Selling stuff on eBay can test patience
By Karen Youso
http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | (MCT) It sounds like a great idea: Instead of selling your Leica camera or Limoges vase locally, put it on eBay. Then sit back as buyers from around the world engage in a frenzied bidding war, driving the price up into the stratosphere.
A few years ago it seemed everybody knew somebody who'd made a killing on eBay. In my family it was my grandmother, with an assist from my dad. Grandma owned an antique shop in western Kansas. She had nice things but not a lot of walk-in traffic.
Dad studied up on eBay and asked Grandma to pick something to list. She decided on two matching Minton vases. In the shop she had the vases priced at $250 for the set; they sold for $2,225.
That was eight years ago. Things have changed. Supply has increased to meet demand. There are more sellers, and buyers have gotten choosier. Everything - no matter how beautiful or rare - comes around again. Prices have stabilized and come down from the heady early days.
It's still possible to make money as a seller on eBay. I have, and today I'll share the tips I've learned over the years. But the most important thing to keep in mind is: It's a hassle. It's nothing like buying, where you just click to bid and, if you win, the object shows up at your door.
Selling involves technical hurdles related to creating the listing and uploading photographs. Listings cost money, whether or not your item sells; make sure you understand all the fees eBay and PayPal (eBay's online payment service) will charge if an item sells and if it doesn't. One listing is cheap; if you have many, the fees add up.
Selling also costs time. Prospective buyers often e-mail to ask questions. They may want more pictures, more measurements or special shipping arrangements.
If an item sells, you have to wait for payment to arrive, the check to clear the PayPal payment to process. Then you have to pack the item, address a box, take it to a post office, and maybe buy insurance.
Then you wait to hear whether the item arrives safely. Heaven help you if it breaks in transit or the buyer is dissatisfied and wants a refund. None of this happens at a garage sale.
But if you're game to take on the hassle and risk, here are the keys to getting the best price:
Research your item. Use "advanced search" and check "completed listings only" for items like yours to get a realistic idea of what you might get. Pay attention to how many items did not sell. If you don't think you can get $20 easily for something, put it in a garage sale.
Write a good listing. Your job is to create the impression you are trustworthy and have refined taste. Skip the hyperbole ("unbelievable bargain") and the exclamation points. Stick to manufacturer's name, pattern, age and other details collectors would value ("Franciscan old green mark").
Take great pictures. If you're clever with computers, build an external page and link it to the listing. That lets you have as many pictures as you want for the price of one.
Start the bidding low. The lower the bid, the cheaper the listing. Also 99-cent opening bids attract lots of bidders, spurring competition and driving up the price. If you fear an item might really sell for only 99 cents, it probably isn't a good candidate for selling on eBay.
Pick the best closing time. Standard eBay auctions close exactly seven days from the start time. Monday evening is a popular closing time; the theory is bidders will see the item all weekend and come back Monday for the close. I've found Saturday mornings and Sunday evenings are also good; you get spontaneous buyers who might not come back later.
Armed with these tips, you have a decent shot at selling certain things for a fair price. If it doesn't work, garage sale season is coming.
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Karen Youso is a columnist for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Send a note by clicking here.
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