As a dedicated Ebay purchaser myself, I thought I'd provide a rough guide to how to buy clothes on Ebay.
Living in rural France, miles away from any shops or stores, Ebay is a big saviour for me. It enables me to find styles and makes that aren't available here in France, and clothing at a more reasonable price - clothing is very well made here, but also very expensive. I buy mainly from Ebay.co.uk and occasionally Ebay.com (based in the US, though I usually buy items from Japan and China).
There are several things you need to know when shopping on Ebay, as you can't see the garment itself.
How to search
There are hundreds of thousands of similar items on sale on Ebay, so it pays to perfect your searching technique, otherwise you'll be swamped. So first of all, decide precisely what you're going to look for - a sweater, a cardigan, jeans, etc. If you have a favourite make or makes, add those names too, and add your size and any descriptions you're keen on, such as 'bootcut', 'flared', 'blue' etc (though bear in mind that many people don't list by colour because the colour is visible in the photograph).
If you want new clothing, search for NWT (new with tags) or NWOT (new without tags) on Ebay.com, or BNWT (brand new with tags) or BNWOT (brand new without tags) on Ebay.co.uk.
So, if you're looking for, say, new bootcut Next jeans size 14, your search engine should say something like "BNWT Next jeans 14 bootcut". Hit 'send' and up will come a list of items, with pictures.
Down the left-hand side of the page, you'll now see a category listing - vintage, women's clothing, children's clothing etc. This helps you to refine your search further, so click - for instance - on 'women's clothing', or 'vintage' (now includes anything from the 1980s). This will reduce the number of items.
You can choose to have the items listed by 'time ending soonest',
price, or other criteria - this is on the right-hand side of the page and enables you to sort the wheat from the chaff. There's no sense, for instance, in browing through items that you can't afford, or you've seen before, if you're a frequent visitor.
How to evaluate a garment
Professional vendors and power sellers generally provide more photos
and better descriptions, so you can take more of a risk with an unknown
brand. With a private vendor, it's safer to stick to well-known brands. Most private vendors hang their clothes up or lay them out on the bed and snap a low-res image that doesn't give you much of a clue at all. This is why it pays to know your brands, so that you know you're happy with the quality. I buy a lot of Boden, for instance, because it's a make I'm familiar with and I trust. Quite often, you can log onto the manufacturer's website and see a better picture. The brown dress at right is the exact same style as the brown dress at top left, for instance - who would guess?
Be wary - obviously - of anyone who describes their garments as 'stunning', 'fabulous' or suchlike hyperbole.
Photographs often don't show the colour very well and browns and purples are particularly poor - I once received a bright purple kimono when I was expecting a blue one, and the most recent item I bought is a far deeper, richer brown than the pinky-brown shown in the photo. If you're uncertain, ask the vendor.
In general, it's better to order one size up unless you're absolutely sure of the sizing and brand. Clothing can always be taken in, but it's a bear to let out.
Picking the right vendor
Always choose a vendor with good feedback - preferably above 95 per cent - and click on the button and take a look at the feedback comments. After that, it's really down to trust. You can 'try out' an unknown vendor by sending a query email about the item - if you get a friendly, courteous reply, it's usually a good sign.
Check the shipping price carefully (some vendors rack up the shipping and handling), and make sure the vendor can accept payment by the means you want to use. The easiest way to pay is generally to set up a Paypal account, which is separate from, but linked to, Ebay - instructions are on the website.
If you're in the UK and searching on Ebay US, check that the vendor actually ships abroad - many don't, since 9/11, because the regulations have become so onerous. In my case, living in continental Europe, I often encounter UK vendors who don't ship to France, but I can always provide a UK address so it's not usually a problem.
Once you're found an item and are ready to bid, bidding is talked through very clearly by Ebay - you get plenty of warnings about not pressing the button until you're certain. Decide on the amount you're willing to pay and bid that amount straight away - it doesn't mean you will actually pay that amount. Bids go up in increments, so if no-one bids against you, you may pay far less. But whatever you do, don't sit there watching an item, bidding higher and higher. For peace of mind, I tend to place my bids via snipe at www.auctionsniper.com, which places my bid automatically five seconds from close of play - I then go away and forget about it.
When you win an item, always pay as soon as you can - this will ensure that you get good feedback. I have been buying on Ebay for six years and have 100 per cent feedback and my prompt payments are mentioned very often by vendors. I use only Paypal, so I'm covered, both by Paypal and by Visa. Never pay a vendor 'under the table' as it were - you will have no comeback and you will have only yourself to blame if something goes wrong.
Once you've received your goods, you should leave feedback for your vendor. But if you are unhappy with your item, give the vendor a chance to correct the problem before leaving negative feedback. My experiences have mostly been positive on Ebay, and in over 300 transactions I have only left negative feedback once.