Ebay: How to Look Great for Less Than $50


A reader explains how to scoop up great bargains on Ebay.  I am grateful for his contribution.

Ebay is back!:  http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2013/02/07/ebay-donahoe-comeback/

How to Look Great for Under $50!

I’ve been using eBay to buy designer clothes now for around 7-8 years, since the end of High School. It started out because I didn’t have a lot of money, was dissatisfied with the in store prices on back-to-school shopping, and was (and still am) somewhat vain. So I took to the internet to do shopping, but still was dissatisfied at the lack of quality bargains. After a while of searching for deals at traditional online retailers, I came across eBay and I found a treasure trove of bargains on gently used, mid to high-end designer apparel, items marked down substantially from their MSRP because of depreciation and the “social repulsiveness” of buying used clothes (this may have changed recently with the popularity of http://youtu.be/QK8mJJJvaes/). Since then I’ve been able to do substantially all of my clothes shopping, for school and now work, on the internet, while saving enormous amounts of money. For example, I got very lucky with the fit and bought my suit for ~$20.00-30.00 (I can’t find specific pricing information on this purchase at the moment). This would have easily cost hundreds of dollars if I had bought it off the rack and gotten it tailored. Additionally, I’ve bought everything from designer label jeans to dress shirts, polos, shorts, and pants for well under $50 a piece.


For those interested, some general rules I follow are:

  1. Don’t buy anything that you don’t need. It can be tempting to spend hundreds of dollars on bargains, but it’s not worth buying something you’re not going to get much wear out of
  2. Know what your measurements are before you buy anything. Most of the time sellers will post the clothes measurements for comparison purposes
    1. It’s important to pay attention to the seller’s return provisions to make sure it is refundable if the item doesn’t fit/isn’t as advertised
    2. Set the maximum price level you’d be willing to pay in your mind and stick to it
      1. Be willing to walk away from items that exceed your price threshold
      2. Stick to US sellers to reduce the likelihood of buying counterfeit goods and to save on shipping & handling
        1. I got burned on this one a couple times before I changed my ways
        2. I try to buy clothes that aren’t too trendy or high end, because they’ll likely go out of style in a couple years and I won’t be able to get as much wear out of them
          1. I am ashamed to admit that I once bought a bunch of Ed Hardy stuff (pre-Jersey Shore, but still deplorable) that is now collecting dust in my apartment
          2. This works for me because men’s sizing doesn’t vary that much between brands, but it will be much harder for girls because of the greater sizing disparity in women’s clothing between brands

When I first started out doing this, I would get extremely frustrated that whenever I would put a bid on an item, someone else would undoubtedly come along and top it. This cycle would repeat until the item would approximate fair value and I would either throw in the towel or be left paying much more than I intended. I began looking for ways to work around this and I came upon Auction Sniper (http://auctionsniper.com/). The best way to describe this service is high frequency trading for eBay auctions. For a ~1% fee of the final purchase price (only if you win), you can plug in information on an item along with your bid well before the auction’s end and they will actually place your bid mere seconds before the end (I use a 3 second lead time). This allows you to fly under the radar and get your bid in close enough that if you are the highest bidder, no one has a chance to top it. Additionally, this service helps you maintain pricing discipline because you’re not anchoring your bid to incrementally higher prices. And, it also gives you some peace of mind to go about doing more important things with your life instead of obsessively checking the item listing to make sure you are the highest bidder.

Additionally, I am a relatively small guy (big where it counts) and I’ve found that a number of designers have clothes for their children’s lines which are identical in appearance to those of their men’s lines. While nearly the same thing, the children’s item will be priced meaningfully lower than the men’s item at the retail level. If you can find items like these, in a children’s large or extra large size, you can take advantage of both the inherent MSRP discount and any discount that you can get by buying on eBay. For example, I bought my gray Ralph Lauren half zip sweater (children’s large) that I wear to work every week for $0.99 (excluding shipping & handling). As a point of comparison, this item’s men’s line equivalent has a MSRP of $115.00 and is currently “on sale” for $69.99 (http://tinyurl.com/a4qwryn/). Of course, this strategy isn’t for everyone and will only work for guys who are sub 5’9” tall generally.

Where I’m Currently Looking:

My favorite areas to look into are where the seller has a much lower cost basis (preferably $0.00) in the item relative to the MSRP. Most of the time this is difficult to determine, but if you can find items like this, they provide worthwhile buying opportunities. My assumption is that these arise through some combination of the seller receiving items for free, the seller getting a meaningful discount elsewhere on the item, and/or lack of comparable pricing information. From the beginning of an auction, these items will be priced at a very low level with few, if any, bids. I’ve been capitalizing on this for a few weeks, as I’ve recently gotten a new job which requires me to buy more formal office attire. Specifically, I’ve been looking into picking up some Vineyard Vines ties (this comes from living in the company’s backyard). I’m on the hunt for their custom collection ties, which are made specifically for a company/organization and usually have the latter’s logo displayed on them in a repeating pattern. What I’ve observed is that these are significantly underpriced compared to the regular men’s line on eBay, as (my assumption) the seller likely gets them for free and will profit at any price in addition to there being a narrow market for such an item. While I have no intention of wearing a tie that has “General Electric” or “Morgan Stanley” plastered all over it, I have found a few with generic enough looking patterns, whereby you’d be hard pressed to tell that they were made for a specific company unless you had worked there. So far I’ve been able to pick up a couple of these ties in excellent condition for ~$15.00 each (including shipping & handling). This compares to a $75.00 MSRP for Vineyard Vines ties (excluding shipping & handling), which amounts to a savings of around 80%.

While buying clothes on eBay may not be for everyone, in addition to getting great deals, it is a lot of fun. Maybe I’m weird, but nothing feels better than the knowledge you bought something at the price it cost the company to make it. I hope that I have provided people with useful information they can use the next time they think about making a shopping trip to somewhere like JCPenney or Sears.

Also, I do work currently in investing and am looking to actively network with others in the industry. If you are interested, my email address is mcg881@gmail.com.


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