5 tips I learned selling on eBay

Up until recently I’ve been a casual user of eBay. I’ve purchased random things like ink cartridges for my printer, hard to find items for my motorcycle, and even a few specific apparel items. I’ve also used eBay as a way to calculate value for items donated to charity. It’s a decent way to assess “market value” for the donated items. The fact is, I’ve only really been using half of eBay: I’m only a buyer.

Selling on eBay opens up a whole new world of possibilities for recycling items you don’t use. I had two computers I wanted to get rid of and figured I’d start learning how to use eBay rather than just e-waste them both and get nothing.

1. Sell on eBay or Gazelle?

When it comes to recycling electronic items, nothing is really easier than using Gazelle. If you have an old Apple product and want to take the easiest route, Gazelle gives an estimated value in a few easy steps. Just key in a few parameters about your item on Gazelle and they will give you a trade-in value for your product – provided it matches your description. They even send you a complimentary box and free shipping label to return your item.

I’ve turned in an iPhone and a computer on Gazelle. I probably could’ve earned a bit more money with eBay, but Gazelle’s exchange policy was too easy to pass up. Plus, if you get your refund as an Amazon gift card they throw in an extra 5%.

perfect iphone2. Use eBay’s mobile app. It rocks!

EBay’s mobile app really transforms the selling process. Product managers will often use the term “reduce friction” when improving products. The sentiment is to remove the parts of that product’s workflow which are hard for the user. EBay really got this one right and I wished I’d known earlier. From within the mobile app you can enter a few parameters about the item, take a few pictures, enter in the shipping information, and you’re done!

For many items, the seller can use a predefined description. All of the items I sold were instantly recognized by eBay, streamlining the create process. I simply took photographs with my phone and attached them to the auction.

3. Ship smartly

As a seller, I knew I wanted to standardize my shipping on FedEx. For me it’s easier to work with FedEx as they have a number of locations near my house and are open later at night. Once my first two items sold, I did all of the shipping manually. I didn’t see that eBay had integrations with FedEx. The value eBay calculated for my shipping on both my sellers came up short for the actual shipping costs I incurred.

Having felt robbed, I wanted to do better for the next round. Poking around in eBay’s UI a bit further, I found the options for FedEx. If you use eBay’s integrated tools, FedEx gives you a 23% discount on shipping. That was the missing piece for why shipping came up short. Also, using the integrated shipping tools updates all the parameters on your sold items for the buyer. Package the item. Print the label.  Pop it over to FedEx.  It really is slick.

4. Beware of fees

As a first timer it can be easy to miss all of the fees that go into selling an item on eBay. For a basic auction, the seller will pay a final value fee.  EBay appears to charge 10% of the item’s final price. Including a reserve price in the auction adds an additional 1% of the reserve price. For reasons I don’t fully understand, eBay doesn’t automatically deduct fees when the item sells. EBay will invoice the seller for fees once a month.  So, don’t spend all your loot right away.

Also, PayPal will deduct a few percentage points for money transferred to you. I’d estimate about 15% of the item’s final price to be deducted in fees. PayPal takes their fees before you get paid. EBay expects you to pay them at the end of the month.

5. Protect your rating

Each account on eBay comes with a feedback score. For each transaction on eBay, the other party can give you a positive, ambivalent, or negative score. Ensure that every interaction you have on eBay generates you a positive score. At worst, try to resolve the issue amicably even if it means an ambivalent score. Negative scores will haunt you for the next year on eBay.

For example, the post office lost one of the items I sold on eBay. The total value was about $30 so it was better for me to eat the cost than to tarnish my name. As the item value goes up, considers specific insurance on shipping or require signature on delivery. EBay has buyer and seller protection programs which are worth looking into should the transaction go awry.

6. Sell!  Sell!  Sell!

I was really happy with the sales I made on eBay. Rather than dumping my electronic items in e-waste I was able to score a few hundred dollars on eBay. EBay eliminates a lot of the hassles of Craigslist’s as buyers are incentive to do the right thing as they too want to protect their feedback score.

Have you sold on eBay?  If so, I’d love to hear your experience in the comments.

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