Helping my dad start an eBay store
July 1, 2014 6:22 AM   Subscribe

My father has asked me to help him set up an eBay store for some estate sale type items and I'm looking for current advice on all things eBay.

I don't yet know the full extent of what he's looking to sell, but he did mention some crystal glassware, old model trains (electric & steam), and other small items. I don't think he's looking to make a huge profit or create a whole business - just unload some neat stuff and have something to do in his retirement.

We've already covered using flat rate shipping boxes when possible and setting up another bank account specifically for PayPal transactions. I'm planning on suggesting combined shipping discounts with links to his other listings. For newer items, I may look into Amazon as an alternative for reselling.

From the older AskMe questions on this topic and my personal eBay shopping experience, I know to include good pictures and full descriptions for each item, a buy it now option, and to be sure to answer questions quickly. However most of those AskMe threads are several years old and I've never sold on eBay.

What strategies are currently relevant when selling items on eBay? How do you deal with the catch-22 of needing good feedback to make sales, but needing sales to get good feedback? How to best catalog his items and streamline the listing process? Are there tax implications for setting up a store vs one off listings? Is eBay totally the wrong route for this? Both online or book resources welcome. We are in the US.
posted by youngergirl44 to Shopping (11 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
On the shipping side, flat rate boxes make things simpler but they're not always the cheapest way to ship.

If he has a lot of stuff, it might be worth it to look at using something like or Endicia. They both provide ways to print USPS labels at home so you don't have to stand in line at the post office. I hear promos all the time on podcasts, so I'd Google around for a promo code - I think they also throw in a free scale.
posted by radioamy at 7:00 AM on July 1, 2014

Here's an ebay fee calculator which can be helpful. You can also reverse it, figuring out your rates to hit your target price.

I bought a scale and I do most of my postage directly through Paypal (or Etsy in my case). I receive a discount over using USPS or UPS walk up.

A good way to check pricing is to do an ebay search, go to advanced and click on the SOLD box. I can list a do-a-ma-jiggy for $5000, but if it doesn't sell then what's the point. If you can see the last 5 sold for ~$1000 you can price accordingly.
posted by PlutoniumX at 7:40 AM on July 1, 2014

I found that I had better sales if I listed on Sunday and did a 7 day auction. I would get a lot more money consistently, because I had more views on Saturdays and Saturday was the last full day of the auction, causing more bidding.

I actually didn't do a Buy It Now option. I always got more in bids than I would have for Buy It Now, but I was mostly selling old gaming miniatures, video games, and video game systems.
posted by RogueTech at 7:47 AM on July 1, 2014

He'll want to buy a bunch of $1-2 widgets from sellers overseas so he has at least a bit of a feedback rating as a buyer.
posted by kmennie at 8:37 AM on July 1, 2014

List your auctions so that they end on a weekend -- many people get paid on Thursdays or Fridays and will have more money to blow on eBay then.

Keep in mind that eBay and PayPal will take fees out, and find a fee calculator. eBay fees are due at the end of the month and will automatically come out of your PayPal account unless you specify otherwise. PayPal takes its cut at the time of the transaction.

Setting up a separate bank account is a good idea.

Before listing, search for recently completed auctions for similar items, if possible. This will give you an idea of where you should set your price and will give you reasonable expectations at the outset.

Consider getting a PO Box, so buyers don't have your actual street address.

Printing your shipping labels through eBay is cheaper than going to the Post Office, and so much easier too. Once stuff is labeled you can take it to the Post Office and drop it in the package drop, and you don't even have to wait in line. I think you can even have your mail carrier pick it up if you like. Buy a good postal scale. Flat Rate is not always the cheapest way to ship something. In general, anything weighing less than 13oz can ship cheaper via First Class Package. Over 13oz you need to ship Priority Mail or Parcel Post -- believe it or not, Priority is more often than not cheaper than Parcel Post even though Parcel Post takes longer.

Restrict your listings to US Buyers only, otherwise you will lose lots of money on buyer-paid shipping charges. For some reason, eBay never gets international shipping charges right.

Try to ship the same business day or the next business day after you get paid. This will keep your seller rating high.

eBay almost always sides with the buyer in disputes, regardless of logic. So, do whatever you can to make your customer happy. You can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers (and believe me, I've wanted to).

As far as tax implications go, I believe you're OK if your annual sales are under a certain amount. I forget what my accountant said the amount is. I am not an accountant or tax professional. Consult one.
posted by tckma at 8:57 AM on July 1, 2014

Don't forget the bowl of fruit!
posted by potsmokinghippieoverlord at 9:38 AM on July 1, 2014 [2 favorites]

Feedback: Buy some silly little things I suppose. Feedback used to be calculated differently, but it would appear now that it's possible to get up to a basic star just buying things, and whether it's a buy/sell will actually be invisible in a year. A polite hand-written (or printed and hand-signed) note sent along with the item, urging them to contact you with any issues *and* to leave positive feedback if they're pleased can be good.

While feedback #s and stars are immediately visible, and likely have the biggest impact on buyer confidence, words, responsiveness to buyer questions, and quality presentation matter too. I've written very candidly that I strive to be the type of seller I would want to deal with, represent my items to the best of my ability, offer a money back guarantee, post super-detailed photos of any scuffs/damage/markings, and take the time to take well-lit photos with clear backgrounds, multiple angles, and include objects for scale reference when appropriate.

This blog has some good photography tips. A homemade light-tent, or dedicated space for shooting can make good pics less time-consuming. A good photo setup should be repeatable, and eliminate need for image editing.

90% of the good ebay tools are for windows, fwiw. I think there may be some decent iOS ones though.
posted by Jack Karaoke at 10:04 AM on July 1, 2014

How do you deal with the catch-22 of needing good feedback to make sales, but needing sales to get good feedback?

I started selling things with very little feedback as a buyer and didn't have any problems selling stuff. I got the sense that people weren't shying away from me as a new seller. Folks asked questions about my stuff for sale, and I answered them quickly, thoroughly, and politely. When stuff sold, I packed it carefully, shipped it promptly, and then sent the buyer a courtesy note saying "Hey, just want you to know that your [insert item here] is on its way. Hope you enjoy it."

It didn't take me very long at all to build up positive feedback. And even if you only have, say, 10 reviewers that are all positive, people will still likely focus on the "100% positive" rating rather than the total number of reviews.

Beware of one thing, though: Until Ebay is convinced that you are a trustworthy seller, they will hold funds paid to you in a sort of escrow for something like 7-14 days. The funds will be deposited into your Dad's PayPal account eventually, but it won't be right away. The metric by which Ebay considers you trustworthy is murky -- they just want to make sure that your first X transactions go smoothly and that you're not fleecing your buyers. (And as a buyer, I appreciate that.)

And finally, I had an issue with a buyer who contacted me a week or so after his product arrived. He included a picture of it -- broken -- and asked if I would give him a partial refund. I asked if it was damaged in transit, and he said no. It became clear that he broke it while assembling it, and was asking for half his money back while still wanting to keep the (damaged but highly collectible) product. I contacted eBay's customer support and they were EXTREMELY helpful. I got an immediate call from a real, live person who was not reading from a preapproved script. They counseled me through my response to the customer and told me what to expect in terms of next steps. They couldn't have been more helpful.

The end.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:42 PM on July 1, 2014

PS: I've found that the amount of money people are willing to pay for shipping is directly proportional to how collectible the item is. I sell refurbished, collectible cast iron skillets, and I'm freaking amazed at what collectors will pay for shipping.

For less collectible things -- just basic every day stuff -- you're better off figuring an inexpensive shipping cost into your listing. (In other words, probably not USPS flat rate, unless the item is really heavy.) Things will sell better if you list the least expensive shipping option, in relation to the value of the item.

Another thing I've learned: Package the item (don't seal the box, obvs) before listing it. That way you'll know the dimensions and weight, and you will definitely have the right size box before it sells. This a) allows you to determine an accurate shipping price that doesn't cheat you out of a couple dollars and is also attractive to the buyer, and b) saves you from having to scramble to find the right shipping vessel/packing materials at 8 p.m. when you've promised that the item will ship the next morning.
posted by mudpuppie at 12:48 PM on July 1, 2014

I've noticed that Free Shipping usually makes the end-sale price go higher than if I listed the true cost of shipping.

Eg. $750 sell + $25 shipping vs $825 sell with free shipping.
posted by wcfields at 1:56 PM on July 1, 2014

Response by poster: Thank you everyone for the info so far - I will likely mark best answers this weekend after my dad and I have some time to go over everything.

I hadn't considered that buyers might be more focused on the '100% positive' than whether the feedback was for a purchase or sale. Maybe this could be A Thing We Do Together wherein I rebrand my own eBay account. If not, I'll encourage him to make a few purchases on his own (which might be good just to get him used to the UI). I will make sure to consider something like for postage. And thanks for just mentioning Etsy, PlutoniumX. You reminded me that they list vintage items for sale - which might come in handy depending on what he actually has to sell.

I think the only thing other answerers could expand on would be how to streamline the process - mostly cataloging items and listing them, but really just making sure nothing falls through the cracks. An app may be the answer here, so is the eBay app sufficiently helpful or are there better options? He loves his Windows 8 tablet, but has an iPhone too, so apps for either platform would work.
posted by youngergirl44 at 5:01 PM on July 1, 2014

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