To say that eBay.com has changed how many people shop would be a grand understatement. For many people, eBay has become one of the first “shops” they go to when looking for anything. For most plugged-in people, eBay is at least one of the go-to sites when looking for either unique or larger-ticket items.
At first, many considered eBay to be just an online flea market, but that reputation has mostly gone away. As the number of people both buying and selling on the site has grown, most people have seen that nearly anything can be found, whether new or used.
One reputation that many people struggle to overcome about eBay, however, is that it might not be safe to buy things over the service. Is it really safe to buy things on eBay? As with any other purchase, you are always taking a risk, but there are ways to reduce that risk, even online. Here are some tips to help you be as safe as you can be when shopping on eBay.
1. Only buy from reputable sellers.
eBay’s “star” system for rating users is not totally foolproof, but it is a very good first step to see how familiar the seller is with both eBay and with shipping items. If a seller has a very poor rating, it is not worth the risk to purchase from them. If a rating concerns you, take some time to read the comments. Maybe the negative comments are very old, and now the seller has learned from mistakes. Generally speaking, if a seller is not very close to 100% in their rating, they probably are not worth the risk.
2. Make sure you can view pictures.
With the ease of taking digital photos combined with eBay’s policy of allowing a lot of photos on an item for free, there is no excuse for a seller to keep an item from being seen. The more pictures, the better. Not everyone is good with a camera (I certainly am not), but a seller should at least provide a couple of pictures of the item. If there is some flaw with the item, a good seller will have a picture of that, too, so you can determine whether or not to go ahead with your purchase. Further, most sellers are more than willing to share additional photos via email or text if you just ask for them.
3. Contact the seller with questions.
For some reason, very few people ever do this. The more unique the item, or the bigger the price, the more you should be willing to send an email to ask about anything concerning it. This is a good way to check for additional flaws, or to simply ask about shipping options if you are concerned about the item being damaged. If a seller seems upset that you made contact, they probably are not worth dealing with. Most are thankful that there is interest in their item.
4. Look for money back guarantees (especially on large ticket items).
In my experience, these have most often been offered by businesses or companies using eBay, but some “regular people” also offer them, because they know that some items just cannot be described well online. I have never had to take advantage of one of these, but I have had to give one once. I shipped an item and it was not packaged well (my fault), so when I was confronted by the buyer, I simply refunded the money. He still gave me a positive rating, due to my kindness in handling the situation.
5. Contact eBay if necessary.
There are stories of people who have not had good experiences at all, and eBay is willing to help as they can. After all, eBay wants to keep as many people happy as they can, so they will allow you to contact them if an experience is terribly bad or if a seller is being unethical. They move slowly, but as a last resort, this is a possible step.
I have used eBay many times – even selling stuff on eBay – and have rarely had even a slightly negative experience. I have found that, with a little work and by avoiding an impulse purchase, eBay is a safe and often money-saving way to purchase many good items – or start an online business! If you are willing to take a few steps, you can bid with confidence.
What’s your experience with eBay? Leave a comment and let us know!