Spice Arena guide to buying spices online - basics

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Guide to buying Herbs and Spice online!

When I first joined the tribe of people buying things on Ebay I was looking for printer cartridges for my laser printer. They were well priced(compared to other conventional retailers), often the real deal and with postage factored in exceptional value. You're asking yourself, what's he on about? talking about buying printer cartridges instead of spices. Well let me explain: I was browsing through different categories and was a little shocked to find that people were actually selling food products on Ebay. I mean a myriad of questions popped into my head - How can you buy a food product without actually having a touch, feel or smell? How do I know if it's fresh? Is it packed in food grade material? All these questions bothered me because we're in the food ingredient packing business.  

Eventually I got my head around the customer feedback system, which opened my eyes to how reputable a seller is and also I understood that genuine sellers actually want to engage you in a conversation. They want you to learn about their business and product. Similar to a farmer's market. The key is to ask plenty of questions.

Common Scenario: You've found Grandma's famous long lost recipe for tapioca pudding. Hmmm, you've just gotta try that recipe. You go to your local supermarket and ask for tapioca pearl, they tell you that they don't have it. You try the next supermarket, same deal, no tapioca. So you pop into an independent grocer and you're told that sago pearl similar. Not feeling fully confident, you whip out your iphone and do a wikipedia search for tapioca pearl and in fact find out that it's not sago. Hmmm, how disappointing. Surely you're not going to shelve Grandma's recipe. No.

Optimal Solution: You will do a google or an Ebay search. Your preference will most likely lie with Ebay because you liking using Paypal and trust it more than independent retail sites. So you've found a seller selling Tapioca pearl. Great. Now you're grappling with the same conundrum that I had. Here are the essential points:

  1. Go to the listing and have a look how many of a certain item that seller has sold. This is available on the right hand side. Click on the number and it will show you a history of how recently they've sold the item. If it's quite a while then that usually means one of 2 things: 1. The item is too expensive or 2. That particular package size isn't popular - look at other pack sizes.
  2. Look at the price AND the postage cost. Postage cost gouging isn't very common in the spice trade but be diligent. You can always check Australia Post website for postage costs to your destination. Calculate the TOTAL cost per kilo of product and compare with competitors.
  3. Read the listing carefully. See through the "fluff" or "padding", lovely borders and fancy colour schemes. The listing must have concise information. The listing must offer combined shipping(or you can rest assured of postage gouging).  If it's a one liner listing then don't bother as they haven't bothered.
  4. If you've got any question, it doesn't matter how silly, stupid or daft it sounds, ASK!!!
  5. Only then make the purchase and once again ask any questions that may still niggle. GENUINE Sellers want to engage their customers so that they will be happy and keep coming back for more.

If you liked this guide then please vote for it. I will be writing a little series of these guides to hopefully enhance your purchasing experience particularly in the herb and spice categories.

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