To Bid or Not!

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This may seem like an odd post to appear on my blog but read on, there are a few things I’ve discovered about online purchases and auctions that may be of interest to people who shop online.
 
Firstly, and of course most obviously, it’s a great way to acquire pretty new toys! More than that, it also broadens your field of access to otherwise unheard of products and/or access to them.

There are cupboards and basements filled with interesting and sometimes rare goodies. Some are going for a song if you catch the tune and others are simply hard to come by. Online auctions allow us a voyeuristic look into unknown treasure troves teeming with fool’s gold and some real glitter!
 
I may just have a few tips that will open your eyes and assist you to get better prices and become aware of the things you actually want to acquire. I’d also like to point out at this point that you need to learn to negotiate. Yes, especially online!
 
Every seller has their profit margins, their break even price, and the “Hell, I got to be rid of this before I lose any more time and money by sitting on it” price reduction!
 
I don’t like to haggle about money. Really I don’t but… I’ve learnt to ask a person what their best price is. It’s easy, you don’t appear cheap, you are treating the seller with respect, and all the while dumping the negotiation in his or her lap to contend with. They will then give you their not quite the “lowest I can go” price!
 
If you feel they can lower the price even further you can apologise and simply state politely that it is more than you are willing to pay. At that point the negotiation ceases or begins. All you need to do and say is yes or no. If they cease to negotiate you still have the option of the lowest price placed on the table. Can you really do this online? Absolutely! It just takes longer than face to face.
 
I have personally told a seller that if they were willing to lower their starting auction price to what I would be willing to pay, I would purchase the item. They did and the sale was concluded without an actual auction taking place.
 
An alternative route is to simply state what you can afford or what the item is worth to you and make the offer. Often that will work fairly well especially with slow moving products as with my last example.
 
Now let’s look more specifically at how to use online sites for purchases. This article has mostly come about because of sites such as http://www.bidorbuy.co.za/or http://www.gumtree.com/  just to mention a few. In my experience with them I’ve realised how to use them optimally for my own interest.
 
My pet loath is the automatic bidding system. It is the delight of online sellers! They are smiling all the way to the bank because buyers just don’t understand the basics. At first it seems like a great way to shop! It’s hands free, you get to go off and have your day without bothering any further.
 
Now let’s look at what really happens and when NOT to use the auto bid system. Let’s deal with this in one sentence! NEVER use the auto bid system! Yes, that’s right! Not unless you cannot be present for the closing of the auction and are bidding on something that is rare! If you really must have it, that’s the only time you should make use of an auto bidding system.
 
When you decided to use the auto bid system for something that is readily available and not rare, you will very often land up paying more than you would have with a manual bid. Why is that you may wonder when you have specified a maximum price you will be willing to pay? I’ll tell you!
 
All you need is for two fools to place maximum auto bids and within seconds the price will jump to the maximum plus one increment of the lowest maximum bid. Instantaneously you are paying the maximum for no reason or benefit. Seller’s love fools!
 
So what is the alternative? Well, it goes without saying that you should place your bids manually. You should also wait until the last minute before placing your bid. This avoids the prices from going up by everyone thinking oh that is a bargain and immediately “trying their luck” by placing a bid. This too drives up the price on something that could have sold at a low bargain prices.
 
If you want to purchase online but you don’t want to miss a thing, make use the notify/search facilities. Every day (or less often) you can get an email letting you know what has gone onto the site for sale or auction. I love photography so I have a few saved searches that notify me of new products added of specific brands and types of equipment I am interested in. Every morning I pour over these emails looking for bargains and rarities!
 
Once something I am quite interested in comes up for sale or auction I take one of the following actions; If it is for sale and I really want it (and the price is too good to pass up) I purchase it there and then; If on the other hand it is an auction then there is no hurry!
 
Check the date and time for the end of the auction and set your profile to “Watch” the item. Most sites will let you know when the auction is drawing to an end. Closer to the end of the auction check to see if any crazy people have driven up the price to more than you are willing to pay. If not then set your alarm clock for 15 minutes before the deadline and make sure you are sitting by to put in the last bid! Leave very little time for someone else to get an email telling them they have been outbid.
 
If there is an auto bid on you will soon realise it and just walk away at a price that is no longer a bargain to your pocket and needs. Simple isn’t it? Now that you know, learn to buy sensibly from online auctions.
 
I’ve seen ridiculous bids (often automatic) placed on items that one can buy in the local store WITH a warranty for little more than what it fetches on auction. Learn to research! Look online at what the product actually costs new. Then check what the selling rate and availability is for a used version of the same thing.
 
With this information in mind then place a suitably low bid and stick with what it is worth to you. Remember that you can always go and buy it new with a manufacturer’s warranty! There is no shortage of something that is not “rare.”
 
On a last note, check what the postage costs! Too many people jump in to pick up a bargain without checking for potential pitfalls! It is only a bargain if the price including postage/delivery is good! Also be aware of what import taxes may cost.
 
I once bought a LED video lamp for one South African rand! The postage was R450! Was it a bargain? Yip! I landed up getting it at a good rate and I only paid import customs tax on the value of R1! This I only realised after the fact but it simply illustrates the point that you MUST check what the costs will be to get the item into your possession.
 
Have fun and go purchase lots of interesting things at bargain prices!

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