Sooner or later every eBay member will find themselves wanting to contact another eBay member for one reason or another.
Perhaps a transaction went awry, leaving one or both parties unsatisfied, or there's another bad situation. Or, a buyer may want to ask a seller about a listing before buying. Buyers may also have questions about an item they purchased.
A seller may also want to ask a buyer about nonpayment. Or, a seller may wish to inform a buyer about a shipment status or other transaction details.
Every eBay member knows that eBay collects personal information, including a phone number, email address, and mailing address when someone joins the eBay community. It's only natural, therefore, to assume that you can use one or more of these methods to contact trading partners or potential trading partners.
While you can certainly contact other members, there are limits and caveats that you should know before deciding to make contact with someone. Before reaching out to other eBay members, here's what you need to know.
Trading Partners vs. Other eBay Members
eBay will provide a member's real contact information (i.e., phone number and email address) to you only if you have done business with them -- if you have bought from them or sold to them. This information is to be used exclusively for communication related to the transaction. Other uses of this information violate eBay rules.
eBay employs a mail-forwarding system for general inquiries. Members ask eBay to forward messages to other members' email boxes on their behalf. Replies to these messages are also routed through eBay, so there's no direct member-to-member contact. This way, members can communicate without eBay releasing private contact information.
Buying or Selling off eBay Is Not Allowed
Contacting another eBay member with a request to purchase or sell an item outside of eBay's auction structure is a violation of eBay rules. If you attempt to buy or sell this way, you will likely find your trading privileges reduced or restricted. Keep in mind that mail sent through the forwarding system is looked at by eBay before it's seen by the other party.
Inappropriate Contact Is Not Allowed
Though this comes as a surprise to many users, inappropriate contact is not limited to threatening or unwanted contact. Inappropriate contact includes nearly any contact unrelated to eBay auctions. eBay members expect to be contacted by other eBay members only if it has to do with a transaction or potential transaction. Different types of contact (whether personal or professional) can be perceived as SPAM, unsolicited email or unwanted contact, even if the message seems innocuous to the sender.
For General Contact
While there are links to many different pages on the eBay website related to contacting other users, there are only three basic methods for message-oriented contact among users (each intended for a different circumstance).
To contact an eBay member who is not a trading partner or potential trading partner, follow these steps carefully. This contact will be handled via the mail-forwarding system.
- Visit the eBay member search tool or click on Advanced Search near the top-right of almost any eBay page, followed by Find a Member in the Members heading of the sidebar. Enter the member's eBay user ID in the box labeled "Enter User ID or email address of member" on the Find a Member page. Click Search to search for the member.
- In the list of displayed search results, click on the eBay user ID of the member you want to contact. (If you don't see the desired member in the list of results, there is no eBay member on file with the entered user ID.) After clicking on the member's User ID, you'll see the member's feedback profile page. On the upper-right side of the page, click the Contact Member button to display the mail-forwarding system form.
- Type your message and click Send. You can uncheck the Hide my Email Address box if you want the other member to receive your real return address along with the message. You will receive a reply if, or when, the other member decides to write back.
For Pre-Sale Questions
To contact an eBay seller with questions about item descriptions, shipping arrangements, or other transaction-related details via the mail-forwarding system, follow these steps:
- Click the Ask Seller a Question link near the upper-right of the listing you want to ask about. On the modified mail forwarding system page, select the type of question you intend to ask from the Subject drop-down list.
- Enter the text of your question and click Send to send your message. Be sure to check the Hide my Email Address box if you wish to keep your email address private. Your message will be sent to the seller, and you'll receive your reply if or when they decide to write back.
For Post-Sale Questions or Disputes
Follow these steps to obtain the direct contact information of any member with whom you're currently transacting (i.e., the auction listing has closed, and you are either the buyer or seller). Note that when you request another member's contact information this way, they will automatically be supplied with your contact information as well.
- Click Advanced Search near the top-right side of almost any page on eBay's website.
- Click Find Contact Information in the Members heading of the sidebar. This can be found on the left side of the Advanced Search page.
- Enter the eBay user ID of the member in question in the first box of the Find Contact Information page.
- Enter the eBay item number for the related transaction in the second box of the Find Contact Information page. (To find an item number, either visit the buying section of your My eBay page or refer to the top of the item listing page for the auction in question.)
- Click the Search button to obtain the member's phone number and email address, which sends your phone number and email address at the same time.
Don't Forget to Check Your Email
Remember that nearly anytime you win an auction or successfully sell an item, eBay will automatically send your trading partner's email address to you, without you requesting it. In a similar vein, many members uncheck the Hide my Email Address box when they use eBay's mail-forwarding system. This allows both parties (if unchecked) to communicate directly, without having to use the eBay website at all.