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Steering With the Skid--on eBay

Updated on August 24, 2013
Vintage Collector Plate Dipinto A Mano Hand-Painted Venezia Ponte Di Rialto
Vintage Collector Plate Dipinto A Mano Hand-Painted Venezia Ponte Di Rialto | Source
Coca-Cola Spinning Bottle Puzzle
Coca-Cola Spinning Bottle Puzzle | Source
Dodger the Dog Ornament
Dodger the Dog Ornament | Source
Leanin' Tree Greeting Card--Norman Rockwell's 1947 Saturday Evening Post Cover of "Family Outing"
Leanin' Tree Greeting Card--Norman Rockwell's 1947 Saturday Evening Post Cover of "Family Outing" | Source
National Geographic--October, 2009
National Geographic--October, 2009 | Source

The Skid

The law of inertia is alive and well in economics.

I should know. As an online seller for over a dozen years, my entrepreneurial ship has run aground in shallow eBay waters a few times.

When that happens, I have to conjure up my metaphorical Rolodex of strategies to incorporate in a trial and error process something that will hopefully nudge me off the low customer traffic shoal I'm stuck on.

The particular skid I've been on has been nothing short of dramatic. My fly tying hooks were selling quite well in the winter months. Along with my newfound niches of vintage print ads, prints, articles, and magazines, the sails/sales of my proverbial ship were constantly pregnant with the bottom line winds of fortune.

January was a fantastic month. The orders were flying in on a daily basis, and my wife and I were ecstatic.

In February, there was a bit of a dip, but I chalked it up as a seasonal thing. The graph for March revealed more of a decline. When April resulted in an even sharper drop, I decided to call the good folks at eBay up. Although the conversation was polite and pleasant enough, I was left with a sense of inadequacy rather than with the satisfaction of having learned new and constructive strategies.

The graph for May was very shocking. In a month when sales historically have soared for me, my bottom line was literally half of what it had been in February. Needless to say, I was very discouraged.

I'm ashamed to say that for a moment...a brief moment, but nevertheless a moment...I thought about dumping my online business and returning to the daily grind as a baker.

Truly, I was like the frog in the following video.

Collectible Vintage Schramberg, Germany, Ceramic Cow Figurine
Collectible Vintage Schramberg, Germany, Ceramic Cow Figurine | Source
Original Caesar Hernandez Watercolor Painting: Abandoned
Original Caesar Hernandez Watercolor Painting: Abandoned | Source
Vintage Collector Plate--Mission San Juan Capistrano
Vintage Collector Plate--Mission San Juan Capistrano | Source
Texas Instruments TI73 Graphic Calculator
Texas Instruments TI73 Graphic Calculator | Source
Collectible Gem Ware Rooster Scrub Pad Holder
Collectible Gem Ware Rooster Scrub Pad Holder | Source

How eBay Helped Me

So I called eBay up one more time, vowing that it would be the last time if I didn't get any help.

The young woman who took my call had such a sweet spirit about her. Something about her responses and her tone of voice assured me that she wasn't just giving me lip service. She was actually very empathetic and willing to go the extra mile. On a couple of occasions, she asked me to hold so she could analyze my business demographics as well as confer with a colleague.

Long story short, she made a key discovery. eBay had made some changes in recent months. While I don't fully understand what those changes were, because my listings had for the most part been grandfathered, the changes had thus resulted in my listings slipping through the cracks. Simply put, to a significant degree, my items had dropped off potential customers' radar screens.

I hasten to include a disclaimer at this point that I may or may not have explained the problem accurately, but I truly have made an earnest attempt to put it in language that I--and hopefully you--can understand. In no way am I badmouthing eBay. It was simply some sort of technical glitch, perhaps a situation similar to what several successful writers on HubPages, commercial website owners, online affiliates, and others have referred to as a huge drop in traffic as a result of Google's algorithmic imps, Panda and Penguin.

With the patient help of the young female eBay customer rep, I terminated my 1400+ listings and relisted every single one of them. Even with the bulk editing tool, it took a while. But the results were well worth the effort. My listings were once again visible to my customers. Specifically, what I mean by this is that my listings had been re-instated, so to speak, to the front of the eBay search pages. Not all, but a good number of them.

The next day, I started seeing more orders coming in. Ah, sweet victory!

The thing I felt happiest about was discovering that the huge drop in sales hadn't been the result of something I had done or had neglected to do.

As a Business Owner, I am Always Accountable

Does the discovery that the skid had not been my fault take me off the hook?

Not one bit. A good business owner is always seeking out new ways to improve his business.

Which brings me now to the focal point of this article...

The Eclectic 99 Cents Auction!

Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides Movie Poster
Johnny Depp Pirates of the Caribbean On Stranger Tides Movie Poster | Source
Fashion Earrings
Fashion Earrings | Source
Konica Minolta Famous Beer Can Zoom Lens
Konica Minolta Famous Beer Can Zoom Lens | Source

What is the Eclectic 99 Cents Auction?

I'm old school through and through.

In the early eBay days, it was very common to see a steady diet of auctions beginning with inexpensive amounts, often no more than a penny! Before I owned an eBay store, all of my listings began with a penny and without any reserve (a fixed amount that a seller sets that negates the auction if it is not reached).

A decade or so ago, it was also very common to see penny auctions reach astronomical heights. Truly, the early eBay marketplace was a financial paradise for sellers.

Not so anymore. The eBay of today is, in my educated opinion, heavily biased in favor of buyers. I think it's a mistake of the current eBay ownership and administration, but like anything else, it is what it is. My responsibility is to do my best with whatever circumstances life presents me.

So, why eclectic? The term simply means that a seller can list any item under the sun.

Why 99 cents? Because of higher eBay fees, the current tepid economy, and the influx of sophisticated eBay buyers utilizing the strategy of arbitrage, I find my happy medium to be the eclectic 99 cents auction.

In addition, it is the highest amount I can set and still be charged just a dime as a listing fee for an auction.

Dreamcatcher Keyring  Made by Children of St. Joseph's Indian School
Dreamcatcher Keyring Made by Children of St. Joseph's Indian School | Source
Vintage Collectible 1965 Beatles Lunchbox
Vintage Collectible 1965 Beatles Lunchbox | Source

The Effectiveness of the Eclectic 99 Cents Auction in Ending a Skid

There's a tried and true adage among driving instructors and skilled racing experts that when one encounters slippery conditions, one needs to steer into the skid .

This runs counter to our natural inclination. We're taught to avoid danger, not run smack dab into it.

But it works, and it's been proven to save a lot of lives.

Similarly, the eclectic 99 cents auction is a strategy that's currently proving to be the saving grace to my business on eBay.

In the right margin of this article, you're looking at items that are live on eBay at the time of this writing. I'm quite pleased at how things are developing. As time permits, I will add to the photo captions a final selling price.

The following are my personal, behind the scenes reasons why I really like this eBay strategy.

  • At the very least, the eclectic 99 cents auctions are a welcome change of pace for an otherwise stagnant eBay site.
  • They serve to move inventory that has been nothing but dead weight--and thus an unwelcome overhead expense.
  • To some degree, they're actually easier for a seller to list because, optimistically, they're short-term items (lasting 7 days, on average).
  • Psychologically, these auctions trigger impulse buying.
  • Bidding wars can ensue where the shark frenzy syndrome becomes more important to bidders than the item itself.
  • The market value of an item becomes more significant than the intrinsic or aesthetic value of an item.
  • They successfully catch the attention of buyers.
  • They increase traffic to an eBay seller's site.
  • They pique the curiosity of potential buyers regarding the fixed price and eBay store items of the same seller.
  • They construct the perfect financial bridge connecting seller and buyer; that is, they form the common empathetic denominator for both sides of a healthy financial transaction.
  • They're actually fun and exciting to monitor!
  • In truth, the eclectic 99 cents auctions are like steroid injections to my bottom line.

Conclusion? Au Contraire, A New Beginning!

Indeed, there are times in life when driving with controlled abandon in the direction of a skid makes life-saving sense.

In like manner, liberally employing the eBay strategy of eclectic 99 cents auctions can truly make a positive difference. In fact, it just might catapult an online entrepreneur to stellar levels.

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  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 4 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, Rajan!

    Yes, each year, at about this time, there tends to be this sudden dip. It may also be due to the fact that the middle of April is when the USA income tax returns are due. Maybe people tighten up their budgets at about this time. The reasons are many and varied, but the eBay seller just has to persevere and ride through the shallows until the eBay waters finally get deeper. By fall and winter, sales surged and the year ended up 50% better than the year before. I share this only to encourage others who are considering getting into eBay. Nevertheless, the 99 cents starting bid for auctions is indeed an effective way to generate traffic. One way to study what items are more effective utilizing this strategy is to type the phrase, 99 cent, or 99 cents, into the search window of eBay. A huge number of items will pop up, but just look at sold items to see which ones soared using this approach. Thanks for reading this Hub and for your kind comments, Rajan! Have a wonderful weekend! Aloha! Joe

  • rajan jolly profile image

    Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

    A very valuable and interesting lesson that I can relate to hubpages as well. Maybe, the skid is akin the proverbial silver lining to the cloud.

    All's not always lost and the even a losing battle can be won with a few strategical changes.

    Thanks for this motivating lesson. Voted up and useful and of course interesting.

    Aloha, my friend!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @pagesvoice

    Aloha all the way over from the other side of the mainland! Thanks for dropping by and checking out my Hub. By the way, one of my vendors, during the heyday of the fly tying niche of my eBay business, was Rumpf & Son out off Sellersville in your state. Nice people!

    I like your approach to writing, and I cater to the same philosophy. In answering a Hubber's question a while back, I mentioned that I like to write as if I'm talking to the reader face to face. Perhaps that is why I like this facet of the HP experience a lot--that is, the involvement of connecting with other Hubbers, face to face, as it were, in the comments section following each Hub.

    I was most impressed with your profile, my curiosity piqued by the wide spectrum of careers you've had. Most definitely, you are another writing soul who is not confined to any one "box," as it were, but more of a traveling gypsy. Put another way, you're actually writing the book as you live. : )

    Looking forward to reading your articles and--if my gut instinct serves me right--sharing them with others. Thanks for following, and I'm returning the courtesy. Aloha!

  • pagesvoice profile image

    Dennis L. Page 5 years ago from New York/Pennsylvania border

    Voted up and interesting. You gave the reader a journey into the past and present experiences of your eBay selling. I do remember the penny days on eBay. It always seemed so risky to me, especially if you had an item worth $50.00. Maybe it is because of my lack of understanding that kept me away from selling there. It certainly sounds as though you have found your niche market and are doing well and kudos to you!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Victoria Stephens

    Thank you for your supportive words and kind wishes, Victoria! I apologize for not responding sooner. As I recall, I went over to check out your profile, read one of your Hubs, and became a follower. And then I just forgot about getting back here to leave a response. Sorry about that. Nice to make your acquaintance. Whenever you need a cool, refreshing trade wind and a delicious plate of fresh Hawaiian fruit to enjoy on the beach, come on back! Aloha!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @ChristyWrites

    Thank you for taking time to stop by and check this Hub out. I also appreciate your kind and supportive words regarding the help I recently received from an eBay support person who truly went the extra mile for me.

    That same helpful global village spirit is very much alive here on HubPages. I don't have to tell you that because you, Christy, are very much involved in that same kind of generous sharing with your fellow Hubbers. I've just made your acquaintance here on HP, but I'm learning a great deal from your Hubs as well as your comments. Keep up your great work and community involvement here on HP--we're all the better for it!

  • ChristyWrites profile image

    Christy Birmingham 5 years ago from British Columbia, Canada

    I'm glad you were able to get that customer support to help your earnings get back to their levels again! Wishing you continued e-bay success

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @kashmir56

    Aloha to my Hubber friend in Massachusetts! A former Walla Walla High School gifted athlete made it big in your state quarterbacking for the New England Patriots--Drew Bledsoe! Anyway, that's my "connection nugget" that helps to build the bridge between our respective coasts. Thanks for the kind words! Yes, perseverance was never my strong suit as a kid and young man, so I'm thankful to be up for the challenge in my latter years. Things are better, and I'm truly having fun with the 99 cents auctions. I'm starting to see some rather nice results. Blessings and cheers!

  • kashmir56 profile image

    Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

    Hi my friend, so glad to here your ebay business is back online and again ready to make you money. Good for you to call ebay again and find out what was wrong so you were able to fix it .

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    Hi, wetnosedogs! Thanks for keeping up with my writing! Hope this finds you in good health and spirits! Unfortunately, I don't believe that eBay will ever return to the "good old days." From my perspective, that's too bad. But perhaps from a global context and for eBay's bottom line, progressive tactics are best. My emphatic message is for sellers to communicate openly with eBay and to never give up following a gut feeling. Sure do appreciate you!

  • hawaiianodysseus profile image
    Author

    Hawaiian Odysseus 5 years ago from Southeast Washington state

    @Victoria Stephens

    Good morning from Walla Walla, the place so nice they named it twice! Thank you so much for reading my Hub and for your uplifting comment. Isn't HubPages the greatest? What a wonderful literary community! I'm pleased to make your acquaintance and will be reading and supporting your work as well. Cheers and aloha!

  • wetnosedogs profile image

    wetnosedogs 5 years ago from Alabama

    Hawaii,

    Amazing. So is Ebay trying to go back to the simply ways like when it first started or just a new thing ebayers need to know about and learn?

    Glad to hear you are achieving success once again.

  • Victoria Stephens profile image

    Victoria Stephens 5 years ago from London

    I'm very pleased for you to hear that your business is back on track and well done for hanging on in there. Best of luck for the future!x