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How to Read an Item Listing

Before we do any bidding, let’s take a look at a typical eBay item listing to see what you can find out about the item and its seller.

Each listing page includes several distinct sections, each of which is equally important—which means that you need to take your time and read through the entire item listing before you place your bid. Don’t skim; read carefully and pay attention to the details. If the seller mentions a known fault with the merchandise (in the Description section) but you gloss over it, don’t even think about complaining when you receive the item after the auction, fault and all. It’s your responsibility to read—and agree to—all the information in the listing.

Let’s look at each of these sections in detail.

Title, Number, and Your Information

The very top of the item listing, shown in Figure 3.1, displays the listing title (on the left) and the item number (on the right). The item number is important; you use this number to reference the auction in all correspondence, and when paying by PayPal or other payment services.

Figure 3.1

Figure 3.1 The title and number of the current auction—along with details of your bid.

Just below the title is a section that displays your personal information regarding the current auction. If you haven’t yet bid, this section is fairly empty; it will tell you if you’re signed in, or if you’re tracking this item in My eBay.

If you’ve placed a bid, this section will grow to display the status of your bid—whether you’re the high bidder (as in Figure 3.1) or you’ve been outbid. If you’re the seller of an item, this section will display the current bid price.

Auction Details

The Auction Details section is next, as shown in Figure 3.2. This section tells you about the status of the current auction. In particular, you will see the current bid price, the time left in the auction, the number of bids placed (history), the ID of the current high bidder, and the location of the item.

Figure 3.2

Figure 3.2 The Auction Details and Seller Information sections.

There’s one more important item in the Auction Details section—a Place Bid button. Although there’s a whole bidding section at the bottom of the page, if you like what you see so far, you can place your bid right from the top of the page by clicking this button.

Seller Information

On the right side of the Auction Details section (also shown in Figure 3.2) is a shaded box that lists important seller information. Most important is the seller’s eBay ID and current feedback rating. There are also a handful of useful seller-related links, including these:

  • Read feedback comments—to learn more about the seller’s eBay history

  • Add to Favorite Sellers—to track all future auctions by this seller

  • Ask seller a question—to send a question via email to the seller

  • View seller’s other items—to see what else the seller currently has for auction


The Description section, shown in Figure 3.3, offers a description of the item for sale, as written by the seller. Because the main item description is written completely by the seller, the amount of detail varies from auction to auction. Some sellers provide a wealth of detail; some write terse one-line descriptions. If the seller doesn’t include enough detail in the description, you can always email for more information—or decide that if this wasn’t important enough for the seller to spend more time on, it’s not important enough for you to bid on, either.

Figure 3.3

Figure 3.3 A typical eBay item description.

Depending on the type of item, the Description section might also include some stock details about the item, provided by eBay; for example, a listing for a CD (like the one in Figure 3.4) might include artist, format, release date, and label information, along with the CD cover art. Additional information, such as a track listing or editorial review, might also be provided under the main item description.

Figure 3.4

Figure 3.4 Stock item details as provided by eBay for certain types of items.

Often accompanying the text description are one or more pictures of the item. Some of these pictures might appear a tad small; if you see a Supersize Picture link under a thumbnail picture, click the picture to view it at a larger size.

Shipping, Payment Details, and Return Policy

The Shipping and Payment Details section, shown in Figure 3.5, lists the shipping/handling charge for the item, if the seller has stated a flat fee. In some auctions, this section will include a Shipping Calculator; enter your ZIP Code to calculate your specific shipping charge.

Figure 3.5

Figure 3.5 The Shipping and Payment Details section.

Also listed here are details on whether the seller offers shipping insurance, where the seller will ship to (U.S. only or internationally), and the seller’s payment instructions and return policy.

Payment Methods Accepted

Next up is another short section, shown in Figure 3.6, listing the payment methods accepted by the seller. Most sellers accept personal check and money orders; many accept credit cards via the PayPal service.

Figure 3.6

Figure 3.6 The Payment Methods Accepted section.

Ready to Bid?

eBay put the main bidding section, shown in Figure 3.7, at the very bottom of the page. All you have to do is enter your bid into the Your Maximum Bid box, and then click the Place Bid button.

Figure 3.7

Figure 3.7 Use the Ready to Bid? section to place your bid.

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