A Consumers Guide to Holiday Shopping on eBay

November 12, 2007

As an eBay seller I get periodic newsletters from eBay and just recently received a holiday sales planner in the mail.  The newsletter offers eBay sellers a variety of tips on holiday selling success that I thought might be interesting to anyone who is thinking about doing some gift shopping online this year.

Since eBay sellers are competing against all the retailers for your holiday spending many of them really focus on customer service to make themselves stand out and give you a reason to shop with them.

The first differentiator that the newsletter focuses on is the ability to make the customer happy with shipping practices.  One common problem many buyers face as Christmas approaches is that they need the gift delivered as soon as possible. Make sure you keep your eye out for sellers that will ship within 24 hours after payment is received.  If they indicate the express shipping option they should be able to get your purchase there overnight.

Offering free shipping is another way that eBay sellers can stand out and for those that don’t ship for free; they’re often willing to combine multiple purchases into one package to save you shipping costs.

If you buy your brother in Arizona a gift on eBay and would like it sent directly to him, many sellers will ship the package to a different address and some offer to gift wrap it.  Even if they don’t advertise it in their listing, it doesn’t hurt to ask.  I’ve wrapped and shipped both birthday and Christmas gifts around the country on the request of a buyer even though I didn’t advertise that option.

Return Policy
Another point that eBay drives home in their newsletter is the need to offer a good return policy.  According to their consumer research department, 21% of nonbuyers list “lack of return policy” as the reason they buy elsewhere.  As more sellers add this feature to be competitive and increase sales, be sure to look for items that offer a money back guarantee.  With so many sellers offering quality return policies, there is no reason to buy from someone that doesn’t have one.

Customer Service
One thing that makes eBay sellers different than ordering from a big box retailer is that you’re often dealing directly with the owner of the business on eBay.  The eBay newsletter stresses the importance of customer service and responding quickly to customer questions. 

As a shopper, if you stick with sellers that have good feedback, you’ll likely get faster and more personal customer service from an eBay seller than you would from a big company.  Since you know sellers are willing to go the extra mile to make the sale, don’t hesitate to ask for any extra service when inquiring about an item.  All they can say is no.

Make sure you pay attention to the new feedback system that eBay implemented a while ago. It lets you look at different aspects of a seller’s past transactions such as “Item as Described”, “Communication”, “Shipping Time”, and “Shipping & Handling Fees” to help you choose sellers that will offer the customer service you’re looking for.

Quick Sales
Many of us are in a hurry to get our holiday gifts and don’t want to wait 7 days for an auction to end to buy a present. The newsletter suggests that sellers offer more 1-day auction style listings or include the Buy It Now option so shoppers can get the item right away.  With these suggestions and the addition of eBay Express, you shouldn’t have to wait several days to make a purchase on eBay.

Gift Cards
eBay is going to be offering $25 and $50 Gift cards this year so if you don’t want to hassle with bidding on an item yourself, you can just give the gift card and let the recipient do the shopping for you : )


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Ben Edwards, the founder of Money Smart Life, saved up enough to buy a Nintendo back when he was 12 years old. When he used the money to buy shares of Wal-Mart stock instead, he knew he wasn't like the other kids... His addiction to personal finance has paid off for his family and now he's helping you to afford the life that you want. Check him out on the web at Google Plus, Twitter and Facebook.

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