Reader Tip: Misspell Your Searches to Save on Ebay Purchases

Annie at The Bargain Junkie emailed in the following tip:

When I shop for things on eBay, I often deliberately misspell the item I’m searching for. There is always a seller who has inadvertently posted a typo. I wanted a Mexican silver bracelet, so I searched for “Mexican SLIVER bracelet.” I was the only bidder, so I got a $200 Taxco bracelet for 7 bucks.

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Comments

  1. Jennifer says

    That is true! I found that as a seller and wondered what the heck was going on…but never really thought to reverse it!! Thanks.

  2. says

    What a great tip! I had never thought of this but it makes perfect sense.

    I am not a good speller, and have from time to time mis-spelled a blog post title. Those are some of the posts I get the most traffic from. Come to find out I am not the only one out there who struggles with spelling, and others will use the same mis-spelled word in a search engine :-)

  3. Kim says

    I have to say that that seems a bit wrong to me. It is, basically, taking advantage of a person’s mistake. You know, you can contact the seller and tell them of their mistake. I just think that, if it were me, I wouldn’t want someone to do that to me.

    • a happy mom says

      If you are going to take the time to sell on Ebay (take photos of item, etc), how time consuming is to run a spell/grammar check or have a friend review your spelling (if spelling is an issue for you) before posting something for sale? Seems something that a prudent business person would do if he/she wanted to get a good amount of traffic to his/her item. If a supermarket had an item in an ad spelled wrong, I am sure at least some customers would notice it and wonder why the ad was not proofread before printing and sending it out to potential customers.

      • Kim says

        Yes, but I imagine that a lot of times the people selling things on ebay are moms and dads just like us. They’re not all “prudent business” people. Everyone is, obviously, welcome to do as they please with this suggestion. I just wanted to put another idea out there–consideration.

        • emily says

          Yes, but I think that a happy mom is trying to say that taking the time to list on Ebay is cumbersome. If you are going to go through the hassle and spend the time doing it, do it right or run the risk of your item not selling or selling for less than you want. Plus, there is a thing called reserve and buy it now pricing. If you really cannot spell and feel like you are being ripped off, set a reserve or list it as a buy it now item.

        • Kari says

          I’m going to have to go with a happy mom on this one. Sellers can put a reserve on their items. But, you did bring up a valid point, Kim.

          • renee says

            When you put stuff on ebay and don’t set a reserve on that item you take that chance no matter if its spelled wrong or not on selling that item for a low price. I dont think that is taking advantage of a person’s mistake. I have sold things on ebay that I thought should of went for more and didn’t.

      • Kristina says

        You can message the seller and tell them they have misspelled their title. I am sure they would appreciate ti!

    • emily says

      Some people misspell on purpose. If you look for something on Ebay, especially in a popular category, you can be overwhelmed by all the listings. If a seller happens to misspell their listing, all buyers who search and accidently misspell their search, are brought to one item (or a few items that are listed with misspellings) rather than hundreds of them. Your item is more likely to sell and to stand out. You are not making money if it doesn’t sell.

    • manju says

      I completely agree with you Kim… Because the seller made a mistake doesnt mean you have to take advantage of it. It comes to your basic principles. What if you are the seller and dont know you made a mistake. I think I find it similar to finding someone’s bag in a restroom or a restaurant. Just because someone forgot it doesnt give you the right to have the stuff inside the bag… its that simple. then again it comes to the basic principles of each individual…

      • Emily says

        Totally agree — this seems wrong to me. I guess there are lots of ways to justify it, but at the end of the day, the bottom line is that the seller probably didn’t intend for no one to bid on his item simply because he made a spelling error. So taking advantage of that error (and profiting off the mistakes of others in general) seems sketchy. I like your purse analogy, by the way — I think that works!

        • says

          The purse analogy doesn’t work because it would be stealing to take something that you found that wasn’t yours. In this case, no one is stealing, they are just looking for bargains where no one else is. Kind of like finding a poorly advertised, out-of-the-way garage sale that has great deals at it.

          Of course, it would be great to also let the seller know they made a mistake on their listing (just like I would also tell a garage sale that was poorly advertised how to bring in more traffic — because I can’t help myself), but there’s still nothing wrong with also bidding on it, too. It’s their prerogative to fix the listing, just like it would be the garage sale owner’s choice to change their advertising strategy.

          As always, though, if you don’t feel comfortable doing something, don’t do it. But there is nothing unethical in bidding on a listing on eBay or searching for listings that other people might not be finding.

          • manju says

            I said the purse analogy after reading some of the comments where it was said that since it is the seller’s mistake it is ok to do it. so that is the same case with the purse too. no one stole it when it was on the owner’s shoulder. i know taking something from some one’s purse is stealing . . it is about ethical values. there is a fine line between saving money and taking advantage of some one’s mistakes. i do use coupons try to save money when ever I can..but i think there is a fine line.

          • Emily says

            I think what I (and probably manju) think is fitting in the purse analogy is the idea that someone’s mistake becomes your gain. You could easily say, “She should’ve been more careful and watched her belongings more carefully. It’s her fault, not mine,” the same way people here are saying, “It’s the seller’s responsibility to spell things correctly, not mine.” Technically true, but still not a terribly kind or helpful mentality. I think that’s the level on which it works.

            I guess this ebay thing is “not unethical” the way it’s not unethical to get 100 cans of tuna for free at the grocery store using sale prices and coupons. If the store allows you to use 100 coupons and doesn’t limit your quantities, then you have every right to buy 100 cans of tuna. But that doesn’t make it a “right” thing to do, either — doing something like that is grabby and selfish and reveals a “myself-before-others” attitude. I think the same is true here. It might not be technically wrong to cash in on someone’s mistake, but I think it reveals an attitude that puts money-saving and deal-finding before integrity and respect for others. And in my mind, a deal done at the expense of someone else isn’t a good deal.

          • manju says

            thanks Emily…i think you put my perspective in better words. thats what i was trying to say. technically its right. morally its wrong. even the using of coupons is justifiable since the store is not loosing money on it. they get the money for the coupon back from the manufacturer. all I was trying to say is we should not try to save money at other’s expense..then again if you feel its ok to do it no one is stopping you since its technically right….i do sell on ebay and i always make sure everthing is right before i put the ad. but we are all human and mistakes happen.

          • says

            I agree that we should always use integrity, but I think we need to be careful that we don’t become “moral police” for others. I can’t say how many groceries you should buy — or whether it’s right for you to buy 1 can, 10 cans or 100 cans. If you run a shelter for homeless people and feed 100 people every day, than it might not be one bit selfish for you to buy 100 cans of tuna for free with coupons (provided your store has a huge stock and you got the coupons by ethical means). On the other hand, if you live alone and never eat tuna, buying 100 cans and clearing the shelves might be selfish.

            But I think we need to be very careful when we call someone “selfish”. We don’t know situations that people come from or why they are making the decisions they are.

            In most cases, someone could come up with a reason why any deal might be done “at the expense” of others (the store is losing money, the manufacturer is losing money, the garage sale owner is losing money, the online store is losing money). Therefore, if you follow that line of reasoning, you could take it all the way to the conclusion of saying it’s wrong to use coupons or shop sales period and we should always pay full price. And there are some people who truly believe that (you should read some of the emails I’ve received!).

            I appreciate you sharing your viewpoints and appreciate your heart to be caring and helpful, but I disagree that bidding on eBay listing that are hard to find is unethical or selfish. However, as always, if you don’t feel comfortable doing something, don’t do it. At the end of the day, a clear conscience is worth much more than saving a few bucks. :)

  4. Steph says

    there are several automated programs (just google ‘ebay typo finder’) that look these up and catalog them.

  5. Cindy says

    My husband has done this routinely for several years and with much success. Also use the different spellings of words that sound the same. Example: try “bare” for “bear” or “sun” for “son”.

  6. Chelsea says

    I think this is a great idea! As a seller, it is their responsibility to double check an ad. I’m going to start doing this.

  7. O Rivera says

    Kim, if you were a seller wouldn’t you double check to make sure that everything is accurate before posting? I personally don’t shop on ebay, I’m just giving an opinion.

  8. Kim says

    I would, yes. However, I also understand that there are people out there who aren’t as good at spelling as I am. I choose to give grace to those people. Maybe this post will be a helpful reminder to people to double check stuff before posting.

    • Sherry says

      I do sell on ebay, it is my only income. Some people think it is a piece of cake. Well let me tell you it is hard work and yes when you are trying to beat the clock to list 50 to 100 items spelling errors do occur. I have to list this amount in order for 1/4 to sell. We are all human and do make mistakes. I have had others tell me of such mistakes as well as a wrong picture being uploaded. Believe me it does happen.

  9. Linda Spiege says

    You can also to fatfingers.com & that will lead you to an eBay search for all the various misspellings of your particular word(s).

  10. Katie says

    My mom told me about this site called fatfingers.com that looks up all the possible different spellings of the word. You can definitely get stuff for cheap from misspellings!

  11. Jennifer says

    I once got a nice “Kat Spate” handbag (authentic) for $9.99. I love that your posted this!

  12. Amanda says

    I don’t see anything wrong with it because sellers have the right to have a “reserve” price on the item they are selling. Thus, making sure they get the minimum amount they would accept for the item they are selling.

    • emily says

      Exactly! I totally agree. I sell on Ebay and I am not offended by this at all. If I make a mistake and don’t take the time to use spell-check or whatever, then that is on me. I cannot fault the person who happens across my item and wins it at a steal. That is what ebay is about….getting a good deal.

  13. Rachel says

    I’ve done this before as well and found some good deals…..but it’s usually because I accidentally misspelled my search. :) Haha. As an off and on eBay seller myself, I take lots of time to double check my spelling, and if I make a mistake and don’t get the traffic/bids I was hoping for, I consider it my fault. I don’t expect people to let me know about my mistake either….I’ll take the responsibility for my own actions. :)

  14. Whitney says

    I’ve always done this. It’s how I got a “Bopy” pillow instead of a Boppy for half what the rest were going for!

  15. laura says

    this works also if you just describe the item and not the actual name. i had a $170. baby crib bedding set for my 1st child and I sold it. Well I am expecting again and looked it up on ebay. I found one for 15. starting bad and got it for that because the seller didnt take the time to figure out the brand and style name to put in the title. people search for that kind of stuff by brand and style.
    Gonna resell if for at least that much later lol. Felt bad a little be it is also called survival and being smart with your resources. Not working like I did with the first child.

  16. Kerry D. says

    This happened to a refrigerator listing on Craigslist… we got it for free, no one else had asked for it yet… because the size of the fridge was a random, absurd size. I guessed that it was a typo, and scored the appliance!

  17. Rae says

    Done this before though not on purpose but it does make complete sense. And I don’t think it is unethical. #1 it was the seller’s mistake and they should have proofread and #2 if they are not willing to sell it at their starting price, they should raise that or put a reserve on it. Yes that would get an extra fee but at the same time, if you don’t have time to proofread your listing thoroughly, it might be worth it to you.

    Thank you for sharing :)