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- This Week's Free Computer Tip -

178 - Selling on eBay

This is a follow up to my previous bulletin about buying on eBay. I have since sold my first major item on eBay and will relate the process and the results I achieved. I think you will find them interesting! For the record, I have no commercial interest in eBay. It's just that it has become such a well known part of the computer world that I want my readers to have some practical information about it, including learning how it works and what they can expect from it. As you might guess, I am again going to tell you that eBay can be a great place sell almost anything you can think of.

I will not punish my faithful readers by making them re-read descriptions from the last bulletin (about buying on eBay). Instead, I would ask that you make it a point to read these two bulletins together, as a continuation of the topic. If you didn't happen to save the last email version, here is a link to it on my web site. (All past bulletins can also be found there. Links at the bottom of any of my web pages will also take you to them.

(For those of you who like to read the final chapter of your books before you read the book, you can skip to the case study near the end of the bulletin.)

Before you try to sell for the first time -
I strongly recommended that eBay buyers consider setting up an account with PayPal. Here again, I strongly recommend that you open a "PayPal" account. It's a one-time thing to set this up and, once in place, it can be used for any future buying or selling transactions.

Since you will often be selling to buyers from out of state, PayPal is by far the easiest way to get paid. As the seller, you do pay a fee for a successful sale, based on the final sale price and applied using a sliding scale. For that reason, I can't give you an exact number here, except to say that I found it to be nominal - much less than running an ad in my local newspaper. Remember that this fee only applies when PayPal is used to pay for a successful sale. No sale, no fee. If you accept other methods of payment and the buyer chooses to use something other than PayPal, no fee. More about this below.

The steps in selling on eBay -
Here are the eight generic steps in selling -
More details about each step follow the list.

  1. Do some research on price for this type of item (optional step).
  2. Decide what the absolute minimum price is that you are willing to sell the item for.
  3. Take a (digital) picture or pictures of the item you are selling and have it on your computer hard disk.
  4. Compose the text of your sale listing.
  5. Sign on to eBay as a seller and begin following their prompts to decide what features you want your ad to contain (more about that below).
  6. Review the price for placing the listing and then approve the listing.
  7. Watch the bidding using "My eBay".
  8. If it sells, contact the buyer and arrange the details of payment and delivery.

Understand that this is a contract you have entered into. You have said that if someone is willing to pay at least your minimum price, that you are promising to sell and deliver the item in the condition described, to that buyer.

- Details about the selling steps -

Step 1 - Do some research
This is an optional step but unless you are very familiar with the market for your item, it is very advisable to bone up on what is being sold out there and what a reasonable price is.

Step 2 - Decide what the absolute minimum price is that you are willing to sell the item for
THIS IS IMPORTANT - You are deciding on what eBay calls a "Reserve Price", meaning that you reserve the right to refuse to sell your item for less. You don't have to state a reserve price at all, but remember, this is a contract! If you are willing to sell your item for any bid that is offered, then no reserve price is necessary. Just don't forget, someone might bid a single dollar and if no one else bids, you have sold your item for a dollar! Many items are sold on eBay with no reserve price, but only if the seller thinks that there will be lots of bidding interest in the item - or - the seller has no idea if anyone will be interested and is willing to sell it very cheaply (like at garage sale prices).

Step 3 - Take a (digital) picture or pictures of the item you are selling and have it on your computer hard disk
You will need at least one digital picture of what you are selling. A digital camera is nice to have here, but not strictly necessary. Any photograph(s) of your item(s) can be used. Photo processing stores will scan a printed photo and give you the digital image file to put on your computer hard drive. Photos are intended to add advertising value to your eBay listing so you be the judge of what picture quality is acceptable for your purposes. I would suggest however that the more expensive the item, the more pictures you should plan on having in your listing. It's a judgment call, so do what you think is best. I ran two pictures in my test case.

Step 4 -Compose the text of your sale listing
You might find it easier here to use your regular word processing software (Works, Word, Wordpad, Notepad). Compose your advertisement and then just Copy and Paste it into the eBay form. EBay offers some features to enhance the appearance of the text. Select a phrase and change the color of the font. Select a word and tell it to "bold" the text. Try it. It can make a difference when selling.

Step 5 - Sign on to eBay as a seller and begin following their prompts to decide what features you want your ad to contain
There are quite a few questions to be answered as you create your eBay listing. You will begin by choosing a category to list the item under. You will be asked to create a descriptive 55 maximum character description of the item which people can use to search on. When you get to the actual text description of the item, you can Copy and Paste it from your word processor, into the eBay form. I won't describe all the features here, as they are too many and are well described in the eBay forms.

Step 6 - Review the price for placing the listing and then approve the listing
When your advertisement is completed and you have said which optional features you want in your listing, eBay calculates the charge for the listing and asks you if you approve and want to actually place the listing. This is your final chance to review the ad as it will actually appear, and accept it or reject it.

Step 7 - Watch the bidding using "My eBay"
Now the fun begins! Your listing hits eBay either immediately or at the (optional feature) start time you specified. Now you get to find out if you did it well enough to attract shoppers and to make your item attractive to buy. Sign on to eBay and click on the "My eBay" tab. Once there, look for the link on the far left column called "Selling (1)". Click on that and you can see everything that's going on with your auction. Now, it's just wait and see!

Step 8 - Contact the buyer and arrange the details of payment and delivery
When the auction ends, you will be notified immediately whether the item sold or did not sell. If it sold, you will find a link to contact the winning bidder. You will have the option of sending along an eBay generated invoice which includes the agreed cost of shipping the item. As soon as you receive payment (and the check clears, if need be) you ship the item to the buyer. If PayPal was used, your account with PayPal will debit your credit card or checking account for the amount owed. All of this is documented by eBay. That's it for the transaction!

There are some cleanup steps you will want to take. There is a column on the page which shows your sold item, labeled "Actions Taken". There is a down arrow there and it allows you to click on events such as "invoice sent", "payment received", and "item shipped". Sending the buyer an invoice is desirable, especially if there is shipping involved. The invoice will show the final amount the buyer needs to come up with.

On other item you can check off under Actions Taken, is leaving a comment. To be a good eBay citizen, you should go back into eBay and create a comment about your buyer, negative or positive. When you are buying and selling out there, these comments are how you learned who the reliable buyers and sellers were. They benefit everyone and I recommend that you do your part to keep them up to date, particularly if you have difficulties with the transaction.

So, how does this work in the real world?
Here's my case study - I think you'll like it!

I wanted to sell a motorcycle trailer. I had owned it for 11 years and it was time to get my garage space back. I followed all the steps mentioned above and created my listing. I decided to set a reserve price of $375 and to make my listing last for 5 days. I did not want to have to ship the trailer out of state so I specified that I wanted to restrict my buyers to the Denver metro area only. The 5-day listing would give local buyers enough time to "find" the ad on eBay. I chose a start time for the ad to begin so that the ending time would be what I wanted, 1:15 in the afternoon when I could be by my computer AND so that buyers could make final bids during their lunch hour breaks!

Extra cost features I paid for included the scheduled start time, a second picture, a "bold" font on the listing, listing in two categories instead of just one, having a small picture next to the listing line, and the ability for the viewer to enlarge the pictures to full screen size. The cost of these options is very nominal and the entire listing cost me $9.70 to place. My "extras" added about half of that price, but it's all very reasonable.

The bidding opened at $50. There were 27 bids made in all and about the same number of people "watching" the bidding as it went along. For 4 days, it crept up slowly, peaking at $310 with 24 hours to go. And there it sat. I was not at all sure the my reserve price would be met. With 19 minutes to go in the auction, it jumped to $350. There were 3 more bids in the next 15 minutes. The final bid was made by a lady who had not participated in the bidding at all before that moment. She won the auction at $559.87. It was her only bid and she made it at the very last moment. For those of you who read my prior bulletin on winning as a buyer, this is exactly what I was telling you about the strategy for winning bids you really want. Don't bid at all in the early going, then make you bid at the last possible moment. Proof of concept!

Needless to say, I was happy with the outcome. This buyer has a 100% approval rating on 375 prior transaction on eBay. She is local and we are meeting over the weekend to transfer the trailer. She is paying cash so I will only have to pay the successful listing fee for eBay. This whole deal was painless!

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