How to buy things on eBay!

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Since the introduction of eBay ( in 1995, the site has evolved to become one of the hottest destinations on the World Wide Web. Sellers are attracted by the prospect of a broad venue for their products and the possibility of high profits resulting from emotion-driven bidding wars (something you do not want to get involved in if at all possible).  Buyers flock to the site on a regular basis to find rare or unique items and also consumer products at a lower price.

The premise of the site sounds very promising, however, there are various rules to follow in order to obtain the best price, but also to ensure that the item you pay for is indeed what you wanted and that it will be sent to you!

The first rule to follow is that if it looks to good to be true, it normally is.  Occasionally incredible bargains can be found, but usually it pays to be cautious.

Always check the item description for the full details of the item of interest, do not rely fully on photographs or textual description individually.  If in doubt ask the vendor directly in order to clarify the condition etc.  If you have missed soemthing in the description (e.g. minor damage to item) you run the risk of being held responsible and therefore will not have any comeback.

Check the feedback of the vendor.  In general anyone with a feedback of 50 or more will be safe to buy from.  Determine whether the feedback is positive, neutral or negative in order to guide your decision on the purchase (eBay sums this information up helpfully - just click on the number by the vendors name).

Once you have decide that the vendor is reputable, check the payment and delivery options, are they convenient for you?  Bear in mind that paying by cheque may take a while, whereas payment by paypal can allow you to use your credit card and therefore delivery should be quicker.  Regardless of the method of payment, it is essential that you are willing and able to make payment as determined by the vendor.  Vendors tend to be unhappy if you agree to pay in one form ( i.e. you bid on the auction) and then are not able to pay in that form.

Once you are happy to continue with the bidding procedure, place your bid.  If you have a maximum price that you are willing to pay enter this as your bid price.  Ebay will continue to bid incrementaly on your behalf until this maximum is reached, after which you will be alerted via email that you have been outbid.

Another option is to try your hand at "sniping".  Auction sniping is waiting to place your bid until seconds before the auction closes. In most cases, the last-minute bid precludes competing bids and assures the sniping bidder the winning bid at the lowest price.

So once you win your auction you must pay.  In general the most commonly used payment is Paypal (, however, Nochex (, Cheques, Postal Orders, direct bank transfers and cash can also be offered as forms of payment.

Paypal allows payment directly to the vendor in the form of credit card, or debit card payments.  Your card details are held securely by Paypal and are not available to the vendor, a good thing considering the amount of credit card fraud that is prevalent these days!  The other forms of payment are just as acceptable, however Paypal would be my personal choice given the speed of payment and security.

Hopefully you should receive your item speedily and in good condition.

EBay offers the chance to beruse millions of different items and services in one location, the security of the site has improved greatly over the years especially with the integration of Paypal.  In conclusion, as long as you are careful there is no reason that eBay should be a daunting experience.  Good luck with your bargain hunting!


For further information on online auction sites see:

Auction Insights: