Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Agony and the Ecstasy of eBay

eBay can be one of the best places to go looking for good quality, designer labels at an affordable price. And it can also be one of the most frustrating. Here are some things to keep in mind:

* You have to know what you are looking for. Are you looking for a certain designer? A certain color? A certain size? A certain fabrication? A certain cut? Never been worn or slightly used? The eBay experience is different than a physical store...you can't just walk in and browse. You need to either search for specific items, or browse narrow categories.

* You have to be patient. You may have to wait several months before a garment by the designer you like and in the size and color you are desiring makes its way to the auction. And if there is no "Buy it Now" option you may have to go head-to-head with other bidders, which means you'll need to be vigilant.

* Unless you are 100% certain you are buying something you know will fit, make sure the seller accepts returns. Fit is everything. Because you can't try something on before buying, you won't know how it fits, how it drapes, how it looks on you, nor can you test the hand of the fabric. But if the seller accepts returns, then you actually *can* try on the garment before making a final decision.

And here's some BONUS advice from a real eBay expert:
Craig Ernst is a friend of mine who also happens to be a retired Gold Powerseller who made over $1M selling on eBay. I asked him if he would please give my readers what he considers to be the top three most important things to know when choosing to shop eBay, and he kindly agreed. So here is Craig's "inside scoop" on buying off eBay:

Always remember that eBay is nothing but an enormous conglomeration of big businesses, small businesses, and individuals selling their wares. In some ways this is fantastic, because the variety of merchandise available is virtually unparalleled. In other ways, it's less than fantastic, because you have to be much more careful than you would just buying a sale item on Macy's website. Caveat Emptor.

I guess the three major bits of advice are:

1.) Be sure you're buying what you think you're buying,
2.) Do a little comparison shopping so that you don't pay too much.
3.) Be sure you're buying from a reputable seller.

1 - Never assume anything about the item that's not explicitly mentioned in the description. Better yet, if applicable, make sure you can verify any important features by sight in the product photos. I would think hard before buying an item with poor or no photos. If you're not certain about any feature of the product, ask the seller *before* you bid on or purchase the item. Also, be aware that eBay's had problems in the past (and probably continues to) with a small minority sellers selling name brand knock-offs and passing them off as the originals. Be especially suspicious of this if the seller if offering brand-new designer merchandise at too-good-to-be-true prices, and they are located in either Eastern Europe or (more commonly) in Hong Kong, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia, or other East Asian countries.

2 - It is true that there are great and even better than great deals to be had on eBay. In fact, sometimes you'll see something that's a steal and decide you'd better buy it this very second before anyone else gets it. But, hold on. First of all, see #1 above.
Second, take a minute to see if any other sellers are offering the same item at an even lower price or perhaps, with cheaper shipping. In the case of surplus merchandise, where many of your best deals will be found, several sellers may have bought "lots" of the same merchandise. Natural competition will force some sellers to lower their price. I can't tell you how may times early on that I quickly bought something without checking the the competition and wound up buying a $25 item that had originally been $50 (a good deal), but missed out on another auction that was offering the same merchandise
at $15 (a great deal, if I would have gotten it). Again, always check the total prices, including shipping, when checking competing offers.

3 - There was a time very recently when anyone who had done any significant amount of purchasing on eBay had at least one story about how they'd been ripped off by some seller in one way or another. The good news is that eBay has taken great pains in the past couple of years to crack down on unscrupulous sellers, and buying on eBay is honestly, safer than it ever has been. However, you still need to be mindful of exactly who you're purchasing from. If you're new to buying on eBay, I'd strongly suggest
buying only from Power Sellers (they have a logo next to their user name) who
have 98+% positive feedback, and preferably a total feedback score of at least
500. This shows that they've been at things for a while and have maintained a good reputation. Does that mean that you shouldn't buy from a newer, less established seller? Not all. You may find some of your best deals there, but be more cautious when doing so. One last thing... be sure to always read the seller's terms of sale or policies. Each seller will be somehat different, as far as returns, etc.

Bonus Recommendation - eBay has buyer protection guarantees, as does PayPal (their in-house and preferred payment processor). However, as with any form of "insurance," there are always loopholes and exceptions. The most bulletproof payment method you can use to pay for merchandise on ebay is to pay via PayPal, using your *credit card* as the funding method (as opposed to your bank account). This gives you a double layer of protection. IF you have a bad experience with a merchant, and IF you can't get satisfaction from them, AND you can't get complete satisfaction from PayPal, you can then go directly to your credit card company, who will almost certainly see that things are resolved in your favor. This may sound overly cautious (even paranoid), but when you eventually have a poor experience after buying an expensive item, you'll thank me. :-)

Thank you, Craig!!

See you next time...same blog time...same blog channel....

(For more information on wardrobe planning, or to sign up for my free e-zine, please visit my wardrobe planning website.)


Matthew Shields said...

Hi , Jen
Very cool you got that Craig guy to come on and do a special report. Indeed Ebay can be a different place to deal with. You do need to be careful.
Happy Trails
Matthew Shields
Energy Expert
Anything Solar

Romance Coach, Online Dating Coach said...

Hmmm, I wonder when we will leverage some online dating and internet singles aspects to ebay.

we sell everything else there! lol!

All the best,

April Braswell

Online Dating Expert, Romantic Relationship Coach, Romance Coaching

Online Dating Sites Review, Internet Dating Sites Guide

Michael said...

that was very helpful information. I have never used E bay. thanks

Scott said...

eBay can be a great place to shop, but one thing I think people need to be careful to check the shipping charges. Sometimes an item looks like a great deal, but then then shipping charges are ridiculous

Scott A Bell

The Road Warrior


RobFromGa said...

I've bought many things on eBay, you have to be careful…

Seize the Day,
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S Chambers said...

I never thought about using eBay for clothing, although it simply makes sense. Thank you for the recommendation and the advice.

Influence Tactics

Philip Graves said...

Great post - an excellent association with a millionaire!

My top EBay tip is to use a site like Auction Sniper; it keeps your spending to the level you decide in advance (rather than being escalated by other bids) and it stops your bid inflating the price others will bid.

Philip Graves

JohnWShoemaker said...

I like Ebay for commodity type products.

But your Words To The Wise gave some good direction if you're looking for that special something.

Intuitive John



David J Parnell said...

I am a big fan of ebay and shop on it regularly... You really do need to do your research though...

David J. Parnell | Communication Expert
The Communication Expert Blog

Lena Milukh said...

I still prefer earth shops not virtual when it comes down to clothes
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Mary said...

Jennifer - When you posted that "you can find quality at every price point," I really wanted some examples. Personally, I'm a Talbots shopper (I can order out of the catalog and know that I'll get a dependable fit. I get a lot of compliments on the clothes I buy there.) My daughters say I spend too much and I've tried some of their suggestions (one steered me to Walmart.) I did find some cute capris at WM for under $10 but the cut was terrible! They felt cheap and skimpy (but the fabric and construction was acceptable.) I felt like they used a terrible pattern or something! I don't have a lot of time and honestly I wasted money there too.

It seems like JCPenny keeps coming up so I may give them a try. But after reading some of the comments, I think I'm just going to stick to Talbots and concentrate my efforts on building my own Very Small Closet.

Although this post was interesting, eBay is too scary for me - I have to see how something looks and fits.

I have looked around Bluefly but I don't know the sizing of the different designers well enough to just order on-line. And frankly, the offerings there were pretty expensive (even though they represented a good savings.)

I'd love for you to go shopping and find some great basics - the types of things you'd recommend for a client's small closet - again black pants would be great. Find some great quality pants at different price points and even link to them! You may even get a corporate sponsor! I think I can spot quality (and after my Walmart fiasco I'll know to try everything on first or be prepared to do some returns.) I just don't have time to shop! I work all day, I'm an active parent and grandparent and I moonlight writing software on the side!! I think many people are like me - they are trying to save money but need to look sharp!

I've seen the bargain shoppers who have tons of clothes but everything looks ratty. That's not my interest. And that's why I'm here (to have fewer pieces of clothing that are of higher quality.) If I can pay less in the process, so much the better!

Sorry this is so long, but don't stress about different costs - you said good quality can be found at every price point - I'd love to see some examples!!

Romance Coach, Online Dating Coach said...

Hi Mary,

There doesnt' seem to be a reply to comment function here like at WordPress.

What great questions to give to Jen. As a coach myself, I always appreciate receiving questions from my free-blog followers in addition to all of the work I am already doing for my paid clients. However, of course, we simply cannot provide that level of one-on-one care and attention as we do to our paying clients. Of course, our time and skill is certainly worth something and that way we are ethical to our clients as well to give them service of great value.

I used to LOVE Talbots, but their quality was MUCH better, really noticeably so 15-20 yrs ago (yes, I still have items of theirs that old!).

that being said, I know what fits me WELL and flatters and actually found a DARLING black suit jacket at Wal*Mart yesterday that cost about $25. Indeed, with that price, I am not expecting it to be of the same QUALITY and stitching and FIT as a $1500 suit.

One of the things I have learned from following Jenn now for MONTHS is that I am really better off having FEWER high quality items.

So, for me, YES to about 3 or 4 St John Couture Knit suits. Of course, with that knowledge, I also know where to buy them DISCOUNT.

and I am - it's a process, including a mental, psychological process (Jenn has a great wardrobe hording article up at her website, and I am begging her to post more about it here to open the topic up for discussion, what do you think?) to LET GO of old items - letting go of OTHER items.

Indeed, I tried on a dress for my Friday night Date0 date. It was brand new that I had bought awhile ago. Well, the thing is, it looks good. But ONLY... good.

And I have 2 other dresses which look hot sexy classy fabulous.

That is now my criteria.

Hot sexy classy fabulous.

Or it goes into the Junior League Shop or the Goodwill piles.

Still, it's a process, is it not.

myself? I've had Weight Loss Surgery. Once my weight is stable for 6 months near goal weight, then I'm hiring Jenn indeed to DO her wardrobe consulting for ME.

happy shopping! (it's like our hunter ancestry coming out, isn't it?)

All the best,

April Braswell

Online Dating Expert, Romantic Relationship Coach, Romance Coaching

Online Dating Sites Review, Internet Dating Sites Guide