Middleagemum.com: ebay, lunchtime shopping for homeworkers

ebay parcels

There are many, many upsides to working from home, far too many to list, but there are also things I miss about going into an office to a job. I miss the interaction with work colleagues, I miss long involved conversations about who has done the best store windows this month, what new store concept is clearly doomed to failure/a complete copy of another/a truly original idea (rare) and general gossipy chat.

I also miss looking in store windows on the walk to work or popping into my favourite shops to browse around at lunchtime and nothing would make me happier than having a new store as a lunchtime destination, to view how the assorted treasures were set out in order to tempt. I really do love to shop.

All this is lost when the commute to your desk is just five steps from the kitchen and there’s nowhere to go at lunchtime apart from round Barnes pond, which admittedly is pretty, but hardly shopping nirvana. Thank heavens for ebay then, where I can wander to at any time of the day for a retail-hit. After a year or two spent perfecting my searches and buying technique I am now of the opinion that ebay is better than any shop or department store and here’s why…

a) There’s no irritating music playing far too loud, instead I can match my Spotify choice to my browsing- Joni Mitchell while looking at 70s vintage cashmere berets, some Earth Wind and Fire while cruising the lamp bases and the addictive Haim when checking out what’s new on the list of unwanted kitchen gadgets.

b) I can float between Dries Van Noten and vintage sheepskin coats while drinking a mug of tea and scoffing cake, try doing that in Liberty.

c) There is ALWAYS someone selling whatever it is you’re looking for, more than ever now, from old copies of Time Life magazine to reams of brown paper in 50 metre lengths. No one ever leaves eBay not finding what they want, eventually. Sometimes you need to be patient and keep popping back, but if you are working from home you are grateful for the odd distraction.

d) The service is excellent as everyone wants to keep their treasured ‘100% fabulous’ rating, most questions are answered enthusiastically and if you do get a grumpy person who tries to cheat you, you can leave them negative feedback and comment, perhaps HMV would not have gone under if it had been able to view star ratings and feedback on its sales over the last few years. I can think of a few retailers who could benefit from a ‘leave feedback now’ button.

e) You can buy things very, very cheaply….OK they may be things you don’t need or even want, but boy are there some amazing bargain to have. Try spelling cashmere ‘kashmere’ or ‘cashmear’ and see what comes up, no one finds the miss spellings to bid on them, apart from home workers with no one else to talk to at lunchtime. This week I bought middleteenage son the most beautiful vintage sheepskin coat, in mint condition, in the softest lambskin from Nurseys, a quality brand, for just  £21. The nearest similar coat on its website selling new is £850…Luckily he thinks its fab.

f) ebay is trend-less and season-less, You might note that in the week that temperatures plummeted and we got proper snow, I was able to by a warm winter coat, neat huh? Retailers should try selling coats when when it’s cold and sundresses when it’s hot, it could be a winner….

g) Winning the auction adds a huge thrill to buying, after I won the coat (on ebay you don’t buy, you WIN, not that I’m competitive or anything) I skipped around my office joyfully, you don’t see many people doing that in store when they are buying things, do you? eBay even sent me an enthusiastic email saying ‘well done, it’s yours!”, which just adds to the feeling that you’ve just been jolly clever indeed and deserve another cup of tea and more cake.

h) Nothing brightens a home-workers day than a visit from parcelforce/UPS/the postman (although you’re in trouble if it’s Yodel in my experience), who might be the only other human you see from morning until school’s finished and youngestson comes home. All my ebay purchases have come pretty swiftly and only occasionally disappoint. The thrilling anticipation of tearing open the parcel to see if it’s a dud or a gem is often the highlight of my week and if it turns out to be a good buy, things can turn euphoric. it’s a cheap drug, really.

i) Since the tube and train fairs are now stupidly expensive, spending £20 or so a week on ebay bargains seems positively frugal and can be easily balanced off against the amount of money you are saving by working from home. And its a lot more entertaining than being squished onto the Piccadilly Line at 9.00am

i) If you buy a dud, you can put it right back on sale again and recycle the disappointment. If you sell the dud for more than you bought it for, you can rightly feel that you could easily be a retail captain of industry.

Shops, who needs ’em?


  • Sue says:

    Well, Amanda: this is why I look to TWR first thing every morning.How do you both keep finding the perfect things to write about? eBay is fab.I like clothes and shop (quite a lot) and then sell stuff on on ebay when I need to clear a bit of space.And, I love selling.(I have no success when trying to buy on eBay, unfortunately.Always runner-up). Online shopping is great for those of us who work at home and you can always find some company somewhere selling season-appropriate clothing.And, usually it’s discounted – DHL is just the most efficient and reliable delivery service.

  • gillian taylor says:

    Love a little bit of on-line shopping and have to admit (and I feel sorry about this) that I almost prefer it to trailing around shops that I feel are all a little bit dispiriting at the moment. However, I do like a little visit to Barnes! I love the florist by the pond – always a colour themed display of flowers. There is a funny warehouse type shop up an alley by a garage that has some very interesting items and very helpful owners. Then there is Karavan and Luma and the most hilariously chaotic Nonsuch! It reminds me of how Wimbledon Village used to be when I worked in a gorg shop called Estilio and before it became taken over by the chains and lost it’s wonderful individuallity!!

  • j ballard says:

    Love ebay! My first port of call for items you Know are never gonna be on the high street. Recent must haves are: odd balls of wool in discontinued shades, set of gel pens that rub out, an antique ring box, vintage cardigan 99p!, vintage skirt 99p….l could go on. Oh and a super new guest bed ordered and delivered for free the week beforr Christmas. l have also tracked down old sewing patterns which are delivered before l could even get into town. Ebay is almost a hobby now with the plus side of selling teenage daughters clothes and the thrill of telling her “your tshirt’s up to £10 now”

  • Amanda says:

    sue, there is a technique to winning, decide on your absolute top price then go in to bid at 9 secs to go. My sister developed this system and she is an eBay guru. Gillian you are right, Barnes does have its charms and Annie’s shop up the alleyway is a treasure, JB I think you and I would get on….A

  • Monix says:

    I “get it” but where’s the instant gratification?
    Yesterday I just HAD TO HAVE a pair of boots for the snow that didn’t make me fret about slipping and falling over (how come I never worried about that when I was 20?), the salt spoiling my (15year old) Prada boots or cold/wet feet. Walked from Marylebone to Picadilly Circus and nobody had a pair in my size (7)….finally found a pair and they are on my toasty feet today, not in 10 days when the bidding is over.
    Having said that I have found wonderful items for my 120 year old letterpress print machine that’s not to be had anywhere else but ebay…
    Delivery companies? Don’t get me started!

  • Melissa says:

    Great post and I totally agree. My cheap and legal drug of choice is used books from Abebooks.

    From a fellow, home-working, package-in-the-mail lover.

  • Danielle says:

    I must say I love Ebay too and enjoy as much as you going through it when working at home. Although sometimes I feel like going out for a walk at a shopping center to distract myself from being at home the whole day. But definitely on Ebay I find amazing stuff I can’t find anywhere else.

  • Maddy says:

    There is always room for a mooch around the shops. I also miss that in my lunchtimes in a past life! I am enjoying trawling round online even selling unwanted things on Preloved. Just had a note from a lady who is thrilled with a coat I sold to her. Ebay is brilliant for so many things especially for vintage china.

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