Does your ebay auction have serious potential? Here’s how to crap all over it.

A little over a week ago, I decided to unload a bunch of dusty books from my office bookshelf and sell them on eBay. I hadn’t picked them up in years (other than when I moved them from our previous home) and I was hoping to put together some additional funds for future technology purchases.

Long story short, I lost my freaking shirt on these sales because I was careless and I feel like a damn fool.

N.B., let me make it clear that I’m nowhere close to an experienced seller on eBay. I sold a few dozen 7" records about a million years ago and I’ve done my share of buying on the site, but that’s really it. I was, and remain, a big dumbass when it comes to eBay.

The Overarching Theme

In retrospect, I actually have a pretty good idea why things panned out the way they did.

Before listing my wares, I did some spot-checking to see what some of the items generally went for. A few were going for $20 or $30, others as high as $50! After learning this, I (incorrectly) assumed the following:

As long as the product is in good or great shape, the market for the product will be enough to drive a fair price. Most of my stuff was in very salable condition, so the sheer fact that somebody was selling it would be enough to bring the scavengers out of the virtual woodwork. Now, PAY ME!

Probably one of the dumbest things I’ve ever thought. And I’ve thought some dumb shit in my life, folks.

Anatomy of a Mistake

When I started, I hauled all 30-something books on to my back patio and grabbed my iPad. Turns out, the eBay app for iPad will scan the barcode of a book and pre-populate almost all of the details: title, cover image, author and other publication information. From there, I would need to add a description, fill in the categories for the item and set a starting price.

So, for just about every item I listed, I added:

  • Almost nothing for the description; if there was any damage or wear, I indicated as much. That’s it.
  • A starting price of $0.99.
  • An auction period of seven days (across the board).
  • No reserve price.

(I can already hear all of you experienced eBay people crinkling your faces. Trust me, I’ve learned my lesson.)

Lessons and Caveats

A non-moron would have done a bit more to “pitch” each product in the description. He also may have set a higher starting price. Then he probably would have gone back to college and learned how to not be such a frickin’ dunce.

I don’t think it I’m entirely to blame for this, though.

Possible mitigating factors include:

  • My low seller rating. I don’t have any negative feedback or whatever, but I haven’t sold hardly anything, so that may have roused suspicion on the part of the buyers.
  • The market for the product may have drastically changed in the week since Mr. $50 listed his product and I listed mine.

Ok, fine, that last one is stupid. Stipulated.

The Big Takeaway

I’m hardly in a position to give advice (other than to stay in school), but here’s how I’m going meekly approach my next foray into moving unwanted crap on eBay:

First, look around at what others are doing when selling similar products. If they pay the extra couple of bucks for the bold headline or something, I’ll consider it. In other words, try to learn from people who know what the hell they’re doing.

Second, I’ll probably Google for somebody who is really good at selling things on eBay and follow their advice. Hell, even if they’re full of crap they’d have to be astonishingly full of crap to not outperform my dumb ass.

These auctions should have collectively netted me at least $300, according to my estimates based on existing auctions. As it stands right now, I’m barely going to make enough to cover the shipping.

So, maybe try not to crap all over your eBay auctions as badly as I did.