Which brings me to my next important point: price isn’t the only thing to consider when shopping on eBay.
Know the seller
We don’t just want the lowest price; we want best quality item at the lowest price. Unfortunately, I’ve found that photos are not a good indicator of product quality. I’ve bought a lot of things with terrible photos that turned out great, and I’ve bought things with great photos that turned out to be rubbish. (I returned them.)
A better indicator of product quality is seller feedback ratings. A good seller—the one most likely to sell items of good quality and in good condition—will have a feedback rating of 99.8% or higher. I rarely buy from a seller with a feedback rating of 99.6% or lower.
This leaves a gray area – sellers with a rating of 99.7%. In these cases, please click on the “Detailed Feedback” link and read the most recent feedback. Probably only one negative review, and it was a few months ago. Everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes low ratings are due to no fault of the seller, such as a package lost in the mail, so it pays to read the actual reviews and understand the situation. If the seller’s rating is below 99.6, I personally don’t care about the price. I do not bid.
I’ve bought dozens of laptops, phones, cameras, camera lenses, cast iron cookware, music equipment, and even prepaid cell phone plans on auction sites. In that time, I’ve only been scammed once, but even then, I ended up getting my money back. I didn’t get what I wanted, but I didn’t lose anything either.
That said, it’s probably worth repeating: If a deal sounds too good to be true, it is.
how to bid
Once you’ve found what you’re looking for and you know how much you’ll pay, it’s time to…wait. I strongly recommend that you only bid at the last second. I mean that almost literally. I only bid when there are 5-10 seconds remaining. I waited until the auction was over, then looked it up on my phone because I thought eBay’s app had a better interface for actually bidding (it sucks to browse), and in the last few seconds I entered the maximum amount I was willing to pay.
You don’t bid early because you don’t want your competitors to have a chance to react. If you outbid someone days or even hours before the auction closes, they will try to outbid you. My guess is that even if you increase their bid to their original maximum bid, they will come back and outbid you. You don’t want to give other people time to get into the emotional experience of bidding on eBay. Only auctioneers want to excite bidders. We hope they never see us coming.
Once you get down to the last 20 seconds or so, you can enter your maximum bid. At that point, an automated bidding war began. It’s not emotional, though. It is based on the cold hard logic of the machine.
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