ebay a good choice?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Edgar, Nov 15, 2005.

  1. Edgar

    Edgar New Member

    folks, I'm new in the hobby, which I began mostly for my son and now I'm completely hooked up! I'm planning to buy my son an Amtrak train set for Christmas. The deals I see at ebay are mind-boggling! But how safe is to buy from an ebay seller? Has anybody had any positive or negative experiences with these joints? I'm listening...:confused:
  2. Pete

    Pete Member

    The best way to tell, is by looking at the sellers' feedback rating and comments posted therein. Even the best people can have a bad day, though. Often you have to read between the lines.

    Don't jump on the first one you see - check around and what else there is as pricing can vary widely. Read all of their terms, and ask questions if unsure about anything.

    Most will have the shipping costs posted, or have a calculator so you can find out on your own; these shipping/handling costs need to be taken into consideration as part of the overall price.

    Some are known to sell their items cheap, only to have exhorbitant shipping charges added to make up the difference. :rolleyes:

    As always, do your research, and caveat emptor (buyer beware).
    And good luck :thumb:
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Good advice from Pete. Seems that eBay is not the deal it once was, and many things can be had for new at the same, or even lower prices. I deal with one mail order model shop in Canada who ships (almost) everything for a flat rate of $7.

    Here are a few additional discussions we have had here:

    Why eBay is Worth It

    EBay Glory Days Gone?

    Hope that helps.

  4. CSX

    CSX Member

    I normally only buy from eBay Power Sellers. They are the most trusted sellers on eBay. One seller I find very friendly and very cheap is TheFavoriteSpot. Check out his stuff!
  5. 507wayne

    507wayne New Member

    I am relatively new to this hobby. 99% of what I have I got off of ebay. Out of 30 purchases I have only one bad deal. There are some real bargains there but shop around and ask questions.
  6. stuart_canada

    stuart_canada Member

    you can find good deals and you can find yourself paying more then retail depending on the item and shipping charge.
    shop carefully and bid carefully
  7. dsfraser

    dsfraser Member

    My advice:

    Shop around, find out from magazines and eCommerce sites what a reasonable retail price is, and decide how much you are willing to pay before you place your bid. Don't go past that number — another set will be along shortly if the one you're after gets too expensive.

    Beware of snipers — people who watch an auction and place a bid in the last five minutes (or five seconds!) that is 5¢ more than yours. If you're really keen, you'll be watching the auction during the last minutes and may need to increase your bid at the last minute to secure the sale.

    As others have mentioned, shipping and brokerage fees can add significantly to the cost of a purchase. Avoid having stuff sent over the border through UPS — they'll tack on another $50 in brokerage fees. Stick with the post office, registered mail if what you're buying costs more than $50, and it will arrive in a week or ten days. Read the fine print before getting involved.

    Look carefully at payment methods. I will not give out my credit card information over the web. I refuse to maintain a PayPal account. I send a personal cheque, bank draft, or postal money order to the vendor. It adds a few days, but then no one can clean out my bank account.

    eBay is the target of first choice for Internet thieves, and I don't mean vendors. I mean people that seek to intercept your personal information or dupe you into revealing it through spoofing and phishing so that they can rape your accounts. They're asking you to give them your ATM card and tell them your PIN number. Would you do that? You will find that once you have made your first eBay purchase, you will start to receive cleverly crafted emails claiming that "eBay/PayPal needs to verify your personal information, so send your login ID and password to such-and-such.ebay(or paypal).com." The people sending these messages are intent on committing FRAUD! Neither eBay nor PayPal ever send out such messages!! And they want to know about them.

    If (when) you get one, send the text and the header (right-click on the message, select PROPERTIES->DETAILS, copy the text and paste it into your reporting message) to your ISP and to either eBay or PayPal, as the case may be. Look for "spoof" on their sites for more detailed instructions. They need the routing information and the originating IP address to be able to seek recourse and shut these fraud artists down and hopefully put them in jail.

    This a common, widespread, and largely unreported problem when dealing with eBay. If you get sucked in by the spoof messages, you're giving the people sending them the information they need to be able to steal from you, and they will. Beware.

    That said, don't be paranoid. As others have suggested, read through the "feedback" each buyer and seller has linked to their login. As Pete said, everyone has a bad day and it is impossible to please everyone, so don't insist on 100% positive response, but do seek the high nineties. Send paper for payment, and buy with confidence.

    Scott Fraser
    Calgary, Alberta
  8. Dave Farquhar

    Dave Farquhar Member

    I've bought a ton of stuff off Ebay, and I've sold a few things too. There's been plenty of good advice here. I always watch the shipping/handling charges. If they're not posted, ask. You're not supposed to be able to charge $20 s/h for something that should cost a few bucks to mail (and an awful lot of things can be mailed for a flat rate of $7.70 these days) but some people do it and get away with it.

    I don't object to a dollar or two above actual shipping cost, because packing supplies are expensive, especially in small quantities, and it can take some time to pack something well and I don't mind paying for that, but if someone quotes me something that sounds outrageous, I buy it from someone else.

    Asking about S/H also gives you some indication about the person you'd be buying from. If they're quick to get back to you about that, they're more likely to be responsive when you're trying to close the sale too. If someone gets back to me in a few hours or minutes (it's happened!), I'm a lot more confident about buying from them, for obvious reasons.

    I've had two bad experiences, one on Ebay and one on Amazon. The bad Ebay experience was just slow shipping. I paid a few minutes after the auction ended. The item finally showed up 30 DAYS later. The postmark was 23 days after the end of the auction--the same day, interestingly enough, that I started the process to report him. Needless to say, he didn't get any more business from me. The bad Amazon experience was a little more excusable. The seller was unresponsive, then he finally got back to me a couple of weeks later and said he was having computer trouble. I told him I wanted a refund, and he gave it to me. I can't imagine doing business without having a junker computer as a backup (an old Pentium with Windows 95 on it can get online to check e-mail and auction status) but that's his perogative, I guess.

    I haven't let those two experiences stop me. I've bought a lot of stuff (more than 50 train items) over the last two years and I'll buy more in the future, whether it's to find a bargain or to get something that isn't being made anymore.
  9. KCS

    KCS Member

    Ebay isn't all that bad. One thing I almost fell for my first time was the shipping charges of the seller. Some of them try to make the profit off of shipping because they know they won't get near what they gave for. The one I almost got caught in was a guy selling two matching car's that only cost's $5.00 to ship but he was charging $11.00. If they can't get close to what they gave for the item some will bump up the shipping cost to get it.
  10. KCS

    KCS Member

    Oh another thing very important about Ebay and the other site's like it. LOG OUT! When your done with Ebay logout before you leave the site other wise if you leave your account logged in, it leaves a back door open for these fraud artists/hackers to get in and steal any information they are seeking. My account was shut down for a few day's right after I won two items because it was reported that my account was being used to make non authorized sales. That was the one time I didn't log out. I'll never do that again. But in the end my account was reinstated two day's later and made my purchase. I pay by postal money order that way there is a receipt and tracking number.
  11. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    I've used ebay for years and years now, and rarely buy there anymore. The "good deals" are usually about the same as you'll pay through discounters like trainworld.com, firsthobby.com, standardhobby.com and such. And that's for "good" deals... A _LOT_ of stuff on Ebay is _NOT_ a good deal. Often, the prices on Ebay are actually higher than what you can buy at those retailers. And with them you get reasonable shipping, a phone number to call, your choice of "real world" standard payment methods, and a normal return policy.

    I'm not trashing Ebay, I still keep an eye on it and even buy something there once in a great while when I see one of the rare deals. It's also still a good place to find unusual and unique stuff - usually being sold by individuals rather than "dealers"... But it's rarer and rare to see real "garage sale" type stuff on Ebay, it's been largely taken over by mega-points "dealers" who are running a business, not clearing out their basement.

    If you recall nothing else from this post, think of this: Buying on Ebay is really no different than buying anywhere else -- you're doing yourself a disservice if you don't comparison shop first... If you were buying a new VCR or microwave...would you buy it from the first store you walked into? Or would you take a look at the ads in the Sunday paper, look at a couple stores, maybe even check online? I sure as heck would, and suspect the fact you're here asking the question means you would too. Checking a few online retailers takes only a moment.

    One benchmark I use to judge prices is Bachmann Spectrum locos. Not because I have a particular thing for them, (I think they're good locos for a good price, but that's irrelevant), but because most retailers and many ebay vendors all sell them, so you can do apples-to-apples.

    Also don't fall for the fallacy of "price off retail" comparison. Sure, someone can say they're 30% lower than Walthers. So what. As far as the "street" price goes, 30% off Walthers is nothing to write home about. Example: They just put flextrack "on sale" for only $3.00 per 3-foot section. Great... Except you can go to the big train discounters I mentioned above and get it for $2.50 per section every day of the week... $2.30 if you buy in bulk... So when you see things like "W@W! 30% Off!!!" take that into account. 30% off trainworld.com's price is an amazing deal... 30% off Walther's price is about 20% more than you should be paying.

    I'm not trashing Walthers, by the way, they're a great resource and I buy from them pretty often - but only stuff I can't find elsewhere. When it's "this is our price and we're the only place you can get it" then "price comparison" shopping becomes moot.

    In the Ebay world itself, all I can do is second the thumbs-up for "thefavoritespot". As mentioned above, he's very reputable and generally prices well. I've bought several things from him over the last year or so., (and if you use my bachmann method above, you'll find that he is one of the few Ebay sellers that is often below - or at least matching - the price of the discounters.)

    LATE BREAKING NEWS: I am editing this post to RESCIND my recommendation for the favoritespot. Upon review he has raised his already-a-bit-high flat charge for shipping and handling from $10 to $12... That's over the line, for me. $10 S&H was a bit much but I was willing to overlook it, $12 is too much to overlook and is more than double what I see more reasonable sellers of the exact same items charging.
  12. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    By way of example, go look at auction # 6008976854

    This auction for a Bachmann Spectrum Shay resulted in a sale at $142. Plus shipping/handling of $12 for a total price of $156.

    The exact same engine at one of the discounters I mentioned was recently dropped to $119 (though their website still says $129 -- guess they haven't updated their latest ad...). Plus $7.50 shipping. For a total price of $126

    Savings by NOT buying on Ebay: $30. Or you could say buying it on Ebay cost 25% more than buying in the 'real world.'

    I'm not cherry picking the most expensive one, either... in auction # 6011603267 this exact same loco sold for $199 + shipping!! Shipping from FL to me in PA would have been $10.50 (again, meaning the fellow is adding a LOT of padding to the actual cost of postage). $210 for a spectrum shay... you could get for $125. With the little numbers rounded out, we're talking $85 more on Ebay! That's almost a 70% upcharge!!! That's crazy talk!

    Now I also didn't pick the _cheapest_ one I could find either. I'd say the average of all the spectrum shays sold since November first is about $125. You can ones that sold for $105-110 pretty regularly. At $110-ish, plus shipping and all that works out to... about the same as ordering from a discount retailer. Some auctions are a buck or two cheaper, some a buck or two more.

    My thought is that it's not worth it. For the same price (forgiving a dollar or two either way), I'd rather have an 800 number to call, a retailer that the entire MRR community knows, my choice of "normal" payment methods, and a real "company" with a real "return policy." Not to mention that they ship the day I order it, period. I don't have to wait for the auction to end, or the seller to get around to packing and shipping it.

    So show me the shay on Ebay selling for $70 (and remember you have to look at completed auctoins, not auctions where the bid is $70 with hours or days left to run)... And I'll say, yes, that's a great Ebay deal! in fact, if you can show me an auction with one for that price, I'll buy it - I could use another one of these little guys. At that price level, the savings is worth the risk and hassle.

    But spectrum shays selling for $70-80, where I'd consider it a "deal" are few and far between... Nonexistent, in fact. In all the auctions for all the spectrum shays ended from November 1 to now, the absolute, single lowest shay I found sold for $90.00 + shipping. The number of them sold for under $100 can be counted on one hand (out of two full pages of them that have sold recently).

    Again, the question becomes "even if you're one of the lucky few who grab one in the $90's range... does saving 9% off this item compared to a full-service retail hobby seller, make it worth the risk, delay and hassle?

    And I don't even consider that $90 shay to be a valid one for comparison: the seller on it would not offer shipping insurance. That's an automatic "I-will-not-bid" in my book: if shipping insurance is not offered, even though the buyer pays for it and it costs the seller NOTHING, what does that say to you? Why on earth would I refuse to let my buyer insure his shipment???
  13. Edgar

    Edgar New Member

    Thaaaaaaanks a lot!

    Wow!!!! I never thought I would get so many responses, and good ones by the way. I am more or less getting the picture, and for the last hours I've been navigating around and finding good deals, both at ebay and with discounters. I have to buy this train set on Friday, so wish me luck, guys! You're terrific! :thumb:
  14. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    I'll put in a word for buying from a shop that you can go back to when you have a problem. A good hobby shop can either repair or replace your loco. A bad hobby shop should at least give you your money back.
  15. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

    I enjoy Ebay, finding many good deals there >>>http://www.the-gauge.com/thread16325-50-box-lot.html.. It helps to know what you want, what it's worth and what you're willing to pay up front :thumb: . Thirty years in the hobby helps to make you a little less timid in the box lot dept. I've only had one bad deal, a success ratio that doesn't even compare to the camel traders and used car sales men I have for hobby shops around here :rolleyes: .
  16. dsfraser

    dsfraser Member


    I would echo that comment! Buying from eBay or from an online retailer is anonymous. If you can locate a Local Hobby Shop (= LHS) and establish a relationship with them, by far and away that's the best way to go. I am lucky to live where I do (Calgary, Alberta). My LHS (Trains 'n' Such) have knowledgeable people who can answer my questions, who will haggle over the sticker price and give me a deal, who can recommend the best way to go about building something and point me to the aftermarket parts I need, who will take special orders and actually deliver the goods. When I walk through the door, they say "Hello Scott, what's up these days", not because I spend a ton of money there, because I don't, but because I have talked to them all, learned their names, and they have all become my aquaintances, if not my friends. If I have a problem, they will do their best to help me solve it. They know lots more about the hobby than I do. If I need a part, they will do as much as they can to help find it. They now know my interests, and when something comes in at a good price that I might be interested in, they phone me.

    I buy things from eBay once or twice a year, but for the most part I am happy to support my LHS. Sometimes I may pay a bit more, but they have earned it and I don't resent it a bit. They work for it, and believe me, running a brick-and-mortar hobby shop these days is tough. If you are lucky enough to have a shop like Trains 'n' Such in your city, support them. You will pay a few more dollars, but you will help them stay alive, and as long as they live, you have somewhere to go to buy your stuff, get answers to your questions, order your parts, browse your magazines, and network with other model train buffs in your area. The few dollars more that it costs to deal with your LHS are an investment, and well worth it. You will help them stay alive in an increasingly competitive world where the cards are stacked against the brick-and-mortar retailers. They will help you make the right decisions in choosing what you purchase, and if it doesn't work out for you, they will give you an avenue to recover something from your mistake.

    Hug your local retailer. If they are good, they can save you much grief. Channel your business through them, and help them survive. Don't resent the fact that you might pay a few dollars more to go through them. Pay it. If the sticker price is $5 more than what you might get from eBay, so what? What is $5 if it means that your store can continue to survive, and they can continue to answer your questions, order your stuff, bring in your magazines, stock your decals, paint, and Plastruct, hook you up with other modellers in your area, and meet your other modelling needs? In the long run you will be further ahead.

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