Buying High-End on eBay
This guide focuses on high-end bags. If you want a more general guide to buying on eBay, click here.
Buying a luxury item on eBay can be super exciting. The temptation to click ‘Buy’ on a designer bag at a price that undercuts the major retail sites is often too great an opportunity to miss. But without the right knowledge and experience of dealing on eBay, you could find yourself in the horrible state of owning a fake bag.
Consumers are becoming more cash savvy, and this reflects the growing popularity of the resale market. Sites like Vestiaire Collective, Depop, Tradesy and The RealReal are seeing thousands of new users each day. Having established itself as Europe’s market leader, Vestiaire aims to develop its growth in the US and push into the Asian market.
Throughout this influx of resale sites, eBay has managed to keep its cool. This is partly due to the fact that it has other categories to fall back on, but it’s also because it has some of the lowest rates of commission on the market, and this means that sellers can offer their pieces at a more reasonable price. Depending on the price of your item, Vestiaire’s commission stands between 18% and 30%. eBay’s rate is 10%, and occasionally this lowers further.
This competitive rate means that as a buyer, you can get a better price than if you bought elsewhere. However, unlike the luxury sites, eBay don’t assess items before they go online, and this leaves room for counterfeit items to slip through the net.
This guide focuses on what to look for when buying a luxury bag on eBay, and what you can do to minimise your chances of receiving a fake, or one that’s in poor condition.
#1 Know your price
The luxury consignment community is very clued up on the resale fashion industry: they know the appropriate price to sell at, and they know what to expect to pay. There are even physical barriers set by sites such as Vestiaire to help the market flow better: their staff assess your item before it’s advertised for sale to gauge whether it fits within the current trends of the community. Secondly, if you set your price too high or too low, they will step in and advise a more suitable value.
By comparison, the lack of intervention from eBay means that prices are often all over the place. This can be both a blessing and a curse to the buyer. Firstly, it means that many items are too expensive. You’ll often find a severely scuffed, worn and torn bag for sale, with the seller trying to justify its £300 price tag simply because it’s Prada.
On the other hand, sellers with little awareness of the value of their item often put their price lower than you expected to pay. This can be an excellent opportunity for you as a buyer to snatch it up.
In order to assess whether you’re getting value for money, read around the item first: look at how much similar items have sold for, on eBay and other resale sites. Take into account the relative condition, size and year they were sold (a Mulberry Roxanne sold for £300 in 2013 is unlikely to be worth that much in 2017).
Knowing your price and sticking to it will stop you getting ripped off, and will hopefully prevent you from getting carried away during bidding.
#2 Get out your magnifying glass
Inspection is key! Unfortunately, one downside to buying online is that you can’t fully get a feel for the bag in its entirety until it’s in your hands. Factors like the quality of the leather, the neatness of the stitching, or the crispness of the imprinting can’t be completely assessed through photos alone.
That said, you can weed out some fakes by solely looking at the photos and reading the description. Some fakes are the wrong dimensions, so look at the measurements: are they consistent with the original? On other fakes, the lining is the wrong material – this is common with counterfeit Gucci bags. Inspect the hardware: the letters on the inverted triangle tab on fake Prada bags are often wonky and too narrow.
#3 Compare, compare, compare!
Comparison may be the thief of joy, but not when authenticating a bag. One technique I find helpful is to find photos of the real thing online and compare this to the item on eBay. For each brand, there are specific points to look out for: with Miu Miu bags, the zip should say ‘RiRi’ on the back. With Louis Vuitton bags, there should always be a serial number, and with Chloé, there should always be a hologram sticker on the leather tab.
Unlike the designers’ websites, resale sites often show photos of the parts of the bag that confirm its authenticity, such as the zip, the serial number, and the logo embossing. Compare these photos to the eBay item: is the serial number in the same format? Is the zip the same brand? Is the logo in the same font? Does the paperwork/ authenticity card look the same?
Be thorough, it’s better to spend a little time researching than it is to waste your time getting your money back after buying a fake.
#4 If you’re unsure, ask!
Most sellers are happy to oblige any reasonable requests. If they haven’t included photos of the bag’s vital signs such as the zip or the serial number, politely ask.
Likewise, it’s worth asking if they still have the invoice, care card, authenticity card, dust bag or original box – these are all valuable accompaniments that help you to determine if the bag’s authentic.
You’re potentially forking out a lot of money for the bag, so it’s worth being as thorough as possible.
#5 If in doubt, outsource
If you’re tight on time, or you don’t feel confident in your own judgment, it’s always helpful employing the work of an authentication service. Authenticate4U is a well regarded paid company, and the PurseForum is also helpful, but the response time can be slow. Just make sure you submit the item to the sites well before the listing ends to allow them time to respond!
#6 Know when to walk away
In life and in bag buying, it’s important to know when to walk away. Often a seller will knowingly try to flog a counterfeit bag, and ignore any queries regarding its authenticity. If a seller doesn’t reply to your questions about the serial number, or they won’t take a photo of the key parts of a bag after you’ve asked them, it could be a red flag.
If a seller knows that their bag is authentic, they’ll usually be happy to clarify things for you because they have nothing to hide. Yet dishonest sellers may disregard you if you try to probe with questions, knowing that you’re trying to determine if the bag is a fake.
Many counterfeit Chloé bags, for example, have no leather tab with a serial number, so if you ask a seller to show a photo of the serial number on their counterfeit Chloé bag, they’re likely to just ignore you if they don’t have one.
#7 Don’t fret!
If you find that you’ve bought a counterfeit, don’t worry – there are ways to get your money back. Firstly, contact the seller and present your case. Remember to remain civil, and go into as much detail as you can to explain why the bag is a fake. Include photos if necessary. Sometimes sellers will oblige and refund your money, no questions asked.
However, if a seller insists that the bag’s real, raise a case with eBay and give them evidence as to why the bag is fake. Again, include photos. Usually eBay will be compelled to refund your money at this point, but if you still can’t get your money back, your other option is to file a dispute with PayPal.
This is a long list, but if you’re investing your hard-earned money in a luxury bag, it’s always worth making yourself familiar with these tips when coming across a bag you’re not certain about.