eBay is a worldwide flea market for goods and buyer pitfalls

By John Toth

AI am officially an eBay junkie. I look for deals and unique items, and I can spend hours at night while I should be sleeping just browsing through stuff that I absolutely don’t need and may not even want.

But, it can be annoying.

The vast majority of the time I shop locally. I like to see and touch the stuff I’m about to buy. But some of the items offered on eBay are just not available in stores.

Like my 1960s vintage portable record player. It plays 33s and 45s. For those of you who grew up in the CD age, that stands for revolutions per minute. That’s how fast the record turned as the needle zigzagged in the groove, generating the sound.

The problem is, the seller forgot to mention that one of the two channels does not work.

Or, the used laptop I got for $180, plus shipping. This was a single processor, but a very nice machine, well worth the price – well, almost. There were a few things wrong the seller forgot to mention. The operating system was pirated, and the laptop kept disconnecting from the AC plug and ran on batteries (a minor inconvenience if you want to use it for longer than one hour).

Then there’s the custom-made dashboard cover for my 2001 van. The cover looks great. You can’t buy that in any store around here. The problem is that I bought two, and one got lost or stolen from my mailbox.

Do you see a trend? These are the pitfalls.

I didn’t do anything about the record player. It was, after all, a great machine 30 years ago, and I bought it for next to nothing. There was not a lot I could do about the lost or stolen item. USPS tracking showed that it was delivered. I hope someone enjoys a dash cover that only fits a certain old van.

I followed eBay’s grievance process for the defective computer, and a month later, they refunded my purchase price and freight. I was very happy. You have to know how to negotiate your way around eBay. It’s like a giant flea market.

When I saw a vintage reel-to-reel tape deck, I had to get it. I bid on it, and hoped to get it for a good price. I was outbid in a matter of minutes. There must be bigger geeks out there than me, because someone paid more than $200 for it.

To me it’s a toy, and it was not worth that much. The same thing happened when I bid on a vintage Super 8 movie projector. I was outbid instantly. There is just so much I want to spend on stuff like that.

And then I saw how much printer cartridges and toners cost, and I was hooked. I ordered a year’s supply. I can now print in color as much as I want without worrying about how much ink is being used.

As I became more and more proficient in using eBay, the mailman and UPS truck started making more frequent stops at my door. My wife was wondering what they would deliver next. I went crazy for a while, but all of it was things that I either needed or really wanted.

Hey, wait a minute - a Dell laptop. I’m putting in a bid. I hope I get it. No, I don’t need it, but if I win, it will be a heck of a deal. Oops. I got outbid. Never mind....