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BidSlammer How-To: Top 10 Tips for Buying on eBay, for Beginners Tips for Scrutinizing an eBay Buyer
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So you just a signed up for an eBay account. You've located several items that you might want to buy, but you aren't sure what to do. There are so many listings to choose from, and so much fine print. How can you possibly decide what to purchase?

This friendly guide will tell you everything you need to know to get started buying on eBay. We'll tell you the long and short of it, and perhaps even the "Power Buyers" can pick up some good tips also!

Let's start with the basics, and work our way up. Please note, this article assumes that you have already successfully signed up for a buyer account on eBay. A buyer account does not cost anything, so why not do it now?

Do a quick pscych assessment of the seller.

When I'm surfing for an item, the first thing I do is try to figure out what kind of person the seller is. Do they sell a lot of items? Do people leave them good feedback? Does this seller retaliate against negative feedback? How often do they leave negative feedback for other people? All of these questions can be answered by looking at their feedback rating in the upper right hand corner of each listing.

Your opinions of people in general are based on data points. You can generally predict someone's behavior simply by having a history of them. That's why feedback works: if 10,000 users tell you that they are happy 99% of the time, then you probably have a sure bet.

Be wary of buying items subject to cosmetic wear and tear.

In general, there is a tendency for sellers to get more bids if they provide more images. This is because it gives the buyer a sense of completion, and also one of trust. The more images that the seller can provide, the less likely you are to have some kind of dispute over appearance. If you're buying something like rare books, then you need to be very careful about the items on which you bid. However, if you are bidding on something such as a pack of baby diapers, you are not too concerned if the package gets banged around on delivery.

Use a sniping service to place your bids.

You knew we'd say that, didn't you? :-) It's just human nature to linger around until the end of an auction -- to see if a higher bid is present. "Being there" helps, since other bidders can react quickly to any changes near the end of the auction. (Most of the bid activity occurs near the end of the auction.) As a result, you are likely to overbid simply because your pride will not allow you to lose. Also, it is pretty darn fun to win!

There are many benefits to sniping, primarily the automation. For example, you can go to eBay and pick out five of the same items that you want to buy. Then, you can use the sniping service to bid automatically on each auction as it closes. If you win one, it will stop bidding on the other auctions. This has a tremendous advantage, because it allows you to win the auction at the price that you want, not at a price that you would have normally overbid (if you bid on the auction manually). In addition, other buyers don't "stalk" you, or follow you around -- and bid on the YOUR items -- the ones you spent your precious time trying to find!

For more information on sniping pro's and con's, please click here.

Other benefits include the fact that the bid is automated, so that if you have a slow modem, or if it is just hard in general for you to get on eBay, then the sniping can take care of all that for you. You just turn your computer off, and it does the rest.

The majority of sellers don't like sniping. However they change their mind when they realize 27% of their bids come from snipers!

Never, ever buy outside of the eBay system.

All of my worst Internet transactions are ones I did outside of eBay. When you are standing behind the eBay feedback system, the odds of you having a bad transaction are low, perhaps 1 in 50, based on my own experience. However, if you go outside of the eBay system, the odds of you having an bad transaction are more like 1 in 3. (Again, based on experience.) Even though people's intentions are good, some people get lazy or sloppy without the threat of a public record of their performance.

If someone writes to you and says, "I saw your bid on such-and-such item, and I thought you might be interested in another one that I have," then you write them back and say, "sure, please list the item on eBay and let me know as soon as you have done so. I do not buy outside of the eBay system. Thanks."

On a similar note, never write to someone and ask them if they have extra items for sale, unless you are asking about their making a Second-Chance Offer (see below).

Try searching for misspelled items.

If you buy antiques, try searching for common misspellings of your item. These items have a tendency of being heavily underbid, simply because no one knows that they are there. Most people use only the search engine on eBay to find items, as opposed to using the "browse" links. Click here to see see Google demonstrate 498 different spellings of "Britney Spears autograph."

Make sure to check the ship cost before you bid.

Think you're getting a great deal? A $10 DVD isn't such a great deal when the shipping is $16. Always, always confirm how much you would pay for shipping if you won. If a shipping calculator is available, use it. Several sellers actually make money on the item through the shipping and not through the price of the auction itself. This is a perfectly honest and legitimate way to do business, because there are costs associated with selling items at small prices on eBay.

However, some sellers overcharge on shipping, and are not concerned with any negative feedback they might get, simply because this is their business model. Sellers using this method generally have only a slightly lower rating, maybe even as high as 96% or 97%. Remember, you want 99%.

Therefore, it is important for you to check and make sure that the shipping is reasonable. It is your obligation to do this; you will not be able to hold the seller responsible (especially if it is clearly stated on their ad).

Be aware of the advantages and disadvantages of each payment method.

Now hear this. There is absolutely no method of payment available that protects both the seller and buyer from miscommunications. That is why if you have any questions at all, make sure to contact the seller first.

In addition, there is absolutely no method of payment available that guarantees that you will get a refund "no matter what". Most people always try to do the right thing, but sometimes there are miscommunications or hard feelings. Here is a list of the advantages and disadvantages of all the variod payment methods that are available.

      Money Orders.   The money order is a good method of payment, although some sellers do not take it because money orders can be canceled just like checks. Many sellers have learned the hard way. However, as a buyer, you are generally well-protected. Just be aware that if there is some kind of problem, you have only 90 days or sometimes 30 days to cancel the money order and get your money back. You do not have to give a good reason for the cancellation. Also, make sure to use post office money orders to ensure the same consistency of service.

      PayPal.   Using PayPal is another good method of payment, however if your item arrives damaged, PayPal will not get involved in a dispute. If you file a claim, PayPal will ask you if the item was not received, or if the item was damaged or not as described.

If you specify that the item was not received, and if the seller has a valid tracking number, they will win the dispute. However, if you specify that the item was not as described, PayPal will automatically send you a form letter saying that they do not get involved in those types of disputes, and they will close the dispute and take no further action. Therefore, you may want to avoid using PayPal in situations where cosmetic appearance, or wear and tear are of importance to you.

      Credit cards.   Paying by credit card is wonderful, because most credit card companies have good facilities to allow you to dispute the charge if there is some kind of problem. Most credit card companies require a signature, and you are not required to give a signature for the eBay transactions. Therefore, when sellers accept credit cards, they are hoping that the buyer will contact them to resolve any disputes. The buyer essentially has the power to make a purchase over the Internet, possibly for thousands of dollars, and then dispute the charge -- and win! -- depending on how stubborn the credit card company is, or how much documentation is provided. So, if you have good intentions and want to pay quickly, then you should strongly consider using a credit card to pay. "I use a credit card whenever I can," says an acquaintance of mine.

      Check Cards.   Paying by check card or debit card for eBay translations is not recommended. This is just my personal opinion; you really do not want small businesses to get a hold of your debit card number. People make mistakes, and you might accidentally be charged for something you didn't mean to buy. This has happened to me before. These types of transactions are very difficult to dispute because you have a 30-day window. An unfavorable transaction might take longer than that. After that, your bank won't do anything. So we recommend against using a check or debit card.

Keep an eye out for Second-Chance Offers.

eBay has a controversial feature called the Second-Chance Offer. This feature entitles you to contact the seller of items that have closed and ask them if they have any more items of the same kind. The seller can use eBay's Second-Chance Offer to make you a discounted offer for the same item. Yes, this does sort of tick off the people that won (assuming they find out about it). But in general, the seller is entitled to sell anything to anyone they want -- at any price. So you might want to poke around for Second-Chance Offers.

Cut the seller some slack!

If you have followed the above guidelines, then you have probably bought from a seller that has a high reputation. If something goes wrong with your order, or if perhaps you do not receive an e-mail response, please give them a little bit longer than the agreed-upon 72 hours. You should, in general, never expect to receive response within 72 hours, because you agreed to be wait that long when you agreed to eBay's guidelines.

However, if the seller takes a little longer to reply, it could be for many reasons. Perhaps they had a death in the family. Perhaps they overlooked your e-mail. Most likely you can resolve any confusion by telephoning them if possible, or simply waiting as long as a week to hear from them.

Remember, you can always leave negative feedback for the seller if you're not satisfied. If you feel that you must do so, please at least tell the seller in advance -- and give them a few chances to respond professionally. (And remember, they can retatilate! So it is always in your best interest to try to work things out.)

Look out for 89th-day feedback!

eBay allows 90 days for the buyer and seller to leave feedback for each other. A party can potentially wait until the 89th day to leave negative feedback, thus not allowing the other party time to respond. So be on the look-out for this kind of situation.

Best of luck!

We hope that these tips will make you a successful eBay buyer. Once you really get the hang of it, we hope that you will use BidSlammer services to manage all of your eBay buying needs, including searching, search archival, group-bidding, and last-second bidding placement. will definitely make your eBay experience a positive one.

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