Before I start adding detailed posts covering some of the shoes in my current collection, I figured it would be a good time to talk about how eBay is helping me build that collection, and how someone looking to do the same can use the popular auction site to do the same. At first, an eBay search for "well worn shoes" (I've found that covers most of what I'm looking for) can be both exhilarating and intimidating- after all, you'll end up with upwards of 600 pairs to sort through! However, it won't take long to discover that your idea of well worn is vastly different from some others' idea of well worn. Sellers have obviously caught on to the interest in well worn shoes and will often try to pass off a pair of lightly worn shoes as one that has suffered greatly on the feet of its owner. Don't be fooled. A quick look at the photos will reveal what's worth your time and if you're not happy with the number of photos available, don't hesitate to contact the seller and request more. If they have a pair of shoes worth selling and they're motivated enough to do so, they'll oblige. Contacting the seller is also a fantastic way to start a conversation about the shoes, but more on that in a minute.
What you'll want to keep an eye out for is someone selling shoes that have been purposely abused (unless that's your thing, in which case, knock yourself out.) A while back there were a few sellers on eBay that sold shoes in many different sizes and they all had the same kind of extreme wear on the tips of the toe area and the bottoms of the heels, as if they encountered a belt sander. Perhaps they did. The wear was not in line with the wear on the rest of the shoes, and it was suspect that a bunch of women (and it had to be a bunch of women because the shoes were all different sizes, right?) all wore down their shoes in the exact same way. In fact, following what a seller lists is often a good way to determine if someone is selling their own shoes, or is simply selling shoes they come across in other ways. If someone always sells, say, size 9 shoes, they're probably selling their own as the wear out and get replaced. Maybe that matters, and maybe it doesn't.
Again, contacting the seller is a good way to try to ascertain what's going on behind the scenes. Of course, it's the internet and anyone can lie (is it really a woman and her sister and her friends using the same account, or is it a guy frequenting thrift stores and reselling what he buys?) but there are times when you'll come across someone who accepts your attempt to engage them in a conversation on the subject. Sometimes you might learn something about the shoes for sale. Sometimes you might find the seller has other stuff that hasn't been listed on eBay, and perhaps you'll exchange emails and come to an agreement to buy something else before it goes public. Sometimes you'll get comfortable enough to ask the seller about what they perceive as the appeal of trashed and abused shoes, and things explode from there. You never know. Just don't push too hard. There will be times when the seller doesn't have much to say, so use that as your cue to drop the attempt at a conversation. You don't want to come across as a creep.
Some tips to help you sort through everything? Make things easy on yourself and, when you perform repeated eBay searches (I usually search on a daily basis), make sure to search by listing newly posted items first. This way, you're not sorting through shoes you already viewed as you attempt to figure out what's new. Take advantage of the ability to watch items, and allow email notifications to alert you when an auction is about to end so you can swoop in and land the highest bid at the end. If you spot an item that you might want, consider putting a minimum bid on the item, as that makes it harder for the seller to cancel the auction because someone makes them an offer outside of eBay (I've done that before- made an offer to make sure I got the item without the price getting out of control and convinced the seller to delist the item.) And finally, be prepared to walk away if the price gets too high. It helps to approach bidding on auction items the same way you approach walking into a casino to gamble- know your limits ahead of time and stick to them no matter what happens. Some eBay sellers have high opinions of what they're selling and price them accordingly. Others will lure you in with a low starting price, but then list a $20 shipping charge. That's unreasonable. Unless you're shipping from China, it doesn't cost $20 to package and ship something as small as a pair of shoes. As with a contract, pay attention to the so-called fine print.
And finally, good luck bidding against me! You never know if you are...