About 2 months ago, I began managing two people’s EBay Accounts. This is one of those odd, fluke like occurrences that usually come about when you are talking to someone in casual conversation. For privacy issues I won’t say what the store names are, but I do want to share what I’ve learned from these accounts.
I’ve had my own EBay account for a couple of years now, and I have been what one could say is an “occasional buyer or seller.” After cleaning out my closet I got more experience selling things like DVD’s (The Shield, 24, etc.). And there was laid the foundations for what is turning into an interesting consulting gig.
Most people get an EBay account and may use it once in awhile, as I have. Occasionally EBay will have listing sales. When you list an item to sell, you pay EBay a listing fee. When they have sales, they will often waive the listing fee for auction style listings for a set number of items or a set number of calendar days. When an item is sold, the seller then pays EBay a “final valuation fee” or a percent based on the final sale amount. Like Las Vegas, the house always wins. These fees can really add up, so unless you are cleaning your closet versus planning to make money on something you bought for the purpose of selling on EBay, it is important to make sure you know what your break-even point is, and set your prices so you can make some kind of profit. Also, once you sell an item, Pay Pal will also take a piece of the action, just as any Credit Card company would if you had a store and a Merchant Account.
Often an item won’t sell, and your item may be eligible for a listing fee credit. This means that if you sell it, you will only pay for one of the listing fees. However, if you choose to relist, buyers can see the history of an expired auction and see that it went relisted again. Usually you can relist once after the initial time and receive this benefit. I say usually because if you change the listing, such as increase the amount you are asking for, then you usually won’t be eligible for this credit.
With EBay, Feedback Ratings are important. In managing EBay Seller Accounts and Stores, what I find the most difficult for ratings purposes at times is what you cannot control: Shipping Costs and Shipping Time. I developed a template I add to the end of listings that indicates that the item will be shipped within x number of days after receiving payment. Some people seem to forget you won’t be shipping until you get paid, so the sooner they pay, the sooner their purchase will get to the Post Office.
The other uncontrollable issue regarding shipping is cost. While you indicate shipping costs on your item profiles, still, some people get upset and think all high shipping costs are because the seller is making money on shipping. Some sellers can really be guilty of this. When I bought some charms from this girl on Ebay last year, she charged an insane amount for shipping something that should have been $1.08. She’s since adjusted her policy after I pointed out that unless she is UPS or USPS, she shouldn’t be making money on Ebay shipping. But I digress. One of the Store Accounts that I handle involves high end accessories for ladies, and each is unique. As a result, there are higher buyer expectations involved and so the cost to ship is a major factor.
Besides carefully wrapping and packaging each item, everything is shipped Priority Mail. This adds to the cost but you will automatically get a tracking number when you ship this way using the USPS or the EBay integrated USPS Click-n-Ship application. Also, your customer will know to expect the package within 2-3 days of when you bring the packages to the Post Office. Generally I send a message to each customer, letting them know when the package will be or was brought to the Post Office. Both online postage printing applications also allow you to not show the postage on the label.
Recently I’ve put in a policy that all postage costs should be shown. If the actual versus charged to the buyer postage is more than a $1 difference, I issue a refund and explain why. Most people really like the fact that you are making an effort to have integrity. In some cases, usually due to a distance and weight factor, shipping will be more than what the customer paid. If it is over $2 I will also send a little note letting them know the total shipping and verifying that the amount they were charged stays the same. While most of the items ship Flat Rate, which guarantees some measure of consistent shipping estimates, there are times that we switch to regular Priority Mail because it can be less, or visa versa.
If you are cleaning out your closet and found all these DVD’s that you thought you’d watch again and again and instead you just shuffle them around in some storage area, EBay may be the place to turn that into some cash. However, because you get charged 15 cents a photo after the first photo, and if you are selling the entire series, you can either use a stock photo that will appear after you enter a UPC code, or you can take a photo of your DVD covers. Personally I would choose the latter, because buyers like to see what they are buying, even if it looks somewhat generic. Also be aware of the fact that once you list as a DVD within EBay, you can only charge for media mail and you will not be allowed to charge over $3.00. If you are selling more than one season of a TV show, you will lose money on shipping even with media mail, so you need to adjust your selling price accordingly, and remember the fees that will come out of it. In some cases, especially with the USPS’s Regional Rate boxes, you can ship Priority Mail for a little more than Media Mail, and the buyer will receive the items much faster. Let them know, too, so they can remember to give you good Feedback.
As an Ebay Store, you have more options. For one, you get to put all 12 photos up for free. You’ll need to do some calculations to figure out whether you’ll break even vis-a-vis doing an EBay Store versus having a regular seller account. For the accessories store, their average sale per item mandated such a change, and the difference in final valuation fees basically paid for the cost of the subscription. Selling as an EBay store also provides other options, such as listing items for a fixed sale versus an auction, and specifying a longer period of time for the item to be listed, for example, 30 days. If you have a basic Seller Account, you can list for up to 10 days but then when your auction ends, you need to relist and if you have an item that may need to be relisted multiple times, this can add up. However, a fixed listing will cost you a substantially higher final valuation fees.
There are several things I have learned from running especially the store accounts. First of all, to do this with a customer service focus can be very time consuming. When there are inquiries from perspective buyers, these questions need to be fielded promptly. When you are dealing with an online venture, people expect instantaneous responses and your ability to develop a better relationship starts with every aspect that interacts with your customer. I’ve noticed several buyers who are repeat customers, and I’ll usually include a small giftie as a thank you when they come back to purchase again, or a little note. Even after the item is paid for, preparing the items for shipment takes time, and preparing an item for listing also is very time consuming.
If you are selling anything used, you need to disclose whether it is EUC (Excellent Used Condition) or GUC (Good Used Condition). You should also disclose any defects if they are present, and provide photos. This protects you as the seller and it protects the buyer so they know what they are getting. If you are selling DVD’s, let the buyer know via your product description where your DVD’s were purchased. Believe it or not, this is important to a lot of people who prefer to buy previously viewed DVDs.
When managing this store, I found a few items that were slower moving due to price, so I decided to convert them to fixed format rather than pay what could be unending listing fees. Because the final valuation fee was higher, and we decided anyway to raise the minimum sales price, I began to modify the listings for several specific items. However, I there were two items I could not do this on because bids were placed on them despite the fact that they were just listed. From a buyer perspective, this made it clear that if you really were interested in an item, put a bid on it, even at minimum, to lock the auction style in. Once there is a bid on it, it cannot be converted.
This of course runs counter to people waiting till the last moment and trying to out-snipe each other. However, if you are serious about wanting a specific item, and it is auction style and no one has bid on it, ask the seller if they could do a BIN (Buy it Now). Some sellers will work with buyers to accommodate them.
I would be remiss if I didn’t tell you how much time each item takes on new listings. Much of this is related to developing a good description, and good photographs. The first set of photographs I did for the store listing were a waste of time. Since my last EBay selling experience for myself had been to just use the VGA setting, and most online websites require that resolution for fast loading, I used the same only to discover the photos would appear blurred unless they were clicked on. It was back to the drawing board. I also discovered that if too high of a resolution was used, then occasionally EBay seemed to blip and there would be no photo showing at all.
Photos are a huge selling point, so if you are selling something where visual detail is what is attracting your seller to your product, give as many photos as possible! Think of when you see a display ad. If what you are looking at is only in text, and there is another ad with a photo, your eye will go toward the more visual option.
There are stores that will take in your EBay items to sell, and they will handle all aspects of the item and give you a remittance for what is left after EBay, PayPal, shipping and of course their fee for handling each item. When I first heard how little was left for the person whose item it was, I was amazed that anyone would keep bringing their things to these stores. However, after managing stores with unique products to sell, unless you have the time, this may be one of your better options. Or you can hire someone like me to manage your own store if you prefer highly customized service.