Some tips if you’re getting into eBay

Online shopping site can be enjoyable if you protect yourself

Years ago I got into buying on eBay, an internet auction site, as I was trying to track down quite a few things I used to own, but now were gone.

While I succeeded in finding what I was looking for, it didn’t take long for eBay to change quite a bit. By that, I mean in the mid-2000’s many of the items on eBay were auctions. That is, the item was listed on the site for seven days, and you could bid in real time on the item. You could commit to a maximum bid, and eBay itself would increase your bid to the maximum you chose according to what other people were bidding. It was actually quite a bit of fun if you were in a bidding war with someone right down to the final few seconds of a listing.

Times have changed on eBay though. Postal rates, particularly in Canada, have skyrocketed. It wasn’t unusual a few years ago for shipping on many items to simply be a flat fee of $5 or $10. Those days are gone forever. Some postal systems charge for both weight and size, which means substantial charges.

Another major change on eBay is the declining number of auctions. Now, sellers (and I’m one of them) prefer to offer “Buy it now” which is a fancy way of saying “This is the price, take it or leave it.” It’s a much more fair way of selling, as certain items have a certain value, and if you put it up for auction, you could end up getting $15 for an item that’s worth $85. That’s no way to run a business.

If you’re thinking about selling on eBay, first and foremost, include in the shipping fee a tracking number. Every post office offers them and it allows you to see where the package is within the post system, when it was delivered and, if you pay extra, who accepted it (by signature). Ebay, sadly, is full of people who lie and steal. They will buy an item from you but claim it never arrived, and demand their money back. If you have a tracking number, you can prove where the item went.

Secondly, include shipping insurance on every item you sell. You can include this in the shipping and handling charge. It’s a fact that damage can and does happen to parcels. One of my editors earlier in my career mailed a camera to B.C. for repair via courier, but listed no value on the shipping form. After the courier destroyed the camera, they wouldn’t replace it because no value was listed.

Thirdly, delineate a list of rules and ensure the rules are clearly posted with every item you sell.

For example, on my eBay listings I clearly note I ship only to Canada and the United States, no exceptions. This rule is important to me because I’ve dealt with Mexican and Russian postal systems and, no exaggeration, there was serious trouble every time. Things just seem to vanish into thin air, no explanation. Sadly, I had to go to Canada and U.S. only.

Lastly, stick to your guns. I get messages from buyers all the time complaining about prices, shipping rates, shipping times, photographs, their dog is sick and they can’t afford the item etc. They always ask one thing: reduce the Buy it now price. One fellow down in the States even asked me if he could have an item for free. He wasn’t even willing to pay the shipping charge.

Don’t do it. You know what your property is worth. Keep your rules in place and stick to your guns.

Virtually everything I’ve sold on eBay in three years sold for the original asking price I wanted.

Stu Salkeld is editor of The Wetaskiwin Pipestone Flyer and writes a regular column for the newspaper.

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