Looking for tips for making ebay selling a painless experience.
March 14, 2004 5:07 AM   Subscribe

Looking for tips for making ebay selling a painless experience. [more inside]

I want (well, need) to sell a vast chunk of my record collection, and ebay seemed like a decent place to do it (there is a mix of collectible / valuable, and bog-standard stuff). I'm happy to spend more time to maximise value (ie I'm happy to sell most if not all of it as single items).

Anyway, I'm a complete newb at this, and have vague memories of hearing that there are things that you really need to cover off well or risk pain and gnashing of the teeth (such as the terms and conditions for postage, insurance etc).

I'd really appreciate any tips from experienced vendors.
posted by bifter to Shopping (15 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: 1. Give detailed descriptions of your items--mention every ding in the jacket, every teensy-weensy scratch, etc. O/w, you're asking for trouble later on.

2. Photos can be very helpful.

3. Give buyers a deadline for payment (I usually specify a max. of 2 weeks).

4. People love PayPal; if you don't have an account, open one.

5. Research shipping costs very thoroughly. Bear in mind that something fragile like a record album will need special packaging, so don't feel ashamed to include a handling charge (things like peanuts or bubble wrap get really expensive really fast). If you have the UPS Store pack your items, you'll have to factor that into your shipping costs somehow. Definitely pack things right--there's nothing more infuriating for a bidder than to receive a valuable item that's just been tossed into the box. I normally discount shipping for people who buy multiple items.

6. The valuable albums should be sold separately, but you may want to sell the "bog-standard stuff" in small lots. Don't expect to get market value for anything. Put reserve prices on the most valuable items--the stuff that really shouldn't sell for .01, or something--and name the reserve in your listing. It's usually a good idea to start the bidding at a relatively low price.
posted by thomas j wise at 6:32 AM on March 14, 2004

Keep in mind the article on misspelled items selling for less than they ought to, and make sure things are spelled correctly.
posted by whatzit at 7:09 AM on March 14, 2004

I try to list my auctions so they'll end late Sunday night Eastern time. I'd second the Paypal suggestion; you'll get your money faster, and the bids will go higher.
posted by MegoSteve at 7:44 AM on March 14, 2004

I echo MegoSteve: your auctions will be better for weekend acitivity.
posted by nthdegx at 7:49 AM on March 14, 2004

a ten day auction started on fri claims 2 weekends
posted by Fupped Duck at 8:49 AM on March 14, 2004

When ever I have a whole pile of junk I need to move out of the house, I fire up Turbo Lister, (windows) it automates a lot of the process of listing things and keeps it all in one place. Using the ebay interface to for listing stuff is excruciating, I find.

Make up a little corner of a room to be your pik'n'pak center. Have all the packing supplies, scissors, etc. right there, so you can get things out fast with minimal procrastination.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 8:52 AM on March 14, 2004

Monday is actually the highest traffic shopping day of the week. It descends from there until Friday. Weekends are actually a wash.

My advice is to know how much shipping will really cost, and charge your buyer exactly that. If you're doing lots and lots of records, this should be a snap. I've been surprised by how much shipping costs, and my vague estimates were always low, which wound up costing me money. High estimates piss off buyers.

I hope it works out well for you.
posted by scarabic at 9:22 AM on March 14, 2004

For the standard stuff, if there is a pretty well-established price already on eBay (say 10 people have listed album X for $10) then set a "buy it now" price for $10 or so. I will often spend a few more bucks to "buy it now" rather than wait out the length of a cheaper auction, because I want the item in my hands sooner than later. Also, some people don't have constant access to the web... you want to let them buy something while they're online (as opposed to having to log in when the auction ends to make sure they're not outbid).

Also, for the love of god, if you're willing to ship outside the US, list your international shipping costs! Do not say "email me for a shipping estimate." I've been frustrated so often by people who charge OUTRAGEOUS international shipping fees (and I'm in Canada... it's actually around the same as shipping within the US) or people who just don't respond, so if a seller hasn't bothered to list their fees in the auction, I skip it.
posted by parrots at 12:32 PM on March 14, 2004

this link has good tips (i found it while demonstrating how to use google on the ask mefi topic a few above this).
posted by andrew cooke at 1:06 PM on March 14, 2004

If you're going to be selling lots of records, order a stack of LP shipping boxes. The price per each comes way down if you buy 50+ at a time. And they package LPs well, although it helps to put extra cardboard on either side of the LP. If you have a lot of garbage sleeves, you can re-use them as packaging protection.

Let non-U.S. people bid on the item. Many sellers don't like dealing with the hassle of international bidders, but there are lots of non-US buyers who will gladly pay a lot for certain LPs.
posted by gluechunk at 1:56 PM on March 14, 2004

Best answer: 1. Make good use of your title as it's what most people will be searching. This means avoid any and all punctuation (unless part of a band name or album name). Use simple word with single spaces between them. Try to avoid phrases that people will not search for. For instance, STILL NEW IN THE SHRINK WRAP is a waste of valuable title space. No one will search for that phrase though the occasional person may search for NEW.

2. If you plan on selling a lot of items that are different (meaning, lots of cds, lots of vinyl, lots of 8 track, whatever). then come up with a simple format for your item listings, like this:

CD BUILT TO SPILL There's Nothing Wrong with Love MINT



The format is, obviously, Format Band Title

The reason for doing this instead of band name first and then format is that when someone clicks "view other items by this seller" they will easily be able to scan your list for all CDs, Vinyl, etc. If you don't put the format first, I have to read every damn title when I don't have a record player (I do, but for illustration purposes, I don't).

3. If you don't have room in the title for the entire band/title, avoid the words The, And, etc. I think most savvy searchers will search for BUILT SPILL LOVE CD to find the above auction, for instance.

4. Don't sacrifice spaces for getting more words in: BUILTTOSPILL is a useless thing to put in an auction title. It will appear in NO searches for built to spill and only be seen by people who are browsing the alternative CDs.

I regularly get cheap items on ebay by browsing and looking for misspellings or missing formats/labels. My guilty pleasure on eBay is Criterion DVDs. I assume most people search for "Criterion DVD", yet I find auction after auction of titles that leave both of those words out.

5. If you have multiple copies of something that is rare, do not list them simultaneously. You just make them look more common. I learned this the hard way. i listed 2 copies of Breaking the Waves on DVD (it's out of print) and they each went for about $25. I then listed two more one after the other and they both went for $45+

6. Don't make a profit (or much of one) off of Shipping. I avoid sellers who charge ridiculous rates to ship. Take a record to your post office and get it weighed and ask them how much it costs to ship to USA, Canada, and whereever else you plan to ship. LIST THESE IN YOUR AUCTION. As mentioned above, buyers hate having to email people for shipping cost.

Once you've been on eBay a while, you'll see that the majority of experienced buyers do their bidding in the last 30 seconds of the auction. If I have to mail you to find out how much shipping is going to cost, you potentially are losing my bid.

7. Ship internationally! I see so many Americans who won't ship outside of the USA and it's just ridiculous. At least ship to Canada, which Paypal will confirm addresses for. Do a search for any common item on ebay and compare the ending auction prices for items that will ship just to USA with Items that will ship Worldwide. It's a substantial difference.

8. Ship items next day every single time. Nothing motivates a buyer to leave positive feedback than having the item in their hand a couple days after paying you.

9. If someone pays you immediately and their address is Paypal confirmed, leave them feedback right away. There is no reason for the seller to withhold feedback to a confirmed address and giving prompt feedback tells the buyer you're a pro and realize the importance of feedback. I hate people who seem to hold feedback hostage.

10. Be meticulous in your auction descriptions. Here's a sample of item condition for one of my auctions:

Some faint surface scratches but nothing severe. Plays flawlessly. Sleeve notes and tray liner are in MINT but barcode has a black marker stroke through it.

11. If the item is a Play Copy or Promo, state this in the auction by describing how you know this (stamped? punched? marker stroke? corner slice? etc.)

12. Pack your items well.

13. I may catch hell for this but: lie on your customs slips if you're shipping ourside the country. If an item is used, there is no way for anyone to confirm the value. If a used 7" single goes for $150, the foreign winner is going to have to pay taxes and duty on the declared value. It's a 7" record that could have gone for $5 or less. Unless the person is insuring it for a specific value, lie about the amount to save your buyer money.

14.Obviously, do not include an invoice or packing slip that declares a different value than your customs slip. I don't bother with invoices at all. If a person requests one, I just PDF and email them one.

15. Do not restrict buyers by forcing them to deal with a particular shipper. I do not buy anything that involves a courier as I get hit with customs fees and custom broker fees. If someone won't ship to me by Airmail, i will not bid. (or course, if you check their feedback and it's low or says "lied about not getting package" you may not want to do this.)

16. If you can't ship right away (say, you'll be out of town when the auction ends)), state this in your auction!

17. Start your auctions at a time when most of your customers will have access to a computer. For instance, if you're selling region 1 DVDs, your customers are mostly north americans. List your auctions on a weekday evening or weekend afternoon so that that's when they'll end. Do not make your auction end at 10 on a friday or 9 am on a monday morning. As above, much bidding takes place in the final seconds. If people are en route to work or sleeping, you've lost those bidders (unless they use a sniping service).

18. Find out what the item is worth on eBAy:

a. go to ebay. do a search for your item
b. scroll down on the search results page.
c. on the left, under display, click COMPLETED ITEMS

You'll see a list of all the auctions for that item that have already ended (in the last 30 days or so). See what the item goes for--make sure you check to see if the seller shipped outside their country and anything else that will affect a price (condition, shipping cost, etc.)

Depending on what you find out, you may want to use a Buy it Now feature.

19. What you find out can also affect your starting price. If the item you're selling regularly has numerous bidders (dozens of people bidding on past auctions) you can rest assured that (if you list your item with a good title), it will get lots of bidders and you can therefore start your auction at a lower price. this saves you listing fees and entices people to bid earlier.

20. on the other hand, if you see that the item doesn't often sell (past auctions end with no buyer) or have very few bids, you will want to start your auction off with a higher price.

For instance, if I have a good album that often has lots of bidders, I can comfortably list the item at a buck or two and those bidders will get it up.

If it only ever gets a single bid, I can set my bid at $9 (or whatever I think it's worth based on what it sold for before) and let the single person who wants it decide if it's worth it to them. If I had listed the same item at a buck, that person would get it for a buck (even though they would have paid nine) and I lose.

21. try to avoid reserve prices. they're a pain in the fucking ass. if you MUST use a reserve, list the reserve price right in the auction:

Reserve is set to $25.

Don't be one of those dingleberries who thinks the purpose of a reserve price is to get your bidders to bid more. That is not what it's for. The reserve price is to ensure that you don't sell the item at a loss (or cheaper than you want to).

Look at it this way: when I look for an item on ebay, i know what I want to pay for it. I have a max price. Your reserve does not affect what I can afford. if I think it's worth $50 and your reserve is $150, then

a) if you don't state what the reserve is, you've wasted my time. I'll be busy watching an auction (and maybe bidding) that I will never win.

b) if I do think it's worth $150 and you state the reserve, I know that I have a chance of winning.

There is nothing more frustrating than watching tons of people bid on an item up to its worth and still seeing "reserve not met" and the person won't reveal the reserve.

22. when looking through past auctions (see above), pay attention to the auction titles. compare the ones that got substantially more $ to those that didn't do as well. figure out why: when did the listing end? what words are in the title? where will the person ship? how much is shipping? what's the condition?

Some of those things (for instance, condition of the item) is out of your control, but often you'll see a pattern: highest ending auctions are the ones with simple, effective titles and clean, clear descriptions.

23. don't waste your money on bold or other features to "Get Your Auction Noticed!!!!!" as someone who buys things on ebay many times a week, I never pay any attention to those things whatsoever. Save the $ it costs to utilize them.

24. along with your shipping cost, list the cost of shipping multiple items:

To USA: $3 for first CD and $1 for each additional CD or $1.50 for each addtiional double CD.

Canada: $2 for each CD.

25. Learn how to insert blank lines in eBay listings (it's the html paragraph tag). If you don't, your auctions will look like shit.

That's all I got.
posted by dobbs at 2:39 PM on March 14, 2004 [1 favorite]

wow, dobbs, that is one great list. Excellent, excellent advice.

I have two things to add to this. First, if you are selling books or CDs, you should send them out via USPS Media Mail, and set the domestic shipping cost on your auction to $2. Media mail is almost always between $1 and $3, so you won't be losing any money. Smart Ebay buyers always factor the shipping fee into the final price - this means a $2 shipping fee will net you $3 of free profit over a $5 Priority Mail fee.

For other items, Priority Mail may be worth the price. It is often within a dollar or so of First Class Mail, and Priority Mail packaging is free from the post office. Put your item in the free box, stuff in a bunch of those free polybags instead of packing peanuts, and you just saved a dollar on packing materials. Many people turn Priority Mail boxes inside-out and send them First Class... but if you decide to do this, remember that it is technically illegal, and the Post Office does occasionally catch people at it. IMHO it is better to buy your own material when you're not sending via Priority Mail.
posted by vorfeed at 6:46 PM on March 14, 2004

Oops... I meant for the Media Mail portion to say books, CDs, or records. LPs can and should be mailed via Media Mail... though if you have a rare one, it might be worth sending it insured, instead.
posted by vorfeed at 6:56 PM on March 14, 2004

Best answer: thanks vorfeed. I just thought of a few more:

26. If a person buys multiple items from you, don't leave the same feedback for every auction. Try and come up with different things for each one. The buyer will appreciate this as it will look like they buy from many people and always get good results (if the feedback is positive) when someone scans the feedback.

27. Try and write feedback that doesn't sound like everyone elses. If you write stuff that looks like you actually remember the transaction/buyer, your buyer will appreciate it and reciprocate: "This buyer rocks! Paid superfast--no muss no fuss. Highly recommended. Thanks!" & "Ace buyer with great taste. An asset to eBay. Thanks!" kick "A+++++++++++++ Great!!!!!!!!!!!!!"'s ass every time
posted by dobbs at 7:15 PM on March 14, 2004

Response by poster: Great tips - thanks guys!
posted by bifter at 4:49 AM on March 15, 2004

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