I remember back when Click was making it’s first steps in the Herald around 3 months ago that I covered the subject of safe shopping on the Internet using sites such as www.lastminute.com that employed high amounts of encryption to keep your credit card details safe from prying eyes.
Hopefully many readers took on the message that all essentially 100% secure and discovered that Internet shopping was indeed a safe and sensible way to buy certain items.

This week we will explore a more adventurous way to shop online, rather than using huge online superstores you might be more tempted now to try your hand at something a little different, for example an online auction centre.

Initially, your ideas of buying online from private buyers who could be working from anywhere in the world might be quite negative, after all, what would happen if the buyer took your money and never shipped you the goods? Who would be responsible for chasing them up? Luckily, many of the larger auction sites such as eBay (www.ebay.co.uk) have ways of ensuring that your experience auctioning online should be as trouble free as possible of which I will explain this week.

First off, all people who bid or sell on this system have to register with eBay. Registration includes giving such details as telephone number, address and a permanent e-mail address (i.e. NOT Hotmail). It is important to bear in mind that all bids are legally binding, much as you would expect to find in any auction house either off or on-line - if you win the bid, you can’t back out of it, therefore you would be wise to ensure that your children do not have access to this service. Once you are registered, your profile is continually stored and updated, allowing buyers and sellers to see how reliable you have been in the past. If you are selling a number of items, for example, the buyer may wish to check your profile to make sure that previous buyers haven’t experienced any problems with you and, likewise, if you are selling, you might want to check that the person who is proposing buying off you hasn’t been troublesome in the past.

Now that we’ve got the basics of the system sorted out it’s time for us to look for something online. To start, point your Internet browser towards www.ebay.co.uk and before too long, the front page should load up, presenting a choice to either search for items by a specific keyword, or look by category. For a trail run, click on the category Jewellery and you will find that a new page pops up separating this category into various sub-categories - Gemstones, watches, beads etc. If you choose one of these sub-categories then you will be able to view all items that are currently for sale in the area that you specified, with their respective prices and the bid end date. Clicking on any item you are interested in brings up a more detailed description, as well as links so you can view the profile of the seller, the bid history and at the end of the page there is a box for you to make your own bid (requires you to register with the service). Assuming you win the auction, you would e-mail the seller giving your name and address and he would write back to you by giving you his, you could then pay by whatever the agreed payment method was; cheque, cash or credit card.

At the end of the day, Internet auctioning allows anybody to gain potentially difficult to find items at the cheapest possible prices. Further positive aspects of eBay include free insurance for all purchases up to the value of £120, therefore if you are led in to buying a faulty or mis-advertised product or the seller never sends you the item purchased then you are covered up to this amount at no extra cost.

This, in a nutshell is the basis for browsing for an item online, by all means have a look around their site with this article in front of you for guidance, but remember to bid wisely; as I said above, any bid you do make is legally binding.

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