16 Tips for Successful Buying on eBay

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As a regular buyer and seller on eBay I’ve been on both ends of the spectrum when it comes to expectations not being realised when I or a buyer purchase an item.  So I’ve learnt some tips to ensure my expectations are met when I buy (and to help my buyers when I’m selling).

1.  Never assume

If you are unsure about something in the listing ask the seller.  Don’t assume something if it really isn’t clear (eg. Photos with blurry colour, returns policy unclear, extent of faults if listed with faults, sizing etc.)

2.  Read the ENTIRE listing

If the seller has gone to the trouble of listing their Terms & Conditions, complete details about item, their policies on payment, postage, whether pick up available or not etc. they cannot be held responsible for you not reading it.  READ EVERYTHING.  Be certain of the buying experience you are likely to receive.

3.  Ask questions BEFORE you bid

For example, if you do not wish to pay for postage, asking if pick up is available after you’ve bid is not helpful.  If you win the item you are obligated to buy it.  The onus is on the buyer to ask any questions before bidding, so you don’t get into a mess of being obligated to buy an item if you are not happy with the terms of sale/ item. 

Not paying can lead to an Unpaid Item case being marked against you, and is not fair to the seller who has to hang onto that item through that process whilst they could have other interested buyers.  Also, leaving negative feedback for a seller because you assumed something/ didn’t ask questions before you bid is not fair.

4.  Ask for more Photos

If the photos are blurry or there are not enough of them ask the seller for more.  Conscientious sellers will happily oblige.

5.  Ask for Measurements

If they are not listed- ask.  Especially with clothes where sizes can vary greatly.  As a size 10-12 I wear anything from a size 8 to a 14 depending on the designer, era etc.  Always check if you are unsure.

6.  Best Offer Listings

If the listing has a Best Offer option, decide the highest price you’d be willing to go, and then offer them a lower price.  They may take it or negotiate a higher price.  You have a better chance of getting the price you want if you go in lower though.

7.  Consider Postage Prices

Consider the postage price as part of the price you are paying for the item- if you are not happy with this don’t bid.  Eg. If I’m buying a dress for $50 and the postage is $9- am  I happy to pay $59 for this dress? 

Also, if the seller has only listed an express post (eg. 500g express post satchel) price and you’re happy to wait longer for lower cost- contact them before you bid and ask if they would be happy to send via normal post (eg. Australia post 500g satchel). Keep in mind that for you to be covered under PayPal or eBays Buyer Protection it needs to be trackable postage- this costs more but protects you in the long run.

If you do pay for a certain type of postage (eg. Aust Post 500g satchel) and seller uses a less expensive postage service (eg. Standard envelope), contact them and advise this, if they are unresponsive or won’t rectify you can raise a case with eBay or PayPal.

8.  Consider Pick Up

A great way to save some $$$$ is picking the item up if you are local to them, however not all sellers allow this.  If they are local to you, ask them before you bid if pick up is possible.  Many sellers may not list pick up as an option in the listing but are happy to do so if asked.

9.  Combine Postage

Another way to save $$$.  Sellers may not automatically combine the postage of multiple items but will do so if you ask.  If you have bought an item check if there’s anything else you want to buy from them that’s ending within the next few days.  If so, it’s a good idea to just let them know you want to wait to bid on the other items before paying so you can combine postage.  Most are fine with this, but if they are constantly listing items don’t draw it out for weeks and weeks.

10.  Be cluey about feedback

If I check a sellers feedback and they have predominantly positive feedback as a seller but there is only 1 or 2 negative ones, check if the seller has left a response (eg. Contacted buyer, offered full refund).  This shows that they will take ownership and rectify a problem if there is one. 

Also I’ll sometimes check  the feedback that the neg buyer has left for others to see if there is a pattern on their end.  Some get a kick out of giving neg feedback and if sellers mainly have positive feedback this generally shows me that a. there was a one off mistake or b. the buyer may be unreasonable. 

Everyone can make mistakes but if I can see the buyer will rectify if they do, and that they don’t make them too often then I’m happy I will be looked after.

11. Offers outside of eBay

If a seller offers for you to buy it outside of eBay, eg. Auction ends and you missed it so you email them to see if they are relisting it and they offer to sell it to you without relisting it – ask them that they put it up with a Buy it Now so you can grab it. 
Deals outside of eBay, apart from being against eBay rules, means you have no protection or recourse if there is something wrong with the item or you never receive it.

12.  Timely Payment or Contact Seller

Sellers can open an Unpaid Item case as soon as 4 days after auction ends though they can wait longer.  If you want to take an extended time to pay, send the seller a courtesy email advising them and asking if this is ok.  As a buyer I’ve never had a seller react negatively to this, and as a seller I am reassured of their commitment to pay.  As long as sellers know what is happening most are flexible.  Communication is key.

13.  Pay via PayPal

Some sellers will entice buyers to pay via bank deposit instead so that they don’t receive the PayPal fees.  All sellers have to include a payment method like PayPal but can accept other methods also.  Paying via bank deposit means you have no eBay or PayPal buyer protection so there’s no recourse if there is something wrong with the item or you never receive it.  Sellers are not allowed to tell you it has to be paid via bank deposit.

14.  Contact Seller before leaving Negative Feedback

For example, if you receive the item and there is a fault that wasn’t listed contact them first to advise and try to work it out.  Even provide photos of the flaw.  Most sellers will be very apologetic (remember they are just humans that can make mistakes too) and will offer refund/ return etc. 
For sellers, feedback is their credibility & livelihood, leaving negative feedback when the seller has made an honest oversight and is happy to rectify the issue is an unfair slight on their reputation.  Give the benefit of the doubt.  If, after a few days you don’t get a response to your mail then file a case with eBay or PayPal that the item wasn’t as described.

14. Leave feedback once you receive the item. 

Again, contact seller to rectify problems first rather than just leaving negative or neutral feedback (see #13).  But if you’re happy leave feedback to advise this.  A lot of sellers will hold off on leaving feedback until the buyer does so this generally means you will get feedback and boost your rating also.

Even if they’ve already left feedback for me, I still leave it.  I want to help boost those sellers I’ve had a good experience with.  I also leave good feedback when there has been an issue but the seller has rectified it.  I only leave negative feedback if there’s been an issue and they’ve refused or not responded to fix it.

16.  Be aware of Obligations- Yours and the Sellers

So many people do not read the eBay policies.  It is the best way to know what is expected of you as a buyer, and what is required of your seller also.  Knowing yours and the sellers responsibilities helps you know what to do if there’s any issue.


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