15 Tips for Buying Clothes on eBay

This list is updated from a post I had in a previous blog.  (For folks that read my last list, new points have an * by them!)

1) Search for brands/designers you know and love, whose sizes you are familiar with and consistent in.

2) Sort by lowest price first (the same garment may be listed by more than one seller and prices – as well as conditions – can vary a lot.)

3) Know your measurements (bust, waist, hips, *from shoulder seam to shoulder seam for jackets) AND the lengths you like garments to be (sweaters, skirts, the inseam on jeans, sleeves, dresses, etc.)

4) Search eBay for your favorite designers/brands and your size, adding any additional info you like, eg. “skirt.”  As you browse, look for styles and colors that you know work on you.  I generally play it safe with color choices on eBay, sticking to colors that are not easily misrepresented.  You’re aiming for a purchase you’re going to love, so stick to what you love.  (Note: save your searches in eBay, eg  Brand, size, by lowest price first.) *I also save searches on eBay for items I’ve tried on in consignment store that were nice but one size too big or small to see if I can find them in the right size. It’s worked!  I am sure to take a photo of the garment I like while in the consignment store to be sure I recognize it on eBay and I photograph any details on the inside tags too that might be helpful in identifying the garment online.

5) If, generally, you struggle to find a certain type of garment that fits really well, don’t buy it on eBay.  For example, I do not generally shop for pants on eBay.

6)  My exception about buying pants is that I have bought duplicates of jeans I adore.  If you have an item in your wardrobe you love, and want it in other colors or simply a back up for when your beloved garment bites the dust, search for it on eBay.  Bear in mind no two garments are ever truly identical.  Chances are the cut will be ever so slightly different, in the tiniest of ways.  Sadly this is true even for higher end garments.  *If you are buying a garment that is pre-owned THAT YOU ALREADY OWN you STILL want to know the size AND the measurements because the garment may have been altered (and the seller is unaware of such alterations) or incorrectly laundered if wool and the fit/size will be different from what you expect!  It’s better to be ask/double check than to make a foolish purchase!

7) Compare photos from different sources/sellers of the same item to get the best sense of color and style.  *If you save the item in your Watch List, you can then click on it and choose to ‘View Similar items”.  If the same item comes up in the same size, then as well as comparing prices, you’ll want to compare measurements supplied.  If it is or isn’t the same size as your original find,  compare colors, the general look of the item, and how it’s styled to get the best sense of the garment you’re considering bidding on/buying.  You can also google or google image the item and see if you can find it elsewhere online to gain a better sense of what the garment truly looks like.  Ask the seller questions if you need clarification.  For instance, “Is this a dark red or more like a stop sign red?” or “These boots say knee high in the description but they look midcalf in the photos. Can you measure them for me? Thanks!”

8) Read descriptions carefully.   The condition of the garment should be clearly stated.  Is it NWT/new with tags? Is it in EUC/excellent used condition?  If there is a flaw, what is it?  I’ve purposely bought a top that had a few stitches coming out from a seam because I knew it’d be an easy fix and it was a great deal. *If the item is pre-owned but the condition is not stated, ask if the garment has any stains, holes, pilling or odors.  If the condition is stated as “good” but there are no problems listed and you love the item, write and ask why it’s not described as “excellent”!

9) Read the seller’s return policy and consider what you would do if the item doesn’t make you happy.  For instance, could you resell it?  Alter it?  Dye it?  Give it as a gift?  Or would you be fine with paying return shipping charges, if the seller accepts returns?  Think this through before any purchases.

10) Check the seller’s feedback too.  If it’s a new seller, ask them a question and see how responsive they are.

11)  Sellers are generally savvy about how to best list an item. For example, a blouse might be listed by brand, then “blouse/top” and the size and color/details.  But if the seller writes only “blouse”and you search for “top” you’ll  miss seeing their item(s).  So, you need to be savvy in your search too.  Use different words to describe the same item, enter the numerical and letter size for clothing, and try both European and American sizing for shoes.

12)  Sometimes you can read reviews of clothing items elsewhere. For example many shoes are reviewed on Zappos  and many of Anthropologie‘s items are reviewed on their site and personal blogs.  Read reviews to see if items are actually true to size, if reviewers consistently say good things or if, conversely, they mention design flaws.

13)  If something you receive is not up to par, write to the seller immediately and politely: assume the error was an oversight.  Generally, sellers want you to be happy and to write a positive review for them. *Ebay will reimburse you for items that do not arrive or if you receive a garment not as described, but the onus is on you to contact Ebay and then to follow through with Ebay’s procedures.

14) “Buy it now” is most like real shopping.  I started ebay shopping using items listed in that way only.   *Note that using the browser on my phone, I cannot see if an item is “Buy it Now Or Best Offer,” I just see “Buy it Now” sales prices.  Ensure that however you are searching ebay that you are seeing when sellers are saying “Or Best Offer” if you want to get the best prices. (Why would sellers state that unless they’re open to negotiation, right?)

15) The best deals are usually  by “auction.”   Bidding right near the end of the auction reduces the chances of the price going up in an early bidding war.  Bid as late as you can!

It’s a different shopping experience than going out shopping certainly.  But now that I’ve figured out my strategy,  I’m having a lot of success.  I hope my tips help, and lead you to some great, inexpensive, additions to your wardrobe!

PS If you like buying second hand rather than new and are interested in Slow Fashion, come join our facebook Slow Fashion Movers and Shakers group here.)


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