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Get a Good Deal and Give a Second Chance

If you're willing to risk it, you may score a great deal


Get a Good Deal and Give a Second Chance

There is an element of risk involved in buying from a troubled seller, but it's also common for both parties to be happy after this kind of sale.

Image: fergregory / Fotolia

Most veteran eBay shoppers know that buying on eBay is an exercise in doing your homework. You study an item description and condition ratings, look at the photos being offered, watch for red flags and look carefully at return and exchange policies and shipping times. But even if all of these things check out, you don't buy from sellers that have poor feedback or detailed seller ratings, since they have a track record of failing to perform adequately when push comes to shave.

Or Do You?

In fact, there's some room for flexibility about this rule.

If you're new to eBay, or if time and money are tight, excluding sellers without solid feedback is a great way to make sure that you have a good experience shopping eBay, rather than a bad one.

But this only tells half the story. Most of the sellers on eBay are real people and real small businesses, and in the real world, both people and small businesses have ups and downs. People get overwhelmed by unexpectedly high sales, or their transportation breaks down, or they have to cope with a family disaster or difficulty of some kind that takes them offline for a week or two, or any number of other things.

These can all lead to a spate of negative ratings from buyers, even for sellers that have otherwise been on-target.

And there's no doubt that there's also an eBay learning curve for sellers, everything from figuring out how to act like a small business in the first place to coming to grips with customer service basics to understanding that eBay transactions are serious contracts that are to be treated like a real business transaction. Some sellers have good intentions, but suffer a few hard knocks along the way as they figure out how to be a rising star in the community of eBay sellers.

Seen this way, the rules about buying on eBay don't have to be so absolute. If you're a buyer with some experience under your belt, and you know the eBay ropes and what to expect from sellers, instead of thinking in inflexible terms about when to buy, you can think in more nuanced, cost-benefit analysis terms.

How important to you is this purchase?

How much money is involved?

Is it time-critical or are you willing to maybe wait a little and nudge a little?

The Most Obvious "Hidden Deal" on eBay

As it turns out, amongst the various kinds of hidden deals on eBay, one is easier to spot than the rest—it's the auction-format listing or underpriced fixed-price format listing from a seller with a middling-to-poor feedback record.

Sellers with low feedback percentages or detailed seller ratings generally have to accept smaller numbers of bids and lower sale prices than sellers with higher feedback percentages. They know that they're on the hotseat and that a lot of buyers will pass them over simply because of their track record, which leads them to underprice significantly, and often leads their auctions to be ignored.

For a novice buyer, these kinds of listings are steer-clear territory, but for an experienced buyer that's in no particular hurry and can buy on a credit card to keep the chargeback option open, some of these are diamonds in the rough—great deals that nobody else wants to take a risk on.

By taking that risk, you not only give yourself the chance to get a great deal, you also support the rehabilitation of an independent seller or small business that may have hit a rough patch but is now looking to get back into the game. If they can satisfy you and earn positive feedback after the deal, they earn positive reinforcement for good behavior and are one step closer to being an upstanding member of the eBay community again.

If this is starting to sound like it may be an option for you, read on to learn about how to best choose and balance your risk when considering listings with troubled sellers.

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