How to Check an eBay Seller's Reputation (and Why You Should Do It).

8:28 AM

How to Check an eBay Seller's Reputation (and Why You Should Do It).

When you buy something from an eBay seller, you are giving them your money and hoping that you will get something in return. However many guarantees of safety eBay might make to you, nothing is certain: if you just give your money to scammers all the time without doing any checks then the chances are you won't get all of that money back.

That's why you should always check the seller's reputation, or 'feedback rating'. This is a quick and easy-to-read summary of their history as an eBay seller, which gives you some idea of whether or not you should trust them with your money. Buying anything is a calculated risk: you want to minimise that risk.

How to Check Feedback Ratings.

On each item's description page, there is a box in the top-right hand corner about the seller, with the title 'Seller information'. This contains the seller's name, their feedback score, and their positive feedback percentage, as well as any stars they have earned.

Different coloured stars are given to eBay sellers depending on their rating, in this sequence: yellow, blue, turquoise, purple, red, green, shooting yellow, shooting turquoise, shooting purple, shooting red. Anyone with a 'shooting' star is an experienced eBay member who you should be able to trust.

If you click on the seller's name, you can get to a more detailed view of their reputation - their 'member profile' page. This page shows the total number of people who gave them a positive or negative rating, as well as a breakdown by time. You can also see a complete history of all the comments that have ever been left about them, with the most recent first.

What to Look For.

You might assume that anyone with a very high number can be trusted, but that isn't always true. It is more important to look at their positive feedback percentage - and you should really consider anything below 99% to be a red flag and investigate further.

Take a look through the first visible page with the most recent transactions: are there any negative comments? What do they say? Take others' experiences into account, as they could happen to you if you deal with this person. Be careful not to punish sellers unfairly, however, if they did bad things in their past on eBay but have improved since. You should look at the breakdown by time and ignore any negative feedback that was left a long time ago. Equally, though, you should sit up and pay attention if a seller seems to have been left an out-of-character amount of bad feedback in the last month or so.

Now that you know who to trust, it is worth learning a little more about how the different kinds of auctions work, so that you don't accidentally slip up and make yourself and your feedback page look bad. Our next email will be about the different kinds of auctions you can expect to encounter during your time on eBay.

How Important is Your Buyer's Reputation?

8:27 AM

How Important is Your Buyer's Reputation?

Your reputation as a buyer (or 'feedback rating') is the most important thing people see when they deal with you on eBay. It is on the basis of this little number that they will decide whether they can trust you or not.

Each time you buy or sell something on eBay, people can leave feedback for you, and you can leave feedback for them. This feedback can be positive, negative, or neutral, along with a comment. Your feedback rating, then, is worked out using a very simple sum: the number of positive feedback comments people have left for you, minus the number of negative ones. This means that someone with a feedback rating of 28, for example, might have 30 positive ratings and 2 negative ones.

If you are a considerate buyer, then you should find that positive feedback will just appear next to your username, without you needing to do anything. If you want to help it along, though, there are a few things you can do.

Always leave feedback for others: People will feel an obligation to leave feedback for you if you leave it for them (eBay will send you an email after each transaction to offer you the opportunity). Take the time to write a positive comment about sellers who do what they should and the chances are they'll do the same for you.

Pay promptly: Sellers love nothing more than to be paid promptly - paying as soon as the auction ends saves the seller all sorts of worry, especially if you pay by credit card or another electronic method. You will often find that your positive feedback appears within a few minutes of you paying if you pay as soon as the auction ends.

Don't be a difficult customer: Understand that your seller might take a day or so to respond to you, and perhaps a few days to send your item - harassing them is nasty and unnecessary, and won't get you good feedback.

Build relationships: If a seller sells a lot of a certain kind of thing you like, buy from them a few more times. They will be very happy to find a regular customer, and will go out of their way to leave positive feedback like 'a joy to deal with as ever'. Also, they might offer you a few special deals!

Sellers won't generally be reluctant to sell to buyers without much of a reputation, simply because it is the buyer who takes most of the risk in a transaction. It is worth remembering, however, that transactions where you are the seller and where you are the buyer are counted towards the same feedback total - so if you ever want to start selling, being a good buyer is especially worthwhile.

On eBay, people pay far more attention to sellers' ratings than they do to buyers' - most sellers can't be bothered to check their buyers' feedback, while bad feedback on a seller can (and should) be a dealbreaker. When you are buying, then, you need to worry more about the seller's reputation than you do about your own, and that's why the next email will be all about sellers' feedback ratings.

Your Rights as an eBay Buyer.

8:27 AM

Your Rights as an eBay Buyer.

When you buy things on eBay, you pay the seller before they send you anything. This means that you, as a buyer, are vulnerable to all sorts of problems. You might not get the items you have paid for, or they might be damaged or faulty. Luckily, you have two very important rights when you buy on eBay.

The Right to Receive Your Item.

Maybe the seller never sent the item, or maybe it got lost in the post. Whatever happened, you paid for the item. If it doesn't arrive in the post as described, you have the right to a replacement or a refund, whether it's the seller's fault or not.

The fact that you bought something on eBay doesn't mean that you don't have the exact same rights that you would have if you bought it in a shop (these rights are pretty much the same all over the world). Plus, under eBay's rules, the seller isn't allowed to change their mind about selling you the item: once the auction ends, it becomes a contract - you must buy and they must sell, or face eBay's penalties.

The Right for Your Item to Be as Described in the Auction.

Sometimes sellers don't wrap items properly, and so they get broken. Occasionally they write descriptions that are misleading or just plain wrong to begin with, leaving out vital details that would have caused you to change your mind about buying. If this happens to you, you again have the right to a replacement or a refund.

So How Do I Use My Rights?

First, you should take it up with the seller - most will be responsive, as do not want to have their reputation damaged when an upset buyer leaves negative feedback for all their future buyers to see. If that doesn't work, report them to eBay.

While eBay don't have many people handling complaints, they do have a relatively effective set of automatic process to handle common problems buyers and sellers have with one another.

Finally, if that doesn't work, then you should seek advice from consumer groups in your country, and as a last resort from the police. You should never have to get this far, though: problems on eBay that can't be resolved easily are extremely rare.

Don't Be Too Quick.

Remember not to get too annoyed and be unfair to the seller: nice sellers have agreed to give me refunds for undelivered items, only for me to find out a few weeks later that they were being held for me at the post office! Always try your best to communicate and think of everything that might have gone wrong: eBay works best when buyers and sellers sort out their problems together, instead of reporting each other to the authorities straight away.

More often that not receiving what they paid for, buyers have an altogether different problem: they knew what they were paying for, but didn't realise that what they were paying for was overpriced, low quality or a scam. The next email will give you a list of tips on how to avoid being ripped off on eBay.

An Introduction to Bidding and Buying on eBay.

8:25 AM

An Introduction to Bidding and Buying on eBay.

Have you noticed that whenever you open a newspaper, watch the TV or have a conversation, people seem to be talking about eBay? If you've never used it and you've no idea what it's all about, then the chances are that you're starting to feel a little left out. But don't worry! This email contains everything you need to know about the basics of bidding and buying on eBay.

So What is eBay?

eBay is an online auction website - and not just any auction site, but the biggest one in the world. If you know how an auction works, then you already know how roughly eBay works. Someone adds something they want to sell to the site, and then buyers come along and place bids on it. The highest bid wins the item! It's that simple.

eBay being an online auction makes a big difference, though. Buying and selling are not reserved for any elite. eBay accept almost any item, no matter how small, and will then advertise it on their sites all over the world. It's a powerful combination of an auction and a slightly chaotic marketplace.

What is Bidding?

Bidding is when you say how much you will pay for an item in an auction. Bidding on eBay, however, doesn't work in exactly the same way as a normal auction, at least in theory. On eBay, you tell the site what the maximum you are willing to pay for each item is, and then eBay places the bids on your behalf. That means you could say you were willing to pay up to $100 for something and only have to pay $50, if that was the highest maximum bid anyone else placed.

It's not as complicated as it sounds - the best way to get used to it is to give it a try. First, the best thing to do is to go to the eBay website designed for your country. If you don't know the address for it, just go to www.ebay.com and it will tell you there. Now, on the front page you should see a big box marked 'search': just type in anything that you'd like to buy there.

Wasn't that easy? Now you should have a list of items for sale in front of you, along with how much people are currently bidding for them and the time when bidding ends for each item. If you click one of these, you can read the description, and then - if you're happy with the item and happy to pay more than the current highest bidder is - you can bid!

How Do I Bid?

Go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of an item's description page, and type the maximum you are willing to pay (your maximum bid) into the box. Then simply press the 'place bid' button - you will need to sign in once you press the button, or go through a quick registration process if you don't have an eBay username).

If someone else's maximum bid on that item is higher than yours, then eBay will tell you and give you the opportunity to bid again. Otherwise, you're now the new highest bidder! All you need to do now is wait until the end of the auction - if someone else outbids you, then eBay will email you and you can bid again.

All sounds great, doesn't it? But by now you might be wondering whether a site as chaotic as eBay can really be all that safe to buy from. That's why the next email in this series will be about your rights when you buy from eBay.

10 Tips for Increasing Your eBay Response.

8:24 AM

10 Tips for Increasing Your eBay Response.

So you've got the buyer in front of your auction, and they've read the description. They're must be interested, or they wouldn't be looking… but just how can you push them over that line and make them leave a bid? Read on for some tips.

Improve your picture: In all that description writing, you might have missed the vital importance of your item's picture. A picture with bad lighting or an intrusive background looks amateurish and won't make anyone want to buy from you.

Add an About Me page: You'll be surprised how much you can reassure bidders just by creating an About Me page and putting a little bit about yourself on your business on there. You can also have a few special offers there for people who bother to look at the page, and let people subscribe to your mailing list so that you can email them updates.

Use SquareTrade: Signing up at SquareTrade and displaying their logo on your auctions shows that you are committed to have them resolve any disputes that arise. You always see this on PowerSellers auctions - it makes you look more professional.

Write terms and conditions: Have the 'small print' clearly visible on all your auctions, giving details of things like shipping times and prices, your refund policy, and any other business practices you might have. This helps build confidence with buyers.

Show off your feedback: Copy and paste a selection of the feedback comments you're most proud of to each item's description page, instead of making bidders go and look for it. If you have 100% positive feedback, be sure to write that on every auction too.

Add NR to your titles: If you have extra space in a title, put 'NR' (no reserve) on the end. Bidders prefer auctions that don't have a reserve price, and doing this lets them see that yours don't.

Benefits not features: Make sure your description focuses on the benefits that your item can give to the customer, not just its features. This is a classic sales technique. If you have trouble with this, remember: 'cheap' is a feature, 'save money' is a benefit.

List more items: If you want more people to respond to your items, then list more items! You might find you have better like listing items at the same time, instead of one-by-one. There's no need to use a Dutch auction - you can just keep two or three auctions going at once for an item you have more than one of in stock.

Accept unusual payment methods: To reach those last few buyers, accept payment methods that many sellers don't, like cheques.

Buy some upgrades: The best upgrade is the most expensive one, which makes your item appear first in search results. In crowded categories, you might find that this is worth the money.

Once you've got some buyers, you want to keep them coming back to you. The next email/post will show you how to turn one-time buyers into long-term customers.

eBay Description Writing Tips.

8:23 AM

eBay Description Writing Tips.

Once you've drawn the buyers in with your title, the next thing to do is to tell them all about your item with the description. But just what should you write in your description?

At its heart, your item description is an ad. Without making it too obvious, you should be writing sales copy. You're trying to get buyers excited about your products, and that's usually hard - but on eBay, if you have the right thing to sell and give enough details, the buyers almost excite themselves.

Technical Details.

Include every technical detail you know, including the item's manufacturer, its condition, how big it is, where and when it was made, its history, and anything else special about it. Don't be too boring, though: the best descriptions are written in friendly, conversational language, and show a real knowledge of the item. Whatever you do, make sure you tell the truth!

Remember that most of the people who'll be buying your item will be just as knowledgeable about it as you are, if not more - this is their hobby, and they're experts. Don't feel like you need to explain the basics of the item: just go into as much technical detail as you can. As a rule, don't write anything in the description if you don't know what it means, as the chances are someone will, and if you've got it slightly wrong then you'll look like you don't know what you're talking about.

Interesting Details.

You might find that you enjoy writing a few things about how you got the item, why you're selling it, and who you think might like it. This isn't strictly necessary, but it gives your auctions some character and a personal touch, and can make people more likely to trust you. People might wonder what you're doing selling 500 CDs all at once, and if you tell them the reason, then they'll feel reassured that nothing dodgy is going on. If you're selling them because you're having a baby and you need the space, just say so.

Write as Much as You Can.

Leave nothing out of your description, even if that seems to you like it makes it cumbersomely long. There is no way you can be too thorough: someone, somewhere will appreciate that you took the time to write the extra information.

Don't assume that anyone who wants extra information will email you to ask a question: many buyers are shy and won't do it. Think of questions that buyers might have and add the answers to your description, as people generally tend to ask the same questions over and over again.

Each time a buyer does email you with a question, you should both answer their question and update your description so that it will include the answer next time. If people ask questions that are answered in the description, try putting these parts of the auction on a line alone, or in bold, to make them easier to notice.

In the next email/post, we'll focus on increasing the number of buyers who respond to your auctions.