Friday, July 12, 2013

The Reason I Have No Retirement: My Love for eBay.

I have a dirty little secret.

I'm not a huge fan of shopping in the traditional sense.  Schlepping purchases from store to store, driving around in circles in numerous parking lots, and standing in line after line, is not my idea of a good time.

Examples of this:

I have a dear friend who is wardrobe challenged and wanted her own personal episode of "What Not To Wear," but instead of Stacey London and Clinton Kelly as her guides, she wanted me.  We spent 4 hours in the mall, after I had worked an 8 hour day, and I was ready to stab someone with a clothes hanger.  That's just not my thing.

The weekend Matt and I moved into our house, my MIL and SIL came to help us unpack and organize, which included a trip to Walmart. (Walmart - oh, the horror.)  After we had gone through the entire home section, it was time for groceries, and I was having a mini-anxiety attack.

Traditional shopping is just not for me...

So, what is for me?  eBay. eBay is most definitely for me.  If you can't find it in the store (or can't stand to go to the store), Its On eBay.

eBay sends me sweet little thank you emails for the absurd amount of purchases I make each month.  I just recently looked at my feedback, and realized that I have purchased twenty items since April and sold only 7 since then.  Its a little ridiculous, awesome, but ridiculous.
100 Feedback ratings may not seem like a lot, but keep in mind that the majority of those ratings were left in the last 6 months.  AND I have 100% positive feedback.  eBay loves me. I also have a 10 year anniversary certificate from eBay. I'm an eBay veteran.
Last week, I was packaging some recent sales when Matt said "I don't even want to know how much you make or spend on eBay "  He's a smart man. And he's right, he doesn't want to know.  Then he asked me if I ever broke even, to which I replied "define 'break even.'" He was slightly amused, and also smart enough to walk away before asking anymore questions he didn't want to know the answer to.

eBay Feed: Your Best Friend, Your Wallet's Worst Enemy

In the evening, after I've come home from the office, and Matt is at work, I browse through my eBay feed. (Usually while watching F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and sipping vodka tonic...)  This is when most of the trouble begins.  eBay allows you to set guidelines of what it will show you, so now you don't even have to search for anything, things you have an interest in just automatically appear. It is almost like my tablet or phone is absorbing my thoughts through osmosis. Smart move eBay, very smart.

Before the ingenious "feed" feature, you had to think of something you wanted, type it in a search bar, and sort through the results. That's just too much work!  Now, you just set your feed to search for things you are typically interested in.  For example, my feed includes the following: 7 for All Mankind, BDG and Lucky Brand jeans (set to search only for my size), Steve Madden, Jessica Simpson, Tory Burch, and Frye shoes (also set to my size), Michael Kors, Louis Vuitton, Longchamp le Pliage, Hobo International and Matt and Nat handbags and jewelry, and H&M, Vera Wang, Urban Outfitters, Anthropologie, and various other clothing brands (also set to my size).

You can also tell eBay feed what price points you want to look at.  For example: My eBay feed for Louis Vuitton is set from $.01 to $1,000.  I won't ever spend $1000 for a Louis on eBay, but its nice to look at (and add to my watch list so I can live vicariously through the people who are bidding away). But for the things that I might actually buy, this helps me find the best deals possible.  Take my recent 7 For All Mankind jeans purchase; my price point is set for $0.01 to $35.51. I found a pair, in my size, for less than $30 shipped!  Now, I'm pretty bad at math, but that's like WAY less then you would pay at the mall.  And the nice UPS man, who is probably facing a moral dilemma on whether or not to stage an intervention for my habit, brought them right to my door!

Retail: $178. I spent $20.50 for the jeans, and $5.70 on shipping.
*These are authentic, we'll talk about spotting fakes a little later.

Now, not everything that's I've purchased on eBay has been a winner.  There have been a few duds.  Take, for example, the J.Crew sweatshirt dress that I got into a bidding war over (I won, obviously). I still got it for a steal, and it was just as the listing described, but J.Crew is not a brand I typically buy a lot of (too preppy for me, and a wee bit expensive for polo shirts and chinos), so I misjudged the size I needed.  The dress ended up swallowing me whole.  So, after several attempts to wear it anyway (cinched with a belt, over tights, with a sweater tied around the shoulders/waist), I listed it on eBay and resold it!  And since that was money I had already spent, I turned around and bought something else!  (Something I'm sure I really did need.  Something that was not just an impulse buy, promise.)

And my absolute favorite thing about eBay is finding things that are, A.) not available in my area (no Neiman Marcus, no Macy's, no Bloomingdale's) and B.) a really great deal.  Combine A and B and you have the perfect eBay purchase.

My favorite eBay purchase of recent history are the Alexander McQueen skull scarves I bought for my sister, sister-in-law, and myself for Christmas last year.  Yes, they are authentic, yes, they were still kind of expensive, but no, I do not regret it at all!  They're gorgeous!  And the look on sister's face when she saw the Alexander McQueen box was priceless!
I purchased mine a few months before Christmas and wore it at Halloween.  That post is here

Research is Key

Now, here's the down and dirty.  You do really have to be careful with what you buy on eBay.  And remember the golden rule: If it sounds to good to be true, it usually is.  Take, for example, the Michael Kors watch that popped up in my feed recently.  The description read: "Parker Rose Gold. Gorgeous Watch + Michael Kors Perfume Sample."  The item was listed at $43 BIN (buy it now) with free shipping. This listing screams fake.  Why?  I'll tell you.

1. The title does not say that the actual watch is Michael Kors.  The perfume sample is, but not the watch. (Further down in the description, it says that the perfume sample is chosen randomly, and might not be MK after all.  Uh huh, ok?) 
2. The going rate for MK on eBay is only about 15% off retail. (This varies by brand and item.  You'll notice a trend if you take the time to look for it.)
3. The picture provided shows a Michael Kors watch, but if you use your best fraud-predicting-friend, Google, you'll find that the actual "Parker Rose Gold" watch at Macy's/Bloomingdale's/Neiman Marcus is very different than the picture in the listing.  

Take a look:
This is the picture in the listing.  Notice there is a calendar, three crowns (knobs),  two rows of CZs, and the face is gold. And does that look like rose gold to you?

This is the picture of the "Parker" watch from Macy's.  Notice anything different?
Don't be ignorant on eBay!  If an item sells for $200+ at the department store and you find it listed as NWOT (new without tags) on eBay for $43, the odds are, its a fake. During my research, I did find several different versions of the MK Parker watch, but none of them looked anything like the picture in the listing.  So keep an open mind when doing research, you might have found a great deal after all, but if you don't do your research, you might end up with a piece of Chinese fakery.  Nobody wants their wrist to turn green due to a lack of eBay research. 

Before I learned this valuable lesson, eBay saved my tush.  I found a pair of Armani aviator sunglasses for a super-on-the-cheap-ridiculous-price. Of course, in my ignorance, I clicked BIN.  While trying to submit payment through Paypal, eBay blocked my payment, sent me an email to report a fraudulent seller, and the rest is history.  I was disappointed, but still had my money in my pocket!  That's better than being disappointed without my money...  That incident was the official start of my eBay research. 

As mentioned above, watch the trends!  New jewelry and handbags typically do not sell for much less then at the department store. Used jewelry and handbags are anybody's guess.  New shoes and clothing prices truly vary depending upon many circumstances. When buying anything used, be sure to look at the pictures provided by the seller.  And don't be afraid to contact the seller for more information.  If they don't have anything to hide, and want to sell their listing, they will welcome your questions.

Every once-in-a-while, you'll come across someone like me, who is an eBay addict and has purchased something that just didn't work for them, and they'll sell it for a really great price and its perfect and beautiful. We are a rare breed.  Don't depend on all eBay sellers to be like us.

If The Shoe Fits

The second most popular question I'm asked is "what if it doesn't fit?"  Although I understand the concern about buying something that doesn't fit, and addressed that issue above (J. Crew sweatshirt dress), I'm not really too concerned. I know what my measurements are and I typically wear and buy the same brands.  I know that in J. Crew, I need a large, not an extra large, and I know that in H&M, I need a 12 in dresses, but a 14 in pants.  I also know the difference between an Italian cut shoe and an American or French cut shoe. (Research people!)  A lot of this comes from trial and error.  But here's the beauty:  If it doesn't fit, sell it back! 

Most (good) sellers take measurements of clothing items and list those measurements in the item description. Those that don't list measurements are typically willing to answer your questions about measurements. Always read the description all the way through.  I recently listed an Urban Outfitters tunic that had a slight stain on the front.  The stain is so slight that pictures wouldn't pick it up, but it was disclosed in the description.  Most eBay sellers aren't professional photographers, so make sure you read!

Speaking of Sellers

Save your favorites!  eBay has a great feature that allows you to save your favorite sellers and will send you email updates when items similar to what you've purchased before are listed by your faves.  I do this mostly with non-clothing items.  Chopper is on a pheromone treatment, and his meds come from two particular sellers.  Also, there are some GREAT consignment sellers with the best price for that product.  Those sellers are easily accessed in my "Saved Sellers" menu.  eDrop-off is also one of my favorites. They list designer items that are guaranteed authentic (typically from fashion lovers in LA, Chicago, and NYC) for a very reasonable starting bid. I love that they always have such an affordable starting bid (although, depending on the item, it can quickly escalate.)

This is a listing from eDrop-off.  Current bid is $93.00
This shows you the bidding history of this particular item.  Starting bid was $18.99

**UPDATE - I was recently looking for a Longchamp Le Pliage handbag, which is often the victim of fakery.  I found one on eDrop-off that was most definitely a fake.  Now, I haven't totally written them off as sellers yet, I sent them a message pointing out the fake Le Pliage and depending on their response, I may or may not keep them on my "Favorite Sellers" list.  My people, do your research!

***UPDATE on the UPDATE - eDrop-off sent the following response regarding the fake Longchamp bag.  I checked their listings and sure enough, they have removed the bag.

Paypal Is Your Friend  

Most of my friends and colleagues ask the same questions about paying for items on eBay.  "Is Paypal safe?"  Well, for the most part, yes.  But here's what you have to remember:  Nothing is 100% hack proof, fraud proof or identity theft proof.  Just be smart!  I recently had an issue with Paypal where I sent payment for an item and Paypal took the payment out of my bank account twice.  First, I called my bank to tell them not to allow anymore transactions from Paypal until further notice.  Second, I called Paypal and opened a case.  Within 48 hours, my account had been credited and all was right with the world.  What you have to realize is that even though transactions are done electronically, there is still a margin of error.  Are you perfect? Neither is Paypal.  The good news is they have always been very easy to work with.
A few rules about Paypal:

1. Use a good password!  If you're one of those people who uses the same "pa$$w0rd" for every account, you must just be waiting to get hacked.
2. Change your password often! Paypal does not require you to do this, but its always good practice!  Every 90 days is a good time frame.
3. Don't link more than one bank account or debit card to Paypal. Paypal will allow you to link several accounts, and will ask you at Checkout, which account you would like to use.  The easier it is to track your transactions, the better.  I learned this lesson the hard way.  
4. Do not send a payment directly through Paypal, essentially bypassing eBay.  eBay offers buyer protection, so if your item never comes, or is not at all what the listing described, you can get your money back, but only if you go through eBay.

The Conclusion To My eBay Thesis

If you can't already tell, I really love eBay. (You're probably thinking..."Really? No kidding?" Just remember, your sarcasm is not taken lightly around here.)  But just like most things in this wonderful but imperfect world, I take the good with the bad.  Most of my purchases are of things that I have wanted and have stalked for weeks, sometimes, I'm not so disciplined and I impulse buy, but that's OK.  I never ever ever {insert Taylor Swift song here} pay full price for clothing, accessories, or home decor, so eBay is a nice way to find what I'm looking for and make an offer of what I'm willing to pay for it.  Simple as that.  

So, if you don't already have an eBay account, GET ONE!  If you do, then maybe I've given you some tips and my eBay addiction is actually helping someone instead of just damaging my bank account.  I would love to hear about your favorite eBay purchases, or your saved sellers, or anything at all!  Leave me a comment! Ask me a question!  Help me help you.

Happy Bidding from the Bayou!

1 comment:

  1. WOW!!! Talk about an addiction! No, seriously, I'd already thought of this as a thesis when I got to the title of the last paragraph, which is so appropriately named. You have some great points and many humorous ones, too. Love it!