5 Quick Tips before Shopping on eBay

eBay is the best place in getting a quick deal for an item, be it gadgets, electronics, apparels and such. However, being the fact that Malaysia is a few thousand miles away from most sellers on eBay.com, that quick deal could quickly turn out to be an expensive purchase, or even the worst shopping experience ever (OK, I’m over-exaggerating this one).

Here are 5 quick tips to stay safe and be aware of how much it will cost you exactly “to take the prize home”

Don’t buy in December!

I am not going to be popular by saying this, but I’m saying it anyway – Do not buy anything from eBay in December! Unless if the seller is within Southeast Asia, then it’s OK.

Online Shopping is Cool

December is the busiest time of the year for online shopping, and the scammers¬† know that too. This is the best time for the scammers to strike eBay and reap gargantuan “profits” from last minute shoppers, and they will strike. I’ve had a few purchases that went awry during the month of December, and while this does not apply to most eBay sellers, better to be safe than sorry!

On top of that, December is the busiest month for postal services in the US and the UK. If your item is shipped out by USPS First Class Mail or Royalmail Air Post, chances are it will take until the end of January (6-8 weeks) to get your item, if it even reaches you at all. If you really must buy that item in September, be sure to have it shipped by USPS Global Express Mail, Parcelforce (for UK), or any of the couriers (Fedex, UPS, DHL etc). It will cost you more, but again, better to be safe than sorry.

If it is an Auction-Style Listing, Don’t get Too Excited that the Item is Only 99 cents!

“Cuz, I found an iPhone that costs only 99 cents!”

A friend of mine exclaimed when he first saw it on eBay, and sets plan to buy an iPhone for his girlfriend, sister, mom, and his pet iguana. I smiled to myself and wished him good luck. Sure enough, he never talked about that iPhone again.

If it is an auction listing, chances are that by the end of the auction period (end time), the price will skyrocket to its fair demand price. eBay auctions are a proxy bidding process, meaning that you set the maximum price that you want to spend for the item, and the price increments every time someone else places a bid on that same item.

Bidding is an exciting process, and after 7 years worth of eBay experience under my belt, it never ceases to amuse me. Rookie & amateur eBayers will keep a tab on the current price every other hour or so, while the veterans know better and bid at the very last seconds.

Reason? Simple. If you place a bid early on the item, other rookies and amateurs will put up a good fight to stay as the highest bidder. So bid at the very last second to avoid the bidding war, and you will end up paying less for the item. When I say the last second, do not take it too literally. Give it around 10-20 seconds so you have time to increase your maximum bid in case if your bid is still lower than another eBayer’s maximum bid. By bidding in the last seconds of the auction, your competition won’t have a chance to counter your bid. Sounds evil, but hey, chivalry is not measured by paying more for that item.

Make Sure you are Buying from an Established Seller

Even in traditional shopping (buying in a shop etc etc), we would always prefer an establishment (boutiques, shopping malls) compared to a pasar malam stall. Same goes to shopping online on eBay. Check the seller’s reputation via their feedback & Detailed Seller Rating (DSR). A high feedback score with a purple or red star is good, but also check their positive feedback percentage. 96% and above is a good number, anything less requires further probing.

To ensure you’re dealing with the real McCoy, shoot them an email via the “Ask a question” link and ask them whether they will ship to Malaysia, shipping duration, or any questions that comes to mind. See if the seller writes back and note the time taken for the seller to respond and the tone of the email that you received. The way that the seller responds to your enquiries is a good way of determining how the transaction will turn out to be. Great eBay sellers know this, and they will answer enquiries professionally and politely.

Check the Seller’s Shipping Policy

It’s not December, and the seller is genuine & checks up good. What’s next?

Check and see whether the seller ships to Malaysia (or whichever country that you’re in). Check on the “Seller Info tab” (screenshot below)

eBay Seller Info TabThe seller in this screenshot ships worldwide, so no problem. If the seller does not state Asia or “Worldwide” as their shipping destination, shoot them an email (again, use the “Ask a Question” link) and ask them whether they will ship to you location. Some sellers may not, but it’s worth a try.

So the seller ships to your country, now what? Remember that the winning bid is only one part of the cost. Shipping charges are another matter.


Check the “Shipping and Payments” tab for the shipping cost to your country. If your country is now listed in the drop down menu, again, shoot an email to the seller and enquire for the cost.

Special Note: Be sure to ask the seller regarding shipping costs before placing a bid. Your bid is a binding contract, and “expensive” shipping charge is not an excuse to get you out of that contract!

It always pays to know how much exactly that you will be paying. So remember that you are paying for the winning bid price plus the shipping charges.

Last but Never the Least, Always Pay by Paypal!

As a seller, Paypal is not really my favorite payment processor, but when it comes to buying online on eBay or any other sites, paying by Paypal is a must.

Paypal has a good protection policy for buyers, so if anything does go wrong (item not received, item not as described etc), you can file a dispute against the seller, and Paypal will help to recover back your money.

There you go. 5 things that you should note before buying on eBay. Shopping on eBay is fun, but be sure to stay safe at all times.