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For Seniors: How to Use Shortcuts in Your eBay Searches

In addition to choosing clear descriptive keywords, you can use special tactics to conduct searches with the eBay search engine so that you can find just what you want on eBay. The following table highlights shortcuts that you can take advantage of during your eBay searches.

Shortcuts for Use on the eBay Search Engine
Symbol Effect on Search Example
Quotes “” Limits the search to items with the exact phrase inside the quotes. “Wonder Woman” returns items about the comic book/TV heroine.
Asterisk * Serves as a wild card (find-everything-like-this) when you’re not sure of spelling. alumin* returns items that start with alumin, such as aluminum (when you’re searching for the perfect vintage Christmas tree).
Minus sign – Excludes results with the word after the –. Search with box –lunch, and you’d better not be hungry because you may find the box, but lunch won’t be included.
Minus sign and parentheses Searches for items with words before the parentheses but excludes words inside the parentheses. midge –(skipper,barbie) means that auctions you find with the Midge doll will not have the other dolls (Skipper and Barbie) offered.
Parentheses Searches for both versions of the word in parentheses. political (pin,pins) searches for both political pin and political pins.

Here are additional tips to help you streamline any eBay search:

  • Don’t use and, a, an, or, or the: Called noise words in search lingo, these words are interpreted as part of your search but don’t help it. So if you want to find something from The Sound of Music and you type the sound of music, you may not get any results. Many sellers drop noise words from the beginning of an item title when they list it, just as libraries drop noise words when they alphabetize books. So, instead, type sound music — and to be even more precise, type “sound of music” (in quotes) to search for that exact phrase.

  • Use the asterisk symbol often to locate misspellings. You can snag some great deals by finding items incorrectly posted by the sellers. Here are a few examples:

    • Alumi* tree: Remember the old aluminum Christmas trees from the’60s? They’ve had quite a resurgence in popularity these days. You can buy these “antiques” in stores for hundreds of dollars . . . or you can buy one on eBay for half the price. You can find them even cheaper if the seller can’t spell aluminum or uses the British spelling (aluminium).

    • Cemet* plot: If you’re looking for that final place to retire, eBay has some great deals. Unfortunately, sellers haven’t narrowed down whether they want to spell it cemetery or cemetary. This search will find both.

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