Making the choice to buy a watch online can be difficult. Not only are you skipping the physical dealership, which for some is a large part of the experience, but you also run the risk of falling victim to the minefield of online commerce. Since 1995, eBay has been one of the leading online marketplaces, and they have taken several steps to make buying online a little less risky, but should you buy a watch on eBay?
Although eBay is one of the riskiest places to buy a watch online, buyers can reduce their risk by doing their research, fully understanding eBays protection programs, and buying from highly rated sellers.
Continue reading to learn how to keep yourself safe while buying luxury watches on eBay.
What is eBay?
Although eBay is not a watch dealership, they do allow sellers to list expensive luxury watches, but what exactly is eBay and how does it work?
Auction Web, which is what eBay was originally called, started as a hobby and a way to make a few extra bucks. However, it was not long before its creator, Pierre Omidyar, knew he had stumbled onto something big.
When it was founded in 1995, the internet was still a fairly new concept. People were not carrying cell phones that supplied instant internet access, and home computers were a luxury, not a necessity. However, in less than one year, the auction-based website transformed from a weekend hobby to a million-dollar business.
Throughout the years, eBay has become much more sophisticated, adding programs to protect both its buyers and sellers as well as expanding its services, and today buyers can find almost any new or used item for sale in this massive online marketplace.
Pros and Cons of Shopping Online for Watches
As awesome as it is that we now have the luxury of shopping from our couches, there are both pros and cons to shopping online—and this is especially true when making expensive purchases such as luxury watches.
- You can find a plethora of options all in one place instead of having to jump from dealership to dealership.
- You can find older model watches that are not being sold in stores any longer.
- You can find gently used items that look new but for used prices.
- You don’t have to deal with pushy salespeople.
- You can quickly compare prices from several sources/stores.
- You can research an item before you buy it.
- You can do it all from your couch without even having to get dressed.
- You don’t get the item instantly and may have to wait several weeks for shipping.
- You cannot inspect the item yourself and must rely on photographs and the seller’s description.
- Scammers have found many clever ways to swindle people out of their hard-earned cash.
- The return process can be a pain sometimes.
- Customer service is not always helpful if it exists at all.
- You might buy a fake item (although this can happen in person as well).
- You miss the personalized experience of buying in a physical store.
- Getting your questions answered can sometimes prove difficult.
- You may not receive a warranty on the item.
Does eBay Sell Luxury Watches?
Yes, eBay allows people to both buy and sell luxury watches. Buyers can browse through hundreds of thousands of live listings, as well as listings that have already been sold, to compare watch styles and prices. The most popular luxury brands selling on eBay include:
- Rolex (25% of the watches sold on eBay in 2020 were Rolex watches)
- Tag Heuer
- Patek Philippe
- And Much More
How To Protect Yourself When Buying a Watch from eBay?
The luxury watch market has long been plagued with scammers, and it’s no surprise that these bad actors found a way to use eBay to their advantage. That being said, there are ways that you can protect yourself when shopping on eBay.
Do Your Research
An uneducated buyer is one of the easiest targets for scam artists, and the best way you can protect yourself is by doing your research. Research the item itself. Know the ins and outs of the watch. Teach yourself what to look for to figure out if it is real or counterfeit. Learn how to spot restoration work and original parts. If you are armed with this knowledge, it will be almost impossible to swindle you.
Additionally, research the seller. One of eBays earliest features was its seller rating system, which allows buyers to rate sellers based on their earlier transactions. Unlike other rating systems, sellers cannot remove bad ratings, and the only people who can rate the seller are people who have done business with them.
Stalk The eBay Sellers Profile
Clicking on an item photo or link will bring you to its listing page. The listing page is full of information, and we will talk about that more in a moment. Right now, we want to look at the right-hand side of the page. Here you will find the “seller information”. The seller’s profile name will be a blue link. To the right of their name, you will see a number with a star; this is their seller rating. If you look under the seller’s profile name, you will find their feedback percentage. Ideally, you will want to buy from someone who has both a high rating and feedback percentage.
Clicking on the name will open a profile page that holds more detailed information about the seller and a breakdown of their past ratings.
Read The eBay Listing Details Carefully, Then Read It Again
It might be a good idea to stalk the seller before you get too excited about the watch. However, once you are satisfied with the seller, you can begin to dig into the watch’s information, and the listing page is the place to do just that.
The listing page will tell you about the item, and its condition, and should display multiple clear photographs of the watch. Beware of pictures that look like they have come straight from the manufacturer’s website, as you want to see pictures of the actual item you are buying, not what it should look like.
The items’ conditions will be described here as well. Pay close attention to this description because the devil is in the details. For example, if the description says it is a custom watch, this typically means it has been altered in some way. If you buy the watch, find out it is not original, and try to get your money back, the money-back guarantee will not cover the watch because it was mentioned in the listing. People may try to bury details in the listing that cover them in the hopes that people will not read the description carefully. Go through this page with a fine-tooth comb.
The listing page will also tell you what you can expect from the seller in terms of shipping, refunds, returns, customer service, payment, and warranties (if one is offered).
Ask For More Information
Most trustworthy sellers will understand that before anyone hands over thousands of dollars, they are going to want to discuss the transaction in a bit more detail. Don’t be afraid to reach out to the seller to ask for more detailed information, such as the history of the watch and its condition.
A seller might ask you to handle the transaction outside of eBay to avoid the fees, and they may offer to reduce the price if you do this. As tempting as that might be, any transactions made outside of eBay will not be covered by the company or any of its buyer-protection programs. Additionally, if eBay finds out that you did this, they will suspend your account and you will be unable to buy watches from the site in the future.
Understanding Buyer Protection Programs
There are several programs that can help you stay safe while buying a watch from eBay.
For example, eBay has a Money Back Guarantee that “ensures you get the item your ordered or your money back”. If you purchase an item and do not receive it, you can get your money back. Additionally, if you purchase an item and what arrives at your door does not match the listing, you can contact eBay and resolve the issue for a full refund. However, as we said earlier, the devil is in the details, so make sure you look at the description closely.
The seller may also have a return policy that gives you a certain number of days in which to return the item for a full or partial refund. However, you may end up paying for the shipping cost to return the item. Make sure you read the seller’s return policy closely.
The way you pay might also offer you some protection. PayPal is a great resource when buying from eBay and may hold the money in escrow until the seller can provide shipping information for the item. Even then, if the buyer is not happy with the watch, PayPal may help them seek reimbursement. Also, depending on the credit card that you use, you may be able to file a dispute with the card company.
Recently eBay launched a new Authenticity Guarantee that covers luxury items such as purses, sneakers, trading cards, and watches. The watch is shipped to an independent contractor, although the identity of this contractor is not revealed, and the independent contractor will verify the item’s authenticity. However, it should be noted that they will not check to ensure the watch is waterproof or accurate. Only watches that are listed for more than two thousand dollars are eligible for this guarantee.
If you are buying a watch that is over ten thousand dollars, you can further protect yourself with eBays partnership escrow service. The money is held in an account until the buyer receives the watch and has an opportunity to examine it themselves. Sellers must abide by a 14-day return policy that allows buyers to return the watch for a full refund with no questions asked.
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