Beginner's Guide to Buying and Selling on eBay

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Beginner's Guide to Buying and Selling on eBay
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This guide is meant for the person just starting out on eBay. I have been buying and selling on eBay for several years. I think the following tips would have saved me a lot of hassles and made me more money. These are in no particular order except the first one.

  1. Invest in a digital camera.  Having pictures of the items you sell (And not using stock photos from the manufacturer's web site) will put your bidders at ease. If they can see it they will be more apt to bid up on it and buy it. I am not saying for you to run out and get the most expensive digital camera you can buy. For $80-$100 you can get a good camera that will do the job just fine. Once you get your camera experiment with it. Take pictures of everyday items with different light sources (Sunlight, flash, desk lamp etc.) Basically get used to it before you post grainy, out of focus pictures on eBay.
  2. Don't sell the big dollar items right away.  If you have a Mickey Mantle rookie card you are dying to sell on eBay don't make that your first item. Build up your positive feedbacks. People are a little shy about putting down thousands of dollars on an item with someone who has 3 positive feedbacks.
  3. Buy and sell as many little things as you can.  This has to do with #2. Sell any of that garage sale stuff you have lying around the house or buy some small stuff (Like a screwdriver set, a DVD, packing tape etc) These transactions will build up your feedbacks (And bidder's confidence)
  4. Do some research. After you have gotten your feedbacks into the double digits you can start selling the bigger items. Do a search of your item on eBay. See what keyword other's are using to sell the same item. See if there is a market for your Widget. Save the item in your My eBay to find out what the final prices are. This will save you time and money. You don't want to put up your Limited Edition Signed Widget if there are 500 listed with no bids. Chances are you are going to be out the listing fee.
  5. DONT'S. Don't say in your description: "Boyfriend's/girlfriend's/mother's/father's Widget I inherited/found in attic/garage/basement/Aunt Edna's house (etc., etc.,)..." Even if it is true there are a million people saying it on eBay. It sounds made up. Don't sell your item for 25 cents and charge $40 Shipping and Handling. This will sour new people you catch in this trap on eBay. Don't EVER click on the Respond Now button in an email. Even if it is from eBay, you can log on to My eBay and go to Messages and respond from there. Close all browser windows and restart your browser. Type in in the address area. This will insure you are actually going to eBay and not a fake site. Fake or 'Phishing' emails look exactly like emails from eBay. If you enter your info in these fake links they will be used to hijack your account.
  6. Make sure you have the item. This may be a no brainer but make sure you have the item in your possession before you sell it. Don't post an item for $50 that you saw in a shop for $1. Don't let Uncle Bubba talk you into selling the vase he knows he has in his basement somewhere. Trying to explain to a buyer that the item you sold them is "out of stock" is not a good way to run a business.
  7. Shipping and Handling. Make sure you know how much an item is going to cost to PACK and SHIP. Know what the box is going to cost and how much all of it together is going to weigh so you know exactly what it is going to cost to get to the buyer. Go the extra mile and wrap it in bubble wrap, it will impress your buyer. Spend the extra money on delivery confirmation. I have never had anyone say they didn't get their package but on the other hand I use delivery confirmation. State in your description if you will send items to Canada, Alaska, Hawaii, Europe etc. These places are expensive to send items to. Canada can be really expensive (More then you would think) so be forewarned.
  8. Feedback. Give as much information as possible in your feedback. Did the buyer pay as soon as the auction was over? Did the seller contact you right away? Did the seller use bubble wrap? Was the item exactly as described?
  9. Solving selling issues. "A person's perception IS their reality". If a buyer contacts you about a problem with an item make sure they are specific. Why don't you like the item? Is it damaged? Did the description say it was red and the item showed up blue? These are the types of questions a seller needs to ask. If the buyer has a legitimate problem offer them a refund on Shipping and Handling first. If they say that is not enough you might have to have them return the item to you for a full refund. These are all judgment calls that you will have to make. Feel them out first with the S&H refund first. Communication is the key! Be polite and to the point in all correspondence. Don't accuse anybody of anything...ever. Make sure you respond to questions thru My eBay Messages (Assuming of course that the buyer sent an email question thru the eBay Ask Member a Question link.) This will insure eBay has copies of what is actually said in all emails. You never know when you will need to defend yourself.
  10. Know what you sell, sell what you know. Your reputation is on every item you send out. Make sure it is something you would be happy with purchasing. "I bought 100 of these and just didn't look at them before I sent them out." won't fly with a buyer (or eBay, PayPal, etc.). I'll give an example: I purchased a DVD that was supposedly widescreen (As per the decription). When I got it the case and the DVD inside said fullscreen. It was the fullscreen version. I emailed the seller and asked if there was a mix up and was wondering if I could get the widscreen. The seller got pissed and said "Obviously, I bought this off eBay and I was lied to first." She was nice enough to offer a $1 refund and the suggestion to rent the widescreen version from a video store and switch the video store copy for the one I bought from her. Nice. Check out the stuff you are selling before you sell it. Also, sell something you know and are familiar with. If you don't know anything about Barbie dolls don't start selling them on eBay.  
  11. Be honest and specific. Another no brainer but just a clarification. If an electronic item doesn't work say it! Don't say that you are not sure if it works. I sold a Craftsman drill in the case with a charger that didn't work. I stated that at the top of the description and at the bottom. It still sold for $35. If you know the "Autographed" picture of Babe Ruth is a re-print say it! Don't beat around the bush. I was at a nation wide pawn shop and was looking around. They had a 30 day money back guarantee on all items in the store. This was company policy. Then in the corner I came across a shelf of miscellaneous items (A DVD player, saw, drill etc.) There was a small sign on the shelf saying that these items were being sold "As is" (The ULTIMATE in red flag phrases for a buyer.) without a guarantee. Do you think these items actually worked all the time? A lie by omission is still a lie.
  12. Get a PayPal account. This is an absolute.  This will alow you to buy and sell quickly on eBay. Make sure you register a credit card with PayPal and have a checking or savings account attached to your PayPal account. This allows instant payment from a seller or to a buyer and will speed up the entire process.
  13. Item description. Try to pack as much information in your item description as you can think of. Answer any questions the buyer might have in the description. This will save you time on answering emails from buyers who have questions that could have been answered in the description. Is the item New in a shrink wrapped box? Is it damaged? Does it have any extras? These are the type of questions you will be kicking yourself for having to answer over and over again that could have been explained in the description. Try and post measurements. Like: The model Corvette is 13 inches long, 5 inches wide and stands 6 inches tall. Be specific and don't forget the small stuff. I'll give you an example: I sold an autographed Joe DiMaggio 8 x 10 picture. I said in the description several times it was real. I went out of my way to explain that Joe at one time had a pen in his hand and wrote his name down on this picture. He signed it. What I forgot to mention was that it was in a cheap plastic frame. I was so worried about people realizing it was a real signature that I forgot to put in the description that the frame was a cheap plastic job. The buyer complained to me in an email (As I probably would have if our roles were reversed.) about the frame and I agreed and refunded his shipping charge. If I would have stated the frame was a cheap plastic one I would probably been OK.
  14. As a buyer, read the item description thoroughly. Read all descriptions twice, including Shipping and Handling (S/H) charges and return policies. This will decrease the chance of  "surprises" later on. For example there are sellers on eBay that will sell items for 99 cents and charge $20 for S/H. This is how many have figured out how to increase their profits by lowering insertion fees and final value fees since eBay does not charge sellers a percentage of S/H charges. In some cases you will pay more for S/H charges then the actual item and this is fine. For example I purchased a Firewire cable and PCI Card for my computer and camcorder. The item was under $2 but S/H was around $7. This is fine since the same type of item at a retail store goes for $20-$30. Another issue to look out for is some people selling their item considerably less then anyone else. Sometimes they are selling a used version of an item or a damaged item. Again, check the description. I was looking for Anti-Virus software for my computer. The one I was looking at was going for $70+ retail. On eBay the average was around $40 plus S/H. I found one guy selling it for $25 and FREE S/H. How was he able to do this? Well, he wasn't actually selling the software on a CD in a box. He was selling the activation code. He had won it in some kind of promotion. The software could be downloaded from the manufacturer's web site. He emailed me the code (Thus the FREE S/H). Some people have the ability to sell things cheaper then others. Just look around.
  15. Buying thru an Auction or Buy It Now. When searching auctions always place the search criteria in the Ending Soonest mode. This will allow you to gauge when an auction is going to end so you can bid on it at the end. A signed Babe Ruth bat at $100 with 5 days to go is NOT going to sell for $110. If you are looking for that special Widget and the first search results come up with an auction ending in an hour for $22 plus $5 S/H OR a Buy it Now for $24.95 plus $6 S/H, I would go with the Buy It Now. Why? Well the actual auction will probably go up in the next hour. Remember you still need to bid on the item and hope the guy with the bid below you won't out bid you. Also, I am a little impatient. I know I will get the Buy It Now item. I have a chance of getting the auction item.  Basically don't bite at the first auction (Or Buy It Now for that matter) you see. Scroll down and look. Click on the Buy It Now tab at the top of the search results screen. This will only show Buy It Nows. Then you can place them in lowest to highest order (Since it doesn't matter when a Buy It Now ends). To this day it still blows my mind how many sellers do not follow Rule #4. I have been looking for items and have clicked on the Buy it Now tab and sorted by Lowest Price plus S&H only to see very large price differences. One item I was looking for had a $55 difference between the lowest 3 or 4 sellers and the next half dozen or so sellers with THE EXACT SAME ITEM. $55! Really? Good luck with that.
  16. Make an Offer. This is another feature as a seller you can place in your items. Be warned though because a buyer can only place three offers on any single item per 30 days. Where this can bite you back as a seller is the amount of the offer you can set to automatically accept. For example: I wanted to purchase an item that had a Buy it Now list price of $59.99. I made an offer of $45 which was instantly refused. Understandable. That is an almost $15 difference. But it started getting annoying when my bids of $50 and $55 were refused instantly also. If as a seller you KNOW you won't sell an item at a 10 percent discount fine, just don't waste the buyer's time by setting an unrealistic discount of less then $5. I didn't purchase the item from this seller because I felt my time was wasted in a useless haggling process from a seller who knew they weren't going to sell the item at more then a $5 discount.
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