Fishing in the ‘Bay: 6 Tips and Strategies for Buying on eBay

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When it comes to building a wardrobe stocked with vintage and bargain-priced items, eBay can be a great resource. Go there at any time and enter a search for anything, and it’s likely you’ll be presented with a number of options at a number of price points. Though you’ll find a variety of items literally at your fingertips, it’s not as easy as it sounds. Here are a few tips and strategies to help you surf and shop eBay like a pro.

1. Know What You’re Buying

It’s often been said that an educated consumer is the best customer, and this is exponentially true when you’re buying clothing sight unseen from a website. The more you know about the product you want, the less likely it is you’ll mistakenly buy items that just don’t work for you. Educate yourself about clothing and its construction, and learn the terminology used to describe it. Take time to consider what you really need and what works for you before you start to shop. The more you know about the things you’re looking for, the better you’ll become at assessing photos and reading between the lines of an item’s description.

2. Know Your Measurements, Not Your “Size”

With second-hand garments, tagged sizing can be a bit of a crap shoot. Different articles from different decades or different manufacturers may be the same size but tagged differently. When shopping online, it’s better to have the actual measurements of garments that fit you well close at hand. Better eBay sellers list precise measurements of an item in the description. If they don’t list them, they should at least have them available, and you should contact them to ask. Avoid sellers who don’t understand the importance of these numbers. Common measurements to know are chest (measured armpit to armpit across the front), shoulders (measured point to point across the back), length (usually measured from the bottom of the collar to the hem), and sleeves (from shoulder to cuff); for trousers, look for waist (measured across the front) and inseam (from crotch to hem). These numbers don’t lie, so rely on them regardless of whether the tag matches your “size.”

3. Ask Questions

Good sellers on eBay tend to welcome questions from potential buyers. If you are not sure about something, or need a specific detail, ask. A good seller will be happy to answer with as much information as they can give you. If you contact a seller who gives you false information, doesn’t understand your question, or regularly doesn’t answer, avoid doing business with them. If you’re concerned about whether or not you can return an item, ask before you bid. Always check the seller’s feedback, and look for high scores and positive reviews. The anonymity of the Internet may take away your ability to “size someone up” in person, but with a little savvy you can still get a bead on people.

4. Be Picky

Now that you know how to look for things, remember to be just as picky as you would be buying clothing at a retail store — if not more so. Shopping on eBay can be exciting because of how inexpensive items often are, but that doesn’t mean you need to bid on or buy everything you see. Only bid on items you actually need and really want. Because most items on eBay are sold by auctions, the thrill of gambling can come into play when bidding on them. Don’t let this cause you to pay too much for something you don’t really need or want. Decide beforehand how much you’re willing to spend on an item and bid accordingly. Don’t get discouraged if you lose because another one is probably just around the corner.

5. Be Patient, But Vigilant

As you find items you like, keep them in a watch list and bid on them as close to the end of the auction as possible. The best time to bid is in the final minutes. Most items on eBay remain at a relatively low price until just before bidding ends, so there is really no use in bidding early. In the case of a particularly desirable item, the price can shoot up significantly at the end, so this is the best time to get a good idea of what you are likely to wind up paying. If you really want something, be at your computer or on your phone as the auction ends. You may have to be patient for seven days while the auction listing runs out, but in the end, you’ll lose if you snooze.

6. Leave Feedback

If you do win an item, be sure to leave feedback. Many sellers on eBay are not big stores, but rather small businesses and independent people, and positive feedback helps them find potential customers in the future. It also helps other buyers find trustworthy, reputable people to do business with. Sites like eBay work best for everyone, buyers and sellers alike, when the feedback is current and honest.

With these few tips in mind, you’ll be mining eBay like a discerning customer and, hopefully, building a great wardrobe for pennies on the dollar. Happy fishing!

Photo credit: eBay.com

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