To say that eBay has revolutionized the world of private selling is akin to saying you like breathing. eBay has become a worldwide phenomenon, easily the most successful of the online auction sites, generating over $ 10 billion in revenue every year. Maybe you have caught the eBay bug …… if you're like me, you're a buyer, searching the site for those hidden gems you just can't find in your local Target or Wal-Mart. Or maybe you are a seller, looking to get rid of some of that junk in the attic, maybe making a little extra cash, or if you're lucky, making a living selling whatever items you can scarf up, photograph, and list.

If you are a buyer, like me, there are certain secrets to doing well on eBay, without having to mortgage your house to pay for the stuff you bought in the heat of the moment. Some suggestions for successful shopping:

Know what you are looking for. Browsing on eBay is like browsing in any other store, except that eBay does in fact have it all. If you're not careful, you'll be getting “You Won!” notices right and left, and the bills start to add up. Know specifically what you are looking for and seek it out. Don't get in over your head.

Research the seller. I place a lot of value on a seller's feedback forum (comments and ratings left by other buyers). The common wisdom is that if a seller has a Feedback Score that is lower than his body temperature, you're probably better served to look elsewhere.

Ask questions. If something about the item doesn't look right, or if valuable information is left out of the ad, take advantage of the opportunity to “Ask Seller A Question”. If they respond quickly, great. If they take days to respond or don't respond at all, you might want to rethink working with them.

Don't overlook the “Buy It Now” option ….. it's not always an inflated price. Sometimes, this option is infinitely preferable to going head to head with other bidders and losing the item at the last moment.

Become an expert at “sniping”. Sniping is the process of jumping in on the last few seconds of an auction to place a bid, a last minute attempt at outbidding someone. Personally I enjoy the rush of doing this manually and nailing the deal, but others have employed automated sniping services, which you can program with the maximum amount you are prepared to spend on the item, and let it snipe for you up until the auction closes .

Check the shipping charges. Sometimes, sellers make a good chunk of change on the shipping. I saw a comic book that sold for a couple of bucks but the shipping was over three times that amount! Make sure you know how much shipping will cost before bidding.

Keep up with your favorite sellers. If you have a good experience with somebody, obviously that is a measure of trust that has been earned. Keep tabs on them, especially if they routinely sell items that you are interested in.

If you are a seller, eBay almost becomes a must for you. Even many regular retail stores have eBay listing s for their items. I haven't sold much myself, but I have acquired these tips:

Take pictures. Nothing is more unappealing than an ad for an item without a picture of said item. Provide a minimum of three high res photographs. If there are flaws in the item, provide pictures of those as well; it goes a long way towards establishing trust.

Do your homework. If you are going to list a lamp, check out other similar items and see what they are going for on average. This will prevent you pricing yourself out of a sale, or not getting what the item is worth. Nothing delights a buyer more than finding something for what he knows is far less than it is worth.

Determine the best shipping method. Not all are created equal, and offering reasonably priced shipping will be a big plus for buyers.

Determine how far you are willing to ship. This comes from experience. I had listed an item that was purchased by a man in Italy. The cost of shipping the item to him took every bit of my profit (and then some). Lesson learned: I only ship within the continental US.

Write well. You need a good, solid, listing for your item, combining search engine friendly wording with user friendly concrete details to entice the buyer.

Offer a full range of payment options. PayPal has almost become a must for sellers (I personally will not buy from anyone who does not accept PayPal …. it's the 21st century people, keep up). If you do not have credit card processing options, arrange for them now. The more options you have, the more people will be bidding.

Think feedback. The Feedback Forum is what keeps sellers honest and the ripoff artists away. It's the single best tool you can have. So do all you can to get good feedback from your buyers. If they e-mail you with questions, answer them. Get items shipped within a day or so of receiving payment, and let your buyer know that their item has shipped. Basically, just be one of the good guys, somebody that everyone will want to do business with.

Okay, there you have it. There is no reason that you cannot be successful on eBay. Now go therefore and do business …

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