Coping: With eBay Deals

For a lot of people, one Memorial Day pleasure is hitting eBay to see whatsup.

There are all kinds of deals to be had, but what’s the really best way to get them?

After years of buying mostly ham radio equipment on eBay, here are my shopping tips:

1. Be specific what you want.

eBay is a powerfully addictive place.  It’s like a cross between a high end fashion outlet, used car lot, and a surplus store…there’s something for everyone. In order NOT to allow your life to dribble out your wifi, it’s a good idea to be very precise in what you want.

Take ham radio, for example.  I have several HF (worldwide-capable) stations, already.  I don’t need anything, per se.  BUT there is ONE piece of equipment I’d like to have and there’s a budget for it.  It’s called a Johnson Pacemaker.  A real “boat anchor” it is the size-match to the Johnson Thunderbolt amplifier I told you about a while back.

Once you get highly specific about what you’re looking for, the use of eBay gets a lot simpler.  It’s no longer a “time sink.”  It’s a mission.

2. One Complete Read, then New Listings Only

I got onto this when I noticed that I was spending (*wasting!) lots of time reading ads.  Sure, sure.  Fun…yeah.  But in terms of measurable outcome?  As in finding what I wanted and getting on with it?  Not so much.

Now, when I need something, make ONE pass through all the listings and if I don’t see what I’m after, I look only at the NEW listings.

There are several reasons to do this:  First, I found with highly collectible radio gear that the really good stuff never made it to the Ending Date – if it was a BIN (buy it now) item.  It would be sucked within minutes of being listed.

Think of eBay as a goods “conveyor belt” – all the deals go in as New Listings – but some of the best deals are the just-listed BIN’s.

3.Make Offers

This is one a lot of people don’t have the patience for – and with my “Now, Now Now!” personality-type, it’s been  a tough adjustment for me.

Take that Amplifier, for example.  The BIN was $650, but it said “Or Best Offer.”

Since there were not a lot of people likely to be bidding (this is nichy stuff), putting in a low-ball bid ($300) and having it rejected, but then raising the bid to $400, the :deal came home.

A key bit of psychology here:  If you make a lowball offer, and it gets rejected, wait a few days if the listing is a long one.  If you counter right away, the seller will sense you really, really want it and are just trying to screw them out of a few shekels.

On the other hand, if you make a counter offer  three or four days later, and it’s not much higher than your last offer, this raises a question in the mind of the seller.  “Should I, or not….no one has used the BIN option, so maybe this won’t sell…”  Use that to your advantage.

When people buy things, few ask for a discount.  Because of this, people pay more than they need to.  This kind of thinking is what causes people to pay too much for cars, for example.

One of the key lessons, if you read much about sales (and it’s in Trump’s The Art of the Deal) is that you should always be willing to walk away from any deal.

4.Use a Search Monitor

Since I know which category a Johnson Pacemaker will show up in (“Consumer Electronics”) it’s easy enough to head over to and set up a an email alert that will go off when the desired item is listed.  Or, you can try which does much the same thing.

The key thing with either is to be specific enough that you ONLY get an alert email if it’s something you really want.  A Johnson Valiant transmitter (old school AM beast) would be fun, but I don’t need another radio.  Be a connoisseur.

These are just some notes I’ve made over the years.  Don’t waste your time with bid-sniping programs.  Most of the time you will lose.  If there’s something you want it’s much easier with an underpriced BIN or Make Offer listing.  Or, and there’s a lot of this in the ham radio world, put in a realistic upper bid limit and that’s that.

Good luck!  (And comments, as always, are welcome!)

Website Progress

Mostly done, now.

The charts are located two places now:  On the bottom of all pages and posts.

Plus, there’s a new chart page in the menu structure.  In addition to the Kitco charts on metals, this page has charts of the SPY and the Q’s that (should, knock on wood) update during market hours.

You will also see display ads.  I’m using Google as a provider and they make the decisions about how many ads and spacing and such.  This is something of a money-pit already, so having a little offset from the Google ads is a good thing.

OK, a quick check of markets and then off to light up the plasma cutter, the store, and looking at a welding table I found on Craigslist….maybe.  We’ll see how time’s doing.

Write when you get rich,

author avatar
George Ure
Amazon Author Page: UrbanSurvival Bio:

5 thoughts on “Coping: With eBay Deals”

  1. Here’s some of my experience as an ebay buyer. “Make offer” can work for some very thin markets, and it can work well. Often 10% down will be accepted immediately. If someone is offering a good price on a popular item, they may come back with a counter only a couple of dollars low, and if you read the fine print, the free shipping is gone. Some savvy sellers use the “offer” thing just to get more interest and engagement. Some things are not worth fighting over.

    Regarding sniping, don’t bother if there’s a BIN and the item is unique. Buy it if the price is right. If not, then make an offer if that’s available. If there’s no BIN and you must have it, then snipe and snipe as much as you’re willing to pay. The advantage is that you get your emotions out of the game. Do something else in the final moments of the auction and come back and see if you won. Don’t get into a bidding war. If it’s not unique or needed today, then just take your time.

  2. Excellent!

    If I am looking for a specific item, I do a specific search for that item. If I am not looking for a specific item, I always do a general search, then once every item related to the one I seek shows up, I’ll start paring the search with logical operands and delimiters, until just the related items remain. My “saved searches” typically return between zed and 30 items, always listed “New Items” first…

    I will research the item I seek, to see what it has ACTUALLY sold for, in the recent past, and base a bid or offer on successful sales, not a seller’s ask price. ALWAYS check Amazon and run a Google or ZZF search! It is not unusual for an eBay item to be priced above new-item retail.

    I used to use a sniping program when I was on the road a lot. That’s a dice-roll because eBay makes “adjustments” to the underlying code of its bidding interface at least monthly, and often several times weekly. eBay’s bidding front-end doesn’t change, but the snipe program has to be updated to mesh with the params of the new underlying code or it doesn’t function.

  3. EBay is something of an Amazon for all-sorts that one isn’t typically going to find at the local Wal-Mart. A few years back after one of your reminders about emp threats to current day electronics, I managed to pick up a pre-owned vacuum tube Hallicrafters S38D radio receiver on eBay. I paid the hobbyist’s asking price which was pretty modest. It’s of late ’50’s manufacture with the Chicago factory stickers still attached to the underside. It works fine. The only update it could really use is a grounded plug installation.

  4. My eBay rules:
    1) Be sure the seller has a large number of sales.
    This indicates they’re a business and work at it. Beware of brand new sellers. Often they are crooks, “in & out” with a different identity next week.
    2) Check “other” items they offer to see if they have actual product knowledge about the item, or they’re an
    eBay “attic” selling a pile of random Krappe.
    3) Whatever it is, there will be another one along shortly. If the price isn’t right, let it go and await another one. Have faith there WILL be one soon.
    4) eBay’s ratings aren’t as useful as they once were, but they can serve as an alert to the real bad pennies.

  5. George
    I found and purchased a small lot of TI SN74LS76 chips I need for a project that was stalled due to obsolete parts. I could not find those chips any where and was surprised to find them on ebay. There coming from Hong Kong through a dealer with a 99% rating on ebay. Cost plus shipping was $15 and change. Just type in your part number on ebay and you just might find it in the global market!

    Happy Hunting

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