EBay experiences? (was: [Techtalk] Wireless Help)

Travis Casey efindel at earthlink.net
Thu Oct 23 08:18:30 EST 2003

On Tuesday 21 October 2003 12:44, Carla Schroder wrote:

> I know lots of people swear by EBay, is it really worth all the
> aggravation to save a few dollars? What if your item is defective? What
> about warranty support? I've always preferred the local mom n pop
> computer shop, they don't always have the rock-bottomest prices, but the
> service and support are unbeatable.

It depends a lot on what you want, and how cheaply you can get it.  A couple 
of examples of computer things I've bought off of eBay:

 - A few years back, I was looking for a network print server.   
   Specifically, since I wanted Linux compatibility, I wanted one that did
   the LPD protocol.  I also wanted it to have BNC and RJ-45 connectors,
   since I was using thinnet then, but was planning to move to TP later. 
   And it needed to support at least two printers.

   The new print servers I could find at that time which had everything I
   wanted were $150 and up.  Now, these printers were already on the 
   network by attaching them to the computers... so the main reason for
   doing this was so if my wife wanted to print, she didn't have to turn
   on my computer and let it boot up before she could.  I couldn't see
   myself dropping $150 just for that.

   I looked on eBay... and found someone who had a print server that was
   going for $5.  He didn't have a manual, and all he knew was the model
   number on it, and that if he plugged it in, the little light on the front
   flashed a few times and then turned green.

   I did a search, managed to find the manual online, and read that the
   green light meant it had passed its self-test.  I bid $10 on it, figuring
   that at that price, even if I had to buy half a dozen print servers 
   before getting one that worked, I'd still be spending less than I would
   on a new one.

   It did indeed work, and six years later, it's still working.  

 - For a long time, I'd been wanting a new, bigger monitor.  I was using
   a 15-inch monitor at home, and it was feeling small -- especially since
   I had a 21-inch at work.  At the time, though, 17-inch monitors were 
   running around $400.  So I went to eBay.  It took a lot of clicking, 
   but I found someone who was selling an NEC 17 inch; he'd had it for a 
   few years, had recently had to get it refurbished by NEC, and then
   someone gave him a 21 inch for a present.  Since he'd just sent it to
   the factory and back a month or so ago, he had an NEC box to ship it in.
   Last and best, it had come with a two-year warranty when he bought it,
   which it still had six months left on.

   That went up to almost $200 before I won it... but that was still half
   what I would have paid for a similar monitor new.  I'm still using it as
   I type this.

 - About two years ago, my old Palm died and I got a new one.  I'd had a
   folding keyboard for my old one, but the new one had a different kind 
   of connector.  New keyboards were $99.  I could have waited a month or
   so and gotten one, but I wanted a keyboard *now* -- the way I was used
   to using my Palm, it wasn't much use without one.  

   On eBay, most "known working" keyboards were going for close to retail --
   $90 and up.  So I started checking the "maybe" auctions.  I found one
   guy who gave no guarantees that the stuff worked -- he had a business
   handling returns for manufacturers and reselling them.  I dug through
   his auctions, and found that the keyboards went from about $15 up to 
   around $50, depending on condition, if they had packaging, etc.  He
   had multiple auctions going up a day, and looking at past auctions, I
   figured that if I could wait a couple of days, I could probably get
   a keyboard with no physical damage, but without packaging, for about
   $25.  At that price, I could buy a couple more if the first one didn't
   work, and still be under retail.

   Again, the first one I got worked, and I still use it today.  The "f"
   key seems to take a firmer press to work than the other keys, and one
   of the hooks that latches it closed didn't seem to work.  The former
   hasn't been more than a minor annoyance, and the latter I managed to
   fix with needlenose pliers.

So... *if* you can get something a lot cheaper than retail, it can be worth 
it.  To get something good, though, you need to look around at what's being
offered, and look at recent bid history on similar items to see what kind of
final prices to expect.  And sometimes, it can be effective to take a chance 
on something that might be broken, *if* you can get it cheap.

So far, I've yet to buy something on eBay and have it turn out not to work 
at all.  In all the cases I've read about where someone has done that, the 
seller had clearly marked that the item "might not work" or "was not 
tested", and the buyer just didn't see that, or apparently expected that it 
would work anyways.

       |\      _,,,---,,_     Travis S. Casey  <efindel at earthlink.net>
 ZZzz  /,`.-'`'    -.  ;-;;,_   No one agrees with me.  Not even me.
      |,4-  ) )-,_..;\ (  `'-' 
     '---''(_/--'  `-'\_) 

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