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Read eBay Item Descriptions Carefully

The item description is the most critical item on an eBay listing page. This is where the seller gives the details about the item being sold. Read this page carefully and pay very close attention to what is, and isn't, written.

Don't judge a book by its cover — but do judge a seller by his or her item description. If the sentences are succinct, detailed, and well structured, you're most likely dealing with an individual who planned and executed the listing with care. It takes time and effort to post a good listing.

If you see huge lapses in grammar, convoluted sentences, and misspellings, you might want to ask the seller further questions (if you really want the item from this seller, that is — there may be others available on eBay).

Make sure that you feel comfortable dealing with this person or business; decide for yourself whether he or she seems to be out to sell junk for a quick buck or is selling on eBay for the long term.

If additional pictures are available, take a good look. The majority of eBay sellers spruce up their auctions with multiple photos of their items.

The seller should answer a few general questions in the item description. If these questions aren't answered, that doesn't necessarily mean that the seller's disreputable — only that if you're really interested, you should e-mail through eBay messages and get those answers before you bid. In particular, ask questions like these:

  • Is the item new or used?

  • Is the item a first edition or a reprint? An original or a reissue?

  • Is the item in its original packaging? Does it still have the original tags?

  • Is the item under warranty?

eBay requires that sellers spell out exactly how the item will be shipped. Check the Shipping and Payments tab, which is next to the Description tab, to see whether an actual shipping charge applies — and if so, how much it'll cost you. Some sellers use eBay's incredibly convenient shipping calculator. Here are a few other things to consider regarding your item:

  • If you're in a hurry to get the item, is the seller shipping within a day?

  • If there are shipping charges, does the amount seem reasonable?

    Most experienced eBay buyers know that, depending on the item, a tiny scratch here or there may be worth the risk of making a bid. But a scratch or two may affect the value and your bidding price.

  • Is this item the genuine article or a reproduction — and if it's the real deal, does the seller have papers or labels certifying its authenticity?

  • What size is the item, and how much does it weigh? (That life-size fiberglass whale may not fit in your garage. That baby grand piano might cost a lot to ship from Anchorage, so you need to factor in the cost of shipping when you consider how much you're willing to pay.)

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