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5 Questions that On-Line Auctions Sellers Wish You Wouldn't Ask

By M A Dorman
Posted Thursday, October 28, 2004

Buyers should be able to ask any seller this set of difficult questions to help determine whether a transaction will be fun or painful.
On-line buying and bidding can be a lot of fun when all is going well. But if you’re getting ready to part with a significant sum of money for an item purchased from a stranger, then you need to ask a few pointed questions.

Here are 5 questions to ask BEFORE you bid on a serious high-ticket auction.

1. Why is your shipping and handling fee (S&H) higher than the actual postage?

This is a loaded question that has sparked many a heated debate. The seller should be able to explain to your satisfaction that his/her S&H fees are reasonable. Most businesses have to purchase shipping supplies and some even have to pay help or other companies to ship for them. Thus a handling fee is not unreasonable. It is the size that will matter. Too much handling compared to the postage and you have a gouger on your hands.

2. How do you respond to bidders who ask “dumb” questions?

Buyers and bidders should feel free to ask questions of any seller. The seller should respond quickly and kindly to all inquiries. A seller’s failure to respond should send a signal to the buyer that this could be a difficult or problematic seller who may also not answer you when you have a problem. The tone of a response can give clues to the seller’s disposition – will s/he be easy or hard to work with. A sarcastic response or one that implies that the asker is a blind idiot is out of place and a strong indicator of a temperamental seller best avoided.

3. What would you do if I left you negative feedback?

It is to be hoped that this is not necessary – that the buyer and seller can work out any problems together. Buyers, as well as sellers, should make every possible effort to work out the deal so that negative feedback is not deserved by either party. But how will the seller respond in the face of fully deserved negative feedback? Will unjust retaliatory feedback result? Or will the seller admit fault and try to resolve the issue?

4. Is this your business or just a hobby?

How serious is the seller about providing good service and products? If the seller has a solid track record of sales and feedback, it will show. Even part time sellers can bring a sense of professionalism to this business. The ones to avoid are the ones that really don’t care because they were just cleaning out the closets anyway and can quit anytime.

5. Do you leave feedback first or will you wait until I do?

Lots of buyers call this “taking feedback hostage” - or "I won’t leave feedback until you do". This has come about in part due to nonpaying buyers leaving retaliatory feedback for sellers who complained. Sellers who feel they’ve been unfairly beaten up before now won’t leave feedback until they’re sure that the buyer has left good feedback first. This results in an unhappy standoff. It is helpful to know where your seller stands on this issue.

In the end, it is up to you, the Buyer, to be knowledge not only about the goods but about just who it is that you’re dealing with. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sending my hard earned money off to a stranger without a little up front investigation.

After all – Caveat Emptor

About the Author
madorman is a veteran of on-line auctioning who specializes in books, martial arts gear and business and industrial equipment.


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