How safe is it to buy relatively low cost items on eBay?

I'm thinking of getting into eBay for the first time and I'm considering bidding on items generally less than 20 USD. What are the chances that I will be ripped off? Also, if I live in a different country from a seller do I have to pay extra for customs or is that included in the shipping fee?

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imacrafty7 years ago
You can get ripped off on ebay - it just happened to me.
Bought a 32g micro-SD card for $19 from a seller in China - the seller had a few hundred transactions on ebay w/ good ratings and the shipping was free. I've bought many items from China in the past (mainly accessories for mobile phones) without issues.

I paid via pay-pal.

The seller became an unregistered seller of eBay during the shipment of my transaction. I hadn't received the item yet from the seller and I immediately went to PayPal to report this. I also heard from my sister that there is a scam on eBay regarding SD cards. Google it and you can see for yourself. I did get the item from the seller - but the card was not a true 32G - it had corrupted files on it and was deemed defective. (There is software you can use to test the validity of SD cards).

Now pay-pal wants me to send the bad SD card to the seller in China (which means I would be out more money) and not even a guarantee that I would get my $19 back. So, in the end - the seller gets away with selling fraudulent mdse.

So BUYER BEWARE!!!! I ended up buying a 32G Micro SD card from Verizon for $100 - which is what the mkt price is on these items. If it seems too good to be true... it probably is. I learned my lesson - I hope you can learn from my experience.
thats why I don't buy things off ebay from china
zascecs7 years ago
On eBay, if you're buying things around that price, you'll most likely not be ripped off, it's mostly when it comes to expensive things and antiques that problem will arise...

And I'm almost positive that the shipping fee also slightly depends on how far away you live...
Great answer. And to the asker: I have bought many cheap items from ebay, and mostly from China. Keep in mind how many items a seller has previously sold, and how long it may take for an item to arrive. When buying from China, you may wait upwards of one month for it to arrive, hence the low or free shipping costs.
I've bought small items from China and have often been astonished how swiftly things have been delivered to the UK. I think the record was 4 days!
(These were free postage and came by air-mail.  If a larger item comes by sea it would obviously take a lot longer.)
Holy whoa. Over here in the US, a free shipping item from China took over a month... The actual item was only the size of an SD card, it was even in an envelope.
orksecurity7 years ago
Definitely watch out for shipping/handling charges (if in doubt, ask before bidding), and definitely check the feedback -- but if they've got a long history as sellers and few negative reviews, you're fairly safe.

Buying from a new seller is more risky... but $20 isn't exactly a lot to risk; if you're in that range it may not be worth worrying about.

Yes, you will have to pay for customs duties if there are any due on that item. And they may not be willing to do business with you at all, due to the complexities of international shipping.

Reminder: It's easy to get overexcited in an auction. Don't get too attached to any one item. There will be another next week. Decide what your maximum bid is BEFORE you enter the auction, and NEVER allow yourself to increase the bid beyond that point.
I don't buy items higher than 10usd and I've never gotten ripped off. There is always a chance that you will get ripped off though.
frollard7 years ago
Others have mostly answered it -- I have a good couple hundred feedback on various accounts, selling and buying.

Everything isbuyer beware -- shop around, read reviews.

Shipping is outrageous. I exclusively buy from shippers who offer 'free shipping' because then I can compare the item to a store price locally. If they offer 1-5 dollar shipping its probably legit postage + packaging. Never ship anything courier. There is no need to rush an impulse buy. Anyone who doesn't offer USPS or Canada Post (or otherwise) is crap, because couriers cost 5-10x as much.

I love me my deals -- try to stay in your border to avoid duties. I've never had anything from china or the UK stopped for duties. about 1/3 packages from the USA gets stopped and billed (I'm in Canada). Yay NAFTA.

Snipe. Decide if you want something. Decide how much you are willing to pay. Put in a bid for that amount with 10 seconds left. Nobody can be watching the price, realize its changed, and place a retaliatory bid in that time, unless they are using bot engine -- to which you would have lost anyway. Bidding early only ENSURES you will pay more, as people have more ammo to use to get you bidding higher.

Long story short: I prefer buy it now with free shipping and comparison shopping to ensure its a good deal.
jeff-o7 years ago
The best way to ensure a smooth transaction is to buy from a power seller - these guys will have 20, 30, 40,000 feedback ratings, and are on eBay to make money as a business, not to rip you off.

In each auction there's a tab where you can get a shipping estimate. Hopefully, the shipping cost it calculates will be reasonable, because that's probably what the seller will charge you. If in doubt, ask the seller for a shipping quote.

As far as taxes and duty are concerned, whatever you buy may be subject to that. If you live in the USA or Canada, you won't be charged taxes or duty for anything under $20. Above that, it's up to the postal service or courier to decide if they'll charge you. It might just be sales tax, or they might add duty and service charges. Sometimes it's a bit of a gamble...

Lastly, one tip: Pay for your auction right after winning it! Sellers like that, and they'll give you a good rating. That's important when you're a newbie on eBay! PayPal is probably the easiest way to pay for stuff.
I mean helping them do that. ;)
Sometimes the price may be cheap, but, they'll try to get you on the shipping. The reason why they do that is because Ebay has a usage fee of 8% of what they sell the item for and if they sell the item for a couple dollars when the shipping is twice as much they make the shipping money will Ebay is ripped off. If you buy from them you are help them do that (Not to blame you).
Re-design7 years ago
I've been the seller on over 1000 deals and the buyer on about the same amount and can't think of a single time that I felt I was ripped off.

A few times the items I bought were slightly less than described but maybe just a judgement error.

A few times customers were totally outrageous in demands but it worked out.

Extra duties will be paid by the buyer unless specifically specified by the seller in the description.  There are occasions when the shipper charges the duty before they will accept the package so the seller will probably charge extra for that.

Last thought, buy slowly until you get used to what is going on.  Set a limit on how much you would be willing to pay for something and the don't go over that limit without a really good reason.  It's easy to get into a bidding war just to keep the other bidder from getting the item.