Spending money on eBay is a snap. What's tricky is learning how to do it wisely .
Two things stand between you and smart shopping: more listings than you can shake a mouse at, and scads of
Here's what it covers:
How to find the hidden bargains that other shoppers
How to comparison-shop for the best deal.
How to avoid impulse buying (and the buyer's remorse that goes with it).
How to snipe (win an auction at the last minute).
How to boost your odds of winning Dutch auctions.
How to find deals off eBay's beaten
Smart searching involves more than typing a couple of words into a text box and clicking the Search button. Sure, a simple search gives you a list of resultsbut that's what every other shopper on eBay is getting, too. You're out to find the bargains others
eBay has so many itemsmore than 10 million auctions are running on any given daythat searching can quickly become difficult and frustrating. For example, a search that seems straightforward, like NASCAR, can bring up thousands of items you probably never even thought of: not just the tickets you were looking for, but pet bandanas, bracelet charms,
Precision-tune your search by telling eBay's search engine exactly what you want. You can use symbols to make searching easier:
Quotation marks . Put quotation marks around any two or more words to force them to appear as a phrase in the results. For example, typing in boots gets you around 65,000 or so results: cowboy boots, ski boots, rain boots, work bootsthe list goes on and on. Type "ankle boots" and the search engine cuts to the chase, winnowing out 62,000 or so results you don't want, so you can focus on the auctions you do want.Tip: Narrow your search even further by clicking the most appropriate link in the Matching Categories menu on the left-hand side of the page. Doing so restricts your results to auctions listed in that category.
. The asterisk is an immensely useful
character, which stands in for a letter or
Minus sign . Put a minus sign in front of a word or phrase you want to exclude from your search. If you're a Francophile rather than a hotel-chain-heiress fan, type Paris -Hilton and see how much junk disappears from your screen.Note: Make sure there's a space before that minus sign. Otherwise, the word becomes part of your search, rather than excluded from your search.
Parentheses . To find possible variations of a word, put them in parentheses to have eBay search for both versions. Separate the terms with a comma but no spaces. A collector of medieval battle axes who searches for ( medieval,mediaeval,midevil ) gets results whether the seller used the American spelling, the British spelling, or a terrible but common misspelling. A recent search for all three terms produced nearly 100 more listings than searching for medieval alone.
After you've spent some time on eBay, you're likely to notice another bidder or two with tastes or interests similar to yours. eBay lets you tag along as they hunt for bargains, by searching for items by those bidders' eBay IDs. Searching by bidder is a great way to use others' search skills to find items and see what others are willing to pay for them.
First, find the eBay ID of a bidder you want to shadow. One way to do this is to look on your My eBay page (Section 1.4.9) for an auction you didn't win (in My Summary, scroll down the page until you find Items I Didn't Win, or, from the eBay Views menu, look under All Buying and then click Didn't Win), click the item's title, and notice the ID of the winning bidder. Another way to find the ID of a bidder worth tailing is to
As you look through the search results, watch for auctions that ended successfully with one or more bidders. Check out these auctions by clicking the item title. Under the auction's "Start time" is its History: click the number of bids listed there to get a detailed report of who bid how much. (Of course, getting a bid report won't work for private auctions, where bidders' IDs are hidden. See Section 1.4.4 for the scoop on private auctions.) After you've
With a bidder's ID in hand, you're ready to find out what else that bidder is shopping for. From the Buy page (or under the Search box at the top of most pages), click the Advanced Search link. On the Search page that opens, look in the menu on the left-hand side for Items by Bidder, and then click that link. Type the bidder's ID in the text box, select your options, and click the Search button. Figure 3-1 shows you how it works.
Using this technique, you can find all the yodeling CDs your shadow bidder is currently trying to buy, scoot to the appropriate auction pages, and do your best to outbid him. He all does the legwork, you end up with a great CD collection. What better way to cut down on your own search time?Note: Items by Bidder shows only those auctions in which the eBayer has placed a bid. The search doesn't show you the items she's watchingonly those she's bidding on.
Of course, other eBayers can search for items using
eBay ID. If your significant other
Whether you're a collector or just always on the lookout for a good deal on tennis shoes, you might find the same seller's
Searching for items by seller lets you spot sales trends and use them to your advantage. Does the seller seem overstocked on a particular item? If the seller has had many auctions for the same item end with few or no bids, you might be able to buy that item for the starting price with a last-minute bid, or the seller might lower the price soon. Has the seller raised or
To add this trick to your bag, first find the seller's eBay ID, which is on the right side of any auction page in the Seller Information box. Click Advanced Search, then, in the left-hand Search menu, click Items by Seller. Type the seller's eBay ID into the text box and click Search, as shown in Figure 3-2.
If you're thinking long-
Wouldn't it be cool if you could send an automatic request to every single eBay seller every single day, saying,
In fact, you can. Here's how it works. You can save almost any search as a favorite, which means that eBay remembers the search terms you typed in and saves them so you can redo the search without all that extra typing. To play favorites with your searches, simply look on any search results listing, on the right side just above the results list, for the Add to Favorites link. Click it to display the Add to My Favorite Searches page and save the current search as a favorite. Saved searches are accessible from your My eBay page (Section 1.4.9) or from the Search page.
After you've saved a favorite search, you can opt for daily email notification of new items that meet your search criteria. On the Add to My Favorite Searches page, turn on the checkbox that gives the OK to email you when pink poodle skirts (or whatever you're searching for) become available. Use the drop-down list to set your preference about how long you'll receive notifications: from one week to one year (Figure 3-3).
Of course, if you change your mind about the daily emailsenough poodle skirts already!you can edit your preferences to cancel them. Go to your My eBay page and click All Favorites. Find the favorite search you want to change, click Edit Preferences, then make the changes you want.
If you're on a budget, you can limit your results to a certain price range. Click the Advanced Search link and enter your keywords in the text box. Look down the page for Items Priced, and enter your minimum and maximum amounts. Then click the Search button to have eBay give you results within the price range you specified.Note: Of course, the prices of the items in your results list are the current prices. Prices do tend to go up as the clock
The Advanced Search page lets you do another cool trick: you can limit your search to find only items that are close to home. Finding local auctions is useful when you're shopping for something large or bulky and would rather pick it up yourself than pay exorbitant shipping costs. Sometimes, you can also find a seller with a
After you've clicked Advanced Search, scroll down to the bottom of the page until you find "Show only." In this section, turn on the checkbox next to "Items within" and type in your Zip code if it's not already there (it should be if you're registered and signed in). Then use the drop-down menu to determine the searching distance, from 10 to 2,000 milesalthough 2,000 miles might be a little far for local pickup. When you click the Search button, your results show a new column, Distance, that indicates how close the seller is to the Zip code you typed in. If you don't get enough results, try increasing the distance by an increment or two.
GEM IN THE ROUGH
Advanced Search Options
Advanced Search offers a range of options for refining your searches:
Don't get carried away with all the options on the Advanced Search page. The more parameters you set, the narrower your results. If you're not getting the results you want from your searches, try setting fewer parameters. You might really want a Terminator 2
One good way to find items overlooked by other shoppers is to try alternate spellings and misspellings. Even if you think that your search term is such a common word that no one would misspell it, try some variations anyway. Typos happen, and one letter can make the difference between an item with dozens of lofty bids and a bargain. If you're a collector, try searching for "art decco", "art noveau" , or "deppression glass" (all misspellings). Looking for good buys on clothing? Search for Abercombie, sequence (for sequins ), or " Manolo Blanik ". A search for satelite, saphire, karioke, projecter, tredmill, Titliest , or " Harry Poter " might bring up some interesting resultswith little or no competition in the bidding. You get the idea. Play around with spellingdropping, adding, or transposing lettersto find popular items hidden from others' searches.Tip: You can save a lot of time by automating your searches for misspelled items. The free typo finder at www.fatfingers.co.uk generates a huge list of misspellings based on the keyword you type into its search box; when you click Find, up pops an eBay search results page showing those
There's one exception to using typos to find good deals: some sellers of fake designer goods purposely misspell the designer's name in the title to hide auctions from
Picture a packed auction house, the tension mounting as the auctioneer prepares to slam down the gavel and declare a winner. On eBay, it's the clock that declares the winner. And it's exciting to find bargains by racing against the clock, looking for deals as auctions are about to end; Figure 3-4 shows you how.
If no one else has bid, you can snap up the goods for a rock-bottom price with no competition. Or, if others have already been bidding, you can snipe the auction (Section 126.96.36.199) in the last few seconds. Either way, finding a last-minute auction and getting in on the action is the
In a regular auction, getting in the last bid can put you at an advantage; Buy It Now auctions benefit from the
To do so, from the Buy page (which you find by heading to the eBay navigation bar and clicking Buy), type your search term into the box, and then click Search. On the search results page, click the Buy It Now tab (to show only BIN auctions); then sort the results by "Time: newly listed." Then scan the list for the best prices.
eBay never sleeps, but the rest of the world has to. You can often find bargains by looking for auctions that end when most of the U.S. is snug in bed; demand decreases during hours when few people are online. Often, auctions ending between midnight and 5:00 a.m. eBay time (also known as the Pacific time zone) have few or no late bids. You don't have to be a night owl to take advantage of this lull. Either place your bid using proxy bidding (Section 2.2) the night before the auction ends, or use an automated sniping service (Section 188.8.131.52) to place your bid for you.
Similarly, the prices of many items increase or decrease according to the
About half of all eBay auctions end without a single bid. When that happens, sellers can relist the unsold item once without paying any new fees. A seller who really wants to move that plaster bust of Beethoven might lower the starting price when he relists it. As a bargain hunter, you can make eBay's relisting policy work for you by being ready to make a bid when a seller relists. Here's how:
At the top of any page in the eBay site, click the Advanced Search link .
The Search: Find Items page appears.
Type in your search term .
"Plaster bust" or whatever.
Turn on the "Completed listings only" checkbox to search auctions that are over and done with, and then click Search .
On the results page that appears, look for items that ended with no bids. (In other words, look for a 0 under the Bids column.) If you see something of interest, click the title to look at the auction page, where you can check to see whether the item has been relisted. Figure 3-5 shows you what to look for.
Want It Now
is eBay's version of the want ads. The idea is simple: boost your own searches by posting what you want in a special section of the site. Sellers can then scan the ads and notify you if they have what you want. Instead of spending all day chasing down that dogs-playing-poker print, you can sit back and let it come to you. (Great in theorybut in practice, Want It Now still
Here's how you can post a want ad in Want It Now:
Point your Web browser to http://pages.ebay.com/wantitnow.
Figure 3-6 shows you the Want It Now page that appears.
Click Post To Want It Now .
Doing so takes you to the page where you can compose your ad.
Write your want ad .
Give your ad a title (up to 55 characters) and a description (up to 500
Select the category that best matches the item you're looking for .
Use the same top-level category you'd search in to find the item. For that dogs-playing-poker print, for example, you'd probably choose the Art category. eBay will post your ad to this category within Want It Now.
Click Post To Want It Now .
Now sellers can browse or search for your ad. When a seller is running an auction that seems to fit your needs, you'll get an email with a link to the auction. You can also check your ad from time to time to look for sellers' responses that way. To view your Want It Now ad, go to http://pages.ebay.com/wantitnow and under the Post To Want It Now Button, click the "in one place" link (you can see it in Figure 3-6).
Want It Now posts
The eBay toolbar is free software you can download and install to add an eBay navigation bar to your Web browser if your Web browser happens to be Internet Explorer. Installing the eBay toolbar lets you search eBay, keep track of auctions, and go to your My eBay page with a single click, wherever on the Web your browser happens to be. The toolbar makes it easy to find bargains and keep an eye on the biddingeven alerting you when an auction nears its endso that great deal on a digital camera doesn't slip away while you're busy downloading tunes for your MP3 player.Note: To install and use the eBay toolbar, you must be running Internet Explorer 5.01 or higher on a PC with
Figure 3-8 shows you what the toolbar looks like.
Once you've installed the toolbar, you can customize the
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTION
Is the eBay Toolbar a Double Agent?
Is the eBay Toolbar spyware?
Some eBayers hesitate to use the eBay toolbar because they're worried that it contains
, stealth software that collects information about your Web browsing habits and sends that
eBay's official answer is no. Early versions of the toolbar did track which toolbar buttons eBayers used most frequently, but (according to eBay) not sites browsed or other Web activity. eBay claimed that collecting this information helped its staff to understand how eBayers used the toolbar and how to optimize it. Nowadays, eBay says, the toolbar doesn't collect even that information. eBay insists that the only information it gets from your toolbar is when you choose to report a potential spoof site. In other words, you have to click Account Guard "Report this as a Suspicious Site in order for your toolbar to send information to eBay.
Some people are
The question boils down to how much you trust eBay, how useful you find the toolbarand how closely you choose to guard your privacy.
The eBay toolbar helps keep you in touch with what's happening on eBay, even when you're busy doing other things. For example, it sends you a bid alert when an auction you're watching is about to end, even if you're not online. Here's a button-by-button overview:
eBay . Click the eBay button to go to eBay's home page. The small arrow next to the eBay logo opens a drop-down menu that lets you sign in or out and zip to various sites within eBay (Buy, Sell, eBay Announcements, the Community page). Use this menu to set your toolbar preferences or to uninstall the toolbar.Tip: To use the toolbar most
. A new feature of the toolbar, Account Guard is how eBay fights back against
Web sitesfake sites purporting to be eBay or PayPal that scammers set up in an attempt to steal the identities and accounts of law
To protect your account, the Account Guard button turns red when you're on a potential spoofed site. (It's green when you're on an official eBay or PayPal Web page and gray if you're on a page that the toolbar can't identify.) But Account Guard does even more. If you attempt to type your password into an unknown site, a warning pops up, as shown in Figure 3-9.
Account Guard is a great addition to the eBay toolbar, helping eBayers protect their personal information from scammers. Only type in your eBay or PayPal ID and password when the Account Guard button is greennever when it's red. If it's gray, use your own judgementbut proceed with caution.
If you have an older version of the toolbar that's missing Account Guard, simply download the new version at http://pages.ebay.com/ebay_toolbar to get Account Guard's protection.Note: You must be signed in to the toolbar for Account Guard to do its stuff.
. Clicking this button takes you to eBay's Search page. But you can save a step by typing your search word or phrase into the text box to the left of the search button. Then click the arrow to the right of the search button and select the kind of search you want. You can search for items by title, title and description, eBay stores, completed items, category,
My eBay . Click this button to jump to your My eBay page.
. When you've made a bid in an active auction, use the Bid Alert button to
To set a bid alert, click the arrow next to the eBay button and then select Toolbar Preferences and Customization. Here you can set your reminder time (10, 15, 30, 60, or 75 minutes before the auction's end), turn audio notification off or on, and set how long the pop-up alert will stay open. The really cool thing about bid alerts is that you don't have to have a browser window openor even be onlinefor your reminder to appear. Even if you're immersed in work and have forgotten all about the auction, Bid Alert will remind you.
. Similar to Bid Alert, the Watch Alert button lets you know when auctions you're watching are going to end soon. You don't have to be a bidder to get watch alerts. Figure 3-11 shows you what a watch alert looks like. You don't need to do a thing to turn on Watch Alertit automatically
Items Won . This button takes you to the auction page of any item you've won, the Feedback Forum, or the PayPal home page.
Even the most avid eBayer doesn't spend her life in front of her computer. Sometimes you've got to coach the
eBay's Anywhere Wireless service lets you search eBay and keep track of auctions you're involved in, no matter where you are. You can search by keyword, seller, or category/subcategory; browse categories and featured items; view your My eBay page; even bidall from your cell phone or PDA, wherever you happen to be. If you've got service, you've got eBay.
You can get to eBay from your wireless device two ways: either navigate there using your device's Internet menu or open its minibrowser , which lets you look at cut-down versions of Web pages, and point it to http://wap.ebay.com (most devices let you leave off the "http://" part). Log in and you're ready to search, browse, and buy. Now, when you're waiting in line at the bank or the post office, you can search eBay for bargains instead of fretting about the ones you're missing out on.Tip: When you use Anywhere Wireless, sign in before you start searching. You can't bid unless you've signed in, and that tiny little keypad makes it
Unfortunately, you can't put an item on your watch list while using your phone to search, although you can go to your My eBay page and view or bid on items already on that list. Another thing you can't do with your cell phone is read sellers' feedback. On the item page, you can see the feedback score but not the percentage of positives, and you can't read feedback comments. For this reason, it's best to use your cell phone to manage active auctions, where you've already done your research and feel confident dealing with the seller.
To search for items using Anywhere Wireless:
From wap.ebay.com , select Search .
You can search by item number, keyword, or seller ID. Type in the number or word you want, and then select Continue. If you type in a keyword, eBay prompts you to choose a category (or you can select all categories).
Choose an item .
The search results page displays item titles. If you select an item to view, you get a stripped-down version of an eBay auction page. There's no photograph on this screen, and you can't look at the bid history or seller feedback.
At the bottom of the auction page, select Description .
This page shows you more details: a photo (if the listing has one) and the item description text. No fancy graphics, of course, but you still get most of the important info.
Anywhere Wireless can email outbid notices, feedback notifications, and win notifications to your wireless device. To sign up, go to My eBay eBay Preferences. At the top of the page that opens is "Notification preferences; click the View/Change link. eBay asks you to verify your password. After you've done so, find eBay Wireless Email, and then click Subscribe. Turn on the button by "Send wireless email to the address below" and then type your wireless email address in the text box. Click Save Changes, and you're good to go.
Thanks to eBay, a cottage industry now exists, offering a whole platoon of services to improve your online auction experience. Try these offsite search engines and tools to streamline your eBay shopping and make bargain-hunting easier and less
. A subscription site located at www.finds-it.com, Finds-It lets you run searches and store the results in your own database located on the Finds-It site. When you log in, Finds-It automatically retrieves your stored searches so you can see what's new. This site has two subscription levels: at the basic level, you can save and store up to 250 searches; at the professional level, that limit
ItemScout.com . This site lets you create a highly detailed search agent that will scour eBay for search terms you specify and report back to you via email; it's more specialized than eBay's own email notifications.
Searches take place at intervals you determine, from every few minutes to once a day. One of the nice features of this site is that you can specify certain notification parameters, such as if the price exceeds a certain amount, if a new bid comes in, or if the price is still below a certain amount with only so much time left before the auction ends. If you're bidding on a motorcycle helmet, for instance, and you want ItemScout to notify you if the price is still below $50.00 with only half an hour to go, it will. You can also have alerts sent to a wireless device, like your cell phone or PDA. ItemScout.com is a subscription serviceyou can pay by the month, the quarter, or the yearbut offers a weeklong free trial.
. This is an Internet search engine that
its results, putting similar items into folders that let you quickly sort through what it finds. Clusty has customizable tabs that let you narrow your search to a specific area of the Web: one of those tabs is eBay. If you search in Clusty's eBay tab for
, as in Figure 3-12, Clusty organizes the results into folders, such as various book titles, Matchbox
Clusty's folders go beyond eBay's categories. If, for example, all you can remember about a book is that it has weasel in the title, the best you can do on eBay is to search for weasel in the Books category, then go through the results. Clusty drills down deeper in just one step, creating folders based on the titles of books. If you click the "more" link, you get Pop Goes the Weasel, Never Tease a Weasel, Axis of Weasels, Dilbert and the Way of the Weasel . Find the title you want and open its folder to compare auctions for that book.
Take a look at Figure 3-13 to get an idea of what Pluck can do. If you click an auction in the top pane's results list, the bottom pane opens the actual auction on the eBay site, so you can watch an item or bid on it without opening a new browser window, going to eBay, and finding the auction that interests you.
**pg97**Pluck also offers a Web component, Pluck Web Access (PWA), that lets you keep an eye on your searches from any computer connected to the Internet.