Buying on eBay
eBay is by far the largest online auction and direct sales operation with the opportunity to trade, both buying and selling around the world. eBay does not have many staff in proportion to the number of people using it, so customer service is near non existent and if you run into problems then resolving it can be difficult. eBay also own Paypal the electronic payment system, which works well for the vast majority of people, but like all online payment systems has to put up with the antics of the credit card companies, who may not authorise some payments without reason. With the current problems some banks are having maybe like reducing peoples credit limits, a way to ease their cash flow problems.
Generally buying things on eBay is a pleasant experience, and we have purchased a very large number of things, making an enormous saving, plus turned a lot of spare stuff that was taking up space back into cash via eBay. In a number of cases the price we got for items we sold was far more than we expected. Photographers of course have a great advantage in that we can show items really well in photographs, and as its only the photos that buyers can see you do tend to get more bidders for items well presented and clearly photographed.
As well as auction items there are very many with 'buy now' prices.
If you buy cameras, lenses and flash units on eBay from Hong Kong or the like, then compute out the full price including carriage and insurance if charged, and watch out as well for duty. In some cases these dealers have a no duty guarantee repaying you any duty charged but not often the £10 or £12 fee charged by the carrier for collecting the duty.
You need to watch the prices and compare, Nikon prices in the UK tend to be exceptionally high on new releases, and then later dealers offer cameras cheaper, so when the Nikon D300 came out you could save over £300 by importing it, while 6 months later the difference has dropped to around a £150 saving, plus some extra goodies like a free 2nd battery. If you have a lens, or two, flash and more, then the savings can become significant.
Capture NX2 upgrade from NX, about £65 including postage on eBay from the USA compared to £79.99 here (July 08), generally the lower the price of the item the lower the proportionate saving taking postage into account.
Second hand lenses and items of course are often available at a great price.
Ink for printers, including original manufacturers inks are usually also available at a fraction of the price in the shops. If you have ink cartridges hanging around in your own business, you may want to lock them away and change them when necessary yourself, its likely that quite a few employees are supplementing their salaries with office supplies sold on eBay.
Tips on winning on eBay
After the auction
If you are not happy about something
If you get suspended without explanation by eBay
eBay has few staff, if someone reports something they think looks suspicious, or you do something by accident against eBay's rules that its programs detect, eBay may feel its simpler to suspend you than work out if there is a real problem.
Post and packing charges
When I first started buying art, computer games and other smaller items on eBay, I could not see how the postage could ever be as much as I was being charged, for example £6 or £10.50 for a painting in a tube or £3.50, £5.50 or more for a small computer game. I, like some others, tended to try to cost the actual postage and packing material. What I came to realize, having spoken to some about this and read the material on eBay on the subject, is that the figure given for P&P also includes all other charges that the seller has encountered or is likely to, so Paypal and other similar fees and often eBay costs as well. The seller is therefore looking to get the amount bid at the end of the auction and for the buyer to cover all costs.
The practice tends to shift with larger items and some sellers use the same model while others expect to cover postage and packing, plus possibly a contribution towards other costs, but in wanting to get as much as possible for the item being sold are often willing or feel that they have to partly subsidize these costs.
It is in practice very difficult to guess what the postage will be for many items, without actually packing it up and taking it to a post office to weigh. So many times the postage cost advertised for larger items, although looking expensive, will not actually cover the cost of the dispatch. With larger items although sometimes people have questioned the postage figure I have quoted, I find a third at least I have undercharged to the extent that I end up subsidizing the postage and getting no contribution towards packaging or any other costs.
So with larger items, where you take payment through Paypal, have paid the eBay listing and final value fees, and spent time and thought, as well as packaging materials, you will frequently find you barely cover the postage and maybe subsidizing the sale to the sum of hundreds of pounds. Therefore you need to be aware of all these costs, when considering the price you will accept, setting start or reserve prices and setting the P&P charge.
With smaller items where people are putting up a large number of items, not wanting to subsidize items and especially where they have started the bidding at a very low figure, calculating the individual figure for each item is difficult, so the practice I have followed is the one others have used and explained to me, of setting an average figure, that over a larger number of items will average out. For most small items I have set this at £3.50 being the most common charge I have paid for small items and about the average cost. With some items for example thick books this does not cover the cost, but for smaller items like computer games, it does and over all, I think its currently just about the average actual cost. In practice if you can save and reuse some padded envelopes and other packaging this will also help you to stay within the amount you receive.
When advertising anything for sale on eBay its a better practice to include a P&P figure whatever you consider it to be, than the policy some follow of saying they will tell people after the close of the auction, which could give grounds for disputes to arise. Similarly its a better practice to factor in Paypal and other charges than put it within the text and try to collect it after, as most people will pay the amount shown on eBay which is the bid price plus P&P and not remember to go and look at small print again.
When buying you always should look at the combination of your bid and the P&P (and other charges if specified), particularly when sniping in groups you will find that you have snipes set at a range of different figures, to take into account the P&P set. You should always look at the P&P before you bid, you have no grounds to complain later if you bid and did not take this into account. People who complain about P&P charges where they are shown tend to get poor feedbacks and on eBay getting a constantly good feedback has to be your aim.
Some sellers will combine items, sometimes this is shown in listings, in other cases ask if you are intending on buying two or more items from a seller. In some cases it may be more cost effective for you to collect, or a good excuse to visit another area and take some photos at the same time.
Remember with postage if the situation when buying is unclear then ask for a postage price before bidding.
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