My Adventures on eBay
Karen Woerner, CUGG
One of the most popular methods of purchasing items online is
auction. And, with over 42 million registered users, eBay is
popular auction site on the internet. It was founded in 1995
discovered it in 1998 when a friend of mine was hollering and jumping
around the room. He had "won" an auction. I asked
him what he had won
and he told me about some rare Star Wars Memorabilia. I don't
anything so I was impressed that he was going to get something for
free. "For free?" he said. "No, I won the right to
poster!" Thus was I initiated into the world of online
would be another 3 years before I would stop just browsing and actually
Well, I had done my research and I knew what I wanted: a Sony Mavica FD-91 digital camera. There are newer models that save the photos on CD but I knew I couldn't afford them. This was the camera for me. For weeks I observed the auctions for the Sony Mavica FD-91, checking out the selling prices and looking for good deals. Then, just before Thanksgiving, I saw something that opened my eyes a little wider—the seller was offering not just a camera but a battery, recharger, AND a tripod. Great, I thought. But then I had to look into the seller's ratings on eBay.
CHECKING OUT THE SELLER
Checking into the seller's history is easy. Just click on the item and open the description page. There are links there that allow you to view the seller's "Feedback Profile," where past customers voice their opinions. The seller I was researching had an overwhelmingly positive rating from customers. I read the few negative comments and they dealt with minor problems (like customers not receiving items promptly). None of the comments indicated that the seller was dishonest or irresponsible. I was satisfied and decided to bid on the item.
BIDDING ON AN AUCTION
When I bid on the camera, the auction was ending in a few hours. Since the time was so short, it was easy for me to keep my eye on the action and counter any higher bids. Bidders can also opt for e-mail notification to track the progress of the auction. One can also opt for automatic counter-bidding up to a specified dollar amount. In this way eBay will bid for you and you can go about your business without constantly checking on the auction.
KEEPING MY BUYING IN CHECK
I decided in advance that I would only bid up to a certain dollar amount. That decision kept me from getting out of control in a bidding war with other buyers. My objective was to buy a camera at a reasonable price. In a bidding war, winning becomes the objective and things can get out of control. This atmosphere of competition serves the buyer, not the seller. Fortunately for me, I won the auction bidding a little less than the limit I set for myself. Now I had to pay for the item.
eBay has payment options that vary with each seller. Some sellers only take money orders and others accept credit cards, checks, money orders, or various forms of online monetary transactions. It is a good idea to read the fine print in the item description in advance and discover the acceptable forms of payment. You can e-mail a question to the seller to learn about all the payment options and even to negotiate the terms.
Though I usually use a credit card to purchase items online, for personal reasons, I decided to use PayPal this time. I had had success using PayPal to transfer funds in the past. I did not want to use my credit card with an unknown seller because even people/companies with good eBay ratings can be lax in their security. I decided to depend on the security measures set up by PayPal.
HOW PAYPAL WORKS
PayPal is essentially a middleman, transferring funds from one person to another through their online transfer system. They are not an escrow account and the funds you deposit are privately insured (not through the FDIC) against unauthorized withdrawals. They used existing methods of electronic transfer to move money from one account (bank accounts and credit card accounts) to another. Though PayPal will investigate fraud claims, it is still possible for someone to use PayPal illegally. I did find some consumer complaints against PayPal at ResellerRatings.com but I decided that I trusted the company enough to use it online. As with any other financial transaction, it is ultimately up to the individual buyers and sellers to do their research and proceed with caution.
ESTABLISHING A PAYPAL ACCOUNT
The year before, I had established an account with PayPal and deposited funds through electronic transfer from my checking account. It took a while to establish an account because PayPal had to verify my bank information. Throughout the year, I had used PayPal several times and had no problems transferring small sums (under $50).
When the time came to pay for the camera, it was close to Thanksgiving. I requested that a deposit be credited to my PayPal account (from my checking account). I then requested the funds be transferred to the seller. The only problem I had was that it took more than the promised 5 working days. The seller kept sending me e-mails, expressing concern that he hadn't gotten the money. But we kept in touch and I assured him that PayPal would come through. I communicated to PayPal via e-mail and the transfer was finally made 7 working days (the holiday made the actual waiting time closer to 11 days) after my request. Things went smoothly from there. The seller mailed my camera right away and I received it in less than a week. And I loved my new camera!
As always, it is important to do your homework, and to know what you are buying and whom you are buying from. Contact the seller with any questions you have concerning the item for sale and keep in touch with the seller during the entire process. Once you have won an auction, you don't want to lose the item and damage your buyer's rating by not communicating. So let the seller know what is going on—how you are going to pay and any conditions that need to be met. Proceed with caution and communicate. And don't use PayPal if you are in a hurry.