6 Golden Rules for eBay Buyers

Although conducting business on eBay is relatively smooth overall, any venture is bound to have a few bumps here and there. There's a certain etiquette that goes along with everything you do in life. If you follow these simple rules for buying on eBay, your time on the site will be a whole lot more pleasant for everyone.

Investigate your treasure before you buy

In the excitement of finding just what they want, many people may develop a tendency to leap before they look. Even if the item is closing soon, carefully read the item description. Does the item have any flaws? Can you live with them if it does? Is something missing from the description that should be there? Did you read the terms of payment and shipping? (Do you really, really want it? )

Don't be too shy or embarrassed. If you have any questions, ask the seller a question! You're better off covering your bases before you place a bid or buy an item than you are facing disappointment when the item arrives.

Keep this in mind before you click the Bid or Buy button; you are legally and morally obligated to go through with the transaction if you win. Make sure that everything is as you want it and check for a warranty or return policy. Clarify everything up front. If the seller doesn't answer back, consider that non-response an early warning that dealing with this person may be a mistake!

Check the seller's feedback

Never bid without checking the seller's feedback. You need to be able to trust the person you're buying from. Look for the Top Rated Plus Seller icon, but you may not find enough information. When it is a very pricey item, dig a little deeper.

Don't just evaluate the percentage of positive and negative feedback: Investigate the seller's feedback a bit more deeply by clicking the number next to his or her User ID. Take the time to read the comments left by others who have transacted with this seller. Also, checking some of the seller's other listings, past and present, to get an idea of the seller's history can't hurt.

As badly as you may want something, sending a payment to someone with a high feedback rating who recently got a bunch of negatives could lead to a big disappointment.

Check the price tag and bid wisely

Before you bid, make sure that you have some knowledge of what to pay for the item, even if you limit your search to completed listings to get an idea of how much the item went for in the past.

If a deal sounds too good to be true, it may well be. Make sure that you can't get the item cheaper at the store or from another online seller.

Beware of getting caught up in the frenzy of last-minute bidding: It's an easy thing to do. Whether you choose proxy bidding or sniping, decide how much you're willing to pay before you bid. If you set a limit, you won't be overcome with the urge to spend more than an item is worth — or, worse, more than you have in your bank account.

Although eBay is lots of fun, it's also serious business. Bidding is a legal and binding contract. Don't get a bad reputation by retracting bids or becoming a deadbeat.

Leave positive feedback for a good seller

Always leave feedback after you put the finishing touches on a transaction. Leaving feedback, and thereby helping other members, is your responsibility.

eBay's feedback system judges sellers on several different points. Did you get your item as described? Did the seller send you e-mails keeping you abreast of your shipment progress? Shipping times can be deceiving. Be sure to check the postmark date on the package label to see when your seller sent the item. It's not fair to ding the seller's reputation because an item rerouted itself in the mail.

Sellers are judged on your Detailed Star Ratings. A low star rating can even cost them money (eBay discounts Final Value Fees to sellers who have top service ratings in their DSRs).

Keep in mind that the transaction isn't complete until the buyer receives the merchandise and is happy with the purchase. Not all sellers leave automatic feedback, so don't expect positive feedback just because you paid for your item in a timely manner.

Cover your assets

Remember that just because you're conducting transactions from the privacy of your home doesn't mean that you're doing everything you can to protect your privacy. Legitimate buyers and sellers never need to know your password or Social Security number. Do not respond to e-mail that asks for that information.

Keep current, keep cool

You'd be surprised at how many users get suspended even though they have automatic credit card payments. Maybe they move. Or their e-mail addresses change because they change Internet service providers. Regardless, if you don't update your contact and credit card information, and that leaves eBay and other users unable to contact you, you can be suspended.

If you make any major moves (home address, billing address, ISP), let eBay know this new contact information. Click My eBay on the main navigation area at the top of eBay pages, click the Account tab, scroll down the links on the left side of the page to Personal Information, and update the appropriate data.

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