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How to Haggle on eBay

eBay isn't quite the haggle-free zone that it at first appears to be

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Johnnie Davis/ Moment/ Getty images

Haggling is in some traders' blood. As an "auction" site with "fixed price" listings, eBay can give the impression that it's not haggle-friendly, but that's not entirely true. Whether you're a buyer or a seller, there are ways to be flexible, and to feel out the flexibility of your trading partner, on eBay.

eBay Haggling Tips for Buyers

  • Bid on auctions. No, it's not quite the same thing as haggling, but by bidding on auctions rather than shopping fixed-price listings, you give yourself more control over the price you'll eventually pay for an item. If you see an item you like that's listed in fixed-price form, view the seller's other listings to see whether they have also listed the same item in auction format. Many sellers do this regularly.
     
  • Search for Best Offer listings and make an offer. Sellers of fixed-price items can opt to accept offers from buyers. If you're the kind of shopper that likes to make offers, use the eBay advanced search tool and check the "Best Offer" option to see only items for which sellers are accepting offers. To make an offer on an item, click the "Make Offer" button in the item listing to send an offer to the seller and wait for his or her decision.
     
  • Shop eBay Classifieds and Want it Now. Because they're local classified ad listings, the items and prices you'll find on eBay Classifieds are naturally open to offers, haggling, and even bartering of various kinds. Similar descriptions apply to eBay's Want it Now area, though with somewhat less flexibility and without the local emphasis.
     
  • Contact sellers directly to ask. Some sellers are actually flexible when it comes to pricing and pricing discussions. When you contact a seller, make a listing-related request and a related promise. For example, if they reduce the price on a fixed-price listing by $10.00, you'll buy it immediately, or you'll buy multiples in exchange for free shipping, or you'll place a large first bid if they list the same item in auction format, or you'll purchase the item if the edit they listing to include accessories. You can also contact a seller immediately after you've made a purchase to ask for a sweeter deal before shipment, though they're not obligated to give you one at that point, so make your request a pleasant, persuasive one rather than a demanding one to get results.
     
  • Be serious, not disrespectful. Be sure that your offer is a serious one before you make an offer on a Best Offer listing or contact a seller directly to ask for a price break or a sweeter deal; nobody likes to have their time wasted. As a buyer, why would you waste your time? Be sure offers or requests are "in the ballpark." Haggling is not a way to get something for nothing.

eBay Haggling Tips for Sellers

  • Post auction format listings. If your listings are of good quality, your goods are in demand, and your timing is right, list in auction format. This gives you some of the market pricing benefits of haggling without actually having to haggle.
     
  • Sell items using the Best Offer option. Keep in mind that you can set rules to automatically accept offers over a particular price, relieving you of the work involved in reviewing and accepting (or rejecting) offers while still leaving your listings open to negotiation.
     
  • List on eBay Classifieds. As an eBay Classifieds seller, the terms that you set in your listings are much more flexible and open than they are on eBay, and the contact from shoppers or buyers much more informal. Not only can you negotiate with them online; you can also engage in voice-to-voice or even face-to-face haggling over classifieds items.
     
  • Browse Want It Now every now and then. eBay's Want it Now area is a little bit forgotten by many sellers but remains a useful place to find buyers and make counter-offers as you attempt to shift merchandise and/or junk that you'd like to sell.
     
  • Keep an open mind about buyer requests. Every seller gets tired of receiving the "ill give u 125.00 [for this $2,500.00 item] if u ship to my foreign home" offers from buyers, but try not to automatically tune buyer contact out. In some cases, a little flexibility and trust can net one or multiple additional sales at good margins. If you're not in a high-volume/low-margin business model, offers might just sometimes be all right.
     
  • Don't be rude; just say no. If you're not a a big haggler or are not open to a particular buyer's requests, respond professionally. Don't be insulting or rude; just tell the would-be buyer that you're not interested. Better yet, find a way to make a counter offer that satisfies your needs while earning a sale from them.
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