Selling on eBay: When to and When Not to Sell

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The top online auction site, eBay, is touted to be better than sliced bread for making a little extra money. Of course, retailers use eBay for successful and continuous selling, but for the average, “John Q. or Jane Q. Public,” it may not be worth the time and effort, depending on what you have to sell.

Both in the ether world of the Internet and in the terrestrial world, retail and wholesale sellers work on volume. Selling individual items with no repeat stocking rarely reaps financial gain, and the experts set their prices accordingly.

What you are actually selling when you place that novelty cuckoo clock you made in the eighth grade isn’t just that one-of-a-kind item. You are selling man-hours—how long it takes you to set up your eBay account, your merchant listing, item description, photo, inquiry follow-up time and dispute resolution time and effort—not to mention managing the other aspects of your auction, such as repeat placement if your minimum price isn’t met. Is that clock worth your time to post on eBay, or might you be better served by selling it, for example, to a pawn shop or in a yard sale?

The auction site provides eBay sellers the option of creating an eBay storefront, which might streamline some of the process. But those cost you money: Are your price tags reflective of that additional fee?

Selling on eBay is possible, but adjust your sights a little and sell collections, multiple-item groupings or packages. Your asking price increases, and you spend less time and effort per item, increasing your overall return.

For example, your baseball card collection comprises mostly common cards, but you have a few rookie cards that are in decent shape. Sell the entire collection as a group and use the rookie cards as focal points. Your asking price goes up. You spend the same amount of time setting up and managing the auction, and your shipping price—paid for by the winning bidder, of course—is identical in USPS one-price shipping.

If you have a rare album, and both it and its cover is in mint condition, absolutely sell that separately. Bump up your minimum bid to reflect about 10 to 20 percent lower than collector prices. That rare album will sell better than any loaf of bread—sliced or not! Then place the rest of the collection for sale as a combined unit.

Baked goods, believe it or not, are excellent sellers. However, it’s important to build your eBay reputation before you ask fair market prices. Stress overnight shipping or local pick-up only. Make sure the customer pays shipping costs. One successful marketing tool is to offer a 2-for-1 bonus to the winning bidder. Set minimum pricing, of course, but don’t make it higher than a generic price in the grocery store. You’ll be creating your own eBay “brand name” as your buyers send all that high praise for the quality of those cookies or cupcakes or pies. When you reach high rankings, maybe even the coveted “power seller” ranking, you’ve got it made—or baked.

Choose well your method of selling for extra money. Make the wiser financial choice by considering the “operating costs” and not just a price tag.

This post was contributed by John Walker, who writes finance news for a payday loans site. John lives and works in London, UK as a financial analyst.

 


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