Monday, December 6, 2010

Buyer Beware on eBay

The web marketplace eBay is arguably one of the most influential websites of the dot com era.  It has globalized the local flea market and has given rise to countless home-based businesses.  However, at its heart, eBay is just a flea market on steroids.  As in a traditional flea market, there are honest sellers and there are shady ones.  eBay has tried to combat this through its feedback system.  However, that hasn't stopped businesspeople from taking advantage of unsuspecting consumers.

Recently, I have intrigued by Amazon's Kindle e-reader.  The idea of carrying around all of your books on one device is convienent, especially while travelling.  Also, many books are cheaper in their electronic version, and most classics are even free!  On top of that, you can have books wirelessly sent to your Kindle immediately after purchasing, so you don't have to wait a week for them to arrive at your doorstep.  Currently, Amazon sells a Wifi-only version of the Kindle for $139 and a version with both Wifi and 3G cellular sells for $189.  In both cases, the shipping is free.

At those price points I don't feel ready to pull the trigger on a purchase.  However, in an effort to save a few bucks, I turned to eBay to see what online sellers are charging for them.  While there appeared to be many private sellers who were selling used ones at below Amazon's price, there were also quite a few who were selling the Kindle for more than what Amazon charges. 

One seller is offering a Wifi-only Kindle for $169.99 plus $14.99 shipping for a grand total of $184.98.  (Note that I included a link for educational purposes only.  Please do not buy a Kindle from this seller!)  This is $45.98 higher than buying a new one directly from Amazon and only $4.02 less expensive than the 3G version of the Kindle purchased from the source.  In fairness the seller states near the top of the listing that this is the Wifi-only version, so there is nothing illegal going on.

Here is another seller offering the Wif-only Kindle for $179.98 with shipping.  Again, the seller does say that this is the Wifi-only version in the description, there is nothing illegal here.  This seller mentions "Free 1.8m ebook info" in the title of the ad.  However, you will see that they are just offering you "assistance" on how you are access free ebooks.  They aren't actually providing you with these freebies are part of the deal.

(By the way, here is information on how you can get these free ebooks.  No purchase necessary!!!)

Here is a third Wifi-only deal for $183.99 including shipping.  This one is a slightly better deal than the first two in that the seller actually includes a DVD with 15,000 classic ebooks - the same ones that you could download for free with the advice that you would have gotten from the second seller.

So far, I don't have any problem with the first three deals, other than the price.  All three stated prominently that you are getting the Wifi-only version, so if you choose to purchase from them instead of Amazon, shame on you.  However, this fourth example is a little more troubling to me.  In this example, the seller is offering a Kindle for $177.46.  The title and the text at the top of the ad say that it has built in Wifi.  However, nowhere in the ad does it state that this is the Wifi-only version of the Kindle.  It does say that it has "built-in Wifi", but so does the more expensive 3G cellular version.  How do I know that the seller is offering a Wifi-only version?  The seller's description is an exact copy of Amazon's product description of the Wifi-only Kindle.

Now I can't guess why these four sellers are offering Kindles at a price that is higher than Amazon.  However, it seems like there is an opportunity for these sellers to profit from unsuspecting buyers.  The bottom line is that just because something is being sold on eBay doesn't make it a good deal.  In other words...

Buyer beware!

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