A beginner’s guide to eBay: Confessions from an eBay store worker – Part 1

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EDIT: I “full proofed” the spelling

Part One: Beginer’s Guide
Part Two: What doesn’t sell / what to buy
Part Three: Your tips
Part Four: Later this week

It was fall semester, I had exactly $0 to my name, and I was all out of meals for the week. I needed some cash, fast. So I did what millions before have done, I turned to eBay. Before I knew it, I had an eBay store and I was coding templates and doing research. I bought books and totally immersed myself in the eBay experience. I eventually applied to one of those “we’ll sell your stuff on eBay stores” and have been working there ever since.

The store (a national franchise, we’ll call it “DropIt”) had some guidelines on what items to accept. That, coupled with my own experience, gave me a pretty good idea about the eBay market place. I’d like to pass on what I know to you and hopefully you won’t have to live on your roommates’ junk food.

DropIt’s process:

When ever anyone brings in an item, the first thing we are told to do is look up its value on eBay. You may wonder how an auction site can give a value to anything, but you would be surprised at the fairly consistent rate that items will close. In order to search for what your item has gone for before, you must first log in. Then search for it in the upper right hand corner of the home page. Click search. The results you will get are the auctions currently going on. We don’t want that.

On the left side you will see a bunch of check boxes, check completed listings. Then click search again.

This tells you what all of the items like the ones you are selling have closed for. The red prices are the ones that DIDNT sell. Using this you can usually get a good idea of the market value of a product.

With actions starting bids are everything. Be sure to check individual listings for starting bids. Usually the lower the starting bid, the better off the item ends up doing. If you are selling a Dell XPS laptop and you see the average price is $500. For God’s sake start your action at .99 cents. It won’t go for a dollar, trust me. The low price encourages competition because everyone THINKS they will get a cheap computer. What ends up happening is that .99 cents bid attracts more watchers and more interest in your auction. This will result in a bidding war. Bidding war = better pay.

Check out this auction for a dell computer. The auction has the computer going close to retail value, while similar auctions went for less. Why? look at the starting bid.

A bonus: the lower price you start your item the less listing fees you take on. eBay is basically telling you start low! Keep it mind it is in eBay’s best interest that your items sells high, as they get a percentage. Keep this in mind when looking at their fee structure.


After you have done all of this and you are sure your item has demand on the eBay market, now you must make a listing. I won’t get into specifics put always remember these key facts: Items closing on Sunday do better, and items closing in the evening do better. Be sure to close your auction at a time when people get home from work, or are done eating dinner. Keep time zones in mind. One eBay expert I know always starts his auctions at 10pm EST, and he does wonderfully.

Whatever you do, unless you are selling a car, or your soul: DO NOT PUT A RESERVE. Reserves scare away bidding wars. Unless your item is ridiculously in demand, don’t bother. A reserve will just frustrate bidders, costing you time and listing fees. I can’t tell you how many times I have to talk frantic customers out of reserves for their $30 Stone Cold Steve Austin commemorative plate.

When it comes to the actual listing, remember that people usually skim. Put all of the main points as bullets. Don’t waste time on narrative. Most people use the pictures more than the listing.

The last part of the listing typically involves pictures. Always put at least one picture. If your item is worth more than $10, put a gallery as well. Pictures are barely a quarter for each one. Don’t be afraid to take 4 or 5. It will all pay for itself.

Lastly, be sure to spell check your title. Your listing can have errors, but your title must be fool proof. Be sure to make it as long as possible. Add adjectives, colors, and anything else you can think of to max out the length. The reason the title is so important? That is what the eBay search pulls its keywords from. If you misspell something, nobody will find it. Or worse, only one person will find it and bid only $1 – and win.
To recap these are the steps for a new item:

1) Research its demand on ebay.
2) Start a new listing.
3) Make sure the auction closes on a Sunday.
4) Make sure the item ends in the evening.
5) Start the bidding low.
6) Avoid a reserve.
7) Use bullets.
8) Put at least one picture and use the gallery!
9) Spell check your title!

Later this month:

-What sells
-Psychologically what to do
-The best resources

[tags]ebay, ebay store, auction, www.ebay.com, pictures, bidding, price, froogle, listing[/tags]

40 Responses to “A beginner’s guide to eBay: Confessions from an eBay store worker – Part 1”

  1. Grant Says:

    Good guide Sean, I’m actually about to sell some stuff I’ve been meaning to sell for quite awhile.

    I was always wondering how to check on ended items, now I know!

    -Grant

  2. Mike Says:

    Great guide! I am a avid ebayer and one thing I have noticed is that if something doesn’t sell at first don’t be afraid or too cheap to relist it. It will sell eventually. I have had items relisted more than twice and I kept it up and it did sell for more than expected, which paid for all the relisting fees.

  3. Debra Says:

    Do you have any opinions on the use of Buy it Now pricing? Thanks

  4. Brian Says:

    Thanks.

    I have an issue with PayPal – any idea whether non-PayPal auctions lose $$?

  5. Ravin Says:

    The comment about having the auctions end on a Sunday evening is actually quite interesting, becuase I’ve found that that’s when I’m able to get stuff cheapest. (I just bought a $1000 lens for $550, and the auction ended on a Sunday evening… in the past the same lens has gone for atleast $850 or more). I’ve had similar experiences with cell phones and other camera equipment.
    In my experience weekday afternoons seem to be when most people bid, or are online… I always presumed it was because people were bidding from work.
    Of course this could also have to with what sort of stuff one is selling/buying.

  6. Rob Says:

    “Lastly, be sure to spell check your title. Your listing can have errors, but your title must be full proof.”

    That’s ironic.

  7. Hebchop Says:

    Very nice sir. I had no idea you could get an ebay MSRP or ESRP would be a better term. I have a friend who searches for mispelled titles to find a bargins that never get viewed by the superspellers of the world.

  8. Jesse Says:

    Great Tips. I’m going to London for the summer to visit my brother and one of the projects to earn my keep is selling some 300 knickknacks for him on eBay. Though I’ve sold a few things on eBay over the years, I’ll now have to learn about UK shipping, how to obtain supplies, what the market like, how far it extends… It’s a lot to think about but I reckon these tips will give me a head start.

  9. Echilon Says:

    Great guide :)

  10. Optophobia Says:

    Some good points, and a very good summary of some very helpful tips. 10 cent listings TODAY ONLY on ebay. As for the spell checking – Yes this is very important if you want to fetch a decent price. Use the URL http://www.fatfingers.com to search for mispelled items.
    I always start my listings at 1 cent even if they are worth $1000 dollars, and the final value DOES reach higher than most others.
    I would however beg to differ about the sunday finishing times getting higher bids. I find friday and saturday evenings better. Also about 6pm PT (so East Coasters remeber to convert the time zone.)
    Final Comment – FEEDBACK IS VERY IMPORTANT
    Feel free to check out MY auctions http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQfgtpZ1QQfrppZ25QQsassZoptophobia

  11. Gary Says:

    Excellent article and tips.

    Here’s another reason, as a seller, to start with a low starting bid:

    The first thing I do when searching eBay is to sort the search results by the number of bids. This usually brings the “good stuff” with more bids to the top and lets most of the junk sink to the bottom of the list. As you said, a low starting bid gets the bidding war started and can have a dramatic effect on the bid count column.

  12. Blanda Says:

    “Lastly, be sure to spell check your title. Your listing can have errors, but your title must be full proof.”

    That’s ironic.

    –Sorry?

  13. Sam Says:

    Blanda –

    “but your title must be full proof” -> FOOL proof

  14. Chris Says:

    I think what Rob means is that you must have meant FOOLproof not “full proof”, the irony stemming from the misspelling in a sentence regarding spelling errors.

    The article was very helpful anyways, a few questions answered that had always weighed on my head as to why some of my items run away while others lag at the opening bid price or worse yet never hit the reserve.

    You’re right though, I learned a while back that reserves were only good if you really didn’t want to get rid of something.

  15. Bored Dreamer Says:

    Another tip is to always run a ten day auction, starting on the last Thursday evening of the month. That means your item is up for two weekends rather than just one, it finishes on a Sunday night, and as people get paid on the Friday before the auction finishes they feel like they have more money to blow on eBay. I’ve always done this, and it seems to work a treat!

  16. Confessions from an eBay store worker at The Emptorium Says:

    […] A former eBay worker writes: It was fall semester, I had exactly $0 to my name, and I was all out of meals for the week. I needed some cash, fast. So I did what millions before have done, I turned to eBay. Before I knew it, I had an eBay store and I was coding templates and doing research. I bought books and totally immersed myself in the eBay experience. I eventually applied to one of those “we’ll sell your stuff on eBay stores” and have been working there ever since. […]

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  18. Andrea Says:

    Another way to save $ when selling is to get a free html editor (like pagebreeze) & a free photo storage site that will let auction sites look at your photos (like photobucket.com). You can embed lots of pictures in your html rather than pay ebay to upload them – ebay gives one free & charges for the rest. It takes a little bit to learn this, but is NOT difficult. I find a picture says a thousand words & use lots of them in my listings. I sell stuff on ebay as a stay-at-home mom & make about $1000 a month. Not bad for a few hours in my home office each week. And I agree with the comment Ravin, too. I find late weekday afternoons are the best for auctions to end…

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  21. Gogogo Says:

    Points:
    Sunday evening may well be a peak time for ebay but bear in mind that there will be both an increase in buyers AND of auctions/competition so it’s not clear it’s the best time to end an auction. I’ve found Sunday, Monday, Thursday evenings to be good.

    It’s also not true that a 0.99 starting price is allways the best policy. This is only true if your item has a lot of demand. Many times if there are only a few buyers interested and you list the item at near retail you will eventually get a buyer willing to pay that price – you may need to relist a few times. If you had starting it at 0.99 it may be that only one buyer happens to be interested at the time of the auction.

    Moreover, if you have more than one item that will generally have few buyers and you list at 0.99 and it sells at that price, you’ve then set a precedence. People who search for completed listings will now perceive the item to be worth 0.99 – not good

  22. Gogogo Says:

    With regards to photos, it’s much better to host them on another site for free and include them in the html listing than it is to use ebay’s expensive photo hosting. This won’t be an issue if you’re selling a high ticket item but if it’s bettween $5-$30 it makes sense.

    Also, eschew all the extras that you can add to your listing such as bold etc.

  23. Keith Says:

    Thanks former e-bay worker, nice read…

  24. Donna Klein Says:

    Excellent guide! I disagree on the ending times, though. It’s an old myth. So many people believe it, though, that the majority of auctions DO end on Sunday nights. I always say that it’s better to end auctions at a time that’s convenient for the seller.

  25. Jason Says:

    A lot of bids come in during the last 2 or 3 hours you list an item. Thus, the logical close time is the one that happens when your target buyer is at his or her computer. If you want to get high school kids, make sure it’s around 8PM. If you want to appeal to office workers, it’s sometimes a good idea to have it in the middle of the morning or the early afternoon, since they browse while at work. If you’re not sure who to appeal to, then sell it so the auction ends whenever works for you.

  26. jeanette Says:

    I DO NOT LIKE TO SEE CLOSED FEED BACK ON SELLERS

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  32. Tax Liens Says:

    i like closed seller to feeback on sellers .

  33. Blanda Says:

    any reason?

  34. Phil Thomas Says:

    Great news

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  39. Mr. Outrageous Ebay Auctions Says:

    Very nice resource for new ebay sellers.

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