How to be a smart buyer on eBay

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It's easy to get carried away on eBay. You see an item that only has a few minutes to go before the end of the auction and it seems like an absolute bargain! You place a nice high bid to make sure the item is yours and congratulate yourself on spotting such a great deal.

It's only after the auction ends that you realise the item is pick-up only. This wouldn't be a problem if only you weren't in Perth and the seller, in Sydney. Kicking yourself, you send an apologetic e-mail to the seller, explaining the situation. You realise the seller is going to be disappointed and annoyed. Even worse, you may now have to face having an Unpaid Item strike on your eBay record.

Fortunately for you, the seller agrees that you can both mutually withdraw from the auction. This way, you don't get a strike on your record and the seller's Final Value Fees are refunded to them.

Being a smart buyer on eBay is easy. It just takes a little forethought and a few simple steps:

  • Use the Search or Advanced Search feature to find the item you're looking for. You can specify things like the price range, location, which currency the auction is in and much more. You can also sort the results to suit you, for example, by the time the auction ends, by the price of the item or even how far away the item is from you.
  • Using the results of your search, click on each auction until you find the item you want to bid on.
  • Now comes the important part.  Check the seller’s Feedback. Every auction contains the seller’s Positive Feedback percentage. As well as noting this, click on the number in brackets after the seller’s eBay username. Read the feedback comments left by other eBay users. Does the seller have many negative comments? If they do, be wary of this seller.
  • Read every part of the auction page. Pay particular attention to the item condition and item description. Look carefully at any pictures or photos of the item.
  • Look for the postage charges. An item may seem like a bargain but if there is a large postage charge, it may not be worth bidding on. Also, will the seller combine postage for multiple items? Does the seller offer Postage Insurance? If the postage charges are not listed on the auction, use the Ask Seller A Question link to e-mail the seller before the end of the auction. Include your postcode, so that the seller can work out the postage costs.
  • Check the kinds of payment the seller accepts. It is no good if you only want to pay online and the seller will only accept Money Orders.
  • Check the seller’s return policy if the item should arrive damaged or not working.
  • Check your wallet. Make sure you have the money to pay for the item and only bid up to this amount. Many buyers get caught up in the excitement of bidding or get into a bidding war, only to realise they don’t have the money to pay for the item that they’ve just won.

After the auction.

  • Keep all the e-mails sent to you and by you about the item. They will come in handy if there is a problem.
  • Make the payment for the item (plus postage) as soon after the end of the auction as you can. Include with the payment, something that identifies the auction item you are paying for. Most sellers prefer that you enter the item number but if this is not possible, you can enter your eBay username or something else that identifies the payment. When sellers have many items, it frustrates them greatly to have a payment arrive without anything to indicate what the payment is for or whom it is from.
  • Be polite in all your communications with the seller. Remember that the seller has a life outside of eBay and may not respond to your e-mails as fast as you would like.
  • Once the item has arrived, let the seller know in a quick e-mail. That way, they know the item reached its destination.
  • If there is ever a problem with the item (it arrives broken or is not as described, for example), do try and contact the seller. Some eBayers simply leave negative feedback when they haven’t even tried to contact the seller to resolve the problem. You can e-mail the seller through eBay, through their own e-mail address or you can retrieve the seller's details through the Find Contact Information link under Advanced Search. eBay will then e-mail you the seller's telephone number and suburb, as well as e-mailing your telephone number and suburb to the seller.
  • Feedback is always voluntary but is really appreciated by the seller. If you are happy with the item, leave positive feedback for the seller. Try to be descriptive if you can. Positive feedback reading, “Great item. Friendly seller, fast delivery and well packaged. A real pleasure.” is much better and far more helpful to other eBayers, than positive feedback reading, “Yeah, good.”
  • Consider creating an eBay About Me page. This gives you an opportunity to tell other eBay users about you, your hobbies, likes and dislikes and anything else you’d like to share about yourself. You can enter your own HTML or use eBay’s guide. You can even add your own pictures, as well as links to your favourite web sites.

Bidding and buying on eBay can be a challenge but it can also be a lot of fun. By following these simple steps, eBaying can be a positive and rewarding experience for both you and the seller.

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