A Warning: eBay is totally addictive! I have always loved thrift shopping, and eBay came along and totally enabled my obsession with hunting for the perfect dress/shoes/jeans/furniture in a way that probably isn’t 100% healthy.
Obviously, while clothes and jewelry are my personal area of expertise/weakness, they are just the tip of the eBay iceberg. I needed more memory for my computer recently, and I bought it on eBay for under $20. My boyfriend bought an icemaker for our freezer. If you need it, it’s probably on eBay, and you can probably save at least a few bucks off what you would pay elsewhere! Here are some tips to get you started:
Make your search as specific as possible. If you’re looking for something in particular, say, Citizens of Humanity jeans, knowing both what size you wear in that particular brand, and some style names that you like will be very helpful. Entering as much as you can about colors, brands, models, sizes etc. will help get you search results that you’ll actually be interested in.
Browse the categories! eBay is remarkably well organized, so if you’re not looking for ideas rather than a specific item, start by clicking on a larger category, like Art or Musical Instruments, and you will be shepherded in a more and more detailed direction as you go along. Especially helpful if you’re not sure exactly what an item is called.
Check the listing carefully! Look for both what is says, and what it does not say. Something that is “like vintage” or “like Gucci” is neither of those things, in reality. Clothing should always have lots of pictures. It’s important to know what to look for when thrift shopping (stitching, seams, tags, etc.,) so a good seller will have pictures of everything you’d look for if you were at a store.
Read the Fine Print. If you win a sweet pair of shoes for $15, but you end up paying $20 for shipping, it’s not as good a deal as you thought! Shipping costs should be listed with the item, depending on where it’s coming from, so make sure you take that into account when considering total price.
Check a seller’s feedback. Whenever a transaction occurs, both the buyer and the seller are supposed to leave feedback on the other’s profile. That way, delinquent shippers or payers are outed, and you know not to do business with them!
Know your measurements! Buying clothing online, especially vintage clothing, can be a crap-shoot, but if you know your measurements you are five steps ahead of the game. Since clothing sizes vary SO widely from brand to brand, and have changed so much over the years, it’s always best to go by measurements: bust, waist, hip, inseam, and even insole, for vintage shoes. This goes for ring sizes too.
Not much information. Listings that don’t say much about the item can be a little suspect. Either things are being left out on purpose, or the seller is just inexperienced, which can be bad news as well. If you’re unclear about anything, you can always contact the lister, and if they don’t get back to you in a timely fashion, forget ‘em.
If It Seems Too Good to be True…it just might be. It’s not a rule, but it’s less than likely that you’ll find a genuine Marc Jacobs bag for $30. If it were real, someone who bought it for $1600 would be losing some serious cash in that exchange, so just make sure you look a little harder at deals that seem unrealistically good. You never know, you might be the lucky person that stumbles upon the real deal!
Auctions vs. Buy It Now: There are two kinds of eBay listings. Auctions let you bid on an item, and try and outbid the other folks that want that item. “Buy It Now” is where you just plain buy the item for a listed price, no negotiating. Some listings have both an auction and a buy it now option. If you’re absolutely dying for something, and the “buy it now” price is in your budget, go for it. Otherwise, place a bid, and try and keep your price as low as possible. It’s part of what makes eBay fun, anyway!
Maximum Bid: When you’re bidding, notice that number you are entering is actually your maximum bid. So think it over, and decide what it is you’re willing to pay, and enter that as your bid. Your actual bid will be 50 cents or $1 over the previous bid, and bidding will continue up in whatever that increment may be. eBay will keep automatically upping your bid, as necessary, until it reaches your max, so you don’t have to keep going back and bidding again if someone outbids you. If you’re lucky, no one else will be bidding that high, and you won’t get anywhere near the maximum bid you entered! Of course, since auctions have end times, you can always bid at the last second, to try and snag it from someone without pushing the bidding too high early on. It’s called sniping. All’s fair in love and eBay!