I’ve been an eBay user for decades. Ever since I first discovered the service when I was about 14 and started buying and selling paintball equipment online, I’ve sworn by the great deals that can be had on the world’s premier auction site. To this day, I’m known for my prowess with online bargain hunting…but I noticed something about eBay that could be costing you a lot of money.
Just to get something out of the way, I’m also fond of supporting local small businesses. However, I’m not the type of person who believes that great amounts of sacrifice should go into doing so. I’m willing to pay a few bucks extra at a local shop, but I’m not willing to spend 30% more than the online price. Ain’t gonna happen. Is that bad for the local economy? Not at all. Every dime that a person saves by buying things online increases the amount of money they can spend locally. It’s the whole Walmart argument all over again…sure, the new big box store might put the hurt on a mom-and-pop grocer, but when families in the area save around $2000 a year shopping at Walmart, that’s $2000 more that they can spend at other local retailers, including restaurants and specialty stores. In the end, it’s a net gain.
Anyway, I’ve lost a lot of faith in eBay lately. It’s not the one-stop bargain shop that it used to be, and the reason is something called “dropshipping.” I’m using the word in the sense of the money-making reselling system that has gained enormous popularity as of late. Yes, I’m all for small business and entrepreneurism, but I can’t help but feel like this dropshipping model exploits the heck out of shoppers.
How? Well, here’s how it works in a nutshell:
- You find a listing on eBay for a new widget selling at $25. You buy it and pay through PayPal.
- The eBay seller is notified of your purchase and receives the payment. They then log into their Amazon account, purchase the item as a gift for $15 and have it shipped to your address.
- The eBay seller just made $10 for being a completely unnecessary go-between.
- You lose.
That’s right. You could have just skipped the middleman and bought the item directly from Amazon, saving yourself a decent chunk of change. These markups usually aren’t small, mind you. After researching this strangely successful business, I figured that most items are marked up around 30% by the sellers who list them on eBay. That’s a price increase of 30% for you, the consumer, and it can be completely avoided.
How do you avoid this unnecessary over-payment?
It’s pretty simple, actually. Shop on Amazon and skip eBay altogether. (The exception: when you’re buying a used product, eBay still has a lot of great deals.) If you see something being sold as “new” on eBay, give it a search on Amazon before you buy. There’s a really good chance you’ll find it cheaper and direct from the source especially if you only see a single listing for the item on eBay.
Here’s an example:
I searched for the Survivor Filter (a really cool water purification device, I’ll be posting a review soon) on Amazon and found it for $29.99. I then searched for it on eBay and found a single listing. The exact same product was listed at $49.00. That means someone is going to make almost $20 just for taking the buyer’s money and placing a proxy order on Amazon.
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by double-checking Amazon before you decide to buy!
Slainte, and happy shopping!