My overall experience of 4 years of trading on Ebay, as a sometime seller - but mainly a buyer, has been very positive - and often exciting. The thrill of chasing down a bargain! The disappointment of losing out! Only once have I had to complain to a seller (one of Ebay's highest volume, with a very high rep) about a CD missing from a double set. To be fair I was offered a "credit", which I so far have been unable to use - after over 3 years! 2 things I have experienced of which buyers should be wary:
A) "Feedback Extortion"
My experience is that this is widespread on Ebay, and becoming worse. It occurs after a successful bid or purchase and payment clearance, where the seller promises to leave positive feedback after the buyer leaves his/hers. Often this process is even automated! It is completely UNFAIR on the buyer, and must be contrary to Ebay's regulations. After all, the buyer has already completed his/her duty in paying for the item. As such, he/she has already shown good faith and deserves the feedback. On the other hand, the seller will only merit positive when the goods arrive safely and in the condition stated. Also, the buyer is very often at a disadvantage, almost certainly, having completed far fewer transactions than the seller. This of course means that any neutral or even negative feedback given to the seller in "retaliation" will have a far more damaging effect on his/her rep. The result is that the seller will have gained an undeserved high positive rep. This is a problem which does not only affect a buyer in a particular transaction, but also anyone subsequently considering bidding or buying from that seller. My own feeling is that such sellers in general are trying to hide bad service or exaggerated claims about the sale/auction item.
1. Refuse to give the feedback requested by the seller. This of course will reduce the amount of positive buyer feedback (Although on at least one occasion I can recall not receiving the promised feedback after leaving the requested positive feedback.)
2. Members should set up a personal blacklist of such sellers.
3. Ebay should show the total number of transactions as well as the number of positive feedbacks against the total number of transactions for the seller. Many buyers will not respond to extortion and refuse to give any feedback. This then gives a better idea of the true percentage of good transactions by the seller.
4. Report any attempt to extort feedback in this way to Ebay, with a copy of the offending seller's email.
B) "Second Chance Offers"
This is officially sanctioned by Ebay. I know it happens in live public auctions, and there is often a good reason for it. On Ebay however, there is a high possibility for fraud. This has happened to me on a couple of occasions. On one occasion, after being outbid, I was offered my "second chance" bid within an hour or so. It may have been genuine; but it is also very likely that the seller has set up a "ringer" to extract the maximum bid from genuine bidders. As such, it should not be permitted by Ebay.
Do not respond to "Second Chance Offers". If the item is subsequently relisted, and you still wish to buy the item from this seller check to see if the original "successful bidder" bids again, and if he/she has bid on any of this sellers' recent auctions. If so, report to Ebay as a possible fraud attempt.
Be aware of the extortion or fraud scenarios common on Ebay, such as the above. Refer to this forum for other such scams, despite the above however...
Ebay is overwhelmingly a pleasant and mutually profitable experience for both buyers and sellers. I personally have found many a long-lost treasure, and occasionally supplied 1 or 2. Hopefully I'll continue to trade for many years to come.