Auction tricks traps & catches to avoid. Buyers Beware.

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I, at least, have learned  from this guide, because I saw the red warning lights, chose to ignore them, and ended up with an unsatisfactory buy. I am an experienced bidder - I know the score, and yet I fell for it.

  1. The photograph was lousy and it was impossible to clearly see detail. You couldn't see the split seam, the cracked inlay or the damaged rim.
  2. The seller had a no returns policy. When the rubbish arrives you know why she doesn't want it back!!
  3. The postage cost was inflated. 2nd class postage on a small item like that is 95p yet the seller asked for £2.50 and reused a second hand jiffy bag for delivery. Many sellers ask £1.00 when they quite rightly reuse bags.
  4. The garbage at the end of the listing even included that the item was coming from a smoke free pet free environment. For heavens sake! Why just not include an honest condition report?

People who have been reading this guide don't seem to think there is a lot to learn from the warning signs below, but believe me there is. No matter how experienced you are, the moment that you drop your guard, you get suckered. I just did and I wrote the guide!

A second indirectly connected instance has occurred. I left a minimum bid on an item listed by a dealer I have dealt with before. I was outbid by a bidder with feedback (0). Now this dealer always leaves feedback as soon as he has received payment. A week has gone by and he has not left feedback. Read the warnings on low feedback/multiple identity below and my guide on shill bidding, put 2 and 2 together and you will probably make 4.

Here are a few of the warning signs, red light signals, tricks, catches, cheats and traps for the unwary that can catch out the most experienced of eBayers. Remember: if it looks like fish, tastes like fish, smells like fish, then it probably is fishy!



A low feedback number is not a warning in itself. Everyone has to start sometime. The warning is in the professionalism of the listing’s presentation. Beginners have to learn and one would not expect a highly polished presentation from a seller with a low feedback number. However, that is just what you would expect from an experienced trader who had been suspended from eBay and had restarted under a different identity. Multiple identity is common. I once e-mailed a seller whose auction I had won but he was insisting on direct bank transfer for payment. I received a reply from a different identity with a much lower feedback number. He had forgotten which identity he was currently using!




This is an attractive selling point but it is a point that should be thoroughly checked because it is all too easy to get caught out unless it has rung one of your warning bells. Postage may be free because the seller has selected the delivery option of Personal Pickup Only as the seller’s standard delivery option. You would be well advised to thoroughly check the listing and hope that somewhere, halfway down just before the returns policy, you don’t find

Postage and packaging             To                            Service

FREE                                          United Kingdom         Collection in person

£20.00                                         United Kingdom         2nd Class Recorded

£30.00                                         United Kingdom         1st Class Recorded

You have to check this one carefully as postage and packing charges are not necessarily listed on the Confirm Bid screen.



Postage costs are important. That is why they are at the top of the listing under Current Bid and End Time. If the postage cost is listed as Not Specified then a red warning light should start to flash and you should immediately scan the listing with great care to find the actual p&p cost. Don’t leave it until later because if you forget, with postage cost not necessarily appearing on the Confirm Bid screen, you may find you have committed yourself to £38.00 postage from China. If you can’t find the cost, don’t bid until you find out the real cost by emailing the seller. Even after I have been quoted the price I always treat these listings with suspicion. If the seller wanted to conceal the postage, what else is he concealing? What would the postage have been if I hadn’t asked?

A high postage cost of, say, £10.00 for an article that common sense tells you won’t cost more than £2.50 recorded should not deter you from bidding. Just ask yourself how much in total you are prepared to pay for the item, deduct £10.00, and bid the remainder as your maximum bid.



The seller is as good as telling you that he has set the Buy It Now price artificially high and he is prepared to accept a lower price. If you make a Best Offer bid and have it accepted first time then you must rack that up as a failure. Start low, but not ridiculously so, and work up. Don’t forget that you can bid again and make a higher offer but remember that there is a limit of THREE offers. It is a good tactic to bid for more than one item at a time. The prospect of a multiple sale may tempt the seller to accept a lower offer price than he otherwise would.



When all the information the listing offers is "For condition, see photograph" then every warning bell, red light and hazard flag you possess should all go off together. You can bet that the item has flaws, which are there on the photo, and you are challenged to spot them! If the seller is not prepared to offer a condition report as simple as "the object has a hairline crack to the base" or "the interior shows slight signs of rust", do you really want to deal with this person?



When a seller claims inexperience he is presumably preparing a defence for his misdescription. It is not difficult to state the dimensions, or that there is a 2mm round chip to the enamel in the bottom left corner, or the hinges are slightly loose, or the lid does not close tightly, or in fact any other defect that a normal person would observe if they were to handle the object themselves. If there are no hallmarks then the item is sold as white metal, not silver or yellow metal, not gold. Experience does not come into it. The seller can always say, "I don’t know what the item is".



Why not? If the seller is confident that the item he is selling is fairly described and no obvious faults have been concealed, then there won’t be any returns. By refusing to accept returns the seller is as good as telling you that he expects them.



The fact that the seller feels he needs to include all this garbage is testament to countless past disputes that probably don’t show up in his feedback. The best and fairest dealers on eBay don’t need them.



When a seller resorts to claims of rarity it is usually an attempt to inflate the price. It works too. I have seen the most prosaic of items sell for ridiculous sums as bidders pursue illusory rarity. Items that are listed as RARE!!! Should only be bid for on the days that Allied Carpets don’t have a Sale.

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