Thursday, June 24, 2010

Ebay for Beginners: Top 10 Tips

I do a large percentage of my personal shopping at eBay.  I love eBay - because although I love clothing and beautiful things, I hate shopping! (Thrift and secondhand stores excluded!). Ebay offers millions of options to help you build a high quality, unique wardrobe with pieces from your favorite designers and brands.

Once you register and become familiar with the eBay terrain, it becomes easy to navigate. Be aware as you shop. eBay does have its share of scammers and shady members. However, the majority of my transactions have been great.  If you follow these simple guidelines to mitigate the risks, eBay can be one of your best bargain resources!

1. Don't go into your first experience blind. Know what you are looking for.  There are literally millions of items.  If you start eBaying unprepared, one of two things may happen.  You may feel overwhelmed and quit. Or you may become an instant addict, randomly purchasing all kinds of craziness.  Know what you are shopping for and use the search feature for assistance.  You can customize searches based on size, location, price and color.

2. Start small:  This is coupled with not going in blind.  Choose an inexpensive item for your first purchase.  Don't immediately start searching for Jimmy Choos and Louie bags.  Start small to get your feet wet and when you feel more comfortable you can move on to more serious shopping.

3. Check ALL sellers history and feedback:  This is critical. You want your purchases to be from reputable and long standing sellers.  When you pick an item to view, you can find the seller history and feedback in the far right column of the page.  It shows how many purchasers have left feedback and gives the feedback score. If you would like more details, click on the feedback score and it will link you to actual customer comments.   Research the seller - it only takes a couple of minutes.

4. Review the item carefully.  The item should have a detailed description with several pictures.  The details to look for are; condition of the item, including disclosure of any known flaws, age, measurements and whether the item is new or used. If you have any questions or want additional pictures - contact the seller before making a bid.  

5. Look for a Return Policy.  Many sellers that sell second-hand clothes do not offer refunds, but some do.  For your first experience you may want a seller that offers a return policy.  Some offer exchanges or store credit.  Know the policy carefully and understand that you may be responsible for return shipping and in some instances re-stocking fees.

6. Used is Used.  If you want clothing that looks and feels brand spanking new - do not buy second-hand or vintage.   MINT condition is in the eye of the beholder.  There are many sellers that offer new clothes only. 

7.  KNOW YOUR MEASUREMENTS: I cannot stress this enough. Sizing varies from garment to garment, designer to designer and year to year.  Do not rely on posted sizes unless you are very familiar with the designer or brand.  One of the reasons many clothing sellers do not offer refunds is that customers are not careful when it comes to determining fit. 

8.Count the cost: Know the shipping and handling costs. These are always posted in the listings.  Do not get sucked into a very low price and find out later that the shipping costs were padded.  Clothing can be heavy - so don't forget shipping costs when determining your top bid.

9. Bid wisely.  There are many bidding techniques and strategies that I won't go into here, but I will stress: know exactly how much you are willing to pay.  You can start bidding by placing your highest offer and just wait to see if you win (this is my tactic) or you can incrementally place your bid if you like the fun of the auction.  When placing your highest bid, I suggest making it a weird dollar amount like 42.75.  Sometimes it gives you a little edge with another bidder who may choose to bid 42.00.

10. Be a knowledgeable consumer:  I buy many of my high-end designer items from eBay, but only after I have done my research on the item and asked the right questions of the seller.  Knowledge is power when purchasing high-end or big ticket items. Buy ONLY from established, well respected sellers.   If you feel as though you have been frauded, beyond leaving negative feedback, you can also file a claim with paypal and open a case with eBay. 

Don't give up if your first experience is less than stellar, eBay is too wonderful a resource to give up without a serious try.

Stay Tuned!  I will be posting a list of my favorite eBay sellers.