How to Shop eBay Like a Pro

The Challenge
Since so many of us have begun the new year with a desire to save money, I thought it might be a good time to discuss shopping on eBay for those of you who aren't too familiar or comfortable with it. 
This post is to hold your hand a little bit and give you some pointers for shopping at this amazing marketplace.  In all of the photos above, I am wearing one or more items that were purchased on eBay.  All but two or three, I paid substantially lower than retail.  

The Details
Things that are helpful to know before you purchase on eBay:
  1.   Your measurements*
  2.   What brands or designers you like
  3.   What are you looking for specifically. 
  4.   How much you are willing to pay
*Also, if you have a favorite top/jeans/etc. measure them flat side-to-side at waistband, armpits, rise (if that's important, I like mid-rise) and inseam, so you can compare with sellers' listings.

Before I lost weight, I had a leopard print skirt from New York & Co. that I really liked.  So, if I want to try to replace it, I will search for:

leopard skirt 12 new york & co [I got only one result with this]

You may have to tweak your search.  Some examples:

leopard skirt 12 ny&co

new york company animal print skirt 12 [2 results, but with many more results with fewer words as options]

Of the results with fewer words referenced, I can see there is one that is a Size 12 in the exact print that I'm interest in. 

Here, I will take a look at the listing and see if there are any flaws and double check if it is the same one (maybe checking seams, buttons, fabric content).   At this point I can look at the number next to the seller and see how much feedback they have.  [You may want to click on the number and see their feedback ratings (if they have any negatives).]  I don't often check if the seller has a lot of feedback--they wouldn't be selling that much if they were terrible.  

TIP:  If a seller has an overwhelming number of positives and one or two negatives, I wouldn't have a concern.  There will always be a buyer who's unhappy about something.

Checking measurements.  I will almost always check the garments measurements, comparing them with what I know will work for me.  Unfortunately, not all sellers add the measurements of the garments, so you will have to message them.
Side Note:  This has become a big pain in the neck for me, so a vast majority of the time, if the seller doesn't include the measurements, I will move along to a different seller.  My time is too valuable to wait for them to respond with information that should be in the listing in the first place.  The exception would be if it is something I'm really interested in, and there aren't other options.  Personally, I have found eBay sellers DO tend to get back to you within about 24 hours.  
In the leopard skirt listing, there aren't any measurements.  I can either take my chances, since I can make an estimate on my previous skirt, email the seller, or look for a different one.  In this case, I would probably just buy it without confirming.   

It is listed at $9.99 and $4.10 shipping with a Make Offer option.  Now, I can either buy it for $9.99 OR make the seller an offer for LESS.  Although it's up to each seller, a general rule of thumb is a seller will take about 20% off on Make Offer.  So in this case a reasonable offer might be $8.00.  If you make an offer, you will often have to wait for the seller to accept, reject, or counter your offer.  (Sometimes the seller will have an automatic accept/reject set up, so you could find out immediately.)

TIP:  While you are waiting to find out if your offer has been accepted, another buyer could buy it at the full asking price, so decide if it's worth the risk to possibly have to wait.  The seller has 48 hrs. to get back to you--I often have the seller respond within minutes. [A seller will often use the Make Offer option to help move merchandise.]

How to know if you are paying too much:  Part of this is personal.   The leopard skirt might be worth $18 to me, but only $8 to you.  If there are a few of the same item that you are interested in, it may not always be the best option to buy the least expensive one.  Things to look for:  Clarity of photos, any noted defects, the seller's return policy, how fast the seller ships out.  There could be a note at the top of a listing if the seller is away until a certain date, too.

TIP:  Look for sellers that ship within 24 hrs. and offer 30 day returns.  Top Rated Plus Sellers do this, as do other sellers.

Buying and Paying
It used to be that you had to have Paypal to buy on eBay.  That is no longer the case, you can use your credit card, bypassing Paypal.  Using Buy It Now will take you to the payment screen.  Add to Cart is if you're buying more than one item, but want to make the purchases with only one transaction.  If you've made an offer and it's been accepted, you will get taken to a payment screen.

After your receive your item and everything is fine, it would be nice of you to leave the seller positive feedback.  If for some reason you need to return the item (and the seller takes returns) you need to start a "return item" process.  IF you receive an item that does NOT match the description (this does not include changing your mind, or a size not fitting as you anticipated), but the buyer does NOT accept returns, you are allowed to open a case "Item not as described" and the seller will have to take the merchandise back.  PLEASE DO NOT ABUSE THIS OPTION AS IT WILL HURT THE SELLER'S RATING AND IS NOT FAIR TO THE SELLER.

Let's look at another example.  Let's say you want to shop for a pink cardigan, size Large.  When searching for:

pink cardigan large over 11,000 results!  This is where it helps to know what brands you prefer!
pink cardigan large talbots gets 220
pink cardigan large j crew gets 113 results
pink cardigan large chicos gets 64
pink cardigan chicos 2 gets 99
pink cardigan large lands end gets 48

Sometimes I will search for fabric, too.
pink cardigan large cotton yields over 3,700 results

Another way to narrow down a search is searching by price.  For the previous example "pink cardigan large cotton" there will be price options under your results to narrow down your search (shown below).

You can also see in the bottom left screen shot (above) there is also a price option that you can check off OR (not shown) put in a custom price search, for instance:  $20 - $55.  Further down in the left column you can also specify US Only, if you want to bypass cheap items from China.  

A Note About Auctions
eBay auctions are few and far between these days and there is no "right way" to buy from them.  What I prefer to do is put my highest bid in at the beginning, then I don't have to worry about someone outbidding me.  For instance, I recently purchased a cabi Abbey Road cardigan on auction.  The starting price was $29.  I think I put $70 as a maximum.  I won the auction for a price of $53 + shipping.  One other bidder kept upping her bid a few dollars at time (which is absolutely fine, I just don't prefer to micro manage my bidding that much).   

A word of caution:  Sometimes you will be getting a very good deal and won't see any competition from other bidders.  There is a possibility that you may get "sniped."  There are sniping apps that will enable another interested party to enter a bid within the last fraction of a second of the auction's end.  Moral:  If it's something you really, really want, put in a higher bid.

Why I Prefer eBay Over Poshmark
  • I like the search engine in that eBay will give you the number of results and they will be more exact, with Poshmark, you need to keep scrolling till you reach the end and I've gotten odd results (e.g. searching AG blue jeans 32, in addition to 32, I also got 30, 31 28, 25P along with other premium brands).
  • Shipping costs.  On Poshmark you pay a flat $6.99 rate for shipping which is great if you're buying jeans, not so great if you're buying earrings.  For the most part, eBay sellers will charge you based on weight/size/destination/shipping method or offer free shipping.
  • eBay sellers tend to answer questions faster.
  • eBay sellers tend to more frequently include measurements, fabric content, washing instructions and more/ better photos.  (This is a generalization based on MY experiences.)

The Takeaway
I will continue to use BOTH resale sites (I'm not a fan of Thredup, as they don't seem to have my preferred brands) and if you haven't considered buying on eBay or Poshmark, they are a great way to get products at lower prices or hard-to-find items.  There are plenty of new items for sale on the sites, too!  P.S.  I am in the process of listing several closet-clean-out items, if you'd like, you can take peek at the items I currently have "live" for sale!

If there is something that I haven't covered that you still have questions about, please ask in the comments.

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  1. Interesting that it says no comments because sure I left one earlier?? Will you let me know if it didn't go through.
    I came back to give a quick auggestios. I was trying to tag you on Instagram and couldn't rwmebrem your handle (not shocking at all...haha). So I went to your website and couldn't find it easily. I see it now in the pist, but it could be great to have it on the side bar and even in your contacts.

  2. And you can tell I'm typing on my phone...looo at all of those misspellings..

  3. Hey Jodie, the phone takes Google comments that don't show up on the blog. Okay, I will fix the Instagram info.