to eBay or not

Buying used clothing definitely has it’s perks. But it has it’s drawbacks also. There are the obvious reasons for buying new…no one has ever worn it before your child puts it on, no risk of stains or holes, you can keep with the latest fashion trends. For me, used clothing has some draw also. The prices sometimes are cheaper than you’ll find during the 75% off clearances and I have often found specific items that I can no longer find new. I’m disappointed in the downhill slide that Old Navy’s quality has taken. In this instance, I can find Old Navy clothing from a couple years ago that I prefer over some of their new items. I also turn to used clothing when I need ‘filler items’. When you shop a clearance, you have to pick from what is left. Sometimes there will be things you need that aren’t available. I find these items during the season that they are needed, but I still refuse to buy them at full price. This is where eBay and retail used clothing stores come in handy. eBay can be tricky if you’ve never used it before. I’m not an expert. I don’t have an eBay store or anything of that nature. But I have bought and sold numerous times and so I hope to be able to go over some of the basics that will help you get started.

I must first say that research is really a key ingredient in making the used clothing circuit work to your advantage. Most places that sell used clothing will be overflowing with items. eBay is no exception. You really need to know what you’re looking for and you need to be specific. eBay also follows seasonal trends. It’s large enough to be affected by supply and demand. For instance boots will sell for more in the winter than they will in the summer, just like a retail store. eBay prices are determined by how many people want and are willing to fight for a specific item. And people sometimes end up paying more than they originally wanted to. They somehow get it in their head that an item is worth more if other people want it at the same time as they do. Stand your ground! Don’t buy things if you’re going to feel guilty about it afterward.

HOW TO FIND SOMETHING: eBay has millions of different categories and they’re pretty easy to maneuver through. You can search on a specific size just by putting that number in the search field. The less specific your keywords are, the more items it will find. For instance, if I’m looking for a pair of black dress shoes for Marz then I would navigate through the children’s items until I found the dress shoes category. Then I would type “black 10” in the search field. This would then bring up all the black dress shoes in her size. It’s not uncommon for an inexperienced seller to list an item in the wrong category. So, if I didn’t find what I was looking for in this initial search, I might back up to just the general shoes category and try the search again with the same keywords. There have been times when I have been looking for certain brands. I again find the category my item would be found under (sleepwear) and I might type something like “GAP 5T”.

HOW TO DETERMINE ACCEPTABLE PRICE: It’s true that there is no way to predict what an item on eBay will sell for. It’s completely up to the bidders. But you can at least do some research and get an idea of what the item has sold for in the recent past. You do this by first searching for what you want. Then in the left-hand column of options, you mark the checkbox that says “completed listings”. This will give you a list of auction items in your search category that have already ended. If the price is in green, this means the item sold and that was the final price. If the price is not in green, then the item was listed and the auction ended before anyone bid or matched the reserve price and therefore the item did not sell.  You will have some choices as to how you want to sort this list. I personally sort it by end date so that I can see which ones sold most recently. I prefer not to base my decisions off of auctions that ended more than a month or so ago. Things change too frequently with supply and demand. When you scan through these prices, don’t forget to take note of the shipping cost that was charged by the seller. Most eBay buyers/bidders will factor that in when deciding on their maximum bid. So I prefer to base my decisions off final price and shipping cost put together. In addition to looking up auctions that have ended, I also spend at least a week or so watching active listings of the item that I want to buy. When you look at an active listing, you can choose to ‘watch’ the item. This way you can watch an active listing through to the end to see how it plays out.

HOW TO BID: For me, bidding and buying on eBay took some practice. But I don’t think it needs to be complicated. When you enter a bid, typically you should enter the absolute maximum you are willing to pay for that item (keeping in mind that shipping costs will be added to final auction price). Then eBay automatically will up your bid for you based on what others are bidding. For instance… if the item starts at $1 and you are willing to pay $10, that’s what you enter into your bid. But if you are the first bidder, you won’t see the price at $10 for the item when you look at the listing. You only pay $10 if other people are bidding on the same item and enter bids that bump the price up that high. There is a technique called ‘sniping’ that some people use. It means that they save their bid until the very last minute, sometimes the last few seconds and they then enter their bid. The philosophy of this is counting on the fact that people don’t truly enter their maximum in their bid until someone else outbids them. Then they go back and rebid at a higher price. So if you ‘snipe’ the auction, then you’re entering your bid at the end in hopes that no one has time to outbid you. You can do this manually by watching the auction and continually refreshing the page in the last couple minutes. Or there are websites out there that will do the sniping for you for a nominal fee. (most have free snipes available when you first create an account).

READ THE FINE PRINT: If you receive an item that isn’t what you expected or wanted, it becomes a ‘he said, she said’ fight for getting your money back. I tend to believe that most of the time, the argument is in the favor of the buyer. Mainly because any seller on eBay who wants to continue to sell, tries to avoid negative feedback at all costs. But, if there is ever a problem, eBay will back whatever wording was put in the listing. So be very careful and read the entire listing before you bid. Some sellers are wordier than others. But it’s worth it to make sure you know what you’re getting into. Sometimes pictures are misleading. Sellers have been known to put things in pictures that are not for sale in the auction. It’s usually noted as such somewhere in the description for the listing. Make sure you take note of the return policy the seller has. Things such as ‘smoke-free’ or ‘pet-free’ home are important to me when I’m bidding on clothing. Some sellers sell clothing in sets or ‘lots’ (as they are often termed on eBay). Typically these are also in the buyer’s favor. The ‘per item’ price will average out to be lower when you win these auctions. Just make sure you want all the items in the set. Otherwise you’re not saving yourself any money. Some inexperienced sellers will have very plain listings without much text or description at all. Don’t hesitate at all to ask them a question. There is a link for this very purpose on the listing itself. It’s not hard to find. A seller owes it to bidders to disclose information about the item they are selling. If I ask questions and a seller does not answer, or sends me a message saying they don’t know the answer, I do not bid on the item. It’s just where I draw the line. You’ll have to decide for yourself.