I still see forum and bulletin board posts that indicate a reluctance to use eBay. I find this amazing. I buy almost all of my supplies on eBay, and I never pay anything near retail price.
I’ve bought virtually all my machine tools, tooling, hand tools and consumables from eBay. There are a couple of exceptions, but eBay is a great resource you should be using.
Here is my down and dirty guide to getting set up and running on eBay:
1. Get a credit card, or a VISA debit card. You’ll need one for Paypal. Before there were VISA debit cards, I used a credit card with a very low limit specifically for online shopping.
2. Set up an eBay account. Go to your local eBay site (ours is www.ebay.com.au here in Australia) and find the “Register” link on the home page. Fill in your details. I can’t remember any of this process because I did it ten years ago. Note your objective while using eBay is to build a reputation based on feedback from other users. If you get negative feedback due to your conduct it can make life harder or affect your ability to sell at decent prices later.
3. Set up a PayPal account. I think you are nuts if you don’t use PayPal. PayPal act like the payment police, and cover your arse (as a buyer) via their payment protection plans with eBay. They make money by charging the seller a commission, which is why a lot of sellers want you to direct credit their bank accounts, rather than go through PayPal and loose a small amount of the sale proceeds in commission. PayPal has to be accepted by the seller when they use eBay, so tough shit sellers, I’m going to use PayPal to cover me. In ten years of eBaying, I’ve not had a single problem with a transaction when I used PayPal. I got shafted once when I direct credited a bank account, and the bastard never shipped the item. There is not much (legally) you can do if the amount is very small – the police consider it theft but really don’t give a crap. So, use PayPal to protect yourself. You have been warned! The only exceptions I allow myself are:
a. paying cash if I have to pick up an item
b. VERY occasionally direct crediting a bank account, but only after I have verified the business is in Australia, has a shop front and phone number, and then only if I have stuffed the seller around and I don’t want to push my luck and risk negative feedback.
4. Once you have set up your accounts you are ready to shop! Let’s say you want to buy a 25mm or 1″ micrometer. Go back to your eBay homepage, sign in, and type “micrometer” into the search bar at the top. Don’t worry about the Category until you can accurately predict which category the item should be listed within. And you sometimes find items listed in the “wrong” category where others might miss them (and potentially give you a bargain).
5. Ok, so “micrometer” has been punched in, and you’ve got a screen listing all the matches to the word “micrometer”. Here is my screen from my iPad:
6. Ok, so 1,170 results is too much to sift through. Let say you would be happy with a used Mitutoyo micrometer. You could add the word “mitutoyo” to the search bar next to “micrometer”, but eBay give you some links under the search bar called Related Searches to speed things up. Under the search bar, over to the right is a link that says “mitutoyo micrometer”. Go ahead and click that.
7. Now we have a much shorter list of 80 results. On the left are the “filters” for drilling down on your requirements. You can see under the Category heading that there are search results in a number of different categories. The seller has to choose a category (or multiples) when they list the item, so the category selection is dependent on them. Note the categories on different eBay stores are different. I have noticed the category structure on the USA eBay store is not the same as the Australian one. That’s why I often don’t get fixated on the category. Normally I’m looking for something specific, so I don’t care which category it is listed within.
8. Under the Category filter is the Condition filter. Since we are looking for a used micrometer, check the “Used” box. eBay updates the search results and shows only the used items.
9. I went through the list and personally, there are none I would buy. I would be looking for one in clean working order, with a case, adjustment spanner (wrench) and a calibration standard. I might accept one without a wrench and calibration standard, because I already have these items with other micrometers, BUT, it would affect how much I am willing to pay. And that value question is one you have to answer for yourself.
Anyway, if you find one you like, you can either bid on it (or buy it if that is an option) or just watch it.
Here is an example:
This item is “Buy it now”‘ which means it isn’t an auction – if you accept the price you can simply buy it. You just click the blue “Buy it now” button and click through the screens that are presented.
Here is another:
This one is a regular auction. The current bid price is $16.50 and the auction finishes in a bit over three hours. If you wanted a shot at this item you’d have to put in a price at or above the $17.00 minimum shown below the white box. Normally I don’t muck around and put in 50 cent bids. If I would pay, say, $25.00 for the item, and be happy to let it go if it went higher, then I simply put $25.00 in the box, click “Place Bid” and forget about it until the auction ends. Some people like to sit and watch the auction for the last 30 minutes but that novelty wore off a while back. Note eBay automatically bids for those who have put their maximum price in. So if Johnny down the street only wanted to pay $23.00, then eBay would automatically bid up to his maximum, and then my bid would come in at $23.50. If nobody else bids on the item, then I win it for $23.50, which is less than my maximum bid. However if Freddy up the street wants to pay $30 for the item, then eBay automatically bids me up to $25.00 and then Freddy gets the next bid. If I don’t increase my bid, then I can’t win the auction, but thats ok because I didn’t think the item was worth more than $25.00, and I know another one will come up again soon. Don’t get sucked in watching the auction and increasing your maximum bid!!! UNLESS of course the item is very rare and you simply MUST have it. Been there, done that too.
Anyway, that is enough to get you started, if you have any questions, go ahead and ask them in the comments. I’m no expert, but I’ve been doing it for long enough to keep myself out of trouble, and have my wife ask me why all these packages keep turning up.