A few years ago I had my heart set on buying a sword. I took a few trips to the local antique mall and kept finding myself gazing upon the beautiful Excalibur weapons as they gently rested in their display cases. It was a phase I was going through. That phase led me to an impulse purchase on eBay. As I began to view the results of my eBay search, I saw that there were a few swords for sale and their auctions were ending in under a minute. I quickly examined the prices to see that they were selling for under five dollars! Without reading the auctions terms closely, I threw in a last second bid for a mighty blade.
Check the auction’s shipping terms
Little did I realize that the seller was shipping the sword from Japan, and he was charging $200 to ship it. No wonder it was selling for five dollars and had no bids with under a minute remaining. eBay has recently made changes so that sellers are now unable to charge exorbitant shipping costs. However, It is still important to review the terms of shipping to make sure your item arrives in a timely fashion and not via horse and carriage. It is important to request delivery confirmation or a tracking number, while additional insurance is optional.
One of the things that will help you not only learn more about the item you are bidding on but also learn about your seller is asking questions. It is fairly easy to ask an eBay seller a question, even protecting your email to retain privacy. Asking questions will allow the seller to make a candid response that will enable you to evaluate the sellers professionalism, grammar, and gain valuable details about your desired item. When others ask questions, the seller might opt to post those questions on the auction page for all to view. Reviewing other’s questions often provides additional great info.
If you don’t see a picture, don’t buy it!
As a general rule, don’t pursue and item if there is no picture. Also watch out for stock photos, pictures that are a company produced photo rather than an actual photograph of the item for sale. It is very easy to find a stock photo of nearly any electronic device through Google. Real pictures will reveal wear and tear, defects, and the overall condition of the item for sale. Multiple pictures from different angles provide even greater representation. If I don’t see a picture, I don’t bid.
Don’t take a huge risk
Ultimately, don’t put a bunch of cash towards an auction and trust that things will work out. Many of the mobile electronics for sale on eBay are units that have experienced hard, previous lives in companies. When a business decides to upgrade, they sell the old units in bulk. Those units are cleaned up, “refurbished,” the OS is reinstalled, and they are put on eBay. It’s not always a bad thing as many of these units sell hundreds less than new or certified refurbished machines. Always review the seller’s warranty and return policies. Some sellers will allow for returns, some will not. Some sellers will provide a warranty, while others will not. You might end up with a great deal or a lemon when you buy an item on eBay.
I eventually decided to go ahead and pay five dollars for the sword and told the seller to keep it. Aside from that short-second decision, I’ve had a lot of luck buying notebook computers and electronics on eBay. I have been fortunate to find respected sellers that fully represented the items they had up for auction. I’ve also had friends that lost big bucks for items that were in much worse shape than they were described. In the end, its about researching what you’re getting into and enjoying the outcome.
What have your eBay experiences been? Have you been swindled?
Photo credit: Wm Jas (flickr cc)