If you are a man of a certain age, you may recall buying your sneakers at a sporting goods store where they shared shelf space with boxing gloves and Big League Chew. Those were innocent times before terms like “sneakerhead” and “sneaker boutique” even existed. You would simply walk into the store and ask the salesman for your size and he’d go retrieve a pair from the back. He’d even help thread the laces through the eyelets and push down around the toe box to make sure the shoes fit properly. It was that simple. There were no campouts, no furious refreshing of browser windows, no Twitter RSVPs.
Those days are gone.
Today, the early bird gets the worm. The most hyped shoes sell out within seconds to folks who are willing to spend days waiting outside stores before their release or users who secured coveted slots through the sneaker companies’ online RSVP systems. The unfortunate part is that most of the people who do get a pair have no intention of ever putting them on their feet (let alone pushing down the toe box).
Resellers have become a necessary evil for anyone looking to purchase collectible sneakers. And the marketplace where most of those transactions take place is eBay. Even Kanye West has gone to the Bay to buy up pairs of his own signature sneakers.
While a lot of the general uneasiness around online peer-to-peer shopping has dissipated, there are still plenty of ways that would-be buyers can get screwed. To avoid the common pitfalls and get the kicks you want, follow these rules for buying sneakers on eBay.
1. RESEARCH COMPLETED LISTINGS
Research is at the core of every smart eBay sneaker purchase. You want to gather as much information as possible to ensure that you get a quality product at a good price. Nobody wants to overpay, but if you think you’re going to get a pair of cement Air Jordan IIIs for $50 bucks, you’re fooling yourself. The Completed Listings option in search results is an excellent tool for figuring out what the sneakers you want have been selling for. From there, you can figure out what’s a good deal and what’s overpriced.
2. CHECK THE SELLER’S FEEDBACK
Since you can’t meet the person selling the sneakers face to face, you want to make sure that he (in sneaker reselling, it’s always he) is an honest broker. Click on the seller’s name under Seller Information to see how many people have left positive feedback. eBay has made it harder to leave negative feedback, so you want a guy who has 99% positive feedback or greater. Also, look at when he joined eBay. If he just joined the day before the auction went live, chances are he’s running some kind of scam.
3. KNOW HOW TO SPOT A FAKE
Sometimes fake sneakers are so obviously fake it’s laughable. Sometimes fugazis are harder to spot. Again, research is key. For most desirable sneakers you should be able to find the SKU online to match it against the one on the shoes you’re scoping on eBay. Find images of the sneakers on reputable sneaker sites, ideally the brand’s own, and scrupulously compare them to the ones on the eBay listing.
4. A PICTURE IS WORTH A THOUSAND WORDS
You’re looking at the pictures in the listing and they look just like the ones the sneaker company posted on Instagram. All good, right? Nope. In these days when saving someone else’s image is just a matter of right clicking, you want to verify that the shoes pictured in the listing are the same ones that are being sold. A good sign is if the photos include a card with the seller’s eBay user name.
5. DON’T BE AFRAID TO BE A LITTLE ANNOYING
Still not sure? Send the seller messages. Don’t worry about being annoying. It’s way better than being ripped off. Ask questions about how the seller obtained the shoes, ask for more detailed pictures, ask if the shoes have ever been tried on. Ask whatever you want. If you don’t get a response back, you’re better off looking for another pair.
6. READ THE FINE PRINT
Every piece of information in the listing is potentially valuable. If the sneakers will be coming from somewhere outside of the U.S., that could lead to really steep shipping costs that instantly transform a good value into something less than. Plus, it could cause delays in your sneakers’ arrival. Also, not to cast aspersions, but international listings can be signifiers of fakes. Many counterfeit sneakers come from Asia, so you’ll want to be extra careful with those listings.
7. THE SHOE BOX IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN YOU THINK
If the sneakers are listed as “New, With Box” make sure that the box is the correct one. This can be one of the easiest ways to spot a pair of unauthentic kicks. If the information on the box doesn’t match the information in the listing, that’s a red flag.
8. GO PRE-OWNED, MAYBE
One of the strangest phenomenons of today’s sneaker culture is that there are a good number of sneakerheads who just want to have a pair of shoes to post them on Instagram. After that the sneakers have served their purpose and they sell them on eBay. You can benefit from their frivolous vanity. Since the sneakers have been very gently worn, they can be a great value for the guy who’s not concerned with popping tags. Still, you want to be extra cautious because the last thing you want is to pay good money for a pair of beat-up sneakers that look like they came from an Odor Eaters ad.
9. PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE
The thirst for coveted sneakers ramps up to a fever pitch leading up to release day. But a week later, everybody has forgotten about that pair and moved on to the next thing. If your tastes have a little more staying power, you can leverage this behavior to your benefit. By waiting a couple of weeks or even months after the shoes first drop, you can see prices fall dramatically.
10. BEWARE OF BIDDING WARS
This is the golden rule of sneaker buying on eBay. If you eschew the “Buy It Now” option and go for the auction format, at some point you will find yourself in a bidding war. There’s nothing wrong with this as long as you set limits. Even if your back and forth is in $5 increments, it’s easy to find yourself $100 or more above the price you wanted to originally pay. Don’t get so caught up in winning the auction that you lose sight of everything else.