A Dirty Little Secret

At the risk of sounding like linkbait, I have a pretty neat secret that can save you hundreds of dollars – no, not on car insurance, but on more tangible goods. It’s something that seems incredibly obvious once you think about it, but has been a real eye-opener to people I’ve spoken with. A warning, though: If you’re predisposed to impulsive, spur-of-the-moment online purchases, you might want to avoid the rest of this post; your bank account will thank you for it.

There are thousands of people willing to sell you the “secrets” of making money on eBay – but, a couple years ago, I latched on to the “secret” is about saving money on that popular auction website. In a nutshell, it’s this:

The best deals on eBay aren’t auctions. Sure, there are good, even great deals to be had in poorly-described, mis-categorized, and bulk-lot auctions, but if you’re searching for an item – or browsing a category – with the default “ending soonest” sorting, you’re missing out on the best deals of all. Every day – hell, every hour – items get listed on eBay with “Buy it Now” prices less than the current high bid on identical items in identical condition. Most people don’t notice, because who looks at listings ending a week from now? The “conventional wisdom” that’s always repeated – and which I disagree with – is that you should concentrate on stuff ending soonest. “Power buyers” know, however, that if you want a good deal on something – be it a Speed Graphic camera, a Sunbeam mixer, a Waterman “Phileas” fountain pen, an M40 gas mask, a pair of Wharfedale speakers, a first-edition copy of The Silmarillion, or whatever else floats your boat – frequently checking the most recently-listed items is the way to score excellent deals. Most of these truly attractively-priced Buy-It-Now listings don’t last even four hours, and few last as long as twelve, so you have to check somewhat frequently. (A friend bet me I couldn’t get him a certain film camera, which regularly ends on eBay auctions around $200-250, for his broke-student budget of $100. It took me three days of refreshing the most recent listings once an hour, but I eventually snagged one, in mint condition – for $75. Yes, I got lucky; the listing had been up for just eighteen minutes.) Sure, it requires some effort on your part, and works best when you know exactly what you’re looking for, but so long as you’re not shopping for cutting-edge, brand-new gadgets (current digital cameras, for example) this is the very best way to save the largest amount of money possible.

For what it’s worth, the same strategy also holds true for “eBay store” listings – indeed, even more so. In the store listings, which are all “buy it now”, the best deals are never among those ending soonest – those listings have been viewed by countless others, and deemed unexciting. (Harsh, but true.) The interesting stuff is the most recently-listed; that’s where you find the good deals nobody’s noticed yet.

Published in: Geekiness, General | on January 31st, 2008| Comments Off on A Dirty Little Secret

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