eBay – Easy as one, two, thr…um, wait a minute….

  • Date:
  • Posted by kindle

As the owner of an antique store, people often bring me items that they think I would like to purchase for my inventory. I quote the best price I can, based on condition, desirability, what I think I can sell it for, and also my experience.

Many times, people will tell me they can sell it on eBay for more than my offer. Since I am always willing and here to help, I will tell you how to do it.

First you have to open an eBay account. You have to provide your name & address, a valid credit card for billing of eBay fees and then you need to set up all your policies on the site.  Ebay charges a final value fee (commission), listing fees, and fees on shipping. Also, if you want your listing to appear in more than one category or in bold print then there are more fees for that. Setting all this up takes a fair bit of time. In addition, to sell on ebay and collect your payments, you must have a paypal account.

So now you must head on over to paypal.com and click on create account. You need to have a reliable email account as your email address is they way people will pay you. You have to put in all the same info that you did at ebay, and you must also provide your bank account’s routing number so you can transfer money to your account. You also need to link a valid credit card to your account. Paypal collects fees for using their service so you pay another commission. You must also have your address and bank accounts confirmed by eBay and Paypal.

Next you have to learn about shipping costs. If you guestimate, I guarantee you will lose money on shipping. You must know what the various carriers offer and how you will ship. eBay uses USPS and Fed-Ex. First class must be under a pound and parcel post, media mail or Priority are your other choices with USPS. Most folks want you to ship to them Priority Mail so they get it fast. In addition, most buyers want it shipped for free and eBay will nag you incessantly to ship “Fast N’ Free”.

For shipping, you will need to have labels, packing tape, packing peanuts, bubble wrap, envelopes, fragile stickers, markers, boxes and more! All this costs money. A six-roll package of packing tape can cost over $20 for the good stuff. If you buy cheap stuff it will come undone in transit. All this must be calculated into your shipping prices. Again, if you guestimate, you will lose money.

To be sure what the shipping will be, if you are not shipping USPS flat rate, you need to take your item and package it as if you were shipping it and take it to the post office to have it weighed and use a far away zip code to tell you what the price would be. Then you can return home and put that cost into your eBay listing. Oh, you have to have this info when you create your listing.

Okay, so you are getting close. You have your accounts set up with eBay and Paypal, now you are ready to start selling right? Nope. How are you going to take photos? Digital camera? DSLR? Cell phone camera? What will you use for image processing? The better the photo, the more likely it is your item will sell.

You will also need a way to print your labels and any information that you put in the package. Many sellers put a thank you note or a business card in the package to entice their customers/buyers to continue to check their listings on a regular basis. Some will include a discount offer for a future purchase. This is advertising 101.

Well you have finally listed your item. It will sell right away as there are millions of folks on eBay at any given time just looking for what you have to sell, right? Nope, not necessarily. I have listed things that have taken upwards of six months to sell.

One of the major decisions you need to make is how to list your item. Auction listing for 3, 7 or 10 days, Buy it now – fixed price or best offer? Do you start your auction at a $1.00? A penny? Do you put a reserve (minimum price you will accept) price on it? What you do here can make or break a sale. Remember, unless eBay gives you free listing credits, you have to pay every time you list an item. If you list for a seven-day auction, and it doesn’t sell in the seven days, you need to pay to re-list it. If you list for what they call “Good ‘til cancelled” you still have to pay a listing fee every 30 days! Be careful with this option. It will cost at a minimum 35 cents every time you relist it.

To give you an example, let’s think about an item you might list. Let’s say you have a carnival glass bowl. If you do a search on eBay, there are 5,788 carnival glass bowls listed right now under the generic term. You have additional listings for bowls marked Marigold, grapes, blue, footed, green, vase, fruit bowl, orange, windmill and on and on! I once tried to list a new in the box PDR (Physician’s Desk Reference). It’s about a $70 book. There were over 100 listings for the same book, many starting at under $20 with free shipping. A tough market indeed.

Okay, so you listed your item a few times and it has finally sold. Now you need to get the item ready to pack. Hopefully it hasn’t been damaged sitting on your dining room table or in your closet, where ever you store your eBay inventory. You wrap it and box it, taping it up. You go to eBay and print your label and the money comes out of your funds in your paypal account. You excitedly take your package to the post office.

Think you are out of the woods and on your way now? Not necessarily so. You dropped your package off, but you put it in the drop. You figured that it was prepaid, and you didn’t need to stand in line for 20 minutes. Well they didn’t scan it into the system so there is no online tracking info and If the package is late, your buyer can’t see where their item is. This is important at feedback time when you get rated by the buyer.

You still are not safe yet. If the package gets damaged in transit, the buyer will want a refund. Was the package insured against damage or loss? If you shipped Priority Mail, you have $50 of insurance automatically, but if your item was worth more than that and you didn’t include the option to buy insurance and the item is broken you have a problem.

If the buyer opens a case with eBay, the cost of the item will be returned to the buyer automatically in most instances. eBay almost always sides with the buyer, so you are out the cash that you worked so hard for and you still have to pay all the fees such as the final value fees, paypal commissions and all the other costs involved including your supplies and time.

So, assuming all goes well, and sometimes it doesn’t, the buyer gets to rate you as a seller. They can rate you on if the item was as described in your listing, seller communication, shipping time, shipping and handling charges. The ratings are permanent and cannot be easily disputed. This is calculated as your feedback score. Just one low number can have a drastic effect and if you have too many negative or neutral feedbacks, buyers won’t trust you, so they won’t buy from you.

Many people sell online as a way to earn some extra cash. Others treat it as a business even going as far as working with wholesalers to drop ship items from as far away as China. How big or how small you stay is up to you.

I used eBay in this article due to the fact I am the most familiar with it. Other selling options are out there and they all have good and bad points to them. I have tried to give this overview, so you had an idea that it’s not always as easy as someone thinks. It takes time to set everything up, take photos, write a good description, wait for a sale, answer buyer emails, package the item and drive to the post office to ship your item. When I list something, I have it pretty streamlined and it takes me about 15-20 minutes. If you multiply that times 100 listings, you get 25 about hours’ worth of work.

Just because you saw something listed for a price that seems like a lot, it might never actually sell for that price. You have two prices on eBay, one is the asking price and the other is what an item actually sold for. eBay doesn’t care what you list something for. Someone once listed some expired McDonald’s Chicken Nugget Szechwan dipping sauce because it was a promotional limited time tie in to a cartoon called Rick & Morty. Asking price? $25,000

Remember, the only one getting rich on eBay, is eBay.

Maybe the offer you received for your item from the owner of the antique store wasn’t that bad after all. Good luck and good selling.