eBay.com (Finding Something Specific or Obsolete)

Posted: January 13, 2012 in General Resources, Personal Finance
Tags: , ,

I’ve rarely used eBay.com in the past. I have used their site Half.com to buy and sell text books. I was using this site before eBay bought it in 2000, and have kept using it even after the buy out. eBay considered dropping the Half.com brand altogether which would have been a shame because I like the way it works (no bidding); however, they decided to keep the name and the way it works. The “Buy it now” concept is similar, but I like the way you see a long list of books to choose from after putting in the ISBN. I’ve never sold anything on eBay, but I have bought a specific and obsolete software product for my work. I also have friends who had remodeled their kitchen a few years back and bought all of their high-end appliances brand new on eBay for half price or less. Recently I was looking for a couple of additional handsets for a phone system that I bought at Radio Shack a couple of years ago. When I found that they were no longer available at Radio Shack, I Googled the model and found a few systems available on Ebay. I ended up buying a set of 3 additional phone handsets for my phone system; but more about that later.

After that experience I started to think about how I could best use eBay to get better deals on the things I planned to buy. There are definitely things that are better to look for on eBay than on Craigslist. When you have very specific needs and the item can be shipped, eBay is a better place to find what your looking for than Craigslist. I have been looking for a used tow bar for my Jeep Liberty for several months on Craigslist, but the only one I saw listed seemed pretty pricey for a used part. A quick search on eBay found several options for new parts that even with shipping were only slightly higher. For now I mostly want the tow bar to put a bike rack on, so I don’t need a wire harness. Without the wire harness I can buy a new tow bar for about 20 dollars more than the used one on Craigslist. I have also been looking for a beverage cooler to buy as a house-warming gift for my son’s new home. The previous owners took the one from under the bar. I’ve found a much larger selection than available in Home Depot, or any other brick and mortar store, and for a new one from eBay, even with shipping I’ll pay about half the price.

VO5 Extreme Style partial listingIf you are looking for a specific obsolete item, eBay is much better than Craigslist. In fact so far that is all I have bought on eBay. I started using a specific hair product, VO5 Extreme Style Reworkable putty, a few years ago because it worked exactly like the one I had used for several years, but was 1/3 the price. I like it because in the morning, wherever I am, I can just throw some water on my head, run my fingers through my hair, and it looks as good as the day before. Almost as soon as I switched I noticed that it was getting harder to find. VO5 had quit making it. I’ve been able to buy it from online drugstores for the past 2 years, but when I looked a couple months ago there was almost none available, what was available had Spanish labeling, and price had gone way up. While working on this post I decided to check on eBay. There were several suppliers, the price was what I had come to expect, and I also notice that a new VO5 product was showing up in the international sellers listings. So there may be hope that I can keep using this product after all current supply is gone from the warehouses!

Some more about buying things on eBay:

If the item is not a “Buy it Now” type item, have a bidding strategy. If the item is not a popular item, or if there are lots of similar items available with no initial bids, don’t bid above the minimum required bid. For the phone system I bought there was no “Buy it Now price”, and the same seller had three identical systems, so I decided to make the minimum bid on one of the systems with no set maximum bid above my initial bid. A couple of hours later someone bid 5.24 on the same system even though there were 3 other systems available with a 4.99 minimum bid and no initial bids. The systems were identical. I immediately assumed that the seller or an associate of his made the second bid to see if I had an automatic maximum bid. To avoid paying more than the lowest price possible I stopped bidding on the first system and bid on one of the other two. This time there was no second bid. It was actually fun “winning” the auction and completing the purchase.

Be sure to look at total price when searching for items. If it doesn’t say “Free Shipping” on the listing, it won’t be free. In my searches for a tow bar I found a used tow bar for about half the price of the new ones. It was in a pretty beat up state, but it’s a tow bar! The big problem was the $75.00 shipping fee! With that type of shipping cost a used, beat up tow bar actually would have cost more than a new one.

I haven’t bid on an item that is low availability and sought after. I imagine there are tips to doing that to, but that type of purchase, at least up until now in my life, has not appealed to me.

I see eBay as a way to find good deals on specific items that I’m looking for. I won’t only look there, and I probably won’t even look there first because it’s nice to now what the other options are first, but I will look there when making a major purchase for something specific or something that in no longer available in stores or from the manufacturer.

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