robertOnlineAuction.comThe Savvy Shopper by Robert Robinson

So you have found an item on the auction site that you would really like to have. . . What now? Do I place a bid on it and hope for the best, or should I just assume it is a rip off and forget it? I would really like to have this item, so what can I do to protect myself if I decide to bid?
Here are a few pointers to help you decide.
• Check the seller’s feedback score. Sellers with high positive feedback scores are usually very dependable, and can be counted on to conduct an honest transaction. To check a member’s feedback score, click on the number in parentheses behind the member’s “username”. If you would like to see a detailed report of the actual feedbacks that have been left for this member, click on the “View All” button.
• If you have any Questions about the item you are interested in, ask before you bid. Once you bid, you are then obligated to follow through with the auction, unless you are out-bid by another member before the auction ends. Click on the “Information” icon located under the “Item Details” box on the auction page. This will bring you to a message box where you can ask the seller your question.
• If you are not an expert on the item you are thinking about bidding on, do some research to familiarize yourself with the item. A Google search would be a good place to start.
• Read the description of the auction carefully before you bid. Make sure you know exactly what it is you are bidding on. If the title of the auction says the item is “Gold”, then somewhere in the description it should tell you if it is 14 karats, or 10 karats, or perhaps gold plated, or gold filled, or maybe even “gold-tone”. If you are bidding on a high ticket item, or an antique, It is always good to ask: Is this an authentic item, or is it a replica? Is this a new item, or used; and if it is used, how old is it?
• Be sure and check the seller’s shipping and handling policies. You can do this by clicking on the “Shipping Policy” tab on the auction page. Shipping and handling charges can vary greatly from one seller to the next. If these charges are not explained here, this would be a good question to ask before you bid.
• It is always a good idea to pay the extra money for insurance and tracking information. Then, if there is a problem, you are covered by the insurance, and you can also track the shipping progress on-line.
• Check the forms of payment a seller will accept by clicking on the “Payment Options” tab on the auction page. Paying by credit card is usually a good option, because if there is a problem when the item arrives, you will normally have the option of requesting a “charge back” from your credit card company. On the other hand, if you would like to pay in a way that is not listed, be sure to ask if that is acceptable before you bid. In any event, if a seller agrees to accept your check, they will probably not ship the item until the check clears their bank, which can be as long as two weeks in some cases.
• When the auction ends, the auction winner will receive an “End of auction E-mail” that will include the Seller’s verified address, and E-mail address. At that time the winning bidder should contact the seller within three days, or as soon as possible, using the included e-mail address to make arrangements for payment. Or, you may contact the seller by O-mail.
• O-mail—your personal “Direct Mail Box”. We recommend that you use O-mail in any contact you have with other members because O-mail goes directly from member to member, and there is no danger of O-mail messages being deleted as junk mail, or otherwise filtered.
• Wait until you have received the item and are happy with the transaction before you leave feedback. If for some reason you, or the seller has left negative feedback, and the auction has since been successfully resolved. Our feedback system allows either of you, or both, if necessary, to go in and edit previously posted feedback.
These are only a few of the common sense things to keep in mind when shopping on an Internet auction site. Although most online auctions are completed in a timely and satisfactory way, there is always the possibility that once in a while, one or two may go astray.