Shopping on eBay (Part 1: Buying)

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[Bill Keeth grabs a bargain or two]

I know there are fogies young and old out there who have so far succeeded in avoiding all contact with the internet. (Not unlike myself, I admit– until, that is, She Who Holds the Casting Vote at My Present Address forbade me to drag a succession of Olivetti typewriter ribbons into the new Millennium with me.) There are, I suppose, younger fogies for whom the initials PC still mean “politically correct” And there are those of an older generation (Silver Surfers, manqués, shall we say?) for whom these same initials will ever be an abbreviation for “police constable”.

Well, fair play to them, I say. Because dulce et decorem it most certainly is to stand firm against the zeitgeist – the spirit of the age, which would X Factor every civilised instinct out of us, if only we’d let it. Notwithstanding which, I do sincerely recommend to such stalwarts as these the tentative acquisition of a personal computer, if only to access

a) the undoubted convenience of corresponding with friends by e-mail;

b) much more presentable study notes and missives via Word; and

c) advantageous shopping via the internet.

The internet, to my mind, is the biggest leveller since the Colt 45. Well, certainly with regard to commercial transactions. Because it tends to bring all shoppers up (or down) to the same level.

For instance, there was a time in the not so distant past when the prospect of shopping at Fortnum and Mason’s would have necessitated the wearing of formal street clothes. On the other hand, enquiries at Evans’s Scrap Yard on Elizabeth Street, Cheetham, concerning a replacement gearbox for your frog-eyed Sprite would have seen you venturing forth unshaven in your gardening gear and loading your enquiries with a barrage of – well, let’s call it effluent language.

Otherwise you wouldn’t have been taken seriously at either emporium, would you?  The toff would have been ripped off at Evans’s; and the scruff would have been thrown out of Fortnum’s on his ear. Yet here am I this very morning, sitting at my PC in M24, unkempt, unshowered and unshaven, in a string vest and carpet slippers, trawling the internet for tickets for Tattersall’s enclosure at Royal Ascot.

Like heck I am!

Oh, the location and the carpet slippers are real enough. But the other items are stage properties, dreamed up to illustrate a point I’m keen to make. That is to say, I might very easily be shopping in my underwear. Because I do shop on the internet – and regularly.  For one thing, it’s easy to do so; and, secondly it can be amazingly cheap.

I use eBay and Amazon in the main, and I’ll usually be shopping for books, household fixtures, 45-inch vinyl singles, DVDs, and music cassettes.

Yes, music cassettes. (I said “old fogies”, didn’t I?) In fact, my very first job of work upon acquiring a new car is to sling the CD player and have a generic radio cassette player installed – courtesy of Lee at the CB shop at 145 Oldham Road, Tel. 0161 653-2508.

Why? Because music cassettes are 25p each or 5 for a £1. (Perhaps I should have said old fogies who are also tight as a fish’s.) I’ve acquired a fair collection of vinyl singles, music cassettes, DVDs and books in this way. In fact, when we were looking to downsize six years ago, I found myself lumbered with 20 banana boxes full of books that just had to go.

But where?

I priced storage but it was pricey. So I donated the lot to the SVP charity shop on the grounds that, if I missed any book too much, it would be cheaper to buy it back from the charity shop. In the event I regretted parting with just one book: Three Lives for Mississippi by William Bradford Huie, the book on which Mississippi Burning is based

Having said which, value for money is what I get from eBay when shopping in order to refurbish buy-to-let properties. Accordingly, I recently put a dent in my bank balance in trawling eBay for household bargains for my most recent acquisition, though not as unconscionable a dent as Wickes and B&Q would have caused. (Check out my shopping list below. All items are new and, except in two instances, the price includes delivery.)

a) 60cm stainless steel gas hob – £ 54.00 (B&Q – £150)

b) 1200mm X 500mm  chrome towel rail/radiator – £ 49.00 (B&Q – £75)

c) pair of modern quarter turn chrome basin taps £  24.95 (B&Q – £77)

d) twin lever spout chrome kitchen tap — £  14.75 (Wickes – £50)

e) chrome, quarter turn, shower mixer taps – £  28.99 (Wickes – £110)

Plus two items I had to collect:

60cm Baumatic s/s visor extractor fan – £45.00 (Wickes – £75). and

wall-hung electric fire – £29.95 (B&M – £90)

The key to shopping successfully on eBay is to trawl patiently from the cheapest items upwards. Rip-offs abound, but there are many genuine business people amongst the dross, simply waiting to be identified by bargain hunters such as your good selves.

Incidentally, my current favourite on eBay is Chris in Northumberland from whom I have twice taken delivery of 6 feet X 3 feet wooden gates, constructed in 16mm pressure treated timber @ £55.40 each, including delivery! (See the illustration and eBay.) Or call Chris on 01434 673 063 for more information. Amazingly, the price is inclusive of japanned hinges and a snick.

You won’t beat that at Wickes or B&Q.

(16 October 2013)

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See Amazon Kindle books recently published by Bill Keeth: Every Street in Manchester, Manchester 9, Write It Self-Publish It Sell It, Boost Your Pocket Money and Pension

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