Warnings Before You Ebid
In the last five years online auctions have become a huge industry in America. Often, these auction websites allow buyers to find rare and unique objects while paying a reasonable price. However, all too often the computer screen gives a sense of security to a buyer that simply should not exist.
Below is a list of several steps that should be taken to offer greater protection in online auction buying. Please note that these measures will only offer greater protection and cannot eliminate the entire risk of online buying. However, by following these recommendations many of the common problems encountered may be avoided.
Online Auction Tips
1. Use common sense - While it's true that online auctions offer great deals on rare and unique items, always use your common sense. Luxury goods account for a large portion of online auctions and are sometimes real. However, be very cautious if someone is selling genuine items worth several thousand dollars for under $100. Always ask yourself, "why am I getting such a good deal?" If you can't answer, you shouldn't buy. As a general rule, if it's more than 60% off retail price, be suspicious!
2. Read feedback! - On most auction sites there is a forum for ratings by former buyers or sellers regarding the person you are dealing with at present. READ THEM! All too often people read these ratings after they have been swindled. It is a simple procedure, free, and takes only a few seconds. There is no excuse not to look at the past history of the buyer/seller you're dealing with at present.
3. Ask about warranties - Some sellers (especially of luxury goods) state that they will accept refunds minus shipping charges for any reason. Also, many state that all sales are final. While neither of these claims may be followed through upon, it still offers a measure of piece of mind when the person you are dealing with states that he/she will unconditionally warrant his/her goods.
4. Use insurance - Postal insurance is extremely cheap and should always be used. The rate is approximately $1 for every $100 of insurance you choose to purchase. It is a small price up front in comparison to the loss if/when your shipment is lost.
5. For large amounts of money sent, request return receipt - This service by the post office costs about $3 and you get a return post card once the seller signs for your letter with payment enclosed. This will not absolutely protect you, but if he/she claims they never received that $400 you sent at least you have a legal record.
6. "As is" - Recently many sellers have been using the language "as is" to protect themselves. "As is" DOES protect a seller, but only against IMPLIED WARRANTIES made to the buyer. It does NOT protect against EXPLICIT warranties made. In other words, if the description says that the item is a Rolex, Cartier, Vuitton, etc. without any qualifying language (such as, "I think", "maybe", "I'm not sure", etc.) then "as is" does NOT relieve the seller of responsibility if the item is not genuine. Know your rights. If he/she says an item is definitively a Rolex (or name brand item) and it is not, you get a refund and "as is" does nothing.
7. Payment methods - If the seller states that you can only pay by Paypal (or other computer finance company), be suspicious. Yes, the seller has every right to require a method of payment of his/her choice. Yes, it may be entirely legitimate. However, anyone who doesn't take a personal check or money order is much more difficult to track down than someone who leaves a paper record. Be aware of the risk. (Please note, if you do pay by check he/she can require extra time for it to clear.)
8. Legal action - Before you bid, ask questions regarding the item. During that time, casually mention that you always pursue legal action (usually in small claims court) against those who do not send authentic merchandise or merchandise in condition described. Even though you may decide it is not in your interest to file a suit, the fact that the seller knows you hold people accountable will probably make him think twice about cheating you.
9. Don't spend more than you are willing to lose - If things go wrong it will be extremely difficult to have your money returned. At best, it would be expensive and time consuming to get your money back. For that reason, do not spend any more money on an online auction than you are willing to lose.
10. Location, location, location - Look where the item being purchased is located. If you are buying a luxury item, beware of addresses located in such places as the Far East. Also, any item not being sent from within the states makes it extremely difficult for you to get your money back if the seller swindles you.