Buying clothing on Ebay - guide for newbies

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OK, you've probably noticed by now that there is a huge array of clothing available on ebay. You can buy anything from men's tights (if that takes your fancy) to stunning, top quality ladies dresses to adorable kids clothes.

The best aspect of being a clothing buyer on ebay is that it is a buyers market. It is like that because there are always plenty of sellers offering their wares and competing with each other. Clothing is one of the most competitive categories on the site and this directly benefits you - the buyer.

This guide will help you find the right gear at the right price and help you avoid the common pitfalls associated with online shopping.

Finding the right items

If you are looking for a single piece or a whole new outfit, ebay is a great place to search. I would advise searching by keyword for what you want, i.e "tunic top size 10" or "black evening gown"

The chances are that you will get either hundreds or thousands of results. The next thing to do is refine your search. You can specify new or used, auction or buy it now, location, sizes and colours. You can also filter out listings with certain words. For example, if you are searching for a leather jacket and there are lots of matches for leatherette jackets, you can filter out the word leatherette to remove those listings from your results.


ALWAYS read the listing in FULL. If you just skim over the details and then bid, you could find that you are bidding on something completely useless for your purposes. Check the item condition and the description. Look for measurements as well as sizes as different brands have different interpretations of sizes. If you are unsure, measure yourself. It will help you make better decisions about which garments to buy/bid on. Here's how to do it;

Bust/chest measurement: this is the measurement underneath your armpits. Just put the tape around yourself and add another inch or so, depending on how you like your clothes to fit.

Waist: Again, pretty simple stuff. Just add another inch for comfort.

Inside leg: Measure from where your groin meets your leg to around about your ankle. Allow a bit more if you are buying bootcut jeans or trousers.

If a listing does not have the actual measurements, you can use the contact seller function to ask for them. Don't be afraid to ask reasonable questions. If the seller wants your business, they will get back to you.


Types of seller

Ebay sellers really are a very mixed bunch. You should always know what type of outfit you are dealing with. You can usually get a good idea about a seller from looking at their feedback. ALWAYS check the feedback. If alarm bells start ringing, walk away. The odd negative/neutral feedback does not mean a seller is bad, you need to make your own judgement based on their feedback and comments. If a seller has lots of recent negative feedback or lots of item not received comments, it's fair to assume that the seller is going under and you should take your business elsewhere.

Outlet stores

 At the fat end are the outlet stores, big famous names including retailers and manufacturers. These sellers make hundreds of sales per week and often sell end of line stock at reduced prices. Personally, I find that their prices are often not low enough to tempt me. There's also the fact that you may only be one of 100,000 customers so you may not get the attention you deserve if you have questions or any problems with your purchase.


Top rated sellers

Top rated sellers (TRS) are sellers who have earned a reputation for good trading and customer service through feedback from their buyers. TRS's have to generate a certain amount of sales whilst maintaining high customer satisfaction to keep their status. You are not guaranteed to get great service from these sellers but the chances are good.


Smaller business sellers

Many business sellers, like myself, would be a TRS but do not currently generate enough sales. Just because a seller does not have a TRS badge, it does not mean you will not get top notch service. An ambitious small-time seller will often offer great prices and a friendly service.


Private seller

Private sellers are what ebay used to be about. Individuals selling their own personal items (often starting very cheaply) to recoup a few quid. They will mostly be selling used items that they could live without. Most ebayers start off like this and there are some very nice private sellers who will go the extra mile for their buyers. Try to be patient with regards to despatch time as most private sellers have day jobs/kids/families just like you. 

IMPORTANT NOTE: Private sellers listing lots of brand new items are usually businesses trying to deny the buyers their legal rights under the Distance Selling Regulations. This means that you do not get the automatic right to return for a refund.



Usually low feedback sellers offering big household names at ridiculous prices. There's a good chance that they are either fake or don't actually exist. Always be weary of offers that are too good to be true.

Chinese / Hong Kong sellers

I've never bought from China and I never will. By the time your item turns up, you may well find that you are out of time to get your money back if there is a problem. There are several real horror stories about prom/wedding dresses from China that arrive here looking like they were put together by a five year old. I'm not saying don't buy from China but just be really careful if you do.


Auction/Buy it now

Sellers can list items with different sale price options and these are:

Auction: Starts at the minimum price and goes up depending on who bids what. The easiest way to bid is to enter the maximum price you would pay and leave it at that. If other bids come in, ebay will bid for you up to your maximum. If you get outbid that just means that someone else was prepared to pay more.

Auction with BIN: If you think something migh go for more than the BIN price, gobble it up straight away for a guaranteed price instead of fighting in out with rival buyers. Once a bid is placed, the BIN is no longer available.

BIN or best offer: Basically, this means that the item is not worth the BIN price but you can make a reasonable offer. Some sellers accept around 40% less than the BIN price so don't be afraid to make a hard-nosed offer.


Item condition

Sellers use acronyms to descbribe the condition of an item. Common examples are:

BN - brand new

BNWT - brand new with tags

BNIP - brand new in pack

NWOT - New without tags

Some cheeky sellers state BN but then in the listing state something like "worn only once, like new". If it's worn then it isn't new! This is mis-describing and deserves bad feedback.

Payments and postage

I really cannot stress enough that you need to check the listing for the P&P cost. You will have to pay this cost on top of the item price.

Many bad sellers inflate the P&P cost to squeeze every last penny from their buyers and this practice is wrong. A reasonable P&P cost for clothing is the stamp price + anything up to £1 to cover a mailing bag and queueing up in the post office etc. Anything more is just shameful. If you don't agree with the P&P cost, don't bid.

Clothing should be sent in a non-pourous package like a plastic mailing bag.

Many sellers like myself charge ONLY the actual postage cost and then give further discounts for multiple purchases. This way the buyer can make genuine savings, making for a better deal all round.

Sellers who really want your business will give you a bunch of payment options including PayPal (mandatory), cheque or postal order. Note that payment by cheque will delay postage as the seller has to wait for it to clear.


Feedback is an optional part of ebay life but it is of great importance to sellers. Feedback can make or break an ebay business so I urge you to leave considerate feedback, reflecting honestly on your experience.

Positive feedback is for transactions that went smoothly. That means that the item was posted quickly, that it was as described and that you are happy with your purchase.

Neutral is for transactions where you were fairly happy but felt that either the seller could have done more or perhaps the quality of garment was not great but OK. Perhaps the listing made it look better than it is.

Negative feedback should be reserved for serious cases. For instance; the garment was stained, you asked for a refund, the seller refused and was rude. Or perhaps the item was fake or the seller tried to deny you your right to return.

ALWAYS contact a seller before leaving bad feedback so as to give them the chance to put things right. A good seller will always listen to your complaint and act upon it. A seller who ignores you deserves bad feedback.

Detailed seller ratings

OK, when you leave feedback for a seller, you can also leave DRS's (or "stars")

Sellers live and die by these ratings so you should be aware of what you are saying by rating these aspects of the transaction.

You can give a rating of 1-5 stars. You should know that ebay deems anything less than 5* as a failure on the seller's part and that a 1 or 2 rating can be VERY damaging to a business. This should not stop you from leaving low ratings if you feel they are warranted but 1's & 2's should be reserved for very deserving cases.

Please realise that where it says "how quickly did the seller despatch the item?", it relates to when it was posted, not how long Royal Mail took to deliver it. Most sellers will message you when they post your item and the postage date should also be on the postage label on the packaging.

If you are unsure how to rate a seller, just leave it blank.


Buyer protection

OK, I'd like to make it clear that you don't need "protection" from good sellers, only bad ones. If you pay by PayPal, you are pretty comprehensively covered.

If the item you bought turns out to be damaged, not received or significantly not as desbribed, you should contact the seller in the first instance. If you can't get the right solution from the seller, you can start a claim with ebay or PayPal. All scenarios are different but PayPal really do offer lots of protection. If they find in your favour, you will be refunded. This means that you will have to send the item back to the seller, quite possibly at your own cost. A good seller will cover your return postage cost if it was their mistake but if you had to go down this route, you are likely to lose out on this as it is not mandatory for sellers to pay for the buyer to return.


Help boards


Your ebay account gives you access to the help and discussion boards. If you are stuck, need help or don't know where to turn, the boards can be a very useful place to visit. There are several regular users of the boards and many of them are very experienced and knowledgable ebay users. Many are business sellers using posting ID's (to protect their selling ID) so don't assume someone doesn't know anything just because they seem to have low feedback. I don't know how they find the time but some will help guide you through a problem from beginning to end.


Well, this info should help get you started and help you understand the ebay landscape. It can be a bit daunting at first but it gets easier with experience.



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