ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA MARTENS
Wanted: a consummate collector who browses at garage sales, enjoys adrenaline-pumping action at auctions, and finds treasures at flea markets.
Any of the above criteria describe a prime candidate for shopping on the Internet auction house, eBay. High-tech computer skills are not required.
“Amazon.com, Yahoo! and many other sites offer on-line auctions, but of all of these sites eBay is by far the leading auction site,” according to the Beacon Technologies, Inc. Web site.
eBay, located at www.ebay.com, offers more than 3 million items in over 2,500 categories for sale.
If it’s an unusual and hard-to-find item, somebody’s probably selling it on eBay.
“I use it because I can find some things that I can’t find locally,” said Donna Bagley, chair of the education department and director of the master of education department at Tabor College.
A small sampling of the categories of items for sale are the following: antiques and art, books, video games, dolls and bears, home and garden, clothing and accessories, tickets and travel, jewelry, and coins.
A professed conservative buyer, Bagley said the most she has spent for an item on eBay is $40.
And the least expensive item?
“There was something I bought, and the postage was more than the item,” she said.
The record high bid known to date on eBay was set on an item sold in San Jose, Calif.
“A business jet sold (on Aug. 16, 2001,) for $4.9 million on eBay, setting a record for the highest-known sale price for any single item achieved on the on-line marketplace, and one of the highest on the Internet,” according to the Web site ebay.client.shareholder.com.
A beginner’s course in how to maneuver in the world of eBay begins by pulling up the home page on the Web site.
The home page lists a variety of options from a welcome button for first-time users, to a browse button used to pull up a more detailed list of categories of sale items.
For those who like to jump into the water without wading, take the plunge and click on the welcome and registration button. For others, begin by clicking and searching to open up the world of possibilities for sale.
Registration instructions are designed to be easy to use and will guide the buyer through the steps to understand the basics of the site and sign-up procedures.
Registration requires a user ID and password. The user ID is automatically set up as the buyer’s e-mail address but can be changed.
eBay suggests changing the e-mail address to a nickname such as “Betty 2000” or “Tiny Trees” to protect the buyer’s privacy.
The password should be one easily remembered but not too obvious.
The Web site cautions buyers to keep the user ID and password information in a safe place because both will be needed whenever a bid is placed on an item.
Browsers and buyers can use the “what are you looking for” option by typing in search information to pull up current items for sale-such as typing in “Barbie doll” might bring up as many as 746 Barbie doll-related items.
Each item has a bid sheet which lists detailed information such as a description and photos, the current-high bid amount, the seller’s feedback profile, the type of payment accepted, the method of shipping, and the time left down to the second before the auction closes. (See sample eBay window at right.)
After a bid has been placed, eBay will incrementally bid for the buyer up to the maximum bid listed. This feature is called proxy bidding. It allows the user to leave the auction site, and the auction house will bid up to that amount in the set increments.
The warning “reserve not yet met” on the screen indicates the seller has set a minimum price that item must sell for or the auction is considered invalid.
“You don’t know what that amount is, but you can still bid and (eBay) will tell you if you’re bid is under the reserve,” Bagley said.
Throughout the auction, eBay sends e-mails notifying bidders the amount of their last bid. Ebay also e-mails bidders when they have been outbid and when they have won the auction.
Bids are accepted up to the last second of the auction.
The highest bidder is usually contacted by the seller via e-mail to communicate payment requirements, and shipping dates, methods and costs.
Some of the popular methods of payment are by check, money order, cashier’s check, credit card, PayPay.com and eBay’s Billpont.
The instructions provided on the eBay site are designed to provide any first-time user enough information to be a successful bidder or browser, but the more the site is used, the more tricks of the trade are discovered.
Bagley said she began using the eBay site about a year ago.
“A friend had success with it, and so I decided to just look, and then I found myself buying things,” she said.
“I have a little side business of making teddy bears out of chenille bedspreads and old quilts, and I can see so many quilts and bedspreads on eBay so much faster than going to antique stores.”
She sells her teddy bears at the Hillsboro Arts and Crafts Fair in the fall.
“We’ve also had some good success buying new pieces for my mother’s china which is now out of production,” Bagley said. “And we’ve bought a lot of Lennox items.”
Bagley also said she has learned some lessons in her experience with shopping on eBay.
“I have learned I always check my personal buying page, which is called My eBay,” she said.
My eBay is a search button that stores up to 20 items currently for sale and chosen by the buyer as a favorite. This allows the buyer to quickly pull up an item of interest and track the bidding.
“If I bid on anything, then I can go back and look and see where it is now,” Bagley said. “It’s color coded on whether I’m winning or not, and I’ve found that real helpful.”
Bagley suggested checking into Web sites offering information about the value of items the buyer is interested in.
“On the Lennox, particularly, there’s some Web sites where you can check out what the Lennox factory asks for the items,” she said.
“It helps to know how much it sells for retail, and then I figure if it’s something I really like, and I can get it including the postage and handling for less than the factories asking for it-then it’s a good deal.”
One more tip from Bagley-insure the item being shipped.
She said in the past she purchased eight cups and saucers on eBay and had them insured.
“I received an e-mail from the seller that she had shipped it, but two-and-one-half weeks went by, and I hadn’t received it,” she said.
“I contacted her again and because it was insured, they were able to track it, and I ultimately got them.”
Various Web sites and eBay users polled offered the following additional helpful tips:
Avoid being “sniped.” This means the bidder is outbid at the last second. The only way to prevent being sniped is for the bidders to enter the highest amount they are willing to pay for an item.
If possible, consider bidding during the last hour of the auction. This can help control the rise of the bidding price, in some cases, over the entire period of the auction.
Once the decision is made to register on eBay, do it as soon as possible because eBay puts a little sunglasses symbol next to a name to indicate a new member. They remove it after 30 days, but until then, sellers may be reluctant to do business with a newly registered buyer.
When filling out the registration, make sure the SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) box is checked. SSL is an industry-standard security protocol that transmits personal information securely over the Internet. This will help insure that personal information remains private.
Take advantage of the feedback information provided by the auction house. This is made up of comments from other eBay users and provides an official eBay reputation. The feedback profile can answer many questions about how a person does business.
Take advantage of the seller’s e-mail address. Contact the seller throughout the auction with questions. If outbid, contact the seller to see if any more of the items are available. If the auction ended with the reserve not met, contact the seller to see if an alternate price can be negotiated.
Janice Porter of Hillsboro said she has only been on eBay once for a piece of china, but it scares her.
“I would always be cautious because I’m one of those people that likes to see the item right in front of me,” Porter said.
But Bagley said she will definitely continue to use eBay.
“I think people who sell are by and large good people trying to do an honest business,” she said.
“When I buy something, I usually e-mail them and tell them the check’s in the mail. Then they’ll e-mail me back with their shipping date or that they’ve received the check.
“And so when you have that kind of communication, I just have a lot of confidence that things are going well.”