How to Buy Designer Handbags on eBay and Not Get Burned

Vintage Michael Kors Striped Suede and Leather Tote eBay Steal

My $31 Vintage Michael Kors Striped Suede and Leather Tote eBay Steal

Ya know, no matter what the current state of the economy, my own or the nation’s, I love a good bargain (hence my absolute love affair with Mr. Rebates… see my blog post about the site here). I also have to admit that other than online shopping and my absolute addiction to all things that is a gorgeous fashion accessory, my life is devoid of pretty much all enjoyable actions outside work, which is pretty much all I do every minute of every day of my life. Accessories are such an addiction that I have no hopes of ever using everything in my extensive collection but therein lies my second favorite thing… accessory options. The few times a year I actually do get to leave the house/studio, not only can I coordinate (or should the mood suggest, contrast) perfectly with whatever I choose to wear, I can do so in a myriad of different ways and always use at least one item I’ve never worn before. My home is accessories heaven and my doctor’s office, the destination my accessorized self appears most often, has never seen such a well “accoutremented” patient. Sad, but true.

So, how exactly does one reconcile “love a bargain” with “designer fashion accessory?” Well my friend, you have come to the right place, for I am da masta.

If you read Style & Angst, you already know my personal obsession with

Vintage Diane von Furstenberg Tapestry Overnight Bag eBay Steal

My $6.99 Vintage Diane von Furstenberg Tapestry Overnighter eBay Steal

flash sales. If you are pining for something new (or a gift that will certainly leave an impression), in- or close to in-season, and drastically discounted means a high priced item drastically discounted to the point you can afford it, flash sales are definitely the way to go. There is not a designer accessory maven on earth who would not benefit greatly from visiting the myriad of flash sales that are taking web savvy fashionistas by storm. But what about those things that make you go “hmmmm” when the 80% off discounted price still means spending upwards of a few hundred dollars on a single piece? What do you do then, huh? You head to eBay, of course. Yes, eBay… the land of fake Swarovski crystal, Chinese pleather Dolce & Gabbana handbags, and fabulous authentic designer bargains when you know how to work the system.

So, how does one shop eBay safely and get what you pay for (or don’t pay for, for that matter… the bargain is the point, right?)  While there is no way to absolutely guarantee success, there is an awful lot you can do to stack the deck in your favor.

Now, keep in mind these are my own personal thoughts on how to most safely shop eBay, and I only shop eBay when there are certain sacrifices I am willing to make, the most glaring of which is the alleged “newness” of the items I will buy there. Rarely will I buy a designer accessory listed with an emphasis on “new” on eBay, and unless it is a known company, I will NEVER buy anything listed as new that is also sold by any sort of dealer. To do so is an almost surefire way to end up with total crap. What you want to do is plant yourself squarely in the “pre-owned” or “used” subcategory of your intended quarry.

Now, just because something is listed as “pre-owned” does NOT necessarily mean it is actually “used.” Take my own collection as an example… I could sell hundreds of designer items on eBay that have never seen the outside of their sleeper bags since I bought them and that is exactly what you are looking for. There is no better eBay seller than a fashionista cleaning out her closet to make room for the new designer goodies you will be buying on eBay next year from her.

Chico's Silk Jacket eBay Steal

My $9.99 Chico's Silk Jacket eBay Steal

To make this easy, I am including two lists below… “eBay Don’ts” and “eBay Dos.” The more of the items on these lists you can apply to any single purchase, the more likely you are to walk away with the designer bargain of a lifetime. I have written these lists with designer handbags in mind, but with little tweaking you can apply these points to just about any designer item you will find on everyone’s most hated favorite auction site.

eBay Don’ts

1. If there is more than one of the same rare vintage Mark Jacobs bag available from the same seller they are fakes, don’t buy any of them.

2. If there is a $600 “Buy it Now” price tag on a perfect Chanel Caviar bag, it’s a fake, don’t buy it.

3. If the Valentino bag you covet is made in or shipping from China and you know the designer’s bags are made in Italy (more about this later), don’t buy it.

4. Don’t trust the seller’s claim that they “guarantee authenticity.”  Now, I don’t mean to say to ignore it, but make sure there are plenty of other clues that Burberry bag is authentic other than the seller’s say-so.

5. If the seller doesn’t or won’t guarantee authenticity, move on.

6. Don’t assume that just because someone owns a designer bag they know how to spell the designer’s name. It often pays to do a search using misspellings and/or variations of the term you are actually searching for (e.g., if you’re after an Isabella Fiore handbag with sequins, make sure you also search for “Foire,” “Fiori” and “sequence”).

7. Don’t trust anyone but yourself… do your homework. Even sellers you know you can trust can make mistakes.

eBay Dos

1. Absolutely make use of great sites like Spot Fake Handbags, BagBible and the myriad of designer-specific eBay Guides available on eBay itself. Not only will these sites show you how to tell the real thing from the fakes but they offer useful information such as what to do when you end up with a suspected knock-off.

2. Do know the particular details of your designers. A variation in details is often the easiest way to spot a fake. Does the plaque have Prada-style rivets? Do the zipper pulls include the designer’s name or logo? Is the bag made in a country the designer uses to assemble their pieces? (and you’d be surprised how many authentic bags ARE made in China… or mebbe you wouldn’t). All the specifics to look for can be found at the sites listed in point #1.

3. Do look for people cleaning out their closets. Items sold with original receipts, tags, sleeper bags, and/or original packaging are the best finds.

4. Pay attention to bidding activity. If there are five hours left on a killer Ferragamo bag and nobody has bid on it, assume there’s a good reason.

5. Ask the seller questions. If the seller doesn’t specify the size of the bag, by all means ask, do NOT assume you can tell a bag’s dimensions from a photograph. If the seller does not state the handbag is authentic, make them do it in an answer to that specific question (btw, it is my understanding that it is a violation of eBay’s terms to decline authenticity… if the auction says it’s Coach, it has to be guaranteed Coach, the seller cannot state “I cannot vouch for the bag’s authenticity”). If the handbag looks like leather but the auction description does not state it’s leather, ask. Keep a copy of the answers until you have the bag and are satisfied with it. If you don’t get the answers you want or any answer at all, move on.

6. Read and pay attention to seller feedback. There are many trustworthy sellers on eBay who specialize in vintage and/or designer goodies and great feedback will let you know exactly who they are. Use eBay’s “Favorite” function to keep track of sellers you trust who often have the types of items in which you are interested.

7. Pay attention to shipping prices! Not only is your “bargain” Tod’s handbag less of a bargain if you are paying $25 for shipping, but a seller who gouges you on shipping and shorts eBay on sellers’ fees in the same motion is not exactly someone operating with the highest level of integrity.

8. Learn to snipe! Sniping, which is using software to place your bid at the last possible second of the auction, is the absolute best way to get what you want for the least possible price. There is absolutely nothing underhanded about sniping, as those who have not mastered the art and continually lose to those who have would ridiculously suggest. Any way you look at it, as long as you enter the maximum bid you are willing to pay either on eBay or through a sniping tool, you have no right to regret a loss by any method, period. There are several sniping tools out there, some of which are entirely free. My personal fav is Gixen, which is entirely free but you can pay a very small fee and get extra features. Btw, I win well upwards of 99% of the auctions I bid on (and I snipe every one).

9. Use PayPal or a credit card to pay for your auction. This way if by some remote chance you end up with a fake even if you do follow my advice, you have a means of filing a dispute to get your money back. Just make sure you file your PayPal dispute within 45 days.

10. Do pay attention to the seller’s return policy before you bid so you know where you stand if you receive an item exactly as described but you don’t like it. If you end up with something that isn’t as described DO IGNORE the seller’s return policy, especially if it says no returns. No matter what the seller says, if you receive a misrepresented item you are entitled to your money back through PayPal’s Seller Protection program.

11. If you have a bad experience, LEAVE feedback! The only way a bad seller can get away with continuing to be a bad seller is if nobody knows they are a bad seller.

There you have it. If you have any of your own eBay tips, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and please tell us all about your best eBay fashion steal!

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