eBay can be a wonderful resource - maybe your time is limited, maybe your local store didn't have what you wanted, or didn't have it in your size or color, chances are, somebody on eBay does. But eBay can also be the source of much suffering and major financial setbacks. I have had absolutely wonderful luck with eBay. (Knock wood ) But I don't think it's just luck. Here are my favorite Tips n' Tricks: First, don't bid on auctions. Auctions are all about human nature, and we are all human, we are all competitive, and no matter how much we say to ourselves that we are going to decide beforehand how much to pay, make our bid and walk away and forget about it, if you are bidding on something you really really want, you can make yourself vulnerable to a great deal of temptation to up your maximum bid by just a dime, just a dollar, and before you know it, you will have paid more for the item than if you had bought it at a store! Plus shipping. So I use eBay as an online retailer, and search Buy it Now items exclusively. I set a low per-item limit of $25. If, like most people, you're richer than me, you may set a higher one. But keep it low. eBay is where I look for Inspired - or completely unInspired but just cute/cool bags, clothes, fauxbling. In my view, eBay is fine for buying Keds, but not Prada - or any merchandise purported by the seller to be made by a popular, in-demand design house or manufacturer, or precious metals or gemstones. The likelihood that anyone might try to scam you on a pair of Genuine Keds Champion Oxfords for $19.99, or a Gold Electroplated Box Chain for $7 is slim to none. The likelihood that someone might try to scam you on a pair of Prada loafers for $89, or an 18K gold box chain for $300 is more like a certainty. Yes, there are thousands of honest and ethical eBay sellers who sell only the genuine article. And there are thousands who are not and do not. So I recommend that if you can afford the high-priced spread, buy it at a store where you can examine it yourself. Or order it from an online retailer whom you know to be an authorized seller of high-priced spread. Remember addition. Even though you have set your per-item price limit at $25, you can still overspend just fine. Only 4 items at $24.99 each plus shipping, add up to well over $100. Do that a few times and you are on your way to $1000, so do not feel that setting this kind of limit for yourself will deprive you of the financial ruin to which eBay is famous for leading people. Choose your seller carefully. Look at his/her feedback. It can give you a sense of the seller's practices. Read the negatives. If the seller has only a few, you will usually find that they were left by buyers with issues, who did not give the seller time to reply to emails, or refused to take yes for an answer, even when offered their money back, in extreme cases. But read them anyway. If you have a question about an item, and the seller does not reply, that's a big red flag. Especially if the item has been there a while, and the seller does not have a lot of items for sale, or his feedback does not indicate much recent activity, it could be that the seller has essentially abandoned his post, and you might send your money in, NOT get your item, and soon thereafter, discover that the seller is NARU'd (Not a Registered User - this usually indicates that the individual has violated some policy or other, and been removed from the rolls of eBay members in good standing) Read the fine print. This is one of the hardest rules for me to follow. When you see that very thing you have been looking for, and it is practically being given away, your instinct is to just click that Buy it Now button before somebody else does! But don't do it. Scroll on down and read what the seller has to say about payment methods accepted - almost everybody takes PayPal these days, but there are still some who don't, and there have been a couple of times where I, also being human, have been a bit hasty with the mouse button, and ended up having to pay an additional $5 or so to go register and pay via some entity that sends money orders to the Hebrides or Outer Mongolia. Read the fine print again. If it doesn't specifically say that the item is new, look for phrases like: "unless stated otherwise, all my merchandise is in good to excellent used condition." OK, fair's fair. The seller is telling you that the item is used, even if they didn't fill in that blank above the picture. Which brings me to the next tip: If you are buying items of clothing, unless it is something "vintage," only buy something that is being advertised as New. With or without tags or box does not matter, because we are not buying any expensive designer stuff, remember? The reason for this is that whether something really is "like new" or not is a very subjective judgment. The seller may not be trying to pull one over on you at all. They may really consider the Keds with the crease in the instep to be "like new" because they really were worn only once for an hour, and the inside of them is spotless and odorless. It just happens that the way the seller's feet are made, and the way she walks, caused the instep to crease. You, on the other hand, do not consider anything with a creased instep to be "like new," and so you now have an issue with that seller that could have been avoided. And the same "subjective" thing applies to "excellent" and "good" condition. Watch out for hefty shipping charges for low priced items. Unless the total costs of shipping and handling of the item are clearly stated, email the seller, and ask him to give you that total cost for shipping to your location. This will give you some documentation, should things go wrong. Read the fine print a third time. If you are new to eBay, you will very soon be appalled at the number of people who wish to sell you something for $5 and then charge you $75 for shipping and handling. And most of them are upfront about it. They say so, right down in there somewhere in all that fine print. Some sellers don't even mention the subject of shipping charges. In that case, I do not even email them to ask, because I consider that they have already answered me, by not mentioning it! This is another way that reading the feedback can help you. If people check "positive" on their feedback, but in the actual text refer to high shipping charges, or even say something to the effect of "high shipping but quality of product worth it," then that could be the seller's cousin helping them out, but it is also quite likely that the buyer is expressing her sincere opinion. An opinion which you may or may not share. So if you are very interested in the item, email the seller, and get that documentation on the subject of shipping that specific item to your specific location! Be reasonable about shipping. If you live in the continental US, and you are buying something from someone who lives in Tamil Nadu or Shanghai, you can, and should expect to pay more to have your item shipped than if you are buying it from someone else in the continental US, "more" meaning double, triple, or more. If like me, you are poor, maybe that you just can't afford that, and must click on to the next item. But don't confuse sellers with legitimate long-distance shipping charges with sleazeballs who are hoping you will click Buy WITHOUT reading their fine print, in which they do mention various fees totalling $112. Buying "vintage" on eBay is such a large topic that it really deserves its own whole series of pieces, and I will apologize in advance for not doing it justice here. It is one of the founding notions behind eBay when you think about it, people getting rid of all that stuff poor old Aunt Mina, rest her soul, had stacked up in the guest room closet. All those rhinestones from back in the day... Generally speaking, the best tip I can offer is that the more you know about exactly what vintage item you are buying, the better off you will be. This means that if you are not extremely knowledgeable on the subject of elbow-length gloves made in the 1950s, then it will probably be better if you buy yours in person, at a brick and mortar store, and preferably accompanied by a friend who IS knowledgeable about them. Aside from subjective elements like what constitutes "good vintage condition," in your view versus the seller's, there are questions of original quality of the item. For several reasons, there is actually less difference today in the actual quality of a garment purchased at Wal-Mart and one purchased at Saks than there was 30 years ago, much less 50. And there is the matter of provenance. How did the seller get the item? How much is known about the conditions under which it spent the last 50 years? Humidity? You can see why "vintage" is such a rich and complex area that whole books are written on it! And why the best eBay tip I can give on the subject is - leave it to the experts! So, to sum up, it is possible to have fun on eBay, to take advantage of that global marketplace, and find things there that you never would have found at the local mall, even if you had time to go to the local mall, which you don't. And it is possible to find bargains - especially if you are looking for bargains and not miracles. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. It takes effort to list stuff for sale on eBay, and sellers want to, and should, make a profit. Didn't I promise to sum up? OK, for real this time! Don't bid on auctions. Only use Buy it Now Set a per-item limit, and make it a low one Remember even low prices can add up Read the Seller's Fine Print. Read it Again. And Again. Ask about Shipping and Handling Check Seller's Feedback Record Buy only "New" items Leave vintage shopping to the vintage experts What are YOUR favorite eBay Tips n' Tricks?