8 Steps to a successful eBay purchase

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This guide contains a few tips for buyers on how to make your eBay transaction run smoothly - from absorbing all the relevant details in the listing to communicating with the seller and understanding your responsibilities as a buyer.

What makes a successful eBay transaction?
As a buyer, you can ensure that your transactions on eBay run smoothly by making sure you:
1. Read the listing carefully
2. Understand seller's terms and conditions
3. Understand postage and handling costs
4. Understand returns policy
5. Confirm your address and phone number
6. Make sure of details before bidding or buying
7. Give adequate references in payment
8. Be realistic in your expectations of timing

Step 1: Read the Listing Carefully
There can be a lot of information contained in a listing so make sure you read it all carefully before making a decision.  Look for the following pieces of information:
  • Item condition (new, factory second, second-hand, refurbished)
  • Item details (size, colour, quantity etc)
  • Whether the item is selling at Auction or at a Fixed Price (Buy It Now)

Step 2: Understand the seller's terms and conditions
Sellers will often list their terms and conditions in the listing regarding payment methods and what they expect of their buyers.  Some larger sellers have links in their listings to a separate page outlining their terms and conditions.  Take note of the following:
  • When does the seller expect you to make contact or pay?
    • Most sellers request that you make contact within three days of winning an item, and pay within 7-10 days
  • Do they specify different payment methods for international buyers vs Australian buyers?
    • For international buyers, PayPal is usually the preferred payment method.  Setting up a PayPal account is easy and free for buyers, so visit your local PayPal website to sign up.  Paying with PayPal also often gives you access to PayPal's Buyer Protection Program, which can cover you for up to $1,500 if anything goes wrong.

Step 3: Check postage and handling costs
On eBay, the buyer pays for postage, so when you're looking at the cost to buy an item, make sure you're including the postage and handling costs.  These are almost always included at the top of the listing or in a postage section within the description.  If they are not included anywhere in the listing or if you are an international buyer, ask the seller for the postage costs before bidding or buying.  Once you've won an item you've committed to pay for it (including postage), so you want to make sure you're clear of what the total cost will be.

You often have a choice of different postage methods.  If you are buying an expensive item, definitely consider paying a couple of extra dollars for registered post or postal insurance, to give you complete peace of mind.

Step 4: Understand the returns policy
In case an item is faulty or not what you were expecting, check if the seller has a returns policy - if so, it will be shown at the bottom of their listing.  This will tell you under what conditions the seller will accept returns, and who pays for postage for returning the item.

Step 5: Confirm your address and phone number
If you're planning to buy something, make sure that your address on eBay (and PayPal if applicable) is accurate - you could have trouble receiving an item if it gets sent to your old address!  Also, since some sellers use a courier to deliver, consider making your phone number available to sellers after purchase - either through your preferences in My eBay or by adding it in as a comment when you check out and pay.

Step 6: Make sure of details before bidding or buying
Remember that when you bid on an item, if you win that auction you have committed to pay for the item.  So don't bid unless you're happy to pay that price for that item.  Don't bid on multiple auctions of the same item at the same time unless you'd be happy to win them all!

Step 7: Give adequate references in payment
Remember that in some cases, businesses on eBay are selling hundreds of items a day.  So if you're not paying with PayPal and you're using bank deposit, money order or cheque, make sure you include your eBay user ID as a reference, and the item # when you can.  For example, for a seller selling mobile phones, it's hard for them to match up payments if the reference given is " mobile phone " - always include your user ID to ensure your payment is acknowledged.

Step 8: Be realistic in your expectations of timing
In many cases sellers will tell you what to expect in terms of time required to receive a response to a question or shipping times.  Keep these in mind when waiting for a response or for your item - even "overnight" postal or courier services often take 2 or 3 days, so be patient.  If you are concerned about the time taken, contact the seller to ask for an update.

If something goes wrong...
On rare occasions, even following these steps, a transaction may not work out as well as you had hoped.  If this is the case, your first step is to contact the seller to resolve the issue.  Remember to remain polite in your communications, as this will increase your likelihood of finding an amicable resolution.  Have a look at the  safe trading tips to make sure you have a hassle-free transaction.

Don't let the feedback forum be your first channel for informing the seller of your dissatisfaction - give them a chance to resolve the issue first, and you'll both be happier.

And finally...
Once you've received your fabulous new  laptopdigital camera , shirt or  cricket bat , remember to leave the seller positive feedback!

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