Monday, January 12, 2009

Happy eBay-versery to me

This week marks my third anniversary selling on eBay - at least under my TexasTesla name. And boy, have I learned some serious lessons! I know there are plenty of people who are still newbies to eBay (and online buying in general) I've compiled a list of hard-learned pointers to help everyone out.

Buying on eBay
1. Always, always, always check the seller's feedback. It's not about total score, it's how many negatives and neutrals they've had recently - and why. For high-volume sellers, I recommend using the search at - all you need is their exact seller ID (available on the listing pages).

2. Sometimes a good seller gets a few lousy buyers, and their feedback score suffers. Read the feedback, and the seller's response (if any) - you'll quickly see if this is a basically good person, or someone to avoid. Don't expect perfect 100% - all sellers get the occasional unfair hit.

3. High-volume sales can mask a LOT of flaws...and even established sellers can suddenly go crazy (or have their accounts hijacked). Recent feedback is crucial to avoid these.

4. Use a credit card through PayPal - you'll get PayPal protection AND protection from your credit card.

5. Ask questions! Too many buyers assume something (the item is new, the item is real, they are paying $20 for overnight shipping) when the answer is unclear in the listing. Send a message to the seller, and be sure to keep their response - it's binding.

6. Be wary of buying from new sellers. Try to stick with sellers who have earned at least 20 positive feedbacks or more. Yes, it's unfair to newbies - but most scams come from low-feedback accounts.

7. Never, ever conduct a transaction outside eBay - not only will eBay potentially shut off your account, but it is VERY likely to be a scam.

8. If you are going to buy clothing on eBay, take the time to know your measurements. Pick items from your closet that fit well, measure at key areas (chest, waist, hip, etc) and compare to the listing. Be aware that many sellers do NOT accept returns for incorrect size, so be sure it fits to begin with.

9. If you get taken, complain. Loudly. To eBay and PayPal and the seller. Even if it's a $0.99 trinket, please complain - so there is a record of this seller being bad. Otherwise, other people will get taken too, and eBay won't know who to go after.

10. If you're going to spend serious money ($100+), become a semi-expert in the item. If you want a Louis Vuitton, do some research so you can spot the fakes. Know what kind of features a real Rolex will have, or what colors iPods are really available in. Some fakes are hard to spot, but many are super easy if you know a little about the real product.

Selling on eBay.
1. Be the kind of seller you'd want to buy from - answer emails, put lots of detail in your listing, and offer a return policy.

2. Know what you are selling, especially if you are a reseller. Fake everything is out there! (Especially at thrift stores) Plus, underpricing your items is a waste of your time and money.

3. Bad buyers really do exist - and can be anyone. Reserve the right to cancel a bid, and check on your bidders (especially those with no or poor feedback). Look for patterns of complaints for small/non-existent problems.

4. Use delivery confirmation at minimum when you ship an item. Otherwise, you have absolutely no proof of shipment.

5. For fragile items, wrap extremely well, and take a picture before sealing the box. Require insurance, and BUY insurance from the Post Office (don't pocket the money).

6. Remember, PayPal and eBay are not your friends - when a problem comes up and there's no proof, YOU will be wrong.

7. If you are considering allowing "local pick-up" of items, DO NOT meet at your house, and ALWAYS have a friend (preferably big and strong) with you. If an item can be shipped, require shipping - even if they live nearby. It's safer all around.

8. Selling to international customers can open up the range of who buys from you - but only do it if YOU are comfortable with it. It does require more work (customs forms, etc), and scams are common.

9. Not everything sells on eBay - do a search for your items before listing. This can also help you get a realistic idea of how much something might sell for. Lots of "nice" clothes, jewelry, and electronics go for almost nothing - because nobody wants them.

10. When you have a buyer complaint, do your homework and give the buyer the benefit of the doubt. Could you have missed that small hole? Was the package mis-delivered by the Post Office? Yes, some people try to get things for free (always require an item's return before refunding money!), but is it worth going to war with a buyer over a $20 sweater? Especially when eBay might side with them?


The Mom Bomb, a/k/a Folksy Mama said...

ooh! SUCH good advice. I've been burned on ebay, but for the most part, the experience has been great and I've bought some great deals/earned some nice pocket money.

Seems to me there's less listings these days . . . sellers getting burned by fees, maybe?

TexasTesla said...

Lots of reasons for less listings - more fees, less sales in general (so why list something that won't sell), and people expecting super-low prices that sellers can't support. However, this time of year is typically slow - I'd wait and see what March and April look like...