Tips for Shopping on eBay

Summer 2006 CSANews Issue 59  |  Posted date : May 28, 2007.Back to list

If you have Internet access, you've probably visited the eBay website at one time or another. eBay is the largest online auction site in the world, allowing people the opportunity to buy and sell almost any type of item imaginable (save for a handful of prohibited items, such as human remains, animals, alcohol and firearms).

Although eBay is a fun and relatively safe way to shop, there is always the potential for trouble. Before buying ANYTHING on eBay, be sure that you know what you're doing. There are some very important factors to consider before placing a bid on an item.

  • Educate yourself regarding ebay's policies – before you bid on any item, read eBay's policies and procedures THOROUGHLY. Remember: once you bid on an item and then win the auction, you are bound to purchase that item. Best to read all of the rules first, before making a costly mistake.
  • Always read feedback – the type of feedback which a seller receives is a good indication of whether the seller is a reliable, trustworthy person. Avoid buying items from sellers with negative feedback of 4% or more.
  • Never bid on a prohibited item – visit the Prohibited and Restricted Items Overview on the eBay website at
  • Thoroughly read the item description – know exactly what you're bidding on. Sellers normally provide a photo of the item, along with a detailed description. If there is no photo and/or description, contact the seller directly to obtain information. Remember: photos and descriptions are not always accurate. Ask the seller as many questions as possible pertaining to the integrity of the item. If the seller does not answer your questions, take this as a sign and do not bid on that item!
  • Research the item's value – many people purchase items on eBay because of the bargain prices. Just do the research beforehand, to ensure that you are indeed getting a bargain.
  • Calculate the shipping costs – the winning price of an item is not the final price that you will pay. Shipping costs are normally included in an item description. If the cost is not there, ask the seller about shipping BEfORE bidding on an item. Sadly, some sellers jack up the shipping costs to exorbitant prices. Nobody wants to pay $3.00 for an item, and then $20.00 for shipping.
  • Never bid on an item that you're not serious about buying – it's easy to give into emotion over logic. Decide on a final bidding price and stick with that price. Also, don't bid on an item just for the sake of having fun. If you win the auction, you are committed to paying for it, regardless of whether you really want it (or if you can even afford the final winning price).
  • Pay promptly and leave feedback – most sellers stipulate that payment should be received within seven to 10 days of the auction's end. In order to remain in good standing with fellow eBayers, pay for your item right away. Leave feedback only after you've received your item and addressed with the seller any issues that may have arisen. feedback is a very important method for buyers and sellers to maintain their eBay reputation.

eBay is a great place to find some of those items you thought were "long lost" or impossible to find. Just remember that being a responsible and educated eBayer will save you a lot of hassle (and money) in the long run. Happy bidding!