How to remotely sell stuff on ebay
April 21, 2014 4:19 PM   Subscribe

I'm tying to help a family member sell a bunch of stuff. He lives in rural Northern California and I don't particularly want to deal with ebay myself. What are my options?

He's asked me to help him sell a bunch of stuff. Stuff includes but is not limited to:

Musical instruments of mostly low to moderate value but possibly some higher
Mixing equipment, speakers, monitors and other equipment of in some cases higher value
Aging computer stuff
Random "toys" like a full sized popcorn popper and other kitchen gadgets
A large selection of DVDs (if it's worth selling them?)
Maybe books?

I could drive up to get them myself but I really don't want to deal with selling this stuff myself. I hate ebay and I'm very busy. It's worth it to him to lose money if someone else will deal with the whole process, ie: pick the stuff up, catalog it, sell it, and then take a percentage (or flat rate?) to do so.

I see there are services that do this, but not in his rural location (Humboldt County, half hour from smallish town). Even if I can get a service or someone from craigslist (or mefi jobs?) or whatever to do this, how can I possibly vet this person?

Thanks so much for your ideas on this,
posted by latkes to Shopping (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Find someone who handles estate sales / yard sales on commission, or just do a big yard sale yourself (or relative's self) with the major items listed in the ad on craigslist, and then hire a trash hauling company for whatever's left.

To keep the estate sale person honest, have them price the items, and then you and your relative's friends get first crack at anything at the listed price.
posted by zippy at 4:24 PM on April 21, 2014

Response by poster: I forgot to mention, obviously everything works that he would sell, but it is not all clean. Ideally the person would run a damp rag over stuff, or in some cases really clean it.
posted by latkes at 4:24 PM on April 21, 2014

Ebay offers this service.
posted by payoto at 4:25 PM on April 21, 2014

Response by poster: A yard sale is not realistic. He lives half an hour from "town", and town is not a big town.
posted by latkes at 4:25 PM on April 21, 2014

Also, for books, DVDs, and other media, often the best way to get rid of them quickly is to sell them to a buyback place. There are a number of companies (from big names like Powells and Amazon, to smaller outlets you may or may not have heard of before) that will give you a prepaid label to print out and slap on a box. For books, he can enter ISBNs into Bookscouter to find out who pays the most. (Unfortunately, you have to do this one at a time.) I've sold DVDs to Decluttr for a fair price (not enough to get rich, but average of about a buck a disc, which was enough for me).

Some of what you've listed (old electronics, small kitchen appliances) will be worth next to nothing. You could run a few searches of completed listings on eBay to show him this. Make sure he understands fees, too--eBay and Paypal together take about 15% of the total sale price including shipping--and the cost of shipping bulky items.
posted by payoto at 4:32 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: OK, let me clarify: My relative is not able to manage this project. I am not excited about dealing with this either, and if I do, I don't have time to deal with each separate thing, evaluating its value or finding the best price. My ideal solution is one where my relative pays someone to do the whole project: pick everything up, sell the stuff that is sellable, and keep a percentage or flat fee. If that is not do-able, I am open to other suggestions but as low-impact as possible. Getting the best value is unfortunately a lower priority.
posted by latkes at 4:43 PM on April 21, 2014

Old electronics may be worth plenty. Find one of those "Sell-it-now" places that lists on eBay for you. Call around--surely one will have someone who will go take a look and is willing to do pick-up. The musical instruments and mixing stuff is probably worth selling. Books, DVDs, aging computer stuff, kitchen appliances, probably not. The sell-it-now places are a pretty decent deal--typically they take 30% off the total, which is fine since eBay takes 10% and Paypal takes another 3.
posted by Slinga at 4:43 PM on April 21, 2014

Is your relative doing some drastic spring cleaning such that all this stuff has to get out of the house quickly? If he's got some time and can find an enterprising local young person, then it might work to just hand off a few items at a time once a week or so, selling high-value items first and continuing until there's nothing but low-value dregs that you can then donate or landfill somewhere. Large, heavy (i.e. difficult to ship) low-value stuff should be sold locally or junked. Dirty low-value stuff will not be worth messing with. When you've got a diverse collection of items like this, the seller has to do a fair bit of research to figure out what each thing is and assess its condition so that it can be described accurately. That research, plus the photography, writing, packaging and accounting takes a lot of time, and I would advise your relative that he should expect to be charged at least 50% of the net of most items.

If it all has to go at once, then there's very little practical difference between a scenario where my relative pays someone to do the whole project: pick everything up, sell the stuff that is sellable, and keep a percentage or flat fee, and simply selling it all to a junk dealer of some sort.
posted by jon1270 at 5:08 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Selling things on eBay is time consuming to say the least. Estate sales are great for this kind of thing. Try contacting Peter Ross, who does NorCal estate sales ( to see if they will come out for an appraisal.

As far as I understand it from talking to him, they will appraise the items, give you a lump sum, and either hold the estate sale at the house if you are open to that, or cart the stuff off to be sold at other estate sales they host. I've been to several of them, they have things from several different households all in one place. It's easy because they handle everything and you walk away with cash. Good luck!

PS - I doubt the 'aging computer stuff' is going to be sellable, but you can take it to your local goodwill or donate it to a community college for students to tinker with.
posted by ananci at 5:38 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

In re. popcorn machines and other kitchen paraphernalia: that is highly variable, depending on the particular stripe of kitchen junk. Most of it is not worth the time to list anywhere. Some of it goes fairly well on local Facebook for-sale groups, especially if it is a classic most people want (blender), expensive in stores (stand mixers), or appealing as an impulse buy (pretty single-use items); rarely it is valuable (certain vintage Braun appliances). If by "full size" you mean the a consumer-grade pseudo-movie-theatre style popper, I'm sure that could be shifted for a quick $50 to somebody about to throw a children's party.

(I read the part about the remote location. I am 45 minutes from the city and if I have a weird item that doesn't ship easily, that isn't that common second-hand, that I can sell at a fraction of retail, like a huge popcorn popper? Somebody will drive 45 minutes.)

Some of the junk can be taken to scrapyards. "E-waste" is bought by the pound.

jon1270's summary is spot on. The value in most consumer goods is not "this is a consumer good," but, "Here it is in a format where it is easy enough for the right buyer to access." Most of what you mention is saleable, not very profitably, but saleable, and it all requires work. Outside of commodities like gold there isn't much that is automagically valuable -- I cringe when I go to a thrift store and see a neatly printed Post-It note on a record stating "eBay price, $29.04 + $11 shipping. Our price, $20..." It sits there. It is not worth $20 in a cruddy store where I have to paw through a box for half an hour. It is worth $29.04 + $11 when I can have it shipped to me in a few clicks.

There are not a whole lot of sweet spots between the $2 in the thrift and what it goes for on eBay. Outside of rarities I bring my books to a used book dealer who trades me a decent amount in store credit -- books being a great example of the problem of a thing with minimal value without the labour. He's got two floors, he can hoard, and sell when convenient -- one thing I traded some credit for recently was a vintage specialty cookbook. He offered a little discount and I parried "Of course -- nobody else would want it." Him: "Ah! And nobody else would have it!"

And outside of spectacular pieces my clothes go to consignment stores. Because specialty dealers can milk these things for more than I can.

The research on estate sale firms is the same as for any other business -- have they been around long? Are you hearing recommendations from friends, respected stores, Yelp reviews? Do they have any credentials or professional affiliations?

There is an /r/flipping on Reddit that might have local-to-you advice.

Another way to attack it might be to photograph, clumsily and in lots, the goods on offer, and throw it out to Craigslist in hopes of an /r/flipping sort being willing to make the trip.
posted by kmennie at 6:21 PM on April 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

If I understood you correctly, he's willing to lose money to have someone do this? Craigslisting this stuff is the answer. Pictures, and stipulate the person buys the whole lot, and he will be done with it and have some cash in his pocket. There are people out there who will list your stuff for you, but with their fees and the amount of time it would take to make sales, he would probably do just as well if he were to use CL.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:17 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

I am in Humboldt and garage/estate sales are a big deal here. People love them. People also love CL and Humboldt Freecycle. The books can either be donated to countless thrift stores or recycled at the dump in Eureka or be taken to Booklegger in Eureka or Tin Can Mailman in Arcata. They both buy books.

You could probably deal with this in a weekend if everything is priced to sell.

This doesn't exactly answer your question but if you contacted the senior center in town (Eureka) they may have someone that does this sort of thing. I do not because I hate garage sales.
posted by cairnoflore at 8:18 PM on April 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also, if you take a look at CL in his area, you just may find "I buy" ads. He may very well find a buyer without even needing to place his own ad.
posted by thebrokedown at 8:21 PM on April 21, 2014

eBay will be a waste of time. I think it's worth having an extended discussion of what this person thinks all of this chazerai is actually worth.

I think that this person should prepare everything for sale, clean it, collect the cords, etc. Then take pictures and offer it for sale on Craigslist. Whoever is interested will come and buy it.

Another thing you can do is advertise on Craigslist to have someone post everything onto eBay, for 50% of the take.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:30 AM on April 22, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks folks. You've given me some good ideas as well as deflated my fantasy that there is some very low effort method for me to deal with all of this immediately and remotely.

I appreciate the help.
posted by latkes at 8:49 AM on April 23, 2014

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