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Bad buys: nearly all the clothes I’ve ever bought off eBay

Posted by on Friday 26 November 2010 in bad buys | 4 comments

Another in my occasional series of laments about bad buys I’ve made.

I love eBay. We call our house “the house that eBay built” because we bought so much stuff – appliances, furniture, accessories – off eBay in the first few months after we moved in. I use it as a find-anything bazaar and a virtual charity shop. But I’ve had failure after failure when it comes to buying clothes off there.

From seeing just one or two deliberately flattering pictures of the item, I create a best-possible-case 3D animation in my head: me wearing the item, it fitting perfectly and looking great. Surely that’s worth £1.50 plus p&p! Unless it’s something that really excites me, I won’t get caught up in eBay drama or bidding wars – my bids stay charity-shop-price low and if I get outbid then nevermind. But often enough, I do win and my “fits perfectly, looks great” fantasy continues for a few days until it arrives.

It’s happened with the weirdly (deliberately) patchwork leather jacket, the far too boxy polyester Hawaiian shirt, the strappy tops which were apparently made for someone with a half-sized torso, the “I could fit three of us in there and we’d all look like weird scientists” dressing gown, the shoes in the picture are nice but super narrow (and clearly very cheap quality to start with)… I could go on and on. None of these items have cost more than a few quid all in, but those few quids do add up.

Most of those bad buys were a good few years ago now. I’m not that slow. But recently I thought I’d cracked it and started again. I had good logic – I’m not usually brand loyal but there is a particular brand and size of jeans that I like: comfortable fit, nice shape, decent quality. They’re a pretty expensive brand but it’s better to buy one pair of those than a couple of pairs of not-so-good ones, I get my wear out of them and thanks to sales, I’ve never bought a pair full price anyway. I have about four pairs of them already (I live in jeans) but like to keep an eye on their sales because they don’t always sell off the type I like, recently it’s been all skinny or stupidly bleached, and one pair has started to show their age a bit so needs replacing.

So I turned to eBay. I realised I could make a saved search of the brand name & size, and check it periodically to see what came up – I know the quality, I know the fabric, I know the shape. Jeans that match my criteria come up a lot – nearly all new or just worn once. I got a pair last month which were perfect and thought I’d cracked it. Then I bought a second pair which were a) a different colour than they looked in the photo (but I could live with that) and b) Long rather than Regular. As anyone who knows me in the flesh will know, I’m not exactly a Long type of girl. Of course I could take it up with the seller, explain the ad wasn’t clear about the length, send them back, get my money back – but it doesn’t seem worth it for £1.52.

Lessons learned: When buying clothes in the flesh, I have some rules: it has to be at least 50% (in practise, at least 80%) natural fibres and whether it’s a £1 vest from a charity shop or a £80 winter coat, I have to try it on before I buy. While I can stick to the first, I can’t really do the second online – and particularly not from eBay. I need to figure out some rules for shopping on eBay and I think the main rule is really clear: I really, really need to stop buying random clothes on eBay. I can possibly keep buying the jeans (and other things that can be tightly searched like that) if the description clearly states the colour and all the size dimensions.

Have you had any more success buying clothes on eBay? If so, got any suggestions?


Join the conversation and post a comment.

  1. Louba

    I’ve been really lucky with ebay but I’m struggling to think why! I bought my wedding dress on ebay and it fits prefectly – which may have been a bit of luck more than anything else. I think my top tips would be: 1 buy brands where you have a reasonable idea of the quality and fit, 2 I only buy things that I love, are quality items and I would feel guilty paying full price for – so I don’t buy t-shirts but I do buy classic designer dresses where £30 – 50 on ebay for something that will last forever suits my lifestyle and my principles more than £300 new (!) 3 – look for things that can easily be resold, passed to a good friend who likes the same stuff but is a slightly different size or altered to fit if they aren’t quite right. I have a friend who has slightly bigger hips than me but a much smaller waist and we’ve swapped quite a few potential ebay disasters – it’s great because she is a bit braver than me so we each get things that look great but we might not have thought suited us. It isn’t full proof – I still have a smal pile of things waiting to me altered or made into something else! Hope this helps someone!

    • louisa

      Oh I like those rules!

      I think I might add another – I’m not allowed to buy any more clothes from eBay until I’ve re-sold at least those three things from the picture.

  2. Paola

    I have made a few clothing purchases on ebay over the years, and apart from one miss have had quite a few hits.
    My rules are:
    1. New, new without tags, or barely worn.
    2. Sticking to brands of clothing I know.
    3. Only buying things I really, really need.
    4. I don’t buy from ebay stores – only individuals cleaning out their wardrobes.
    It’s not often I feel moved to bid, but when I do I have been pleasantly surprised. People often remark on my ebay purchases, and it’s great to smugly reply “It only cost me $x on ebay!”
    Hope you have better luck..

    • louisa

      I think I’m getting a better hit rate now I’m sticking to brands I know – and I’m the same about only buying from individuals — the stores aren’t usually enough of a bargain to take a risk.

      I had a bit of a hit at the weekend – 2 pairs of BNWT jeans (the type I mentioned in the article) for £10 all in, when the rrp is £80! I’m being very smug about that!

      Thanks for the comment Paola!

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