Pro tips for selling on eBay?
January 10, 2005 6:41 PM   Subscribe

eBay newbie help. What pointers do you have for selling on eBay? Favorite websites and tutorials? How to list effectively? How to get started and build up a positive rep? Negative experiences? Positive experiences?

I'm going to be selling custom artwork in the form of posters, postcards and t-shirts related to that artwork on eBay, as well as whatever odds and ends I feel will do well. (Think books, clothes, etc. Thrift store finds, that sort of thing.) Google is drowning in eBay links, and most are spurious. Site-Googling AskMe is also drowning in eBay hits. I would love to hear what MeFi has to say about this and how to go about it. I have also studied the eBay support tutorials, but I value the MeFi knowledge base. Thanks in advance!
posted by loquacious to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
As a moderately experienced ebayer, my advice would be along these lines:

1. Don't underestimate the time/expense it takes to properly and safely package and ship an item. Especially with odd sized (i.e. thrift-store) items which usually won't have come with a box.

2. "Completed Listings" search is your friend. It is rare that you will try to sell a manufactured item that hasn't already been sold on eBay. The same applies to your own creations as well. Try to search out similar items that have sold previously to get a feel for what the market will bear as far as starting prices and shipping. I would quite often lift item names from the most successful auctions to use for my identical item, figuring that what worked once would likely work again.

3. Set a flat rate for shipping your items and list it in the auction. When I started out I was generating individual shipping quotes for my items and it was eating up tons of my time. You should be able to come up with a number that is fair and still enough to ship the item anywhere within the U.S.

These are off the top of my head.. Feel free to request clarification or more specific advice.
posted by davey_darling at 7:06 PM on January 10, 2005

Put up good photographs. As a buyer this is what I look for. I really like to see what I'm going to buy and generally pay more for auctions with a good display. Also, stay away from a lot of HTML in your writeup. I like things clean but informative.
posted by sled at 7:27 PM on January 10, 2005

I'll second the 'completed listings' search. Find as many similar items as you can, and see who got the highest price. Use their postings as a guidline.
posted by spilon at 7:35 PM on January 10, 2005

You will get deadbeat bidders. Don't get discouraged. You'll learn ways to reduce them, but you can't eliminate them. Count on it.
posted by cribcage at 7:50 PM on January 10, 2005

I've been buying and selling on eBay since 1997. I could probably write a book, so this post will be long. My suggestions:

1. Build up your reputation first by buying. Think of it as training. You get experience as a buyer in dealing with the mechanics of how eBay transactions unfold, and that makes it easier when you move to selling. Plus, you'll have some feedback, which will make people more likely to buy from you and pay more for what you're selling.

2. As davey-darling said, completed listing searches are an extremely useful research tool. Try to look at successful auctions of the same item and see what made them sell better. Was it the picture? Was it the category (since some things can potentially be listed under many categories)? Was it the ending date?

3. I'd contradict davey in his flat shipping, though, because you can take a bath on flat shipping if you consistently undercharge. The flip side of that coin is the risk of offending people by overcharging on flat shipping. The best thing to do for shipping is use eBay's built-in shipping calculator in which a potential buyer can enter his zip code and get an exact shipping quote. You'll need to be able to estimate weight accurately, though. If you're serious about eBay selling, get a cheap postal scale.

4. Accept Paypal payments. You will incur an additional service fee, but Paypal has streamlined my eBay selling tremendously. I'd say nine times out of ten, someone will pay via Paypal if that option is available, which is great because you don't have to chase people for money. The other advantage is that auctions which offer Paypal as a payment method end at higher prices.

5. If you are very familiar with your market, use the Buy It Now feature in your listing. I've found that you can get more money from buyers who want their items right away without having to wait for the end of an auction by offering Buy It Now and setting your price just a step or two below the maximum previous selling price. (E.g. I sometimes sell action figures. If I know a figure sells for between $15 and 20 on eBay consistently, I might offer the option of Buy It Now for $19.99.)

6. Don't put Buy It Now prices on things you don't know the value of. I have seen sellers lose lots of money offering items for low Buy It Nows when they don't realize what they have. (One legendary tale among Mego action figure collectors was a set of Secret Identity Mego figures that sold on eBay several years ago. The seller listed them for less than $10 each Buy It Now. If he'd let the auction run its course, he would have got 100 times that, each.)

7. Regarding shipping... try to ship packages within a day or two of receipt of payment. People really appreciate it, plus you have the added bonus of getting the package out of your hair.

8. Shipping again... if you are in the U.S., ship by Priority Mail whenever possible. Why? Because the U.S. Postal Service will give you almost everything you need to ship your products like boxes and tape free of charge. You can even order shipping materials online and have them delivered to your house, also free of charge. The only thing they don't supply is packing material.

This is very long, so if I think of more later, I'll post again...
posted by MegoSteve at 8:15 PM on January 10, 2005

All good advice so far, I'd also add to be as absolutely honest as possible. Mention anything and everything that might turn your buyer off to the item you're trying to sell. It's better to have people not bid, than to try to deal with a return.
posted by drezdn at 8:37 PM on January 10, 2005

previous thread
posted by CunningLinguist at 9:01 PM on January 10, 2005

I like it when people write long, descriptive odes to their items. I hate it when a listing looks like "SOCKS> NEW!!11! WHITE!" which seems absurd but lots of listing seem to be like that. Take the extra time to really include all of the info, measurements, pictures, describe the items selling points and its flaws. This will save you time because you won't have to field questions from buyers asking basic questions.
posted by bonheur at 9:07 PM on January 10, 2005

As one of the millions of people who live outside the USA, I'd say that making it easy for people to pay is a priority, and Paypal helps enormously. I collect diecast toys, and if the seller doesn't take Paypal chances are I won't bid as the alternatives are: getting a cashier's cheque (costs $$), making a bank transfer (costs $$$), getting a Western Union money order (costs $$$$$$$), or sending cash (risky). If Paypal's fees put you off then factor them into your "shipping and handling" charges. I've been using Paypal as buyer and seller for years with never a problem, and they have twice got my money back off dishonest sellers.

A clear, non-emotive auction title is important. Avoid words like "L@@K!!!" - you'll l@@k like an idiot. If you want to appear as a quality seller then you need quality prose. "Hurry!! This won't last!!" makes you look like Joe's Bargain House.

And as what you'll be selling has a high visual aesthetic, make sure you have plenty of good quality photos. It will pay to host your photos yourself rather than use eBay's own (low quality) photo hosting.
posted by TiredStarling at 9:28 PM on January 10, 2005

when selling, add keyword searches at the end of your description (just manually type in other words that relate to the item you're selling). On one hand it's kind of annoying to those searching for a specific item, but then again you'll get more visitors to your auction who might have been searching for something a little different, but might be interested in what you are selling. add common misspellings and variations in punctuation too.
posted by kongg at 9:31 PM on January 10, 2005

loquacious, it looks like you're in L.A. If you're going to be shipping via Priority mail, see if your items can fit into the newer flat-rate Priority boxes (or the older flat-rate envelope). Otherwise, shipping Priority to the east coast will cost more since it's going across so many zones. If you're sending heavier items, it may be cheaper to send via UPS/FedEx in some cases.
posted by gluechunk at 9:53 PM on January 10, 2005

Response by poster: Many, many thanks everyone, and extra cookies to davey_darling, MegoSteve, TiredStarling and CunningLinguist. There's a bunch of excellent advice here that would have taken me weeks to figure out on my own.

CL - if you come back - how'd you find the previous thread? What was your search query? Or did you already know where it was? I searched for hours today looking for an existing thread.

If any/all of you want to email me your snailmail addresses, I'll send you a few of postcards of my stuff. (email is in profile.
posted by loquacious at 2:36 AM on January 11, 2005

Click the "Search This Page" button on the top of this page. Enter 'ebay' and you'll get something like 196 hits.
posted by fixedgear at 3:01 AM on January 11, 2005

Response by poster: I did that fixedgear. 90-plus-percent of the responses had little to do with this topic. "Site-Googling AskMe is also drowning in eBay hits."

I guess maybe I gave up too soon, or my google-fu was sucking today or something. Part of the problem with AskMe is that there really isn't any metadata or description tags or anything for the posts. Besides, I was asking CunningLinguist what his specific query string was, and you're obviously insane 'cause you ride a fixie. :)
posted by loquacious at 3:37 AM on January 11, 2005

Hey loq - I actually had the thread bookmarked in delicious but just tried searching for it and it came up first time with "ebay sell" on the non google search. Two results, one of them the old thread.

(I'm a huge ebay buyer but novice seller and have only one thing to add: it SUCKS when you put something up for sale and no one buys! I found a book on my shelves that I didn't want and because it's a first edition, told me it was selling for $150 at many used bookstores. I offered it for $50, expecting to spark a lovely bidding war and not. one. bid. Phooey.)
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:10 AM on January 11, 2005

when selling, add keyword searches at the end of your description (just manually type in other words that relate to the item you're selling). On one hand it's kind of annoying to those searching for a specific item

Yes, this is very annoying and I don't bid on items that look like they were written by retards.

A well-written description will defeat a list of keywords every time, and draw a higher class of bidder that will bid more, more often, and actually pay when the auction ends. People who buy as the result of a misspelled keyword search are highly correlated with people who lie, cheat, don't pay, and attempt to run scams.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:04 AM on January 11, 2005

  • Gallery pictures - I don't even look at listings that don't have Gallery pictures. It just takes up too much time to click on every listing to see a pic of the item.
  • Key Words - use them in the title and in the listing, i.e. "Poster - O'Keeffe White Flower on Red Earth."
  • Size - Make sure you include measurements of each item.
  • Shipping - Don't use Priority Mail for anything that weighs under 1 lb. It's a waste of money. Although you can get Priority Mail supplies for free, the USPS does not provide tubes for posters or padded envelopes suitable for postcards. You'll have to buy those supplies anyway. It costs much less to ship anything under 1lb via 1st Class mail. You could use either the Priority envelope or small box for t-shirts. Also, ship within 24 hours of payment. Or, if you are only going to ship one or two days per week, state the days that you ship clearly in the listing.
  • Turbo Lister - it's free and will help you keep organized. It also lets you set up future auction launches.
  • Emails - Answer them. There's nothing more frustrating than when I email a question to a seller and don't get a response or have to wait a couple of days for a response. I never buy from sellers that take too long to answer no matter how much I may want the item. Slow replies indicate bad business practices.
  • Use the Ebay Seller Resources pages.

posted by Juicylicious at 7:40 AM on January 11, 2005

Shipping to Canada is easy, but there are some tricks to it. Certain items, electronics for one, sometimes command a good premium if you don't ignore the northern 10% of your market.
posted by Chuckles at 8:51 AM on January 11, 2005

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