Thursday, August 14, 2008

Advice For eBay Buyers UPDATED

Buying on eBay got a lot harder this year. eBay has been making improvements to their search engine. They have made so many improvements that it can be quite difficult to find what you are looking for. Here are a few hints.

Finding, or not

UPDATE: Keep the search simple. Think hard about words that describe what you are looking for and use them in your search request.

After you have made your initial search and noted the number of items returned, you may want to check the 'include title and description' box, this is a choice which may appear after you have entered your search terms the first time. A seller can not put every word that may be searched for in the title, many times the word which you associate with the item may only appear in the description.

Don't be surprised if the search page looks different each time you visit, eBay likes to make sure you are awake. Today many of the search options were in the left nav bar.

You must search using eBay's Best Match which eBay thinks is smarter than you are. You will probably get better results by using the Sort by: box right above the first item. Time ending soonest will make sure you don't miss the perfect item from the perfect seller while looking at other stuff eBay wants you to see first.

Choices choices choices!

When you have entered your search terms make a note of the numbers of items found. After checking the first page keep scrolling to the very bottom, past all the advertisements to find the next pages. Below the additional pages bar you will see in teeny tiny print three more options in a Get more results box. You have three options to check there to see items that eBay's very confused search engine thinks are identical, to check items listed at a fixed price in eBay Stores and thirdly if you want to shop internationally.

More choices

If you are able to find what you are looking for on eBay it does not hurt to run a Google Shopping or product search to see what other options are out there on the web.

Many good eBay sellers are now ex-eBay sellers including me! Quite often you will find we offer better prices because we are not paying 30% plus of our gross to eBay and we can pass those savings onto our customers.

Many current eBay sellers only sell old or slow moving stock on eBay and have websites for their better inventory.

Pick your seller!

* Don't assume anything.
* Read the whole listing, all the words.
* Read where the seller will ship to and how it will be shipped.
* Remember to add the cost of shipping to the item price so you know what it is really going to cost!
* If you have any questions ask the seller, if they don't get back to you before the item ends don't be sad. Chances are very good an identical item is already listed or will be listed very soon, most sellers of truly unique items are no longer selling on eBay.
* Read both the feedback received and the feedback left for others.
* Personally, I don't buy high priced or electronics items from sellers who are brand new.
* If in doubt, don't! If it looks too good to be true it probably is.

Big is not necessarily better.

The largest seller on eBay is Buy with over 800,000 listings. Buy is the eBay name or user ID for a company called Before you buy something from Buy you should probably do three things:

1. Go look at other customer comments
2. Search for the same item on Google, you will always find it elsewhere and usually for a better price. Remember to add the shipping cost to the item price so you are comparing apples to apples.
3. If you must buy from Buy pay with a credit card, not a debit card or PayPal for maximum buyer protection. I am not saying they are dishonest. They are just huge and have terrible customer service.

Y'all come back!


Anonymous said...

1) I love the racoon picture!
2) You are sooo right about eBay's search! My last customer said he was about to give up the search for his chain until he decided to try one more time and do just what you suggested. That's how he found me and I supposedly have "Raised" search results according to the new rules. I hate to think what it is like for other sellers.
3) As you know, there are still a lot of really good eBay sellers like me still hanging in there. But like me, they have been moving to other sites. Even though we are listing elsewhere, we are still voicing our opinions and trying to bring about change from the inside. To a certain extent, eBay is listening. Fixing mistakes takes time which is what those of us sticking around are trying to do.

Good luck to all of us.

Anony Mouse

Kevin_T said...

"Quite often you will find we offer better prices because we are not paying 30% plus of our gross to eBay and we can pass those savings onto our customers"

Until this year I kept my combined Ebay/PayPal fees below 10% on Ebay (not including the ludicrous 2.5% fee for exchange rate which is not accounted anywhere). Since the listing fee reductions in February my combined fees are running at just over with 12% with the exception of May when they somehow dipped just under 10%, and June when they went just over 15% on a lower turnover and lower average price per item (reflecting the stock I offered).

This post I believe will need to be rewritten when the new "finding" engine is initiated in full on the American site (I am assuming that you are not yet experiencing it Henrietta, please correct me if I am wrong). I have used it on the UK site on my computer, and recently on a friends computer on the US site, and it seems to have removed what has become intuitive for experienced users of Ebay (or at least me). When researching this new "finding experience" (I assume that Ebay is too embarassed to call this piece of junk a search engine) will not allow you to stay in completed auctions - reverting to current auctions on the second search, will divert you into description search if your title search has no results, and will not let you go from description search into completed search - nor will it let you remove yourself from the description search if the title search has no results. It is awkward and clunky and unnecessarily forces you back to the "advanced search" page in order to continue searching as you wish to. I have never appreciated any search engine that overrides my instructions (although I don't object to "did you mean" suggestions which may identify spelling errors etc), and I really think that such overriding of the user will only alienate Ebay's users more from the site once this is introduced.

However, it is a better search engine than the piece of satire that they were testing at the beginning of the year, but then that search engine could only find 2 desk top computers in the entire USA, and would only show a few selected items when users viewed "sellers other items" ( That search should only ever have been tested on a commercial website with the knowledge and consent of the users testing it, not in such a way that would make Ebay worthless to buyers who unknowingly were saddled with it.

When will ebay learn that as they pull these stunts, and interfere with the ability of users to find, buy, research or sell, that they are undermining the commerce of the site, and actually reducing their own bottom line as well as interfering with the livelihoods of their clients.


Kevin_T said...

I'll bite, why do you feel that one should Always check the 'include title and description' box. I really feel that you need to select which searches you use that with, the more psecific the search, the more likely title and description will be effective, particularly if you use inverted commas to identify a specific string of words. However, broader search terms which may reveal obscure items in title only searches will often produce an overwhelming amount of "white noise" in title and description searches. While I recommend refining search habits to make the optimum use of the Ebay search engine, I do not believe a user will find it beneficial to *always* use title and description.

In their wisdom, assuming that the "new" search I have encountered is not going to be immediately changed, the "completed auctions" option is now unclickable from a "title and description" search as well. As I said above, they are making the search less and less intuitive for the user to use.

Kind Regards, Kevin

Henrietta said...

One hates to make assumptions, but, you also have to start somewhere.

This post was written for non-professional searchers, you know and I know that we can (sometimes) get better results with "quotation marks" but my customers are often not very computer literate and will type in victorian easter card.

I think they will get better results if the search is not title only, but I will revise that statement.

Kevin_T said...

Hi Henrietta,
Sorry to make you update your update. :) . I was working on it being aimed at the less experienced readers, but felt that selectively using description search stops a less experienced user from being absolutely overwhelmed by the search result in some cases.

Kind Regards, Kevin

Henrietta said...

Kevin I VALUE your comments and input highly!