Going Once, Going Twice

Online auctions offer great deals

To shop for new and used products at a price you can command, try online auctions. “Virtual marketplaces” such as www.ebay.com, www.auctions.yahoo.com, www .luxurylink.com, and www.ubid .com are timed, public sales driven by bids, with items sold to the highest bidder. From DVD players to coins to vacation stays, prices can be up to 70% off retail.

Gia Kenner, a 23-year-old graduate student at Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia, appreciates the bargain-basement prices of eBay because it “doesn’t cramp [her clothing] style.” She purchased a designer handbag for about $300 less than the retail cost. She raves, “As a grad student, it’s more economical for me to purchase things from an online auction. I had a great experience and the item was authentic.”

So how do these auctions work? Websites vary in setup, but on eBay, for example, there are three quick and easy steps: (1) Search for an item by inserting the item’s name or by selecting a category; (2) Buy the item if the price is right. Or, you can enter a bid of the maximum amount you wish to spend; and (3) Once the seller accepts your bid, pay for it. When the payment is received, your item is shipped.

Before you place a bid or buy, review the product details, payment, and shipping instructions, and if you have questions, e-mail the seller. Here are some other invaluable tips:

Check out the seller. View previous buyers’ comments about the seller.

Determine your top price. Don’t bid on an item you don’t intend to buy. Once you place a bid, it’s a binding agreement.

Know what you’re buying. We checked out the 20GB Apple iPod, which retails for $399. We found bids for new ones on eBay ranging from $260–$366.50. However, the terms and conditions were limiting. All sales were final and for U.S. bidders only.

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