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Visual Guide to eBay Listings
Item listings, what they are, and how to read them
Related Resources
Feedback Quick Evaluation Guide
Understanding eBay Bidding
Innocent Gotchas to Avoid
Evaluating Seller and Seller Feedback
Ten Clues You Don't Want to Bid
Returning eBay Purchases
Don't Get Caught in Bidding Wars
eBay Jargon Guide

eBay item listings have long been confusing to new eBay shoppers. Though eBay has made changes in recent years to try to make eBay item pages similar to those seen on other ecommerce websites, a little help in interpreting eBay item listings can still go a long way toward making eBay shopping a pleasant experience.

What are eBay Item Listings?

eBay item listings are pages on which you can see item(s) that are up for sale and buy them. All item listings on eBay are posted by other eBay members; when you view an eBay item you're looking at something someone else is selling-none of the items listed on eBay are sold by eBay itself. It is the seller of an item, therefore, that is responsible for setting the price and terms of the sale and for providing details about what is being sold. The item listing page (shown below) is the page where all of this information is provided, and where you can bid on or buy the item in question from the seller who listed it.

Evaluating eBay Item Listings

Before you purchase an item listed on eBay, you should learn to study the item listing carefully for the following information, which will be diagrammed below.

  • The sale price (or current bid price in the case of items being auctioned) for the item in question

  • The shipping costs associated with this item

  • The return and exchange terms for the item

  • The identity of the seller and the seller's ratings, as provided by people who have done business with them in the past-this is also known as feedback

  • Details about the item and its condition, as provided by the seller

All of this information is provided in the item listing, if you know where to look. A typical eBay item listing with a fixed purchase price is shown below. Note the red numbers that indicate important information or clickable links. Descriptions for each number follow the image.

  1. In the upper-left corner of each listing you'll see an image of the item, if the seller has provided one. You may also see small icons below the image; click on these to see alternate views of the item, if available.

  2. Near the top of the listing is the listing "title." This tells you what the item is and gives the most basic details about the item and its condition, often in the form of eBay jargon and abbreviations that are important to know. Immediately below the title is the condition of the item, one of "Used," "Refurbished," or "New."

  3. The current sale price of the item is prominently featured in the gray box near the center of the listing.

  4. If the current price is followed by a button labeled "Buy It Now," then you can immediately buy the item at the price shown (less shipping) by clicking on this button. Before you do so, however, you should read through the rest of the information below!

  5. Clicking the "Watch this item" button will add the item to the watched item list in your My eBay account. This is sort of like "bookmarking" the item so that you can find it easily later on without having to search again. You can access all of the items in your watched item list by clicking the "My eBay" link at the top of any eBay page.

  6. If you're a participant in the eBay Bucks rewards program, details are shown about how your rewards would be affected if you were to purchase this item.

  7. Just below the item price and rewards details, you'll find information about shipping and handling. Most importantly, you'll see how much you'll be charged for shipment if you purchase this item, in addition to the item price. You'll also see what method will be used for shipping and how long shipping is expected to take.

  8. Look for the orange "FREE shipping" badge near the top of the listing for a quick indication about shipping costs. If you see this badge, there is no additional charge for shipping. If you don't see this badge, the shipping costs are spelled out in the listing (#7).

  9. Below shipping details you'll see information on returns and exchanges and on buyer protection available from eBay and its subsidiary PayPal. Read this section carefully, since some sellers specify that no returns or exchanges are allowed (an AS-IS sale) and others give terms (for example, a specified number of days during which returns are allowed).

  10. At the upper-right of the listing you'll see details about the seller, including enough eBay feedback details to make a quick determination about whether you want to do business with this person or not. You may also see a "Power Seller" logo, which indicates that the seller does a very high volume of business on eBay, or clickable "Me" logo, which will take you to an autobiographical web page about the seller and his or her items.

  11. Below the seller's feedback details you'll see a link enabling you to ask the seller a question about the item up for sale. If you have questions about the item that are not answered as you read the listing, use this link before you make a purchase, not after.

  12. Below the ask a question link, you'll also see links that lead you to other items that this seller has listed for sale and/or to the seller's eBay web store, where all of their additional inventory is listed and can be purchased.

  13. In the "Other item info" box on the right side of the listing, you'll see the item number (which you can use to reference this purchase when communicating with eBay or with the seller in the future), the current location of the item (which tells you where it will ship from if you purchase it), and details on where the item can be shipped. Do not bid if the seller hasn't specified here that they ship to your location. Items marked "Worldwide" here are available for shipment anywhere in the world.

  14. The "Description" tab, which is clicked by default when you open an item listing page, causes the bottom half of the page to display additional seller-supplied information about the item for sale, the seller's business, additional terms, etc.

  15. Click the "Shipping and payments" tab to display more in-depth information about shipping and payment terms for the item in the bottom half of the listing page.

  16. Click the "Related items and services" page to see other information that eBay or the seller have marked as relevant for the sale in question, if any.

  17. Use the links at the lower-right of the listing header to send the listing to a friend (or yourself) by email, to print a copy of the listing out, or to report this listing to eBay as an item listing that is in violation of laws or of eBay rules.

  18. When the "Description" tab (#14) is checked, the area just below the row of tabs will give "official" condition details and specifications for the item in question. These are usually technical and standard in nature, and will give you basic information about the item. Don't stop reading there, however.

  19. To really understand what you'll be buying, scroll down the page and read the extra (and often lengthy) free-form information that the seller has provided. This is often where you'll learn the most about an eBay item, the seller selling it, and whether or not you'd really like to buy it by clicking the "Buy It Now" button (#4).

Extra Details for Auction Format Listings

A shrinking percentage of eBay items are listed as "auction" sales. In auction sales, prospective buyers can offer "bids" on an item for a period of time set by the seller. When time is up, the highest bidder "wins" the item and must pay for it, after which the seller will deliver it. Auction listings appear very similar to the fixed-priced listing shown above, but there are one or two differences to be aware of.

  1. In an auction format listing, the price shown is either the starting bid price (if no buyers have yet placed any bids) or the current bid price (the highest bid placed so far). If you would like to bid on the item (offer to buy it at a given price), this is the minimum amount that you must be willing to bid.

  2. Below the starting or current bid price you'll see a text entry box. If you'd like to try to buy the item, enter your bid (remember, it must be at least the amount shown in #1 above) here.

  3. Click the "Place bid" button after entering your bid to officially register it. Once you've placed a bid, you are in the running to buy the item. If the remaining time in the auction (shown in red just above the starting or current bid price) runs out while you're still the highest bidder, you are obligated to purchase and pay for the item at a price that is up to or including the amount of your bid. Note that you may not actually have to pay as much as you bid due to the way eBay's proxy bidding system works.

Other Listing Formats?

If you've stumbled across an eBay listing that doesn't appear to be exactly like either of the ones shown above, don't worry. eBay has introduced a variety of listing formats over the years and has plans to introduce still others in the near future. Though each listing format may at first appear to be slightly different, most of them have the features shown above in common. Using the diagrams above as a rough guide in each case, remember to look for the things mentioned at the beginning of this article:

  • The sale price (or current bid price in the case of items being auctioned) for the item in question

  • The shipping costs associated with this item

  • The return and exchange terms for the item

  • The identity of the seller and the seller's ratings, as provided by people who have done business with them in the past-this is also known as feedback

  • Details about the item and its condition, as provided by the seller

Vigilance about these is enough to help you to make a good purchase in nearly every case, and to ensure a happy eBay experience in the long run.

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