This popular Web site brings sellers and buyers together, no matter where they may be.
By Terri Blazell
eBay is the world’s biggest yard sale, swap meet, and treasure hunt all rolled into one. If you have a computer, you’ve probably visited it already, simply for curiosity’s sake. And if you haven’t, eventually you will. More than 135 million people worldwide are registered on eBay, 83 million of them U.S. residents. In 2006, eBay contained 584 million listings and approximately 46 percent of them sold.
For some people, selling items on eBay is a hobby that helps them clear clutter while making money at the same time. For others, it’s a full-time business. According to an eBay survey, 1.3 million people around the world rely on eBay for their primary or secondary income. Maybe you’ll become one of them.
Using eBay is the same for RVers as it is for anyone else, as long as Internet access is not an issue. Full-timer Deen Adolphe, F47302S, uses it for selling vehicle cleaning products, as well as a device for monitoring tire pressure. Deen travels to RV shows around the country and has his own Web site, but he also sells items on eBay. He takes a laptop computer and cell phone with him wherever he goes and rarely has trouble getting Internet access. Some of the items he sells are drop-shipped from the manufacturer right to the customer, so he doesn’t have to carry inventory. Other products are small enough that he can carry a supply with him without taking up too much cargo space.
Deen’s wife, Cindy, sells jewelry. Jewelry is a great product to sell while on the road, because it takes up very little space for inventory. This type of setup requires a business license and connections with wholesalers, but don’t be intimidated. Everyday sellers who want to get rid of a few household items or people who want to purchase something for themselves do not have to go through such complications.
Bill and Debbie Gunning, F261278, are full-time RVers who occasionally shop on eBay. They take advantage of Wi-Fi hot spots wherever they find them and have their packages sent either to a location where they will be staying long enough to get them, or to their permanent winter base in Arizona. You can have packages forwarded through your mail forwarding service, too. If you want packages sent directly to you, it can take up to three weeks (although it is usually much faster), so plan ahead if you move around frequently.
The eBay Learning Center, located on the Web site, offers several step-by-step tutorials to help you get started. They are the best source of information. This article is only intended as a brief overview of using eBay, plus some tips from my own personal experience.
Browsing on eBay is free. You don’t even need to be registered. Just go to www.ebay.com. Across the front of the site’s home page is a “search” button. Type in anything you are interested in, click search, and literally everything that matches your search word or phrase will pop up. Say you need to replace your favorite Rolling Stones T-shirt, since your spouse used it to wax your RV. On the day I wrote this, I found 644 items listed for Rolling Stones T-shirts, 952 listings for pink poodles, and 14 listings for chicken lips. That’s right, chicken lips. That’s the great thing about eBay. If you have an interest, no matter how unusual, you can probably find it there.
Another way to look around on eBay is by category. This is great if you don’t have a specific item you are seeking and just want to browse. Next to the search button is a drop-down menu of categories. As of this writing, the site had 35 different categories to browse through, such as antiques and jewelry, and even one called “everything else.” In addition, it featured a half-dozen “specialty categories,” including one called eBay Motors. On the day I visited there were “” are you ready for this? “” more than 896,000 items on 18,000 pages, all related to autos, RVs, motorcycles, etc. You can narrow this down by typing in “RV” or “motorhome” “” or even the specific make of coach. In 2004, “RV” was the number-one searched-for item on eBay. New and used coaches are sold through RV dealerships as well as owners. The site also has an abundance of RV parts and accessories. If you have an older coach and need obsolete replacement parts, eBay may be the place to find them.
Be The Best Buyer
Once you do find something you want to buy, you’ll need to register. Just complete the very easy-to-follow steps and it doesn’t take long at all. After you’ve registered with eBay, it is also a good idea to register with Pay Pal (www.paypal.com). Pay Pal is a payment system that makes transactions safe, fast, and easy. When you make a purchase from eBay, you can pay with Pay Pal. The money is transferred from your Pay Pal account. When you sell something, money is deposited into your Pay Pal account and held there until you decide to withdraw it. Both the Adolphes and the Gunnings use Pay Pal. Some sellers accept only Pay Pal, and you will not be able to buy from them if you don’t have an account. Others will accept checks or money orders, but check first before bidding and keep in mind that it can add an additional three weeks to your order. One bit of advice: if you have more than one e-mail address, be sure to use the same address for both eBay and Pay Pal. Otherwise, transactions won’t go through.
Once you are registered, the fun begins. Most items are set up to be auctioned. There is a minimum bid price. When you enter your bid, someone else can come along and outbid you. If you really want it, keep upping your bid until you win. The winner is the person with the highest bid when the auction expires. Another eBay feature allows you to enter a maximum bid “” the highest price that you are willing to pay. When others place their bids, eBay automatically comes in with your higher bid, in small increments, until you are either outbid or the other bidders give up. All this is done without you having to constantly check the status of the auction. I prefer bidding this way. By setting a limit that I feel is reasonable, I don’t overbid in the heat of the moment. There is something about having someone “beat” you that can make you forgo common sense and send you into a bidding frenzy.
When setting a maximum bid, end your top bid figure with an odd number. Most people bid in even numbers. If you decide that the most you’ll pay for something is $30, set your maximum bid at $31.23 instead. If someone else feels that $30 is their maximum, they may stop bidding when they reach it, leaving you with the highest bid. EBay does not reveal your maximum bid to the other bidders. That is kept a secret until you’ve been outbid or you win.
… And Be A Great Seller
To sell an item, the first thing you’ll want to do is research its value, and the best place to start is eBay itself. Look for an item similar to yours to learn which category it should be in, how many such items are listed, the price range that they are being sold in, and whether anyone is bidding on them. Sometimes it can be discouraging to discover that the special collectible you were hoarding, hoping to cash in on during retirement, is one of hundreds being offered. Equally as disheartening is the idea that nobody is in the market for your item.
Once you’ve determined that your item is worth selling, you’ll need to take a picture of it. An inexpensive digital camera is best and takes less time. If you have an expensive digital camera with tons of resolution, the picture file may be too large to download to eBay. I use an HP 3.1-megapixel camera, and it works great. Images made by my Canon 5-megapixel camera are too large.
Once you’ve taken your photos and downloaded them to a folder on your computer, click “Sell” at the top of the eBay home page. EBay will automatically take you through a simple step-by-step process for selling an item. The final cost to list the item will depend on how many features you choose.
Enter your item into eBay’s category search and it will come up with a variety of possible categories for your item. You can choose more than one. After you’ve selected a category or categories, create a title. This is the first thing a person will see when he or she is browsing through eBay. Make it catchy and interesting. Remember, you are trying to get someone to click on your entry out of the thousands of other entries that are out there. For example, instead of “Blue Purse with Flowers” try “Vintage! 1950 Blue Velvet Floral Handbag! Gucci!” If someone is searching for a particular brand or they want something special, which heading are they more likely to check out? If it is vintage or an antique, include the year made (or approximate date). If your search on eBay did not turn up another item like yours, then include “Rare” or “Unique” in the title. Be realistic, though. “Rare” or “Unique” won’t work for Beanie Babies.
Once you’ve chosen your title, the next step is a description. This is your sales pitch, so make a splash. Include the brand, condition, and size of the item. Go into as much detail as possible. Include any history that you may know such as age, past owners, and how you came to own it. Such detail makes your item personal to the reader. If you are listing books, include a few chapter headings, the author’s name, the publisher, the publication date, etc. If you are listing electronics, mention whether the instruction manual is included and whether the item works or not. You never know what search words people will use when they are looking for something, so the more descriptive you can be, the more likely your item will pop up.
If you’re selling a piece of clothing or other item that may be affected, state whether you are a non-smoker, don’t use perfumes, or don’t have pets. This can be important information for people with allergies. And if you are a smoker or you do have pets, make sure the item you ship has been aired out and cleaned with a lint brush. It’s just a courtesy. If the item comes with its own box, include the condition of that, too. All this detail protects you from a buyer who may end up disappointed that the item was not as described.
Recently I sold an item that I described as in good condition, which it was, but the original box that came with it had been torn and retaped at the corners. I overlooked this in the description and the buyer contacted me about it. For some, a torn and retaped box may be irrelevant, but for this item the box was just as significant as the item and it was important to the buyer. When they contacted me, I apologized for not noticing and I gave them a $2 credit. While that may seem like a lot of money for a torn corner, it was worth it to me to have a happy customer. Happy customers will buy from you again.
Next, choose the lowest price that you are willing to take for your item. There are several options here, including “Buy it Now” and “Reserve Price,” which you can read about on eBay.
After establishing the price, you will be asked to download the photo of your item. You can download up to 12 photos. One is usually enough. Occasionally I’ll add another photo or two when I feel it’s important to display additional features. For example; you may want to show the inside of a purse to prove its condition or the backside of a plate or dish to reveal a stamp or other markings. You will see many additional options regarding your ad at this point, including borders, bold text, and even listing it on eBay’s homepage. These features are optional, but the most important one to choose is the Gallery option. By selecting Gallery, the picture of your item will be displayed right next to the title. This costs 35 cents extra, but it is well worth it. As you are browsing eBay, notice how your eye always goes to the ads with pictures first. If you don’t choose Gallery, a little camera icon appears instead. Buyers have to click on the listing to see what the item looks like. According to eBay, sales are 11 percent higher for those listings with a gallery picture. In my personal experience, I’d say it’s even higher than that.
The timing of your listing is important. Your listing can last from one to 10 days, with seven days as the most common. I usually have my listings end on a Sunday or a Monday, as they are eBay’s busiest days. Friday and Saturday are the least busy days. Beware that if your listing happens to end on a holiday, you may not get any bids, so plan accordingly.
Then, Ship It Out
Shipping is next. You have many options, including calculating shipping fees after the item is sold once you know the exact destination, or pre-setting a flat shipping rate. Customers like flat-rate shipping, because they know up front what shipping will cost before they buy. It’s easy to calculate the shipping price. Go to www.usps.com and you will find a “calculate postage” button. Know the weight and size of your package, including the weight of packing materials. Since I live in California, I calculate the shipping as if it were going to New York and add an extra dollar for packing materials and gas to the post office. If it ends up costing a little less in the end then, that’s just a little more change in your pocket. Some people list their items very inexpensively but try to make up for it by having unrealistically high shipping charges. Bidders aren’t fooled, and I have noticed that people with unreasonably high shipping prices often have very few bids. If your package is small and weighs less than 1 pound, the least expensive way to ship it is First Class mail. If it weighs more than a pound, send it via Parcel Post or Priority Mail. Both eBay and Pay Pal collect a small percentage from your shipping charge, so make sure to consider that in your price.
You also can choose whether you want to ship outside of the United States and, if so, which countries you are willing to ship to. Shipping to foreign countries is usually calculated after the item is purchased, but sometimes a bidder will e-mail you before they bid and ask what the estimated shipping to their country will be. I’ve had good success shipping to other countries, and it expands your customer base by 50 million shoppers. I choose not to ship to Mexico, however. The post office does not offer insurance or any guarantees. It is a “ship at your own risk” situation that I prefer to avoid. Other people may have a different experience, though.
Finally, click on “submit” and you are an official eBay seller. Happy trails, and happy eBaying!