Unsolicited eBay Advice

I recently spent an afternoon listing a bunch of items for sale on eBay, and thought I’d pass on a few tips. These are a combination of things that I’ve found to be useful as an occassional seller of random stuff, as well as what I look for as a buyer…

(1) Save your boxes and instruction manuals. Obviously, this has limits… You can’t stockpile boxes forever. However, when selling bigger ticket items, particularly electronics, I’ve found that having the original box and user manual improves the final sale price substantially. There just seems to be something about the original packaging that is comforting to the buyer. I’m guessing that it’s the assumption that anyone who would save all of this stuff would probably take good care of the item itself. Knowing that the item will come in its original box also makes it seem ‘less used.’

(2) Take good pictures. I always post a big, clear picture of the items that I sell. Depending on what you’re selling, you might want to take pictures from more than one angle. If you still have the original packaging, paperwork, etc., then spread it all out (neatly!) and take a picture of everything the buyer will get.

(3) Write a concise and honest description. Be thorough, but keep it short. List the key features of your item, and specify its condition (does it work? how well? what about the cosmetics?). When talking about the condition of the item, refer to the picture(s) whenever appropriate. It sometimes also helps to tell the buyer why you’re selling it. If it works great and is in perfect cosmetic condition, then why don’t you want it? Perhaps you recently upgraded and no longer need this one.

(4) Don’t lowball the price and sock it the buyer with exorbitant shipping fees. People aren’t stupid (well, not everyone is, anyway) and this sort of pricing is just annoying. Feel free to pad the shipping cost a bit for your time, the cost of packaging, etc., but don’t be ridiculous. After all, you can get into trouble with eBay for trying to cheat them out of their final value fee (which is based on sales price, excluding shipping and handling).

(5) Clearly state the terms and conditions of your auctions. I have a piece of boilerplate text that I stick into all auctions descriptions. Specify that you reserve the right to refuse sale to people with low/negative feedback, shipping details, whether or not you allow local pickups, how quickly you expect contact/payment, the types of payment that you will accept, that you’ll only ship to confirmed addresses for PayPal payment, how soon you will ship after receiving payment, etc. Also list the consequences for failing to adhere to your terms (re-listing of the item, negative feedback, etc.).

(6) When it comes to formatting, keep it simple and straightforward. While it’s often helpful to use simple html tags (bold, underlining, font color, and so on), there’s no need for gaudy background colors, extraneous graphics, complex tables, etc. These sorts of things just make your listing look busy. A clean, consistent layout helps your customers find what out what they need to without annoying/frustrating them.

That’s it for now. If you have other tips (or disagree with something I’ve suggested), feel free to leave a comment.

Update: The auctions are now complete, and you can read about the results here.

11 Responses to “Unsolicited eBay Advice”

  1. Anonymous

    I’m currently in the process of selling a fair bit of stuff myself, as I’m about to become a father, and suddenly having a large pile of videos, CDs and DVDs doesn’t seem quite so important as it once did!

    Hopefully this advice will come in useful – I’ve always been one for keeping hold of boxes and instructions etc., I knew they’d come in handy at some point!

  2. Anonymous

    Saving original packaging is also handy even if you’re not selling on eBay, because it can help when you move. (I only throw away the boxes and molded-styrofoam from electronics when the products themselves get thrown away. And since everything gets packed the same way to move between apartments as it did to get moved from the factory to the store, I’ve never had anything get damaged during a move.)

  3. jim: I agree on having a template. I have a folder full of auction listings that I’ve done in the past, and simply duplicate the one that is closest to the item that I am listing and then change the pertinent text, as well as the link to the picture. This saves a bunch of time and, as you point out, the consistency makes it look far more professional if you are running multiple auctions at once.

  4. FMF: The auctions are still running, so I haven’t made any money yet. However, several items have received decent bids, and almost everything has a good number of ‘watchers.’

  5. Anonymous

    I always use the same template for each auction, giving a bit of continuity. It also looks professional, like your boilerplate T&C, so you can usually get a few more bids because of it if the demand is high.

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