Ebaying For Blood - How to get the best bargains out of the UK's favourite bidding site

by - Saturday, February 15, 2014

(originally published in T'Hud magazine)

I consider myself a bit of a thrifty connoisseur when it comes to clothing, and ebay is my vehicle of choice. Ask any of my housemates and they will tell you they are constantly treated to my squeals of delight when a package drops through our letter box, and then look on in bemusement as I clutch some crazily patterned, musty smelling 70’s dress to my chest and declare it ‘totally similar to that one in topshop that’s 80 quid!’

Being a fashion conscious student, I of course want to look good, without being a slave to high street prices, or indeed their dictated standards of what we should all be wearing. Shopping on eBay allows you to put together a unique ensemble, snapping up last season’s dress that you never got round to buying, whilst being economically and environmentally friendly. Plus of course, that glowing feeling you get when you can shout TAKE THAT BITCH! at your computer screen as you snare a bargain from your rival bidders grasp. Have I got you convinced yet? No? Well, take a look at my guide below for a few tips on how to maximise your satisfaction without cracking too far into that student loan.

Use misspellings to your advantage
Written English isn’t everyone’s strong point, so be sure to exploit miss-listings. Searching ‘Urban Outfittors’ or ‘Mis Selfirdge’ and you might find those items selling a bit cheaper, as less people are looking. Also utilise key phrases when looking for a specific fashion item, for example  ‘Topshop leather skater skirt’ can also be searched as ‘fit and flare’ ‘a line; ,’pleather’, ‘Topshop style skirt’ and numerous other combinations that may yield cheaper and very similar brand imitations.

Shop out of season
 The cheapest buys can often be found on eBay out of season. Buy that fluffy cardi you’ve been lusting over in July, as far less people will be searching for it, minimising your bidding competition. Swimwear in winter, glitzy Christmas embellishments in spring… it all works on the same principle. Likewise, if you are looking to make maximum money when selling, make sure you capitalise on key seasons and trends – summer is an excellent time to flog your old hunter wellies in time for the festivals.

Spot the cheeky seller
An item might be 99p, but the postage is 16.00. Sellers will often hike up delivery costs to recompense what they know will be a cheap auction. Use the ‘list lowest to highest:including postage) to minimise the risk of being caught out at the checkout, and seriously think about whether you are getting a good deal . Also look out for sellers who list items ‘as new’, but in description point out that there are several stains and a distinct possibility that they wore it once a night out and may or may not have thrown up in it. At the same time, don’t get precious – this is eBay, so the majority of clothing items will be on there as second-hand and may look as such. Read the descriptions thoroughly and if in any doubt, contact the seller before you bid.  

Start small
If you are new to eBay, experiment with some cheaper buys, building the thrill of the bargain as you build your expertise in working out what is worth buying and what isn’t, and which sellers you can and can’t trust. I for instance have a rule that I won’t spend more than 10 pounds on eBay on an item of clothing, unless it is an item I know to be worth a lot more in the shops. Set yourself a maximum allowance, and do not allow yourself to go beyond it: bidding wars, whilst adrenaline filled, almost always end in a sense of regret when you realise you spent far more than you were  originally planning.

The art of the quirky snipe
If you find yourself in a bidding war, always add a few pence to your bid (4.57 as opposed to 4.50). Chances are your competitor has gone for a rounder figure, maximising your chances of catching them over a few pence. Keep refreshing the page in the last few seconds to make sure you’re keeping track. And NEVER SNIPE TOO SOON – you might think 1 minute to go is sweaty palm moment, but if your competitor is a seasoned eBayer, they will have their technique down to an exact science. Never leave more than 10 seconds between your final bid and the ending time. But do make sure you’re all logged in first – there is nothing more annoying that feverishly having to remember your password in the dying seconds of an auction.

Stick to Paypal
When paying for items, use Paypal transactions wherever possible instead of physical money/cheques. It’s a lot safer, and means refunds or transaction complaints are all mediated by eBay, lessening the risk of getting conned. It also means the only details you need to give the seller is your email address, rather than any bank details.

Start selling yourself
Shed the guilt and build up a nice Paypal surplus by selling your own old forgotten wares on eBay. If you haven’t worn or looked at a garment in over two months, it should probably go. Start gently with anything you know no longer fits or you know you no longer like, and sit back in pleasure as people pay money for something you might have once just put in the bin. Keep the money you make in your Paypal account as a great way of keeping savings separate. Unless you’re like me, and end up splurging your money back on eBay. The cycle never ends…

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