Minzoku’s Professional Amateur’s Guide to the eBay [unfinished]
So, I haven’t touched this in over a month, I believe, and I don’t think I will again—in part because most of what I’ve written feels obvious after selling once (and at any rate is difficult to describe concisely), and in part because I just feel like I have more interesting things to work on.
The main pieces of advice I would give to first-time sellers that I didn’t get to illustrate but feel are worth sharing have to do with shipping.
1. Final Value Fees on Shipping [yes, you read correctly!]
This is basically a few jerks ruined it for everybody by putting their stuff for sale for pennies but charging like $20 extra for shipping to avoid paying FVFs on the sale amount. Now you can still do that, but eBay will charge a fee based on the amount the buyer pays for shipping, plus the buyer may ding you for charging excessive shipping costs. You can avoid the FVF on shipping by offering free shipping, of course, and eBay also offers a shipping discount if you use their shipping label service for Priority Mail, which is [ideally but not always] the same as the FVF on shipping.
Mostly I point this out so there’s no surprise when it shows up on your monthly invoice, but also note that it will show the discounted postage cost on your shipping label if you do not uncheck the box to display it. It doesn’t matter to the post office if you don’t show it, but the buyer might not understand that there’s a discount to balance out the FVF and think you’re overcharging.
2. The Global Shipping Program
This is eBay’s way of making it stupid easy for sellers to ship internationally—just opt in to the GSP, ship the item to their distribution center in Kentucky, and they’ll handle all the customs and such! Easy, no? So what’s the catch?
The catch is your convenience is paid for by the buyer, and some of them aren’t so eager to pay for the extra charges. This is particularly problematic when the buyer doesn’t understand how the GSP works; you as seller are actually unable to send invoices for items sold with the GSP active, so trying to disable it after the fact basically means going outside of eBay and not having eBay’s built-in protections. It’s fine if you use it, but if a buyer wants to change the terms after close of sale, DO NOT AGREE TO DO THIS. The buyer needs to ask for the GSP to be removed from the item before the sale is final. If the buyer persists, you should report the buyer as trying to circumvent the terms of agreement.
All of this should be in your item description, for clarity; e.g., “International buyers agree to use the Global Shipping Program. If you do not wish to use the Global Shipping Program, please do not bid, or specify a domestic address.”
If you do not decide to use the GSP, international shipping is actually pretty easy to do directly from eBay, anyway, especially for anything under four pounds. The customs forms are now available electronically and even come with “E-DELCON” tracking in most cases.
3. Excluding Shipping Locations
As it turns out, a few countries [like Russia] have extremely poor shipping times from the US, especially for economy post. I had one buyer who felt obligated to open a case after 30 days because otherwise eBay would not have allowed a case to be opened. The item did show up, but if you don’t want to go through a similar hassle, you can pre-emptively block buyers from those countries from being able to bid.
Actually, if you don’t want to deal with international shipping at all, that would save you loads of hassle, but it’s up to you.
I really don’t recommend selling anything together that isn’t sold that way in the store; e.g., if you have six of the same item, sell them separately! No one is really going to buy “a pallet of Xboxes” [and you might be flagged following the theft of a pallet of Xboxes]. Huge lots might be quicker for you to sell, but most buyers only want one or two things out of the lot, which means they won’t bid as high as if the items were sold separately. Also, it is more difficult to ship items safely if there are a lot of them; I had two boxes each containing more than ten items arrived damaged because I underestimated the durability of the items, despite packing them carefully in bubble wrap.
Those are the most important things in my guide. I do keep thinking of more I could add, but by this point it’s more of an instruction manual, and I really don’t want to write a whole book on a subject that can change at any given moment—I mean, the first three points wouldn’t have been applicable when I first started on eBay ten years ago. It’d have to be updated constantly, and I really only know what I know because I happened to sell a lot of things in three months—there’s got to be someone who knows more than me about this stuff =)