Don't make these surprisingly common mistakes when selling clothing. Raise your Detailed Seller Ratings with an attractive presentation of your garments, then finish by shipping a professionally packaged item!
Most of my less than pleasant buying experiences have been with newer sellers, however a few have been with Power Sellers. I will also share with you some of my own mistakes made as a new seller, starting out. Over all, however, it is important to always remember that the majority of eBay sellers are real people with families, interests, and activities outside of eBay, and we all eventually make mistakes. I certainly made mine, like the time I sold a child's inflatable swimming pool with cover, except that I only sent the cover and not the pool! That sale sure deserved a negative! However, I IMMEDIATELY refunded the entire purchase amount including shipping, and apologized all over myself for the error. Somehow, I avoided receiving a negative. We, as sellers, only hope that the recipient of our mistake is forgiving and allows us to make corrections. I share with you some examples of common selling errors through my own experiences as both a buyer and seller. However, I have NEVER given a seller a negative as a result of a mistake, although they may have lost me as a future buyer. (As, I'm sure, I lost my pool buyer!)
There is a right way and a wrong way to sell clothes on eBay. If you recognize yourself here, I do not wish to offend, I have made some of these same mistakes! I only wish to share, mostly for newer sellers, my learning experiences when it comes to selling clothing items. When I first tried my hand at selling several years ago, I made some of the same mistakes I point out below, so I know from whence I come! I have since studied the style of many successful Power Sellers whose listings I find to be very attractive and informational, and I keep striving to improve my listings, methods, and grow my eBay store. I would strongly recommend new sellers do the same, and always keep growing and making improvements! Buyers have many choices on eBay, as well as other web sites, do everything you can to make your listing its professional best!
The Wrong Way to Sell:
1. Clothing that reeks of smoke. I once paid top dollar for four pieces of clothing won in an auction from a new seller. As soon as I opened the package, the smell of cigarette smoke was overwhelming. It took two washings to completely remove the smoky odor. If you are a smoker and seller, please don't smoke in the same room as your inventory. If you are unsure if your clothing items have an odor, please ask a non-smoker for their opinion.
2. Spots and stains. I once purchased a lovely jacket that had significant stains on the front. My first thought was, how could the seller not have noticed? Did she package this jacket with her eyes closed? Please examine your clothing items closely and if you find a stain, either clean the garment or don't sell it.
3. Unattractive presentation. I have seen listings where very nice expensive clothing was laid outside on deck flooring, hung off a deck rail, or even hung from a fence or tree! I understand trying to get a better picture by using 'natural' lighting. Perhaps the seller was thinking that the great outdoors provides a more attractive setting? I'm not sure, but I do know my first thought was, how clean will this item be when I receive it? I have also seen listings where a ladies garment was placed on a male mannequin! Seeing a barrel chested form fill out a feminine garment was rather weird and definitely an unattractive presentation of what was probably a very pretty blouse. Many sellers lay their garments on the floor, a table, or bedding for pictures, or simply hang the item on a hanger. This is fine if you are only cleaning out your closets and don't wish to continue selling once your task is done. However, if you wish to continue selling clothing past the point of just cleaning out closets, consider investing in an inexpensive hollow form mannequin. These are mannequins formed from plastic, from the neck to the upper thighs, and have a hollow back. They also come with a hanging hook. These are very convenient to hang from a hook placed over a door. If you don't wish to purchase a mannequin, consider purchasing two large pieces of poster board in black and white. These make wonderful backdrops for clothing garments, especially children's clothing! Use the black for lighter colors, and white for your darks. I purchased mine at Hobby Lobby for only about $6 a piece. If you decide to hang your clothing on a hanger for pictures, consider using a padded hanger to give your garment a little more shape. For displaying my men's sweaters I wrapped thick dark socks on my largest most substantial hanger to give the sweaters more body. I have finally invested in a hollow form male mannequin and plan to use it for my future listings.
4. Wrong size in the listing. Check the size on the garment tag! Check it twice! Check your listing for accuracy! More than once I purchased a clothing item that was advertised as once size, but was actually different when received. I know sellers are in a hurry to get their listings out there, but if your listing is inaccurate, it really was not worth the rush to list. Especially at the risk of lowering your DSR's, which are now crucial during eBay searches! Did you know that with the recent eBay changes, the higher your DSR score, the higher your item will be listed in search results?
5. Inaccurate measurements, and I don't mean by less than an inch, which is understandable. I am referring to a difference of multiple inches! More than once I have purchased a pair of pants believing the inseam was 32 inches, when in fact, it was only 28 inches. This is a significant error, especially after I had emailed the seller before I made my purchase to confirm that the inseam was really 32 inches. The seller obviously did not take the time to double check the measurements, even upon my request.
6. Haphazard packaging. This is where the garment is 'stuffed' into a bag for shipping - it was not folded neatly, nor was there tissue paper or plastic wrap of any kind to offer some protection for the garment during shipment. To a buyer, this could appear to convey the message that little care is taken AFTER the sale is made! Many times I have received items packed in old shoeboxes, food boxes, or diaper boxes. I understand cutting cost, but there are other ways of cutting costs and still make your package look its professional best! Unless you are shipping parcel post (which is not recommended), please don't use these types of boxes, especially when you can get free USPS Priority Mail boxes from USPS.com or from eBay! I was dismayed once when I received a new sleeping bag stuffed into a diaper box, bulging at the seams and tearing at the sides. When I receive an item packaged carelessly, I won't be returning to that seller.
7. Mailing Parcel Post. I used to always want to pay the least amount for shipping, so when I first started selling years ago, I only offered parcel post as my shipping method, thinking that was what buyers preferred to keep costs low. As a result, I was always scrounging for boxes, and my buyers were always emailing me, wondering when they would receive their package! I once mailed a very expensive leather racing jacket, parcel post, packed in a (gasp) diaper box! My buyer was very patient as we exchanged several emails, wondering when she would receive her purchase. To make it worse, this sale was made during the Christmas season, so the mail was exceptionally slow, especially parcel post. I was in a panic as a new seller, and just kept my fingers crossed that she would eventually receive the jacket. Oh yes, did I also tell you I did not insure this package?! I offer up myself as my own worst example! (Yes, she finally received the jacket, whew!).
One final thought on Parcel Post - due to the increasing cost of shipping, Parcel is at times the most cost effective method to use, and for shipping heavier bulky items it may be your best option. I recently sold some children's rubber rainboots which weighed about 3 lbs including the box - these I had to offer with Parcel Post as a more reasonable shipping cost option. Just be sure you let your buyer know to expect a longer delivery time with this method, in case you have a buyer new to eBay and unfamiliar with the various shipping methods. Also, don't forget you can always offer Priority Mail Flat Rate as an option, as long as your item fits in the USPS Flat Rate box. This is most effective when you have a heavy item, such as these rainboots.
The Right Way To Sell!
1. Describe the condition of the garment. Closely examine the garment for flaws. Are the buttons all there, any broken? Does the zipper work? If pre-owned, do the cuffs or collar show any signs of wear? Do sweaters, even new ones, have any make-up around the neckline from the changing room? Any pilling? Please be honest in your assessment, and include the condition of the garment, priced accordingly. It will save us both time sending emails asking the obvious questions!
2. Attractive presentation. Purchase a dress form or female mannequin. You don't need to spend a fortune on one, and you don't need a full body mannequin either, unless you have the money to spend. I purchased my hollow body female mannequin on eBay for about $20. Clothing is so much more attractively displayed on a mannequin, rather than layed out on the floor, bed, or even on a hanger. If your mannequin is placed in front of a door, drape a neutral color fabric over your door to hide the door and provide a more flattering backdrop. Get at least a two different colors of fabric to provide contrast with your garments. I found that tan and light blue backgrounds offer enough contrast with most every other color. I have seen some sellers drape two colors of contrasting fabric to showcase their garment, very effective presentation! As I mentioned above, invest in two large pieces of inexpensive poster board, one in black and one in white. These make excellent backdrops to lay clothing on, especially children's clothing!
3. Include several pictures. You want to make your buyers feel that they have examined the garment in their hands! If your camera has a macro setting, include close-up pictures to capture the fabric texture. Be sure your pictures are clear and crisp. Crop them to remove any background objects that would detract from your garment.
4. Photograph the garment label; this confirms the size and designer for the buyer and lessens the chance of error.
5. Measure accurately. Measure your garment on a flat surface. If the measurement needs to be doubled, then double it; don't make your buyer do the math. Just indicate in your listing how the measurement was taken. Measuring clothing is never precise, due to the fluidity of the fabric, and can vary by about 1/2". I have started adding 'about' in front of my measurements in my listings, so my buyer is more aware that this is to help them make their decision about fit, but does not necessarily guarantee a fit. If you think about it, you can buy clothing on eBay with a better idea of fit than from a retailer's clothing catalog, which never offers the measurements for a specific garment typically offered by eBay sellers!
6. Include the fabric care description in your listing. Your buyers will appreciate being able to make an informed purchase or bid decision. I've seen very few sellers include the actual verbiage from the fabric care label. Yes, this takes more time to type in to your description, but your buyers will appreciate the extra information, and hopefully reward you with a higher item description DSR!
7. Make your sale look its professional best! As I stated above, get your USPS Priority Mail boxes free from USPS.com or eBay. From eBay, the boxes will even be marked with the eBay logo, how fun is that?! Unless you are shipping parcel post, which is not recommended due to the slowness of delivery, please don't use food or diaper boxes to mail clothing. Receiving an item packed in a food or diaper box does not leave a professional impression with a buyer. Also, these types of boxes are not designed to withstand the stress and handling of shipping. Unless you are selling large bulky coats, garments can be shipped using free USPS Priority Mail boxes, and, when paying for your postage online, delivery confirmation is free! (I have never shipped UPS or Federal Express yet, so I cannot comment on these methods.)
Buy tissue paper at the Dollar Store to wrap your clothing items. Or better yet, stock up after Christmas when you can buy tissue paper at a fraction of the cost! Walgreen's has fabulous sales on seasonal items. Be creative and think about what you could use to make your sale appear more professional, with a personal touch!
I go the extra mile by purchasing clear plastic bags for clothing items. These can be purchased in bulk from some wonderful eBay sellers, and add only cents to your item. Of course, recycling clean clear plastic bags or bubble wrap is always an option too! I check Craigslist for people just giving away free packing materials. I was once able to get two large lawn bags full of bubble wrap, for free!
When I first started selling, I tried to locate those gray lightweight plastic mailing bags in my local office supply stores, to no avail - I could not find them anywhere! I finally was able to locate a wonderful eBay seller who specializes in packing supplies. Her prices are the best I've found anywhere, and she even combines shipping for some of her items - for free! Another good supplier is ULINE.com, their packaging selections can't be beat! I would recommend ordering their catalog, grab a cup of coffee and spend some time browsing through their huge catalog. ULINE shipping can be expensive, but one way to reduce the cost is to have your shipping supplies sent to a business instead of a residential address.
Finally, add a 'Thank You' card to your package. I designed and print my own using Excel, so my only expense is good quality paper. Be sure to add your website if you have one, and always include your eBay id. However, don't forget to write a short handwritten 'Thank you for your purchase' to your card, a personal touch is always the best!
8. Leave feedback promptly! I used to wait until after my buyer gave me feedback before I left mine, thinking that the transaction was not complete until the buyer left feedback first. As a buyer, that's what other sellers were doing to me, so I thought that's the way eBay was supposed to work. After considerable thought and with eBay's new feedback policy not permitting buyers to receive negatives, I have changed my opinion. I now leave positive feedback for my buyers the same day I ship! Since I use Paypal to generate my shipping labels on-line, my buyers automatically receive notification of shipment. Additionally, I send a personal email informing my buyer that positive feedback has been left, when their package was shipped, and reminding them of my generous return policy. My sincere belief is that most eBay buyers are good honest people who, if unhappy with an item for whatever reason, will simply return the item and indicate in their feedback that they still had a positive experience with me in my responsiveness and flexibility. I have found that my buyers are appreciative of my immediate feedback, and are more responsive with theirs in return!
Sometimes buyers forget to leave feedback. Sometimes they may be unhappy with a purchase, so rather than give the seller a negative or spend time resolving their issue, they may simply withhold feedback as their 'message' to the seller. Some sellers request feedback in their Thank You notes, which can be very effective, as long as the seller has already provided feedback for their buyer. In my Thank You notes I let my buyer know they have already received feedback, and kindly request upon item receipt if they would leave feedback for me, which lets me know they received their package safely and are satisfied with their shopping experience. Consider carefully your own 'best practice' for giving feedback and reminders, and realize there could be consequences. Some buyers are very receptive to giving feedback and being reminded, but others are not. I once sent an email to a buyer to remind them to leave me feedback (I had not left them feedback yet), and I received quite a lecture in return! Lesson learned! My policy now is to leave feedback upon receipt of a cleared payment, and I state this clearly in my listings.
Selling and showcasing garments can take a lot of time to do it correctly and attractively, but sellers will be rewarded with more satisfied buyers, return buyers, and higher DSR's if these simple steps are taken. As I continue to grow and learn from my own mistakes and those of others, I will add my experiences to this guide to hopefully help those newer sellers from making some of the same mistakes I made!
Thanks for taking the time to read this, and happy eBaying!
Inga ~ Wexford House Auctions