The Fine Buyer's Guide

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Whether you're a new buyer or not, there's some things you should always keep in mind, to make your buying experience as good as possible.

Before bid/buy now:

1. Read the listing carefully. Pay attention to all parts of it, not just the item's description but also to the seller's conditions, return policy, acceptable payments etc.

2. Any questions you might have, ask them always before you bid and within a reasonable time limit before the end of the auction. Usually a seller will not be 24hrs/day in front of their computer and may miss your questions if sent a few hours before the end. Of course it's best to send your questions even in this case, just don't be put off if you don't receive any answer. If you discovered the item late and it's about to finish, there is only the description to rely upon - take it or leave it.

3. Do you really want it? Can you pay immediately for it? Bid only if your answer is 'yes' to both questions. Remember that the seller pays listing fees and is here to sell, not have their day (and their listing) spoiled by timewasters. Excuses like 'sorry, I changed my mind', 'I don't want this any more', 'I've found a similar item in cheaper price elsewhere', 'can't pay that price' etc. are not acceptable. Remember: you bid, you pay. Just don't push that blue button if you're not 100% sure.

4. Search similar items, read listings and compare features & prices. Don't get carried away by the first item that strikes you as a bargain. You can always "Watch this item" and come back a little later for it. There are many people who bid on impulse, then discover the same item in a better price and regret their hasty bids. You can avoid this, if you take the time to research first.

5. Check the seller's feedback. Especially the "feedback as a seller" tab. It will help you to form a better idea about what kind of seller they are, before dealing with them. There is really no standard rule about the feedback amount. There are bad sellers with many transactions and good sellers with a few. The feedback number can only show whether the seller is more or less experienced in using ebay - and even this is not certain. There are people who have been around for a long time and can always start a new selling account for a variety of reasons, some perfectly legitimate some not.

If there are neutrals or negatives, read them first. Again there isn't a standard rule for all here, some may be justified while others may have been left injustly. You'll have to make up your own mind before entering a deal with the seller. Positives could be misleading too, especially if the majority of buyers that left them is new buyers and/or with very little feedback (usually under 10). Normally a seller will have positive feedback from all sorts of buyers, with few, some, many and high feedback scores.

Look at the seller's DSR (Detailed Seller Ratings). They're the yellow stars, in their profile:

- Item as described
- Communication
- Dispatch time
- Postage and packaging charges

DSR provide a better insight to the seller's way of doing business. eBay requires at least a 4,5 to consider a seller capable, but most people think that since 4 stars is labelled 'good', they mark the seller's stars accordingly.

Usually by reading feedback and noting DSR, you will be able to see the seller's patterns in business and their strong or weak areas. Please note the difference between 'dispatch' (when seller posts) and 'delivery' (when you receive). Seller has control only over dispatch while delivery depends only on the postal service.

If the item is Buy Now/Best Offer, you might prefer to make the seller an offer instead of buying immediately. Remember that sending a Best Offer is binding in the same way as a bid - if seller accepts it, you are required to buy. If however your Best Offer is rejected you're not bound any more. Same if the seller sends you a Counter-Offer, you're not bound any more and you may or may not accept the Counter-Offer. Also note that in some Buy Now items, a notice of "immediate payment required" is displayed. This  means that even if you hit the Buy Now button, your item will still be available to everyone until you make the payment.

After winning bid/buy now

Congratulations, the item is yours. What now?

1. The sooner you pay, the sooner the item is likely to be dispatched of course. If you use paypal, try to pay within the first 24 hours after the end of the auction/buy now. EBay allows a period of 7 days before a seller can open a dispute about a non-payment. This does not mean that you should wait 7 days for payment. You've agreed to buy after all, and really there is no reason to keep your seller waiting. In case there is extra postage (e.g. international postage) you may request an invoice with total costs stating the relevant country. Again if you require a special posting service, provided that the seller offers it in their listing (e.g. special delivery, fast delivery), you should communicate with the seller to arrange it.

2. Requesting a combined invoice for multiple items, if you have bought more than one item from the same seller is a good idea. Usually you will get a postage discount.

3. Note that sellers in eBay, if paid with paypal, they are required to post only to the registered paypal address (until October '08). If you wish the item to be sent at a different address, make sure you add this as a 'gift' address to your PAYPAL account. Before payment. Don't try to persuade the seller to send it somewhere else - it's most possible that they will refuse. Again do not quarrel with your seller over this. The way to solve it has already been stated: add the address you desire as gift address to your paypal account. It will only take a minute.

4. Remember that dispatch time always begins to count after your payment has cleared. If you paid with another way (bank transfer, check, postal order etc), your item will be dispatched only after payment clears. This can take many days. Be patient here, this isn't your sellers fault. If you are in a hurry, only a paypal payment will be instant. Your bank etc. will inform you when your payment is finally received by the seller.

5. Do honour your side of the contract. You bought, you should pay. Please be responsible in this. If however you absolutely must cancel your buy, you may politely ask your seller for a mutual cancelling. Be prepared though: it is their right to refuse and open an UID (Unpaid Item Dispute). Almost always this will result in you getting an Strike for non-payment. Sellers usually block users with two unpaid item strikes within a year.

6. Do not insist on a seller doing something that is not included in their listing and description. Some might consider it, if they are politely asked and if they want to, but remember that they don't have to and that you already know beforehand.

7. Take the time to leave feedback if you're satisfied with the item once received.  Your seller would like to know all is well. If you got what you paid for and within reasonable time, then this is considered a satisfactory transaction. You can thank them with a good feedback. If for some reason you're not satisfied, inform your seller first before doing anything else. Give them a chance to fix things. There are many sellers out there who will.

8. Do not allow yourself to be bullied by a fraudulent seller or an incompetent one. Yes, they are around too, and they can really spoil not just your experience but also your wallet. EBay's help pages offer helpful advice and tools, and the community forums are a good place to visit and ask other members for advice.

9. Be good with a good seller. You will come to appreciate a good seller, if you stay around long enough. Which means that at some point you may have the unfortunate experience of dealing with an incompetent seller. So good sellers are needed and sought for - it's them that make your eBay experience a pleasant one. In time you may built your own personal list of favourite sellers. Those you like to deal with, those you can trust, those who offer you the best bargains, those who make the trading experience to be fun. Enjoy!

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