BOOT CAMP 298 (28/10/03)


Online Auctions part 3 – Selling Tips


Buying on ebay ( candevelop into an expensive habit but you can fund your additiction and make room for all of your new acquisitions by sellign off your unwanted goods.


There are relatively few things you can't sell, it's mostly commonsense and firearms, drugs and counterfeit goods are obviously banned, so if you are thinking of selling anything controversial go to the Selling pages and check for a list of prohibited and restricted items.


When you click on the Sell button you are presented with a sequence of web pages that break the process down into stages where you select a category, write a short description, decide a starting price, upload a photograph, enter postage costs and choose between an international or UK based auction. 


The first two stages are the most important. If you are uncertain which category and sub-category best describes your item search for similar auctions, note the category and how successful they’ve been with bids and visitor numbers. If in doubt choose a second category, though this will increase your listing fee. You can write your description online but you will make a better job of it if you prepare it in advance, on your word processor. You can then cut and paste the text into the space provided. This also means you’ll have a permanent record, which might prove useful as a template if you have something similar to sell.


Your auction title is crucial, as this will direct potential buyers to your auction via ebay’s Search engine. You only have 45 characters to play with so make sure you include the key elements of the name, make, brand or a significant term that buyers will be searching for. If space allows, include an eye-catching adjective or two, like ‘new’, ‘rare’ or ‘mint’.


Be absolutely honest with the description. If it has any faults, flaws or problems you should mention them otherwise the buyer might ask for a refund or leave you negative feedback. Surprisingly broken or faulty goods actually sell quite well (see Tip of the Week)! Equally, praise where it is due and don’t be afraid to talk up your item’s merits and provenance but don’t go over the top.


Setting a starting price can be difficult, refer to similar items for guidance but in general the lower your opening price the more interest it will generate and the better the chance of achieving a fair result. If you are worried by all means put on a reserve (this costs extra) but this may put bidders off if it is too high.


A photograph is one of the most effective selling tools. Digital cameras make the process quick and simple; you can use a film camera and scan the print but this all takes time and adds to the expense. The first photograph is free and each additional one costs 20 pence so it’s worth including two or three, to highlight special features or a point of interest.


Weigh your item in its packaging so you can include the price of postage in your auction listing. If you don’t potential bidders may be put off, fearing that you will use it to increase your profit. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of packaging materials; a modest amount for your time and trouble is justified but don’t go mad.


You can calculate shipping costs using The Royal Mail’s web site (, which has tariffs for UK and overseas postage. Heavier items can be sent by courier, it may be cheaper than you think. You can send packages weighing up to 25kg anywhere in the UK, for next day delivery, for as little as £10.50 using an online service like Parcel2go ( For very large or heavy items stipulate that the buyer collects or arranges collection and shipping. It’s worth ticking the ‘buyer ships worldwide’ box as this will put your auction on ebay’s international sites and make it available to millions of potential bidders.


Auctions normally last 7 days’ you can make them shorter or longer, but either way timing is critical. You’re likely to get a better price if the auction ends on a midweek evening or weekend afternoon, when more potential bidders will be online. Make sure there are no rival attractions at the time your auction ends, like a bank holiday, a big football match or the climax of a soap-opera storyline.


Offering to take payment by PayPal can be a worthwhile option; buyers can use their credit cards or bank accounts to purchase the item and there’s no cost to them. The money is transferred instantly to your PayPal account, from where it can be moved to your bank, or used to make on-line purchases. The downside is PayPal charges you, the seller around 3 percent of the final bid price to handle the transaction. If you want to pass on the cost to the buyer it should be clearly stipulated in the description but some sellers make a virtue of absorbing the costs.


As soon as the auction ends ebay will contact you and the buyer so you can exchange details. Despatch the item as soon as payment has been received (allow up to 4 working days for cheques to clear), and don’t forget to leave positive feedback if everything goes smoothly.


Next week – RSS – a better way to surf?





Ebay auctions are listed in 22 main categories and scores of sub-categories, from Art and Antique to ‘Weird Stuff’…



The fee charged by ebay for selling goods, based on the starting price; additional categories, photographs and a reserve price costs extra



Comment left by a buyer or seller after an auction has finished indicating one or the other party’s displeasure with the outcome, as a warning to others




Don’t worry if the item you are selling is broken or faulty, ebay is a great way to get clear your attic or garage of old hi-fis, TVs, computers, cameras and camcorders, and maybe earn yourself a few pounds in the process. Almost everything has a value to someone!  You can increase its exposure to potential bidders by putting ‘Faulty’ into the title line and you should clearly state in your description that the item is for ‘spares or repairs’ only, ‘sold as seen’ and with ‘no guarantees’. Describe the fault as accurately as possible, and don’t forget to mention the external condition.

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