Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Seniors and the Lure of eBay, Amazon, PayPal, et al

Seniors are generally more reluctant than most to start buying online, especially at the big selling bazaar of eBay. I have been buying there since the early 2000s.  Jim began buying with Amazon first, which is generally the case with seniors.  He joined Amazon Prime and fell in love with it.  Then very gradually he entered the eBay environment too. He has never sold online whereas I have both bought and sold on these online venues.

The overriding issue with buying online is: Is it safe or will someone scam me or steal from me? (ebay scam shown left)
People will try and dupe you online.  I am not convinced that this is any greater than the scamming that goes on in every day real life. But most of the efforts to steal from you or lure into trouble come at you from your email accounts. If you use a state of the art email account like Gmail, it will filter out most of those scams for you so only a very few make it through. Essentially all of these scammers lure you over to a bogus website where they try to get you to surrender your critical info as to identity and financial accounts.  One basic rule will save you from all of this. Only do financial transactions by going to the website itself on your own, not from a link in your email. Conduct your business on that valid website, which locks down behind you for security after you have logged into it. Also, by using PayPal for most online buying experiences, you limit your exposure even further.

Like Jim, you might find joining Amazon Prime your easiest first step. Amazon's basic pitch to you can be found in its ad, shown left. The number one reason Jim vaulted into it was for the first item, the free shipping. The $79 fee for free shipping seemed a little steep to me but I buy very little on Amazon whereas it is his primary buying stop. The streaming video is very nice and there is a lot of choice in the free shows.  There is not the huge choice you get on Netflix but if you were primarily looking for free shipping, it is a nice extra. The third and final item is misleading.  You have to own a Kindle eReader device in order to get those titles.  For those of us on other devices, we get nothing. My sister has the Kindle and Prime and is as big a fan as Jim for this program.

eBay today is more like Amazon than it once was. Back in the beginning, all of its sales were auctions.  Today 70% of its business is at a fixed price where you "buy it now", just like on Amazon. eBay is all third party sellers as eBay itself sells nothing. Amazon is a mixture of third party sellers and a vendor itself.  (The Prime program only applies if Amazon itself is the vendor.)  Jim started very small on eBay, buying a teapot first.  Then he graduated upwards to a drum. It was not just the moderate prices which drew him in but the unusual merchandise was an even bigger draw. The simple fact is that you can get merchandise on eBay which simply does not exist elsewhere.

I am an artist.  I have found supplies on eBay that are unique. I was recently doing fiber art projects and found fabrics there that were long "out of print". I love the textile designers Alexander Henry and Kaffee Fassett.  I was able to find fabrics of theirs that had been out of circulation for years. This appeal to artists and craftspeople was so strong that another business in competition with EBay emerged as we got further into the 2000s.  This was Etsy.

Etsy focused on the niche market of arts, crafts and vintage goods and supplies sold at fixed prices. Going to Etsy is much like going to the best arts and crafts fair in your city. Meeting the artists and craftspeople is every bit as much of the experience as ending up with their art works. Etsy's artists and craftspeople are from all over the world too. Lately I have been buying these wonderful handmade tunic dresses from Thailand at Etsy.

If you are on an iPad or iPhone, there are apps for all of the etailers I have just mentioned.  These apps are so good for the IOS system that I find myself rarely going to the websites with my Mac Air laptop. For those of you on android tablets or phones, the apps are not quite as good or plentiful but they are fast coming along. To the left is the Etsy app on an iPad in action.

We have just scratched the service of online etailing here and tomorrow I will post another entry for seniors about online commercial transactions.

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