NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, October 2003
eBay Hints and Tips
by Cathy Margolin, President
North Orange County Computer Club, California

Buying on eBay
eBay is the largest global marketplace with very low entry cost. Tons of new and used and collectable items are bought and sold every day as there are millions of sellers putting up items that you may not be able to find anywhere else! Last year, eBay users exchanged some $9.3 billion worth of goods. On an average day there may be over 1 million sales occurring.

First off you should start watching some auctions to get a feel for the process. Once you get used to the process, get an eBay id (do not use your e-mail name as your user-id, the spammers will get it!). Then start bidding on small items to learn the process and develop positive feedback. It all runs on feedback. Also multiple user-ids are still ok. Some people use one for selling and another for buying, so as not to let people know their sources.

How to Find What You Want
You can search titles and descriptions such as: Haviland -johann -theo* (which means look for haviland with no johann and no theo* which is a wild card to ignore any theo-----).

You can also look under categories to find an item, but remember not everyone puts their article for sale in the correct categories.

When the seller has tons of items and you want to Only search Palm Pilot, go to seller search, go to the bottom of the page, enter Palm Pilot, and under Multiple sellers, put the person's eBay id (or several id's).

Make sure you check the sellers feedback–too many negatives and neutrals is NOT good. Beware of a seller with no feedback and a large dollar item for sale, they may be good or bad or just not know the ropes yet, but you do not have enough information to trust them with your hard-earned money.

If you have a concern about the seller, ask them a question a few days before the auctions end (such as cost of shipping, do they take Paypal, etc.) to see how they respond.

Use odd numbered cents, such as .99 since the bids go up in increments of 50 cents, $1 (depending on the value of the bid), you may win an item by just one cent.

Think of any auction you have been to – it is only the last price at the close of the hammer that counts! Always snipe -- which is bidding at the last minute. In this auction format, it is only the highest bidder at the close of the auction that wins. If you bid during the week, you keep driving up the price, but bidding at the last second masks interest and usually results in a lower cost. You can use a service (http://www.esnipe.com) which charges a fee or hammersnipe at hammertap.com which does not) or use a program on your own computer.

Bid the maximum amount you want to spend (proxy bidding -- only goes up to this amount if someone places a bid against you). Be aware of the Terms of Sale (TOS) for each seller. They differ greatly.

  • What form of payment do they take?
  • What is the shipping cost, as this can be very high! The Post Office uses zip codes to price shipping, so it is now less complicated.
  • Check out seller feedback and what type of items they usually sell.

A set of tips is at the Vendio site (which also has an online bulletin board about eBay auctions). http://www.vendio.com/service/tipsandtactics/index2.html

How to Pay
To help protect yourself, use a credit card, if possible, Paypal, check or lastly a money order. If the transaction goes wrong, you can stop payment on your check and it is easier to get reimbursed (chargeback) if you use a credit card.

When the item has arrived, don't forget to give feedback to the seller.

eBay is where the market is in online auctions – it is an ever-changing marketplace, where change is constant.

Happy eBay-ing!

There is no restriction against any non-profit group using this review as long as it is kept in context with proper credit given the author. This review is brought to you by the Editorial Committee of the Association of Personal Computer User Groups (APCUG), an international organization of which this group is a member.