This is rather long, but the information is worth the read.
The first several years of Ebay were a joy…until certain people discovered the site. Don’t get me wrong. The site’s market share allows exposure to small business owners selling everything from collectibles to new merchandise. The flip side is the topic of this blog.
Ebay isn’t perfect. The company is a corporation, which means executives must do what they can to appease shareholders. That means searching every nook and cranny for ways to profit. Corporate officials did so, at a price to people and small business owners.
In the early days, buyers paid in cash, check, or debit card. That changed shortly after Ebay purchased Paypal. Now, all transactions must go through Paypal. The fees steal profit from small business owners trying to earn a decent living. Then Ebay decided to set up store pricing tiers (making people jump through rings in the corporate dog and pony show). Due to a bad economy, folks sell the exact same items at cutthroat prices. Few are able to earn a living.
If you’re thinking about using Ebay, consider the following:
Fraud (intentional and unintentional) happens on the site. Unintentional fraud pertains to sellers who misidentify collectibles and other items (they think they’re experts). Savvy collectors spot the errors, but listings with inaccurate details and mislabels fill the search list. Buyers must wade through pages of crap to find real items. Worse yet, new collectors may buy something that’s not the real thing. Intentional fraud involves copycatters who make fake goods and sell them as the real thing. Most of these originate in Asia and Eastern Europe. Another example are jerks who post photos of an item, collects money from a buyer, and then disappears from Ebay. In more cases than not, buyers do not get their money back and they’re stuck with worthless junk.
Ebay attempts to eliminate scams, but in my view it’s a losing battle. The way Paypal is set up to support buyers (no matter the lies), many sellers can’t sustain the losses. Here’s a common scam: Thieves buy items and make payment. After the Ebay and Paypal pirate fees, the seller receives a smaller than usual payment. Here’s where theft is prevalent. The buyer has received the item, claimed he never received the item, gets his money back, and then proceeds to resell the item on Ebay.
When I sold on Ebay, here’s what I placed in each description:
“The buyer has 7 days to return the item (the buyer pays shipping fees). Page 3 Media will refund the purchase price ONLY if the shipper damaged the item in transit. This policy will not change; NO EXCEPTIONS! The policy exists because of buyers who purchase items and claim damage, then receive a refund and keep the merchandise only to resell on ebay under their own account.”
I also instituted a no refund policy.
Two issues with these tactics. In both examples, people usually didn’t bid. A good thing if it was a unique item and scammers never bothered to bid. The no-refund policy chased away some potential bidders. However, I pointed out every flaw and gave exact details on condition. It’s the reason I maintain a 100% rating since 1999 (and counting).
Tips for selling
Read buyer reviews. Block buyers with low ratings. Multiple sellers complaining about the same person who doesn’t pay or is slow to pay do not lie.
If you want to sell, read all pages on the subject.
Ignore sellers who place reviews in the description. They’re probably fake. The rating and stats compiled by Ebay are accurate. University marketing textbooks call it sales puffery. I call it blowhard sales (think used car salesman or scam publisher sale rep).
Do not sell outside the United States. I’ve maintained an account since December 1999. Three items have been stolen: One in Canada, one in Germany, and one in Russia. You’re likely out money and Ebay will still charge listing fees. You can also block sellers in states. I block everyone in California because it’s one of the worst rated for scammers and fraud.
Do not sell items recalled by manufacturers. I still see used baby/child car seats on Ebay. I doubt anyone will buy. Research federal warnings.
Understand the market. TV show collectibles have little value if the show has been off the air for years and was viewed by a niche audience. I tried for seven to sell a Beverly Hills 90210 watch, mint in unopened package. It went to the dump two weeks ago. Sci-fi collectibles are worse. The market is saturated due to overmerchandising. You won’t sell, if at all, at the price you set. Avon bottles were once popular. The company issued so many, the market bottomed out. Now they’re a dime a dozen.
Don’t try to be expert in everything. It’s not possible. I spent 22 years in the collectibles business. I still discover unfamiliar items. Here’s why I stopped selling on Ebay. I sold what I thought was an ordinary cork screw at a winning bid of 12.99 three years ago. Turns out an experience seller bought the corkscrew and sold it on his website for $120. That’s money out of my pocket. My error. Over four dozen price guides collect dust on a bookshelf. I don’t have the time to research everything. Neither do you.
Always send items through postal service with delivery confirmation. I also recommend return receipt requested. State such in the item description. This eliminates theft. The post office confirms delivery or someone signs for it. Don’t ship to buyers with a PO box. Thieves use the tactic to claim they never received a product, but actually did. Insure items through the post office
Don’t sell large items or bulk lots with local pick-up unless you live in a populated area. I’m in a rural setting away from a large city. I’m trying to sell my remaining quality inventory, but there are no takers thus far. Potential buyers are too far away or they’re unfamiliar with my area and won’t take the risk of looking at the items.
Tips for buying
Buy from a seller with 98% rating and above. Avoid those with low ratings. Numerous people complaining about the same issues aren’t lying.
If you are new to a collecting genre, study and research. Learn to spot errors in listings. Don’t confront the seller, instead, don’t bid.
Be aware television contributes to fraud, scams, and other issues. Some sellers claim to find items at garage and estate sales. You have no way to verify such claims. The item may be stolen or he found it in the attic. Base a decision on the description, seller reputation, and photos. Do not bid on items that lack photos.
Some Ebay sellers (especially the new ones) are delusional. They watch picker and storage auction shows and immediately think they’re experts. Folks, the vast majority of storage locker sales contain junk. You need experience to look for valuable items when the door opens. It’s stupid to look at something and think, “I can sell that for a $100.” Restoration work and research cost time and money to prepare an item for resale. In addition, some Ebay sellers think people will bid the moment the item appears in the auction listing. That doesn’t happen. They need to stop lighting meth pipes.
Watch prices. There are four values to know:
Appraised value pertains to the replacement price. Such appraisals are for insurance only
Regional value is the price range people may pay for an item popular in a particular area. For instance, I’m from the Midwest. There’s a local grocery chain called Hy-Vee. Collectibles from that store chain generally won’t sell to folks living in California, Alaska, or Florida. Likely they’ve never heard of the company.
Sell value is based on economic conditions, and supply & demand (for example, just because something is associated with a movie or tv show doesn’t mean it’s collectible and sought by collectors). The price someone is willing to pay at a garage or yard sale, estate sale, flea market, swap meet, Ebay, and small business collectibles shops are different. Used items will not fetch new item prices some sellers advertise.
Auction value is the price range professional auctioneers and appraisers expect to sell a valuable item. Ebay is not equivalent to bidding in an auction house. Prices are often too high.
Don’t buy a junk box or junk drawer lot unless you need or want one or more of the items. There’s a reason it’s called junk. Most items don’t hold any value. Just because an item is old, doesn’t make it collectible. I bought a few lots three years ago. I didn’t earn a profit for two years. Most of the items went to the dump or goes to metal recycle.
Exposing the dark side of antiques and collectibles one article at a time.
Hope this information works for you. If you have a question on a subject not covered here, please ask. I’m probably familiar with the issue. I also invite feedback and conversation.
Copyright 2013, all rights reserved. No reproduction allowed without permission from site owner Starstone Media and blogger Tannera Kane.