Friday, 21 June 2019

A Lesson in eBay Etiquette.


I've been an eBay user since 2009 and I think it's still the original and best way to find particular purchases and sell your unwanted possessions online even with all the more recent alternatives. I think eBay is a simple, straight-forward and no-nonsense online buying and selling platform and when I've had a wardrobe clear out, it's my go-to place to pass on whatever I no longer want or need. However, whilst the website itself is a brilliant platform, it has become more and more apparent to me over the years that people still do not know how to use it effectively and after a few conversations with friends who have found the same, I decided that it's time to pen a few tips and give a bit of a lesson in eBay etiquette.

Disclaimer: I'm by no means an expert or a regular/business user and there are still eBay tips and tricks I've probably not uncovered yet. I'm merely a user who buys and sells things maybe a couple of times a year. These are just common things I've found and my friends have found over the years so if you are in doubt or unsure about anything or have a query, please do contact eBay directly.

1. Ensure your profile details are regularly updated.
Whilst I consider myself to be quite savvy where eBay is concerned, I have been caught out with this one previously. As a buyer this is indefinitely important as you want to make sure your purchases are going to find their way to you at your current address. Whether buying or selling, you also need to make sure the notifications regarding your items are sent to your correct email and most importantly that your PayPal account and associated email are linked properly. I changed my email address last year and immediately went onto all my signed up websites to change it, including eBay. However, at the time, I didn't realise that although I'd changed my email and PayPal details in my account settings, I would also need to change the PayPal account on the listing of each individual item I sold. I assumed that this was done and dusted in the changing of the general account settings and ended up selling a bunch of items and people sending money to the wrong email address. It wasn't as big of a deal as it sounds as I still had access to the old email account and no money had actually processed. As a long-time user with positive feedback, I panicked, felt awful and immediately contacted everyone that had won my auctions with apologies and detailed instructions as to how to rectify the issue. Which brings me smoothly into my next tip...

2. Communication is key.
Whether buying or selling, it's always best to contact the other person involved in a transaction if there are problems or you need to clear something up before processing an exchange of money. In instances where I've been a seller, I've had to communicate more with other users than as a buyer but if there is a fault or problem with anything, I've always been super upfront, polite and apologetic, even in some cases offering free postage or a more expensive postage service as a consolation.
However, whilst communication is key, there are also eBay users who will message the most bizarre requests or queries about items. I have had many messages asking me to measure very specific bits of clothing items, have been asked about materials, colours, where sleeves and hems come up to, my opinion on what sizes actually are and even if items would look nice with others. Some of which are easy to answer and I'm more than happy to, but I don't own a tape measure, many people generally wouldn't and I have in the past had my opinion on sizes used against me in feedback. For instance on a piece of clothing that was let's say a medium, I wrote in the description that whilst it was a medium, I'm a 12 and I found it snug. I then got negative feedback because the buyer did not find this to be the case. People are obviously different! Plus quite a lot of items I sell are total bargains and end at less than £5 so to be contacted with odd requests or things that would be used against me, is quite petty and often not worth the hassle, particularly when like other sellers who don't do this for a living or even that often, I have a full-time job.

3. Feedback helps out other users. Be sure to provide it.
As a general rule, particularly when buying, it's a good idea to check out the feedback of other users before carrying out a transaction. Clicking their username or the number in brackets beside will navigate you towards this. You'll then be able to see how many positives, negatives and neutrals people have from both buying and selling. If there are any negatives or neutrals, don't immediately disregard the user, be sure to read the comment provided if there is one. If the positives outweigh any negatives or neutrals, just consider how much of a red light you consider that to be. Whilst a number of these may signal an inconsistent seller, one or two could simply be a misunderstanding as outlined with my previous cases above. If the seller is a business, you would expect good customer service and reputation as standard but a personal user like myself just selling the odd bit or bob will likely have work, family and other external commitments, so just be considerate of that also. Whilst being considerate though, don't stand for bad experiences if the reason doesn't seem legitimate and the user isn't apologetic or  honest. This is why eBay allows users to open cases against other users if their transaction was not as expected. Always refer back to tip 2 before doing so in any instance though. And most importantly, feedback should be provided for all transactions, even where it was smooth and straightforward. This helps provide a good picture and gives users a higher seller rating.

4. Pay for items immediately.
This is a bit of a pet peeve of mine, as a seller rather than a buyer. As stated previously, I simply list things on eBay on a one off basis, possibly twice/three times a year when having a clear out or getting rid of unwanted or needed things but when I do, the cost of my items are never particularly high. Quite often I begin items at 99p unless they are BNWT (brand new with tags) and a lot of these might only go up to £1.50-£3.00. But every time I do put on a range of clothes as part of a clear out, I can always guarantee that there'll be at least one user that doesn't pay straight away. Now eBay does give a timeframe for people to pay within and you can appeal to cancel if people don't but when items are priced so low, I don't understand why people wouldn't pay immediately, particularly when they must have just been sat at computer or phone to bid and win the auction anyway. Don't get me wrong, not everyone has the money there and then, I appreciate this but at the same time, if this is the case, maybe don't bid or buy things until you do. Similarly, I list items when I know I will have the free time to post them, for instance when I'm off work. If people wait days before paying, this puts days on the seller's schedule and therefore they might not then be able to post straight after your payments due to external commitments. Again, just common courtesy and if it is a genuine one off or something that can't be helped, then its simply back to tip 2 and a compromise or alternative arrangement could be made.

5. Don't bid on things too early.
Another thing I see all too regularly. Someone is selling a dress, its got a full week left, yet one lone singular bid on it. Do not be this person! Just stick the item in your watching and keep your eye on it. Bidding like this will just increase the price for everyone interested. Whenever I've bid or even won an auction style listing, I've always done it by sticking it in my watching and coming back to it on the day that it ends. I'd then place bids in the last few minutes or even seconds before it does end. You don't necessarily need to bid to show your interest, a seller can see how many views, watchers and bids their items have had and can make assumptions from this. I'm not saying don't bid at all until the last 2 minutes but if it still has 10 days left and no bids, leave it that way and come back to it later on.

6. Read the small print.
This applies for both buyers and sellers. As a buyer, be sure to fully read product descriptions for item specifics, locations, postage terms and services to ensure you are purchasing the right thing and so that you don't give yourself a shock because something might not be as assumed, after all you are the one parting with money. As a seller this also stands, particularly when listing items. Check all values, settings and inputs when listing an item as you want to make sure that your item is being sold in the right listing style (auction, buy it now etc.), at the right postage amount and you also need to check specifics such as whether or not you accept things like click and collect, returns, global shipping and that the funds will come to you in the correct format, amongst other things. On this note, if you are a more regular seller, ensure you know all the terms and conditions where things like fees, taxes and declaration are concerned. As a seller, doing the above ensures your feedback stays positive, that you build a good reputation as a seller and that you won't face any bad comebacks where feedback, appeals, complaints or misuse allegations are concerned.

7. Know your postage.
I'm not an expert in all postage services as I normally just opt for Second Class when posting items, unless it's something a little more expensive or somethings gone wrong and I'm offering an alternative as compensation. As I'm usually only selling clothing items, my trick is to fold whatever it is into a small but thin pile, trying not to make it bigger than A4 or too high. I'll squeeze the air out of parcels and even leave them underneath books or something the night before so that they are all nice and flat and thin. This is a useful tip because Royal Mail have size guides which distinguish prices and these are usually slots that they fit the parcel through to see where it sits. It would be super useful if these were available to the public but I've asked a few times and they don't give them out. It's often hard to know how much a parcel will cost you to post and whilst there may be generators online to estimate this, if it's a bog standard piece of clothing I'll usually say anywhere between £2 and £3 depending on material and what it actually is. For instance, anything corduroy or denim is obviously going to be a lot heavier and harder to fold into a small shape. I tend to use brown paper or jiffy bags for posting and make it as tight and compact as possible with loads of tape. Royal Mail will generally ask what is in the parcel for safety reasons as there are certain things that can't be posted so do check restrictions. They will also offer different services if its something worth a lot of money to provide a level of assurance. I haven't used couriers or collect options so can't comment on these facilities but just be upfront with whatever you're offering. And don't be picky if you're the buyer, a lot of sellers will offer free postage but this will do them out of money if they are personal sellers and we can't always be absolutely certain how much it will cost to post. Plus don't discount the fact that we also have to buy the packaging materials and find the time and transport to actually get to the post office too. I've had someone complain before because the postage was about 40p more than it actually ended up costing and just politely reminded them of the above points.

Welcome any other suggestions that might be of use to personal use eBay-ers so feel free to drop comments.
Happy buying and selling!

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