Wednesday, September 5, 2007

My First eBay Experience

Recently, I opened an eBay account and started bidding on items. Let me take a step backward for those who are not familiar with how eBay works. Before I opened an eBay account, I setup an account on PayPal which is like a bank account that you use to pay for eBay items. While it is not entirely necessary, most sellers on eBay prefer PayPal. One can also pay with a credit card, but PayPal is the entity that handles the transaction. So, I figured that I would have to end up opening a PayPal account anyway.

I was in the market to buy a Hewlett Packard 92274A (74A) toner cartridge for my 13 year old HP LaserJet 4MP printer. For the record, a new one of these replacement cartridges cost about $90 retail. On eBay I saw that they could be had for a lot cheaper, especially those that are designated as remanufactured cartridges. My first 4 or 5 attempts to buy a cartridge didn't meet with much success as I was outbid (sometimes at the very last minute) by somebody else. Up until this point, I had been bidding on cartridges one at a time. Frustrated by my lack of success, I started putting in bids on multiple items at once, hoping that I might be able to get one of them. To make a long story short, my bidding now became too successful, and I ended up winning two toner cartridges from the same seller. This is where the fun began.

I immediately tried to contact the seller to see if he would be willing to combine the shipping charges since most sellers do that when you win multiple auctions. There was no reply to my Emails after a couple of days. I then contacted eBay to see if I could get the seller's phone number. This is when I found out that his telephone was disconnected! Not a great first experience. So, I informed eBay, and they also could not confirm his contact information. For reference, when this happens eBay restricts the member's activities until the outdated contact information is corrected. I eventually got this updated info. So finally after several days, I did make contact with the seller, and he was willing to knock a few dollars off of the shipping. I then made my payment through PayPal.

What happened next was that I think the seller went on vacation or something. Again, there was no response to my Emails. *sigh* After another week or so, I made contact again, and he informed me that my goods had already been shipped. So, then it was up to UPS to deliver the goods. This also seemed to take forever, but in reality it took about 8 days.

In the end, about 3 weeks after the saga began (with setting up a PayPal account), I completed my first eBay purchase. This experience is certainly the opposite of when you just go into a store and walk out with the product you want. I did end up saving quite a bit over the $90+ I would have paid at say Office Depot. But, I wonder if it was worth the hassle. Since I consider this purchase from eBay a learning experience, I would say that it is interesting to learn how the mechanics of the system work. My new toner cartridge is now in my old printer, and I have one more cartridge to spare. These cartridges last me about 2 years each, so I'm set for a while.

I think I'll go looking for something else to buy now.