Thinking of betting on eBay as your choice for an online marketplace? Hold your horses… you might want to see what people like and don’t like about the website before you dive right in.
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- Proven track record — eBay is one of the oldest and most successful e-commerce websites on the Internet. With over 700 million items listed on the website, you’re bound to find something that you’d like to buy.
- Three ways to buy — You can buy certain items at fixed prices, or you can enter an auction and bid on other items. For some items, you can even offer to buy the item at a lower price than the seller has listed!
- Bidding made easy — eBay makes bidding in auctions a snap! Just type in the maximum amount that you want to bid on an item right now, and it will automatically bid one increment higher than the current highest bid for you. If someone bids higher than that, eBay will re-bid for you to keep your bid one increment higher than the next highest bidder, up to your maximum bid. This takes the pressure off you to constantly re-bid manually in order to stay ahead of the competition.
- Thorough search tools — Find items by their name, brand, category, type of listing, price, listing date, and more. You can even search for items that have already been sold!
- Become a seller — Where would all of the great stuff on eBay come from if nobody was around to sell it? Join the storefront side of things and sell or auction off things around the house. With how big eBay is, you never know who might be looking to buy the stuff that you no longer want… or how much they’re willing to pay for it!
- Not every item will have a choice — It is usually up to the seller of an item how they will allow you to buy their items. Some will not allow you to make price offers towards their items, and others will not allow you to buy items at fixed prices (meaning that you must bid for them in auctions). Also, if an item has an option to buy it at a fixed price as well as an option to bid on it, once the first bid is made, the option to buy at a fixed price will be gone.
- High fees sometimes equal high prices — Some people feel that the amount of extra money that eBay charges people to buy or sell items, or to even list items for sale, is too high. This can lead some sellers to overcompensate by increasing the price of their items, or not offering buyers free shipping (even for returns). You can get around this somewhat if you’re smart about how you buy, bid, or make offers, but always be sure to shop around and check shipping rates to know how much you’re really paying for an item.
- Difficult to cancel orders — The process for cancelling or returning items that you’ve ordered or won in auctions on eBay is cumbersome, and you are usually at the mercy of the seller when it comes to whether your request is accepted or not. Usually it will be, if you give a valid reason. Otherwise, though, if you can’t get things solved through eBay customer service, you may have to pay for the item anyway, or risk racking up penalties on your account.
- Customer service is difficult to reach — eBay’s customer service department has an unfortunate reputation of being difficult to contact directly. It used to offer support through email and live chat, but now it only does so through telephone (at specific hours) or through on-site forms. Our best advice is to plan ahead to prevent problems before they happen.
The Bottom Line: 7.5/10
eBay’s large user base and name-brand recognition are definitely its main strengths, but another is its versatility in the fact that it operates as both an auction website and a direct-sale website. This gives both buyers and sellers options in terms of how they want to buy or sell items: through an auction, through a direct sale, or through price offers and counter-offers. Add to that eBay’s other powerful features such as automatic proxy bidding and thorough search tools, and it’s small wonder that the website is still going strong, despite being launched when the Internet was just becoming commercially popular.
Though eBay strives to be a “perfect market”, it is by no means a perfect website. Since how an item is sold is usually up to the discretion of the seller, you may not always have a choice of whether you can straight-up buy it, bid for it, or make a price offer to the seller for it. Sellers also largely have the final say when it comes to allowing you to cancel or return items, especially ones that you won in auctions or made offers for (since eBay considers these purchases to be legally-binding). eBay does have a customer service department and case system for helping you resolve problems, but it doesn’t exactly have the best reputation in terms of helpfulness; it’s often better to do your homework ahead of time in order to avoid problems in the first place.
eBay may be one of the oldest and largest online marketplaces, but it has lately received quite a bit of competition from other direct-sale websites such as Amazon, AliExpress, and Bonanza. With that said, it is still the most popular online auction website, so that may be what you end up primarily using it for.