Welcome to Ebay Shopping 101. You are the select few, chosen to be trained as sharp-shooting Ebay bidders, capable of finding the best deals and winning every auction. So pull up a chair and let’s get started.
Shopping on Ebay isn’t really like shopping on Amazon or any other shopping site. On most sites, you search for the product you like, find it, and if there are enough left, you buy it at the best fixed price you can find and then wait for it to arrive in the mail. On Ebay, not so much.
There are a few important things you need to know when you decide to buy something on Ebay. These things involve doing your research about the timing of the end of the auction, details about the seller, and of course details about the product that’s actually being sold. Ebay is a great place to buy some really cool stuff at amazing prices, but you’ve got to be a little more careful, because in most cases you aren’t dealing with a major business with a reputation and a brand to protect. Often you’re dealing with someone selling that “really cool” stuff right out of their own home.
There’s nothing wrong with that, but it means that you have to go about doing business a little more carefully.
Searching for Things to Buy
Lesson number one is this – you really shouldn’t bid on just anything on Ebay. If you do, you’re far more likely to lose your money and not get the product that you want. On the other hand, if you follow the rules outlined here, you’ll have a pretty good success rate, and very low odds of ever losing your money or getting a bad deal.
When you’re searching for what you want, listings have options at the top to switch between “Buy It Now” sales, or just “Auction” sales. Most people prefer straight auction sales because you can get much better deals. Of course, if you’re in a hurry and want more of an Amazon experience, then you can go with a “Buy It Now” sale – but the need to research the seller is no less important.
Pro-tip #1; if you are a collector and find yourself searching for the same sorts of items on Ebay over and over, you can click on “Follow this search” as a convenient way to quickly see new items that show up.
Pro-tip #2; if you’re new to Ebay, sorting by “Time: ending soonest” is one of the best ways to get the lowest price on anything at all on Ebay. Of course, this also depends on the time of day that you’re able to do the search. There are prime hours to be a buyer when prices are lowest, and there are prime hours to be a seller when prices are highest. Your best bet as a buyer is to bet on the sellers that don’t realize this, and have posted their auctions to end during the prime time for buyers.
Aibek actually explained this best when he wrote that searching Ebay during major events or TV specials when most people won’t be online, is the smartest way to get a great eBay deal. The idea here is to shop when competition is the lowest. Some people shop on Friday nights during mid-summer, during major holidays, during very early morning hours in the U.S. – just be creative.
Once you sort the items by when they are ending, it’s time to scroll down the list and find the item you want that’s about to end in just a few minutes – or up to 30 minutes from now. Waiting 30 minutes to bid on something isn’t such a bad thing if you get a smoking deal out of the wait.
Once you find the item that you want, then it’s time to move on to the next phase of your research.
Researching the Seller
Pro-tip #3; when you buy the item that looks perfect, don’t just bid on it immediately. First, you need to do your homework or else you’ll end up in a bad situation, and with a really bad taste in your mouth whenever you think of Ebay. To keep every experience you have buying on Ebay on a positive note, you need to make sure you know everything there is to know about the seller.
You can see the seller information just off to the right of the “Time left:” area of the auction. Make sure you pick an item with at least 15 minutes or so remaining so you have the time to do your seller and item research.
First click on the number next to the seller name, and that’ll take you to the seller feedback page.
I know a lot of people who only buy from sellers that have 100% feedback rating for the last 12 months. That might give you nearly perfect odds to never have any issues with anything you purchase on Ebay, but it can also really limit what you can bid on. The truth is, there are a whole lot of fantastic sellers who, through no fault on their part, ended up getting negative feedback from bad buyers.
You can identify patterns like this pretty quickly when you examine the feedback ratings for buyers, which are broken up into 1 month, 6 month and 12 month sections. For example, this buyer only had one piece of negative feedback within 12 months, but zero negative feedback as far back as 6 months ago.
Of course, there were two neutral feedback ranks, so you’ll want to scroll down and see what those were all about. In this case, the buyer said that the seller was a “bad communicator”. The other neutral feedback was unintelligible. It looks to me like the feedback ranking for this particular seller is pretty stellar despite the fact that the overall rank score is 98.6%.
Of course, you will want to scroll down and find that negative rating just to make sure it wasn’t something completely horrible on the part of the seller. In this case, the buyer only wrote that the “Seller refused to complete transaction”.
Given the overwhelming number of positive feedback rankings, I think it’s safe to say that this particular negative score – and the failure to complete the transaction – was probably the fault of the buyer, not the seller.
Researching the Item
Once you’re satisfied with the seller, it’s time to research the item. Pro-tip #4; take the time to research the item. Don’t just scan, because there may be some details about the item that you want to know about before you buy it. Remember, like I said above, this is likely someone selling a used item right from their home – so it’s probably not going to be perfect. Make sure you know about every imperfection there is.
Most good sellers will make sure to note any imperfection whatsoever – so don’t just skim the item description. Read it.
Another important factor to check is the shipping. Different sellers have different methods of shipping – and sometimes they might actually overcharge for shipping, so you need to know about this before you bid and end up facing a surprise with the final bill. Beyond the shipping cost, check out where the item location is so you have some realistic idea how long it’ll take to get to you.
You’ll also want to be sure the seller accepts the form of payment you want to use. In most cases that’s PayPal, so make sure PayPal is accepted before you bid!
How to Snipe and Win Every Time
Pro-tip #5; the best deals come from everything above, but the most important advice of all is taking the time to bid in such a way that you’re nearly guaranteed to win the option.
This is especially important if the item is being closely followed by a lot of interested people, like the one shown here.
With 13 minutes, you’ve researched the item and the buyer and you’ve decided you want the item. The first thing to do is make sure you’re properly logged into Ebay. The last thing you want is a login-request at the last second when you want to bid. Then, right click on the “Place bid” button and open it in a new window.
Move that window over to the side – or even better, to a different screen, so you can watch the timer countdown on the item page itself. Type in your maximum bid in the “Your max bid:” field.
Don’t mess around here. Stretch yourself as far as you’re willing to go. For example, in the case above, I only wanted to bid $160 at the most. Now, sure I could bid exactly $160, but if there’s anyone else looking for the laptop at the same price, they’re likely going to bid $160, $160.01, or $160.50 – the most common techniques to win at a certain price. To outbid all of those folks, I’ve bid $160.97.
Now that you’re on the “Confirm Bid” page, it’s just time to wait for the countdown.
This is the the important part, and it’s where most people freak out and bid too early. Since you’re on the very last confirmation page – just one step away from officially placing your bid, wait until the very last moment, providing only enough time for computer and Internet lag – about 15 to 20 seconds.
Breathe slowly, don’t panic, and keep your cool. When the clock clicks down under 15 seconds or less, just go ahead and click the “Confirm Bid” button, and wait for the confirmation page that you’re the winner of the auction. Congratulations!
What eBay advice can you give our readers? Did you come up with any useful pro-tips of your own while you were shopping?
Image Credits: Shopping time Via Shutterstock