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Unsolicited eBay Advice

Written by Nickel - 11 Comments

Bank Deal: Earn 1.00% APY on an FDIC-insured savings account at Barclays.

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.

Published on August 10th, 2005 - 11 Comments
Filed under: Online

About the author: is the founder and editor-in-chief of this site. He's a thirty-something family man who has been writing about personal finance since 2005, and guess what? He's on Twitter!

Comments (scroll down to add your own):

  1. 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.

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 10th 2005 @ 10:25 am
  2. This is good advice — similar to what I’ve read elsewhere in “what works on eBay” posts. Did you make lots of $$$$?

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 10th 2005 @ 11:46 am
  3. 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.’

    Comment by Nickel — Aug 10th 2005 @ 12:18 pm
  4. Great tips. I have a bunch of stuff that I have been thinking of listing on eBay but I didn’t know where to start.

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 10th 2005 @ 7:10 pm
  5. 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.

    Comment by Nickel — Aug 10th 2005 @ 7:21 pm
  6. 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.)

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 11th 2005 @ 5:11 am
  7. Good tips, I agree with them all. Some are similar to my 3 Simple eBay Selling Tips.

    I still think the best tip is to just sell it, period! Like mmb’s comment, I bet the amount of good sellable stuff in people’s houses right now is enormous.

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 13th 2005 @ 7:36 pm
  8. Great suggestions.

    Looking at other auctions for similar items also helps a lot.

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 15th 2005 @ 7:16 am
  9. 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!

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 16th 2005 @ 8:54 am
  10. I’ve never used eBay, but I’ll store this great info away for later use!

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 22nd 2005 @ 10:04 pm
  11. Great tips; I am thinking of starting to try to offload some of my cra..erh, stuff, in the near future…

    Comment by Anonymous — Aug 23rd 2005 @ 3:20 pm

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