eBay for Buyers and Sellers: A Few Tips.

This humungous, international marketplace is certainly on many minds!!

"To buy or not to buy, THAT is the question!"
"To buy or not to buy, THAT is the question!" | Source

My own experience on eBay for 8 years.

I have used eBay extensively, in a modest way, if that's not an oxymoron, over the last 8 years. Ever since I foolishly returned to the UK, in fact.

Part of my becoming involved with this vast, world-wide auction site was sheer boredom as I found quickly there is practically nothing to do in these blighted isles that doesn't involve spending large amounts of chump-change (it's my day for oxymoron's). It's sort of like Philadelphia, Boston or New York: the weather's too rotten to enjoy the parks, river and seaside so one wanders around, ending in numerous Starbucks, spending a widow's ransom on their - albeit excellent - coffee.

May I quickly explain the first sentence of this epistle? When I returned to Britain I was "young" in nearly every way that counts: a blooming skin, fairly slim, an eye for the ladies and still with the ability to do something about it. And I had a woman friend (the "ex.").

In the few short intervening years and, coincidently perhaps, during my time with eBay, all this has changed. The skin began to sprout warts and other miscellany; I gained several stones (pounds cuzzies - a stone is 14 pounds), I became turned-off by British women who all seem to smoke and drink excessively, refuse to look you in the eye (I hate that!), and are all looking for a football player or a toy boy. (or a combination therein). Guys: don't ever live in a matriarchal society like this! It's all for them!!

Well, to make a short story long, the ex. and I began a site on eBay called "SSB" (that's not the real name, sorry; the ex. can be homicidal!). We began going to auctions, boot sales (flea-markets, Gringuitos) and buying collectables to resell on eBay.

Back then (2003) eBay was great fun and still reasonably honest (no more for me, as you will see). We did quite well and actually sold thousands of items over a five-year period. We then went our separate ways: I moved and continued with my own site, called "jumpincholla," I have nothing to hide and have a 100% positive feedback. Come back here...look on eBay later!!

With the ex., I had specialized in miniatures, various ceramic and pottery items and things which caught our fancy (did very well with mounted butterflies!...no, not moths, we weren't fly-by-night types).

Back then, there was nothing like roaming through the boot sales until our eyes fell on a nugget of value among all the market rubbish. The same with auctions: we would buy boxes of miscellany for a few pounds (£) just to get the odd valuable piece occasionally within. (I still have a letter by or to a US president and 5 small Toltec heads which turned out to be genuine!).

Right. There's your background, now to eBay, the largest online site in the world for buying and selling that made our humble adventures possible.

I'm not going to get into the structure and history of the company, you can find all that on Wikipedia and elsewhere. These are my own experiences and observations as an active buyer and seller; no doubt many of you can add more.

Selling on eBay.  First off. If you think you are going to make a lot of money on eBay, you won't - at least, most of you. And to do that today you will have to get a reasonably exclusive line of NEW merchandise. Which, for me, takes all the fun out of the eBay experience.

But having secured your line of cell-phones, printer-ink, multicoloured diapers, or whatever and spent a chunk of capital on stocking, you have to sell them.

To do this, you have to photograph them (very well or even professionally in the case of brand new merchandise...a picture is really worth a thousand words on eBay). The you need to write decent copy describing them (my job which I loved) and using the fairly complicated eBay template format to list them.

As most know, you will be given a choice of how long you want the listing to run; the starting price (from .99p, up); whether to include a buy-it-now price or a reserve price. And a lot of other detail which will vary from product to product (design of the ad., background, postal advice, etc., etc).

Then you check it all and push the button to expose your item to the world. You can then sit back and watch the bids or offers come in until the final seconds (when most serious buyers bid).

Then you download the moolah from Paypal (the eBay bank) into your bank and it's all great, right?

Just a minute. Now you have to contact the buyer on line and send the eBay invoice whereupon he will pay for the item plus any postage. Then (and the worst part of it all for me), you have to securely and safely pack the item for the post or the courier. If you are selling a lot of medium to large sized and fragile items, this is a lot of work and worry until they arrive. Sometimes items arrive damaged (or the recipient says they were!) and you have to refund their money and throw away your damaged goods at a total loss to you. No problem if it cost a few pennies plus postage, but if it's a valuable ceramic or appliance? It can run to hundreds of ££££'s.

So here comes my first piece of advice. Whatever you sell: new or used, pick something that's easy to pack, robust, and preferably of low cost per item (to you). That way you minimise your potential loss and your ongoing labour.

Buying on eBay in 2011 is a risky business. In a normal auction, you get a chance to inspect the item and get an idea of the condition and any defects which will affect your bid. Unless you are bidding on high ticket items (cars, boats, etc.) you generally won't be able to do this. And although you can return an item within a set period (eBay statutes and the law of the land), you will have to repack, repost and probably argue with the seller who is worried about his "feedback." Then you may have to get Paypal or eBay to resolve any dispute that arrises.

Feedback is one of the stellar qualities of eBay (was). As it allows positive or negative feedback to be posted on every transaction. When an eBayer gets to many "red negatives" he is rightly viewed with suspicion by online clients and the bids suffer accordingly. I added "was," because I see now many experienced sellers (such as car backyarders...note!) seem to be hiding their feedback, especially the negative. How, I have no idea.

The criminal scum have found eBay, of course. Those selling counterfeit merchandise now abound in the thousands! In fact I read that of the zillions of trainers and other brand merchandise selling today, more than half is bogus! They will happily refund your money, of course, just to shut you up (in most cases), but you will be out your time and probably the postage as well.

A word about motor vehicles. This represents a huge slice of eBay's income. I advise anyone buying a used car on eBay to check the car's history, see it's HP clear, etc, and see it is not a Cat repair. (UK). The nicest of people seem to become varlets when they are selling their car and tell a lot of fibs. You have the right to inspect the car and to question the sellers online. After all, there is a reason "Harry," or Smoky," the beloved family Fiat is being cut off from the family font of love. Do all you can to find out these things. I have bought and sold a dozen cars through eBay and been mostly lucky, because I have loaded the odds as far as possible in my favour. It amazes me the number of people who bid and win a car on eBay; show up, pay cash, drive off - without even test driving the car! Such apathy is amazing and these people deserve what they often get.

All-in-all eBay is an incredible institution. It still tries to oversee things so its clients: buyers and sellers, are protected. But with millions of transactions being finalized daily there is still a huge percentage of malfeasance and outright fraud. Perhaps shadowing society in general, where the catchword in 2011 is survival, eBay has become too cold and calculating and obsessed with profits to the overall detriment of the fun and excitement of yore.

Selling fees have risen considerably of late, and here is so much more I could say and may have to do another article, this one is already too long.

I still use eBay now and again, as you will see on my small site (our old site has nearly 4,000 transactions). But I no longer smile and yell "Yeah!" in glee when I win something or make a decent sale....eBay and me...I guess we're both getting too old and warty.


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Comments 25 comments

MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 5 years ago from South Africa

Thanks for giving me another perspective on E-bay – a financial opportunity I was on my way to explore. At this stage of my life I think more than twice before I start a business that involves too many ventures. I had more than enough of them. Thanks again! Opinions of people who have learned by trial and error are always worthwhile to consider.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Martie, eBay can be fun, or could. And no doubt some make a lot of money especially as online shopping grows. Pity so many crooks and sociopaths are ruining things for everyone...Bob

BobbiRant profile image

BobbiRant 5 years ago from New York

We did Ebay several years ago and did well for quite a while. Then it seemed like the criminal elements took over, cheated people out of their monies and we got so fed up with PayPal doing nothing but playing into the crooks' hands that we got out of that. Plus it became very expensive to ship anything. Great hub though.

Fiddleman profile image

Fiddleman 5 years ago from Zirconia, North Carolina

I sell on ebay. Haven't made very much money so far and I have found you must really watch shipping costs especially for oversize boxes such as musical instruments which can be very costly.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Too true. It's nice to have a niche like yours, though. Also sort of fragile and robust both, fiddles I suppose. Sold many Strads. this year yet? Thanks for visit...Bob

Redneck Woman 5 years ago

You seem to have covered everything here, but the Ebay fees and Paypal fees are too high now to make Ebay a business - Good Hub

WillStarr profile image

WillStarr 5 years ago from Phoenix, Arizona

I've never sold on E-Bay, but when I need something no longer sold, I can always find it there and usually at a great price.

Nice, useful Hub, Bob!

Motown2Chitown 5 years ago

I've often considered eBay as a selling option for various collectible items my husband and I keep. I've decided against it, because truly, I don't feel the seller should have to absorb any costs. I think they should be absorbed by the buyer, personally. Anyhow, I found this hub particularly useful in helping one to make a decision about eBay. Thanks!

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Yes, MC, like in regular auctions. I never thought about that, but you're right. There was a whole lot more I could have put in the article but it was getting too long. Thanks for the visit...Bob

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Thanks redneck woman, it has gone to the dogs.

Cheers Will, I normally just buy these days and very infrequently as you can see on my feedback...Bob

Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Very helpful article, Dio. I have a classic '64 Oldsmobile that belonged to my grandmother I am thinking of selling, but didn't know how to go about it. Many have suggested E-bay, and I think after reading this hub, I may give it a try. Thank you.

SUSIE DUZY profile image

SUSIE DUZY 5 years ago from Delray Beach, Florida

I am always nervous to buy on Ebay. There are so many scams out there.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Yeah Genna: You should get a good price for that. There's not much danger of being scammed when selling, but be careful who you give your address to if they dont have a substantial feedback.

Suzie. I buy very little these days and nothing which could be counterfeit Bob

Manna in the wild profile image

Manna in the wild 5 years ago from Australia

I agree -- ebay fees are too high. I could sell a lot of unique individual things over time that a few people would be very pleased to buy. But therein lies a problem: low-demand items even if hard are a risk to offer for sale. If I put (say) 1000 things up for auction, an the sell-rate was not fast enough, then the listing fees would eat any sales. In the meantime, you (the seller) has to commit to a 1000 photos, a thousand descriptions, a 1000 postal calculations for n states/cities/countries... It's all too hard, and carries too much risk. Resolving a dispute is time consuming and irritating. I often find that computer parts are more expensive on ebay than local suppliers. The postage costs are a killer for many items.

What I would like is a site where I could list something for sale indefinitely without a fee until it's sold.

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hello :)

I enjoy finding things to buy on ebay. We have sold a few things ~ some successfully; others with problems!

As for British women, really Bob!!!

I don't smoke and rarely drink ~ and I am not the only one. :)

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hot damn! Trish is chiding me again! I apologise to Trish and the other half-dozen or so British women who don't smoke nor drink to excess, and who look me in the eye when I pass...I can't be that ugly, can I?! Bob

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Manna: You put the problem in a nutshell. I hope readers see your commnent...Bob

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

Hi Bob and everyone :)

Ebay can be good or bad (like British women ~ and men ~ and those worldwide, I assume).

We 'sold' a car on ebay. The buyers were supposed to collect it a couple of weeks ago and pay with cash. They didn't turn up and we haven't heard from them since :(

We sold a pump, which was perfect when posted, but arrived damaged. A dispute was started against us. We lost our pump, received no money for it, and they tried to give us a bad name, accusing us of selling faulty goods.

We have also bought some bargains, and made a little money on items which others saw as good deals.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

I've been through most of that, Trish, although I never had a car buyer let me down yet. There's all sorts out there...was it a woman!? What sort of car is it, I'm looking to change mine?...Bob

Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands

No this wasn't a woman. The pump fiasco was, though :)

You wouldn't want our car ~ spares or repair only :)

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Well, one swallow doesn't make a summer,(or even two as in your eBay experience)... better luck next time.


Hello, hello, profile image

Hello, hello, 5 years ago from London, UK

Thanks for your information. I tried with books but wasn't lucky. Everybody said that it is a great business of course I would get one.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Books are OK. But you make such a minute amount per book, unless you are an expert in first copies and antique books, etc. Then you have to pack them and post them. Too much boring labour for no return. Bit like something else we know! Bob

jerseys4kids.com profile image

jerseys4kids.com 4 years ago from Vancouver / Bangkok

eBay is on it's death bed..the party is over. Most of the great deals you saw on eBay in the past are no longer possible due to their crazy new policies. Time to look elsewhere.

diogenes profile image

diogenes 4 years ago from UK and Mexico Author

Hi Jerseykids. I didn't know that! Thanks for the information


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