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For Seniors: How to Conduct the Full-Scale Seller Investigation on eBay

When you consider buying a more expensive item on eBay, be sure to click the seller’s feedback number (beside the seller’s user ID in the Seller Info box) when you visit the auction listing. Clicking the number takes you to the member’s Feedback Profile.

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At the top of the Feedback Profile, you get a lot of info, including

  • User ID: The eBay member’s nickname appears, followed by a number in parentheses — the net number of the positive feedback comments the person has received, minus any negative feedback comments. Next to the user ID, you see icons similar to those that show up in the Seller Info box on the item page. These icons link to the seller’s store and About Me page. You’ll also see the seller’s star rating and Top-rated seller designation (if applicable).

  • Seller data: The important piece of data here is the date the person signed up as a member of the eBay community. Also, you’ll see the country from which the seller is registered.

After you click the feedback number, you should examine some important details if you want to be a savvy, security-minded shopper. On the left side of the page, you see the totals for Recent Feedback Ratings — and next to those, on the right, the Detailed Seller Ratings. You will see the counts of feedback comments divided up by time: 1 month, 6 months, and 12 months. Note the following significant entries:

  • Positive comments: The actual number of positive comments may be higher than the positive figure because any feedback from one member to another posted within a seven-day period only counts as one feedback rating. (The net rating was previously based on comments from unique users.)

  • Neutral comments: Neutral comments are usually left when a party wasn’t overjoyed with the transaction, but nothing happened that was bad enough to leave a dreaded, reputation-ruining, negative comment.

  • Negative comments: The number of negative comments may vary, just as the positives do, and for the same reasons.

This time-based data is useful because often the last couple of months’ transactions tell the tale. If a previously reliable eBay seller has decided to join the Dark Side, the evidence will show up here first. A number of new negative comments from different buyers constitute a definite danger sign (even if the seller has an overall high rating).

To the right of the Recent Feedback Ratings, you can peruse the Detailed Seller Ratings. This box is where all those little feedback stars you place get to shine. You can see how many ratings have been left — for each category — and where the Average Rating lies.

Don’t forget to look to the far right of all the fancy feedback data for the Member Quick Links box, which contains these handy links:

  • Contact Member. Click here, and you’ll be taken to an e-mail form that allows you to send an e-mail to the seller through eBay’s message system. You’ll never see the member’s e-mail address because eBay keeps it private.

  • View Items for Sale. Click here to see the current listings for this eBay seller.

  • View Seller’s Store (if the seller has one, of course), his other auctions (where you can see whether the seller is experienced in selling the type of item you’re looking to buy).

The last link at the far right is View More Options. Clicking here shows you a drop-down menu with even more ways to get the scoop on the seller.

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  • View ID History. If the seller has made any changes to his user ID, you’ll be able to see the IDs previously used on eBay here.

  • Add to Favorite Sellers. This will add the seller (if you’re so inclined) to your Favorite Sellers portion of your My eBay page.

  • View eBay My World. The My World page is a fun one where you can get a good look at the person’s life on eBay.

  • View Reviews & Guides. If the seller has reviewed products or written a guide (if you have a special area of interest check out the guides — with the caveat that eBay doesn’t edit these for accuracy).

  • View About Me page. The About Me page is where members talk about themselves, their businesses, and their collections. If a new seller (without a lot of feedback) puts up an About Me page and talks about his eBay goals and business, then you may feel more comfortable about doing business with that person.

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