Buying from Germany for UK Ebayers
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30 October 2008
I seem to have bought a good few bits - both personal and professional - from german ebayers. There are some lumps and bumps which you should bear in mind if you are tempted by some lederhosen (or a €7,000 layer-4 enterprise grade switch!), and here are my experiences, boiled down. 1) check payment methods. I don't mean, "by check/cheque" - I mean, look very carefully at how the vendor wants to be paid. Lots of germans are used to using bank transfers BUT these are NOT USABLE from a UK bank account without a load of extra information (the "IBAN number" and other bits) and some UK banks will charge you handsomely to do it. Paypal is good, credit card works well between the two countries, they may be able to do things with switch/solo - but be prepared to pass some stuff by if you can only see bank transfer listed as a means of payment. 2) Beware germlish! Passing lumps of german through Google Translator helps a bit in understanding people's listings, but Google doesn't know about technical terminology, or slang words. Having said that, I have found that making any effort to put in some bits of German, or sticking to German rules of conversation, makes the whole transaction go far more smoothly. Many germans will try to speak/write english - but many will also not try, if you can't show that you are slightly prepared to meet them part way. Bear in mind that Germans will use "herr smith" where we would immediately jump to "bob smith" or even "bob". They are not "being funny" about this, it's just what they do. Don't make them uncomfortable, if you want a smooth transaction 3) Watch out for parochialism. Here I am encouraging you to think in a warm and welcoming way about our fellow Europeans: be aware that they may not return the favour. if you have expanded your search to include the EU and they are not expecting non-germans to get in touch, then it may take a bit of work on your part to get them to thaw out. English people are a lot more mobile and adventurous, on the whole, than Germans. There are always exceptions to these rules, but those exceptions are probably advertising over here already.. Remember, for example, that people around Munich think of themselves as Bavarians, not Germans - and a lot more strongly than people around Newcastle think of themselves as Geordies! Don't lead off with jokes, whatever you do - let them start that. 4) Agree a shipment method. Parcels going between Germany and the UK are pretty straightforward and should not attract major hassle from Customs. VAT is a hassle however; if you are VAT rated and you buy things from Germans then in theory they add VAT at 19% and you claim it back at 17.5%... I ended up ringing the VAT people and walking them through my biggest transaction to get an answer. 5) For valuable items, arrange to go over. This is much easier than you might expect: I've gone over a couple of timesjust to check out a bit of kit and you fly over, hire a car, make sure you specify satnav, lap in the post-code and the town, and bobs your uncle. Make use of Google maps to figure out where someone is: They tend to list the smaller administrative area, so it's not apparent that Ispringen is in Pforzheim, for example, or Au is in Munich (bit like someone in London just putting "Soho" or "Camden" as their town) 6) There are some gems there we never see. Take a look for "Wellensteyn" winter coats, or boggle over "Unimog" trucks... it's a bigger economy and they have different interests plus there's that slight isolationist angle, so some products just never leave Planet Deutschland, unless you go hunting for them. Good luck!
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