Wearing a Dôen dress. Thrifted Polène Paris basket from eBay. And LOQ sandals from ShopBop.
I am an eBay addict.
There I said it. Admitting you have a problem is supposed to be the first step to recovery, but I don't exactly want to recover: I want to continue to shop eBay smartly and responsibly. It took a while to learn how to do that, and I hope these tips can help others skip past my learning pains.
Don't get me wrong: I love the eBay world, and I've tempered any tendency to spend excessively through a growing desire to learn more about antiques and vintage clothing. While just looking around, I've learned so much about last century's old New York City factories that made intricate, stunning gold frames or which 60s-era Argentine designers made the best frame handbags or why you should never buy vintage dishes unless you can be certain they're lead-free. And that genuine interest, research, and selectivity stymied my initial tendency to overspend as I did when I first stumbled into the garden of earthly delight that is the land of thrifting and vintage-hunting on eBay. And I'm so happy I did learn my lesson: eBay has become such a bright spot in my world. Throughout this quarantine eBay has been there for me. When I concocted what my husband considered the "crazy" idea of constructing a night table out of art and design books, I found many beautifully bound art, travel, design, and architecture books-- some for as little as $2. Or when I tried to recreate a vintage movie moment, my 24k gold vintage compact arrived days later and for only $12. eBay has sourced my every fantasy and whim at affordable prices and enabled me to learn a great deal about the world of vintage clothes and antique knickknacks.
Without further ado here are a few of my tips for your own storied eBay success!
1. Do use specific search terms
I don't know about you, but it took me years to overcome my fear of the vastness of eBay. I finally got over that when I was on the hunt for a specific dress a couple years back. Googling the brand and the dress landed me on eBay. I actually had my first and only bad experience with that dress, which I'll get into below. I learned a valuable lesson that time, though, and I haven't had another problem since. But I still got my toes wet, and from there I felt more comfortable wading in. More like I dove in.
Searching specific to very specific terms like "balloon-sleeve vintage dress" or "porcelain shell dish" or "vintage bronze mirror" will also greatly improve your browsing experience and help lead you to an item you'll treasure. In my case, on that first disastrous foray, I didn't realize that stock photos are generally a red flag. If you've shopped with a specific seller before and they're using stock photos, you can maybe ignore this rule. I would say it's a pretty solid guideline, though, and you might want to think twice. You need to see the thing you're actually buying. My dress that one initial time turned out to be entirely different from the stock photo of the dress I'd been searching. I was able to return it and get a full refund. And I learned a lesson, too.
2. Don't ever be rude or pester sellers
eBay really is a community space. That said, I didn't bother engaging with the seller that one time I bought a cheap dress with a weird unfamiliar tag that was clearly a knockoff. I called eBay and let them handle it. Before a sale, I also try to answer as many of my own questions by reading carefuly through the seller's description and studying the pictures. Most do a great job of giving you all the info you need right there, and if they don't, that can be a bit of a red flag, too.
If after reading the description and studying all the pictures they provided, you still really, really, really need to ask a question, be brief and be polite. Nothing is more irritating to an eBay seller than being pestered with emails. I sold a handful of things on eBay before I got too busy with my kids' school and activities, and I would cancel sales when people were too pestery. It made me afraid that were persnickety and would take off with my item and leave me a bad review. One of the things that's kept me off Poshmark are the ridiculous volume of questions you can see shoppers leaving for sellers in the conversation space beneath the item for sale. I've literally seen people ask sellers to measure the inside of the toe box for them.
Don't be that person.
Ask if you must. Keep it brief and to the point and be grateful for the seller's time and energy. Buy or don't. And always leave a nice review when your treasure arrives safe and sound. And usually with a sweet card inside the box from your grateful seller. Buying from small shops is incredible. The sellers almost always really care. It's a real person whose day you're making as much as they're making yours. Another benefit from not being a pain, is you will start collecting a variety of trusted, favorite sellers, whose "shops" will become your go-to.
3. Do check for exact photographs of the item being sold. Don't settle for stock photos unless it's a very trusted seller you've purchased from before.
I already got into this under my first example, but I thought it was worth reiterating. The only time I ever felt scammed on eBay, I hadn't checked the seller's reviews or checked for original photos of the item. You need to see that both are in good shape!
4. Do shop the same sellers over and over.
I also got into this under my second example, but just like etsy, eBay is more like a giant bazaar of little (and some very big) stalls. Find the stalls you like: the sellers who ship quickly, price fairly, and have a variety of stock that appeals to you are sellers whom I tend to favor with my business over and over. When you're not searching specific terms, you can still have fun browsing the shops you love. I've found so many unexpected treasures that way!
5. Don't impulse shop. If you find something you love, look around and make sure the price is right. The more you shop on eBay the more you'll get a feel for this.
Always, always look around. I had a friend message me recently to ask me whether I thought a Tory Burch bag that she had found on eBay was a knockoff. I highly doubted it was, because Tory Burch isn't considered a truly high-end designer, although I'm not saying that to disparage the label. Chanel bags can resell for more than their original new price. As can YSL and Chloe. Tory Burch usually prices close to the original price, true, but the original price is a quarter or less of a new Chanel bag, so the incentive to knock them off is less, too. But I did advise my friend not to get THAT bag. Why? It was priced very close to the original price, and I thought she could do better. After a quick, specifically worded search (ahem, see step 1!), I found the same bag for her at half the price that the other seller was selling it for. Always look around and compare. Don't settle!
6. Don't bid to bid
I think one of the big reasons I haven't gotten too addicted to eBay is that I recognized the source of the biggest problem: my competitive streak. The few times I did bid, I had a reaction that reminded me of the descriptions of people who get a little too into gambling. My heart would race, my palms sweat. I could tell this was a problem. And so I just don't. Every now and then, if I really, really love an item, I will bid. And if you do a smart way to do so is to watch the item and only bid in the last 10-15 seconds. There's a chance one of the seasoned gamblers, I mean, buyers, who definitely are unhealthily addicted will still manage to outbid you in the last three seconds, but I try to tell myself that I didn't actually lose: I'm not shopping to shop. I'm selective. I don't overspend, and if I lose an item, well, I know how vast eBay. I'll find it again. And at the right price!
Do you still feel anxiety about making your way into the eBay wilderness? Have you guys found any favorite treasures of your own on that site? In the photos above, I found my sold-out, blogger favorite Polène Paris basket on eBay. I'd love to hear about your own successes! Please share your stories with me below.
A Slow Fashion Diary