
Familiarise yourself with the standard Australia Post costs for sending small, medium and large parcels. Use the AusPost website to calculate what the postage should cost before you buy. Remember that postage includes materials and handling. To give you an idea:

- A normal lipstick costs $1.20 to send, plus envelope and wrapping. Total = $2 - $3.
- A cotton dress would be sent in a $6.60 satchel or similar. Total = $7 - $9.
- A 1kg book would be sent in an $11.40 satchel or similar. Total = $12 - $14.

Dodgy sellers mark up the cost of postage to cover for eBay and PayPal fees. So if a seller if trying to charge $8 to send you a lipstick then kindly ask what method of post they will be using and if you aren't happy, don't buy. Similarly, don't be fooled by free postage. Make sure the item has not been marked up to include postage costs! And if you are buying multiple items from one seller then ask about combined postage first. Good sellers will fit as many items into a 500g or 3kg satchel and charge you very little or no extra postage.

9. Always check the terms and conditions of the item thoroughly.
Sellers will often state things like "Please pay within 2 days of end of auction". If you don't pay for it within that time then you effectively forfeit the purchase. Also check the postage times. If you need that dress for a wedding then make sure it will arrive on time. Good sellers are happy to accommodate postage needs eg. Express (+$3) or Registered (+$3). Don't harass the seller if it's been 3 days since you paid for the item when their description clearly states that they will post within 3 business days.

10. Do leave feedback for the seller.
The only way to build your own good eBay reputation is if other eBay members leave you positive feedback. As a buyer it is easy- just pay for your item on time! But don't forget to leave feedfack for them, too. Be honest- if you really aren't happy with the item and they have failed to respond to a complaint (eg. wrong size, item damaged) then you are within your rights to leave negative feedback. Don't be afraid, either- it is impossible for a seller to leave you negative feedback (as revenge) if you paid for the item. What they can do is leave a negative comment in your positive feedback section. This is against eBay policy. If this occurs, contact eBay and they will remove this negative comment for you. Easy!

Now that you've successfully won your item of choice, let us watch this video for continued motivation... or not :P

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