1) Communicate with the seller before the auction closes.
The “ask seller a question” button is your friend. It allows you to get answers to any questions that you might have about an item before you buy. Even if no burning questions come to mind, I still like to use this feature to make sure I’m dealing with a real person, and to gain some insight into how helpful of a seller they’ll be.
2) Check the freight cost.
Sure, a big Cisco Switch might look like a killer deal at $150 on eBay. But don’t get stuck buying it before you find out it is shipping from Australia and freight will be four times the purchase price. IT systems can be hefty, and accordingly, so can the freight. If there isn’t a flat fee listed or a way to calculate freight, then ask the seller for assistance.
3) Do a background check.
A surface level check can be done by looking at the number of previous sales and reading buyers’ feedback. I’m usually not comfortable unless I see at least 15 to 20 previous transactions with genuine feedback – not generically created. If the dollar amount is over $1000, I’ll look for a history of closer to 100 transactions or more.
4) Background Check 2.0: Go Deeper.
Trusting the seller is so important, that sometimes we have to look even further. If I don’t feel comfortable after examining the seller’s eBay history, then I might get a little bit more creative. I will contact them and ask them for some information about their business. If they happily submit information and give legitimate information to back it up (non-P.O. Box addresses, references, etc…) then I’m much more confident. Also, check to see if they mention their business in the listing and look it up on your favorite search engine.
5) Make comparisons off eBay.
Find something listed on eBay, but you’re not sure if it’s the best deal? Google it and you’ll find respected businesses that carry it. You’ll often find similar pricing, with warranties and customer service built-in that you wouldn’t get at auction.
6) Ask for a better deal.
Viewed an auction that didn’t sell? Ask the seller if they would lower their price for you and re-list it as a “buy-it-now” auction at your agreed upon price. You can also barter on shipping costs, or ask them to use your shipping account and not charge a fee. Some don’t go for it, but asking never hurts.
7) Buy-it-Now is not get-it-now.
Always check to make sure the lister still has the hardware, and what the lead time will be. I’ve found that sometimes companies or individuals post renewable listings, then forget about them. In the meantime, they’ve sold the item and no longer have it. If they do agree to fulfill the order, it can take weeks or months to receive the delivery – due to their need to source it. I used to think “Buy-it-now” was automatic, but now I always double check.