Last week I published a post encouraging you to send me your questions. Since the response was so great, I will be creating a new series to answer your inquiries. I promise I will get to all of them, so please keep asking away!
There were a surprising number of questions about shopping on eBay. I have talked previously about my love for this site (here) because of the incredible savings, but I know it can feel overwhelming for a first-timer. And since I'm a Power Seller & purchase almost as frequently as I sell, I am going to do my best to cover the basics. I apologize for the length of this post, but I wanted to include as much as possible. If you have additional questions, please let me know!
1) Create an account
This may go without saying, but it's the easiest way to start get started. Once your account is set up, you can save items to a "watch list" that you may want to bid on & they also have a "wish list" that you can share with family & friends as a great way to provide birthday or Christmas gift ideas.
2) Know what you're looking for
Because the listings are in the millions, it helps to have a specific item in mind. It can be broad like "navy blazer" or specific like " J. Crew wool pants". Once you type in the description, you can narrow it down by size, fabric, color, condition (used or new), price, etc. I prefer to use the classic search because you can narrow it down even further.
3) Stick with US sellers & check their feedback score
Over the years, eBay has gotten better about protecting buyers from scams, but it is so important to check a seller's feedback score. Once someone purchases from them, they leave a review of their shipping timeliness, product quality, etc. If someone has negative feedback, I would steer clear. Also, if you are going to buy from an overseas seller, make sure to pay the extra to insure your item & ask for a tracking number.
4) Save your searches
Another benefit to setting up an account is being able to save your item searches. This is particularly helpful if you're looking for something very specific. You simply do your search as normal & click on the button at the top that says "Save this search". It will then take you to a screen where you can sign up to have eBay check new listings for you and email you (you decide how frequently) when items show up that meet your criteria. This is a big time saver so you aren't having to scroll through hundreds of listings each day.
5) Browse frequently
I've discovered this mantra is true for all bargain shopping. The more you check the clearance racks at a store, the more likely you are to snag something up before someone else sees it & the better your chances of finding your size, too ~ and eBay is no different.
6) Read descriptions & ask questions
Though an item may be listed as a size 4 and even if that is what you normally wear, it's worth it to be sure. Especially because some sellers don't allow returns & you don't want to be stuck with something you can't wear. Don't be afraid to contact the seller & ask for exact measurements (I do this ALL the time). Also, read descriptions carefully & don't rely on pictures for information. A sequin top may be great-looking in a photo, but could be missing several sequins that the camera didn't pick up. Sellers are required to list this information, so take the time to read the fine print!
7) Wait to bid
The best way to win on eBay (when it comes down to a bidding war) is to wait until the very last minute. I usually will start watching an auction with 3 minutes to spare, but I wait until there are 10 seconds left before I bid. It's not a guarantee, but alot of times that last-second bidder is the winner.
8) Set a limit
While there are "buy it now" items, most auctions are done using a bidding system. This is what allows you to get things for much less than you would in a store - because sellers start the listing at a low price, hoping it will get bid up high. The problem with bidding (for some people) is that it's similar to gambling & they get caught up in wanting to win. But don't get sucked in - the whole idea is to SAVE money. If you're watching a certain item, set a limit for what you are willing to pay for it and if the bidding gets above your threshold, just let it go and walk away.
9) Use PayPal
This is the safest & easiest way to buy & sell items on eBay. And less-established sellers won't allow any other form of payment. Plus many online stores and retailers are using it now too. You set it up using your bank account, but the seller never sees your personal information. And if you run out of money in your account, you can use a credit card as a form of backup payment.