Posted by: socalsalty | January 26, 2011

Buying Gear On eBay

Scored this sweet custom Calstar T6465XH tuna rod (with Aftco rollers and reel seat) off eBay today

I’ve been on eBay, pretty much since it’s inception.  I’ve had some issues with them as they’ve gotten bigger.  I particularly don’t like how Paypal is the only option for payment and I don’t agree with some of their policies, but overall I’d say I’m a fan of the site.

With regards to buying fishing gear there, I’ve found plenty of great deals, and I’ve met some pretty cool folks along the way.  There’s a lot I could share about selling on eBay.  eBay runs a “university” on that topic, so I won’t address it here.  What I want to do today though is share with you some observations I’ve made on successfully buying on eBay.

1. Your final bid isn’t your total price! – there’s the small matter of shipping.  One of the common ‘scams’ I see all the time is a low item price that has a ridiculous shipping rate.  If you see someone doing this, it doesn’t necessarily mean stay away.  If the total landed cost (winning bid + shipping) is good, then consider it.  I’m just saying don’t jump in at $.99, when your actual landed cost may be much higher after shipping.

2. Buy local whenever possible – especially when it’s a larger ticket item.  Buying local means you can usually pick it up live to complete the sale.  Picking up accomplishes 2 things: a) you avoid shipping costs, b) you get an opportunity to examine the item before purchase.  Also, shipping accidents do happen and working through a claim is a big P.I.T.A.!  Buying local and picking it up avoids dealing with shipping claims.

3. A picture’s worth a thousand words – I never buy an item that doesn’t have a picture.  Grainy pics with a phone camera that show no detail are just as bad.  Lots of quality pictures says a lot about the seller and helps you to avoid surprises later.

4. Buy from a quality seller – Feedback ratings are a good place to start, but it’s not the final word.  Look at their ratings as a seller, not just as a buyer.  Be wary of a seller who’s stacked up ratings based on a lot of small purchases, and now all of a sudden they are selling some big ticket item.  Also look for a match between what you want to buy vs. what they’ve sold in the past.  If most of their ratings are from selling Pez dispensers for a couple bucks each and now you’re watching their auction for that Accurate reel you’ve been coveting, it should raise a red flag.

5. When in doubt ask – As the saying goes, the only stupid question is the one you didn’t ask.  Is local pickup OK?  Why are you selling it?  What year did you buy it?  In evaluating the seller, ask yourself, “Did they answer my question?” or did you get some BS answer that doesn’t really make you feel any better?  As much as the answer to your exact question, you can get a good feel for a seller by how quickly they respond to your question.  Sure, some people aren’t online all the time, but even so, if there is a problem later, I want to deal with someone who gets back quickly.

6. Know the market – when you are in-market for a purchase, it’s always a good idea to just observe some sales before jumping in yourself.  Watch some auctions to see the range of completed purchase prices.  Search on completed purchases to get more of this data.  How does all of this data compare to just going to my local tackle shop?  Once you’ve made these considerations, establish a landed price and look for that deal.  One last thing before hitting “Place Bid”, ask yourself this question “Is the risk of making this purchase online worth making vs. buying it from my local tackle shop?”  A good example is my Torium 16.  I bought it at Fisherman’s Landing in San Diego when the Shimano Tackle Tour was in town.  I could’ve saved $20 buying the same reel  brand new from a reputable eBay seller, but because of the tackle tour, you could spool the reel with Power Pro at $.01 per yard.  The savings in line and the fact I could immediately put it on the water far outweighed the savings from buying on eBay.  There’s also a lot to be said about developing that local shop relationship.  What you get from them in terms of information can make paying a little more well worth the cost.  Have you ever bought something on eBay that wasn’t quite what you wanted and then had to turn around and resell it?  For a loss?

A final word: If there is a problem with your purchase, don’t immediately rush to give the seller a negative feedback rating.  One, most people will try to make good, so give them a chance to do so.  Two, when it gets right down to it, the threat of a negative feedback may be your only leverage.  Do you want to smear the person?  Or do you want to just get what you paid for?

As I stated on the front end, there are entire books and seminars out there on eBay, so I could go on and on, but I think these are some good rules of thumb.  Please leave a comment or send me an email though if you have some other tips for successfully buying on eBay.  OR I’d love to just hear about and see pics of your favorite eBay scores!

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