Stef's Ebay Selling Tips

Selling on Ebay is a lot easier than it used to be. Here are some tips for occasional sellers.

Listing strategies

Tip: Research prices.

Any price research you do will help you price your item accurately. If you can find the retail price for a new item like one you're selling (e.g., an L.L. Bean polo shirt), include it in the description. The items I listed retail prices for usually sold for more.

Tip: Take photographs.

Take one or more pix of each item. For example, if you are selling clothing, take one full-length pic; one pic of tag showing size, fabric content, brand; one or more close-up pics showing texture of fabric and any details or flaws.

If you are selling media (books, CDs, DVDs) with ISBN or UPC numbers, you can have eBay fill in a lot of the information for you, including a stock photograph.

Tip: Include measurements.

For clothing, include measurements of each item: length, width, sleeve length, etc. If item is stretchy, include unstretched and stretched measurements.

Tip: Use brand name in title.

If the item has a well-known brand name on the tag, include it in the title. You probably shouldn't use a brand name if it's not on the tag (e.g., "Prada-like" or "L.L. Bean?"), because eBay considers it a trademark violation. (Lots of sellers do it anyway, though.)

Tip: Include sizes in title.

For clothing, in the item title always include as many size names as possible (eg., 3x 24-26). People search on sizes.

Opinion: Use the Gallery.

I think it's worthwhile to buy inclusion in the "gallery," but I've never done an actual study of this.

Opinion: End auctions on the weekend.

I hear it's good to set your auctions to end on the weekend. I've never done a study of this either.

Fine Print

Tip: Be clear about your payment and shipping policies.

Specify what payment methods you accept and which ones you won't. Specify whether you will accept checks and whether you will wait for checks to clear before mailing the item. Some people will only accept checks from people with over a certain number of positive feedback points, or will wait for checks to clear from people with less than a certain number. (I usually use 20.) Some people only accept PayPal.

Tip: Specify a deadline by which the buyer must contact you.

Also specify a date by which payment must be received or you'll leave negative feedback. Be prepared to send reminder notices. (You can do this from the "My Ebay" page.) Things are better since PayPal, but I used to have to send reminders to about 25% of my buyers. They worked -- I only ever had one deadbeat buyer.

Tip: Specify postage and handling policies.

Specify the post methods you'll use and the prices you'll charge for each. If you specify only one method, people may write to you and ask you to use other methods (e.g., "will you send this first class instead of priority mail?").

I prefer to specify a shipping & handling fee in my description so that buyers know what to expect. I also only buy from sellers who do this. Some other folks prefer to specify "buyer pays exact postage" and determine it after the sale is made (eBay now lets you include a postage calculator in your listing). If you have to wait at the post office to mail stuff, as opposed to leaving it with the outgoing mail at your office, you can save time by mailing only once or twice a week and specifying that in your policy notice.

Tip: Set up a form letter that you can email to winning bidders.

Ebay will now prepare a form letter for you.

Tip: Use a record keeping system.

These days, the "My Ebay" section does a reasonably good job of keeping track of sales. But when I began selling, there was no such thing, so I created this plain ASCII file. I usually sold groups of several items at one time, so this file has a section for total income and expenditures.


Ebay fees: 
PayPal fees: 
Hours spent: 

Item name: Coldwater Creek Wine! Velvet Top 3x 24-26 
Final price: $16.30 
Amount paid (incl. postage) $20.30
Buyer email:      
Buyer address:
Made contact (date):
Received contact (date):
Payment received (date):
Item sent (date):
Feedback given (date):
Feedback received (yes/no)

Tip: Save all correspondence.

Self-explanatory, right?

To Stef's Home Page

Last updated: 08 Jan 04
Copyright 2003 Stef Maruch (stef at cat-and-dragon dot com)