Sunday, May 19, 2013

How does bidding on eBay work?

eCommerce existed before eBay did, so selling online wasn’t what made eBay so successful. What did was the fact that anyone could sell and buy, even small items, and the auction process, which allowed buyers to obtain items at prices that were usually a lot lesser than market-prices.

The question is, how can one bid on items when the sale is far away? The answer is computerized bidding, which eBay refers to as “proxy bidding”. The idea about proxy bidding is that you set the highest price you’re willing to pay, and trust eBay’s computers to take care of the rest. In a regular real-world auction, the auction manager raises the price slowly, in increments, until it surpasses the 2nd highest bidder…and with eBay, a computer does the same thing. When two or more buyers compete for an item, the computer sets the price to be one increment higher than the maximum price set by the 2nd high bidder. Lets see an example:

1)    Bidder no. 1 starts off and sets his maximum price for something at $60
2)    Bidder no. 2 comes in later and sets his maximum price for something at $120
3)    Bidder no. 3 arrives last, and sets his maximum price for something at $220

The auction starts off at $1 for our example. When the 1st bidder starts, he offers $60, but since he’s the first, the price is “set” at the starting price of $1. When bidder 2 shows up, the computer will bump the price up to $61…which puts it a little above what #1 was willing to pay, but a lot less than no. 2.

When Bidder 3 shows up, the computer will bump the price all the way up to $121…which pushes bidder 2 out, and makes #3 be the “winner”. However, the auction doesn’t end…it could still last a few more days.

Whenever a bidder’s offer gets surpassed, eBay alerts them via Email, and they could increase their bid. For example, Bidder 2 can increase his bid to $200. At that point, bidder 3’s offer still surpasses that, so the computer bumps it up to $201…and he’s still losing, but bidder 3 will have to pay more than #2 was willing to initially.

This “game” could go on until the auction ends (at the time it was initially set to end…which is usually 1 week exactly after it was started). The existing bidders can still make more offers, based on what kind of time they have to play around. Sometimes, they use “sniping”…which we will cover in a future post.

Want to learn more? Read more articles on my blog, or better yet, attend my public class on eBay buying. Click here to find more details and about the next class dates

Sunday, May 12, 2013

eBay feedback – part 2

Last time, I described the eBay feedback system and how it helps you weed out bad sellers. However, sometimes, the numbers aren’t enough to make a decision. For example, what if you need a specific item that’s only available from a specific seller that has mediocre scores?

Well, by clicking on the feedback score, you can actually get a breakdown of the feedback, as well as comments left with the scores. The detailed view shows the feedback divided into 3 categories and over 3 time period:
1)    Positive
2)    Neutral
3)    Negative

a.    Last month
b.    Last 6 months
c.    Last 12 months

“Neutral” may sound benign, but in the eBay world, that’s actually close to a negative than positive. To compare it to the good-old school scoring system, a “positive” is an A, a “negative” is an “F” and a “neutral” is a D (even though it might sound to you like a B or C). In other words, even if a seller has no negatives, but several neutrals…take it as a warning sign.

The distribution by period allows you to see how things have changed over time. For example, a seller might have 10 negatives in the last 12 months, but only 2 in the last 6…which typically means he has improved. The idea is to try to evaluate change over time (maybe one day eBay will make it easier for us and just show a graph?).

A good idea when considering a seller with a non-stellar record is reading the actual comments left by buyers. These are displayed on the feedback page, and you can also filter them to see just the negative and neutral ones. The comments might reflect different aspects of the seller’s issues…some have low-quality merchandise, others ship slowly and yet others are dinged for being unresponsive. Occasionally, a buyer would call out someone simply as a liar, fraud, cheater etc. The issues described might be something that matters to you a lot…or on the contrary. For example, perhaps the seller has good merchandise, but gets bad scores simply because his mailing service is slow. In such a case, perhaps you don’t care if the items take an extra week to arrive, as long as the quality is good.

Want to learn more? Read more articles on my blog, or better yet, attend my public class on eBay buying. Click here to find more details and about the next class dates.

Friday, May 3, 2013

eBay feedback and seller reliability

One of the most common questions about buying online is “how do I trust this random guy to actually send me what I bought?”. This is indeed one of the most important things to think of when dealing with online shopping and eBay’s executives are spending huge amounts of resources into making that leap of logic.

The primary mechanism for evoking trust in the buyer community is the feedback system. On eBay, every user, buyer and seller alike, has a score, which is comprised of the number of transactions the person has completed on eBay, and a quality score. The transaction number is simple enough, and the quality score is a percentage between 0 and 100 which indicate on what percent of the transactions did that user receive “positive” feedback. For example, if the user’s score looks like this:

mandmbeads (842  )
99.6% Positive feedback

Then it means the user has completed 842 deals (which combines the items that person bought and sold). The 99.6% score means that 839 of these sales concluded with a positive outcome, as graded by customers. To be more precise, the % score is only calculated for sales during the last year. For example, the seller might have sold only 294 items during the past year, and only ONE of these 294 sales was a negative experience, and so 99.6% of 294 are 293. This system allows the score to be more reflective of the sellers conduct recently, so if a seller was bad and then improved, he would be “forgiven”, and if he was good and then started rounding corners, that would also be reflected.

Another thing that’s important to remember about these scores is that their scope can be misleading. For example, you might see a seller with a 95% score, and think that it was a terrific fellow (because getting 95% on a test means you’re a pretty smart student…right?). In reality, though, scores given by users are quite forgiving in relation to real life. In the eBay scale, a seller with 95% is a HORRIBLE one. I recommend you prefer sellers with at least 99%, and never buying from any seller that has less than 98%. Naturally, consider the deal number too, because a seller with a low number means a guy who is not very experienced, and also means that the % score for it can be a statistical anomaly (because you can’t really evaluate something based on a small sample). I would suggest preferring sellers with at least 100 transactions, and to never buy from someone with less than 50 transactions on his record. On the other hand, sellers with a very LARGE amount of transactions can also be a problem, because these sellers have such a huge volume that they are less likely to care about a dissatisfied customer. For a seller who moves 5000 items a month, even 10 angry customers will barley affect his overall score, so he is more likely to just ignore such a customer.

Want to learn more? Read more articles on my blog, or better yet, attend my public class on eBay buying. Click here to find more details and about the next class dates.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Getting what you need with persistent searches

There are tons of things on eBay, but sometimes, you just can’t find what you want. Maybe it’s some item that’s unusually rare, or maybe you just need it to meet a price point which the market isn’t serving up today. Thanks to persistent searches, you can have eBay help you find things by letting you know when what you want is up.

To setup a persistent search, start with a regular search for what you need. Work with the search parameters and keywords to narrow down the search as much as possible. The reason for this being important is because when you perform the search again some other day, you’d probably not want to go over a large list of items. After all, keep in mind that eBay items MOVE, so to get the best chance of finding what you need, you should be doing the search every day. The more results you get, the less likely you are to have the time to actually do the search every day.

Once you are satisfied with how the results are narrowed down, click * Save on the top-right (next to the search bar itself). Do note that eBay won’t let you save a search with zero results. When you save the search, eBay will offer you “Email me daily when new items match my search”. If you leave this on then you will get daily email listing such items. If you choose to not receive the emails, the search’s parameters are still saved and you can then go to My EBay and then to Saved Searched to see your saved searches and run any of them on the spot.

If you did subscribe to the emailed search, you’ll get the daily notifications (unless during the day no one added an item that matches your search criteria). Do note, though, that on the 1st day you’ll get the same items (more or less) that your current search got. This would seem stupid, but that’s the way it is. The persistent searches also mean that you need to be even more careful about narrowing down your search, or you might get dozens of new results every day. Lastly, once you did find and buy your item, you need to go to the saved searches page to turn off the Email notification, or they will continue on for the entire year.

Want to learn more? Read more articles on my blog, or better yet, attend my public class on eBay buying. Click here to find more details and about the next class dates.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Searching eBay with keywords

The eBay auction system, as smart as it is, has quite a few limitations with regards to how sellers can describe their items. The length of the text is limited, and even though some meta-tags are available, they are far from complete. For this reason, the eBay community has developed many keywords that are used as shortcuts to describe the items within the auction title.
The most common item is BNIB, which stands for “brand new in box”. Another common term you will see a lot is NR, standing for “no reserve”, meaning that the seller hasn’t set a reserve price on the auction.

A somewhat differently purposed keywords are “as-is”, which describe an item that is probably damaged or broken. A comparable term that’s also common for this situation is “for parts”. Such items would typically be offered at very low prices, but you get what you pay for…suitable mostly for someone who has the ability to repair the item or really does need part from it to repair another.

In the clothing department, you will find additional keywords. A common one is BNWT, which means Brand New With Tags, or its cousin NWT (New With Tags). “NBW” stands for Never Been Worn, and is also useful for the clothing industry. In the toy and action figure field, the word “loose” means an item that’s out of its original packaging, which would deter collectors, but means attractive pricing for those who just want to play or use the item. In electronics, “repaired”, “refurbished”, “refurb”, “restocked” and “repackaged” denote an item that has been returned by a customer and is being offered at a reduced price, but with a limited warranty.

You can find a fairly comprehensive list of similar keywords here:

Want to learn more? Read more articles on my blog, or better yet, attend my public class on eBay buying. Click here to find more details and about the next class dates.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Searching better on eBay with switches

Searching on eBay seems simple, right? You just type some stuff in the search bar and find what you need…right? Eh…no. Well, in theory, that’s how the site works, but in reality, unless you’re looking for something very specific like “netgear n300 USB adapter”, you’ll typically get hundreds or thousands of results, which are impractical to go-through.

To our help comes the fact that the search engine supports several “switches” to make it easier. The most useful switch is the minus sign, which allows you to denominate items (words) to NOT appear in the search. For example, if you want to find an iPhone, you’ll typically get around 1.4 MILLION results, but if you add  -case, you eliminate around a million of those. 400,000 are still too much, of course, but add -skin, and 25,000 more will be gone. Naturally, the keywords you want to eliminate differ based on the actual product you need…perhaps it IS a case that you really want, which would prompt you to include it without a minus, but you get my drift. For most high-profile products like phones, computers accessories and photography stuff, a good and refined search will end up with 6-7 keywords excluded. For example: “nikon dslr -kit -flash -tripod -filter -bag -case –strap”. To find a suitable search string for what you need, you’ll have to have a good understanding of the product you’re looking for, and what kind of related items it might have (which lead to getting a high number of results). This takes time and experience.

Another type of switch is the parenthesis switch, which allow you to group items together. For example, if you want to look for something that you would typically buy more than one-of, like a snack, you would use a word like “pack” to describe it. Other words used on eBay for that kind of thing are “lot”, “group”, “set” and “kit”. By using a parenthesis, you can create a search that contains EITHER of these, like this:

Bamba (lot,group,set,kit)

Bamba is the name of an Israeli snack, which isn’t very common, but a typical search for it alone would fetch over 1000 results. With a modifier such as above, you’re cutting down the results to something much more useful.

Want to learn more? Read more articles on my blog, or better yet, attend my public class on eBay buying. Click here to find more details and about the next class dates.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

What site to use for online purchases?

If you’re new to online shopping, you might wonder is which is the best site to use to get your stuff. Some people swear by eBay, while others stick t Amazon. Yet others go with Google shopping or some lesser known sites like Etsy. The truth of the matter is that just like there’s no single “best” newspaper or car, there’s no best shopping site either.
The two big name are, of course eBay and amazon. For the most parts, both offer the same products for comparable and often identical prices. One big difference is that amazon focuses primarily on products sold by Americans, while eBay has sellers from everywhere. In fact, a significant amount of products on eBay are sold by Chinese sellers. This is both an advantage and disadvantage. On one hand, Chinese sellers offer comparable products to American sellers, but at much lower rates – usually 20% lower, and sometimes as low as half-priced. Also, Chinese post is very cheap, so most American sellers will charge at least 10 dollars on shipping, most Chinese sellers will ship for free, which keeps to total cost down. The disadvantage of the Chinese market is that it is on the other end of the world, so you’ll typically have to wait 2-3 weeks for your item, while the same thing from an American seller will be on your doorstep within 5 days mostly. If speed is your primary concern, then yu might even prefer Amazon, which gives free 2-day shipping on many items for members of its prime program.
Another big difference is that eBay’s search engine is much more accurate, allowing you to use advanced search criteria to hone in on a product. For example, if you try to find a 32 GB SD card on Amazon, the search will also show you 64 GB cards, 16 cards and more. On eBay, not only will it be more specific, but you can also use expressions to narrow down the search. For example, you can use the dash character to have certain keywords removed from the search, and parenthesis to use variations. EBay has other selling formats too, such as “lots” and “set”, allowing you to focus on certain items. Lastly, eBay has a larger selection of used and refurbished products, which can get you better deals. For example, if you want an action figure of Spiderman, you can specify “loose” in the keywords to find open-box items, which are often much cheaper.
Want to learn more? Read more articles on my blog, or better yet, attend my public class on eBay buying. Click here to find more details and about the next class dates.