Ten Reasons Why You Should Not Buy Impulse Items on Ebay

When the call for content regarding “Ten Reasons Why You Should Not Buy” came across my desk, I felt as if my guardian angel had placed it there. Impulse buying on Ebay! A bad, bad thing, yet it is a characteristic, a trait, upon which much of the mission of Ebay itself is built. You’ve just gotta have that Botkier bag because it’s a great price! $450 for a bag that retails for $1200 – brand new, all tags, dust bag included! Great color, great style, what a deal – but can’t you really live without a $450 handbag?

Ten Reasons Why Not to Buy Impulse Items on Ebay:

1. NEVER buy any item on ‘impulse’, whether it be on Ebay, at the grocery store, the dollar store, the department store, or the museum gift shop. It is especially difficult not to buy on impulse on Ebay, I’ve found from personal experience. If you are ‘watching’ an Ebay item, they will actually send you emails telling you frantically that “Your watched item is ending soon!” God forbid that you miss out purchasing an item that you most likely were casually watching or wanted to see at what price the auction actually closed (if indeed it did close!) Impulse buying is a personality trait, a characteristic that many of us share. We may be impulsively generous, impulsively funny, impulsively outgoing. But being an impulsive buyer is not a good thing.

2. Items purchased on impulse at Ebay are generally not returnable! You have to have a pretty darned good reason to ask for a return, and most likely, those reasons won’t be accepted anyway. Read the fine print in the ‘place your bid’ column: ‘you are entering into a legally binding contract’, blah blah blah. This applies especially to those of us who are impulse buyers. You hit the button, it’s pretty much a done deal.

3. When you impulsively purchase an item on Ebay, you most likely didn’t have a chance to do any real comparison shopping. What may look like a great deal – say, an authentic boxed Chanel bangle for $179 – may at first glance seem like a great buy! You may (or, heaven help us, may not) know what the price of similar bangles go for on the site: $200, $400, and significantly higher. But you haven’t given yourself the chance to compare apples to apples. Why would this particular item be listed for such a ‘low’ price, compared to similar items? Does it have all the same bells and whistles, i.e., original box, paperwork, authenticity card? Is it brand new, or in ‘like new’ condition? By hitting that ‘Buy It Now’ button, you’ve cut off your chances to do the much-needed homework that you should do in making any purchases, especially those over $100.

4. You may be a collector or aficionado of a certain brand or a certain item. If something pops up on the site, your first inclination is to – grab it! No matter what the cost, what the condition, whether it’s genuine or a reproduction, you must have it for your collection or your closet. The Ebay mentality is that if you don’t grab it, somebody else will! And rather than risk losing what you think – operative word here being ‘think’ – you must have, you place a bid immediately rather than taking the time to check out the auction thoroughly. Ebay and other online auction sites loves folks like you and me. It’s our momentary lapse in judgment that keeps them going – all the way to the bank. THINK before you place your bid! Where exactly would this item fit into the grander scheme of your plans?

5. Most items which are bought on impulse are, unfortunately, expensive, particularly on online auction sites. The deal is just too good to let it slip away – the item, or something similar, may never, ever be listed or made available again. This ‘gotta have it and have it now’ mentality will not only lead to an overstuffed closet, but also to a monstrous credit card bill! Say you’re eyeing up a pair of Christian Loubotain heels in near mint condition in your size – for $275, used. Now, this designer’s shoes do range from $500 and up (way, way, way up) for brand new merchandise. But do you really need another pair? Even if it is half-price of retail?

6. To avoid making those impulsive auction buys, especially if your credit card bill(s) are creeping out of control, take a moment to MAKE A LIST. Make a list of exactly WHAT items you are looking to purchase, and at what PRICE. Say you’re looking to buy Chanel ballerina flats in your size shoe. Write down ‘Chanel ballerina flats, size 8’. Next, think through the MAXIMUM PRICE you can afford to pay. Note: not what you’re WILLING to pay, but what you can actually AFFORD. Next to the first sentence, fill in that dollar amount: $100, $200, no more than $250. UNDERLINE the price that you can afford. If something comes up that looks interesting – merely interesting, not life or death – and is listed for $295, then MOVE ON. Either leave the auction site or log off your computer, if that’s what it takes! POST THAT LIST BY YOUR COMPUTE SCREEN, AND LEARN TO LOVE – AND LIVE BY – IT!

7. Obviously, impulse buying on Ebay is what makes the system (Ebay’s!) work and be profitable. Oddly enough, impulsive buying on that auction site does NOT necessarily translate into impulse buying elsewhere. You might be pretty quick to hit that ‘Buy It Now’ button on Ebay, but look long and hard at sale or regularly-priced items at Nordstroms or Macey’s. It is one thing to see an item priced on sale for $200 up close and personal, yet quite another to view a picture of it on Ebay’s web site. What’s the difference? When you’re shopping at a retail location, the transaction must also be completed on a ‘buy it now’ basis. Yet…you have to fork over your credit card, cash or check immediately, and physically take the item home with you. Once home, if you decide that oh, my gosh, I really don’t need this/I spent way too much on this/This bag does not go with anything else that I own – take your pick! You now DO have the option of returning the item in most, if not all, cases. (Final sales are different. You are then royally screwed!) You actually have the item immediately in hand – and you can, in most cases, return it for what you paid. Not so on Ebay – returning an item, assuming that you actually can, is a long and arduous process. You have to make your case for a return (ha! good luck!), then bundle up the item, schlep to the post office or mail store, and mail it back to the seller. You will, most likely, get your purchase price back, but you have lost out on your shipping charges (generally both ways), and more importantly, your time in doing so.

8. The really scary thing about impulse buying on Ebay is that it may translate into other areas of your life. While there is indeed a difference as noted in #7 above, that doesn’t mean that some folks aren’t immune to the lure of the buy. Some of us get accustomed to the ‘have to have it right now’ mentality that we go ahead and start making spot purchases. Oftentimes, we are literally just too lazy or, more probably, too busy to return the item within the required time period. And some stores won’t offer full or even partial credits. What you may end up with, assuming that you can drag yourself off the couch while watching QVC or clicking away on your computer, is that the retail store will only offer you an instore credit, no matter how soon you return it.

9. One of the most disturbing trends about impulse buying on Ebay is that it gives you an opportunity to not only rack up massive credit card debt, but can also destroy your credit rating. Credit card interest rates are at an all-time high. If you’re paying the minimum balance on your credit cards, I’ll bet good money that you’re one of those folks who deliberately avoids looking at the monthly finance charges: $40, $75, $150 or more! It’s now a never-ending cycle of trying not to make those impulse buys but also trying to pay off the monies you spent on them. You may end up in that most dreaded of all scenario where you can’t pay your credit card bill(s) off all at once. The thrill of receiving your impulse buy via the U.S. Post Office or DSL or UPS is now way overcome by the dread of receiving that monthly statement (or two, three or more statements) in your mail box monthly. You’ve created a huge black hole in your credit rating; perhaps consider filling it in with some of those impulsive items…

10. And the worst of ten reasons why not to buy impulse items on Ebay? When you do, you give into a character flaw. You run up incessant credit card and bank charges. You are caught up in the moment, in the emotions of ‘I’ve just gotta have it now”. You don’t have to ‘have it’ now. You actually may never, ever truly need or would use the item in question. Perhaps the best antidote to this syndrome, and it really is a problem for thousands of visitors to the Ebay auction site, is this: What else could or would you do with the amount of money you’re about to spend? A gold bangle bracelet at the ‘bargain’ price of $300 with ‘buy It Now’: how else would you spend that $300? Would it buy you dinner out for your family for two weeks or more? How many bags of groceries would it put on your table? Is there something that your child or children have really, really wanted to have – a new bike, a special dress, a new CD, perhaps even a guitar, violin, or keyboard – for which that $300 would really better be best served? How thrilled would your significant other be if you did NOT spend that amount of money? Could you apply that $300 towards your next mortgage or car payment instead?

When that fabulous buy flashes on your computer screen, before you hit that ‘BIN’ button – THINK before you act. And don’t just think about what else you could do with that money – there are other people in your life to consider as well…

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