Buying… I started off doing this on eBay, and as eBay began to change I picked up many interesting things on the long process. I still currently do a lot of buying on eBay, and I feel that as an avid seller, I can speak as a more informed buyer.
- Read the terms: This might consists of spending a quick 30 seconds looking at some of the information the seller included in their action that is not part of their description, or this might include spending 3 minutes reading the terms section of their description. I cannot stress how important this is, if the seller says they only accept paypal, you need to make sure you are able to send paypal. I cannot tell you how many times I have written in my auction “I only accept paypal payments” and I will get an e-mail from a winning buyer saying “OK I SENT YOU A CHECK”. Reading the terms includes finding out all the shipping information before hand as well. If you live in Europe and it says “I only ship to the US”, then don’t bid. The seller enters terms in for a reason, and I assure you this reason is not for them to be neglected and not read.
- Ask questions: If you have any doubts what so ever about the item, or the quality of an item, just write the seller a question. When writing the question, avoid threatening the seller and try to sound at least a bit professional. Avoid using slang terms, and take the time to properly format your message and spell everything correctly (use spell-check!). When a seller gets an e-mail which is spelt poorly and in all capitals with no punctuations, they might be compelled not to respond. I have been receiving many e-mails like this recently, and I honestly laugh when I read them. I ask myself “Why do people even bother sending me an e-mail if they can’t format it correctly. Why should I take time out of my day to respond if they can’t take the time to write a semi-professional short e-mail?”
- Snipe: Probably one of the best things I have ever used as a buyer. They are called auction snipers. Some people hate the use of them, and others love it. It is a very controversial issue, but what it does is automatically puts in a bid for you on an item in the time you specify, such as in the last 5 or so seconds. You can include any price amount you want, and this way you do not have to bid early on an item and risk increasing the price for no reason. Do a quick search on Google and you will find many sites offering free snipes. If you really want an item badly, you should either snipe it or buy it now and avoid any risk associated with just placing a normal bid.
- Buy it now: If you want to make sure you get an item, do an advanced search for buy it now only items. Sort the buy it now’s by lowest price, and compare them to other completed auctions of the same item and see how much more you are paying for the buy it now. Most of the time it is around 5-7% more, which is worth it to me. To be able to click one button and get the item automatically and not worry about any competition saves more time then you would think. Now granted, buy it now is not offered on all items, and sometimes placing a bid would be more beneficial, so this tip is situational.
- Payment Methods: You are almost always forced to use PayPal for most auctions although there are still some who accept money orders and checks, but PayPal is the most preferred payment. I am in no way am justifying this what-so-ever because I have read too many horror stories about PayPal and have been screwed over by them plenty of times. If you are going to send a payment in the mail to a seller, make sure to wrap it in a piece of paper so people will be unable to identify it as a check or money order if they are looking for mail to steal. And to make it easy for the seller, go ahead and write what item number the check or money is for. I cannot tell you how many times I have received checks just sitting in the envelope with no mention of what item it is for.
- Search for Misspelled Items: Sometimes a seller might misspell something important in their title or use a very weird spelling, and it will turn up with no bids. If you search for these misspelled items, you can lob in a bid and steal the item at a very low price if the seller does not notice his mistake in the title.
- Advanced Search: Use it…use it…and use it. This tool is great for doing research on how much a product has sold for in the past, where the products are located compared to your location, and so much more. If you are really committed to finding an item at the best deal, then make sure to use the advanced search tool.
- Any Doubts: If you have any doubts at all about a seller, do not bid, it is that simple. There are plenty of other sellers out there, and you should never be forced into doing business with a seller you do not feel 100% comfortable with. If you do not like the terms or the way the seller has something written out, then the answer is plain and simple, do not bid. This might seem like common sense, but it is overlooked by many buyers.
- Look at it from another point of view: Sometimes you might read something from a seller, and think “Hey wait that makes no sense!” or “Why is he taking 3 days to respond to my e-mails”. Stop, think, and put yourself in the seller’s shoes for a moment. Think of how many e-mails they might get for a particular item, and then factor in all the items they might have up for bid, and then make sure to include their outside of eBay life. Buyers sometimes expect the seller to be perfect and not make mistakes and act like a real human being.
- Feedback: You are responsible for leaving feedback first once you are satisfied, and it is best to do it in a timely manner. Also make sure to be generous with your feedback. It is best to personalize the feedback, and not just write up some general automatic saved feedback because sellers love reading comments from happy customers. Before leaving negative or neutral feedback, make sure you have tried everything else. Only use this type of feedback as a dire last hope, and even then it does not accomplish much except for warn future buyers.
- Fraud: Careful about any e-mails you receive some “sellers”. They might be second chance offers on something that you did not win, and it will ask you to click a link in the e-mail. The best way to avoid this is to go into your eBay account and check “my messages”. If you do not see the e-mail in there, but it is in your personal e-mail inbox then that is a sure sign of a fraudulent e-mail.
Selling… eBay is a buyers market, and buyers are always going to be looking for great deals. This does not mean it is impossible to sell on eBay, but you must do some research yourself and employ certain strategies.
- 99 Cent Rule: You always see those low starting price auctions, the ones that start under 99 cents. You might wonder why people do that, and what happens if it actually sells for 99 cents. Well here is a general run-down and some of my own thought/input. You can start a cell phone out for 100 dollars, and get a few bids and maybe sell it for $125 in the end, or you can start it off at 99 cents and get plenty of people hooked early on (bidding war) and have the final price go up to $150. But the catch about this is sometimes it won’t go up that high, and it might end up going for $90. It basically depends on the item and the eBay market. If it is something like a cell phone that is popular, it is very safe to say that starting it at 99 cents would enable it to sell for more then starting it at $100. But for something like yarn or an antique collectible where the market is smaller, it would be much better to start the price higher. A note about the 99 cent strategy, sometimes it may look unprofessional to start it at 99 cents because it might seem to the buyer as if you don’t even care and the item might look fake just because of the starting price. People like to start the price low also because eBay charges a lesser starting fee. And as a final note, an item on eBay is only worth what people will pay for it. Don’t expect to get the exact price you want on all the items you list, because as I said before, eBay is a buyers market and people are looking for discounts.
- The Listing: Basically the selling point of the entire item. Let me clarify that, you are not trying to be a salesman, you are just trying to represent the product. You can add some clever phrases such as “This item would be a great addition to any collection!” or “At this price how can you go wrong?” but it is always best to worry about the actual description first. Tell the buyer exactly what they are buying, and if there are any flaws about the item and the condition it is in. Now the following is just my opinion, but I feel many buyers would also share this view with me. When it comes to auction formatting, less is more. It is ok to throw in some basic HTML tables, along with a logo representing your eBay business, but do not go overboard. The last thing a buyer wants is an annoying background, hard to read text, tons of images (making the page load slower), and anything else like that. This also includes not going overboard on your terms. Some eBay sellers will have way too many terms when they could have taken some time and simplified them. Buyers do not want to sort through all that non sense, or they will end up not reading it and moving onto a different listing.
- Title: The most important aspect of the entire listing process. Without a good title, buyers will not be able to find your auction. You are limited to 55 characters, so it is best to try to use all the space you can. This does NOT mean adding random/useless characters and phrases such as “L@@K”, “NR BID NOW”, “***CHEAP***”, or any combination of those. No buyer or seller is ever going to type in those phrases into the eBay search, so those are just worthless. It would be better to fill the title with more words that a potential buyer might search for. If you are going to sell some gold on eBay, a good title might be “1955 Gold $20 Twenty PCGS MS-65 Money Coins”. If someone searches on eBay for the word “Money” or “Coins” the auction will still come up instead of only limiting it to just the word “Gold”. Notice how I also included different variations of words, such as “$20” and “Twenty”. This way you make sure to cover all your bases incase someone searches for something with one of those words. I also do not worry about formatting the title so much with punctuation because that does not matter. I did not use any commas to make it look nice because that space can be better used for more keywords. As a final note, make sure not to do this in your titles, “Playstation PSP…NOT XBOX GAMECUBE GAMEBOY”. Not only does that violate eBay terms, but it is just plain annoying. Of course it is not an xbox, gamecube, or gameboy, it is a PSP.
- Pictures: Without them people will have no visual what-so-ever of the product. If you do not have a way to post ACTUAL pictures of the product, do not waste your time posting the item on eBay. Your auction will cripple without pictures, and your ending price will be significantly less then with good pictures. When taking pictures, it is best to do it against a neutral background such as black or white. You can always set up a piece of poster board or a bed sheet to accomplish this. Avoid having a busy background because all it does is draw the buyer’s attention away from the item. Make sure to have good light sources, such as a very well lit room, or outside in the middle of the day. It is also best to avoid using the flash on the camera, as all it does is make the item look different from what it actually looks like.
- Shipping: Best advice for this is just to use common sense. Don’t ship something in a flimsy package, and make the extra effort to make sure the item is well packed. Make sure to rip off any old labels off the package if it was used before, and try to make it a rule to use at least 3 passes of tape across the top and bottom of the seam of the package. Try to keep the item in the middle of the package, because the corners will get damaged the easiest. Sometimes it is nice to put an invoice in the package, but it is not a necessity. A nice note along with the package is always nice and makes the buyer feel good, and all buyers love tracking numbers so they can track their package and not have to worry about e-mailing you asking about the arrival date.
- Feedback: Do not leave it until the buyer leaves feedback. Make sure when leaving your feedback, you make it personal. The buyer does not want to read some generic feedback, and it will look much more professional and make the buyer feel better about his purchase if you spend 15 seconds and write a personalized comment. Be sure to maintain and keep a high positive feedback rating. I understand mistakes happen, but if someone does in fact leave you a negative or neutral feedback, try to dispute the feedback if it is not true. Also, under every single circumstance, any negative or neutral feedback you receive, make sure to respond and tell your side of the story and assure future buyers. Buyers will be reviewing your feedback, and if they see negative and neutral feedback that is not responded to they might become worried and not bid on the item.
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