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as the holidays are upon us there always seems to be that one gift that controls your life while looking for it.  back in the early 1980s it was the cabbage patch doll, then many years later tickle me elmo was the hit (i remember that $30 item going for $2500 on a radio station).  it is amazing what we do as humans to satisfy others.

Many Christmases ago, I went to buy a doll for my son. I reached for the last one they had, but so did another man. As I rained blows upon him, I realized there had to be another way.

this year, it seems to be the nintendo wii.  my mother-in-law was putting all the game shops on speed dial and trying to flirt with them to hold one when she got in.  weird thing is about 2 months ago lisa and i got one for our festivus raffle and they were plenty in stock where i shopped (best buy).  i guess they aren't now, and there is a frenzy to get some. (side note: at our party there was some serious bidding going on to the winners of the wii, people were offering cash on the spot.)

yesterday my sister-in-law called me and was at toys-r-us and said they had a bunch of wii consoles in stock.  she of course wanted me to let my m-in-law know, which i did.  i also come to find out that my sis-in-law decided to be a bit of an entrepreneur and picked one up for herself.  not to sell to someone who was looking for one.  not to pick one up for a friend.  nope.  that's right, ebay.  she wanted to capitalize on the frenzy as well.

she just called me to say she sold it for $490 on ebay and was asking all sorts of questions about paypal, etc.  i explained some things the best i could over the phone.  she then said that the winner had an unverified address in the virgin islands.

wooop, wooop, wooop (my best attempt at writing a siren sound)

my fraud alert went off and i shared my concern with her.  i think she might be about to get screwed.  it reminded me about n00b ebayers and some guidelines they should use.  here's my rules (even as a 'veteran' ebayer)..

for ebay sellers

    • list items with real pictures...don't use the mfr pictures...include a link, but take a good photo of the item.  good photos of the actual item will sell it, not people wondering what it will look like
    • if you have all the original packaging, etc. -- note that
    • require instant payment -- you may lose 1% of bidders, but it is piece of mind for you
    • don't forget to set a reserve price if you are looking for a specific amount.  don't set it too high though or people will just walk away
    • state your bidding rules clearly in the listing
    • state your shipping rules clearly in the listing: i require united states only and a verified shipping address only.  i also make it clear where (city, state, zip) it is being shipped from and that buyer will pay all shipping/handling costs from that location...
    • offer incentives: i usually have a buy-it-now price and offer free shipping
    • don't put unnecessary bling on your listing -- i don't know why ebay offers sellers to put a counter on the listing -- the only person caring about the counter would be you -- reminds me of the 'hit counter' icons that were so cool in the mid 1990s.
    • when you get a buyer that you are satisfied with, leave feedback promptly
    • when an item is paid for, email the paypal user email address with confirmation of receipt of money and confirmation of address.  this is an additional fraud step for you (and them) and shows good communication
    • pay attention to your email -- ebay lives on email communication -- if you don't check your email often, get off ebay please.

for ebay buyers

    • be sure to see pictures of the actual item -- if they aren't there -- be suspicious and email the seller
    • only buy from reputable ebayers -- ebay has a decent reputation system...research the seller, look at the number of transactions they have...if they have none and are selling a brand new XBOX, be suspicious :-)
    • be cautious of buying 'overseas' -- this applies for US buying from non-US and vice versa.
    • look for fast ship options
    • look for return policies, it might not be important but if there is one, note it
    • don't leave feedback until you received your item as expected
    • PRINT OUT THE LISTING -- ebay purges listings over time and you might want to keep a record of more significant purchases
    • use respected payment vendors, be cautious of money-order only sales...paypal has always worked well for me
    • check your email/spam filters

paypal tips

    • get a premier account -- if you plan on buying/selling on ebay, upgrade your account.  i think this requires you to supply a verified checking account, but it is worth it
    • verify your address -- this may be a part of the premier account process now, but don't make your paypal account look suspicious
    • make sure your ebay username/email and paypal email are similar.  if your ebay email is [email protected] but your paypal account is [email protected] it looks like two different people
    • make sure your transaction is covered by their fraud protection -- do the research on the amount, etc.
    • consider using paypal secure id cards (something new they are testing) for added security

those are some of the rules i follow and have never been frauded (almost have but i followed my steps and discovered it before anything was shipped).  i think rookie ebayers/paypalers simply don't pay attention to the finer details and end up having to ship something to singapore and gave a fixed shipping rate of US$10...then realize they are screwed...among other mistakes.

so this holiday season, ebayer beware.

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