How to make money on eBay

Here is what I do to make the most money for my items on eBay:

  • Use the 10 day auction. For only $0.20 more, it’s worth it to give buyers a few more days to bid on your auction.
  • Start the auction at $0.01. Starting low means you’ll get more bids as initial bidders nickel and dime the auction up to a reasonable starting amount. An auction with more bids appears exciting and attracts more visits. Do not worry about the final price: if your item is really worth anything, and you described it well, it will garner a fair price by auction close. Only use a higher starting price if your item is truly one of a kind, prospective buyers are rare, and final selling prices on prior auctions are inconsistent. (Chances are exceedingly high that nothing sold by a reader of this blog is “one of a kind.”) A preferable alternative to a high starting price is a reserve price. What this means is that if the final auction value does not meet or exceed the reserve price, the auction is not binding.
  • Only charge actual shipping costs. Sellers who pad shipping expenses are dishonest. Furthermore, buyers will gravitate towards sellers who have cheap shipping. (If you don’t believe that, consider that does not charge shipping on orders above $25. What effect does that have on their sales?) Charge only what it costs to ship the item, and do not charge any “handling” costs unless this item’s shipping procedure is unusual. Provide shipping materials gratis. (This requires prior planning on your part: grab discarded boxes from work, save packing materials, buy when the are on sale, etc.) eBay has a handy feature where if you provide the dimensions and weight of the item beforehand, buyers can see the exact cost to ship the item to their door. This leads me to…
  • Package the item beforehand. First, this gives you an opportunity to weigh the item. That way you can really know what it will cost to mail the item. Packaging adds weight; I’ve lost money on more than one auction when I failed to consider this. Second, what happens if you sell the item, receive payment, need to ship it the next day, but have no packaging? You have to make an expensive trip to the local office supply place and purchase packaging at full retail. What a great way to eliminate your profits! Had you prepared in advance, you may have been able to acquire boxes and packaging for free or cheap.
  • Give a detailed, concise, and straightforward description. List all technical details about the item, accurately describe its condition, and be honest and open about defects. Do not use lots of fonts, colors, graphics, or other distracting junk. Keep the auction plain and readable. Your item will sell itself if you described it accurately.
  • Do not be a used car salesman. Do not pad your description with chintzy text, graphics, or other crap. For example, “one of a kind,” “extra special,” “can’t miss,” etc. Give me a break. Do you want to make yourself look like a used car salesman?
  • Lots and lots of good pictures. Include many detailed photos. Give close-ups of problem spots and good spots. Do not use fuzzy shots or ambiguous shots (for example, poor lighting that prevents the user from seeing the item properly). I can’t tell you how many car listings I have seen that probably would have gotten higher final auction values if the photos weren’t horrible. If you screwed up the shot, 1. get off your lazy ass and retake it, and 2. learn how not to make the same mistake in the future.
  • Have a good feedback rating. I recommend a rating of at least 15 positives with no neutrals or negatives. Otherwise you will have a puny track record. Sellers with minimal, zero, or negative feedback often get horrible final auction values. You may need to make some purchases to get positive feedback.
  • Be honest, be honest, be honest. Dishonesty will hurt your feedback rating, and long-term it will just cause more headaches than it’s worth. Don’t be like eDrop of Wichita  (additional link).
  • Use PayPal. PayPal has steep fees, but it’s much easier for buyers to pay you if you use PayPal. Look at it this way: if you didn’t use PayPal and eBay, would you have been able to sell the item in the first place? And if you were able to sell the item (probably at a garage sale), would you have gotten this much?

With these tactics, I have had many surprisingly lucrative auctions. I’ve sold a broken Holley carburetor for $150 (the problem was accurately described), a Testors model for $80, and two new PDAs at a slight profit.

They just don’t get it

Companies keep asking me if I want to convert to electronic delivery of my bills and statements. The funny thing is that almost none of these companies retain more than six months of my records online.

What would I do if I needed to verify payment of a bill more than six months ago? (This recently happened.) Had I only done electronic payment, then I would have to pay this company more money to get a copy of the statement.

Whatever. Until companies get a clue, I will continue to get hardcopies of all my bills.

Scout Locker

On Tuesday I re-organized something called the Scout Locker. It’s a collection of used Scout uniforms that the White Rock District sells to kids who otherwise could not afford Boy Scout uniforms.

The Scout Locker used to be at a spare building at White Rock United Methodist Church, a big supporter of Scouting. This building developed roof leaks, so the clothing was moved to a different location.

BSA uniforms are expensive. A normal uniform set for a boy (uniform shirt, shorts, belt, and socks) is $77.95. The same stuff sized for an adult is $83.70. This doesn’t even include the patches or epaulets, each of which are sold separately. And an optional cap is $11.50. See the prices for yourself at the online Scout Catalog.

As a side note, sometimes I wonder if the BSA is excessively profiting on uniform parts. It sure seems contrary to the ninth point of the Scout Law, Thrifty, for this clothing to be so expensive. I wish the BSA could just sell this stuff at cost.

As I was putting everything together I found that we have a ton of Boy Scout shorts and a paucity of everything else: no Cub Scout uniform shirts, only two pairs of Cub Scout shorts, and few Boy Scout uniform shirts.

Fortunately, we have a limited amount of funds available to acquire some additional uniform pieces. I am going to strike a deal with a guy to purchase a bulk quantity of Cub Scout uniform parts. Hopefully after that, we will have a good deal of uniform parts for children in need.

RSV Chronicles

I think I am finally over the RSV virus. Here is how it went.

Day 1: Sore/swollen throat.
Day 2: Sore/swollen throat.
Day 3: Sore/swollen throat.
Day 4: Sore/swollen throat and coughing.
Day 5: Coughing progressing to full blown cold by evening.
Day 6: Full blown cold.
Day 7: Full blown cold progressing to lots of lung mucus.
Day 8: Blowing gallons and gallons of lung mucus out my nose.
Day 9: Same. I constantly sense an intense smell of lung snot.
Day 10: Same.
Day 11 through Day 14: Lung mucus slowly tapering off.

This really screwed up my Christmas break!