Not every transaction on eBay is an auction transaction, however. eBay also serves
up a fair number of fixed-price sales through its Buy It Now feature and through
merchants who run their own eBay Stores. With more than 36 million items listed
for sale on any given day, you’re bound to find something you want to buy; eBay
has it all, from rare collectibles and vintage sports memorabilia to trendy clothing
and the latest electronics equipment.
Who Sells on eBay?
eBay started out as a pure online auction site. eBay’s job was to host the auction list-
ings and facilitate the transactions between buyers and sellers. (Note that eBay
doesn’t actually sell anything itself, nor does it hold any inventory; all the transac-
tions are between individual buyers and sellers, with eBay functioning solely as the
In the beginning, eBay sellers were almost exclusively individuals—people like you
and me with unwanted items they wanted to sell. In this way, eBay functioned like
a giant garage sale or yard sale. An individual had something to sell, he listed it on
eBay, and another individual decided to buy it. The second individual paid the first
individual, who then shipped the item to the buyer. It was pretty simple.
Today, however, eBay is more than just person-to-person transactions. Many of
eBay’s original sellers have gotten quite big, listing hundreds of auctions every week
and turning their eBay sales into real businesses. In addition, many existing busi-
nesses have turned to eBay as a way to make additional sales. So when you buy on
eBay today, you may be buying from an individual selling just a few items, an indi-
vidual running a small business out of her home, or a large business selling eBay
items on the side.
Whomever you buy from, the process for the buyer is the same—as are the protec-
tions. The eBay marketplace is a level one, where all buyers and sellers follow the
same rules and regulations. And the process for bidding and buying is the same no
matter who you’re buying from; just remember, you’re buying from an independent
seller, not from eBay itself.
How Does an eBay Auction Work?
If you’ve never used eBay before, you might be a little anxious about what might be
involved. Never fear; participating in an online auction is a piece of cake, some-
thing hundreds of millions of other users have done before you. That means you
don’t have to reinvent any wheels; the procedures you follow are well-established
and well-documented.
An eBay auction is an Internet-based version of a tra-
ditional auction—you know, the type where a fast-
talking auctioneer stands in the front of the room,
trying to coax potential buyers into bidding just a
little bit more for the piece of merchandise up for
bid. The only difference is that there’s no fast-
talking auctioneer online (the bidding process is
executed by special auction software on the auc-
tion site), and your fellow bidders aren’t in the
same room with you—in fact, they might be
located anywhere in the world. Anyone can be a
bidder, as long as he or she has Internet access.
Here’s how the auction process works, in general
1. You begin (as either a buyer or a seller) by
registering with eBay. You can do this by
clicking the Register link on eBay’s home
page, shown in Figure 24.1.
There is no cost to reg-
ister with eBay, although if
you want to sell items, you’ll have
to provide your credit card and
checking account numbers. (eBay
uses this information to help weed
out potential scammers, and to
provide a billing option for the
seller’s eBay fees.)
Where all the
auction action
home page.
2. The seller creates an ad for an item and lists the item on the auction site.
(eBay charges anywhere from $0.20 to $4.80 to list an item.) In the item list-
ing, the seller specifies the length of the auction (1, 3, 5, 7, or 10 days) and
the minimum bid he or she will accept for that item.

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