eBay newbie needs advice

awm03December 27, 2006

There's a vintage watch on eBay that I've fallen for. It's an upscale Swiss brand, manual movement, silver (not sterling, but good quality)...and the starting bid is 99 cents!

Okay, so what's the scam? There are lots of watches going for 99 cents & up on ebay. How can a Swiss watch be priced for far less than a new, guaranteed-to-work Timex from the local drug store? I don't get it.

The seller doesn't state that the watch works or if it doesn't work. Still, it is so pretty that even if the watch doesn't work, I'd wear it as an interesting bracelet.

I've never bought anything on eBay before, so I don't have a feel for it at all.

Thanks for any & all comments.

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Good chance it's a knock off. If it were for real, there'd be a reserve on it, guaranteed.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 4:25PM
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Maybe the collectors will stay away from the offer then. I don't mind a knock off.

In scouting the 'net for info, looks like it's a nice old European brand, not in the same league as a Rolex or Piaget, but a couple of steps up from a Timex. Not a name that fine watch collectors covet.

My son says, in his experience with EBay, people wait until the last second to bid. Is that generally true for all items or for just a few popular things?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 4:55PM
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There are some cautions to buying on eBay -- but there are also some real steals available on-line. Some of the tricks I use to tell them apart:

-- The most popular name brands generally don't go for next to nothing on eBay. For example, you will not find a *genuine* Louis Vuitton anything on eBay for a 'steal' of a price -- but LOTS of knock-offs. Anything 'Tiffany' or 'Cartier' -- either super-expensive or fake. Name brands that are less popular, but perhaps of equally high quality, often sell for pennies on the dollar. For example, I bought several 'very lightly used' Mark Cross leather handbags for next to nothing. Just not a name brand that lots of people care about -- so great quality for the money.

-- Look for 'wiggle words'. Silver-tone tells you it's fake; Sterling tells you it's not. Silver is a wiggle word. Imagine protesting that something isn't genuine silver, and the seller asking you "Well, what color IS IT then?"... It COULD be a careless error if the seller is inexperienced, but probably not. (Did you catch the Kitchen post about 'wood-grain' interior? -- Wiggle word!)

-- Assume the quality of any non-name-brand product is no better than 'Wal-Mart'. It might be; but it might not be. A poor photo could be an inexperienced seller, but often, it's done to conceal defects.

-- Look at the seller's other items. Do they sell second-hand stuff? Lots of similar items? Are they a retailer in disguise? Clearance house? Just cleaning out the closets? (Great deals from closet-cleaners.)

-- Read their feedback -- especially the negatives and neutrals. Don't just look at the scores. Read the feedback critically for 'lukewarm' positives. Words like "good value" in a positive feedback note generally mean 'low quality, but low price.' Watch for "Feedback mutually withdrawn" -- that's a sign of a nasty seller who leaves retalliatory feedback for dissatisfied buyers.

-- Look carefully for the shipping charges and factor them in. For lots of items, the auction price is almost a non-issue because all of the buyer's costs are in the shipping. If you're near a big city and restrict your search to items near you, you can eliminate many of the shipping charges and grab up some real bargains.

-- Yes, the prices often go up dramatically in the last few seconds. The eBay pros often use 'Snipe' software to enter their bids during the last few seconds of an auction. eBay tries to tell you it doesn't matter and that there's no point in doing that because eBay's own systems don't bid more than necessary -- but really there can be a big advantage to sniping. (Sometimes there isn't.) Sniping software can keep you from acting impulsively. Also, it can keep the item from 'price-creeping' during the last few hours as several bidders outbid each-other 50 cents at a time. (You can't keep others from doing it without you, but you can avoid starting a bid-creep yourself.) Plus, you can often beat out inexperienced buyers who think a $2 increment during the last 30 seconds will win an item. Ooops - $1 more. Now $2 more -- oh no! You just enter your one real 'snipe' bid way ahead of time, and it only hits 5 seconds before close when it's too late for anyone else to try to top it. If you had entered your maximum bid on eBay days in advance, and someone else had done the same -- then they decided they were willing to go just $1 higher --- then you've lost it.

-- Don't assume it's always cheaper on eBay than it is elsewhere. It *usually* is, but sometimes not. A good friend of mine asked me to help her buy 4-day multi-park Disney tickets on eBay. We were shocked at the consistently high prices! So we checked Disney's authorized site and found the prices to actually be lower. Seriously. So she bought 7-day tickets, then resold the unused 4-day portions, recouping 70% of her money.

Can you tell I love eBay?

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 7:35PM
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All good advice from sweeby. I wish I had known all that when I started on ebay years ago. I have very little to add except some things I have learned from experience from both the buying and selling point of view.

If you have questions, email the seller and ask them BEFORE the end of the auction. If they are ok, they won't mind answering. Even if you feel dumb asking them, better before the auction ends then after. To use the above example, if is says silver - ask if that is Sterling Silver or Silvertone. If you just get ignored, stay away. That means there is something fishy going on. If you don't get service before the sale, then I can almost guarantee you won't get it afterwards.

I always ask for insurance. One because I live way out in the country and my mailbox is far from the house and things have gotten stolen from it. And two, then you have proof that the seller sent it. I have heard of scams where buyers don't get insurance and after a couple of weeks when the item doesn't arrive they complain to the seller. Of course he says he sent it and that it is the buyer's fault that it got lost and that there is no insurance. Then a month later he has the same item up for sale again.

As to "sniping", I do it all the time but I put in the full amount I am willing to pay, not in little $1 to $2 amounts, and wait till the last 30 seconds to a minute. If I get it at my price, great. If not then another will come along later. When I was new I thought whatever I was bidding on was the only one and worth whatever I paid for it. Unless it is a very rare collector's item, most items will pop up again sooner or later.

And in regards to the .99 cents sales. Some sellers think that will get a lot of people to go crazy and bid if they start very low. I have got some very nice pieces of sterling silver and semi-precious jewelery because no one else wanted them for 99 cents.

And like sweeby said, always check the cost of shipping, it can be killer and a deal breaker. And some people only take Paypal, its free, so you might want to sign up for it.

Also go to the Community Boards there and you will find lots of help from the pros on lots of topics like: how to do a better search, and how to bid.

Good luck.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 9:05PM
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Some of the best advice I've seen with regard to Ebay. As for bidding, all the bids I've won, with maybe one or two exceptions, have been won by submitting a major bid upgrade (as aptosca said-- up to what you'd be willing to spend) in the last 15 seconds of the auction.

The biggest thing to remember-- if it sounds too good to be true, it usually is. This was never more true than in on line auctions.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2006 at 10:39PM
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Thanks for the tips, guys, I appreciate it. In the future, I'll wait to put in a bid.

Other people are bidding on the watch now, even though the bidding doesn't end until next week. I probably won't end up with it, but if I do, I'll let you know. The seller appears to be good, the item looks legitimate, research on the 'net says it's a good brand, pretty mid-century style -- will be interesting to watch this sale.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2006 at 9:03AM
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I had to chime in because I am currently trying to iron out a ebay mess. I was on line several weeks ago (yep, kitchen forum) when I got an email alert notifying me my ebay items were "successfully posted". I hadn't sold anyrhing or for that matter bought anything from ebay for nearly a year. Sure enough, someone had hacked into my account and posted 15 items of some computer crap for apparently way under market value at a buy it now price of about $350 each. I emailed ebay right away and made them aware of the fraudulent post, etc. Then I got a notice this week stating that I need to pay my ebay acct. Odd. They were billing me for the 4 items that sold prior to ebay pulling them AND threatening collection if I did not pay. I did not get a response from the first two emails and as of today I think it may be resolved. I just closed my acct. and determined it not worth it. That is one way to get me to shop local.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2006 at 8:50PM
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That same kind of thing happened to a friend of mine who operates an ebay store for fishing lures (surprise, surprise!). Someone hacked into his account and sold some items under his name and they expected him to pay the charges associated with the sales. He ended up having to shut down the store.

    Bookmark   December 30, 2006 at 9:22PM
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