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This chapter is from the book

Secrets That Any Bidder Can Use

We'll end this chapter with some tips that should prove useful to any eBay bidder. Read on!

Secret #26: Use the eBay Toolbar

eBay offers a neat little add-on for your web browser that makes it easy to track auctions you've bid on, or that are on your watch list. When you install the eBay toolbar, it appears as part of your web browser, under all your normal toolbars. Figure 10.1 shows the eBay toolbar as it appears in Internet Explorer.

Figure 10.1

Figure 10.1 Track your auctions in your web browser with the eBay toolbar.

The eBay toolbar also includes some other useful features, including the capability to search auction listings from the toolbar, go directly to your My eBay page, and view the top picks in selected categories. The eBay toolbar is free and available for downloading at pages.ebay.com/ebay_toolbar/.

Secret #27: Use My eBay to Track Your Auctions

Don't let your auction activity get away from you. If you're a regular eBay user, the best way to track all your auction activity on a single page is by using My eBay. My eBay can also track your favorite auction categories, as well as your account status—and let you access the pages you use most often, without having to click through useless parts of the site. Personalize My eBay the way you like and then bookmark it; it's a great home page for the heavy auction trader.

Secret #28: Read the Fine Print

What methods of payment can you use? What about shipping? Any other details that might affect your decision to bid? Read the entire item listing before you place your bid so that you aren't surprised by the fine print in any auction.

Secret #29: Don't Forget Shipping Costs...

When you're placing your bid, remember that you'll actually have to pay more than you bid; you have to pay shipping and handling to put the item in your hands. If S&H costs aren't detailed in the item listing, figure them out yourself, or email the seller to get a reasonable estimate. That ultra-cheap $2 item looks pretty expensive if you have to add $5 shipping and handling to the base price.

Secret #30: ...But Don't Overpay for Shipping

Not only should you not get taken by surprise by shipping costs, but you also shouldn't be taken advantage of by unrealistic shipping and handling charges. Get a ballpark feel for shipping on a specific item from the seller's location to where you live. Expect a little overage on the seller's part (she has to buy packing materials, labels, and such), but not too much. If you know that shipping should be in the $2 range, accept a $3 charge—but question a $5 charge.

Secret #31: Pay Quickly

Don't delay—pay! Look, the seller needs the money, and the sooner you pay, the sooner you'll get what you paid for. (And the fastest way to pay, of course, is with your credit card, via PayPal.)

Secret #32: Don't Be a Deadbeat

Don't bid unless you really intend to buy. Nobody likes a deadbeat—and if you do it often enough, you'll get kicked off the auction site, permanently.

Secret #33: Pay by Credit Card

Now that most auctions are credit card enabled (via PayPal), use that option. Paying via credit card is relatively safe and leaves a good paper trail—and ensures that your item will be shipped quickly.

Secret #34: Money Orders Cost Money

The seller says that money orders or cashier's checks speed shipment. Depending on your bank, it might cost a few dollars to cut a money order or cashier's check. Be sure to factor these costs into your total expenditure—and question whether you really want to pay to cut a money order for a $5 item.

Secret #35: Provide All the Information Necessary

When you send your payment, be sure to include your name, shipping address, email address, and item name and description. Even better, enclose a copy of the item's checkout or listing page, with additional information written on it. (I can't tell you how many envelopes I've opened with only a check or money order inside; you gotta tell 'em who the payment is from and what it's for!)

Secret #36: If It's Pricy, Insure It

If you bought a rare or high priced item, ask the seller to insure the item for shipping. Pay the extra cost; it's worth it in peace of mind alone.

Secret #37: Document Everything

In case something goes south, it helps to have good records of all aspects of your transaction. Print copies of the confirmation email, plus all email between you and the seller. Be sure to write down the seller's user ID, email address, and physical address. If the transaction is ever disputed, you'll have all the backup you need to plead your case.

Secret #38: Keep a Log

Not only should you document all the correspondence for an individual auction, but you also should keep a log of all the auctions you've won. If you do a lot of bidding, it's all too easy to lose track of which items you've paid for and which you've received. You don't want to let weeks (or months!) go by before you notice that you haven't received an item you paid for!

Secret #39: Communicate!

Don't assume anything; communicate what you think you know. If you have questions during an auction, ask the seller. When the auction is over, email the seller. When the seller emails you, email back to confirm. Email the seller when you send payment and again to confirm receipt of the item. The more everyone knows, the fewer surprises there are.

In addition, remember that not everyone reads his email daily, so don't expect an immediate response. Still, if you don't receive a response, send another email. If you're at all concerned at any point, get the seller's phone number or physical address from the auction site and call or write her. A good phone conversation can clear up a wealth of misunderstandings.

Secret #40: Be Nice

You're dealing with another human being, someone who has feelings that can be hurt. A little bit of common courtesy goes a long way. Say please and thank you, be understanding and tolerant, and treat your trading partner in the same way you'd like to be treated. Follow the golden rule: Do unto other auction traders as you would have them do unto you.

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