Sunday, November 15, 2009


Pottery Barn Kids Wooden Advent Calendar House, on eBay

Don't forget about one of the best online places you can do your Christmas shopping: eBay!

If you haven't shopped on eBay recently, you might not realize that eBay is now much more than a venue for antiques and used items. Many hundreds of thousands of sellers now sell brand new items too.

While you don't always find rock-bottom bargain deals like you used to, you can shop on eBay for convenience and selection. Especially if you live in a small town that doesn't have a good selection at the stores, you may find eBay a lifesaving holiday shopping resource.

Choosing a Seller

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping on eBay. Many sellers out there are amateurs, people just selling a few things here and there from their homes. This probably means you are dealing with a kind person who is excited to be doing business with you and will send you a carefully packaged item. You may get more personal service from a smaller seller who has time to send you cheery emails letting you know when they are shipping, and who may tuck in a cute handwritten thank you note for you.

But it also could mean you are buying from someone inexperienced who can't handle the overwhelming amount of holiday purchases they have to ship out.

On the other hand, if you are buying from a Powerseller with thousands of positive feedbacks, you may be buying from a seasoned professional with a shipping assistant and a well organized warehouse. But you may also be buying from someone who has overextended their workload this holiday season and can't keep up with their shipping.

Do your Research

Your best bet is to research your purchase (and the seller) carefully, then buy early, as soon as possible. (IE, long before December 19). That way even if you are purchasing something from a seller on the opposite end of the country, you'll get it in time. Purchase Priority Mail shipping whenever a seller offers it; you'll generally get your item in 2-3 days after they mail it.

Remember to check the total price of the item including bid price AND shipping, before buying. Some items may look cheaper than identical items from a different seller, until you figure in the shipping. You can have a seller offering a calendar for $13.99 with $8.99 shipping (a total of $22.98) that at first glance looks a lot cheaper than a $18.50 calendar with free shipping that shows up lower in the search results because the buy-it-now price is higher.

Shop Soon

Try to purchase things before December 15 if possible. It's not polite to buy something on December 21 and send the seller many frantic emails asking when they will ship. It's not someone else's problem that you waited so long to do your holiday online shopping. Remember that if you (and everyone else who bought from them) repeatedly email the seller to ask where your package is, the seller is now spending all their time answering your email, instead of shipping your item.

Read It Again

Read the auction description carefully before bidding or using Buy it Now. A bid (and a Buy It Now) is a binding contract to purchase the item under the terms set forth in the description. You can't click Buy it Now and then email the seller asking them to give you a break on shipping or ship the item for free - you've already agreed to pay the shipping listed in the item.

View the seller's Feedback to see what kinds of experiences other buyers have had with them. It's ok to bid on an item if a seller has a few negatives - there are always crackpots out there who leave negatives for no reason for perfectly good sellers. But don't bid on anything if the seller has more than one or two recent (in the last month) negatives from different people. Look at the seller's "Detailed Star Ratings" to give you an idea of how fast they ship. I tend to ignore the "Shipping cost" star rating, since the shipping costs should be stated up front in the listing, so we already know what we're going to pay for shipping before we buy the item.

Bidding on an auction? Before you place your bid, click the "View Seller's Other Items" link on the right hand side of the page. Make sure the seller isn't offering more than one of the same item. Why get in a bidding war over an item if you don't have to? Also, if the seller has an Ebay store, visit that before bidding just in case they offer more items with a Buy it Now option.

What to do if There's a Problem

Have a problem with an eBay purchase after it arrives? Re-read the description on the item you purchased, just to make sure you knew what you were bidding on (unless the item arrives broken, which is a different problem). Contact the seller before leaving feedback, but of course be polite and nice when describing the problem. Don't mention feedback or threaten to leave a bad one - that can make the seller not want to fix your problem. Let's not immediately assume the seller was out to rip you off - mistakes happen. Approach it with an attitude of understanding and graciousness, just like we would at restaurants or in our day to day dealings. Life's too short to get stressed over a $25 ebay purchase.

Daily Deals

The eBay Daily Deals page showcases different great deals every day, with a Buy-it-Now price.

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