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eBay Buyer FAQ

This is a frequently asked questions and answer page provided by BidNip to all eBay bidders (sniping or otherwise). If you have any questions that aren't listed here, please contact us. Before reading this, it may be helpful to read our Introduction to Buying on eBay guide.

How much should I bid?

eBay is great for finding deals, as long as you know what you're looking for and how much the item is worth. Having that information is vital to placing bids in correct amount and saving lots of money.

The first step in getting a great deal is to know the retail or going price for an item. If the item is "new" or still available through retail outlets, the best thing to do is check retail shopping sites like Amazon.com, wal-mart.com, and Buy.com or search sale price consolidation sites like Shopping.com, Price Grabber, and Froogle.com. You can also google for information about the item.

If the item isn't available through retail outlets things can be a bit more tricky. The quickest method is to search through eBay's "Completed Items" search engine. Using eBay's normal search engine, click the Advanced Search link to take you to eBay's Find Item interface. Then, make sure that the "Complete listings only" box is checked. Do the same search you normally would. The results will be a listing of recently completed items matching the search keywords. Browse through to see the closing prices of similar items. Also note that some of the items might not have sold (either through bids below the reserve price, or simply no bids). For items that did not sell, it's possible that either the seller didn't have adequate reputation (poor feedback), or that the items was defective in some way. If the item and seller were good, but the item didn't sell, than the price of the item was set too high, and you may likely find it below that price. Amazon.com and Yahoo!Shopping also have sections with auctions and used items for sale. Double checking both of those sites can also help you determine the going price of an item. Lastly, there are some services that catalog eBay results and can provide sophisticated reports of auction results and pricing. However, in most cases, the price will far outweigh the benefits of a little homework.

What's the best way to search?

eBay's search engine is pretty good but can be a bit overwhelming if you're not sure what you're looking for, or if you're just browsing. eBay is constantly working at upgrading its search engine to make things easier to find (it's in their best interest to have as many buyers for items as possible).

eBay's normal search box is on nearly every page on the site. The search text box on most pages also includes a category filter, but when beginning most searches, we recommend leaving it set as "All Categories" and only filtering after you've browsed the unfiltered results. After submitting your search terms, you'll have eBay's general search results page, sorted by the ending time - soonest first. This view is simple enough to navigate, and if you used less popular keywords, you shouldn't have too many results to sort through. If you have too many, try using eBay's sorting and filtering features.

eBay lets users sort and filter their search results using a number of different parameters. If you know the likely category your item would be listed in, you can filter down the results by clicking on one of the categories listed on the left of the search results page. Or, if your item is very expensive or very cheap, you can sort by price. If the item is heavy or difficult to ship, you can sort results based on how far away the item is from you (you must be signed in to use this filter effectively).

Your choice for keywords is extremely important. If you pick something common like "no reserve" you'll be presented with tens of thousands of results. But, if you're too specific, you'll limit the results and perhaps miss the perfect item. When choosing your keywords, we recommend starting with the most specific words first, then fewer and fewer keywords until you get plenty of results. If you're still not getting lots of results, you can check the "Search title and description" box, but be careful - depending on your keywords, this could return a LOT of useless results. But, you can start filtering from there.

If you're still getting too many results, you can switch over to eBay's advanced search form. The form presents you with a number of filters, including maximum and minimum prices, locations, etc. I've found the most useful of these to be the "Exclude these words" keywords. Many times there will be hundreds of results that you don't want, and this makes it easy to filter them out.

And finally, searching using commonly misspelled words in item titles. Believe it or not, some sellers will make mistakes in the title of the item! What this does is make the item harder to find, thereby getting fewer bidders (and usually a lower price). The hard part is know what was misspelled and how it was misspelled. Fortunately for us, there's several excellent tools to help us guess at misspellings. Sites include AuctionSpeller.com, MisspelledAuctions.com, and ListedWrong.com.

What's the best way to find my favorite items?

If you're sick of trying to remember your searches for all the different types of spellings, all the different sellers you like, and all the different things you collect, eBay provides you with an easy way to remember - My eBay.

In the My eBay section they've thoughtfully included a way to save your searches so you can repeat them any time you want. You can also have the results mailed to you each and every day if you prefer! From any My eBay page, click on the All Favorites -> Searches link. From there you can create and optimize all of your common searches. This is a powerful tool when you're always searching for particular items.

What if the Auction/Seller seems "fishy"?

You've read through the auction and it at first glance there doesn't seem to be anything unusual about the item or the shipping details, but something just doesn't "feel right". In these cases, we always recommend going with your gut feeling and double checking everything before placing your bid. The seller's feedback is important here. Not just that they have a good feedback rating, but that it's consistent with the item they're selling. Examples on inconsistencies would be a long break before they listed this item, a large surge in listing of expensive items, a history of all purchases and no sales feedback, and just general strange or poor feedback.

In general, we always recommend caution, even if it's a one-of-kind item. If you're not comfortable, don't place the bid. eBay is doing a lot of work to limit the scammers and fraudsters - as soon as a pattern emerges, they always try to stop it as soon as possible.

What's a good shipping rate/method?

Although eBay's stopped a lot of the "surprise shipping" charges that unscrupulous sellers used to impose, there's still some items that carry a very hefty shipping fee. eBay requires the sellers to list the shipping expenses, but if it says "actual shipping" or "shipping plus handling" and not a specific number, you should check with the seller BEFORE bidding. I once had to pay $12.50 to ship a single magazine - due to the seller's requirement for FedEx and for a $3.00 handling fee. Make sure you include shipping information in your decision to bid, and the amount to bid.

If possible, check with the seller to ask how they'll pack the item. I once received a used laptop that was literally scotch-taped into a used, ripped, USPS priority box that was too small so part of the computer was sticking out - with no padding what-so-ever. If you're getting breakable items, make sure the seller will pack it correctly.

What should I do after the auction ends?

eBay will always send a winning notification email to let you know you've won the item. Additionally, some sellers (especially the ones using other seller services like Auctiva, etc.), will send direct payment links. We recommend going directly to eBay (by typing it in the address bar of your browser) and signing in, then going through your My eBay links to pay for the item. Unless the seller has specific payment instructions, this is the safest way to proceed. Always check the address bar for the correct domain name and security settings - ebay.com, paypal.com, etc. Many scammers use fake domain names to confuse you, so always double check.

If the shipping amount is not specified in the item description, contact the seller and include your zip code and your preferred shipping method (UPS, FedEx, USPS, etc.). They should be able to get you a shipping rate with that information. Also, don't be afraid to negotiate on the shipping amount - if it's not set before the auction, you should be able to bargain with the seller. They may not budge on price, but it's worth a shot.

What should I use to pay?

When paying for items, we recommend never using cash or checks. The reason to not use cash is obvious - there's no record for when/if they receive the payment, so you'll never be able to prove you paid. Checks are dangerous because they have your checking account information and your signature on them - making it easy for criminals to make duplicate checks using your account information.

Although we've heard of issues with PayPal, we still recommend them for nearly all purchases. Nearly all sellers accept PayPal payment, and many purchases are automatically covered for fraud protection. Please check PayPal.com for details on their account protection tips and fraud protection services.

What should I do if the item is defective/broken/wrong?

The first thing to do is to double check the item - make sure it actually is broken. You'll probably need to go over the item description on eBay to verify that it didn't arrive as promised. Next, contact the seller directly and describe the issue with the item. It's always easier to contact the seller first, rather than PayPal or eBay. When contacting the seller, be as descriptive as possible and also make sure that if you don't hear from them in 48 hours, you'll be contacting PayPal/eBay/Credit Card company/etc. to make sure everything is resolved. The important thing is to be polite and descriptive.

If you don't get a response from the seller, you will need to take matters further. If you used PayPal, you can follow the instructions listed on their Resolution Center web pages. It describes how to address any problems with sellers.

No more questions? Then sign up for BidNip today to get your 5 free snipes.

If you have a question that isn't answered here, please contact us.