Being cost conscious and eco-friendly, I’m a well seasoned thrift/second-hand/consignment store shopper. But, in the last few years with all that is going on at home (that would be this and this and this), I’ve started buying clothes on e-bay.
I like that you can shop in your jammies, any time of day or night. You can linger, compare prices, ask questions and get seriously great deals. The only thing you can’t do is try the garment on. Sounds like a major downside, right? Well, let me share my strategies, and you’ll see there are ways to make this work.
1) Figure out your favorite brands/designers. You might have a couple of brands you like for casual wear, two more for jeans, a few for work apparel and a few more for shoes. If you don’t know or can’t figure out your favorite brands/designers from your own closet or shopping history, you will need to do some real life shopping first.
2) You also need to know what size you are for each of these designers/brands. Pay attention to if you’re a different size for tops/bottoms and, if you’re between sizes, figure out if you tend to lean one way for particular brands that you like.
3) Take your measurements (bust, waist, hips) with a soft tape measure, and note that down. This is especially important if you’re between sizes or if an item is not true to size. Ebay sellers often list measurements and it’s nice to compare before committing to buy.
4) Search ebay for those 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. Yes, I’m color obsessed and have had mine analysed twice (see A Truly Personal Palette and From Her to My Season for details) yet I generally play it safe with color choices on ebay, sticking to colors that aren’t 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.)
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 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.
7) Compare photos of the same item to get the best sense of color and style. See if other sellers have the same item, or google the item and see if you can find a photo elsewhere. You’d be surprised how helpful this can be. Colors, weights and lengths can look different. You’ll 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 a true red?” or “How tall are those boots?”
8) Read descriptions carefully. The condition of the garment should be clearly stated. Is it new with tags? Is it in 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.
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? Gift it? Or would you be fine with paying return shipping charges, if the seller accepts returns? Think this through before any purchases. I’ve resold a couple of items and have a sweater waiting to be dyed.
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. I’ve only had one experience that wasn’t rectified as I’d have liked, and it wasn’t bad enough to contact ebay. Generally, sellers want you to be happy and to write a positive review for them.
14) “Buy it now” is most like real shopping. I started ebay shopping using items listed in that way only.
15) The better deals, however, are usually by “auction.” You may find yourself in a bidding war, so from the start have in mind an amount you’re prepared to pay. Remember the same item may be listed more than once or it may be posted by another seller soon, so if this one gets away, don’t despair!
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!
My hubby yelled, “It’s Christmas! Somebody’s got lots of packages today!” Each item was a success. Hooray!