Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Teh Interwebz Strikes Back

So here we are again: making the efforts to collect all the big ticket gear we'll need for our baby. And, yet again, the Husband and I have turned to Teh Interwebz as a solution to the hideous mark-ups you find in store. Think I'm exaggerating? Let's take the car seat and clip-in base we just bought, shall we?

In Mamas & Papas - the store it originally comes from - the prices are as follows for the Primo Viaggio car seat and Surefix base (which are the models we have).

So that's a sum total of £243, all told. This sounds vaguely reasonable, until you see this...

Another store's online outlet (not that Argos is expensive enough to need outlet prices on any of its merchandise, but I suppose they're outlet-pricing other people's swag) has the same car seat - base included - for £37. That means the £243 price tag for both seat and base at Mamas & Papas is approximately a 700% mark-up!

With this in mind, we took another look at the £80 crib we wanted (incidentally, the least expensive model in the store by far) and considered finding its equivalent on eBay. And, as of last night, things didn't turn out too badly in that department...

Cha-ching! It's all about several key things: what I've learned in 2 days about shopping on eBay:

Line up lots of options. It doesn't do to only have one of something that you're looking for. If there's only one, you're more desperate to get that one, and therefore, more likely to pay more than you really want for it just to ensure that you outbid everyone else.

Be patient! Always start shopping on eBay with lots of time to spare. This means you can watch a few auctions to see the average selling price of the item you want before you bid on one yourself. That way, you can see whether or not there's actually a decent savings to be had, or whether you're better off just buying it new to avoid the hassle.

Scope out your dealer. Yup. Just like in every gangster movie ever made, you need to know and be able to trust your supplier. Check their eBay ratings, and especially if they don't have 100% positive feedback, make sure you read the feedback! See what people had to say about this person as a seller. Were they prompt with shipping? Was the item exactly as described? Did they keep open good and effective lines of communication in case there was a problem or a question? You really don't want to get shafted on any of these points, so it's worth making sure that whoever is flogging their wares on eBay (apparently, like a medieval wine merchant...) isn't just out for all they can steal.

Set a maximum and stick to it. Never let yourself go beyond your budget just to win the auction. Remember that annoying person who first told you that there were "plenty of fish in the sea"? Turns out they were right: and there's also plenty of cribs and baby slings and car seats and strollers on eBay. (Which is much more relevant to our conversation, since I'm not taking you fishing.)

Bid late. There's no point in driving up the price early. Everyone does it as if it'll scare people away from an auction where a crib originally cost only 99 cents (true story), but considering that to buy one new, you'd generally spend over £100 including the mattress and bedding, trying to jack the price up to £10.00 when the auction has 22 hours to go is only going to stop Ebenezer Scrooge from bidding. And anyway, if you stick your maximum bid in during the last minute, provided it's significantly higher than the current highest, people won't have the time to outbid you before the auction clock runs out...and then, my friend, you've won. And that's a pretty awesome feeling...

So tonight, we drive to Guildford (My fellow Americans, the first "d" in Guildford is silent. Just sayin'...) to pick up our baby's crib. Not bad considering we drive there often enough to go to the movies. Our next task? To source the jogging stroller I've been coveting for less than £50. People don't seem to think we can do this. My mother-in-law, sweet soul that she is, gave a little incredulous giggle when she heard our budget. Sort of like when your 4-year-old tells you they're going to fly to the moon: possible, but extremely unlikely. Well. All I have to say to that is:

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