Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tis the Season- MY Ebay Tips

I am by no means an Ebay professional. There are many people who make a tidy sum selling on Ebay, but I'm not (for the most part) one of them. The truth is, I do my Ebay selling and buying in spurts. Of my 208 feedbacks, only one has been in the last 6 months. Sometimes I forget it's there;) Then there are times like now when I'm anxious to make a little side money for Christmas and so I start digging around in my closets for those things I've been meaning (for the last 6 months) to put on Ebay.

There was a short time when we were able to find a supply to meet a demand in a particular category. We made around $25 an auction (all profit) and it was a nice little side job. At the end of the auction, we would literally just click the "sell another of these items" button, and we were ready to go again. That lasted for about 6 months and then it pretty much dried up. But at the time it was an incredible help.

Anyway, if you're much more knowledgeable than myself in this area, you can skip right over this post. But if you're like Brandi, and interested in selling but not sure of how to get started, I might just be able to help you out a little bit.

So here are my tips, listed in random order:

1) Always take pictures of what you're selling. Take care with your presentation of your item. An example: Make sure the area is well lighted. You wouldn't believe some of the murky pictures people put on their listings. Or they take a picture of a clothing item folded rather than hung. People want to see what they're buying. Plus, they judge who is selling the item by the picture. If they are finicky like me, and want to buy clothing from a home that's clean (minus the mold smell and dog hair) they will get their impression by your presentation. One of my favorite places to take my pictures of smaller items is on my dining room table. It has a beautiful tablecloth that makes anything look better in a picture. Or on my bedspread. Or I even lay out solid colored sheets of construction paper and lay the item on there. An example of the importance of pictures: I recently saw a collectible that sells for around $25 dollars listed without a picture (they were newbies;). It was listed at $10 but the auction came to an end without any bids. They relisted (again without a pic) but a few days before auction end this time she (finally) put up a picture. Within a few hours she had a bid and her item was sold. I cannot tell you how hard it was for me NOT to email her and say put a picture on that listing... but she obviously caught on, lol.

2) Patience is a Virtue in the whole Ebay experience. It takes 7 days for your item to come to an end (unless you include buy-it-now) and many people (myself included) wait until the very end to bid. Sometimes because they are watching other auctions, or even bidding on the same item and waiting to see if they win it. Or they simply don't want to start the bidding snowball. I have a Little Tikes Christmas train set (that I got for a steal) that is on auction right now. I started it at $19.99 and there isn't one bid on it yet. But what you won't see is that 6 people are presently watching it. Most likely at least a few of them want to get it for the starting price, and so are not planning to bid til the last moment. And so it goes. Some things (like gift cards) usually have bids within a few hours. The gift card bidders love to bid things up to near the amount within the first few days (don't ask me why). I don't pay much attention to my auctions (except for watching for bidders questions) until the last 24-48 hours. Also, be aware of the fact that some people will take the full amount of time to pay you (accepted time period is 7 days). I sold a Lot of items that went for $150 once in which the buyer took as long as possible to pay me. What bothered me the most was that he didn't contact me to let me know his intentions (something I always require in my listings). But he did pay the 7th day. And if all else fails, re-list. The right person may not have happened along that particular week.

3) Word your listing with care. Describe your item thoroughly. Even if the picture seems to tell it all. Use your adjectives (ex: in excellent condition or worn gently). List even small defects (ex: page is slightly dog-eared, small amount of wear on cuff). Anything that someone could complain about later. This also gives you legitimacy in bidder's eyes. Also, put in disclaimers to protect yourself. If you are selling "as is" say so. Many people will not bid if you do not offer returns. But you can offer to accept returns with criteria: returns accepted only if item is misrepresented in listing. OR Will accept returns but buyer must pay return shipping (in a case of someone mistakenly buying a wrong part;I've been there before). Also, put your payment expectations. I require payment within 7 days, but contact (through Ebay messages) within the first 24 hours.

4) Feedback is your reputation. Your feedback score tells bidders whether they can trust you, and what kind of seller you are. Sometimes keeping 100% feedback means bending over backwards. I've had a few people who were clearly in the wrong in their demands (even according to Ebay officials) but to smooth the waters, I accepted their return or did a partial reimbursement. Like anywhere else in life, their are some scammers and dishonest, or maybe just outright cranky people who frequent Ebay. But if you plan to be a seller or buyer for the long-haul, you definitely want the best rating possible. I have received emails from several people who told me they skipped over other auctions (one at a $50. lower bid) because of my 100% feedback. They simply felt they could trust me. And I have done the same thing.

5) Make shipping a priority. People like to get their items quickly. After all, don't you get impatient having to stand in line for 20 minutes to pay for your item at the store? Well, multiply that by days. If you looked at my feedback, you'd find that almost every one of them mentions my fast shipping. It is a huge plus. I ship within 24 hours for the most part. And people appreciate that. Someone may even email you ahead of time and ask you to ship that same day. Try to be flexible (especially if it means a nice sell). One thing I do to help this is to group my auctions 4 at a time so that I don't get overwhelmed by having to get too much out. And you can also have your packaging ready to go ahead of time (minus the address to fill in). You can buy your postage online through Ebay, but I just take care of mine at the Post Office. I always email my buyers right away with an intent to ship time, and then email again after I ship the item.

6) Your starting bid. While Ebay will encourage you to start your item as low as possible, be conscious of the fact that it just may sell for that. It's better to list for the least amount you're willing to accept. If you want to be cheap, do so through your shipping. DO NOT pad your shipping (other than minimal supply cost, though I myself don't even do that). People HATE (yes, I speak for the people) when someone lists something for a great price, only to find when you check the listing that they have heavily padded the shipping price. I see auctions that don't sell for that reason often. And it gives you the air of dishonesty.

7) Use Buy-it-now. This is an option I really like. Not everyone has time to wait around for an auction to end. Or to be at the computer on Saturday afternoon at 2:37... So buy-it-now gives them the option of getting what they want right away. And some people will hunt and hunt through listings for these (I do myself at times). Even better, sometimes you can get great deals this way. Some are listed very reasonably. Or they may even take offers (though the seller can take the full 48 hours to get back to you, and you are fully obligated once you put in the offer).
There are buyers who are willing to pay you more for an item than you might get at auction for it through this option as well. You can list an item at auction with buy-it-now as an additional option (only 10 cents more) but it will go completely to auction if someone puts a beginning bid on it.

8) I love Paypal. Once you sign up, it's totally convenient, and incredibly easy. And other online sites will let you use your Paypal account to make purchases (Amazon is one). It gives you protection, and makes the whole payment end of the transaction go smoothly. I only accept Paypal for my auctions payments.

9) Don't be intimidated. Selling on Ebay is not hard. It may seem like it takes a long time at first to list, but once you get the hang of it, you'll fly through the process. I probably take an average of 10 minutes to post each of my listings. Some items that are worth more, you may want to take more time for dressing it up purposes. I also use a basic template (with all the same disclaimers) for my clothing or collectible auctions.

10) Do a little homework to find your niche. You don't have to, but it helps, especially in the beginning. Check completed listings to see what things sold for. You will notice that the very same items can sell for drastic differences. I print up the successful auction listings on higher-priced items (already completed) and closely duplicate the wording (and sometimes even the timing). Mind you, I'm not talking clothing or such here. More like a collectible. Regardless of all your strategising, your item might not sell for as much. Sometimes it's just a matter of chance. But knowing your item's potential and selling points can definitely pay off if you plan to sell on a regular basis.

I'm going to list my Ebay name here, and hope I don't regret it;) I thought about getting a secondary one to use for this post, but I don't want to affect my present feedback. You'll notice some of my auctions are started quite low, because I pretty much am selling those items as if it was at a garage sale. Which reminds me: Shipping prices have gone up. Unfortunately, that has affected sales. People have to consider if they want to pay $5 dollars for a little girls dress, and then add another $5 to pay for shipping. OR people think you're padding your shipping. It's a little frustrating, but it's part of the whole deal. Offering combined shipping to save people money on multiple wins can help. Offer parcel post AND priority. And like I said before, Re-list if it doesn't sell. The right person may not have come along. You can balance your little sales with bigger items to make it seem more worth your time. Watch garage sales and thrift stores (or even Craigslist, my BIL makes big money that way) for possible items. After all, you're already shopping there anyhow:)

My husband's company likes to give him small bonuses by way of restaurant gift cards (Starbucks is the most common) and movie certificates. These are all re-sellable on Ebay and do quite well. So that is what you will periodically also see in my listings. So if you're interested, here it is (and no I did not choose this I.D., the hubby did) : gew6463. If you go to Ebay and put it in, you can see my listings (bid if you like:), or just see how I list in my own personal style;) I tried to link to Ebay here, but it keeps automatically going to my homepage. So just google it.

One more hint: When buying on Ebay, read the listing carefully. Make sure you are getting what you think you're getting. Most sellers are legitimate in my experience, but there are a few scammers. Also, do NOT respond to emails that say you bought something that you didn't bid on at all. A few people have been tricked that way. You can directly contact Ebay and I have found their customer service to be mostly good.

And if you plan to list for Christmas, NOW is the time. You might even want to do a shorter listing (which are at 50% off listing price right now), and also mention that it will arrive in time for Christmas if needed.

*EDIT I just checked Ebay, and my Christmas train set just sold at Buy-it-now for $30... I paid $5 for it at a garage sale. Not bragging here (truly I'm not) just saying that you really can make a little money on the side if you find the right products. Okay, I'm all done now. Really.


bigSIS said...

Thanks for the tips. I've been meaning to list stuff for YEARS...but um...I was kinda intimidated, I guess. So this was super to have all these tips. I'm not promising to have anything in the "near" future, but I'll let you know how it goes! =)

jfrogster said...

I used to sell books on Ebay regularly and make some extra money, but that was before I had three kids under age three! :) Now I just do it in spurts - mostly Gabi's clothes and random stuff that I find for a great deal.
My mom does Ebay selling several hours a week and makes quite the profit. She was the one that gave me all the helpful tips and advice when I got started. Your post is very thorough and I think very helpful to people getting started.
Another great way to list something is to look at similar items already listed that ALREADY have bids. Imitate their post, as it obviously attracted buyers.

MyKidsMom said...

Bigsis: Definitely let me know how it goes for you. I was very intimidated myself at first, but like I said, it's not that hard once you get the hang of things. Good luck!

jFrogster: I've thought about getting into the Ebay book market myself. I've heard there are people who go to the by-the-pound Goodwill and really load up on the books to resell.

Like you said, with kids it's not quite so easy. And pay-per-hour isn't always that much, but it's more than I'm making elsewhere:) So I try to do it here and there when I come across a deal (if I don't want to keep it myself that is,lol). I admit that I copy, copy, copy on anything other than clothes (like you mentioned). It really is the way to go.

Marva said...

Greeat tips! You did a professional job! Many blessings!!!!

Nikki said...

John buys stuff on ebay, but I get intimidated just looking. There is sooooo much stuff!

MyKidsMom said...

Nikki: I've gotten some beautiful church dresses for my daughter at awesome prices through Ebay. Just stick to what you're looking for, and it's not too bad. You're right though, they have tons of stuff on there.

Brandi said...

It sounds a little less daunting now.

One question though: How do you know how much shipping to charge?

MyKidsMom said...

Brandi: When you fill out the selling form, there will be a spot to calculate shipping. You need to know how much your item weighs, and approximate size. I have a large kitchen scale that I use for most things. But if your item is quite large, UPS ground (flat rate)is the way to go. It sounds trickier than it actually is. They used to let the buyer calculate shipping to their locations, but it hasn't been coming up on my sell forms. Either way, you have to know the approximate weight (don't forget to throw in a little added weight for packaging). Shipping overseas is so expensive it isn't worth it, though people may notify you asking you to do so.
And don't hesitate to check the info section on Ebay. They really have made it user-friendly. Of course, it pays for them to do so..;)

Kaye said...

I too have both sold and bought things via eBay and have had success almost every time. In fact, I just paid right at $130 for an entire maternity wardrobe. Hooray...that would have gotten me like 2 pair of pants and two shirts (or less!) at retail price!

Just throwing in my two cents from experience:

I completely agree about good photos. I will not bid on clothing that I cannot see because it is folded. Sorry...I need to see what I'm buying.

Be VERY CLEAR about what you're selling. It's amazing that people photograph clothing and are not clear on the number of items. It's not always as easy as counting the items in the pictures.

I completely agree about padding shipping. I will not bid on a 3 pound item to ship for $12.95 knowing it is not fragile or worth over-packaging. I personally always bid with the shipping cost included in my idea of what my highest bid will be. For example...if I'm only willing to be $50 for an item and shipping is listed at $12.00, I will only bid $38 so that I don't top my goal of spending. It helps eliminate buying things from people who overcharge for shipping (because my bid will not be as high), but I often do not win because I refuse to bow to the shipping gods.

Basically if you want to see, I recommend looking at similar items and deciding which ones you would buy based on the listing. Then examine the listing and see what impressed you about it. Was it the clarity of the photos, the number of photos, the description, the open dialogue, the low shipping cost, the buy-it-now option? Whateve appeals to you...emulate that.

Great post!

I've been planning to rid our nursery-to-be (our current catch-all room) of stuff via eBay very soon. Maybe once things slow down a bit!

Gwendolyn said...

Thank you for this! I've been thinking about doing this forever, but it seemed overwhelming. I might get up the nerve to try it now. :o)

Jana said...

Great overview of Ebay. I love cleaning and getting rid of all the "stuff." And to get money for it too is amazing! I made $1000 one summer. I was motivated to pay for a family vacation by selling extra stuff around the house.

Frasypoo said...

Perfect tips.
I once heard someone say that you need to describe the item the way you would if you were talking on the phone.
I started doing it 3 months after landing here so if a foreigner can do it anyone can.
I used to sell clothes.It was a high when I' d buy a dress for .99 cents and sell it for $80.I miss it but ebay has not been good to sellers

Frasypoo said...

I menat to say that people would bid it upto $80.00

PS:My word verification for this is hickey!

Homemakers Cottage said...

These are great tips!! Jeremy and I used to sell on ebay quite a bit when we were first married (and had spare time!). Our BEST sell was a book we picked up at a library book sale for 50-cents... we had no idea it was worth anything and listed it for around $5... it sold for over $100!!

Have we been looking for another copy of that book?? You better believe it!!

~Kristy @ Homemakers Cottage