Written by Jo Smyth aka @Jo_joblogs this post is the second of a two part series which looks at how self-confessed shopaholics can be that little bit thriftier. Earlier in the week Jo wrote about shopping at charity shops. Today’s post focuses on buying clothes on eBay. Over to Jo…
eBay can be your friend and your enemy. Over the last 5 years of using eBay, I’ve found it better for buying than for selling. I probably now buy more on eBay than I sell, when primarily I started using it to sell clothes that were no longer my style or didn’t fit. If it’s designer bargains you’re after, I would be wary with eBay as there are many fakes out there. I’ve found it the best for higher-end high street clothing. Anyway, here are my tips on how to get the best bargains on the world’s biggest online marketplace.
Use a sniping site to make last minute bids
Several sniping sites exist that you can set up to bid on your behalf. This is great because it stops you from bidding higher than you want, and because it doesn’t bid until the end there is no chance of the seller getting a friend to bid to drive up your price. As you can set this up in advance, you can also bid last minute on things ending at strange times. The site I use is called myibidder.com. You just sign into your normal eBay account, enter in the item number and set up the snipe. I’ve bought many things this way and have also lost out. However usually the items have then gone for more than I was willing to pay so that’s fine by me!
Look for misspellings of your favourite labels
More and more people are using eBay these days to clear out unwanted goods. A lot of these people take a couple of photos on their phone, put up a very basic listing and hope for the best. The amount of people that spell things incorrectly is amazing! An ex-colleague of mine bought an almost-new Vivienne Westwood handbag as she had an alert set for ‘Vivien Westwood’ and was the only bidder on a bag that would have gone for a lot more had Vivienne been spelled correctly. I found 29 listings just today on the UK eBay site with Vivienne spelled wrong.
Keep watch on things you’d like that may be out of your price range
I got this tip when it actually happened to me as a seller. I’d listed a bag and ex had bought me with quite a high starting price. After no-one bid on it, I got an email from someone asking if I’d sell it for £10 less. I was probably going to reduce it on the relisting so was good to get a quick sale. I’ve since done this a couple of times when something I like hasn’t sold. It’s a risky thing to do, but if someone’s asking too much, it’s likely no-one will bid. Don’t be too cheeky – offer a maximum of 15% less or ask them to include postage as that saves you money too. Always remember however that they can always say no!
Don’t ever pay the full price on Buy it now – or Nearest Offer
When a listing says ‘or nearest offer’ they are not expecting the price they’re asking for. This generally starts a bit of price negotiation if you do make an offer. As a seller I’ve had some cheeky ones of 50% less, but admire people for trying. I usually start at 20% less then end up meeting in the middle / getting free postage.
When you are after something specific, be as general as possible with your search keywords
Going back to my previous point about lazy & bad listings, this can be your ticket to a great bargain. I love vintage clothing and have an eBay alert set for ‘Vintage Dress’ because you never know what gems people list badly starting at 99p! I’m always looking for a particular type of vintage dress, but I have the time to browse on my phone on my commute so can trawl through listings a few times a week. So many sellers don’t list the size in the title which can be frustrating, but also advantageous as it puts others off as they can’t be bothered to look at the item in detail. A good example of this is the story below.
Finding what you want at a fraction of the price
The Ted Baker dress story:
I was after a geometric print Ted Baker dress a few years ago as it had gone in the sale and I couldn’t find it in my size. A month or so after giving up, I found it on eBay and was outbid. This happened a few times as I’d set myself a maximum price each time. In the end I found it when I was looking for a dress to wear for a wedding. I just typed in “Ted Baker Dress” to look for inspiration and up came the dress I was after even though I wasn’t looking for it! There was no size or indication in the listing title that it had a geometric pattern. I ended up getting the dress for a good £15-£20 less than those I’d been outbid on. The listing did not mention the geometric pattern nor the size. The description had one line of text. I could probably sell the dress now and get more than my money back!
I find eBay is best for high street labels and the occasional pair of shoes. You can always tell the condition of the shoes by the soles, so if they don’t photograph the soles, don’t buy the shoes! I’ve had several successes on high street clothes I’ve been too tight to buy new, and if they are current or last season, it’s likely the seller has barely worn it. I once bought a Hobbs dress for £33 that was still on the shop’s website for £85 in the sale – it had been £129 new.
When I go shopping on the high street these days I may try the odd thing on, but don’t usually buy. I know if I really like something I’ll look out for it on eBay in a few weeks or months. Occasionally you’ll find things in charity shops with the tags still on them not long after you’ve seen them in the shops new.
On the whole, you need patience and a little time, but can end up buying lovely things at a fraction of their normal price. As I said before I often browse eBay on my commute and thankfully there are good charity shops near where I work too. Bringing these habits into my everyday life has enabled me to get some fantastic buys!
Happy thrifty shopping!