A friend of mine who is just getting involved with the fun and crazy world of online auctions just recently found something she wanted to bid on at eBay. That’s good, but she decided not to bid because she’s heard too much about scams, rip-off artists and other untrustworthy characters. Rather than just bail on auctions, though, she asked me for some tips on bidding on eBay safely.
My first tip is one that should be obvious: pay attention to the seller’s feedback on eBay. Every single item for sale has information on the seller, that typically looks like this:
This gives you a lot of ways to gain information about the seller, starting with the number of feedback entries they’ve received: I’ve had 305 people leave feedback on me based on our transactions together. In addition, the blue star indicates that I’ve attained a certain level of experience with eBay (you can see the star chart here if you’re interested), and I also have a separate profile page I’ve created on the eBay system which you can easily access by clicking on the colorful little “me” graphic.
Not everyone who sells things on eBay has all of these – particularly the personalized information page – but everyone will have a feedback rating and I make it a policy to never buy from anyone with a feedback rating of less than 50. Some folk are just starting out and depending on the value of the item, I might occasionally make an exception, but generally that’s my limit.
Just as importantly, you should always click on their feedback rating so you can see what percentage of the feedback isn’t positive. For me, it’s 100% positive, I’m glad to say, but if I see a seller who has a feedback rating of anything less than 100%, I want to skim through the negatives to see what happened.
Conveniently, eBay also has a very easy-to-read summary table of positive, neutral, and negative feedback received within the past month, past 6 months, and past 12 months. If someone has a bad week, but has then closed on the last 80 transactions without a negative, I’m willing to give ’em a chance. If four of their last ten transactions are negative, however, I’m outta there!
There’s quite a bit more to learning how to work with eBay, as you might expect, and I even wrote a book about it — The eAuction Insider — but this is a good starting point. If you have other auction-related questions, including how to do research to set optimal pricing, please don’t hesitate to Ask Dave Taylor!.