How to Use eBay (And Not Get Ripped Off)

Auction powerhouse eBay is the world's largest online auction Website, and it's easy to find almost anything for sale on it. You can also list almost everything for sale. It allows you to sell your item faster than you would by listing in the newspaper or community bulletin boards. However, using eBay does have some disadvantages. Thousands of people can get ripped of or scammed by eBay sellers who take advantage of a buyer who doesn't understand some key rules and guidelines.


Get Started

As soon as you've registered, you need to become aware of three invaluable tools offered by eBay. These are: user feedback, the Security Center and bidding histories.

User feedback allows users to comment on all transaction they participate in. When commenting, the user assigns a positive, neutral or negative ranking to his description. By looking at the user feedback, a user's reliability can be determined easily by his rankings, with a high positive ranking meaning that the user received a large number of positive comments. This feedback can indicate if a seller sells quality merchandise, if a seller is recommended by others and if a buyer submits his payment quickly.

Security Center is eBay's "comprehensive safety resource and protective arm." It's basically a service that allows eBay to monitor its users. Whenever users log into the system, eBay's servers record their Internet addresses. Although users cannot view this information, SafeHarbor personnel will respond to complaints by users and will determine whether, for instance, an eBay user is using multiple user names in order to manipulate auction prices. So it prevents you from registering 15 times with 15 different e-mail addresses. If one is allowed to do that, he could bump up an auction price to get people to pay more.

A bidding history shows which auctions a user has bid on, and it also lists the other users who have bid in those same auctions. This can be helpful in determining whether users are playing by the rules.

Sell Smart - Title Your Items Effectively

Spelling mistakes and insufficient descriptions can be the difference between an item attracting buyer interest and garnering a high price, or going for a paltry sum offered by one lone buyer. The Website's search engine favors titles that include the most information. Listing items in this specific manner allows for more exact matches. While being as specific as possible is good, don't stress over the capitalization, exclamation points and dashes--they do not affect the eBay search engine.

Sell Smart - Beware of Collaboration

Collaboration occurs when buyers communicate with one another in order to affect a low final price for an item. Although traditional collaboration is difficult to pull off, the gigantic size of eBay's bidding community makes it possible for users to collaborate in a modified form. For instance, in a traditional auction--where all bidders are sitting in the same room--collaboration could be achieved if all the bidders interested in an item decided that only one person would bid so that they could later split the profit. On eBay, this would be virtually impossible to do. After all, there is an unlimited number of potential buyers.

The modified form of collaboration on eBay involves bid retraction and bid defaulting. You should constantly check the bidding histories of the people who are placing the bids. If something fishy is going on, then report the names to Safe Harbor and immediately pull your item off the market.

Buy Smart

Buyers who do not research the value of the items often end up paying a much higher price than they should. So do your homework before bidding on any item so that you won't screw yourself over.

Always go to online shopping sites first to determine the lowest retail price being offered. To find out which retail sites are selling a particular item, check out Yahoo!'s shopping section.

Also use eBay's completed auction search to determine the average price of the item on eBay. When considering the price difference between a retail Website and eBay, one should factor in such things as warranties and customer service that are often absent from eBay purchases.

Even if you've done all the proper research, though, you're still not safe. Buyers incur the most risk using eBay because they're required to send their payment first, often without proof that the seller has any intention of actually shipping the item. And the merchandise they receive--if it comes at all--may not be of the quality they expected. Beware of the three types of bad sellers: Sellers who never ship the merchandise. Sellers who accept really low bids. Sellers who use multiple user names

Take Action If You Get Ripped Off

If you have been scammed on eBay, there are a number of legal ways to get your money back and report the seller. First, clarify the situation with the seller. Make sure there are no misunderstandings about the transaction, and that the item was not accidentally lost.

If you're sure the seller is trying to defraud you, write negative feedback about him on eBay. This will prevent other people from getting scammed by the same seller.

Keep in mind that eBay offers $200 in insurance, minus a $25 deductible, to any user who has been defrauded. "Defrauded" means either you paid for an item and never received it, or you received an item that wasn't exactly what you had in mind. In order to receive the insurance though, eBay has a few requirements, including that both you and the seller were in good standing at the time of the transaction. If the problem is that the buyer and seller do not agree on the terms of the auction, eBay suggests using a service like Square Trade in order to arbitrate the dispute.

Other ways of getting even include issuing a complaint with the FTC, the National Fraud Information Center, or--if the seller is a business--the Better Business Bureau.