Use Typos To Get eBay Deals All To Yourself

Not every eBay seller throughly spellchecks their listings, a little fact you can exploit to buy stuff for cheaper, says Kiplinger’s:

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.

Fewer people finding the listing means fewer people you have to bid against, which means you can end up with a lower closing price. — BEN POPKEN

Buy With Confidence Online [Kiplinger’s]

(Image made using Typo Generator)


Edit Your Comment

  1. matt1978 says:

    just go to, and save yourself some trouble.

  2. mikyrok says:

    This actually does work quite efffectively.

  3. mopar_man says:


    At least it used to.

    Ebay is getting so popular that deals are getting harder and harder to find. I haven’t found a spectacular deal in years.

  4. mantari says:

    (And years ago, it was also common to be able to get good prices on items in the wrong CATEGORY.)

    Next tip… save yourself $$ and SNIPE.

  5. peachkellipop says:

    Not only that, it seems like everything is “buy it now” with very little actual auction action. Well, at least it is with girly stuff.

    That takes away all the fun.

  6. bambino says:

    or, you get a great deal on the duncan fife knock-off with no path of recourse.

  7. timmus says:

    Yep, absolutely. Last year I actually searched for an “accordian” instead of an “accordion” and got a sweet deal. I love it when good grammar and spelling pays dividends.

  8. Its getting really hard to catch these deals anymore since ebay started corralling people down the right category on many auctions. Think about it, the more money the item sells for the more money eBay makes.

  9. winnabago says:

    This technique is especially helpful with electronics. Model numbers like SIR-TS1660 are often entered without the hyphen, in lowercase, or with a digit off. I have a small stash of DVD playing equipment that I was able to get this way.

    If I were more ambitious, I would resell it all correctly spelled.

  10. soultrance says:

    Another great way to score a good deal on eBay is to make proper use of the search bar. Searching for Phyfe may get you some results, Fife may get you more, but why not search for both and see it all?

    Enter (x,y,z) into eBay’s search and it has the same effect as using OR in a Google search. (Phyfe, Fife, fyfe) would increase your chance of finding a good deal even more.

    It’s also a great way to search for clothing or accessories when there are only specific brands you are interested in. Instead of looking at Jeans -> Levis and only getting Levis, go into the main Jeans section and stick (levis, dickies, etc.) into the search and you’ll be able to filter through a list of just the brands you’re interested in. Try it sometime, it’s helpful.


  11. mattshu says:

    I used to bid on “giutars” instead of “guitars”.

    One “caveat emptor” aspect to this is if someone is dumb enough to list an item when it’s spelled wrong, they might have made a few other mistakes in their listing.

  12. Youthier says:

    @bambino: That would be my worry. Also, I hate the idea of doing business with anyone who isn’t careful or competent enough to check the spelling of a headline.

  13. kerry says:

    @bambino: Yeah, that’s what’ll happen. I don’t know about everything, but those listings for Mark Jacobs and Caoch and Luis Vuiton are for counterfeit bags. That said, I might try this out for non-designer stuff.
    Don’t dis bad spellers entirely, my boss is the smartest person I know and she’s constantly sending me illegible emails. Some people are just in too much of a hurry to spellcheck.

  14. mopar_man says:

    Has anybody noticed recently that if you do a search with the term of your choice, you get RELATED items that don’t even include the word you used? I frequently search for different photography items and searching the title AND description, sometimes the word I used is nowhere to be found.

  15. ipohopper says:
  16. swalve says:

    This “secret” has been around for a while. I personally believe that some “power sellers” exploit this and purposefully list items incorrectly. I’d bet that people who think they’re getting a good deal might bid higher than the marketplace as a whole.

  17. Buran says:

    @mopar_man: I haven’t either. Auctions just aren’t good deals even though they have the reputation of having them. I play an MMORPG that just added an in-game (with in-game currency, which you can’t buy for real $) auction system. It’s a ripoff plain and simple.

    Just like real life, I mostly use the auction system to dump crap I don’t want.

    And what’s really scary is that people overpay for this crap. I sold an item and listed it for 10,000 in-game money units. The auction system chewed on it for a second and then spit out 40,000 minus the listing fee… so I got something like 3.5x what I expected.

    Too many suckers out there are willing to overpay for stuff because they get the “I gotta have it” syndrome instead of waiting for a good deal.

    The last few items I bought on eBay I bought by placing the minimum bid rather than using the buy-it-now price. On the most recent sale, the few bucks I saved (it was a small item) meant I could request faster shipping, so as to receive it by the deadline of when I actually need it – for the same price as the BiN price + slow shipping. Not bad …

  18. Buran says:

    @mopar_man: Oh, and I should note that the above 3.5x-final-price auction doesn’t quite work like ebay – you put in a sell price and you get money instantly if someone has a pending WTB order out for at LEAST the sell price; if they don’t, your item will sit until someone enters a buy order for your price or higher and then it will sell. You can see recent transaction histories for recent sales so I was going by a string of 10,000-money-unit sales … and I set my price floor assuming that 10k was the then-going price. Some sucker out there was in the “I have to buy NOW” mindset and entered a higher price in order to get the item … and so that was what I got. I’m not complaining from my point of view but as a buyer … that person got suckered, and it was their own doing.

    I’ve seen this on eBay too — people enter high max bids to ensure they get the item and then the price gets run up when lower bidders try to get the item. I even had someone try to weasel out of paying when this happened to them — but since my auction was a “no cancellations” auction, they had to pay. And that was the only negative feedback I’ve ever received …

    I like the idea of the in-game auction house above, though — they put the money in escrow and are not just an intermediary the way eBay is so there is no such thing as a nonpaying buyer, and since the items are all electronic and are also placed in escrow, no such thing as a non-shipping seller. But eBay isn’t going to do that — no way could they handle warehousing all that stuff.

    General advice to all: Go through if you’re buying/selling anything big. Don’t get ripped off.

  19. nequam says:

    Great deals are increasingly hard to come by on ebay for many of the reasons listed in these comments. I believe much of the problem, however, is that (unless you are bidding on something very specialized) you are bidding against idiots. I have noticed this when, as a seller, I get a much higher winning bid on my item then I expected. More than a few times, I have sold an item in an ebay auction for more than the winner would have paid on Amazon. And, unlike many sellers, I don’t even gouge on S/H. The bottom line is that I sell on ebay, but rarely buy there.

    And what is with the jackasses who set a Buy It Now price of $50.00 and place the starting bid at $49.99?

  20. ganzhimself says:

    I’ve had decent luck with eBay, mainly buying automotive parts and accessories. I recently bought a new set of Sylvania Silverstar Ultra 9500 and 9600 bulbs for my Impala for $60 + 10.00 S/H. They retail at Advance Auto Parts and Autozone for $48.99 for 2 (2 low beams in a pack, 2 high beams in a pack). Not too bad… Could have scored them for under $50, but some idiot bid the auction up to near my max at the last minute.

  21. MeOhMy says:

    There’s only one way to get a good deal on Ebay:
    Figure out the absolute maximum you would pay (don’t forget to factor in shipping!) and STICK TO IT. That’s it. If you win, you’re happy b/c you got it for the price you named (or less, if you’re lucky). If you don’t win, you’re happy b/c the other sucker paid too much.

    In fact, try not to think of the auction as something that you “win” or “lose.” You are naming your price – anything more is a ripoff. Master the art of determining the value of things before buying them. It’s useful in most purchasing situations.

  22. jaxed says:

    This is where I shamelessly promote my site, – it works for more then just eBay… craigslist and ebid to name a few.

  23. Buran says:

    @nequam: I once saw a poker table selling for a price of $50 and a shipping cost of $1000. The actual value of the table was in the multi-hundreds range so I think they were just trying to cheap out on the listing fee.

    I just laughed, and bought the 100% plastic playing cards I was there to buy for a fair price.

    In hindsight, I should have reported that seller for trying to scam buyers.

    Side rant: I wanted to support local businesses and buy from someone local, but no one seems to sell KEM cards that last forever but they’ll sell cheap Bicycle decks that you have to replace over and over and over and over …

    The corporate conspiracy theorist in me thinks they sell the planned-obsolecence stuff on purpose and MAKE you work to buy the good stuff. The only other places that had the good stuff other than the manufacturer (which as usual sells at MSRP which is higher than the real world) or online …

    It’s like sometimes they WANT to lose their business to the Internet …

  24. Buran says:

    @ganzhimself: I got a slightly-damaged D2S HID bulb to replace one that often didn’t light for just $35; usually they go for a few hundred. The one caveat (which the seller disclosed in the listing) was a small amount of shipping damage which did not affect operation at all.

    So far it’s lit every single time.

    If you are willing to accept small problems with stuff you need, eBay can be a good place to buy stuff that can’t be sold as new in a store but works just as well.

  25. not_seth_brundle says:

    @swalve: Yes, this is a phenomenon that was studied by HammerTap. They found that certain misspellings resulted in a higher, not lower, sale price (e.g., “labtop” instead of “laptop”). Their conclusion was that it may be advantageous to a seller to misspell keywords deliberately. I wouldn’t necessarily go that far, but as a buyer, make sure that you’re searching correctly-spelled listings as well to compare prices.

  26. GearheadGeek says:


    I suppose if you misspell your item the same way the average moron who’s willing to significantly overpay for whatever used junk you’re selling, you’ll get more of them finding your item when they misspell on the search. Talk about a black art! I wonder how much eye of newt you have to use for the incantations…

  27. VicMatson says:

    About a year ago I saw a late night infomercial advertising a book(on eBay)about eBay misspelling deals.

  28. swalve says:

    I sold my car on ebay, and I couldn’t have been happier. Carmax offered $750, I netted $2461 on ebay (2551 – $90 listing fee).

    What I like about ebay is that it’s such an efficient marketplace. What price something goes for is what it’s worth to the buyer at that time. (Usually.)

  29. asherchang says:

    could u really trust someone who mispells their listings to be competent enough in answering questions and actually providing a quality item?

  30. Nickelking says:

    @mantari: Exactly my reaction! That and finding new listings posted by people who don’t know the value but have a buy-it-now option is the only way e-bay is valuable to me recently.

  31. Jon Parker says:

    I managed to unload a Dell laptop worth maybe $500 for $940, $20 more than the price of a brand new upgraded model direct from Dell. eBay is a great deal for sellers, not so much for buyers.

  32. dale3h says:

    Heh, why’d you guys (and gals) have to make this public? Now everyone knows!

  33. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    @mopar_man: or you get unrelated items (i.e., not Carver). This is called keyword spamming and it is (supposed to be) not acceptable under ebay’s TOS. Report these scum!!

    @Troy F.: You are absolutely right. Figure what you are willing to pay (and then snipe).

  34. showmethemuffins says:

    Another site for finding mispelt ebay listings:

    as mentioned earlier albeit without the URL, is useful for bidding for automated last minute bidding.

  35. Greeper says:

    I got a $6000 SubZero refrigerator (brand new) for $1200 by searching “Refridgerator.” And a LOT of refrigerators come up when you misspell it like that.

  36. tsimehC says:

    The problem with these spelling aids is that now eBay automatically correct the spelling. I tried it a few times in the Video Games section but to no such luck. Selling on eBay is a headache usually as you’re constantly checking to see what price your item is going for (well at least for me that is). I hope to get better luck in the future when selling but buying on eBay is very addictive. I usually place bids higher than I intended to in order to beat the other bidder.

  37. synergy says:

    Huh. I didn’t know there was a word for the bidding in the last minute, sniping. Ha! Now I know what I did all weekend so I ended up with a cheap new computer system. heh

  38. synergy says:

    As someone else said, pick a max bid you’ll make and stick with it.

    Oh and research what your item is worth. That’s what I did when buying that computer system I mention above. I wasn’t willing to pay higher than a 20% discount from retail. That includes shipping.

  39. Trai_Dep says:

    syn: there’s software that will snipe for you automatically. So I’ve heard.

  40. othium says:

    I collect pottery and always search for good deals by spelling errors. What would normally cost me a few hundred dollars ends up in my hands for less than fifty. Gone are the days when I had to be satisfied with slightly damaged Sascha Brastoff items. Now I have an entire shelf of great art and most of it was not spelled correctly or in the wrong category.

  41. Da5idM says:
  42. SaraMahalo says:

    Thanks for this post; it’s a great tip and I linked to it when I wrote a How To at mahalo called How to Shop on eBay (http:/