4.0 Buyer issues
EBay's full buyer's guide can be found at http://pages.ebay.com/help/buyerguide/.
Bidding strategy is one of the least understood areas of eBay. Terms like sniping and proxy bidding can be pretty confusing to a zero-feedback bidder and it's easy to lose an item if you don't understand what is happening.
4.1.1 How much should I bid?
Bid the maximum amount you are willing to pay for an item less the expected cost to ship. If you lose the auction, you'll have the comfort of know you weren't willing to pay more for it. What? you would have paid that extra $1? That means you really didn't bid your max.
4.1.2 I bid $20 and my bid only shows as $1.00. Why?
You have just been introduced to the proxy bidding system. When you place your bid, eBay only shows the minimum amount necessary for you to win the auction. If other bidders jump in, your bid will automatically increase until the other party quits bidding or your maximum bid (the amount you entered) is exceeded. This method is very effective as long as you bid the maximum amount you are willing to pay. If you are only incrementally bidding, you are drawing attention to the auction and potential snipers can easily take the auction from you at the last moment.
4.1.3 I just lost an auction by $1.00. How did this happen?
Remember that eBay only bids the amount necessary to win the auction. You don't really know how much the winner was willing to spend, all you know is that it was at least $1 (or whatever the bid increment was) more than your bid.
4.1.4 I lost an auction in the last minute. How can I keep that from happening again?
Bid your max. The only real protection from last-minute bidders is to have your maximum bid in place before the auction ends. Any lesser amount usually results in a loss.
4.1.5 What is proxy bidding? How does it work?
Essentially, when you bid, you aren't telling eBay how much of a bid to place. You are actually informing ebay as to the maximum amount you are willing to spend on this auction. The actual bid placed by eBay's bidding system is either the minimum amount for the auction (if you are the first bidder) or one bid increment above the previous high bidder. In the event someone else bids, eBay will increase your bid up to your maximum to keep you one bid increment above the other bidders. If another bidder exceeds your maximum, they become the high bidder at no more than one bid increment above your maximum bid. EBay gives some very good examples at http://pages.ebay.com/help/buyerguide/bidding-prxy.html.
4.1.6 What are the bid increments eBay uses to increase bids?
When eBay bids up to your maximum amount on your behalf, the bidding system automatically determines the next bid based on a simple schedule of increments located at http://pages.ebay.com/help/basics/e_item11.html based on the current bid price. The higher the item price, the larger the increment, bid increments range from a nickel to $100 on the U.S. Site.
4.2 After the auction
Post-auction activities are probably the most important part of the auction. This is where most problems occur between buyers and sellers. Ensuring solid, timely communication is the best way to minimize these types of issues.
4.2.1 How long should I wait for a seller to reply to my emails?
You shouldn't need to wait more than three business days to exchange contacts with a seller. Remember that eBay states that both parties should make contact within that timeframe. Unless the seller states in their auction that they don't use the eBay checkout system, checkout is a great way to initiate that contact. If the seller doesn't use checkout, you should expect a timely email from the seller or the auction listing should have detailed instructions on what to expect.
4.2.2 What should I do if my emails to the seller bounce?
When the email bounces, it might indicate a bad email address or another problem with either of your email accounts. Before you panic, there a couple of simple things to try. First, use the Ask Seller a Question link on the auction page to attempt contact. This message comes from eBay's servers and is less likely to be blocked by anti-spammed mail systems. If the message bounced because of a full mailbox, wait a day before attempting to send another message.
If you don't think you'll be able to make email contact, request the user's contact information using http://cgi3.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?MemberSearchShow from eBay and give them a call. If the email account is not valid or the contact information is wrong, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
4.3 Paying for your winnings
Pay promptly. If for any reason, you are going to have trouble paying, contact the seller to make arrangements for a delayed payment. Many sellers react better if they know what is going on up front and aren't being strung along. With that said, the buyer is obligated to fulfill their obligation by paying and the seller might, rightfully, leave a neg no matter how good you think your reason is.
4.3.1 The seller doesn't accept [payment type]. What do I do?
If they state in their auction listing that they do accept that form of payment, insist upon it. You have every right to expect the seller to live up to the terms they stated in the auction. If you get a neg, handle it accordingly.
If the seller didn't state in their auction listing that a specific form of payment is acceptable, you should have clarified that bit of information before you bid. Note that many sellers will check the Visa/MC option for payments by eBay Payments and PayPal. EBay considers this acceptable. If you try to force a payment type onto a seller, be prepared for a no sale and possible negative feedback.
4.4 After you've paid
Most sellers are quite prompt about shipping your merchandise once they've received your payment. If you haven't heard from the seller in a reasonable timeframe, you have several options.
4.4.1 How long should I wait to receive my merchandise?
Even if a seller ships your order on the day they receive the payment, there is still an interval of time before your item arrives at your doorstep. Factors that affect shipping time include distance, class of service, unexpected mail delays, misaddressed mail, and quality of packaging. Normal delivery times can range anywhere from one day to eight weeks. If you've done your homework, you should know the seller's track record for shipping by reviewing his or her feedback. If you feel your package is late, contact the seller to find out what is going on. Whenever possible, obtain a tracking number so you can check the status for yourself online. If you need to contact the seller, you should verify the shipping address, date sent, and the tracking number.
4.4.2 When should I leave feedback?
Incendiary topic #1!! Opinions greatly vary for sellers, but buyer's should leave feedback once they've received the item and verified it is as specified in the auction description. If something is amiss, contact the seller first and give them an opportunity to fix it. If you lash out immediately with a neg, you have lost a valuable lever that can't be regained.
4.4.3 I've been ripped off. What do I do now?
Your options depend greatly on a number of factors such as how you paid, the dollar amount, and where you and the seller are located. First things first - contact the other party and make sure there hasn't been some sort of misunderstanding. If you aren't receiving results, contact eBay, your credit card company or payment service, and any appropriate law enforcement officials. If you mailed your payment or the package was expected via US Mail, see http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/ to determine if mail fraud statutes might apply and you can file a complaint with the United States Postal Service.
Generally, it is very difficult to get cooperation from law enforcement unless the dollar amount is in the thousands range. Many times your recourse is through the civil court system which can be expensive and can take a very long time. The Federal Trade Commission has a very comprehensive guide [http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/conline/pubs/online/auctions.htm].
A fairly extensive guide to both buyer and seller options when an eBay transaction goes wrong is listed at http://www.mindspring.com/~bookdealers/help.html .