What eBay is and How to Save Money with Bidding

Last updated: January 30, 2017 - 11:32am EST

You can buy almost anything online today. Because of recent technological advancements, there are some websites out there that sell millions of items each year online, and some people who sell their own items online as well! One of the popular websites where this happens is eBay.com.

One of the pioneers of the online storefront, eBay is now one of the largest online stores in the world. Different from other competitors such as Amazon.com or AliExpress.com, eBay’s auction-style website allows buyers to bid on items relative to how much they want them.  This means they often get items for far less than retail prices.

How does eBay work?

eBay is an online ecommerce website. It does not stock and sell its own products, but provides a space for sellers to showcase their products, connect with buyers, and otherwise manage their stores. eBay also provides an auction function, so buyers can bid on products and often obtain them for less than retail prices.

eBay homepage

In that same space, buyers can find and keep tabs on products that they're looking for, make purchases, and have wares delivered to their homes or businesses. Because eBay doesn't sell anything, it makes money by charging fees for listing items, selling items, and processing transactions between buyers and sellers.

The history of eBay, and why it’s so popular

eBay.com is one of the oldest and most successful e-commerce websites on the Internet.  It was started under the name "AuctionWeb" in 1995 by Pierre Omidyar to auction off miscellaneous objects he owned, such as laser pointers.  It was renamed "eBay" in 1997 as a shortening of "Echo Bay Technology Group," the name of Omidyar's consulting firm. 

eBay has since grown into a multi-billion-dollar online marketplace, allowing users to bid on or auction off items, as well as make straight purchases and sales through the "Buy It Now" function.  eBay also features other services that facilitate things such as reverse auctions (Half.com) and event ticket trading (StubHub).

eBay is so popular because it was founded relatively early, compared to other competitor websites such as Bonanza.com or Zazzle.com. Its popularity makes sense, then, because people are typically apprehensive about purchasing items online.  Therefore, the most established website with millions of user reviews makes users feel more confident making online purchases.

What can I buy on eBay?

There are so many things you can buy on eBay – and very few things you can’t! Some of the most popular categories of items include: antiques, books and magazines, clothing and shoes, event tickets, home decor, all kinds of vehicles, music, sporting goods and fitness equipment, toys, video games and consoles, watches and jewelry, and so much more!

For obvious reasons, items like alcohol, tobacco, weapons, drugs (and paraphernalia), and hazardous or dangerous items (ex. fireworks) cannot be bought or sold on eBay. For more information, check out eBay’s help page on the Prohibited and Restricted Items on eBay.

Is eBay safe and reliable?

eBay.com is generally safe to use, as most people selling products through the website are honest. In addition, those who aren’t are weeded out by the eBay online feedback system. eBay also has money-back guarantees, and uses secure online transaction technology to protect your financial and personal information.

It’s important that, when using eBay, you always read the feedback other users have provided about a seller before making a purchase. Sellers with many successful orders filled and a high rating percentage are generally more trustworthy and reliable than those who have filled few orders or who have low rating percentages.

To learn more about this, and how to stay safe while using eBay, check out our TechBoomers article on how safe, reliable, and trustworthy eBay is.

4 reasons to use eBay

1. Save money by bidding instead of buying

By bidding on items in an auction on eBay, you might be able to win those items for the second-highest bid, plus a little extra.  If you learn how to participate in auctions well enough, you could end up winning items at prices that are less than at retail!  We'll have some tips on how to do this in our later tutorial on eBay bidding tips.

Bidding on eBay items

2. Name your price and haggle

For some items, you may be able to convince their owners to sell them to you for less than their current asking prices.  Submit a "Best Offer" for an item, naming what price you are willing to pay for it.  If the seller is desperate enough to make a sale, they may accept your offer, or make a counter-offer that you can accept.

3. Fixed prices for when you're in a rush

If you don't feel like bidding for an item on eBay or trying to talk the seller into lowering the price, many items have the option to Buy It Now at a fixed price.  No muss, no fuss... just pay for the item and have it delivered.

4. You can sell, too!

Got some stuff lying around the house that you don't want anymore?  List it on eBay and see if it will sell.  You can hawk it at a fixed price, accept offers from buyers if you just want to get rid of it at any price, or put it up for auction and see how much money you can get for it!

The pros and cons of eBay

There are many great things about eBay.com that make it one of the most established online marketplaces in the world. Its proven track record means you can trust it – eBay will fully refund you for any purchase that goes wrong. It also makes bidding easy, allowing you to enter the maximum amount you would bid on an item, and then re-bid higher than other users by 1 increment to help you win the item. eBay also has a great internal search engine, dividing items into dozens of specific categories you can easily browse.

Some of the drawbacks of eBay include that it is difficult to cancel orders if you change your mind, and it is really up to the discretion of the seller if they will accept a return. In addition, sellers decide the ways you can buy their items, and set the prices at whatever they like. It can also be difficult to have questions about the products answered, as it is the responsibility of the seller to answer customer service claims. Though often you can get great deals on eBay, buyers are at the mercy of sellers, and have to trust the authenticity of what they are buying to what someone has written about it online.

To learn about these pros and cons in more detail, and learn how they might affect your experience with eBay, check out our article where we review eBay.

How to get started on eBay

To begin your journey with eBay, you will need to sign up for an eBay account! Signing up is easy; you simply need to enter a bit of information about yourself and create a password. From there, you can start looking at listed items online, and then start bidding! We can teach you all about how bidding works, but essentially, it works like this: you find an item you like, and then post a bid.  When someone bids higher than you, your bid is revealed to other users. As the clock for the auction counts down, you can increase your bid. When the clock runs out, the highest bid gets the item at the price of the second-highest bid, plus one bid increment.

Once you’ve won an item, you need to pay for it, which you can do through eBay’s secure server (and we can teach you how to buy on eBay here). After you’ve made a payment, the seller will ship your item to you. As you wait, you can track your order online to make sure it’s getting where it needs to. After that, make sure you provide feedback about your seller to help other eBay users in the future.

You can also become a seller on eBay, and sell your own products!

Becoming a seller on eBay

To become a seller on eBay is easy; what’s more difficult is establishing a reputation on the website so that eBay users actually want to buy from you. Here is our 3-step method for how to become a seller on eBay:

1. Set up a seller account on eBay.com

The first step is to set up a seller account on eBay. You must confirm your name, address, and phone number, as well as set up an automatic payment method for your seller fees and money-back guarantee returns.

2. Create a listing on the website for your product

The next step is to create a listing on the website so that eBay users can find your product and purchase it from you. Clearly explain what the item is (or does), and be sure to use language that most people would understand – simple is always better. Make sure you post a fair price, or no one will buy it. Chances are there are other similar products like yours on eBay, and in general, users always want the best price. So, to make your first few listings effective, be sure to check out listings on eBay for similar products, and format your listings accordingly.

3. Manage your listing and complete a sale

Once you have your listing up, the next step is to wait! By checking on the Sell section of eBay, you will be able to see if anyone has bid on your item.  You can also answer any questions about the item that people have posted. Sellers establish better reputations by having good customer service, so always remember to treat potential buyers well, and do everything you can to help them make a decision.

If you make a sale, be sure to verify you have received payment from the buyer. From there, package your item as nicely and securely as possible, verify the shipment information, and leave feedback about your buyer for other eBay sellers. Reviewing buyers is just as important as reviewing sellers!

4 tips to saving money with eBay

One of the great things about buying online with the auction system is that you can get items for much less than they sell for in retail stores! Check out our list of the best X ways to save money by using eBay:

1. Compare the going rate with other sellers

When you’re looking for something specific on eBay and you find it, you get excited because you found exactly what you’re looking for! But don’t just bid right away. Be sure to check out suggestions, or look for other sellers who are showcasing the same (or similar) products. You may be able to find the same thing for a much better price, especially if there are new sellers out there looking to build their reputations on eBay.

2. eBay Coupons

Sometimes, you can find coupons on other websites that you can use at the eBay checkout. Be sure to check popular coupon websites periodically, or do a simple search in your web browser for “eBay coupons” to help you find even better deals on eBay. To learn more about eBay coupons, check out our article on how to obtain eBay coupons.

3. eBay Best Offers

eBay has an option called “Best Offer,” which allows you to make an offer to a seller to see if they will agree to sell it to you for that price. You can even offer less than the asking price! Simply make your offer and wait for them to accept, reject, or counter your offer. It is always up to the seller, but it may be worth a shot! To learn more, consider reading our article on eBay Best Offers here.

4. Buy large quantities of things you need when the price is right

If you see a great price on eBay for something you may need plenty of, be sure to buy in bulk! Sellers sometimes sell off inventory to make room for new products. So be on the lookout for great deals on products you buy frequently, and buy them in larger quantities!

eBay customer service

If you have an issue with something you purchased on eBay, or have had an unpleasant experience with a seller, there are a few things you can do.

1. Try to resolve issues with the other party (buyer or seller) first when applicable.

It is very likely that if you try to contact eBay’s general customer service, they will suggest (or even require) that you contact the other party in the transaction first. If you’re having an issue with a buyer or seller, contact them and try to resolve it. Then, if this does not work, proceed to one of the options below.

2. Use the eBay help pages.

eBay knows that you may have questions, so they have taken the time to write tons of pages of help for you! If you click Help & Contact on the eBay website, you can click through the dozens of categories of help to find what you’re looking for. If you have something more specific in mind, you can search for it at the top of the help page.

3. Open an item case.

If you need someone from eBay to look into your issue, and the help pages can’t solve your problem, you can open a case. In your Account Settings, you can click on the Resolution Center, and explain why you need to open an item case. eBay’s customer service team will jump on the case, and update you as they progress through solving your problem.

4. Call eBay, or have them call you.

If you’re looking for more of a personal touch, click Contact Us at the bottom of the help page. eBay will still attempt to solve your problem with other resources, but you can click Call Us or Call Me to speak to an eBay customer service representative.

To learn more about eBay customer service, or to learn what to do to solve a problem you may be having from using eBay, read our article on eBay customer service.

Websites like eBay

There are many websites out there like eBay that can help you buy items online, participate in auctions, or find great deals on products that you just can’t find in retail. One of the most popular competitors to eBay is Amazon.com, which is another one of the largest online marketplaces in existence. Amazon has everything “from A to Z” (as they say), so you’re likely to find what you’re looking for... and often, at a great price. Bonanza.com is another alternative to eBay, and though very similar, claims that it's better than eBay.  In fact, it has been voted better by sellers online for five years in a row.

On Zazzle.com, not only can you buy great products online, but you can also customize them and make them just for you! You can also check out AliExpress.com, which has quickly grown to one of the most-used online retail services. The sellers are mainly Chinese businesses offering their products to buyers internationally, which cuts out the middle-man and keeps prices low.

There are many other alternatives to eBay out there, and we’ve got the list of the best ones! If you think you may be done with eBay, be sure to read our tutorial on how to delete your eBay account, and then check out our article on the best websites like eBay.

 

 

Well, that's a quick run-down of what eBay is. We'll be going through how to actually use the website to buy, bid on, and make offers for stuff that you really want in our later tutorials!  For now, check out our eBay review for a summary of praiseworthy and criticism-worthy things about eBay.

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