Friday, December 1, 2006

Ebay Success - Buy that item for a Bargain Price

The internet has opened a whole new world for the astute shopper. It\'s now pretty easy to find rare items that in the past could have taken months or even years to source. Now, thanks to Ebay and other online auction sites, you have instant access to a massive range of new, used and collectable goods, all from your own home with the click of your mouse.

However, this means that an item that once would have gathered dust in the back of a second hand store now has global exposure, and collectors worldwide have the opportunity to get their grubby mitts on it. This could mean a bidding frenzy on Ebay. So here\'s a few tips to get you on the right path to snagging a bargain.

1 - Search for misspelled items. With the thousands upon thousands of items listed on Ebay each and every hour worldwide, chances are that there are a lot of sellers that accidentally misspell keywords in the title that will prevent the item from showing up in a regular search. If few people can find the auction, then few people will bid and the final price will likely be much lower than it\'s correctly spelled cousin. Tools like The Auction Engine provide search capabilities to help find some of these misspelled gems.

2 - Don’t bid on a 99c item – watch for later. Sellers list items for 99c for two main reasons. One, the Ebay listing fee is cheaper if it starts under $1, and two, items with a low starting price usually attract a lot more attention. Say for example, two sellers list an identical Nikon SLR camera. One starts at 99c, the other at $100 and usual selling price is around $130. The average buyer browsing the SLR listings will probably just ignore the $100 item, but will be exited by the 99c one, open it up, have a read, watch the item and maybe make a bid. The $100 camera may slip away unsold and unwatched without a single bid, but because of the traffic that the 99c starter gets, the final price may well exceed $130. By all means, don’t ignore the 99c items, but stick them in you watch list for later. The item with the higher start price may be the real bargain.

3 - Sniping – Just nasty, or a handy buyers tool? When I first started buying on Ebay, I couldn’t understand how I could have the winning bid and then seconds before the auction close, someone would outbid me by a few cents. Then I discovered sniping tools. So if you can’t beat them, join them. They provide some nice features which improve your bidding experience, such as the ability to set bidding limits across multiple items and the option to cancel a snipe if you find something better – much easier than trying to cancel a winning bid. My favourite sniper is called JBidWatcher, which I like for a few reasons. One, it’s a program that runs on your own PC, so you don’t have to sign up to a web site and hand over your Ebay password. Two, it’s Open Source, which means it’s free and the program code is available to be scrutinized by any nerd. If there was any dodgy spyware in it, the whole internet would know! And Three, you can setup bidding limits so that you can set up to bid on many of the same item from different sellers, but if you win one, then it won’t bid on the others. Nice. Just make sure you get the real Open Source version from (Sourceforge is where all the Open Source programmers hang out) - the downside to the open source code is that anyone can take it, alter it for their own benefit such as adding spyware, and then make it available from software search sites.

4 - Check out the bidding history and then research the other bidders. This can be a lot of work, but for big ticket items, it may be worth it. At the top of the item details, there will be a \'History\' link. Open it up to see how many other people are bidding and how many bids each person has. If the highest bidder has made lots of bids, this probably means that the maximum price they\'ve set isn’t much higher than the current bid as they\'ve eased their way up a few dollars at a time to just push the previous high bidder off their perch. The next thing you can do is view the other bidder\'s feedback and have a look at other items they’ve won. They may purchase similar items regularly giving you an indication of how much they’re willing to pay for an item, which will give you a guide on what you should set your maximum bid to.

5 - Beware shipping and hidden insurance costs. Always be sure to factor shipping and insurance costs into your final maximum bid. Some sellers, particularly those from overseas, will list the item at a low price but have a ludicrous postage amount. In addition to this, they may also have a compulsory insurance amount set too. Unlike the postage amount, the insurance amount is only displayed at the very bottom of the listing so you’ll need to go and hunt for it. I was stung buying an MP4 player from Hong Kong – I thought I was getting a bargain until I won the item, went through the checkout process, and discovered there was a $40 compulsory insurance charge attached. It was in the listing so there was nothing I could do about it, but it was buried right at the bottom where I didn\'t notice it. Beware!

Most of all have fun. Ebay and other auction sites are a great way to find collectables as well as new and used household items. The convenience of shopping from home is wonderful, and the thrill of snagging a bargain is always exhilarating. Best wishes and happy bidding!

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