Re: EBay MTF Lessons Learned
I have been purchasing on Ebay for years - both for myself and more recently, for hard to get items for my job/work. I have over 100 feedbacks and have probably purchased well over 100 items. I recently discovered that I have been ripped-off for the first time ever. Fortunately it was only for a magazine subscription that was a little less than $17. Considering all that I have saved on purchases in the past, I can't complain too much but it is still very annoying. I am trying to make things as difficult as possible for the seller, but I don't think I am going to get any satisfaction because too much time has elapsed since the auction ended. I will continue to buy on Ebay and I won't do anything differently than I do now except that I won't buy any more subscriptions because it takes too long to find out if you are actually going to receive them. I've bought them before and paid only a small fraction of the renewal price, but I won't risk it again.
Here is what I do and what I suggest others do when they buy on Ebay:
(1) Read the item description carefully. Don't make any assumptions about the item. If the seller doesn't show something clearly in a picture or doesn't plainly say something in the description, assume the worse about it and you won't be disappointed. Also, pay attention to all of the sellers terms - especially the shipping cost. If no shipping cost is provided - ask. Some sellers have no problem charging a lot more for the shipping/handling than the cost of the item. Unusually high shipping charges are a red flag.
(2) Read the seller's feedback - particularly feedback from buyers. Everyone has to start somewhere, so not everyone has a long track record, but you definitely want to read what others have said to try to get a feel for whether others have been completely satisfied. If someone has a lot of feedback, they might have a couple of negatives, but if you read what they say often it sounds like the buyer was unreasonable. On the other hand, sometimes if you read between the lines of neutral, or even positive, feedbacks you can get a feel for whether buyers have been partially dissatisfied with some aspect of the transaction. If the feedback is bad, just don't bid. If you don't get an entirely warm and fuzzy feeling from the feedback, either pass on the item or factor in your reservations when deciding how much to bid.
(3) If you have any questions, ask the seller BEFORE you bid. If they don't respond, don't bid.
(4) When you win an item, ask the seller to notify you when they ship it out (or when they receive your payment if paying by check) and/or to provide a tracking number for the shipment (if possible). This can give you peace of mind when shipping is slow.
(5) Don't use instant cash payments like Western Union. Even Western Union recommends against using them to pay for auctions. I use PayPal and it is convenient for me. I know a seller who won't take it because PayPal took money back from them after a buyer filed a dispute on an item. I don't know the whole story there, but it seems to bode well for buyers if nothing else.
If you have a problem with an item, email the seller first. I have had a few mix-ups and with the exception of this last one, the seller has always made it right. When emailing, you have to wait at least a few days for a reply - sometimes life gets in the way. If you don't get an email response, you can ask Ebay to give you the sellers telephone number. If that fails (in my case it was a dead-end voice mail box), you can file a dispute with Ebay and/or PayPal (if you use it), but you have to do so within a certain period of time - I believe 45 days currently. After that, they won't do much for you.
I think that covers everything I can suggest. The warnings about being contacted outside of Ebay are valid. My brother had someone try this on a big ticket item and it was definitely a scam. There were plenty of signs that it was bogus, not the least of which were the many excuses for all sorts of unusual requirements the seller had for completing the transaction.
I hope it helps some of you buy safely. All potential problems aside, it can be a fairly amazing thing - you can find just about anything at any time, purchase it without leaving your home, and often save money in the process.