Gain an edge in eBay auctions
By Jay Dougherty Jul 1, 2006, 3:29 GMT
Picture shows World Cup tickets offered for auction at \'ebay\'. EPA/Arne Dedert
Washington - eBay just keeps getting bigger. Now with almost 200 million users worldwide, according to figures released recently by chief executive Meg Whitman, the membership would constitute the world's fifth largest country if banded together as a nation. But nation-building isn't what eBay is about. All those buyers and sellers come to the world's largest online marketplace in hopes either of finding great deals or getting the best prices for their used goods.
There's no doubt that when it comes to turning those hopes into reality, knowledge is power. Those who know more about how to profit from the online auction marketplace and how to determine the fair value of goods before they put items up for sale or bid on items will come away with the best chance of being satisfied with the auction process. And just how do you gain the upper hand when it comes to knowing more than the next person? The tools are getting better by the week.
--- Know the resale value
How much can you get for that used camera? How much can you expect to pay for used guitar? Before you ever sell something online or place a bid for an item you'd like to buy, you should have an acceptable range of prices that others have paid for a similar item.
Do a simple search on eBay or another online auction site, and what you'll find are items for sale - not the prices of items already sold. For that information, you'll need to use the 'advanced' search feature. On eBay, click the Advanced Search link on the main page. The Advanced Search page includes a check box labelled 'Completed listings only.' Click that check box, and then type a search term in the 'Enter keyword' text box.
When you click Search, you'll be given a list of items that have been sold recently at auction. Note that before you get the list, you may be asked to enter your user name and password for eBay, since this information is not made available to those without an account.
Make note of the prices paid for similar items over the past few weeks. You can use that information to bid more sensibly - or to know how much you can expect to receive for an item you'd like to sell.
Avid eBay users also have a valuable tool in eBay's Market Research Web site (http://pages.ebay.com/marketplace_research/). This subscription-based section of eBay - at about 10 dollars per month - provides frequent buyers and sellers with price and trend-related data not available anywhere else. Buyers can use the data to track items they're interested in purchasing to see the average selling prices. Sellers can use historical data to get a better understanding of demand for particular items, see which items tend not to sell as well, and track bidder behaviour.
--- Know the buyer or seller
Perhaps the single biggest obstacle to buying and selling online is lack of trust. Buyers are suspicious of sellers, and sellers are suspicious of buyers - and both have good reason to be.
Sometimes, sellers exaggerate the condition of an item or fail to mention flaws. Buyers can also disappoint sellers by failing to pay for items they've won or by being overly picky about an item's condition once it's received. While the majority of buyers and sellers are honest and concerned about their reputations, the challenge for all is to weed out those you'd rather not deal with.
How can you head off trouble? Using eBay's 'member feedback' rating system is your first line of defence. Click the number next to any eBay member's user name, and you'll see a listing of positive or negative feedback left by those who have done business with the user.
But be careful. Unscrupulous sellers have been known to beef up their feedback rating artificially by selling lots of very low-cost items to friends, who then leave positive feedback. At some point these sellers list a high-priced item for sale. Buyers then bid on the item, believing the seller to be reputable.
To avoid such tricks, observe not only the feedback left for a particular member but also inspect the items for which the feedback was left. If a seller has lots of positive feedback after having sold many items for 2 cents, be suspicious. You can inspect the items upon which feedback was left by clicking the item number on the feedback page.
For high-priced items, whether you're buying or selling, use eBay's latest tool for determining the honesty of members. Skype (http://pages.ebay.com/skype) is an Internet-based telephony program that allows you to place phone calls for free over the Internet, assuming you have a headset microphone hooked up to your computer.
eBay, which now owns Skype, has begun to integrate the use of the program into auctions. When you list an item for sale, you can add a Skype-based voice or chat button to your listings. Doing so shows your potential buyer you have nothing to hide. Talking to someone also builds trust much better than e-mailing, and questions can be answered more quickly this way than by email.
--- Know how to pay safely
Finally, make sure your method of payment for online auctions you've won offers you protection. Payments by credit card using eBay's PayPal system are much preferred to sending a check by mail. As a seller, you'll have to pay a percentage-based fee to accept credit card payments by PayPal or another method, but the fee is almost always offset by the fact that bidders are willing to offer slightly more when they feel their financial transaction provides a better level of protected.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur