Bidding wisely on eBay
EBay can be the discount shopper’s paradise. It’s where you can find like-new electronics, brand new designer clothes and accessories, and anything else your heart might desire, most of the time for a fraction of their retail price. Well, that’s the idea anyway. EBay is supposed to be the place to get great bargains. As a seller though, I’ve seen some crazy buyer activities that make me wonder if some think they’re at Sotheby’s bidding on an original Picasso. EBay is a tourist trap for the impulsive, competitive, and impatient shopper. But if you follow a few simple rules, eBay can be a gold mine of saved dollars. Keep in mind that I’m referring to things that are easily accessible in stores or online for retail price. Sold out or rare items is of course a different animal and can very well be compared to an auction at Sotheby’s.
Don’t pay more than it costs on Amazon. It seems obvious, but believe me, some go to eBay before they go to Amazon or buy.com and end up paying more than retail price from some random dude on eBay. It’s not a given that things sold on eBay is cheaper than anywhere else. Do a quick search on Amazon to find the price you are trying to stay under.
Don’t get drawn into a bidding war. Most of the time, the listings that sell at an unusually high price is due to a bidding war between two people rather than a bunch of people bidding on it. Maybe it’s the competitiveness, maybe it’s the fact that the bidder has already invested time and energy into that listing, maybe it’s the “just a few more dollars” mentality. Whatever the case, don’t get caught in a bidding war. If you see someone aggressively trying to outbid you, just step away from the computer. Move on to the next listing. It’s the guy who wins that bidding war who will feel more foolish in the end.
Don’t bid until the last minute (otherwise known as sniping). Keep refreshing until it’s down to 10-30 seconds (depending on how confident you are at your speed). Then place your bid. A lot of times people are hesitant to put their maximum bid price because they want to wait and see if anyone else is going to bid. So by putting the bid in at the very last second, you can avoid a bid war and more likely be able to get the price you want. Also, it gives you little time to add “just a few more dollars” to your bid. Bid the maximum you're willing to pay and see if you win. This is by far the most effective way to buy on eBay. There is no reason to place your bid early. You don’t need to advertise your interest.
Look at other sellers’ Buy It Now price. A lot of times sellers underprice their items. Maybe they want to get rid of it earlier or they haven’t done their research. If you see a few auctions that ended recently go above a Buy It Now price that a seller currently has it for, that’s probably a good price to buy it at. Only do that if you see auctions that ended recently sell at a higher price. Otherwise, it’s better to follow a few auctions and try to bid.
Peak times. The time the auction ends matters. If it's pretty late or very early in the day, chances are there will be less people trying to bid at the last minute.
Read read read. Take some time to read carefully the description of the item you are bidding on. People will sell empty boxes, dead electronics, and damaged goods. Some will also hide their price in outrageous shipping fees. Read their description, ask questions, check their feedback, and really feel comfortable about the seller before bidding. There is no shortage of sellers, so be picky.
Hopefully these basic rules will allow you to get bigger and better bargains, making shopping a guilt-free experience at the world's online marketplace.