Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Good Idea/Bad Idea: Cosmetics on eBay

As the commercial says, you can pretty much get anything you can imagine on eBay. Often you can get items you would never have imagined anyone would have, let alone that someone would be selling it and that other people would be buying it. The internet is a wonderful tool, and eBay is one of those addicting things that can sometimes be your best friend. Today I'd like to suggest a few ideas about the pitfalls and benefits of ordering cosmetics on eBay, and readers who have done so are encouraged to share their experiences on the subject as well!

1. Buyer beware. One of the great parts of eBay is the feedback system, so when you're looking at a vendor, make sure you read the feedback first and find out if this person is reputable. It will save you a world of headaches in the end. I personally will not buy from someone with their feedback kept private - it doesn't usually end well. Most vendors are all to glad to share their references with others; it's good for business. Also, and I can't stress this enough, read your auctions carefully. Auctioneers use particular words that will draw in business, but will have fine print included in the information that is pivotal to your decision. For example, a site that sells a designer perfume may be selling a knock-off instead, and while the advertising has the designer name on it, the auction is required to be very clear that it's a knock-off. There's not too much wrong with this practice, as long as the buyer knows what she is getting in the end. If you're getting a knock-off, know it, and if you want it, great. Save yourself the dough for something you really want. You should always know exactly what you're due.

2. Look for the important phrases. If you're buying a product like makeup on eBay you should take care to make sure that the auction includes the words "never used," "sealed," or, very importantly, that it wasn't ever used as a tester. Not only will this protect you from getting someone else's sloppy seconds (horrifying!) but it also protects you from getting a resealed product that could nonetheless pass on germs and other nasties. Furthermore, you should thoroughly check your items to make sure that they look untampered-with and fresh. Smell the product - bad smells could mean age or misuse. If you ever receive a product that was misrepresented as new and you're pretty sure it was used, report it to eBay right away. The company is excellent about making sure naughty auctioneers are swiftly dealt with, because offenders make the site look bad, too. Most importantly - don't use it! This is where the reputation page comes in very handy again. Look for companies with few or no negative feedbacks, and check what the negative feedback was for. Doing the research will take extra time, but it is so worth it in the end.

3. The fear of the unknown. When you purchase something on the internet, whether there are pictures of the exact product or not, you are basically buying something sight unseen, and that has a number of inherent risks associated with it. You won't know exactly what the product is like until you can touch it, try it and examine it for yourself. In the case of cosmetics, go to a store and try the product before purchasing it online. When all else fails, follow the vendor's return policy if you are unhappy with your product. This means that, before you buy, you must read to find out what the return policy is. If there's no way to return it if that neon pink lipstick isn't your cup of tea, you might not want to take the risk. On the other hand, if you deal with a vendor more than once and you're happy with the experience, you'll start to feel more comfortable dealing with them, and repeat business is a great thing for a businessowner, so you can expect that your customer service experience will often be much better than if you bought at a store. That has been my experience, and one of the reasons why I continue to shop on eBay.

4. Done correctly, you can save yourself a HUGE amount of cash. If you love the pricey stuff but can't afford it, there are wholesalers on eBay who sell just about any brand of cosmetic you can think of, from foundation to applicators to perfumes and beyond. You may run across an auction that just doesn't sound right - use your instincts. There is a big difference between shopping at a discount store for things you love and buying it out of the trunk of someone's car. Just like the real world, there are honest eBayers and dishonest ones. Use your judgement, do your research and you could be wearing the same makeup the stars do, but for a significant amount less than they spend!