Online auctions have become a great place to find bargains on a very wide range of products. By far the largest name in online auctions is eBay. If you are a savvy bidder you can pick up some tremendous bargains in eBay auctions. We have been buying and selling products on eBay since 1998. Here are some of our favorite bits of advice for new eBay buyers.
Buying Tips for eBay Auctions
- After locating the items you wish to buy, watch several similar auctions to determine a range of selling prices for each item. You may be very surprised to see the exact same item selling for huge differences in price. While looking for a particular software package that retails for $99, we observed different auctions for the same software product that closed with a bid price range of $17 to $69. Real bargains can be found if you understand the bid range for a product and shoot for the low-end of the bid range.
- Check out the shipping charges for a product before you bid. Some eBay sellers cover potential losses on low-price items by charging outrageous shipping and handling fees. Consider the total cost of the product (bid price plus shipping cost) when you bid.
- Do spend time checking out the reputation of the sellers whose products you may want to bid on. eBay makes this easy by providing buyer and seller feedback comments and ratings regarding a transaction. This information is a bit skewed in favor of positive feedback, because any time a buyer is unhappy and leaves a negative feedback comment, they will most likely receive a negative feedback in return from the seller. A negative feedback does not affect the ability of a buyer to bid on items, but it can significantly impact a seller’s creibility and it can discourage people from bbidding on auctions from sellers who receive numerous negative feedbacks. It’s a good idea to check out any negative comments left for a seller, and also check out the comments he or she left for the buyer. You can learn a lot about the likelyhood of running into problems if you spend a few minutes reading feedback information.
- If a seller includes sales terms on their auction page, make sure that you read and understand the terms before you bid. Sometimes sellers will only ship via Fedex or a service that requires a signature. Make sure that you can receive the product however it is shipped. Some sellers or shipping companies will not deliver to a Post Office box, so make sure that you understand how the product will be shipped before you bid.
- Don’t bid too early in the process. If the auction has five more days to run, bidding early just drives up the bid price because several others will most likely bid on the product before the auction closes.
- Watch for auctions that close at unusual times, such as 11 PM Pacific time, which is way past bedtime for most Americans and Canadians. Also, ads that close during regular monday through Friday working hours are good targets. Why? Because you will not have very much bidding competition as the auction closes. Many auctions experience the highest rate of bidding during the last few minutes that the auction runs.
- Consider becoming a stealth bidder. Most successful auction buyers use this tactic very effectively to obtain tremendous bargains.
- How much should you bid? That depends upon how much you are willing to pay for something and still call it a bargain. Don’t bid more than what you feel is a fair price. Watch for items with a Buy it Now price posted. That basically means that you can skip the auction process and buy the item for a fixed price. Once again, it’s a good idea to know the bid range for the item before you purchase it. Having that information makes it easier to determine a fair price to pay.
- Do follow up after winning an auction and pay promptly. Some sellers will leave a positive feedback comment immediately after receiving a payment. This is a sign that they are confident that they believe that you will be pleased with the product. If you are happy with the product and service, make sure to respond with a positive feedback for the seller. Sellers always appreciate positive feedbacks.
- Don’t try to negotiate the shipping costs or the item price after the auction closes. An auction is a legally binding contract and you are required to pay the price agreed upon through your bid.
- If you are bidding on a fragile item, such as glassware or something that can easily be damaged in shipment, seriously consider paying for insurance. As a general rule, sellers are not responsible for shipping damage unless the product was packaged poorly. If the item is shipped via UPS, the first $100 of insurance is generally included. Shipping insurance is an additional cost with items shipped via the US Postal Service. Shipping insurance is optional with most auction items. If you use PayPal, watch for this option during the checkout process.
- If you have a problem with the quality of the product or if it has been fraudulently represented in the eBay auction, don’t immediately leave a negative feedback for the seller. Doing so will cut off any room for an accommodation from the seller and will pretty much guarantee a negative feedback in return. Give the seller a chance to make it right. Many sellers will return a portion of the price or allow you to return the item if they made an honest mistake in the wording of their ad. Shipping damage that is beyond their control is another issue.
Things to Watch Out for with Auctions
The following are all red flag items that should cause you to more closely scrutinize an auction. Not all eBay sellers are honest, and eBay has a difficult time policing sellers due to the large volume of transactions. You therefore need to spend some time reviewing each auction before you bid. Be aware that the following issues add risk to the transaction.
- A seller with less than 99% positive feedback. Negative feedback frequently means unhappy buyers or misrepresented products. Almost every seller gets a few negative feedbacks. Make sure that you read the feedbacks to see how the issue is handled by the seller.
- Foreign sellers shipping items out of China, Hong Kong or other countries where the incidence of counterfeiting is high. Most foreign sellers are legitimate, but many that ship products from some geographic areas are selling counterfeit goods. Counterfeit and bootleg products are fairly commonplace on eBay for software products, DVDs, watches and some types of clothing. If you see someone selling 200 copies of Microsoft Office XP for $19.95 each, you should be suspicious.
- You will find that many eBay buyers will not bid on items from sellers with only a few feedbacks. This is because new sellers are frequently not familiar with the rules and etiquette related to eBay auctions. You can get some good bargains from new eBay sellers if they are honest. But it is wise to be very cautious about bidding on any expensive items with new sellers.