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Surfing online auctions for finds can be fun. I do it all the time, seeking things I want, both for resale and for personal use.

Online auctions are to me the virtual Big Flea Market and as in a real flea market one must wade through tons of miscellany to spot the finds.

It's faster and more convenient to do it online of course and yet, there are some things about auction listings that do annoy me. 

Perhaps you too?

I shop mostly for silver flatware so my examples below are geared to that type listing.

Here's a partial list of my Pet Peeves in auction listings:

1. Poor spelling.

I don't mind grammatical errors so much; we all make them sometimes. But not spelling important search words correctly, manufacturer and pattern names f.ex., bothers me.


The word PIECE is often spelled peice, a very common error. It could be a typo but when repeated several times in a description, I conclude that the seller never checked it.

Silver is often spelled sliver, siver, and even sivler. The name ONEIDA, a well known silverware manufacturing company, is mangled no end: Onida, Onieda, Onidea, Onedia, and a few other variations thereof as well. The silverware pattern name REFLECTION usually has a plural s added to it, and is also mangled different ways.

Yes, these may be typographical errors most of the time but so what? When "hanging out" wares to sell, isn't it important to check spelling before the whole world sees the errors?

Somehow I don't trust sellers who expect high monies for things whose names they don't spell correctly, sorry.  I can't help wondering if they are as careless with other aspects of the transaction also.

2. Bad or Confusing Images.

Images with lots of background around tiny objects, usually showing non-essential items or just the mess around the seller's room, or are murky, out-of-focus, or so over-exposed that the object is a white blob on black or the opposite. Or too small, or absurdly large.

What turns me off especially is a hand holding an object. I don't want to see chipped nail polish or dirty fingernails when trying to examine an auction item. There are better ways of propping up an object than holding it in hand.

Other things I don't understand why they're included in images:

Why include an inch ruler (often so worn that the numbers can't be read)? International bidders on the metric system can't visualize proportions to it. It's a needless distraction just as are  the one-dollar bill,  quarter or penny. They don't mean a thing either to bidders in other countries who've never seen U.S. currency in real life. Even Americans don't want to see them in images; they detract from the featured item and don't really accomplish the seller's objective which was to show proportion.

A very big Pet Peeve is distracting backgrounds with lots of strong colors, stripes, squares, flowers, trees. If the auction objects are literally swallowed up by a fancy background and can't be seen clearly, what's the point? Those sellers get no points for creative image composition but demerits for irritating the eyes of bidders.

3. Aggressive Language in Listings.

Maybe this should have been Pet Peeve Number One but who's counting:

When a seller describes the item in 2 lines and adds 300 lines or more of Seller's Rules for Bidding, my eyes glaze over. Especially if the language is angry and/or aggressive, i.e. negative. I skip such auctions fast and don't care if they're giving away gold for a penny.

4. Huge Fancy Templates.

When an auction description takes several minutes to open with colorful fancy wallpaper and borders, large scrolled fonts, animated icons, and, perhaps the worst, music or other sound  input, I am out of there fast. I don't even bother to finish opening the auction listing, it's that bad. My browser has collapsed on some of those so I won't want it to happen again.

What do I want to see in an auction listing then?


1. A title that immediately tells me WHAT it is, with pattern name and total number of pieces. No LOOK! or Rare! or MUST SEE! or ESTATE captions are needed. These are not search words so take up precious title space unnecessarily.

2. A clear concise description list of the item(s), including sizes and numbers and a grand total if there are more than one, such as silver flatware.  A "complete service for 8" doesn't explain anything as it can be any number of pieces, see my explanation page here.  I don't care to have to add them up myself, it takes too long. And I don't care to know where the seller got the item whether at a yard sale or from grand-mom.  I also don't care to read how beautiful the seller thinks the item is or where he or she thinks it should be used or displayed. All that is too much information not encouraging anyone to bid.

3. Several clear images where the pattern is clearly seen, preferably a good closeup of a fork or spoon handle. If the pattern can't be seen and is not named in the title or description why should I have to guess at it or want to bid on it? I'll forgive a seller for not knowing the name of a pattern but with a good image I can find it myself.

4. I want to see defects disclosed in descriptions. If I win an auction only to find that there are many bad defects not mentioned I find the seller dishonest. It is better to exclude poor pieces from the auction than to include them and not say anything about their condition. I don't want to pay for goods only to have to throw it out when received. And I don't need the hassle of complaining to either the seller or the auction's dispute venue.

There are probably a few more things that annoy me and also more I want to see but I can't think of them right now.

What do you want see?

Please post your comments on my blog?

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Comment by Liz Bryman on May 2, 2014 at 11:50am

A year and a half or so has passed since I wrote my peeve blog post above. Oh well, I've had time to think of more peeves!

Just recently when shopping on the Big E I have found that sellers' shipping charges are getting more weird than ever. As in, way higher than they should be for size and weight of the featured items. 

Today it's possible to order up to 90 (ninety!) Flat Rate Priority indivual padded envelopes, iin a handsome size of 12+ x 9+" for free from USPS. They are also delivered for free too to you your door (or post office box).

To ship whatever will fit in one of these envelopes costs $5.95 in postage to ANYWHERE in the U.S. and that includes insurance up to $50.00, AND a Tracking Number one can check online. A Small Flat Rate Priority Box, not quite as roomy but still serviceable for many things, costs $5.80 to mail, also to anywhere in the U.S., with insurance and Tracking included.

So why are sellers advertising 40-50 pcs flatware charging over $20.00 in shipping fees then? They like to use a Large Priority Box or even a Medium when a padded envelope would do very nicely.

As a reseller of silverware I watch postage fees very closely as I have to charge them to my customers also.

And since nothing makes me madder than to see that I've been overcharged by as much as double for shipping when the box arrives and I READ the postage on it, I figure many customers may also feel this way.

Personally I have shipped up to 90 individual pieces of flatware (forks, spoons, knives) tightly and securely wrapped in bubblewrap inside one of these padded envelopes. No mishaps ever and I've used them since they became available, about two years I think. And only charging my customers a flat rate of $6.00 for domestic and $15.00 for outside the U.S. The outside-US charge is, however, flexible, as a very heavy order cannot be dispatched to the other side of the globe for this paltry sum. My outside-US customer has a choice of paying the additional freight charge or pass on the order if s/he feels it's too much. I can't do better than that, sorry. For my U.S. customers who order large and heavy I'll absorb the addtional charge as a discount and courtesy thank you for the order. It works much better to retain happy customers than haggling them over a few dollars when they have just graced my site with some large order.

I have taken to contacting auction sellers with outrageous shipping fees and negotiated a lower fee BEFORE I bid on their items. It works very well some of the time and I am never unreasonable if they are not. Some have even been grateful that I pointed out alternative shipping means they were not aware of. I recommend this course of action rather than passing on something desirable because shipping fees are too ridiculously high. You never know if the seller might agree to a lower fee with an alternate means of shipping.

I'll put up more peeves as I think of them! Won't you all post on how you feel about shipping fees? Don't even breathe about "handling", a word that should be banished from every sales venue! "Handling" is what we must do to sell something--it should be included in the price of the item, not treated as a punishment fee the customer should be charged, agree?

Comment by ATM Antiques & Auction ~ Amy on March 17, 2014 at 12:31pm

I have to agree with most of this! As an auctioneer, both a "real one" and an online seller such as eBay, the spelling this is AGGRAVATING! The terms thing, it is kind of needed for protection but I get your point. A little trick I learned is that when people misspell things in the title, many times that item goes for MUCH cheaper than it should because it didn't appear in as many search results as it should have. That makes me feel better when I pick up a "Goram sliver set" for less than spot :-)

Comment by tomsantiquesetcetera on May 9, 2013 at 2:28am

Liz, do you correct people who consistently use misspelled words?  Or just let them make fools of themselves?

"Your" meaning "you are" is my pet peeve. It should be,  you're. 

I think text messaging is creating a world of stoopid idiets!

Comment by kate lalor on March 10, 2013 at 5:47pm

Liz -thanks for the info.  I guess it's a matter of "commen sense" ... but that is also a matter of perception.  I have a couple of vintage leather " baby doll buggies" for children to put their dolls or stuffed teddy bears in and  roll around/push around.  Some might see these as buggies to put their "human children in", which of course wouldn't work because that is NOT what they are intended for.  Yup, like ron White said, "...there aint no fixin stoopid".  Will put a little note on those buggies (also have put vintage dolls and stuffed animals in those buggies for the visual of use).  Thanks for sharing :)

Comment by Liz Bryman on March 10, 2013 at 5:08pm

I've never read any disclaimers to that effect, Kate, but if you feel better when added, do it. Re disclaimers in general: We could "disclaim" just about everything under the sun if we wanted to. There are just some things that it takes a modicum of good sense to use.
Like a ladder f.ex. If it states on the ladder that it's not intended for anyone weighing more than 160 lbs. one would hope that a 200-pounder wouldn't get on it now, wouldn't one?
Same as leaving sharp kitchen knives within the reach of toddlers; common sense says not to do it. No "disclaimer" should be necessary.
In the name of politically correct and abiding by the law, I think we often border on the ridiculous when creating laws against doing things that should be obvious to most people not to do.
In my state (FL) a woman, obviously on a suing bent (the U.S. leads the world in frivolous lawsuits, are we surprised?), put her toddler on a plastic slide in a children's play park and, it being around 100F out there in July, the poor kid got third degree burns on its thighs and calves. No wonder, right? The mother who had put the toddler on the hot slide now wants a "disclaimer" on the children's slides saying that they get hot and to warn people not to put the children on them in high heat. Like she couldn't have touched the slide first herself to determine if it was hot or not? Yeah, well, like Ron White said, "..there aint no fixin' stoopid.."

Comment by kate lalor on March 10, 2013 at 4:56pm

Charles & Liz - thank you for the info.  Pretty much to do regards safety issues and the standards now.  If selling a antique or vintage crib, or antique/vintage toys would a disclaimer stating "for display only", or not for "young children" be in order?  Most people who do buy those type of items are buying them for their personal collection and not for their children.  Still, is a disclaimer in order?  Thanks, Kate

Comment by Liz Bryman on March 10, 2013 at 11:00am

Kate, Charles, et al:  Will jump in here with one comment directed to Kate.

Many laws concerning safety in merchandise came into being long after some items were manufactured. Which is precisely why the laws were made to protect against poorly designed wares, such as infant cribs with too much space between the ribs f.ex. so a child could get head through and strangle itself. The law now states that only two (normal) fingers should fit between the ribs of a crib. Older cribs had more space there and should never be used for children no matter how much of an "heirloom" they may be.  As far as guns, I wouldn't even go there, esp. now with so much uproar in the media about the laws.

Kate, most vintage items mainly sold to collectors for display or very limited use by adult individuals are usually exempt from some of the newer laws that govern new production of similar. F.ex. vintage toys, dolls, on display only and not given to children to play with, would be considered exempt from the safety laws governing new production. Dolls, bears f.ex. may not have eyes that can easily be pulled out by a child. Well, old dolls and bears surely did have those which is why there are laws now against it. Mechanical toys, wind-iup dittos, f.ex., may not have tiny parts that could choke a child if swallowed. So these vintage wind-up toys, many highly prized by collectors, must be kept away from small children and they usually are.

Kate, I wouldn't obsess too much about what's legal or not to sell as long as you pay a little attention to whether it could harm a child or not. If you think your item could possible be a danger to anyone then don't feature it. Sell something safe instead.

Comment by kate lalor on March 10, 2013 at 1:34am

Liz and Charles, I'm not sure of what your talking about as regards to the "legal" aspects when listing merchandize.  Can you share with me what problems, etc. have come up and what I should be looking for when listing items :)  Thanks!!!!

Comment by Liz Bryman on March 9, 2013 at 10:01am

Charles-- I couldn't agree with you more. Long descriptions are sometimes fun to read. Some people write as if they're talking to you in a long stream of often unrelated points. I like to read the parts about how the cat tore up the original price receipt(!), or how the baby left part of his lunch on the box so, "..sorry, it's a little messy.." Or, how

"[I] gotta go feed the chickens now but I will come on back and fill out the description some more later after I am done with that but then I gotta see about the goats too so it may not be until tomorrow that I can fill in the details so if you got questions pl. write to me and I'll answer when the goats have been seen to.."

Charles, my top finds have always come from sellers who had too little info. in their descriptions rather than too much.  I've enlarged and clarified poor images to figure out what they're selling and been very fortunate more often than not. One example was a fine alligator handbag. The photo was not only small and dark but unrelated stuff was all round the object, i.e. baby diaper bags, baby socks, a magazine, some crumpled up shiny paper, and the top of a broom(!). This was this seller's first listing on eBay. I got the item for opening bid which was quite low for what the bag represented. When I received it, lovingly packed, it was not only hardly worn at all, it was gorgeous in three-tone colors and exceptionally clean inside too. I left her a glowing first feedback of course :)

Comment by Liz Bryman on March 9, 2013 at 6:28am

Charles, you are correct in pointing out the legal aspects when listing merchandise for sale. I spent almost 15 years in the legal field (my "day job") and understand it well. However, it is HOW it's done that bothers me sometimes. Legal m.j. can be shown in a factual way; it does not have to read as aggressive language.

Re closeup vs. close-up: Do you really trust your spell check(er)? It didn't catch copys in your text when it should have been copies. As English goes, the rules for spelling combined words are constantly changing. One of the biggest challenges any writer of English faces is not in the grammar or syntax but to decide if a word takes a hyphen or no hyphen, is contracted or not contracted. As the language becomes modernized this rule changes constantly and there is no rhyme or reason why some words are contracted now whereas years ago they were not.

Example: housewife. Used to be house wife, then house-wife. Actually now it's really homemaker. Or home maker, or home-maker. Which one looks right to you, pray tell? Which is why I don't bother picking on people who spell combined words any way they like; they are probably right :)

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