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Don't Get Burned on eBay by Shauna Wright

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In early 2005, my friend Drue Miller and I received an email from Sarah Milstein, an O’Reilly editor. Through a convoluted series of contacts, she’d gotten our names as people qualified to write a different kind of eBay book—not a “how to” manual per se, but something combining personal stories with take-away lessons. Drue and I have a web site called WhoWouldBuyThat.com that had the voice Sarah was looking for. I believe the word used early on was “snarky.” (Accurate, that.)

Drue’s schedule ultimately didn’t allow her to participate as an author (we snagged her later as a tech reviewer), but I was game. What followed were several conversations between Sarah and myself about what exactly we wanted this book to be—a book that’s fun to read and extremely informative. That’s what you’ll find here.

The stories within this book are all true, recounted (usually on the message boards in eBay’s Community section) by the people who experienced them. Minor artistic license has been taken where necessary, and all names have been changed to protect the innocent, the ignorant, and the guilty.

Audience for This Book

This book is for you if you have a working knowledge of eBay (just enough to get you in trouble if you don’t know what to look out for). In this book, you’ll get information in a way you’ll remember— real stories about real people. After every story, I’ll tell you how to avoid that situation or, if you’re already neck-deep, escape it.

Even if you’re a long-time eBayer, I’m fairly certain you’ll come away from this book with a few nuggets of wisdom. As an example, I’m always amazed at the number of experienced sellers who routinely accept payments via PayPal yet don’t know the policies PayPal has in place to protect them against fraud—until it’s too late.

If you’re new to eBay, this book is also for you. It may be a bit more advanced than you’re ready for right now, but if you read it you’ll avoid the traps many people fall into simply because they don’t know any better. I certainly wish I’d known what’s in these pages when I first stumbled onto eBay back in 1998!

Organization of This Book

This book is sometimes aimed at buyers and sometimes at sellers. Here’s a brief overview of what’s in the book:

Chapter 1, Don’t Get Burned on Bidding

This chapter gives you information about common bidding and communication errors, shill bidding, and bid histories.

Chapter 2, Don’t Get Burned on Payment

Chapter 2 walks you through PayPal’s rules, Unpaid Item Disputes, money orders, and Western Union wire transfers.

Chapter 3, Don’t Get Burned on Packaging

This chapter talks about inadequate packaging (what packages to use, what not to use), and gives tips for where to find materials and when to use local pick-up.

Chapter 4, Don’t Get Burned on Shipping

In Chapter 4, learn about major U.S. shippers, international shipments, insurance, and customs.

Chapter 5, Don’t Get Burned by Other eBayers

Read about feedback, eBay’s Seller Preferences, counterfeits, and selling for others.

Chapter 6, Don’t Get Burned by Scammers

Chapter 6 provides information about phishing, account take-overs, identity theft, escrow scams, and buyer scams.


There’s a glossary at the end of the book which explains some of the terms I use throughout the book. Veteran eBayers will know them already, and while I don’t want the eyes of anyone less-experienced to glaze over, I also don’t want to spend a lot of time in the main text defining standard terms. Plenty of other tomes serve as a sort of “eBay 101,” but that wasn’t my goal here.

Conventions Used in This Book

The following typographical conventions are used in this book:


Used for glossary terms when they first appear in a chapter.

Constant width

Used for HTML tags.


Arrows are used to signify navigation paths; for example, Advanced Search → Members → Find Contact Information means that you should go to eBay, click Advanced Search, select Members, and then choose Find Contact Information.

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