Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Some tips for Buying Nail Polish on eBay

I thought I'd put together my list of how I buy on eBay.

First off, this isn't a promotion of eBay, just a little caveat. Also, it's my experience and I mix into that as a seller - not of nail polish - and a buyer. I'm not an expert by a long chalk. I have, however, sold saddles, bits, cleared many estate items, and even sold some magazines I found in the recycle bin! (railroad stuff)
Just call this a brainstorm of wisdom I've acquired since joining eBay in April 1999. OMG. The 20th century!!! Gack!

  • First, know what you are looking for. I know. It sounds easy. But don't jump on the first auction you see. 
  • Don't be shy about reading their tutorials about bidding, paying and anything else. Also check out the communities. The info is there, but eBay isn't great about making it accessible.
  • Use the "Watch" and "Saved Search" functions. You don't need email updates, but you can get a snapshot for market prices, what is listed, going fast and just sitting there over priced. (see more below)
  • If you like something, get to know the seller's kind of sales: some are there with a store, and often repeatedly list the same thing, some people are new and only clearing out a "find" or their stash. Some sellers are regulars, some are inconsistently posting things like overstocks and salon closings. (I paid $15 for over 10 holographic polishes, even with $8 shipping it was a score: Hello Octo Gone Wild!)
  • Check feedback. Check out Toolhaus at , they have a cool feature right on the home page to see what kind of negative feedback a seller has received and given. Poweful knowledge to know if you are dealing with a potential skadooda head.  
  • Look at percentages that the seller has. Now Ebay has a much better way to give feedback. In the past your friend could leave you feedback for the heck of it! Anything lower than 93% and look at the Toolhaus info. It could be they also sell gray market electronics, or refurbed merchandise, so it may have nothing to do with the nail polish they are selling. Or, they could just be a poor seller. Note especially complaints about slowness to ship, poor packaging and broken items.
  • Watch some auctions!! I have to say that this is a boon and a bane to sellers. You can watch up to 200 auctions! NO! YES!!! I keep about 10-15 going at any one time. Even for entertainment purposes! This can give you a flavor for who is bidding, or if a seller sets a fixed price. You can see how often an item comes up, what it's selling for and what affects are changing that. Example: I found 3 bottles of OPI DS Glamour for $7.99 each. I snapped them up, not to flip, but because I am a pathetic blue nail polish addict (hmmmm, where are those blog entries? I need to do more). Later when DS Glamour became all the rage it went up to $30 a bottle. Sellers are not stupid, the regular ones definitely watch the message boards. 
  • You can also save your search! You can make a list of searches and scroll through a lot of auctions. So if you are looking for Misa Dirty Sexy Money, you can check your "My Ebay" page instead of searching through auctions. It will update your searches every time you click on the name. I've got at least 20 going. The only problem: international auctions do not show up.
  • Speaking of international: Don't ignore these sellers. They must actively decide to make their auctions available to US buyers, so they are aware of shipping to the US. Be certain of shipping costs before you bid! I have found that UK sellers have been great, I've shopped Hong Kong, UK and Australia with success. One bobble, more later.
  • You can then vary the search. For example, you can search by brand, then title, you can search titles and descriptions or just the title. You can one search for just a polish name then another for the brand and the name of the polish. Don't forget words that describe a polish, "holographic" for example. Searching in the "title AND description" helps when people have a polish in a lot that you might be willing to pay for the lot to get that polish. You never know!
  • I also like to see what something is "really" going for when I am looking for a hard to find or "rare" polish. Some sellers put these terms in, when really neither is the case. If you look up something by title, then look under "Completed Auctions" you can see a couple of weeks back to see what the market was for an item: is it sitting there and sellers are just relisting? Is it going fast? Or is just one or so up for auction at any time? Are there a dozen or so sitting there? It helps to get a feel for the item. Might be that "rare" and "vhtf" is a come on and not a fact.
  • Be aware that if you type in a brand name like Chanel and include "descriptions" you will get a lot of other auctions that are not related to that brand. This is "keyword spamming" and seller use it to grab bidders. It's wrong. If you don't like it, use the "report auction" feature on the right side of the auction under "other auction info".
  • Check for alternate spellings. Misspellings can mean it doesn't get picked up on a search!
  • You would be surprised how often a seller puts up a perfectly hot item and hasn't done his or her homework. I just found Hidden Treasure for $1.50 "Buy it Now" from a seller who must be clearing out stock for some drug store. Hard to say. Am I bad? I'm not a flipper, I don't resell on Ebay. I just go nuts on flakies. 
  • Ask questions! This, I've found has been a huge help in finding out what you are buying and, in many ways, who you are buying from. I've used the "Contact Seller" feature to ask about shipping, extra photos, clarification of what is in a lot. I've had a lot of great experiences with sellers who are happy to help.
  • Auction descriptions and photos: When people set up an auction they should do their best to describe and photograph an item. Some sellers pull stock photos. OK, if they have a good reputation, not good if they are very new or feedback is poor: you want to see what it is, or have a trust that they will send it to you. 
  • I also suggest that you take care with sellers who steal blogger/ photos. There are some excellent sellers who do this, but this is theft, so I can only say that I avoid these people. Why? It takes time and effort to swatch, photograph, edit, load, and blog about a polish. I do it for free, I'm not getting paid by that seller to use that image, so for me it's a non-starter on an auction. Believe me, I see a seller who starts her OPI at less than $2 a bottle. I still won't bid: I recognize the photos as swiped, and there's no disclosure from her that she has permission. While this isn't a treatise on copyright, suffice to say that when images enter the marketplace of business than that of ideas, it's hands off.
  • Bidding and buying: This could be a whole blog entry. So forgive the length. Research has shown that there is a thing called "Mental Ownership" so if you see something for 99 cents you still feel it's a great deal even though it ends right about the same as the average market price. Crazy? Great for sellers. Buyers must be aware of that and not get fixed on the auction price, always keep track of new listings. Bidding is limited by time, not by who is willing to go the highest, such as in a Sotheby's auction. Proxy bid can be great if there is no one trying to test your bid, but that means you can pay more than you want. The other side of the coin is sniping. I really feel that sniping is such a "guy" thing, perhaps that's why there are so many buy it now options in the nail polish category. If you snipe, you must consider two things: your highest bid and how close you are willing to bid to the end of auction time. You may totally miss the auction because you fail to have a high enough proxy to beat the high bidder or you may just be too late. Period. Combine those and it's the thrill of the hunt incarnate. I honestly get more happiness out of snapping up a well priced buy it now. Although I'm a capital sniper, if I do say so myself. I fooled myself last auction: Item sitting at 99 cents. I bid 40 seconds out. I am sitting pretty at a $1.75 for a bottle of Dior. Yay! Person comes back and it ended with me paying $7. Wah. If I had waited a little longer, I would have surprised them. So, if you bid, don't bid too early. If you sit on an auction for 6 days and 22 hours, it will bite hard when at 25 seconds to go you are beat out.  Boy that was long. I'm not sure what else to add, except that there is always something new coming up. The hard part is waiting and watching.
  • When you win: use Paypal. It's a pain for some people, but you are afforded many safety nets.
  • Shipping: Get delivery confirmation if you can. If none available, you can ask for it, you pay a little extra, but it is doable. Sometimes you see a seller is good, you can give it a pass. Still, a lost package is a pain. I've been very lucky on this point, except once.
  • Also, while on this topic, look at the seller and how they say they will ship, compared to the price. This is a bone of contention for me, it may not be for you. If a seller has a $5 shipping cost on one polish, then they are playing "fee avoidance" UNLESS they ship USPS Priority, otherwise they pocket the difference. When buying multiples, ask ahead of time how they combine shipping, some don't!  Shipping should be fair: don't charge me for shipping to the moon just because you don't want to pay fees.
  • Don't forget that when paying to give them time to combine the shipping, don't pay right out of the gate, unless the seller requires it, this will give you time to let them know you bought multiples and make sure they give you a combined rate. Again: don't forget to ask, I've even told a seller it would be cheaper to give me a flat rate envelope than try to go parcel post. I'm not shy. I also have great feedback, pay fast, and they know they aren't dealing with a newbie.
  • When something goes wrong: Contact the seller immediately, let them know what happened. Take photos of broken items or other problems. I bought some polish from Hong Kong and two of the six bottles broke. Ugh. Seller was basically "tough shitski" so I filed a dispute through eBay. I got my money back because of the photos. Ebay was fair. I left 4 negatives for that seller. 
  • About feedback: Feedback should only be given once you receive your items and are happy with the transactions. Many sellers will not leave feedback first, great, I don't mind! I will, though, wait until I've got my item in my hot little hand and it's in the shape I ordered it as well as looking like what I purchased. Ultimately: don't worry about complaining, you are the customer. Do NOT leave feedback until your issue is resolved. If replacements or refunds are fast and furious, give a good feedback, a seller can't help shipping problems. If a seller is slow or packed it so that it breaks or sends you a used bottle: contact them. Complain. Document. Then dispute. I was sent a fake purse from the UK. I disputed, sent photos and got my money back. 
  • Final thoughts: Ebay is a bunch of individuals. It's not like going to Nordstrom. Some people are better than Nordstrom, others are barely coherent. It can be also a place where creeps try to rip people off. This is why I am very circumspect about a seller with low feedback and a poor percentage. The main thing is to read the auction. Example: a seller had a nice polish up for a great price, I almost pulled the trigger on Buy it Now. Whoaaaa!! Turns out they had $69 shipping from Australia. Now, I've purchased polish from Australia through Ebay sellers and NOTHING like $69 approaches shipping costs: this seller was ripping buyers and eBay off. 
There it is, my down and dirty random thoughts. I wanted to publish this mainly because fall is coming up and thus begins the busiest selling time on Ebay: people are inside, back from vacation, back to work, back to school, and the holiday season is coming up. I know sellers who only start selling in September and stop in early December. The market is busier, and I know there are good deals to be had, though increasingly rare.

Let me digress for a moment: in many way eBay sellers forget that the costs of eBay are much cheaper than any physical location that they could actually rent. They are often, though, the first to complain about fees. Yes, fees are there, and for the seller who doesn't sell much or often, it can seem high, but eBay is a large venue with a large customer base willing to buy from you. So, when a seller seems to grouse about fees, pads shipping costs, or complains about time and effort, I call BULL! I've got a couple of saddles and some estate jewelry I'm selling on Ebay, I get it! It's not the cheapest, but when someone does decide to buy it, it's sold. It's never "easy" to sell anything, and when you pay for a huge venue that has a build in customer base, you definitely pay for that privilege. And not that much when you think about it.

This is why sellers get the reputation for being "scalpers". Many are taking polishes that are less available and more desirable and capitalizing on the  hot market. Just like house flipping of 2006. Remember that? I do love to watch the triple digit auctions as an audience member, not a serious shopper, but who is buying that stuff. No, I don't totally begrudge the sellers. I get it. If I had a saddle that was worth $3000 versus $400 I wouldn't be selling it for less than I knew I could get. This is where the buyers are in control: if you wait until the right price happens, then you are in control of the market. Not visa versa. When buyers go nuts over, let's use Chanel Jade for example, a rare polish, then you are helping sellers make a decision about pricing.
It's that simple.

I hope this all helps! It's long and a bit of a ramble, but I so hate to read about people who get burned by bad sellers or forget that they have the right to fair treatment. I also advocate for fair treatment of a seller. Even a scalper. Yes, I have purchased items from sellers who have right next to their cheaper polishes $50 OPIs. And, even though I didn't buy the top o' the line item, I still got great customer service. The truth is, people still throw out old polish, and it does get rare and hard to find, especially smaller labels that don't turn out a load of stuff!

Any experiences you want to add? Post a comment! :D

Thanks for reading my little nail polish journal!

ps...I tried to break up the text with some hilarious clip art, but it didn't want to fit into the list function, and I may re-edit this a few times before I'm done with this entry!
pps...I received a motherlode of polishes in one day, and I grabbed my camera (home made clip art!) to show how often I get stuff. That actually was a lot in one day! A rarity!


  1. I buy lots and lots from ebay (and also sell lots) and I agree with your advice...a well written and helpful post for Ebay newbies!

  2. I've never bought from ebay. Seemed scary to me. I was also afraid of getting ripped off. You've given lots of great advice. I wish you could post a list of places you've bought from that are good.

  3. I thought about doing that, but I didn't want to endorse sellers specifically.
    Also, I've not been happy with long time seller who have a lot of polish up as well as been happily surprised by one off sellers, too.

    In general, feedback, knowing the average price for an item, and good photos and good feedback are good hallmarks for starting out.

    Funny note: I just got blocked by a Korean seller who didn't mention her polishes were 7mL not 15mL in her add because I gave her a neutral. Oh well! Her competition was glad to sell me the Etudes I was craving!


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