Ebay vs Craigslist for absolute novices
November 16, 2008 11:42 AM   Subscribe

Mr. immlass and I are considering craigslist vs ebay for selling electronics/computer gear. Neither of us has any experience with either system as a seller; he's bought a few rare items (CDs) on ebay. Specific questions within.

The stuff: a DVD burner we don't use, an older iPod, a portable DVD/iPod doc and (eventually) a desktop computer (a Mac G5 tower).

Questions wrt ebay:
1: how much do the nickel-and-dime add-ons (pictures, etc) actually help?
2: Is paypal as big a deal as they want to tell me it is?
3: Have you had bad experiences with buyers?
4: Is it better to price the item low to assure it sells or re-list it if it doesn't?
5: How well does it work for big-ticket vs. cheap stuff?
6: Do you ship to Canada?

Questions wrt craigslist:
1: Is it better than ebay?
2: why?

We're in Austin, if that makes a difference. Thanks in advance for your help.
posted by immlass to Work & Money (15 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Craigslist is a lot simpler. You list the item for free, someone comes to you and gives you cash, and you're done. No fees, no shipping, no Paypal account needed, no worries about bad buyers, etc. I usually put stuff on CL first and see if I get any bites. If not, then eBay. As far as those questions:

1. Pictures are good. The rest is not worth it for stuff like this.
2. Paypal is pretty much the de-facto payment system on eBay. I won't buy stuff from people who don't accept it (or something like it) because sending a check is too slow, and at least with Paypal, items priced below $200 come with a refund guarantee if you pay and never receive what you bought.
3. Never had a bad experience with a buyer; I've had a couple with sellers. Usually very slow or incomplete shipments.
4. Best bet is to check listings for the same item that have already ended (log in, then use advanced search to do this), then price yours similarly. That way you get the market price in one go, usually.
5. It works proportionally better for things that people want. Price is only tangentially related. If you consider something like an iPhone as a big ticket item (maybe when it first came out), if you manage to buy one in the store when they are in demand, you can put it on eBay and sell it instantly. If you have an exotic car you're trying to sell, it may take a few tries.
6. Never had anyone from Canada buy from me.
posted by autojack at 11:56 AM on November 16, 2008

Well, with eBay you get a greater market exposure, but you're more likely to run into someone who may rip you off. This isn't to say that it's a common occurance, but it's been pointed out on AskMe that if somebody really wants to buy your item, report to PayPal that they received a box of rocks, and get a refund for it at your expense, there's really nothing stopping them. I'm not trying to scare you off from eBay, but this is one of the reasons they've been having a tough time lately, especially on electronics equipment. Of course nobody's going to go through the hassle of doing that for a few CDs or what-have-you, but for larger-ticket items it's definitely a possibility.

With Craigslist, on the other hand, you're dealing with someone face-to-face and most likely in cash, so you've got that extra level of reassurance. The cost, of course, is that you're much more limited in who you're marketing to, but in a large city like Austin you've still got a robust potential market. Although you don't have to deal with the hassle of shipping a package, you do have to deal with the hassle of negotiating with the client-- payment method, meeting place/time, etc.

WRT #4, if I sell something on eBay (which is admittedly infrequent), I'd personally rather undercut/underprice the item by 10 or 15% to guarantee a "buy it now" sale within 24 hours, which has always worked pretty well, but I've never sold anything worth more than ~$100. For me, the few bucks I shave off is worth it just to get the item out the door and the cash in my bank account. Of course, since my experience with this is very low-ticket, YMMV.
posted by baphomet at 11:57 AM on November 16, 2008

1. More pictures (and info) are better, you can just put them on Photobucket and add them yourselves.
2. Most everyone uses paypal now and it does eat into your price.
3. 2 bad buyers out of 400, but I didn't sell any computer stuff.
4. You can relist for free. If it sells the second time, you get credit for the first fees. I would say to look up closed auctions and you can get a good idea what something is selling for and price accordingly.
5. It works fine for both, I sold a $10,000 corvette and many $5 items.
6. I did ship to Canada and never had a problem.

1. It's better for things that are hard to ship. I agree with Autojack above.

I would put them on Craigslist with pictures, use photobucket for larger pics, and a good description on thurs or fri.
They will probably sell that weekend, and you can always try ebay if they don't.
posted by lee at 12:06 PM on November 16, 2008

1: how much do the nickel-and-dime add-ons (pictures, etc) actually help?

Not as much as a no reserve, .99 cent starting bid auction. Seriously, if you want to generate interest, and get lots of bidders competing, start law, do no reserve, and you'll get whatever is a fair market value for your good.

2: Is paypal as big a deal as they want to tell me it is?

I've been using eBay for nearly 10 years. Paypal makes the difference between me doing business with a seller and/or buyer and not. It also encourages impulse buying. Unless an item is exceptional and needed I won't consider dealing with a seller who doesn't use paypal - further, as a new seller with (assuming) no feedback, paypal protects buyers.

3: Have you had bad experiences with buyers?

Two ways to have bad experiences: 1.) buyer has misconceptions about the item, 2.) buyer flakes and doesn't pay. You can remedy #1 by providing good descriptions and pictures, and #2 by setting strict payment rules (must pay in 3 days, must pay shipping, must use paypal, etc.)

4: Is it better to price the item low to assure it sells or re-list it if it doesn't?

See above: nothing turns buyers off more than a seller who isn't serious about selling, or thinks their item is going to get them rich. I absolutely hate dealing with people who set unrealistic buy-it-now or reserve prices or starting prices so high that it makes it seem like I'm not going to get a good deal.

5: How well does it work for big-ticket vs. cheap stuff?

Big ticket items do really well on eBay because people feel like they are getting a deal. Cheap stuff is... well, cheap stuff. The thing is so many dealers and businesses use eBay that it's hard to compete with their cheap stuff and bulk shipping deals.

For instance, I bought a mini-usb cable for $1.98 with free shipping. I mean - that's crazy, I'd spend more on bus fare going to Best Buy to buy one for $3.99 plus tax. So, if you have something that is cheap, where the shipping won't kill the deal, then you can get people to go for it, but generally low ticket items aren't worth the time and effort of listing, packing, and shipping for an individual seller - i.e. someone who doesn't have their own shipping and receiving office.

6: Do you ship to Canada?

I set a flat rate for all my shipping - something reasonable to the lower 48. I'll ship worldwide, but I specify in my auction that worldwide buyers must contact me first to work out shipping.

Questions wrt craigslist:
1: Is it better than ebay?
2: why?

It's not better - it's different in several ways:

- CL is free.
- CL is generally local or regional only.
- CL means that you're dealing in cash, in person.

I live in Chicago, our CL is incredible - I can buy and sell everything from bicycles to sex toys and do it locally and in cash. This is because thousands and thousands of people buy and sell there every day... because, obviously, Chicago is a huge market.

Now if you're living out in fly over country, your CL is a tiny town (say, my hometown of Greenville, SC) you're going to have a MUCH hard time finding people to even see your ad, let alone do business with you.

In short:

CL is free and local.
eBay costs and is worldwide.
posted by wfrgms at 12:16 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Try selling on Craigslist first. Put up pictures and write a good, literate description. Do some searches on ebay and CL first to see what a good price for your item would be. Don't be the lowest price but don't price yourself out of the market. If you are new to this it will take you a while to get a sense of what the right place to be is.

For CL, to do the exchange, do not ever give out your address or work information. Find a neutral public location, like a coffee shop, to do the exchange, and tell friends you are going to be meeting someone you don't know and why. Have a checkin with someone at which point if they haven't heard from you, they go to that place and physically look for you. Sorry if that seems paranoid, but the number of scammers and lowlifes on CL is astronomical.

Final CL caution: do not, under ANY circumstances, accept ANYTHING except cash. No certified checks and no money orders. DO NOT agree to ship anything, and goes without saying that COD or any other scenario that isn't you meet person - you hand over item - you get cash is not acceptable. There are descriptions of the various scams on CL, but even that isn't a complete list. They will tell you that they are ill or it's for their sick brother and couldn't you please just ship it after getting the money order, and you'll fall for it and do it and then you'll find out the money order isn't any good and your item is gone.

All of that said, selling on CL can be great and simple if you just stick to your guns.

ebay: i've made a lot of money selling stuff on there. here's my opinion:
1) pictures are mandatory. the rest of the add-ons i've never seen any value from.
2) because of everything i just laid out above, yes, you have to do paypal. You can say "local exchange via cash only" but it's not worth it. Just do paypal.
3) I had one bad experience with a buyer. I sold an old iPod and when the buyer got it, he tried to claim that it wasn't working and that i'd listed it as a different model than it actually was. basically i think he spent money he didn't have and then had buyer's remorse. i provided documentation that my listing was accurate and then they realized they didn't have a case and that was the end of it. I had another guy claim that something didn't work when he got it. I let him send it back but I have to say I was concerned that he might have damaged it and that was why it didn't work. I'd never sell anything electronic again that wasn't clearly listed "as-is" because of that factor - e.g. "I am guaranteeing that this works but there are no returns since I cannot control what you do to the item once you receive it - not that you would do such a thing, of course".
4) a low opening bid will get you more bids. i feel confident in setting reserve prices because i've done this enough to know whether or not i'll get it. but i have also sold pricey stuff that i wasn't going to let go for less than a given price.
5) it's not so much big-ticket vs. cheap (although it amazes me what people will buy) as just what is popular.
6) I will ship to canada but I don't think that it's going to give you any advantage for the items you're talking about and the incremental hassle of shipping there is not worth it, imho.

Final summary: You're in a city where there's a large percentage of students, which means that CL will be golden for you, because you will ahve a large amount of people who want to buy used things instead of new things. Go with CL first.
posted by micawber at 12:18 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh and one other thing about CL: it enable zero impulse buying and allows for ample buyer-flake out.

I'd say 50% of the time the person who emails me about an item will not follow through. I now put very firm language in my ads which says, "Please, serious inquiries only! Please only contact me if you intend to follow through." That's cut down on some of the false-positives, but people still flake - mainly because I deal in road bikes and I get a lot of daydreamers who either don't know what they want, or want what they can't afford...
posted by wfrgms at 12:23 PM on November 16, 2008

"want what they can't afford..." seriously, I had a young woman come for a test ride, loved the bike, wanted it, said, "Wait right here, I just have to go to the ATM," then came back and explained that she didn't have the money in her checking account! Grr...

So, adding one more thing: CL can be a big time waster. eBay is a sure thing.
posted by wfrgms at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2008

I have sold a number of no-longer-wanted electronics and gadgets on eBay only (in 200 auctions). I haven't used Craig's List because I don't want the hassle of setting up appointments and my husband doesn't want strangers coming to the house.

To answer your specific questions:

1. I don't use any of the extras that you have to pay for.
2. I only accept payment from Paypal; anything else is extra hassle.
3. The only bad experiences I've had with buyers has been several international auctions where the goods I sent were never received. It was so annoying to me that I have now gone to only selling to the U.S. and Canada (more below).
4. I tend to set very low opening prices to encourage bidding. I'm selling things to get rid of clutter, though, and would be happy with any amount for most of this stuff. If you care about getting at least a certain amount, you can always set a reserve price.
5. I think it works well for both. I have had a few very low-cost items sell and then the buyer never paid, which is very annoying. I've never had this happen with items over $20.
6. I've already mentioned that I've had problems with several international auctions. I have not had this problem with Canada, though, so I do still tend to include Canada. I get a lot of interest in my electronics auctions from Canada. However, at the post office I like to use the automated kiosk and avoid long lines -- but it turns out that even though you can buy international postage at the kiosk, you still have to wait in line to hand the boxes to a clerk. So when I know I'm going to be busy the next week, I will list all my auctions as U.S.-only so I can get in and out at the P.O. as quickly as possible.

Good luck!
posted by lgandme0717 at 12:25 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

What I've learned about selling on craigslist:
-- In San Francisco, where I live, a craigslist ad will get a lot of responses from people looking for a rock-bottom price. I've actually had someone show up with 75% of the agreed-upon price and say that was all she'd pay. Now I explain in the ad why I think my price is a good deal, and state that the price is firm. I still get low-ballers, but not nearly as many.
-- Of several people who have contacted me mid-week and promised to come by on the weekend -- none of them has ever showed up. This is understandable, but it doesn't do me any good. If someone wants to delay, I say okay and that I'll notify them if it's sold in the meantime.
-- Craigslist buyers often come to me several hours later than they said they would. I don't know what to do about this. I tried asking people to phone me when they're setting out for my place, but they usually forget.
-- In my ad, I ask them to include their phone number when they respond. Talking on the phone saves a lot of time.
-- It's easy to post a photo with an ad, and I get better results. A photo of my actual item is better than a generic one.

One suggestion for Ebay: people seem to like it when I write in a somewhat personal way. "I just moved to a smaller place, and I have to place to put this ______," and "I've examined it carefully and can find only a couple of scratches, which you can see in the photo." I paste in manufacturer's info in a different font following my blurb.
posted by wryly at 1:19 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

One minor ebay selling concern. If your newish to the site, and have very little feedback, there's the chance that you'll get less bids on your items.
posted by drezdn at 1:26 PM on November 16, 2008

I'm in Austin, and craigslist has a healthy market here. I've bought and sold goods on craigslist (sold car, guitar, tv. bought a wii) and all transactions have been fine.
posted by philosophistry at 2:45 PM on November 16, 2008

3: Have you had bad experiences with buyers?

Yes. Yes, I have.
posted by procrastination at 2:50 PM on November 16, 2008 [1 favorite]

For anything easily shippable, I prefer ebay. It's easy once you get into it, you'll have to deal with fewer scammers and no-shows, and it gives you access to a much wider market. I've sold items ranging from $5 to over $1K. A friend has even had good luck selling large items (like a forklift) on ebay.

Starting price depends on how obscure the item is, how many people are likely to want it. If you are selling an item lots of people will see and want then start the price rock-bottom and let those people all believe they might get a great deal; they will bid each other silly once they're emotionally invested. If this is some oddball item like a pair of size 5 EE shoes, set the price at market value, because you're only likely to get one bid. Jam-pack the item title with appropriate keywords so it shows up on many buyers' searches. Make your listings transparent - display the item carefully, disclose everything you think might be of interest about it, including any defects. Mention the reason you're selling this perfectly serviceable item. Give people the information they need to trust you. Ship promptly, email tracking numbers, etc. Take care of your customers, because your feedback rating has a huge impact on the prices people will pay you.
posted by jon1270 at 2:55 PM on November 16, 2008

My main use of ebay is to resell gadgets I buy cheap on craigslist but don't fall in love with after a few weeks of usage. I hate hate hate ebay right now. After a buyer paid by credit card, they forced me (and others) to upgrade from a personal to premium paypal account. Now they'll collect much high fees on every sale I make whether the buyer uses a credit card or not.
posted by PueExMachina at 3:00 PM on November 16, 2008

Follow-up for interested parties.

We ended up deciding to sell my old laptop as well and sold it on Craigslist, cash-only. The guy ended up haggling for a bit less money and we took it. The deal wasn't fantastic financially but it wasn't terrible either. We were satisfied with the transaction overall and will use Craigslist for the desktop in due time.

We put the DVD player/iPod dock and the iPod on eBay. The DVD player/iPod dock was a flawless transaction; the iPod listing was pulled by eBay because we had the Fleischer Superman cartoons on them so obviously that was a DMCA violation. We sent them a strongly worded email about DMCA violations not applying to material in the public domain and they relisted for free. That auction is still ongoing.

Thanks for all the advice; it made this process much easier and less stressful and let my husband get the laptop he really wanted for Christmas.
posted by immlass at 4:43 PM on December 12, 2008

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