Should I eBay?
July 14, 2017 11:28 AM   Subscribe

Have checked the archive and haven't found anything recent. I'm an underemployed writer/editor/PR type who wants to get rid of a bunch of stuff. I could donate much of it. But I could use some cash, too. Complications below the fold.

I love thrift shops, garage sales, etc. So I've amassed a motley collection of things such as beaded vintage sweaters, old costume jewellery, Swedish kitchenware, and a few textiles. As I may be moving in a year or so, I'd like to shed a bunch of my stuff. If I could make money at the same time, that would be excellent. But I have ADHD. The medication helps but I'm bad at anything that requires lots of fussy details. So I have two related questions: 1. How is it possible for a novice to make modest cash on eBay? 2. What are the challenges of selling on eBay be for a twitchy, ADHD sort such as myself?
posted by Bella Donna to Work & Money (11 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
You could use eBay Valet. You could see if letgo does it for you. You could pawn it.
posted by WCityMike at 11:37 AM on July 14, 2017

If you have a year, choose three things and sell them. If you decide it's not worth the work/don't get around to it/find it too confusing, then move on to a service or store.

Ebay is pretty easy to use - much easier than when it started - especially if you have a smartphone to take photos and generally accept their defaults, and if you don't worry about getting the perfect photo or description (which means you might get somewhat less money). The hardest part is packaging and shipping, so start with things that are easy to stick in an envelope, like jewelry and sweaters.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:52 AM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

eBay is ridiculously easy to use, but if I were going to sell a lot of stuff, I'd do one of two things:
- Get some sort of third party listing software that makes life easy, or
- Hire someone to do it, as WCityMike suggested, and just have them PayPal me my share of the money
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 11:59 AM on July 14, 2017

In my experience, people who will sell ebay items for you set a minimum value of at least $50 per item. The valet site linked to above says that most valets won't accept items that are worth less $50.
posted by FencingGal at 12:05 PM on July 14, 2017

I have not but had considered it and my one practicality thought was to package the object ready for final seal and mail label immediately when posting. Print the posting and tape to box/envelope. (the imagined bidding war and then, omg where did I put that scenario, just gives chills :-)

The other advice I remember was to highlight in detail any flaws so there is no misunderstanding.

Oh and be super careful about scam buyers.
posted by sammyo at 12:32 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

To find out what an item might sell for, search for similar ones on Ebay. On the page where search results are shown, there's a category pretty far down on the left side of the page, in black type: "Show only." Click the box for "sold items." The resulting listings will show only the ones that have already been sold, and you can see the prices.
posted by wryly at 1:02 PM on July 14, 2017

eBay is easy to list, and if your plan is:
  • List item;
  • Wait for item to sell;
  • Ship item;
It can be that simple. However, customers can ask questions, people can complain after they've received the item, etc., so it can become some work due to the fact that you're dealing with human customers.

But, if you are dead-set against just donating the items, just list everything with a starting bid of 99¢ and correct shipping fees so you're not out any money, you'll luck out when any get bigger bids than expected, and "dude, it's just ninety-nine cents" discourages people from nitpicking over problems.

Still realize that listing does take a not-insignificant amount of time, so after your first couple auctions look at the time you used and decide whether expanding that out to another fifty items is worth more to you than just taking to donate somewhere.
posted by AzraelBrown at 2:04 PM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

I was able to make selling on eBay work for my ADHD twitchy brain, but all brains are different.

Shipping was definitely the hardest part for me. I started with USPS flat rate shipping products because they were easy and require no initial investment. It's not the cheapest way, but it is simple. The boxes/envelopes are free to order and I bought the postage directly from eBay when stuff sold. Then I just dropped it off at the post office. Pricing Guide. I have not yet shipped anything breakable, but be sure to package things securely.

I mostly sold stuff Buy It Now and price checked what similar items had sold for. I'm sure some products may benefit from an auction but I didn't have anything in demand enough to make it worth trying. Clothing would sometimes take a while to sell, but sell it did.

It was super nice to be able to make some money on items I didn't want anymore. I'd suggest just diving in and giving it a go. I started putting just one or two items up and I would have only wasted some time if it hadn't worked out.
posted by SometimesChartreuse at 2:23 PM on July 14, 2017 [2 favorites]

A lot depends on what you're selling. If your stuff has a brand name, material, or other attribute that makes it very visible to collectors searching on that keyword (Pyrex, bakelite, Marimekko, etc.) you can just start putting it up and letting people buy it one-off.

But if you've got a collection of not-individually-sought-after items then the real value you bring is your eye in curating all of it, and to sell it effectively you are probably going to have to list a lot of items at once. Then you'll want to mention that you have other stuff with a similar aesthetic for sale, and possibly offer combined shipping discounts, to get people to look at your other listings.

There are a lot of pitfalls with eBay and before you even get to the listing stage, you'll want to familiarize yourself with the rules. For example:
But, if you are dead-set against just donating the items, just list everything with a starting bid of 99¢ and correct shipping fees so you're not out any money
If you do the research and find out an item will cost exactly $10 in postage and you sell it on eBay for $10.99 including shipping? You will lose $0.73 on the deal, not including your packaging costs and time. That's because both eBay and PayPal take fees on the total transaction, including what you charge for shipping. Source.

I don't know. I've been on eBay for nearly 20 years and I have a like-hate relationship with it. There are tons of gotchas, it's a bloated marketplace that makes it a buyer's market, and eBay's policies are oriented to favor buyers and retailers, not sellers on the secondary market.

If you want alternatives to eBay you may be able to find smaller selling groups (Facebook marketplace groups are becoming a pretty popular way to sell, along with category-specific subreddits). With these you avoid fees and your listings tend to get in front of everyone who browses, not just people who search on particular keywords or in particular categories. But you're limiting your audience dramatically.

If you want to give eBay a try anyway, I'd start with your solid-color Pyrex and Marimekko and any other stuff that is identifiable by keyword, see how you do, and then consider whether you want to list your full collection.
posted by mama casserole at 2:37 PM on July 14, 2017 [1 favorite]

I spent an entire Summer a few years ago selling the entire estate of a friend on Ebay.

Things to keep in mind I'd add:
• Try to time the auctions. I got distracted and in a moment of inspiration listed a bunch of stuff at 3 a.m. (I'M A GENIUS AND SO PRODUCTIVE!) but then realized after a handful of really undervalued sales that I should be looking at the end time of the sale and thinking about that.
• I too have focus issues and so I did it in one-hour bursts twice a day for a couple of months. I found I could focus for one hour pretty well.
• I like to have things boxed up and ready to go, but you will have to deal with all the folks who want you to combine shipping. I didn't mind telling people no, but some folks got real bent out of shape about it. Still, the best way for me was to take pictures, make the listing, wrap and pack it as best as I could, then sit it aside until it sold.
• I will never ever ever again sell glassware or breakable stuff like that on ebay. The shipping was always off - costing me money - or the customer received it broken or lied about receiving it broken with the same results. No more of that for me. Costume Jewelry, smaller religious artifacts, especially vintage ones, and vintage clothing I have done embarrassingly well with on Ebay.
posted by Tchad at 4:40 PM on July 14, 2017

Don't bother with eBay Valet for anything that's not basically a well recognized new-ish product. In my experience, they've rejected items for terrible reasons - like an HP laser printer: "don't have equipment to test functionality" - or brand new premium tire chains: "cannot verify year of manufacture".

I suspect it would be even worse for the stuff you describe.

Just try one thing. Search eBay for your items, and check the box for "completed listings". Find something that has at least a few recent sales, and give it a shot.
posted by reeddavid at 12:03 AM on July 15, 2017

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