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Apr 13, 2012
Apr 13, 2012
EBay from a Buyers Perspective
I must have found EBay not too long after it started. I know I was a member by 1998. At times I have loved it because of the bargains I have been able to find. At other times, I’ve hated it because of the money I’ve spent on those bargains. (It still costs money no matter how cheap something is). And yet I keep going back to find the next thing I “need.”
EBay bills itself as an auction site. The reality is it’s more of a giant yard sale. Go to the search option on the main page, type in anything you might be searching for, and odds are you will find at least one of them for sale. I’ve have found books, movies, and music galore, old board games, cartridges for my Atari 2600 and Super Nintendo. When I started collecting Hallmark ornaments two years ago, I spent way too much time and money on the site. (My pocketbook still hasn’t forgiven me for that.)
The main page features some popular products and a drop down list of categories you can browse. I never pay any attention to those. I always head straight to the search bar and type in what I am looking for. And I almost always find it, too. Rarely is there nothing that matches my inquiry. That only downside of the search engine is if someone lists what you want with a misspelling or calls it something slightly different. Not much anyone can do about that, but if you do find a way to track those down, you can often find a real bargain.
The listings almost always fall into two categories. There are auctions, which feature an end time of anywhere from a few days to a week away. You can enter your maximum bid, but the site only shows the maximum bid you need to win the item. For example, if you bid $25 but could win it at $12, the site would show your bid as $12. If someone else comes along and bids $15, you’d still be winning at $16. Only if someone bids over $25 would you lose. Of course, if they bid early enough, you’d still have the option of going back and placing a higher bid yourself. These listings can often bring you great deals, but they can also be frustrating when a last minute auction sniper comes in and outbids you.
The other type of listing (and the more popular these days) is Buy It Now. These are basically sale listings where the price is listed, and you agree to buy it for that price. No drama, just a hopefully quick, smooth transaction.
Be sure to watch shipping when placing a bid or buying an item. Shipping can vary wildly from listing to listing, making a higher sale price actually cheaper when you factor in shipping. If you are savvy, you can still get a great deal.
Here’s the catch on the site, you are not actually buying from EBay itself. Instead, you are buying from a seller – another member like you. Fortunately, EBay has a feedback system in place, so you can see if the person you are buying from is trustworthy or not. The seller can leave you feedback as the buyer, too. Currently, they can only leave positive feedback, which has its pluses and minuses (I was once dinged for leaving honest neutral feedback and told mine would be removed if I removed the truth. Of course, if the buyer really is bad, it would be nice if the seller could say so. Once you submit payment, the seller sends you the item. Where they are and what shipping you’ve paid for will determine how fast you get it.
Congrats, you have a new treasure to enjoy.
Unfortunately, EBay does have some downsides. One is their insistence on all payments going through PayPal, a company they own that processes credit card payments. I don’t trust the company and use them only because I am forced to. But that’s an issue for another review. It’s not a strong negative because I still use EBay plenty.
The other drawback is what it has done to collectors and collecting. I think for some things it has driven the market up. People list items for sale with an inflated Buy It Now price hoping someone will bite. Someone else sees that and thinks it’s the price something is going for and lists theirs for the same price. Fortunately, you can search complete listings and see what people are actually selling things for. At times, it’s half the Buy It Now prices. (That’s the case for an ornament I missed out on last year I’m trying to add to my collection right now.)
On the other hand, the fact that many of the formerly rarer items are now available instantly means you can find prices on older collectibles falling. That’s a good thing if you want to buy, but a bad thing if you want to sell.
Both of these also create some false demands as people buy up stock of something they think will be rare hoping to sell it on EBay to make a killing. All three of these are not EBay’s fault, just a result of their business.
All this means you need to have some idea what an item is really worth and what you are willing to spend before you go on the site. I’ve found that patience is often rewarded with a steal, or at least a reasonable price on the item I want to buy. Some sellers out there are out to scam you, too, or so it seems, selling stuff months in advance before it comes out. Read listings carefully and use your head and you’ll be fine.
While I have never sold anything on EBay, a message board I frequent has several sellers and former sellers on it. They are always complaining about the increased fees on EBay. They charge you money for an initial listing, a percentage of the final sale, and then PayPal takes a part as well. The site is also buyer friendly, putting the burden of proof on the seller if there is any dispute at all. The fact that sellers can’t leave anything but positive feedback for buyers is another symptom of this. If you want to sell something, read everything carefully before you do so you know what you are getting into.
Yes, EBay has some issues. But any site that facilitates strangers across the country selling stuff through the mail will. I have used them for years and will continue to do so.