Dealing Effectively With Questions From EBay Buyers

Questions from buyers can be a pain in the neck but I always try to view them as an opportunity to engage with my customer and, hopefully, cement a sale.

A question, no matter how stupid or irritating it is, indicates interest in your item and is an opportunity to bring forward a sale.

You have to remember that when we do this all the time we understand all the ins and outs of the processes, but there are plenty of people who only visit eBay occasionally and they have to navigate a lot of features they are not familiar with. I always try to be patient with potential buyers. Who knows, they might become a regular customer.

I am certain that sometimes a buyer will ask a question simply because they know it gives you the opportunity to send them an offer. The option is always there to do so when replying and you have another chance to make a sale.

I see a lot of complaints from sellers that buyers just don’t read the description. Certainly from some of the questions I get that is true. But that’s true in almost any business. I hold my hand up and confess that I have asked a question of a company and when I looked further the answer was on the very page that I had been viewing but I just didn’t see it. Even in clothing stores people sometimes ask questions the answers to which are on the ticket or the Point Of Sale materials, but the assistant has the chance to speak with the customer and help them decide to buy.

It’s really no different on eBay. So here are a few tips for dealing with questions from buyers in various scenarios.

The Answer Is In The Description Already

This does happen a lot but however tiresome it is NEVER say something such as “all the details are in the description – please read it carefully.” No one likes to feel like an idiot and it’s unlikely to endear your buyer to you if you point that out to them.

I always simply repeat what is in the description and add any further detail I think might be helpful. This is also an opportunity to review your item to make sure all the detail is there.

Remember to thank your customer for their enquiry.

Additional Information Required

A question from a buyer can sometimes request information that is unique to their own use for the item. For example, I sell vintage maps and they are often bought by people customising them or using detail for a customer. One regular customer sometimes asks if a particular place is one or nest to a fold in the map as it makes it harder to use. This is so easy to answer for me but it might not always be obvious. you might get someone asking what seems like a strange question but they might have an unusual use for the item.

It is also possible that someone might have a special requirement due to an unusual condition or circumstance. This could, for example, apply to an item of clothing when standard measurements are not sufficient.

Be kind and answer in a friendly and straightforward way. Do not patronise or imply any criticism of the question – you always want to keep your customer happy.

Your Description Is Incomplete or Contains Wrong Information

I use one listing as a template for the next and when doing a large number of listings I occasionally make a mistake. Sometimes it’s the wrong photo with the right title or vice-versa. And even more occasionally the description is clearly not for that item – perhaps I was distracted by the phone and didn’t complete the listing properly. This is easy to solve with a “thank you” to the customer who points out my error and a quick edit. Be sure to let the customer know you have up-dated the listing and, if you are so inclined, take the opportunity to send them an offer.

I have so many low-cost items in my eBay store that I often don’t include every minute detail, unless it concerns condition, of course. So I will sometimes be asked “what are the measurements of this map” or similar. In this case I will get the information requested and add it to the item description AS WELL AS replying to the question directly.

If the buyer asks a question and I clearly have just missed the information off the description I will up-date the description then always thank the customer for pointing this out to me and give them the information directly as well as letting them know I have up-dated the description. This is also important in helping prevent an “Item Not As Described” issue.

Customer Asks About Returns

This often rings alarm bells for some sellers. You would be right to be cautious but some buyers are just ultra-cautious too. Even though your returns policy should be clear to them they might just want reassurance. Perhaps they cannot afford to buy something and it turns out not to fit (their child), for example.

Again, be kind and polite and say that as long as the item is returned in the same condition as when it left you there would be no problem.

NB: As a business seller you are legally required to accept returns (whether or not you pay for the return carriage).

Customer Asks About Delivery

Even though your delivery options are clearly stated questions about it are not uncommon. Just today (Monday 20th December) I had someone who asked me, having already accepted my offer on an expensive map, whether I could use a service which would guarantee delivery by Thursday. I said it is tricky at this time of year as neither the standard Second Class postage that I use or First Class post could be guaranteed by then. I pointed out that all of my items have the option of Special Delivery at an additional cost, which he did pay for. I suspect he was hoping I would up-grade him free of charge. I don’t blame him for trying.

It is worth bearing in mind that it might all be super-clear for you but the buyer just doesn’t see it.

I always try to keep messages like this conversational and with an understanding tone.

Customer Asks About Price

Some people always like to get the best deal they possibly can. People love a bargain. So I don’t blame buyers for asking me if I can offer a better price. This means they are interested in my item.

Even with “Or Best Offer” I get people asking about price. Even though you and I are all so familiar with pricing, offers, bids and so on, for some folks it is a world they visit only once in a while.

Before answering have a think about what you would be happy to sell for and reply in a way that makes them feel you are really doing the best you can. And even if you are not going to budge on price, try not to be dismissive or cocky; replies such as “no chance, mate, I know what it’s worth and you won’t get it cheaper anywhere else” are not helpful. The truth is that they may well get it cheaper elsewhere but you have their attention and so you can take the opportunity to say why they should buy from you. You could say something like: “I understand you want the best price you can but I try to price items fairly and I do offer a solid money-back guarantee. I ship within one working day of payment and you know you reply on me for the best possible service.” Use your own words, of course.

Where you should be very cautious is when someone suggests to buy outside of eBay – see next point below.

Buyer Suggest Dealing Outside Of EBay

Loud alarm bells should be ringing in your ears if you get a question on this nature.

The simple answer is that it is strictly against eBay rules to even discuss dealing outside of eBay and you both risk a suspension or ban if you do so . Neither of you would enjoy eBay’s protection if you take the transaction outside of eBay. You can reply politely to such question outlining these points.

As tempting as it might be to escape some eBay fees, it’s just not worth the risks.

If you have a website that people can buy from directly make sure you include a note with your website details and perhaps a discount coupon with each item you send out. There are no rules against that.

Buyer Asks You To Send To A Different Address To That On The Order

This is strictly against Ebay policies simply because it MIGHT be a scam and removes your seller protection. In the unlikely, but possible, event that your buyer’s  account has been hacked the thief can get you to send to his own or a third party address and you would be none the wiser.

Furthermore,if you have a dishonest buyer he can ask you to send to another address and the tracking will never show that it was delivered to his own address and you would lose an “Item Not Received” case.

Exaplain politiely to your buyers that it is against eBay policies to do so and could result in a “defect” against your account if you did so. Also explain that the policy is there to protect your customer from a fraudulent attack on their account.

The only solution is for your buyer to ask to cancel the order and t buy again updating the address.

Honest, genuine buyers sometimes simply forget to update their address or are buying as a gift. I had one once who wanted an item to be sent to their holiday home. Such people almost always respond positively,


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