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Buy With Confidence Online

Seven tips to help you find what you're looking for and avoid buyer's remorse.

You can buy just about anything on the Internet if you know where -- and how -- to look. Learn more about online auctions, marketplaces and classifieds in The Art of the E-Deal. Then, no matter what's on your shopping list, use these strategies to help you shop smart.

1. Browse a bit. Most auction sites will let you browse by category or do a keyword search. Browse first, says Dennis Prince, in How to Sell Anything on eBay ... and Make a Fortune! (McGraw-Hill, $19). You may find an item you did not know existed or get ideas on words to include in your search.

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2. Know the deals. The Internet makes comparison shopping as easy as moving a mouse. Don't bid or buy without researching an item's worth.

3. Search smart. As with selling, use words that best characterize the item you're looking for; for instance, "Duncan Phyfe console table" instead of "antique table."

4. Search dumb. Try misspelling the search term. While everyone else bids on the Duncan Phyfe table, you could have the "Duncan Fife" table -- same antique, wrong spelling -- all to yourself.

5. Vet the seller. A seller's reputation lives and dies on the feedback posted with each listing. Pay attention to feedback that gives specifics, advises Joseph Sinclair, in eBay the Smart Way (Amacom, $18). If you see a couple of comments such as "Item not received three months later," steer clear.

6. Play penny ante. With auctions, set your maximum bid at an odd value -- $100.01 instead of $100. A single penny can make the difference between a win and a tie; with a tie, the person who placed the bid first wins.

7. Hire a sniper. You could shoot it out with another bidder in the last few minutes of an auction, or you could let an automated-sniper program, such as www.esnipe.com, do the gunslinging for you, for a small fee.

Also: Learn how to Sell With Success and Share Your Online Auction Stories

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