”Tips to Help You Choose Reputable Jewelry Merchants
You might have heard that Tiffany filed a lawsuit against eBay a few years ago, accusing the online auction company of profiting from the sale of counterfeit jewelry and other items that had been advertised by eBay sellers as genuine Tiffany merchandise. eBay has successfully fended off similar lawsuits in the past, so Tiffany might have a hard time collecting, but their accusation has helped publicize the problems that buyers face when they purchase products from an unknown seller.It’s true–buying jewelry and other items sight unseen from a total stranger can be risky, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself from unscrupulous and uneducated sellers.
Study Seller Feedback Reports
Online auction companies have buyer and seller feedback systems, where each party involved in a sales transaction can rate the other. On eBay, each item for sale includes a section that tells you the seller’s total number of feedbacks and what percentage of them are positive. It also discloses how long they’ve been a member. That’s a good start, but dig deeper:
• Click on the number next to the seller’s user ID to go to the feedback summary page.
• Read the comments and view the timeline to find out if the member has been a regular participant.
• Were most of the feedbacks the result of sales transactions–with comments from buyers? It’s more difficult to get a feel for the person’s performance as a seller if the majority of feedback is for buying transactions.
• Are the feedback comments from numerous buyers and sellers? The more the better, since you want to make sure you are not reading the opinions of a small group of people (who could be friends).
Tip: The layout differs, but all popular online auctions have feedback systems.
Paying for Your Purchase
• PayPal is a popular service that transfers funds to sellers without revealing your credit card or bank account numbers to them. PayPal offers fraud protection–read the details on the Web site.
• Yahoo! offers a service called PayDirect. Read the details to determine if your transaction is eligible for fraud protection.
• Most credit cards offer fraud protection by allowing you to dispute a transaction when goods are not received or are not as advertised.
• Do not send personal checks to unknown sellers–you don’t want your checking account numbers in the hands of someone you don’t know. A money order is a better payment method for sellers who do not accept electronic funding (but payments made by check or money order are difficult to recover if you encounter fraud).
• Escrow services are sometimes used for high-ticket items. You pay the service company a fee and they hold your funds until the item is received. The service then releases funds to the seller. There are fraudulent escrow services out there, so use one that’s endorsed by your auction company.
• Most auction companies recommend you never send cash or instant wire transfers to a seller. Neither of those methods offers enough tracking information to locate a dishonest seller.
More Auction Safety Tips
• Check the shipping charges before you bid, because some sellers inflate shipping fees to increase profits.
• Contact the seller to ask questions. Did the response come quickly? Did the seller answer your questions completely?
• Read the seller’s return policy.
• Check the seller’s physical location and remember — international transactions are most difficult to police.
Sight unseen purchases from individuals are risky, no matter what steps you take — always keep that in mind when you are bidding in an auction. Use common sense and try to verify what the seller is promising by doing some research using the details provided.
• Compare photos of the item with other similar items for sale.
• Did the seller provide photos of signatures or other markings to help verify authenticity?
• Are there similar items for sale by other sellers? If so, how do prices compare? Are bidders shying away from certain sellers?
• Does the seller seem to be knowledgeable about the item? Some people resell items they’ve bought without ever verifying that they are as advertised.
• For more tips, read each auction company’s advice for buyers.
If you don’t feel comfortable about an item, don’t bid. You can probably find the same thing locally or through a reputable, online merchant. Have fun, but don’t take chances unless you’re prepared to deal with the frustrations of a poor transaction. ”
By Carly Wickell of jewelry.about.com
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