Recently I’ve tried my hand at selling some of my old electronics on eBay. While I’ve frequently purchased items from eBay in the past, I’ve not yet used it to sell anything. As a result, it was a bit of a new experience for me. Thankfully, what I was selling was pretty straight-forward and I was fortunate that I could rely on the experience of friends who’ve sold online before.
The first step in my process of selling stuff online was listing it on eBay. There were a few things I wanted to sell - a pile of old hard drives, a gaming headset and a gaming keypad.
The hard drives were pretty easy to list. I searched up the model number and was able to just click eBay’s “sell one like this” link to pre-fill most of the information for me, including a stock photo. I just had to describe the item and add in some information about the condition. As I’d been hanging onto them for a while, I decided to price them pretty competitively - $55 each plus $10 for shipping - after doing some research on what similar units were selling for. I also enabled the “best offer” option, configured to let me know of any offers of at least $40 (so eBay will reject any real low-balls automatically).
Listing the gaming keypad was also fairly straightforward. I looked up the model and clicked the same link as last time. Here, I actually took a bunch of photos of the item from a few different angles - including powered on, in the original box, the manuals and stickers that come with it - to add some credibility to the listing. I listed this as $70 + $12 for shipping and turned on Best Offer for offers of at least $50.
Lastly, I drafted a listing for my gaming headset and took an assortment of photos. As the parts had been sitting around for a while and were looking a bit dusty, I also spent some time cleaning them up before taking photos. For this listing I wasn’t sure of what the price would be, so I chose to go with a 10-day auction with a reserve of $0.99 and $16 for delivery - so even if it sold at that price, I’d only be out by a couple of dollars spent on packaging materials.
I was quite pleased to find that my hard drives started shifting almost straight away. It was only a few hours before I received a “best offer” of $40 from a buyer - which I accepted. After this there were a few more offers and also several people purchasing at the listed price. In total, I’d sold 9 drives in 7 orders within five days of listing. I was also able to look at the stats on the listing and could see that I’d had a large number of page views and also over a dozen users watching my listing.
The gaming keypad has been listed for a shorter duration at the time of writing, and is yet to sell or receive an offer. Looking at other similar items available leads me to believe that I’ve overpriced the item slightly. I could either leave it as-is and hope it sells, or drop it to try and get it to move quicker.
I haven’t listed the gaming headset yet, it’s still a draft in my account.
Of the 9 hard drives I’ve had to ship, six of them were sent individually and one was sent as a bulk order of three. Advice from friends suggested I should just put them into a padded post bag and send them that way, and that that should provide sufficient protection. As I was a bit risk-averse (and had already indicated in the item description that I’d be shipping them in boxes) I decided to continue with my original plan of shipping boxes. I put the hard drives into anti-static bags, wrapped them with bubblewrap and then put them into individual cartons which I then taped up and posted.
The order for 3 drives was a bit more complex - here I opted for one large cube box instead of the smaller flat boxes I had been using for individual orders. I also made sure to include additional bubble-wrap of a stronger grade, as any impacts to the box could potentially collide the disks together and damage more than one. Upon taking the box to the post office I was also relieved to find I’d taken these precautions as the buyer lived quite remotely and so there was more chance of damage during shipping.
Pricing and strategy
Once my hard drive listing had a few sales at the list price I decided to turn off the “best offer” option, as if people were happy to pay full rate I would be silly to accept less. This is a strategy I will use again in the future. Alternatively, instead of removing the option entirely I can be more selective about the offers I accept and push back more strongly with counter-offers to try and secure a better price.
With auction listings, I’ve been told that you don’t really ever want the timer to start as soon as you’ve finished making your listing - instead, schedule the listing to start such that its end time will be approximately 7-8pm in the evening on a week night. This is prime time for interested buyers to be watching the price at home and will mean more potential for a lucrative “snipe bid” to come in and raise the price for you.
Similarly, auctions should generally start at the lowest price you can afford unless there’s a specific reason otherwise. If the postage cost on the item is set to recover all of your expenses, a lower starting bid will tend to lead to more bidding activity and more buyers entering the arena. With a higher starting price (which may ‘guarantee’ you profit) you’re instead discouraging people as the bar to entry is much higher.
I still haven’t quite worked this one out, so don’t rely too heavily upon my experience to guide you!
Shipping individual cartons through the post office had a variable cost depending on the destination - something I hadn’t quite considered when I set the postage price. I had done some due diligence and calculated postage costs online but the methods used must be different. Thankfully, the prices weren’t too far off and one of the staff at the post office was also quite helpful - saying that it’s cheaper to buy prepaid satchels for posting rather than shipping in a carton, for the carton size and weights I was working with.
It was also suggested to me that I look into alternative shipping methods - there is a fixed cost courier company operating in my region which could potentially reduce shipping costs for me and give better results to the recipient. While I’ve made an account and had a look at their interface, I haven’t yet shipped anything with them.
Managing all the various bits of digital paperwork for sales is a real pain. Even with only accepting PayPal via eBay it still became a bit of a headache trying to tie together the details users have entered - with usernames and real names often differing, and the postage address differing from billing addresses it was a difficult for me to keep everything straight when I had to post out five orders on the same day.
While I’m sure that experience will help with this, I’ll also try to practice better digital records-keeping such as retaining a digital copy of the packing slip and invoice I generate for each customer. Depending on how much I sell on eBay in the future I’ll also consider looking into using the thermal receipt printer I bought - but that’s a story for another time.