Saturday, February 27, 2010

Navigating eBay - Buying Cosmetics, Skin Care and vain things of the sort

eBay is a heaven and hell all at once: While you can find some hard-to-find items or buy things cheaper than the retail price. For those who are not careful enough, there are lots of traps and con artistes who make a living cheating off people. I personally like using eBay to buy things that are not available locally or for limited edition items I want to collect and I have gotten a few pretty good deal and some not-so-great deal. Here is some of my experience with eBay (dedicated to newbies)...

- have an open heart and tell yourself the amount of money that you don't mind wasting, that's the maximum price you are willing to pay for one item. Because if anything can go wrong, it will go wrong.

Be very familiar with products releases:
Many of the fake things over eBay are down right ridiculous. Like MAC Hello Kitty Couture... mascara. You will know that there is something wrong with a large quantity of MAC Hello Kitty lip gloss when the line were sold out pretty quickly back in Feb 2009. The same things goes with MAC fuchsia pigment... it's not supposed to look like baby pink.

I am guessing some of you are fans of Anna Sui cosmetics. While there aren't that many fake Anna Sui items, there are a lot of Anna Sui-inspired (I even see a YouTube girl flaunting her fake sets of Anna Sui cotton pad case and beauty accessories,as if they are authentic.) that use sneaky wording as well as some of those ancient stock that are at least 7 years old. Anyway, some minor research on Google beforehand never hurts.

For every item for sale there is a listing page, it gives you all the information you need to know, be sure to look for:

The price- Compare it with market price and its availability. If you see a limited edition gloss more than 2x its original's just not meant to be (Girls, you will survive without Lancome Chris and Tell). Seriously, buying it gives the sellers an impression that it's OK for them to charge such a ridiculous price for items like this and those future limited edition items might be even harder to get thanks to eBay sellers.

Size of item - Full sized, minis or Gift with Purchase? Some tricky sellers would take a close up and make a mini looks like it's full sized (a friend of mine once bough an " over sized" Juicy Couture purse when it turns out to be tiny...) or not mention the item was gift with purchase as brands like Lancome, Estee Lauder and Clinique tend to give you a load of little freebies when you spend over certain amount and sometime the quality of a freebie are usually not as nice as the actual thing.

Beside those mini lip gloss, some eBay seller(blog sellers do that all the time)would pick one or 2 items from a Beauty Crunch gift set and sell them as if it was purchased individually for full price so when you are buying those "Cheaped Out high end" brands, checking discount websites would probably give you a much better/safer (God knows if they used it or not, given they are willing to cheat you out in the first place) deal.

Condition (new ones usually have the condition NEW in bold print and if they don't bother to mention it, the seller might be new or he/she is intentionally hiding something...) For some items, it would be difficult to tell if they are new or used, like loose powder/lip gloss so don't buy if you are 100% confident with the seller or the item is factory sealed. I have seen a girl trying to sell her opened up loose powder and she claimed it as "Opened but never used" while the powder pretty much got allover the place...

Shipping Rate and Insurance -Make sure they are stated clearly and it doesn't look to irrational. Some people might charge 9 bucks for shipping because that's how they earn money but charging 9 dollars shipping for each items when you buy several would be unreasonable and you can report the seller on eBay.

There is a despicable jewelry sellers who charges shipping but when you check out, it takes to to a different platform in which they add a compulsory 3 dollars insurance. The jewelry are not really that "valuable" so I guess it's the way they generate revenue.

Picture of Merchandise-
Look for actual picture (instead of stock image from official website). If all of the listing are official images and there are a large quantity of high end merchandise from many brands, it's very likely to be defective/used (the returned merchandise) or totally different thing. Even if the seller has their own pictures, some of them would try to make minis look like full sized one ( or selling mini using official image).

Personal Seller -To find a really good deal on cosmetics, I prefer personal seller (people who are getting rid of some of their brand new gifts for very cheap price or they just happen to know someone who would provide them with some NARS and Anna Sui products. ) The good part is that sometime you get some items that are hard to find locally and are a lot cheaper than the retail price, the bad part is that they would never provide long term stock. It's all about your luck, really.

People who make a living out of eBay- Unfortunately, there are more con artistes in this category.If you see a person who sells a large quantity of certain high end brand for lower than 60-70% of the retails price (ieNARS cosmetics and they sell it around 50% off retail prices, there is definitely something wrong.Of course there are some commercial seller who offer discounted, fresh, authentic high end cosmetic skincare but the discount would only be around 20-30%.

Seller rating- This is the number and percentage that represent their credibility. Be sure to read the rating detail. A 99% positive seller who has over 10000 ratings means that every 100 person, one of them would be angry enough to leave something negative. (If they are not too happy, sometime they just don't leave comment) With my rotten luck, I might be that person who get a leaked bottle of lotion. I usually go for seller with 99.9% rating if it's a business seller with many rating. For personal selling, you have to look further to see what the negative rating is about as it can be left but one single cranky costumer for trivial reason.

A quick way to see all the negative feedback would be, where you can copy and paste the user name and dig out all the dirt. An even quicker way (Thanks to Pixie) is to go to the seller's profile page and replace the .com part of the url (if you are in US) by and click on the number of the negative rating (in US the number is not clickable)to see all of the negative/neutral rating grouped fetched together.

Seller location-While there are all kinds of eBay sellers based in US and it's hard to generalize. You can tell a lot from a seller's location.
Hello Kitty- Made in China

China - If you see NARS, MAC cosmetics or things like Anna Sui purses, just skip. While some of them are ridiculously cheap. I have also seen people who charge 15-20 dollars for a fake Anna Sui (it's one of the most copied brands of all time in Chinese auction websites) when they only charge 3-4dollars in China. For brand name items, even Sanrio Hello Kitty, China is not the place you want to buy it. Even if you are 100% sure about the authenticity, are you sure you want to wait for weeks for the item?

Many brands like Anna Sui, Shiseido Majolica Majorca are available in Singapore so it's a reasonable place to get those. I haven't bought many things from the country but I don't see many/any fakes either. The only down side would be the shipping time, which is usually not very fast.

Fake overload. I remember there was a seller who sell Anna Sui inspired (just fake) mirrors as if they are real ones (a fake cotton pad case would cost more than 30 dollars) and most people would just buy them and became "happy customers".

Hong Kong
As a duty free harbour, there are many sellers for any kinds of cosmetics from France to Japan. At the same time, there are probably also quite a few sellers who sells nothing but fake so it's half and half. Find a reputable seller with many/good rating and you will be fine.

eBay is not very popular in Japan as people over there usually don't like used item. Anyway, you can find some custom purchase people who would provide good service (and receive nice feedback) with a hefty price tag. I personally never like something enough to pay the international shipping and markup (so I never even purchased a Japanese lip gloss online as I can get a nice tube of Revlon 5 minutes walking distance from home.)

High Risk Item:
Here are several things that are just very easy to go wrong. Such as
1. AS-IT electronics, as it usually mean broken electronics.
2. Unboxed or uncovered bottle - leaking hazard .
3. Lip Products - It's 100x more disgusting than swatched eyeshadow and it's hard to tell it if were a lip gloss. Just skip unless you are really confident with the seller.
4. MAC, NARS brushes - 80% + of the listing are fake
5. Anna Sui hand purses, accessories and cosmetics, 99% of them are either fake or ancient.
6. Hello Kitty stationary from mainland China. Real Hello Kitty are from Sanrio so it's safer to get them from Hong Kong, Taiwan or Japanese seller.
7. Designer anything (Unless you really know your stuff)- If you want to by a cheap LV handbag, it's possible that you don't have anything from the store (which means that you probably can't tell what the real one exactly look like when it comes to tedious details). Massive seller are no doubt fake but some personally sellers might also want to get rid of their purse that they might or might not know is fake.

Skin/Hair Care: I just don't buy items from the two categories as they are usually heavy and credible seller usually don't give an ultra low price. I might as well just go to TJ maxx for a bottle of Frederic Fekkai.

Paypal- Is the ideal form of payment as it gives you protection from frauds.

What if you have some problem with your purchase?
If you are not happy with your purchase, don't panic.

1. Deal with it -If I spend a few dollars and get an eyeshadow that seems to be lightly swiped (when the seller said it's new) I just think that it's not worth it arguing with the seller or spending time/money (as you have to buy tracking to make sure they did receive it) sending the item back for that few dollars worth of refund. I think I can deal with a lightly swiped eyeshadow (not a dent) and just make a mental note never shop in the same place again.

2.Ask the Seller
For fault that I cannot tolerate: a dent in eyeshadow, used lip products or the seller never sent the item. I would first ask the seller on the eBay page since I want to figure things out with them first rather than letting eBay handle it(Which takes forever).

Most of the time the credible sellers care a lot for their feedback that they usually sound sincere from the tone and offer a partial refund, full refund once you send back the item or replacement if the item is damaged on the way. If the sellers just don't admit it's their fault, ignore your emails or use impolite languages like using all capital letter in their reply like IT'S YOUR FAULT THAT YOU DIDN'T BUT INSURANCE (it kind of annoys me when bloggers do that too), there is no point haggling with them further as they simply would not budge.

Asking them would act as a head up that you will take it to the next level if you the seller cannot provide a resolution.

3.Leave a negative feedback
If you are not happy with the purchase because of the seller (A brand new eyeliner that smudges on your skin doesn't count), more like if some one sell mini tester as if they are full sized, selling fake Anna Sui with the price of authentic Anna Sui, selling used products. Leave the negative feedback explaining what the problem was so when people search for the history would know what the seller has done(if they do it once, there would be a second time). Remember, don't use ALL CAP (people would think you are mental)or any curse word or the word "liar" , as eBay would delete the entry.

4. File a Paypal complaint- Go to your paypal page and find the dispute bottom. Enter your transaction number and file the dispute. You need to write up an explanation with plain English (no flowery introduction needed but do read through and spell check your "essay" as the Paypal people would use that the review the case.)

After receiving the dispute, Paypal would ask/force the other side to respond and communicate with you so the seller would provide their part of explanation. Sometime the best outcome you can get(when the seller absolutely refuses to cooperate from the very beginning) is to ship back the item (with tracking, at your cost) for a full refund. Once the seller acknowledge the receipt, the refund would be automatic but the seller would just not response even after receiving the products even the tracking number showed the delivery. E-mail paypal again to push them so they would check the status of the item and take the money out of seller's account and refund it to you.

The process is pretty long and tedious (and paypal usually takes forever to make a ruling) so I suggest you to just pick seller with 99.9% positive rating so that you never have to go through this.

Anyway, that's all I can think of right now, Row at Cosmetic Candy did a post like this as well, google it yourself (for some reason her site doesn't load very quickly with my computer) if you want to take a look.


  1. I think this is a very good guide!

    I buy a lot of ebay, and I used to sell a lot during my time at university.

    An interesting fact on ebays feedback system. will lets you click the number of negative/neutral feedback in a sellers feedback profile, and then it will take you to the comments. will not let you do that, but if you replace the .com with in the url; you will get the same functionality. Pretty handy :)

  2. Thank you...It was really useful. I was on ebay yesterday, but didn't buy anything... When I import something I prefer Brigette's Boutique or :)

  3. This is a very helpful post. I rarely use ebay these days because there are too many fakes, but when I do I prefer to buy from personal sellers too. Also, I never buy anything from people/shops that use a promo/stock photo instead than taking the picture of the item themselves. That way I know for sure what I'm buying and if you're familiar with the brand, you can easily spot fakes.

  4. This is a very useful post! Thanks for sharing :)

  5. Pixie:
    Oh, that sounds cool...I think the American eBay kind of want to help those seller cheating off people as they made it so difficult/tedious for people to even report those con artistes...
    I have never shopped at strawberrynet before even they do seem to have an overall good deal and high rating. My main concern is that they seem to carry a lot of ancient stock (like 5 years or older) and the newer (not nessisarily new) stock usually has the same price as sephora...

    Anyway, if you ever plan to buy skincare items from Strawberry net, I have heard (on a beauty forum) that they cut-off/marker over the batch number/expiration date to coverup the fact that those are old stock...
    Yeah, things just get fishy when they don't even have their own picture. Sometime, the seller just google and steal pictures from blogs (they even stole a pretty ugly picture from here), and there was one time I saw a google search result picture on a blog giveaway...I am guessing the blogger just want to have more reader while she doesn't even have anything to give out...As she makes it sound like that was her own picture.
    No prob...

  6. Citrine, oh really? I've shoped there several times but I always bought newer things- like releases, limited editions (newly released) and I was always really happy with their service- everything came fresh and clean. :) But I read in a brazilian blog that the girl bought a philosophy body cream (hope in a jar) and when she opened- ewww- all her room smelled like rotten milk. So maybe to buy there we should be smart just like we have to be on ebay- discontinued itens= old/ ridiculous price= old

    When a need a lower price, i just get it at brigette's boutique. But there you can't find all the colors and all the line, you have to like what is there and the end. But I always find something that i like there..

    Do you know another store that has worldwide shipping?

  7. Cacau:
    From the top of my head...adam beauty and ichibankao(this site is expensive)both ship worldwide...but both of them sell Japanese cosmetics.

  8. LOL. Those icons are mad funny.

    I've never used Ebay so I don't have much opinion about it but...are ppl so desperate to buy branded goods they'd risk buying fakes? Then why not go to a night market and just buy the fakes? Some counterfeits nowdays are very convincing and you could hardly tell them apart from the authentic ones.

  9. Irene:
    Some people are just crazy for the label. (I have seen a grandma/aunt on that Taiwanese queen show who said that she "loves" LV so much that before she could afford it, she would buy fake...

    Sometime I just want to tell them it's not like they can pull off the real one anyway...


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