Monday, November 28, 2011

How to Sell on Ebay

I'm a huge advocate of funding a splurge by reselling unwanted items you already own (i.e. "liquidating assets") - as such, it seems high time that I share a little on how to make that happen.

Before the Sale
1) Sign up for a Paypal account. You used to be able to sell without Paypal, but now it's required.

2) If you don't already have an Ebay account, sign up for one now.

3) Take several good pictures of your items. Show all relevant details/selling points. Do your absolute best to accurately represent the item in color, texture, and scale. You may want to use the macro setting on your camera to show a  pattern or weave better, or you may want to set your item next to a ruler or magazine to show scale.

4) Get listing. The actual listing process is super duper easy: you take a picture of your item and then just click on the "Sell" button over at Ebay, follow the prompts, and fill in the blanks. Ebay has pretty much done away with listing fees, now charging you only if your item sells, so don't be scared to give it a try. The hardest part is truly, honestly, writing up a good description. A good description will make your item sound appealing and - almost more importantly - minimize the potential for refund demands and bad feedback.
Tips for the Description:
  • Size - Don't stop at listing the size on the tag. If you don't have a ruler somewhere in your house, buy one for a buck before you proceed. People will ask you to measure things. If you won't provide measurements, then you have no leg to stand on when a buyer complains that something doesn't fit.
  • Composition - List the fiber content, types of seams used (princess, darts, gussets, exposed, etc.), whether or not it is lined. The more informed the buyer is at time of purchase, the less likely they are to feel surprised or let down upon receipt.
  • Color - All monitors are slightly different, so don't let your pictures speak for themselves. Also avoid using the "Crayola" names for colors, as there is definitely someone out there who will picture "chartreuse" when you say, "citron." I prefer to compare the colors of my listed items to items in the collective consciousness - baby chicks, circus peanuts, Cayenne pepper, broccoli, and so forth.
  • Condition - Be brutally honest. If you can tell it's been used, but still in good condition, say, "You can tell it's been used, but it's still in good condition." If it reeks of cigarette smoke, say so. If anything, play up the faults so that your customers are pleasantly surprised rather than painfully let down. You may take longer to sell your item - or receive a little less for it - but that's much better than giving a refund and dealing with angry people.
5) Set your price.
  1. Open a new window or tab in your browser and log onto Ebay (don't close your current listing window). Do a very general search for the item you want to sell (e.g. Tahari skirt). Leave off anything too specific, like color or size, because you want to make sure you get a good sample to work from. Narrow your search using the check boxes on the left to view only "pre-owned," "new," "new with tags," or "new with defects" items, as relevant.
  2. Click the check box on the left that says, "View Completed Listings." This will pull up a list of all the recent items listed that are similar to the one you'd like to list. Items that sold successfully show as green, while items that failed to sell show in red.
  3. Determine a good listing price for your item based on previous successful sales. It may help you to sort your results by price and set your price within the range that had the most successful sales. I like to price my items on the low end of that range. Don't forget to take Ebay and Paypal fees into account! I am not going to list the fees here, since they are subject to change - better to go straight to the horse's mouth.
  4. Fill in your list price as your "Starting Bid." This should be the lowest amount that you would be willing to accept for your item - don't start your bid at $0.99 unless you'd be happy with a sale for $0.99!
Example of Completed Listings Search       

Screencap of Sort Feature

    Note: Ebay's Selling page contains a tool that is supposed to determine how much your item is worth. I don't trust this tool and much prefer to look at the hard data myself.

    6) Set your selling parameters. As you go through your listing you will have the options to specify who (if anyone) to exclude from your listing (e.g. buyers with very bad feedback, international buyers, etc.), what kind of shipping you will provide, your return policy, which Paypal account you'd like to receive the payment, shipping price, and handling time.

    Selling suggestions...

    For busy people:
    • Go ahead and exclude International buyers. International shipping requires you to physically stand in line and fill out a customs form during operating, whereas domestic shipping can be printed online and simply dropped off at the post - no waiting. Many post offices also open up their PO Box and drop box area before operating hours, allowing you to make a quick run in the morning before work.
    • Do NOT offer local pickup - local pickup means that you will have to coordinate a rendezvous with the buyer, rather than dropping by the post office at your convenience.
    For everyone:
    •  Give yourself a little more handling time than you think you need, just in case an emergency or illness comes up. As long as you ship your item within your stated handling time, buyers cannot give you low ratings for shipping (event though they can give negative overall feedback at their discretion - more on this below).
    • I recommend stating a No Returns policy, unless you really want to run a business here. If you're just cleaning out your closet, set the expectation with the buyer that you won't expect returns - otherwise you will have to deal with buyers who didn't bother to read measurements and just wanted to try things on. Also, Ebay and Paypal's policys pretty much force you to accept returns, anyway, in the event that the buyer is seriously unhappy, so there is no need to offer returns on your page to cover possible errors on your part. You can always make an exception, but the expectation of no returns will save you time and hassle.
    • If anyone sends you messages that are insulting (Would you accept 1/24th your asking price for the item? In the form of a post-dated, out-of-state check?), demanding or belligerent (THIS IS RIDICULOUS I LIVE VERY CLOSE TO THE AREA SO WHY CAN'T I DO LOCAL PICKUP???!! GET OVER YOURSELF I DON'T WANT TO KIDNAP YOU OR ANYTHING!), or just plain indecipherable, I would block their user ID immediately. Poor communication can easily turn into unhappiness on both ends - and negative feedback on yours.
    Example of Buyer Requirements and No-Returns Policy

    Screencap of Shipping & Handling Options with NO LOCAL PICKUP, NO INTERNATIONAL SHIPPING, and 3 DAYS HANDLING specified

       After the Sale
      1) Do not ship until you have received a cleared payment. A clear payment is demarkated under My Ebay> Selling by a highlighted dollar sign icon. You can also log into Paypal to view cleare payments.

      Example of highlighted icons - a GRAY dollar sign means you have NOT received payment


      2) Never agree to ship to any address other than the address the buyer indicated on the payment. Paypal and Ebay will NOT recognize the item as delivered unless the desination address and payment addresses match - if they do not, then the buyer can claim that the package was never received and basically get the item for free (definitely not always the goal, but a few dishonest people ruined it for everyone). Offer to refund the payment and send a new invoice so that the buyer can fill in the corrected shipping address. If they get upset about this, it may be better to simply cancel the transaction and refund the payment anyway. You can verify the address by clicking on your listing, then clicking on the View Order Details link.

      Options Menu that appears in a sold item listing


      3) Make sure you pack your item so it will not be damaged in transit. Use sturdy boxes, sufficient padding, and maybe slip the item into a plastic bag in case of rain.

      4) If shipping with USPS, always buy delivery confirmation! Tracking is a bonus for the buyers, but the real value is that you have documented proof that your item was delivered to the address your buyer indicated.

      5) Shipping companies don't always scan every package at every stop, especially during high volume periods (e.g. the holiday season). If a buyer asks you why the package isn't tracking, just let them know this and ask them to be patient. I've had plenty of tracking issues, but nothing has gone missing yet (knock on wood).

      In the Event of Conflict
      If the buyer claims that they have not received their item, the first thing you should do is check the tracking information to verify that that claim. Under My Ebay> Selling, scroll down to the Sold section and click on the tracking number for the item in question. A tracking window will pop up with delivery information.


      Example of tracking information screen.



      Most of the time, I'd rather offer to refund a few dollars to make the buyer happy - even if I don't necessarily agree with them. I'm not selling super high-dollar items, so I'd rather spend a couple bucks to avoid bad feedback. Paypal hardly ever sides with sellers, so it is in your interest to make the buyer happy. Do this through Paypal.

      If someone is being particularly nasty or unreasonable (e.g. demanding a refund while refusing to return the item or complaining about an issue that was clearly listed in your description), I ask them to please file a claim with Ebay to initiate the refund process. This might seem counter-intuative, since now Ebay basically has to help satisfy your customer, but this is the only way you can combat the bogus refund demands that have started to plague Ebay. Ebay might still side with the buyer, but at least Ebay will have a record of the dispute and the ability to track buyers who ask for an inordinate amount of refunds.

      In the above case, I would definitely also block the buyer as well, so that they cannot cause any further stress by buying another item from you.



      ...And there you have it! Whew! I promise, it is not as complicated as it seems once you get started and get in the swing of things - especially since Ebay auto-fills most of your selling preferences (return policy, buyer requirements, etc.) after the first time. Now that Ebay only charges its fees when and if your item sells, moreover, it's a pretty risk-free venture. Now, get out there and fund some new purchases by selling unwanted stuff... and if you maybe-sorta-kinda pass on those unused gifts from holidays past, I promise I won't tell. ;)

      2 comments:

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