Buying anything on eBay can be an immensively satisfying (and not to mention cheap!) experience. It can also, on the rare occasion, be much less than ideal. With the amount of dosh that people spend on eBay, whether it be for a hobby or a profession, the security that eBay provides is a great thing. But by keeping on the look out, you can minimise the risk of getting ripped off even further. In no particular order, here are some things that potential buyers should look at before they bid on an item:
1) Item Description: Here the seller can explain a lot of things, including but not limited to:
a) Features of the item/any extras/anything not included
b) Item condition (cosmetic + internal)
c) Any reason for selling
d) How much it originally cost
e) Postage costs
The more of these they provide, the better. If all they've done is copied the official blurb of the product, what you end up getting could be quite different to what you were expecting. Don't be afraid to ask questions.
2) Images: Sort of a run-on from the point above. Has the seller provided clear images of what they're selling? If they've described any defects, have they attempted to show them in the images? These are good things. What you do not want is a seller taking a stock image from an online store and using that as their own (these are usually identified by a clear white background). The more images of the actual item they're selling, the better. Don't be afraid to ask the seller for more if you're not satisfied.
3) Feedback: An obvious one, and vital.
Always check the feedback of a user before bidding on something. The more positive feedback the better, and the more reliable the seller is.
Ebay stars give a rough idea of how experienced the seller is. A high (97+) percentage of positive feedback is really what you expect in a seller. If its below that, check out their comments and try to find the negative ones to see what the problem was. A very bad sign is a new user, with a negative feedback score.
Avoid this seller. This will save you a lot of trouble, frustration and perhaps money in the long run.
4) Item location: If the seller is located nearby, go ahead and ask if you can drop by and test the item. If he says no, fair enough, but if he says yes then you have a surefire way to verify the authenticity of the listing. It also stops any honest misunderstandings from occuring - sometimes the seller may accidently describe something wrong, or leave something out. By seeing the item first hand you can make sure this doesn't happen. Finally if the seller is located nearby, postage is much less of an issue, and if there are any problems after receiving it, its much less hassle to return it/make alternative arrangements. This point applies to some products more than others.
5) Do Your Research: This is a nobrainer. Before bidding on anything, have a look around on the net. If the listing doesn't provide a model number, ask the seller for it to help you in your search. There are many review sites that can help you make the right choice for you. You should also check around to work out a good max bid for the item - remember that most items are second hand and their value will be significantly less than retail.
These simple guidelines will aid your buying experience immensely, and after a while they will become second-nature to you. With a watchful eye, you'll be sure to pick up the best bargains!
Buying Electronics Safely
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12 June 2006
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