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How to shop like a ninja on eBay

Take advantage of inexperienced sellers' common mistakes.

By MSN Money Partner Sep 14, 2011 9:31AM

This post comes from Kentin Waits at partner blog Wise Bread.


In June, I wrote an article for current and would-be eBay sellers entitled "How I still make money with eBay." Well, fair is fair, and it's time to explore a few strategies for scoring the best deals as a buyer. In a tight economy, it's more important than ever to score bargains when and where we can.


Over the past 12 years as an active eBayer, I've learned a few tricks of the trade for selling effectively and for the highest price. But inexperienced or rushed sellers make mistakes -- and mistakes create opportunities for buyers who are willing to shop like a ninja.


Misspell what you're looking for. Most searches on eBay are driven by keywords either within or outside a product category. If you want a Calvin Klein queen-sized bedspread, you type in a combination of relevant terms, right? Well, try misspelling a few of those key terms.


Variations like Calvin Klien or Cavlin Klein will produce far fewer search results, but they will also produce fewer potential buyers whom you then have to compete with. A seller who’s managing dozens or even hundreds of items at a time can't list everything perfectly. Think of logical spelling mistakes and capitalize on the reduced customer base the seller is reaching. Then pounce.


One note on this method: EBay has introduced a spell correct feature on the site that corrects the most obvious errors, but it's not always consistent and doesn't catch every mistake or mistakes that still produce valid terms (think "pie safe" vs. "pie sale").


Bid last minute. Auction psychology is a fascinating topic. Inexperienced bidders get excited and start bidding on an item immediately. Experienced bidders take a more measured and stealthy approach, not letting their intentions be known until the last few minutes -- or even seconds -- of an auction. This lulls the other potential buyers into a false sense of comfort and sometimes leaves them clicking in vain and cursing the keyboard as an item slips through their virtual fingers.

Post continues below.

Look for auctions ending at inopportune times. Each time a seller initiates an auction, an end time is scheduled automatically (typically, three, five, seven or 10 days in the future). Inexperienced sellers fail to realize that an auction starting at 5:30 p.m. will also end at 5:30 p.m. days later -- during most people's busy commute.


Even worse, any auction ending at 3 a.m. on a Monday will probably be a "sleeper." As buyers, we can use this "scheduling fail" to our advantage. Set the alarm clock for 2:55 a.m. and let's score a great deal while the rest of the world hits the snooze button.


Buy off-season. There's no nice way to put it: Most buyers are fickle, highly prone to suggestion, and don't plan very well. We buy summer clothes when the weather gets hot, we buy winter coats when the leaves start to fall, and we never start shopping for holiday gifts before October.


Sidestep the high prices by avoiding high demand. Buy off-season! When the mercury hits 110 degrees, check the eBay listings for wool suits and flannel sheets. Predictably, most of your competition will be shopping for margarita glasses, flip-flops, and patio furniture.


Experiment with alternative keywords. Just like misspelled keywords, incorrect or incomplete keywords can reveal a treasure trove of little-noticed items. This approach takes a bit of practice and creative thinking, but can pay off.


You may know a specific pattern of expensive dinnerware is called Intaglio, but a novice might simply describe it as "blue flowers." Break down the description of an item into its most basic elements, then massage the results and see what bargains you find.


Shopping in the rarefied atmosphere of eBay takes patience and skill, but there are amazing bargains to be had if you think creatively, do your research, and -- when the time is right -- channel your inner ninja.


More on Wise Bread and MSN Money:

Sep 15, 2011 9:00AM

Ebay is fun but you have to be careful. Buyers need to do a few things when they shop.

Read the description! Sellers will try to play dumb by saying things like "I assume that it works" or " I don't know if it works or not"  or "Rolex like", "I think that it's an antique"


Watch the low price, they may have a $20 shipping fee on a $5 item. Go to the bottom of the listing and find the "ask seller a question"  Ask them right up front if the item is authentic, working, refurbished ect (questions are saved in your messages file on your ebay home page and come in handy if you have a dispute.


Check prices on other sites like, Amazon, Walmart ect. If you don't know what an item retails for, you don't know when it's a deal.

If you think that you're being scammed, don't hesitate to report the listing to Ebay

Oct 3, 2011 7:23AM
Use Pay Pal especially for iffy buys; your protected if the item is not as described.
Oct 3, 2011 11:27AM

if all these people who supposedly cannot find a job would open an ebay seller's account and sell all of the junk they have in their possession, they would be amazed at the extra income that can be generated- selling on ebay has helped me through many financial needs-  a few dollars here and there really adds up- it is surprising what people will buy- it requires being goal oriented and discipline-

this is an especially good idea for teenagers  trying to raise money for college- it teaches discipline and the thrill of seeing an account accumulate daily- the adrenaline rush associated with  a bidding war is unsurpassed- go for it-

Oct 8, 2011 9:40PM
the scam with ebay is against the sellers now.

craigslist is killing ebay,therefore they gives the buyer all the protection they want

that means buyers are scamming sellers like crazy,claiming refunds and retruning a rock instead of the item they purchased.

ebay and paypal wont do a thing about it.

whatever you do,do NOT sell expensive items on ebay,you will get ripped off.

Apr 10, 2014 4:52PM
nice post. Ebay is great way to earn money

<a href="">Make money on ebay tips</a>
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