Shopping on eBay can be daunting if you have never done it before. After all you are buying from someone that you have never met and you have to trust. Here is a beginner’s guide to the wonderful world of eBay.

1. First decide what you would like to buy. eBay is a treasure trove for hard to find items. Just last week, I bought a collection of boogie woogie piano sheet music from the 1940′s for my son. On eBay, you can find snow boots in July, and bikinis in January. Look around at the listings. Decide if you want to bid on an auction (more about that later) or buy it now. Buy it now is similar to shopping online at a retail store. You can sort on Best Match or by Time or by Price plus Shipping. I like the latter because I don’t like the surprise of shipping costs.

2. Read the descriptions of the items offered carefully. Just because the picture makes the item look large doesn’t mean that it is so. As a seller on eBay, I try to give detailed dimensions and when possible show the item either being hand held or next to a ruler. However, I still sometimes have unhappy customers because they expected the item to be bigger! What is the item made of? We here at Osmun Gifts sell a lot of scripture based costume jewelry bangles and bracelets on eBay. We don’t advertise that it is silver and for $11.95 with shipping, don’t expect our customers to think that it might be. eBay is like any other store. If the offer seems just too good to be true, it probably is. Be cautious with electronics. My advice is to only buy from a reputable dealer on eBay.

3. Check out the seller’s feedback. Inside the item’s description, the seller’s feedback is listed on the right. Click on it. Look at how long the seller has belonged to eBay. What is their average rating? How many negatives do they have? Look at some of the feedback comments, both positive and negative. If most of the negative feedback is given by eBay newbies, keep that in mind. Also, look at how the seller responded to any negative feedback. That tells a lot about the seller. You may not know this but sellers are not allowed to give negative feedback to buyers. However, buyers can give negative feedback to sellers. Personally, if I were new to eBay, I wouldn’t buy from anyone with less than 100 feedback. The combination of new buyers and new sellers sometimes leads to problems.

4. Don’t wonder about anything. Send an email to the buyer and ask a question. At the bottom of the listing, there is a question and answer section. Click on Ask a Question. Normally, you get a response within 24 hours.

5. Check shipping details. More and more eBay sellers are using free shipping but make sure you know the shipping before you buy. There are 2 tabs on the listing, Item Description and Shipping. Yes, there is more to shipping that just the postage. The seller pays for the box and the packing material. Free shipping is free but it is still a cost to the seller. The price for shipping has already been included in the item price. Check the shipping time. If you think that you might not receive the item in time for Christmas or that special birthday party, send a note to the buyer. Look at when the buyer is expected to ship and look at where the item is coming from. If it is being shipped from Hong Kong, it probably is not going to be at your house in 2 days. Unless you pay for expedited shipping when buying from overseas, it will take a couple of weeks.

6. If you decide to bid on an item rather than using the buy it now. Here are some tips. Decide before you make your first bid, exactly how much you are willing to spend. Make that your maximum bid. If the bid is $10 and you put a maximum of $20, eBay automatically bids for you in small increments. Example, if the bid is $10, eBay would then bid $10.50 on your behalf. If there are other bids, eBay will keep increasing you bid until you reach you max.

7. If bidding, don’t get pulled into a bidding war in the last hour. This is how people overspend on eBay. Though illegal to put up bids artificially, it is done. Someone may come in when the auction is almost done, and bid over you in an effort to get you to increase your bid. Remember that on eBay, there is almost always a similar item for sale the next day. In fact, the seller of the item that you just have to have may have 10-20 in stock and sells them one at a time.

8. Before buying, check out the seller’s return policy. Some sellers will not accept any returns. Please note, that if the item does not match the description, the buyer can still return the item. Personally, I don’t buy from sellers that do not accept returns unless there is a reason. For me, a legitimate reason not to accept an item back is that it might be cosmetics which could have been used.

9. Whether you have won an auction, or clicked on Buy It Now, please pay for your item then. It is easy. One of the great frustrations from being a seller is that buyers wait to pay for items. After a few days, eBay starts sending out unpaid reminders to you. Again, if you can’t pay for it, don’t buy it. Remember on eBay, if you are buying from one of the sellers with a store, they usually have more. It will be there when you get paid.

10. And last and definitely the best is the FEEDBACK. As mentioned previously, sellers cannot leave negative feedback. Sellers can block a specific buyer from buying their products and they can respond to feedback left by a buyer but they can’t leave negative feedback. My advice, wish, and plea is that if you as a buyer are unhappy with your purchase, whatever the reason, don’t leave negative feedback until you contact the seller. Let me repeat this. Contact the seller before you leave negative feedback. Most sellers and most buyers, are good people. I have had items that broke during shipping. I have no problem with either replacing the item free of charge or refunding the money. Many sellers would like the item back but personally, you can send me a picture. Bottom line, contact the seller first. Another thing about feedback, if you look at the feedback from the sellers with more than 3000 feedback comments, most of them come from new eBayers. Usually, this is a lack of communication. Again, contact the seller first. I once had a lady tell me that she didn’t believe that the item was damaged during shipping. She was convinced that I had sold her a broken item deliberately and told me that she had left me bad feedback to teach me a lesson. She never contacted me at all, just left the feedback. I refunded her $5.95 but she told me that she didn’t want the money, she wanted to hurt me. This is not a good plan. eBayer’s both buyers and sellers need to work together.

So, have fun with eBay and if you have a question, contact the seller! It is a great place to find anything and everything.

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3 Comments on 10 Ways to Make Your eBay Shopping Successful: A Beginner’s Guide to eBay

  1. George W says:

    eBay is a wonderful service. It puts buyers and sellers together. You just need to know a few basic facts to make it a good experience. Thank you.

  2. Kim says:

    The Ebay customer service dept is awesome! They are always very helpful, nice and patient.

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