There is nothing new about downsizing your life as you get older. In the course of a lifetime, many of us were fortunate enough to stay within a geographic area that allowed us to hang on to a ton of useless stuff that for one reason or another we packed up and carried with us. Or in some cases boxes left untouched in your parent’s basement or attic are beckoning your attention when the family home is finally sold.
I am no exception. In the past three years I have moved three times, so the experience of having to go through my archives reminded me that it was time to purge what I barely remember I’d kept let alone had use for. I needed to make space.
Of course, I had been familiar with eBay for some time. I had been a buyer and found the intoxicating joy of bidding and winning an auction. I had also sold a few items, but this was going to be different. This was going to be an all-out cyber yard sale. Everything was up for sale.
My inventory was eclectic to say the least. I had a few collectible toys I had saved including a coveted GI Joe space capsule with flight suit in the box (!) and with the 45 record of a Mercury launch countdown.
Which leads into the first lesson of this six lesson course.
Lesson #1: What is my item worth?
This is where you have to set your expectations on how badly you really want to sell.
In the case of the space capsule there were several up for sale on eBay with asking prices of about $475 to $500. Great, I thought, this is worth some doe.
Not so fast.
A closer look and you realize these have been up for sale for years. eBay allows you to relist every time your auction runs out at no charge so like a patient fisherman, many sellers are willing to drop their line in and wait it out for that perfect buyer. I put mine up for auction at about half of the competition.
My first 10-day auction ended without a bid, so I put it back up and lowered the price by $50. Bingo! Three days later I got the low bid (and the only bid it turns out) and sold the toy.
Lesson #2: Shipping is not always feasible due to affordability
Of course, you can design your auction to charge shipping and eBay gives you several options from USPS, Fed Ex and UPS.
I had a chair that I sold to a buyer in DC for $1,000. But come to find out that crating and shipping was over $1,000! I was fortunate to find a way to get it to her, but there were several times I almost cancelled the sale.
If your item is too big, eBay does have an option to list your item as LOCAL PICKUP ONLY. I went on to sell several items this way and, in one case, I was paid to drive the item to the buyer myself in neighboring Massachusetts.
Lesson #3: Patience
As I mentioned earlier, eBay doesn’t charge for a ten-day auction listing until the item sells. Then they take about an 8% commission on the sale price (not including shipping).
However, there are shorter auction options available – for a price.
This is where you can get into trouble.
You can drop to a 7, 5, or 3-day option with a gradual increase in a fee that is charged whether your item sells or not. If you’re not paying attention, you can keep relisting a 3-day auction for over 10 days and get charged like $5 without a sale. If you have several items up at once, it’s easy to rack up a significant total and for what? Something that didn’t sell in 10 days anyway. For no fee.
Lesson #4: Find a mentor/collector or, as I like to call them, a Yoda
A Yoda is an avid and experienced buyer who if you treat right can be invaluable in helping you sell.
Case in point, I had several collectible glass paperweights from my father’s estate. I didn’t know anything about them other than some of them sold on eBay for $1000. I put six or so up and did the best I could in pricing and describing them. There are tens of thousands of glass paper weights up for sale on eBay at any given time, so I was lost really. My Yoda made a low-ball offer on a piece that I accepted.
It started a conversation via eBay’s messaging system that allowed her to tell me that while I may have gotten a bit more for my item, she was still offering a fair collector’s price. She went on to help me better list the others and tell me which one was the most valuable and what I should hold out for in price. I did so well that I ended up gifting her one that didn’t sell after several months. So, respect your buyers, they can be an important resource.
I mentioned the messaging system which brings up the next lesson
Lesson #5: Don’t go backdoor dealing on eBay
If you want to get ripped off, that’s the way it’s going to happen. Personal information should be exchanged only after a sale is final and you received payment through PayPal on a pickup item. Also, you have all kinds of buyer and seller protections within the system so believe me it’s not worth trying to beat the fees. If you’re not into the fees use Craigslist or the ilk (good luck with that though).
Now the final lesson.
Lesson #6: Good customer service goes along way
Answer questions politely and enthusiastically and don’t argue. Your buyers review you as a seller and there are rewards (including better ad placement) for being a top-rated seller.
I can honestly say that I made a considerable supplemental income this summer and cleaned my house to boot. So take a look at your stash and start selling.
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