As an active eBay TA (trading assistant), I often read horror stories about those who've hired
someone to sell their items on eBay on a consignment basis and didn't receive the service
expected. (This is infrequent, but it happens.) Using the services of a TA can be a great
solution for you if you have neither the knowledge nor inclination to handle the process
BUT - as with any business relationship, it is up to you to make certain you & the items you consign are protected from fraud or less-than-professional handling!
There are many things you should investigate about the TA you may use:
- Review the TA's eBay feedback - the numbers, the percent & the comments left from his buyers. (Better to see "Great seller. Well-packaged, quick shipping, good communication" than "I finally received the broken widget 4 weeks after I paid. Seller didn't respond to my emails"!)
- Get the TA's eBay ID (you can't check his eBay reputation without it).
- Ask to speak to other clients the TA has worked with recently. Granted, the TA may only forward info about the "good" clients, but you will want answers to some of the points below.
- Get not only the TA's email address & mailing address, but also his home or office address and phone number. A TA who will hide this info from you may make you wonder what else
he's hiding. And - you need to be able to get ahold of him for something important.
- Check the TA's recent sales activity thru an advanced Seller search on eBay to see what his eBay listings look like, how throrough the descriptions & titles are, how clear the photos - is your TA a professional or a wannabe?
- Complete a contract with the TA - this should spell out all the possibilities of occurences so you both know what to expect.
- Will the TA need to do some research about your item? Be aware this may delay the listing of your item. (For the first antique bisque-head doll a client asked us to list, we were lost - we knew nothing. We informed the client we'd be ordering a book about these type of dolls and online research, which could take up to 2 weeks before we could list it. The info we learned helped us get a great price on that and subsequent dolls we listed for her and other clients.)
- Your TA may not know anything about your product, as just described. But, if he wants it to sell, thus make a commission on that sale, he will do the research and learn about it to provide the info desired by prospective buyers. Sometimes, however, there just isn't any available info about a particular item. We once had a deck of cards we listed for a client. All the client knew was the deck was about 100 years old and the face cards featured Swedish royalty of that time. There was nothing to be found about these "Boman" playing cards. This deck was in fantastic condition and the client was one whose items generally did quite nicely on eBay, so we took a chance and started the bidding at $19.99. After these sold for over $2500, it occurred to us that sometimes items are so rare that info is scarce. (Our rule of thumb for listing unknown items: the condition must be superb and we describe everything we can observe about that item.)
- Obtain a log of all items given to the TA at the time of his receipt of those items. The TA should sign this.
- Get the timeline & details in writing: when the auctions will run, what happens if the item doesn't sell, what happens if the buyer returns the item, when you will receive payment.
What's your responsibility as the client?
- Provide all the information about your items you can - details are what buyers want. A good TA will list even the teeniest flaw - and should do so so the buyer is fully informed. If you have an item signed by a celebrity, you will need to be able to prove its authenticity. If you can't, the TA can't market it fully, thus the sell price will be lower than another item signed by that celebrity which has been authenticated by a trusted agent.
- Don't micro-manage the title, description, photo views, etc. An experienced eBay seller has the knowledge of the eBay marketplace - he's the professional.
- Don't expect that widget of yours to receive $X because the book says it's worth $X or you saw it on Antique Roadshow! Your TA will investigate what comparable items have received on eBay and may tell you it MAY sell for $Y - $Z. Your TA should not promise you any particular item will definitely sell on eBay - there are too many things that can influence the market.
- Don't be offended if your TA will not accept particular items you may wish to have listed on eBay. Perhaps your item is not allowed to be listed on eBay. More likely, a TA may turn down some items because their usual selling price is too low to generate a commission that makes it worth the TA's time. We discovered that items which sell for less than $50 on eBay may actually cost us money when we consider our eBay & Paypal fees and our labor.
- If your TA wants to start your item at a price that seems low to you, it is likely that in his experience & his knowledge of eBay, he's learned that your item will generally receive a price that's higher than the same item started at a higher price. For example, a piece of designer fabric we listed for a client usually sold on eBay in the $200 range. One other seller listed his designer fabric for $199 and received exactly that. We started ours at $9.99, generating furious bidding. Ours sold for over $400! This seems counter-intuitive, but we've found this occurs time and again on eBay.
- Be available to your TA should he need more information from you about your item. He should get as much info as possible before the auction, but often a buyer will have a question neither you nor the TA ever considered.
After "pre-screening" your TA via email or phone, you and the TA should meet and first determine whether you will click in the TA/client relationship. You and your TA should clarify all that's expected and needed. Of course, if you are uncomfortable with the TA for any reason, even a little twitch of discomfort, you may want to search for another TA, as he may decline being your TA if he's uncomfortable with you.
Although it takes me some extra time, I will generally first meet with the client just to talk and make a list of his items, rather than taking any on that first meeting. I will then do some research to determine which of his items should be profitable to us both when sold on eBay. At our second meeting, I will then take the items we've decided to accept. (If your TA has computer access at that first meeting it's likely he'll do the eBay research right then to speed up the process and not have to make that second trip.)
Do your part to know how to work with your TA, make sure he knows his part, get everything in writing and it should be a good, profitable relationship!