December 25, 2009

Which is better, Amazon or eBay?

Posted: 06:00 AM ET

Clark Behind The Headlines
From HLN's Money Expert Clark Howard

There are so many web sites right now to buy deals on. And the Wall Street Journal just did a comparison of the big three general merchandise sites:, and

In their testing, the best overall experience for shoppers - not necessarily always the lowest price - was The second best was eBay. EBay’s pricing was cheaper, especially if you were willing to take used or reconditioned goods. And then way back, trailing the pack according to the Wall Street Journal, was The shopping experience was really a bust, according to the story.

But Wal-Mart is a company that you never count out. Because they just stay at something with real determination and eventually, if the Wall street Journal is right, a year from now they won't trail the pack by so much.

Now I buy stuff on eBay infrequently, but several times a year. And my key criteria for who I buy from is - especially with their new tougher system of rating sellers - I don't even consider someone who has an approval rating below 99%. In the eBay world of feedback, the only thing you can really go by is what your peers have said. And if you stay above 99%, the chance you're going to have a problem is really almost none

Now I had an experience recently where I ordered a charger for a new cell phone. And I thought I was ordering the right one. Including shipping it was $4, which is funny considering how much you'd pay in a cell phone store. And they come in the mail and I had gotten the wrong one. It was my fault.

Well, the seller has a policy that they want everybody to be happy and even if you made the mistake, they replace it for free with the right stuff. I just couldn't do it. I could not take advantage of the seller because it was my fault. So I just lost $4. I could not turn around and take advantage of somebody who had such a generous policy in how they treat customers.

But that shows you how high the stakes are right now in the world of making sure that people have a good buying experience online.

Filed under: Clark Howard • Living • Savings

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Bhavna   December 25th, 2009 12:26 pm ET

we have been renting a townhome past nine years. This townhome is now in foreclosure so we decided to buy it and applied for a FHA loan from the mortgage company. we were pre approved for the loan and after submitting several paper work they refused us for the loan because we had a loss in our convenience store business this year. Our yearly family income is $ 54000.00.
So we requested our brother-in-law who is an Implant Surgeon to become our co buyer.Our mortgage company asked for his bunch of paper work to process our loan.After a long and painful journey of a six months they refused us to sanction our loan and told us that only our brother-in-law could himself buy this property and we should not be allowed as even co buyers with him at all.And they argued that this was FHA condition.We could not understand how so FHA has problem with more than one buyer? We are the one who want to buy the property.My brother-in-law is the one who is trying to help us to get this loan.

We believed that FHA loan is helping ordinary people to buy the house. Our credit is good. our monthly income is fair to pay the monthly installment and more over we have been renting this property since past nine years with regularly paying rent.We have to pay almost the same amount of mortgage as our rent every month.

Now the dead line for the foreclosure of this property is 01/06/10. We requested three times for extending dead line during this process and now we do not think they will extend anymore.
After this painful journey they declared this statement which they could have done in the begining so we could have gone to another mortgage company rather than wasting time with them.

I request you to assist in this matter.

karen   December 26th, 2009 3:12 pm ET

Amazon has always given me great service and price. They once shipped pizza pans without packing in a huge box, which was funny, but when I let them know one of the pans had fallen out, it came within a couple of days.

I've had some bad experiences on ebay-so bad I've avoided it for some years. I was buying old books, and someone sent a book with a cover that had detached. Another sent some that were in terrible condition. I couldn't give negative feedback because I was too afraid they would blame me somehow and lower my feedback. I think they have changed that policy.

Also, a friend purchased a used computer on ebay and it never came. We had to get legal counsel to get the money back.

Also, many of the people on ebay now are shops and I can often find the item for a lower price in a store somewhere nearby. Especially on desirable items like certain boots. Seriously, they are cheaper at the mall.

Walmart doesn't appear to have made a serious commitment to their website. They don't show many items that are in the stores-it's very limited.

Target has gone in another direction altogether-they have web-only items and free shipping for a certain amount-like amazon.

Benjamin   December 27th, 2009 4:01 pm ET

You are so right about your policy of not buying from sellers with a feedback rating of less than 99%. I made the mistake of buying some computer accessories from a woman who had a rating of 98%. I paid $31 and never received the accessories. She kept emailing me saying that the items were "in storage" and would send them as soon as she could. So, I trusted her and waited too long to file a PayPal claim to get my money back. If you're interested, her eBay name is punkkbelle. I've learned my lesson!

Renure   December 28th, 2009 4:22 pm ET

I agree with the comment on the sellers with 99% ratings (for both Ebay and Amazon). I have bought items on both Amazon and Ebay. I do think for refurbished electronics I have great experiences on Ebay. I have 3 teens and they want certain items for gifts which new are just too much. I research around the web for prices and have been able to find the item I want for less on Ebay. I don't even try to get auction items – I usually just go to the "Buy it Now" catagory. I have also found weird little replacement parts on Ebay that Amazon doesn't have. For new items I have found Amazon to be the best. You can't beat the free shipping and their site usually will tell you if anything is back ordered and when to expect it. I do not shop at Walmart period. Their real stores are so disorganized and their checkout is so dismal that I can't even imagine shopping on their website.

RN   December 29th, 2009 11:23 am ET

We go with Amazon every time. I have always had excellent service from Amazon.
I used ebay for several years and had decent experience – then my wife bought a wooden recorder from someone n England (name Russel_russel) and it was moldy inside. We spent a lot of money to have it inspected to see if it could be cleaned up and made useable – but we were told it was useless. The seller accused us of trying to scam him – in the end we just lost our money (over $150 with all costs). I would never purchase anything from overseas again.
I also purchased an out of print book on ebay. I got it and it smelled like musty old socks – the seller refunded the cost of the book – but shipping was half the price and that was lost.

hawkchadwick   December 29th, 2009 2:12 pm ET

I quit using ebay several years ago – too many people were trying to make all their $$ on the shipping. I would get a small collectible for $5 and they would want $20 for the shipping – what a ripoff! If I order online it is thru Amazon. Only used Walmart as a comparison this year – didn't see alot of difference in the prices. Will never go back to ebay – will only use Amazon or online retail stores.

Lia   December 29th, 2009 2:31 pm ET

The key to online shopping with amazon and ebay is to know what the item is worth new and how much you're willing to spend on it. I will usually shop around when looking at a purchase to find out how much it is going for used and how high the bids tend to go on ebay. I've gotten exceptional items off ebay for great prices (including full-length wool and camel-hair coats) for fractions of what they'd cost new and they're in almost new condition. If you're willing to spend the time on the bidding and not go over your limit, ebay can be a gold mine of quality items on a tight budget.

I do, agree, however, on relying on the ratings. Recently, my sister really wanted a set of audiobooks from a brand new seller and I just couldn't do it. The seller was overseas, the shipping would take weeks, and if something went wrong, we may well have been outside of our time limit to file a complaint. She will simply have to wait until I find a reliable seller and a good price.

The biggest problem I have with amazon is their used seller shipping policy – each item (books, in this case), even if bought from the same seller, accrued the same amount of shipping. I would have spent as much or more on shipping as for the books! I went to ebay and got four hardbacks for a fraction of what amazon wanted for them, new AND used, in paperback form. is fairly shoddy – for all their inventory, the website shows very little. I do, however, expect them to eventually provide a decent website for online shopping. If not, there's a Wal-Mart on nearly every corner and I can continue my online shopping via amazon and ebay.

Steve Sazegari   December 29th, 2009 2:43 pm ET

Amazon has two sets of rules. One applies to her own merchandise and other to third party sellers. Amazon only provides consumer protection against the third party seller but nothing for Amazon. The other day I bought a cell phone from Amazon, it was falsely advertise (features wrongfully advertised). Now when you buy an item from a third party seller, Amazon has a rule what is called A-Z complain (with this type of complain you do not have even return the merchandise if it was falsely advertised and you get full refund regardless). But with any direct purchase from Amazon you cannot use this option – Amazon arrogantly thinks she is above her own rulings. Seems Amazon lacks the integrity to protect the consumer once it is at fault.

Bart   December 29th, 2009 8:56 pm ET

I am a longtime eBay user and have been buying and selling since 1996 with 100% feedback (several thousand transactions). Definitely watch the feedback of the seller!!! However, I've still been burned a few times by 100% feedback sellers so my suggestion is simply to use some common sense. If the seller has high feedback then you can also look at the other items he/she is selling. For example, if you're trying to buy a rare coin see if that is primarily what the seller lists. If they are selling 1 rare coin, dvds, books, and etc. then you may want to be careful about the purchase because the seller may not know how to determine if the coin is a fake, etc. Also, I NEVER purchase used electronics...but that's just a personal choice. eBay has tightened up a lot of their policies lately (most of which really hurt the small time sellers), but from the buyers side it's a relatively safe way to do business.

Stan Dyer   December 30th, 2009 6:40 am ET

I have never had any problems with either Ebay or Amazon. It is important to keep in mind how the two differ. Ebay is an "Auction" site that mediates "flea market" type transactions between sellers and buyers. Amazon is a "Sales" site that also allows people to sell their own, similar products, but there are not auctions and bidding. Prices are set and not negotiable.

Steve   December 31st, 2009 4:26 am ET

You got to be kidding, Wal-mart?? Heck, Wal-mart B&M Store's won't even honor their own web site prices! Yes, Their OWN website price!

I went into my local B&M Store intending to purchase a new Ipod for my kid for Christmas with a print out of their own ad price of a new 8gb Ipod for $178 online that was selling for $195 in my local store and they would not give me the lower price even after they went online to verified it themselves! Need less to say I was very disappointed! to say the least!

So I checked e-bay and they were sell for about $190, then I checked at Amazon and got one for $158 (new) plus free shipping and five dollar credit to purchase new MP3 songs!

I am sorry but Wal-mart and their web site gets three Bronx's cheers from me this Christmas!

Good bye Wal-mart ! & Hello Amazon!

Your new loyal customer!

elizabeth   January 2nd, 2010 9:08 am ET

Amazon is by far the best place to get amazing deals on items. I disagree that you find cheaper on ebay because I have done price comparisons and Amazon now has a lot of things selling that are used and their shipping rates are FAR better than Ebay. (where you may pay an excruciating shipping price so that the seller saves on listing/closing fees). often provides free shipping and thats what I look out for!

Zoe   January 2nd, 2010 1:22 pm ET

I shop Amazon frequently. The prices are usually very good, they have free shipping on many items, and the variety of items is incredible. I've purchased everything from software to clothes to food from Amazon and never had a problem.

With eBay, however, you're gambling. I used to buy a lot more, but so many sellers are scammers that I hesitate now. Some try to charge outrageous shipping prices which makes the low purchase price not worth it. I do a lot of shipping myself so I know it doesn't cost $15.00 to mail a pair of jeans two states over.

I don't even look at Walmart. I hate Walmart.

Brenda   January 3rd, 2010 6:34 am ET

Amazon, without any doubt. In fact, Amazon and eBay shouldn't even be in the same category when it comes to comparison. I have always had positive experiences when it comes to Amazon, i.e., best price, free shipping, item packaged well, correct item sent. Quite a number of years ago when eBay started out it was great and I was a regular shopper. But things have drastically changed and now I only buy on eBay when it is something that I just can't find in a store or online somewhere else. I've had numerous bad experiences with sellers, i.e., wrong item sent, poorly packaged, excessive wait time to receive package, had to file PayPal claims, and absolutely gouged on the shipping. The last one really irritates me when I see that a seller has charged 3-5 times more for shipping than what the actual postage was! Another thing that I have observed is that too many sellers on eBay are charging too much and their prices for items are more than what they are online directly from other vendors such as Amazon, Best Buy, Sephora, etc. Based on this last issue, why would anybody bother with eBay when you can get a better price from a trusted source online, and be able to deal with somebody via phone if a problem does occur? Ordering on eBay is risky because there are too many bad sellers that eBay does nothing about, so it's like sending an order to the black hole of outerspace!

Sherling   January 6th, 2010 1:50 pm ET

I have always had the best shopping experience at Amazon. I have tried Ebay in the past and I must admit their services were less than satisfactory.

Stan Dyer   January 13th, 2010 11:47 am ET

I just laugh when I read some of these comments. So many people blame their own ignorance and inadequacies on either Ebay, Amazon or both. One person disagreed with the prices another found. What? How did that person know what prices the other found? None were mentioned. One person was afraid to leave negative feedback because it would reflect poorly on him/her, too. What? If someone deserves it, say so! It helps us all. Another complained about being gouged for shipping. Hey, anyone knows that the shipping price determines the total, final price. If the shipping is too high, don't buy the product! It's plain and simple! Many Ebay sellers offer free shipping, but very few of the individual sellers on Amazon do. Buying a product without considering the total cost, including shipping, is like buying a car for $30,000, and paying another $15,000 in finance charges, but still telling people you only paid $30,000. Niether Ebay nor Amazon, can do anything to make either buyers or sellers more intelligent.

I have never had any trouble with either service that could not be resolved. It is important, however, to recognize that these are different types of retailers, and, as always, it is better to shop around; do the homework before assuming that one will always be better than the other.

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About this blog

Clark Howard helps you become a wise consumer. We know you're busy, and that's why Clark's tips are quick and effective. He'll arm you with the information you need to make smart choices. During these tough economic times, Clark wants to help you save more, spend less and avoid getting ripped off!