Thursday, January 22, 2015

When to Choose eBay or Amazon

As Amazon has grown, eBay has too. Amazon has gotten to such a point that eBay has to take cues from Amazon just to stay as competitive as possible. But there are times when choosing one or the other depends on the circumstances or specific situations. I will try to describe my experiences and why I might choose one over the other when seeking out a product.

Seller's Perspective
Although the brunt of my article will be about buying, selling can be important too. The main concern for the buyer should be what kind of service they are getting, and what kind of fees they have to pay to each respective company.

For eBay, you have two parts to worry about. You not only have to deal with eBay, but will likely process most (if not all) of your transactions through PayPal. So while there are eBay fees that will need to be paid, PayPal will take its cut of the profits as well. In comparison to Amazon, eBay has lower seller fees. However, when including PayPal into the mix, this may amount to similar fees from either company.

Amazon allows you to send your product in so that they can ship it for you. eBay does have this option - now - but unlike Amazon, they have no special Prime account that will allow for express, free shipping. Shipping to a Prime account may not matter if the seller offers free shipping; but if they don't, it is much easier to entice buyers if they have a Prime account and don't have to worry about paying associated extra S&H (shipping and handling ) fees.

eBay can only do so much due to their selling platform, but it is still a good place to sell from. They offer a good ratings system that imbues trust from its customers. Amazon has its reviews, and although this can be quite helpful, sometimes reviews are lumped together for similar products making it confusing as to what a buyer is actually purchasing. In opposition to eBay, Amazon will allow users more writing room to describe if a seller is good or not. (eBay gives a short one-liner is this regard.)

PayPal itself helps bring in buyers as it is (somewhat) a name people can trust. A lot of people have PayPal and do business through it accordingly; so having it as a payment system - even if negligible - can turn a potential buyer into a definite one.

However, unlike eBay, Amazon is purely for selling at a fixed price. There are no auctions to get a lower price than average. eBay does offer Buy It Now, but in addition sellers can also add an offer option, both of which can go alongside the regular auction scheme.

Some people prefer to try their chances at the best deal possible, while others don't want the hassle of sniping or constant checking.

eBay has been around for a long time now. I used to use it to buy rare or hard-to-get items. My choices were slim with that or Yahoo! Auctions. Eventually, Yahoo! Auctions went by the wayside. Why? I think it was because eBay got most of the attention from sellers. It is purely for selling and buying, while Yahoo! was really know for just its search engine, email and messenger. Knowing that fraudulent dealings seemed to be more rampant on Yahoo! Auctions didn't help either.

Nowadays, eBay seems to be more about making profits than just getting rid of whatever you can for however much you can. Sure, it still has good deals from time-to-time, but with so many buyers (and keen sellers), it's a lot harder to get. At least now eBay has really become a marketplace where pricing is competitive.

Even stores like Newegg or TigerDirect have begun selling on eBay. You can usually find the exact same items on their own stores for the same prices, but they must know that many people go to eBay first and buy there.

Amazon has grown to such an extent that government lawsuits have been deployed just to stop it from giving the tremendous bargains it did and still does (there used to be no sales tax for certain states...). As of now, they are the largest online retailer and are spreading into other areas like smartphones, tablets, and TV programming.

Amazon always caught my eye because they had everything! You want a 1 million dollar mech robot, Amazon has it [true]. You need a DSLR, Amazon has it. What about baby lotion or diapers? Amazon has that too.

On top of this, as previously mentioned, they have a Prime account, which it allows consumers to purchase at a yearly rate and take advantage of free 2-day shipping as well as free TV shows and movies. During holidays, Prime users will get some items at a discounted price before users without Prime access. I subscribe to them yearly, even with the new hike in price, just because I use them so much.

There are many reasons to choose either eBay or Amazon. One of the most obvious is cost. Sometimes eBay has a better deal, and sometimes Amazon does. Both sell used items, although eBay does far more, and both have competitive prices on new items.

Now, I find the newer items usually sell cheaper on eBay than on Amazon. Mainly because eBay will often have people selling their items as opposed to a company. A lot of times people will have the same new product for a bit cheaper on eBay, and because they will add free shipping and no sales tax (unless a storefront like Newegg), buying from eBay may save you a lot of cash depending on the final sale value.

One good secret that people usually don't know is that Amazon has "offers". People do see that there are offers for the same product for less expense, although they often forget that new and refurbished items are normally available along with used prices.

At times I do find good deals on used items on Amazon, but that is seldom. But the secret is that there are sellers who might sell the same product new for the same, lower, or higher price. The key is to drop it into your cart and go to checkout. There you will see if the seller adds sales tax. Many times they don't, so you can actually buy the same product new for less than the Amazon advertised price.

The secret on eBay used to be to buy from a store like Newegg and they would actually have no or less sales tax than from their own site. This would have the added benefit of support not just from eBay and PayPal, but from a large popular store like Newegg too. I believe that they (Newegg) have finally learned about this trick, so prices are now the same across-the-board...

PayPal vs. Amazon Credit
Both PayPal and Amazon offer lines of credit to their customers. The main difference I have learned is that an Amazon line of credit can affect your credit score - positively or negatively - and that PayPal does not. This is a true toss up as I like the idea of not having my credit score affected, but at least on Amazon there should be far more choices to spend credit on.

That aside, both have different ways of charging interest. If you buy an item on Amazon's line of credit you will have no interest payments for 6 months if spending at least $149, or for an entire year if at least $600. eBay gives you 6 months at $99. 

The other biggest difference between the two is that PayPal charges an APR of 19.99%, and Amazon charges an APR of 25.99%.

In this arena, it seems like PayPal is the obvious choice. It doesn't affect your credit and you have lower interest rates if applicable. But it really depends on what you're buying and how you're paying. If you buy thousands of dollars worth of items, then Amazon might be the place to choose since you could get at least a year to pay off your debt without interest. However, if you only buy $108 worth of items, then eBay would be the place to buy from in order to get no interest financing.

The choice between them is not as easy as pick one and give it a go. It will depend on what you are looking for, what you can afford, and personal preference.

When talking about available stock, Amazon is the clear winner. Amazon usually has a large abundance of individual items, and to reiterate, has just about everything you could need. From groceries to electronics, Amazon has it all.

But if talking about the reverse in terms of rarity and old items, eBay is the winner. Amazon sometimes has old items for sale from users, but most people will be selling them on eBay. eBay is known for rare and old items, and because of that, people know that is the best place to get the best value.

I would say that unless a model of something is still in production, anything over 10 years old is going to be easier to find on eBay. If you're looking for autographs or mint condition issues of comics, eBay is the first place to search.

I have dealt with eBay, PayPal, and Amazon support. And even though each has decent support, I would have to say that ultimately Amazon is leaps and bounds above the other two.

PayPal used to be absolutely horrible. If you got ripped off their response was pretty much, "We can't do anything, sorry". For many years I avoided them after having one such incident. I eventually used their services again because eBay lured me back in.

I ended up having another incident where all my money was taken from my bank account. This time PayPal stepped up to the plate and reimbursed me for everything lost. Since then I have had more faith in the company, and they have helped me get things done a lot more smoothly than before. Is the actual service stellar, no, it is the standard I expect a large company to provide to be considered as having good support.

eBay is a nightmare as of recently. There have been just as many horror stories for them as PayPal's past. They have cleaned up their act a lot, and have implemented policies that are better for both buyers and sellers. They have reimbursed me for non-received or non-working items and have ensured that I am taken care of when such situations occur. That being said, as of this month, I have lost a good amount of trust in their support. To make a long story short, eBay sent me a promotion for a measly $5 if I bought an item more than $20 through their eBay app on my smartphone or tablet. The $5 never appeared as stated and I have been jerked around for 3 hours (so far) proving the email was real, that I followed all the steps, and already being promised a $5 voucher that has yet to arrive (even after waiting twice the amount of time I was told it would take). After almost two weeks and three long hours of repeating myself, they did send me a $5 voucher with no spending requirement...

I recall one time where eBay just had the dumbest support person I have yet to encounter. 
My order came from China. The product did not work as advertised so I attempted to settle it with the seller first. If you have read my articles, you know I don't have much trust in any Chinese product, but I do try nonetheless. Of course they wanted some sort of proof and promised afterwards to send my refund in full. After I had done so, I kept asking for a return address they never gave. So eBay gave it to me instead, and I sent it off to them. When I told them this they asked for the address and said that they didn't use this address, to which I replied that it wasn't my problem, and they would need to take that up with eBay. They then wanted other demands met where I just said, "F*ck this, time to go to the next level." I gave them horrible feedback, elevated the situation, and explained myself numerous times to eBay support.

You would think this would've been bad enough, but that wasn't the end. At one point I realize that because I sent my item back using the local post office (I have no intention spending around $100 on sending anything back to anyone), I have no way to track it back to China. This upsets me because already I know these Chinese people I'm dealing with are liars, and I'm not going to let them pretend the package did not arrive. So I call eBay support, again. This time is when I get the dumbest person working at eBay.

I explain the entire situation over, again. This guy somehow thinks that I will believe him when he literally tells me that they can track my package into China. So I ask him what the special service or program is that they use, and he tells me that he is not allowed to say. I ask him to check it then, and of course all he can see is that it reached the border of the country I sent it from, days ago... I try to explain his stupidity to him by describing how eBay is a big company, but no country, especially not China, is going to allow them any type of control to watch over packages. The guy trying to still push his fake ideas, and I end up just hanging up on him and calling back to get someone else. I get a woman who I explain the situation to yet another time. This time, she gives me back my money because she understands the predicament. I also ask her if they have some secret program to check foreign packages, and she tells me openly that there is no such thing, they merely use the tracking number with whatever service used (if possible).

Even after I had already sent the package and got a refund, the Chinese seller still tried to contact me about giving them positive feedback. I already had my money back, and I didn't trust them, so I ignored them. A few weeks later the package was returned to me because the address eBay had given was wrong. Oh well!

Was their support good? Sometimes. Is it right now? No. Being that eBay seems to help cause more issues than it solves makes me think that they are just trying to avoid incidents in any way possible. I am now considering them as a possible risk in any future purchases if something significant were to happen after-the-fact. And just knowing that you get eBay support idiots who will try to lie to you, as if somehow people like me are as stupid as them, makes me just that much more wary...

Amazon is simply amazing. Anytime I have had to deal with them, I have always ended up satisfied, if not gratified, once my time with support has finished. A quick two examples, that I have written about in the past, are a Verizon Samsung Galaxy S4 smartphone and a X-Men/Wolverine Blu-ray movie collection. For the Galaxy S4, I bought it and brought it overseas to use. Everything was fine until it just suddenly died. I tried restarting, pulling the battery, and anything else that I could, to no avail. I called Amazon and had one day left to return the phone. I explained that I was overseas and was upset that I had to pay for the fees to return it to the USA considering that I bought something advertised as fully functional when it clearly was not. After some yelling on my part, Amazon agreed to reimburse me for any and all shipping fees back to Amazon!

As for the movie collection, Amazon offered a special on the movie collection and I bought it. A month and a day later, they offered the same collection with the newest movie that had just been released. I tried my luck and called Amazon to explain my predicament. They understood and informed me that if I bought the movie, I could call back and have them reimburse me the difference. I did so and they actually gave me more than they should have, making the new movie a little less than $2.

I have plenty of positive stories for Amazon, but I can't recollect any negative ones to share. The same can't be said for eBay or PayPal...

eBay and Amazon both have guarantees to get your money-back. Both require returns to be done within 30 days, and once received, a refund will be issued if the items are DOA (dead-on-arrival), not as stated to be, or having other issues.

I have never had to do this for eBay. Yet, what is good to know, is that even if a seller specifies they do not accept returns, eBay will still honor the guarantee. This is how it should be regardless, but it is good to know eBay is on the right page.

Amazon is great about this. They actually go one step further in that if you get the product and you don't open it, you can still send it back and get your money back! You can only do this with eBay if the buyer explicitly states that you can do so.

Here is a little secret about Amazon most people likely have no idea can be done. Let's say you use your Amazon line of credit to get 6 months of no interest payments. You then realize that one of the items you bought you no longer want or need. If you call Amazon and tell them this, they will allow you to send the product back, but they will not void the 6 months of no interest payments if it brings the total below the amount to allow for special financing!

Again, it's a no brainer that Amazon has better guarantees.

From what I have noticed, negative feedback tends to hurt sellers more on eBay more than it does on Amazon.

Even though sellers on either site can be flooded with so much positive feedback that negative feedback seems to all but disappear. And despite the fact that both sites will display a percentage of how "good" each seller is. I find myself more willing to buy from an Amazon seller than an eBay seller of equal "goodness".

Maybe it's because of Amazon's support, but when I see someone who has something like 87% on Amazon, my desire for an item does not waiver much. Instead, I just question if it is the best value. However, on eBay, if I see a seller who has something like 95%, I will look into their seller ratings and try to discern if they are trustworthy enough to buy from. As a reminder, Amazon does offer customers more space to write negative feedback, and being able to learn more about how bad a seller could be still has little affect on my buying decisions in these matters...

Mind you, this is just my preference. On a neutral field, all things being the same, Amazon and eBay offer the same type of feedback displays and manner of ratings. 

This isn't article isn't so much about which is better overall, but which one is better to go with during certain circumstances. That being said, if I had to use only one for the rest of my life, I would choose Amazon. Sometimes I do pay a premium to buy from Amazon over eBay, but given my history with them I think they deserve my business.

Don't get me wrong, if eBay has the better deal by a large margin, I will use them. If I need something old and/or rare, I'll get it off eBay if it's available. But when push comes to shove, Amazon just offers more at better values.

People know I'm a stickler for support, so that plays a huge role for me. Ignoring that, Amazon just has more items that I want. eBay eventually floods its marketplace with the same items, but often by then I have already paid for it on Amazon. And even though I did mention that eBay usually has the same items for cheaper, there have been numerous times I have found items on eBay going for a lot more than on Amazon!

Other Stores?
There are plenty of other stores to buy goods. I buy a lot of electronics so there are Internet stores like Newegg, Tigerdirect, MWave, Directron, Fry's Electronics, Rakuten (formerly, Overstock (& O), etc. to choose from. Are they the best? I'd say no, but they do throw up decent deals every so often.

Why don't I use these stores more often? Well, for example, I have noticed that sometimes a graphics card might be priced $10 cheaper on Amazon over Newegg. I then check Newegg to find that the card in question has a rebate for $10. I don't know if Amazon has a special agreement with some graphics card manufacturers, or if they drop their price of their own accord, but I prefer this strategy. I have done rebates before and on average they take up to 3 months or more. Why do that when I can just get an "instant rebate" from Amazon?

If we're talking about the best deals, and used items, there are also plenty of forums to comb through that will provide amazing prices. However, support is a different story as it is all about trusting individuals given that no protection is generally given.

Again, this is not about who is the best. I am biased as evident by my experiences. And there have been several times that I choose eBay over Amazon. It's all about the best deal you can make. If you're buying an expensive item, is it better to have great support over okay support? If you need a lengthy time to pay off your purchase, are you likely to miss a payment and affect your credit score? Is the price advertised actually going to be less pricey in the other store once taxes and shipping are factored in?

Whatever your reasons are, you'll find that the above information should help determine what the best route is to take. Don't be loyal for the sake of being loyal, be a smart shopper and save money where you can.

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