I am certainly not an expert on Ebay, but I’ve learned a trick or two about how to find (and win) really great clothes, shoes and accessories, so I figured I could share a few tips.

  • Tip #1: Know what you are looking for ahead of time. Ebay is not really a place for serendipitous browsing unless you have a lot of time on your hands to sift through a ton of crappy items to find that one elusive gem.  When I go on Ebay, I am always in hunt of something very specific.  Perhaps I am looking for a pair of Fluevog boots, or a J Crew cashmere sweater, or a pair of non-black leather gloves.  If you just search for something extremely broad and non-specific, like “red dress”, you are going to have to look through tons and tons and tons of items that you have absolutely no interest in.
  • Tip #2: Search for brands you already love.  Not everyone on Ebay offers returns, so it isn’t really the best place to experiment with new brands you know nothing about.  Google reviews on a new brand if it’s something you haven’t tried on in a physical store before.  Try to have a good idea of what your size in that brand is before you start searching.  I always keep saved searches on several of my favorite brands that I know work for me, including Dansko, Fluevog, Boden and J. Crew.
  • Tip #3: Save your searches!!! I cannot emphasized this tip enough.  I would say that about 95% of my Ebay purchases have been found through saved searches.  This saves lots and lots of time for you, and allows you to make sure you don’t miss anything that you’re interested in.
    • To save a search, enter your search in the search bar, such as “Dansko boots”.  Once you get your results page, you can limit your findings to what applies to you.  In my case, I select “women’s shoes” on the side bar, and limit the sizes to 8 and unspecified (sometimes sellers don’t check the size box).  Then, look for something like this:
      “18 items found for dansko boots in Women’s Shoes: 8 [ Save this search ]“.  Just click “Save this search” and Ebay will e-mail you anything new that turns up in those search parameters for a designated amount of time.  I get about 20-25 of these e-mails every day for different things I’m interested in, and looking through  those e-mails is so much easier than searching for 25 different searches manually every day. (Note: the e-mails will only show you nine of the most recent items posted.  To see everything, there is a link in the email that you can click on)
  • Tip #4: Add items to your watch list. Whenever you are interested in an item and think you might buy it, add it to your watch list.  If you want to get an idea of how much a certain item goes for, add it to your watch list.  I check my watch list a couple times a day to remind myself of what items I’m considering.  Generally, I never end up bidding on many of those items, but I still like knowing what I’m interested in.
  • Tip #5: Search general and broad. Maybe you know that exact name of the shoe that you’re looking for.  But maybe a seller doesn’t.  And maybe, you are itching to get a pair of Fyre 8R Engineer Boots, but a seller simply lists them as “Black Frye boots”.  If you have searches going for both “Frye Engineer Boots” and “Frye Boots”,  you’ll find that posting either way.  And sometimes, if a seller doesn’t put the name of the item in the listing, it doesn’t get as much attention, and you could end up scoring your dream item at an excellent price.
    • Added tip:  if there’s a certain term that you want eliminated from your search results, put a minus sign in front of it.  Thus, searching for “Dansko -clogs” will show all listings that contain the word Dansko but do not contain the word “clog”
  • Tip #6:  Read listings very carefully and ask questions early. Always read every section of a listing.  Look for measurements, fabric content, imperfections.  Look at the photos.  Check the seller’s feedback ratings.  If you have any questions about an item that aren’t answered in the listing, send the seller a message as soon as possible.  If they’re good, they’ll get back to you before the listing closes.  If they don’t, it’s not worth biding on anyhow.  Most sellers are very willing to work with you and will gladly provide details about the item and additional pictures if you ask.
  • Tip #7: Determine the absolute maximum you are willing to pay for an item, and stick to it. It’s really easy to get sucked into the thrill of online auctions.  Someone outbids you, but you really want that item, so you bid again, and again, and again.  Next thing you know, you’ve won that item, paying three times more than what it’s worth.  Before you bid, decide on how much you are willing to spend, and stick to that, even if you get outbid.  Sometimes, you have to be willing to let stuff go.
  • Tip #8: Never bid until the last five minutes of the listing. Now that you’ve saved all your searches, that perfect pair of vintage Fluevog pumps comes up.  And you want them desperately.  So you bid several days before the listing ends and you are massively outbid.  You sulk for several weeks.  What you could have done is waited til the last five minutes of the listing (preferably the last sixty seconds) before putting in your maximum bid, so other bidders wouldn’t have much time to outbid you.  I’ve won many, many auctions this way.  Bidding early just ends up raising the price most of the time.  Wendy B. swears by “sniping” services, and while I haven’t tried it yet, it sounds like it would be very effective.
  • Tip #9: Resolve any problems with seller before leaving feedback. Did your item not turn out to be what you expected?  Was it mis-represented in the listing?  Always send a message to the seller with your concerns if something isn’t what you expected it to be.  Many will be willing to work with you, offering a return or refund, rather than getting bad feedback.
  • Tip #10: Always leave feedback.  Did you get your item in a timely manner?  Did the seller answer all communication?  Did they resolve any problems you had?  Then go leave some positive feedback.  Ebay thrives on feedback, and leaving sellers positive feedback when they do a good job helps them, and it’s just plain nice to do.

What are your favorite Ebay shopping strategies?

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