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Get Ready for eBay Holiday Shopping

Tips to help you make the most of eBay for giving season


Get Ready for eBay Holiday Shopping

Ready to start your holiday shopping? Get started early and get it done right on eBay. Here's how.

Photo: Noonle / Dreamstime
Updated November 28, 2012

The holiday shopping season is here again. eBay remains a great alternative for those looking for convenience and selection, for great deals, for used goods, or for specific or unusual gifts. But as is always the case, if you're going to do holiday shopping on eBay, there are some unique considerations to keep in mind.

  • Start early. Shopping on eBay is always an adventure, and prices and selection can vary significantly over time. If you want to be sure to have a great eBay holiday shopping experience, you can't afford to wait until Black Friday or afterward to begin.

  • Have some concrete ideas. Becasue eBay isn't quite like other online marketplaces, most of the best deals to be found on eBay are specific products that are hard to find elsewhere at a good price. If you're just looking for what's in the circulars, you'll probably do better by shopping some eBay alternatives once the shopping season heats up.

  • Get a warranty. Whether you're buying new or used (and particularly if you're buying used), many of the goods on eBay come with precious little in the way of protection from the seller or the manufacturer, though there are exceptions to this rule. Whatever you buy, know the terms well, particularly return and exchange policies, and consider buying a third-party warranty to protect the purchase so that you don't give a gift that soon stops giving.

  • Build your war chest. If you're hoping to use eBay both for seasonal shopping and for funding your seasonal shopping, now's the time to take a tour of your space and figure out what can be turned into holiday cash. Don't wait until you need the funds after the Thanksgiving holiday—by then there may not be enough time to make it happen.

  • Remember the feedback. During the holidays in particular, it can be tempting to buy with your heart rather than with your head, but especially when you're shopping for gifts, it's important to pay attention to seller feedback and detailed seller ratings. Making wise choices about the sellers you do business with can mean the difference between a good experience and a very frustrating holiday giving season.

  • Pay with a credit card on PayPal. Yes, eBay offers buyer protection to entice you to buy, but it's much better to have used a credit card as you pay using PayPal so that you have credit card disputes as a fallback to deal with any issues you have during this often hectic season for sellers.

  • Comparison shop. Use eBay's RedLaser app to double-check every purchase before you buy; if you can get the same thing more cheaply at a local shop or from an online retailer with more stable terms and selling methods, why not go there instead? Conversely, take RedLaser with you to the mall and scan anything you think you might like to give; you can find out instantly whether you can get it more cheaply on eBay or at another online retailer.

  • Think outside the box. Remember that eBay is a uniquely great place for hobby gifts and memorabilia. People often don't think of these kinds of gifts because they're hard to come by, particularly for someone that isn't an enthusiast, but eBay makes it easy. If you're in doubt but you're sure that there's a thriving interest communtiy buying and selling on eBay for a particular hobby, consider a gift card.

  • Remember Giving Works. If you really want to go the extra mile and someone on your list is a charity fan, look for Giving Works listings and buy gifts that way. By doing this you end up with a nice gift to give someone and you can include the phrase "This gift gave support to Charity Name Here because I know that this is an important cause for you. Happy Holidays!"

  • Go international. eBay's international dimension offers a unique advantage to shoppers and gift-givers. Shop abroad to find special gifts that nobody else will be giving this year, and that will be sure to delight everyone on your list. But that takes us back to our first tip—get started early (now is a good choice) because some international shipments can take a month or two to arrive (remember to read listing terms to be sure the timing will work for you).

Lots of recipients will be surprised these days to learn that a gift came from eBay—the headlines aren't there like they were half a decade ago—but smart shoppers know that eBay is still one of the best gift shopping destinations online, particuarly when the holidays roll around.

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