Yes, I know eBay has both a Buyer’s Guide and a Seller’s Guide, which are designed to help buyers, and sellers transact, navigate, and feel comfortable on eBay. Has anyone read those guides? I doubt that no more than 1 buyer in 50 reads the Buyer’s Guide. I am sure most sellers have not read it or at least looked at it recently.
So, I have put together some thoughts based on well over 19,100 eBay sales and a decade’s worth of my wife purchasing on eBay (almost 4,000 transactions) that will make transacting far less stressful and far more enjoyable.
EBay can be a very nice place to buy items (ask my wife), and certainly a fine place to sell items if both buyers and sellers follow these few rules.
BE A SMART EBAY MEMBER:
With a decade of sales on eBay I have seen some of the dumbest things happen on eBay. They should create a TV show where someone just reads EBay dumb stories and this show would be a top ten hit and there would be enough stories to keep the show running for a century. On the buyers side I have seen more clueless eBay buyers than there should be. Many do not understand that eBay is for most purposes an auction site. Many don’t understand what an auction is and what that entails, and that buying from an eBay seller means that you have usually bought from a private individual who is usually selling something that is used. EBay is not Amazon and most eBay sellers are not professional sellers. Most sellers are not companies and most have no store. Most usually hold down a 9-5 jobs in addition to selling on eBay. That being the case, don’t expect a seller to respond as quickly as a store would and don’t expect a seller to work more hours than you do. If it’s late a night, expect the seller to have a life like yours, free from work issues. If it’s a weekend, don’t be surprised if the seller does not respond until the weekend is over.
A large percentage of buyers do a poor job of really researching the item they are interested in and the seller who is selling the item. One of the best things about eBay, and usually eBay’s best-kept secret, is that it offers so much information regarding the item for sale. Unfortunately most buyers are terrible at navigating the perceived complex eBay pages and never take advantage of this wealth of information. As a buyer, did you know that just clicking on the seller’s feedback rating is not enough? EBay tabulates feedback two ways—buyer and seller feedback. Since many sellers are also buyers, it would be a wise thing for a buyer of an item to see exactly how many of the seller’s positives are actually earned as a seller. Since EBay does not allow negative feedback to be posted against a buyer, every purchase a seller makes gives that seller the chance to boost their positive ratings and ALSO dilute their negative ratings. Don’t take my word, see this for yourself. Look at the seller’s total feedback by clicking on the feedback total on the auction page. Next, click the as a buyer tab. More often than not you will see a considerable, often significant, amount of positives earned as a buyer. Even more surprising, you may see that the person you were looking to buy from actually has far more positives as a buyer than a seller. This may or may not worry you, but at minimum, it gives you more information about the seller than you originally had. If you go further and look at the purchases that seller has made recently (and gained positive feedbacks on), many will be the items that seller is now selling on eBay. What a surprise. This has been one of my main complaints regarding eBay’s feedback system. Feedbacks earned, as a buyer should not be included in the feedbacks earned as a seller. Moreover, you should really look at the feedbacks, especially the negatives and the Star Ratings. If the seller has a history of not describing the item correctly, not shipping items well, overcharging on shipping, or being a poor communicator, the buyer should walk away from that auction and not bid. Unfortunately, most buyers won’t walk away. The thought/hope of getting a bargain will cloud their thinking. While not checking into whom they are transacting with (and not listening their inner voice telling them that the auction seems too good to be true) is a big problem buyers face, the biggest failure of a buyer is not reading the whole listing and not asking questions about the item. EBay instructs buyers to do this (on several pages of the Buyer’s Guide) but most will never follow this important advice and most will make far too many assumptions regarding the transaction.
Many sellers are just as guilty and do a poor job of selling the item and often don't use their best judgment. Many have little experience communicating as a seller, shipping as a seller, and more importantly, the expertise to sell the item correctly. Many rarely think about their eBay responsibilities as being important and many assume the buyer is not as smart as they are. Many will list items as “as is, with no returns” even after they assure the prospective buyer that the item is as described and works perfectly. They will ship an item poorly, gouging the buyer with ridiculous shipping fees, and make the buyer wait forever for the item instead of shipping an item AS IF THEY WERE THE BUYER. (This means, shipped promptly and well protected.) Many will try and unload their garbage, worn, non-working junk and not mention that the item is practically worthless or useless. They will have a huge smile on their face when the item sells and they are paid quickly but that smile will quickly disappear when the buyer files a complaint with PayPal, eBay, or any other authority. They will invariably lose the PayPal complaint and their credit will be ruined or at minimum, frozen. Most just don’t get it! If they describe an item as working, it better be working. If it is described as like new, it better look like new. Anything less is not acceptable. Anything less is considered fraud.
BEING ACCOUNTABLE AND FAIR IN THE EBAY TRANSACTION:
If a buyer wins an item they are expected to pay for it. That is the eBay rule and there really is no grey area. Many buyers do not understand how eBay works. When an auction has ended successfully with a bid, the seller is charged two sets of fees--final value and listing fees--that no seller likes to lose. Not paying for an item will quickly turn the transaction to the bad side. Moreover, if you made a mistake and won the wrong item, email the seller but do not expect him to release you from your transaction obligation. Don’t insult the seller by blaming eBay for a wrongly placed bid—that’s impossible since eBay uses a two-step process before you place a bid. Moreover, if you have not read the whole listing, don’t blame the seller for things mentioned in the listing that you missed. Be accountable and fair and accept your mistake.
On the seller’s side, it’s imperative that the item is described accurately and any obvious flaws are mentioned. If you did not test the item, don’t say you did in the listing. If you claim it works and the buyer tells you it does not, apologize and take responsibility for your mistake. Be Fair and do the right thing to make the buyer happy by taking the item back and offering an acceptable refund. If you act this way all should end well. If you take a hard stance and blame the buyer, or are unwilling to resolve the problem, you will end up on the short end with a negative and a fraud complaint that will be far worse than admitting your error. Since both eBay and PayPal are more often than not on the buyer’s side in any complaint, it’s smarter to loosen your stance, stop pumping your chest, and do what it takes to end the transaction in a civil manner.
BE REALISTIC AND HONEST:
If the item looks like junk in the listing, do not expect anything better. If the seller has described the item as being vintage, that means it is old and do not expect it to look, smell or even feel, like new. On eBay, when a seller claims the item to be a bargain, it RARELY ever means that it is being given away at a bargain price and is worth a lot more. Bargain usually means that either something is cosmetically or functionally wrong with the item. If the seller claims it is not pristine, don’t expect it to be pristine. If the seller claims not to know anything about the item or mentions it has not been tested, do not expect it to be fully functional. Reading the listing, looking at the photos, asking for additional shots will help you make the right decision. Moreover, a buyer should be honest with the seller. If they made a mistake in placing a bid, own up to it and see if the seller will help them out. If the buyer needs time to pay for the item, bring this to the seller’s attention BEFORE winning the item. If the buyer damaged the item, be honest and tell the seller rather than try to get a fraudulent refund. I have had camera buyer’s send me back a non-working camera claiming it failed. Upon inspection I have found, sand in the camera, broken mount mechanisms, and even water damage. These items were shipped right back to the buyer and by lying to me I offered them no help getting the item the abused repaired.
On the seller’s side, they too should be realistic, and honest. If the buyer pays promptly, return the favor and ship promptly. Don’t make [promises that you are not willing to keep. If you claim you ship quickly, do so. Don’t make statements about an item that are untrue. By that I mean, don’t oversell your item. If the item is an average performer, say so. Don’t make it out to be better than it is. I have seen so many sellers of photo gear calling consumer level items professional level. This attracts unknowing buyers and will definitely bite the seller in the butt if the buyer finds out he did not buy a pro level item and bought a low-level consumer item. Honesty is a lost art, especially on eBay and I have seen more and more sellers trying to get over on buyers. This is why eBay has skewed the feedback rating to punish bad sellers and this is why eBay has created the star system to rid the community of bad performers. Being honest is a given. If you are not the original owner of the item, don’t lie and say you are. If you haven’t tested the item, don’t say you did. If the item has flaws you know of, mention them. You may not get as much for the item but at least you will not be fighting an item not as described complaint with PayPal, that you most likely will not win.
Here is another of my peeves—sellers who steal my images and copy. I have no respect for lazy sellers who use other people’s intellectual property as their own. If you can’t think about what to say about an item, be honest and just tell the buyer you really know about it. Copy theft is illegal on eBay and illegal in the US.
EBay members are sometimes poor communicators. Maybe it's an internet thing. Maybe members are just tired after a hard day of work. Nonetheless, communication is critical for internet transactions to work and buyers and sellers have to put in the time and effort to communicate properly. If I had a dollar for every buyer that bought an item from me and did not pay or respond to communication, I would be rich. Typically the poor communicator is a member with less than 25 transactions on eBay and they feel they do not need to respond to phone calls or emails and they are not worried about fulfilling any eBay responsibilities. This brings up a secondary part of being communicative—make sure your contact information is current. A seller has only two ways to communicate with a buyer—by phone or email. If your telephone number linked to your eBay account is not current, they cannot call you if there is a question or problem. If your email address is old, update it. There is nothing more frustrating that trying to reach someone ands their phone number has been disconnected or is incorrect and their email address is wrong. If you want to have a hidden identity, don’t join eBay.
On the seller’s end, many are worse communicators than buyers. I suspect many think that since they are controlling their destiny on ebay that poor customer service and poor communication is okay. If I had a dollar for every unanswered email my wife has sent a seller, we’d be rich. What does it take to answer an email—a minute of your time, that’s all. If you want to sell your item, answer emails promptly.
BE A GOOD EBAY COMMUNITY MEMBER:
If you do all of the above, that is, if you are smart, accountable and fair, realistic and honest, and if you are communicative, then you are a good eBay community member.