miscellaneous advice for ebay-newbies

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We all started as ebay newbies at  some point and I don't understand the often fairly openly expressed resentment by some sellers. Ok, this is the age of identity theft and sending an email to a possible seller when there is nothing else to go on (such as feedback) is fair enough - excluding newbies reveals nothing but a paranoid mindset of the seller.

Ebay isn't anymore the nice auction-site with a community feel as which it started out. Far from it, it is a huge multinational corporation with a growth-rate that is the envy of many corporations. Yet, it's backbone are still individual sellers and most - but by no means all - are nice people. You'll learn as you go along.

So what should you consider when you buy your first item? Firstly, not everything is what it seems - especially when it comes to 'designer' - wear. A lot of it is made in a basement somewhere in China and other countries, based on a few pictures from 'Vogue'. I am not saying, don't buy it - but if it is too good to be true, it usually isn't true. If you buy it, in all probability you'll get a more or less accurate copy of the original, and if that's what you want, fair enough. Apparently, some copies are quite good and most people won't see the difference. However, please also the conditions under which these clothes were made. the word 'sweatshop' - the worst kind - comes to mind. Most sellers of 'labels' - and we  don't talk 'Gap' here but the real epensive stuff such as 'Gucci' sit in Hongkong or Beijing and usually you don't see a pictuce of the item you buy but a picture taken from 'Vogue'. If you're really unhappy with your purchase, well, that particular seller might have closed shop and opened another one under a different user id - and then you van complain to paypal and ebay and all of paypals's £500 guarantees are completely meaningless if they can't track the seller 'cause paypal doesn't pay you, they just put some pressure on the seller to pay you; most often it works but if the seller doesn't want to pay, that's it. end of. best avoid by making sure that the seller has a good reputation and the feedback is real (it is easy to get a lot of feedback by buying 1p e-books etc - costs nothing and still counts as feedback). scrutinize feedback, especially if you are new! i lost £40 buying a pair of 'cheap' Timberland boots for hubby from a non-existing shop in Portugal. no boots, no money. you'll learn as you go along, i guess but some mistakes can be avoided.

A few years ago ebay was flooded with fake 'Seven of all mankind jeans' and if someone offers you a brand new pair for £20, it's a lookalike, definitely not the original. If it's a pair of 'used ' jeans of this or another desirable brand, it's more likely to be the real thing. Contact the seller and ask them where they are from and ask for the cut-number. There are quite a few sites on the net, showing you exactly what to look for. That rule applies to all 'in' labels.

Secondly, most sellers are not businesses but like me people who have too many clothes at home and sell them - and those of friends -  on ebay, so don't expect an M&S customer service. Most sellers are helpful and will answer all your questions but everyone can make a mistake. You'll get very nice things on ebay but you have to do your bit, too - check measurments, look at little faults, whatever. Most sellers have a life outside ebay, so don't leave negative feedback because you had to wait 3 days or it wasn't your thing after all or you imagined it to be differently. Communicate, get in touch, most sellers will give you a refund if they made a genuine mistake but don't go in all guns blazing. And it's not the sellers fault if you imagined it to be different or your partner tells you that X makes you look like Miss Piggy.

Read as much feedback as you can and learn to read between the lines. 'Smooth transaction' or simply 'thanks' is perfectly valid if that's the kind of feedback this particular ebayer usually leaves. So take a few transactions, look at feedback left by the same buyer to other sellers and draw your own conclusions. Important is the star rating - check it out and compare it with  that of other sellers.

the cheapest is not the cheapest or don't get into bidding wars! ebay has very often more than one item of the same thing. that particular top or dress will be listed more than once, so don't get over your budget if you don't win it (i really shouldn't be writing this - from a seller's point of view, bidding wars are a gravy train but there's also something called 'fairness'). so first of all, look for an item you dig and once you found it keep looking for identical or similar ones. and then choose the cheapest, the one for 99p and stick with it, no matter what? NO! let's say you got 3 desirable, identical tops - one for 99p, one for £9.99 and one for £20. don't start bidding on any of them till it's close to the end and you might be surprised to find that by now some ebayers, enticed by 99p, will have upped the bidding and the £20 is now the cheapest because people considered it 'too expensive'. it is amazing to see an item that costs £40 at Topshop ending up with a price tag of twice that or more just because two (and, sorry, mostly newbies) were clinging to it like a dog with a bone because it was such a bargain. take a deep breath, tell yourself that you will find the same/similar item within a few weeks anywhow and that an auction has always only one winner. 'sold out' is also a sentiment i would take with a pinch of salt. might be worth to check the website first. you might find that that dress is now reduced to £15 and including postage you just paid 10 quid more.

And for new sellers: Don't overcharge on postage and don't try to make 'a killing' on ebay. Quite a few went to TopShop the day the Kate Moss collection came out  for the first time and a lot found its way on ebay. There are still a lot of sellers, thinking they could charge 5 times what they paid at TopShop. Few succeeded, many were forced to sell them for less than they paid. I think that's fair as it's just not a nice thing to do - if you are lucky enough to have the money to buy items just for the purpose of selling it, you deprived many customers who haven't got the financial power. Again, as a buyer, you are better of with a  pre-worn item. Firstly, you can be sure it is the real deal and not a cheap copy and most of us don't wear clothes that often, so pre-worn is usually a good bet.

it doesn't need mentioning that shill-bidding isn't a way to get an item sold! it will backfire eventually as they are mostly easy to spot. all it takes is really to look closely at the bidding pattern of 3 or 4 times. i once contacted a seller whose bidding patterns were decidedly dubious and got a response from her alter-ego! i know it is annoying if items don't sell (statistically 1/3 of listed items sell) and it can also be rather painful to see an item go for pennies, so always put the starting price at a level at which you are happy to sell the item. i had a 7 of all mankind denim jacket for sale but wasn't sure that it was real and priced it at 99p (it didn't fit). i found out later - from the buyer- that the jacket was authentic. a jacket that costs about £150 in a shop, bought by me for 50 quid on ebay, sold for 99p - proves 2 things: selling takes a lot of skill and that was a lousy deal for me; on the other hand, you certainly can get a real bargain on ebay! good pictures are generally very important and you save money if you list them through 'Auctiva' rather than ebay. also, choose your words carefully. the title should have as many 'important' words are used as possible. think about the words you put in the search engine when you buy something.

Lastly, how to win an auction. Well, the first thing is the most obvious  don't miss it! Watch it on 'My Ebay' (that's what it's for) and set an alarm 10 minutes before the auction begins - most auction are lost or won in the last few minutes. If you really want something bid  high - let's say the item is £5 and you bid £7.50, it;s easy to find yourself missing out - maybe by a few pence. If you really like the item and you put £25 instead, the next bidder bids £7.50, you're the winner. On the other hand, if there are no other bidders, you still get your item for 5 quid. Please consider though that prices really go up in the last 10 minutes and seasoned ebayers don't even bid early - they all wait for the end. As a rule of thumb, bid as much as you're willing to pay. A friend told me that with £35 bid you nearly always win - but no guarantees. Also, if you can't be present when the auction ends, use sniping software. There are many about and you only have to google for them. Most offer free trials and you might never have to pay for your software. On the other hand, if you found a good one, stick with it - not all are equally good and reliable.

As a general rule: Don't do what you don't want to have done to you. Be fair and polite.

Good luck to all of you - you'll enjoy ebay as long as you don't take it too seriously!

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