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Myths About eBay that Need to Be Busted

If you've heard some of these things about eBay, you're not alone


Myths About eBay that Need to Be Busted

The logo may be famous, but many people don't know all that much about eBay. Here are some things that you have have heard about eBay that, as it happens, aren't quite true.

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People that have never bought and sold on eBay are almost always curious about it, but often they're kept away by some of the "common sense knowledge" about the trading site that's floating around out there.

Like any venue this size eBay does have its issues, but the following myths aren't generally amongst them.

  • eBay is an auction house. (It isn't.) Yes, you can buy and sell at auction on eBay, but there are other listing formats available to sellers, meaning that there's lots of room on eBay for buyers that don't want to bid on things. Most items on eBay aren't sold at auction at all, but for a fixed price, just like items at most other online retailers, and "eBay" is also the owner of dozens of growing platforms and brands like PayPal and RedLaser. The idea that eBay is just about bidding wars, reserve prices, retractions, and sniping is more than a decade out of date.
  • You can get anything on eBay for pennies on the dollar. (You can't.) Sure you can get the odd hidden deal on eBay. You can also minimize the purchase price you'll pay with sound trading practices. Mostly, though, the market decides the prices of goods on eBay as it does everywhere else, even when it comes to auction format items. Better deals are often to be found elsewhere, so it's important for smart eBayers to comparison shop. The "pennies on the dollar" meme probably comes from other, decidedly un-eBay-like, penny auction sites.
  • There are no quality brand-name goods on eBay. (There are.) There are variations of this myth. Some have eBay full of disinterested drop shippers, others are about Chinese imports, and others see eBay having nothing but fake and counterfeit goods. In fact, most of the goods on eBay are quality brand-name goods, and most of the Chinese sellers are the manufacturers of the brand-name goods you buy at retail stores, only on eBay you can get them direct-from-manufacturer for less.
  • You can buy and sell literally anything on eBay. (You can't.) Yes, there is room for weird things to be sold on eBay—World War II surplus gas masks and french fries shaped like religious icons and hair clippings from practicing witches and all of that (you know the stuff). But there are also definite limits. Anything that can't legally be sold, transported, or possessed is forbidden on eBay, along with consumer items that have been recalled and things that eBay judges to be in bad taste, like Nazi memorabilia. Most sellers have good common sense about what not to sell on eBay, making it a surprisingly clean marketplace, given its format.
  • eBay is an unregulated free-for-all. (It isn't.) Restrictions on what can be bought and sold aren't the only rules on eBay. eBay's rules are fairly clear, elaborate, and well-enforced, from policies preventing shill bidding, counterfeiting, and the release of personal information in feedback to regulations about item presentation in things photos and listing links.
  • Buying and selling on eBay is extremely risky. (It isn't.) Yes, there are risks to buyers and risks to sellers, and there are some scams that affect buyers and sellers on eBay as well, but the truth is that the majority of buyers and sellers on eBay haven't been affected by any of them. If eBay were as wild-wild-west as some imagine, it wouldn't have survived for nearly two decades and grown into one of the two most used ecommerce sites in the world (Amazon holds the top spot).

Does this seem like a lot to you already? Well hang on, because we're only halfway there. There are some doozies ahead in the second batch.

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