Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Smart Bidding

Online Auctions are a great way to find unique, hard to find items and bargains, if you know how to shop smart. Smart shopping starts by recognizing a trusted and professional auction seller. Knowing what to look for in a seller will save you time, aggravation, and money.

The most important consideration when choosing a seller to do business with is to review the feedback or ratings left by other buyers. Don't just look at the numbers and percentages, but actually look at a few pages of the actual ratings. Is there a pattern of satisfied buyers, was shipping prompt, customer service friendly, did the seller go above and beyond expectations, if there was a problem was it quickly resolved? Sometimes, the seller has no ratings and there will be other indicators that will show professionalism. Read on

Review the Seller's Refund Policy

  • Is it clear?
  • Does the seller offer a full money back guarantee?
  • If there is a restocking fee, is it reasonable?
  • Be leery of sellers that state no refunds.
  • At the least, a trusted seller will refund if there is a mistake in the listing or the item has been grossly misrepresented, and will state their policy in the listing.
  • What payment option does the seller offer and is the time frame for receiving payment reasonable?

Find a Trusted Seller

A trusted seller should accept a variety of payment methods. One of those options should be credit card payment through a reputable online payment service such as PayPal or Google Checkout. The time frame for payment should be within 3-10 days. Think twice about purchasing from a seller that only accepts cash, money orders or cashier checks, and expects immediate payment mailed overnight.

Seller Communication

Buyers should always e-mail the seller with questions, any question. Is the item authentic, is there damage, how soon will the seller ship? Did the seller respond quickly, was the reply friendly, and did it address your question completely? If a seller doesn't answer the same day, or sooner, rethink purchasing from them. This is a good indicator that the seller either doesn't have time and that their auction business is not their top priority, or they are avoiding the question for other reasons, such as the item is not authentic or is not as described. Asking questions about the item, and saving the sellers reply may give buyers some recourse if the transaction goes sour.

Consider shipping fees

Does the shipping fee sound reasonable for the item you want to purchase? Buyers can check shipping fees at USPS online. Guesstimate the weight and enter the sellers zip code if available, and you will get a good idea of what the shipping fee should be. A lot of sellers should, and do charge a small handling fee, and buyers should take that into consideration.

Item Photos

When looking at the item you are considering, are there plenty of clear pictures from different angles? Does the picture look like a stock photo or is it the actual item? Items should be clean and laid out in a pleasing manner. Reconsider your purchase if the item is dirty, thrown in a crumbled pile, or a stock photo. Are descriptions clear and grammatically correct? If not, the seller has not made an effort, and that will reflect in other areas of their business such as misrepresented items, slow shipping and poor communications. Sloppy sellers give sloppy service.

Knowing what to look for in auctions will most likely result in a safe and pleasant transaction. Trust your intuition. If you feel uneasy about any aspect of a sellers listing, do not purchase.