How To: Use eBay

I remember the day, back when I rode some sort of in-pronounceable dinosaur to school and Jesus copied my notes in Trig, that I learned about eBay. I was over hanging with my friend Stef, listing to some Rolling Stones LP’s while she bustled around her auspiciously room looking for something to show me while I rocked out to Goat’s Head Soup (great album, by the by). We were on our way to grab a cup of coffee but we, according to Stef, had to find this particular item before we were going to set off to drink our weight in coffee. Finally, she emerged with it: a rhinestone covered antique cigarette case.

“Check it out, Becks,” she said, glowing as she handed it to me.

“Wow,” I replied, holding it in my hands. “This is beautiful.”

“My sister got it for me,” she said, pride oozing off her.

“Where?” I breathed, thrilled that I too could possibly own something so awesome some day.

“eBay,” she replied. “It’s like an online garage sale, Becks. You should try this shit out!”

After coffee, and before I even had an email address, I went on my Dad’s ancient computer and typed “ebay” into the search box. What I pulled up both overwhelmed and terrified me. There was just so much… stuff! And you could like… bid on stuff on eBay and oh holy good lord of butter, I just wanted A Pretty, not voting on stuff. I’m not cut out for auctions and that’s what it appeared to be – not a garage sale, but an auction. Auctions terrified me because they played on my deepest issues: once I got it in my thick head that I wanted something, I’d stop at (literally) nothing to acquire it.

Quickly, I turned off the computer, scared about what I’d seen on this eBay thing. I didn’t know how to use eBay and I wasn’t certain that I’d actually WANT to learn. eBay had Bad Idea written all over it. Especially once all of the eBay horror stories of people who sued for this or that, lawsuits climbing into the millions, did I realize how ill-prepared I was to use eBay.

Sure, I’ve bought a few items on it here or there, but overall, I pretend eBay doesn’t exist, just eBay pretends I don’t exist.

When it was decided that I was going to move out onto my own, I realized that eBay may suddenly become my bestest friend in the world. I’d originally planned to run an auction on my site, like we’d done with Band Back Together, but quickly realized that it was a bad idea. I’m not entirely certain WHY this is a bad idea, it just seems to scream STEP AWAY FROM THE AUCTION, BECKY, BEFORE ANYONE GETS HURT.

So I turned to my one-time nemesis, eBay, to see if I could figure out how to use eBay without being sued for millions of dollars I don’t have. This is what I learned before I made my decision:

How To Use eBay:

1) How To Use eBay: Make sure eBay is the right place for your item.

For example, I want to sell my old Big Mac, which is simply collecting dust – not broken in any way or anything – but I also cannot afford to list it without paying shipping, which, I’ve learned, is a real asshole. No one’s going to buy an old iMac to pay 60 bucks to ship, nor can I eat the cost of shipping, much as I may want to, just so it goes to a new home where it can be loved and used.

Items that are great for selling on eBay include:

  • Items that are popular – these may attract multiple people who want very much to battle it out over the item.
  • Items that (unlike my iMac but like my Burberry wallet) are easy and cost-effective to ship.
  • Rare items – if people can’t get stuff off Amazon, they’re likely to turn to eBay to get ‘er done.
  • Stuff that you can look at in pictures to ascertain if they are of good quality (or not)

2) How To Use eBay: Use your words. That means, using the proper keywords as well as a great description.

Writing a good description for eBay includes the following steps:

  • Search for similar items to your item on eBay and see what keywords pop up. Make sure to use those in your description without sounding spammy (ex: “Apple’s iMac 2007 desktop computer is a powerful iMac computer that is made by Apple.”)
  • Use both descriptive terms packed with the keywords you’ve discovered to make sure to answer any questions regarding the item and waste less time (both buyer AND seller time is valuable): “iMac desktop computer was manufactured in 2007 by Apple and has been upgraded to include more memory. Will be shipped in original box.”
  • Keep the description very succinct: “24 inch iMac computer,” so it’s easily accessible and telling.

3) How To Use eBay: Don’t Lie. The urge to make your item sound even better than the real thing can turn around and bite you in the ass when it’s purchased on eBay and discovered to be broken, even though you claimed it was in “perfect condition.” On eBay, your reputation is everything, so don’t dock your ratings by not disclosing any flaws in your item.

4) How To Use eBay: Be Professional. Like anything else in life, appearance is nine-tenths of the law or something, and people who are professional, use proper grammar and spelling are more likely to be trusted on eBay.

Tips for being professional on eBay:

  • Create an organized template for each item.
  • Include high-quality photos of your item.
  • Write a clear description of your eBay item.
  • Pick one category rather than a number of them.
  • Descriptions should include short but very informative sentences.
  • Think about what you’d want to ask about the item if you were the one purchasing it.
  • Practice excellent customer service – reputation is king and you want to make sure each of your customers is as happy as you can make them.

5) How To Use eBay: Pictures Matter. Not all of us (raises hand) are photogs. But since people are going to (presumably) bid on your item based upon the pictures and descriptions you set forth, it matters that you take a great photo.

Tips for taking great pictures for eBay:

  • Include photos of disclosed flaws.
  • Take non-blurry pictures
  • Use the right lighting on your snaps
  • Make sure that the photo is ONLY of the item, and not of packing materials, messy areas, or anything else that may deter a potential eBay bidder.
  • Use a photo-sharing site like Flickr to upload multiple snaps of your item and link to the set to circumvent eBay’s multiple picture costs.

6) How To Use eBay: Pricing. It can be very discouraging to learn that your item is worth less than you’d have imagined, but it’s vital that you make sure your price is set appropriately. See what other eBay sellers are listing the same (or similar) items for and set your price accordingly.

Tips for pricing stuff on eBay:

  • Check out the competition’s pricing and what (any) bids are for the item.
  • Use the old 0.99 rule – it helps people feel as though they’re getting a deal.
  • Odd or rare items, or items that are hard to price, set those at the lowest price you’re willing to accept.

7) How To Use eBay: Timing of your auction. Timing is everything, especially when it comes to snagging the right buyer.

Tips for timing your eBay auction:

  • Start the auction at night.
  • Sunday night is the best night to begin the auction.
  • Don’t forget that time zones do matter.
  • Don’t schedule the end of the auction at a time when people won’t be online (i.e. 4AM)

8) How To Use eBay: Policies. You must be certain to spell out your policies for items to keep a good reputation and avoid any unwanted confusion from the buyers to reduce the amount of time you may spend trying to please an unhappy customer. Try a week-long return policy that places half the shipping costs onto the sellers. Having a return policy makes people feel more secure about buying your item and because you’re setting the shipping costs at half, it ensures that people won’t simply return items on a whim.

9) How To Use eBay: Be Smart. Your buyers aren’t dumb and the whole, “free with thirty dollar shipping” thing really makes people not want to buy your stuff. In fact, most people turn away from an inflated shipping cost. If shipping on your item is cheap, don’t hesitate to say “FREE SHIPPING” or include the cost of shipping in the price.

When shipping, pack fragile items securely in bubble wrap or packing peanuts. The US post office has some of the lowest shipping rates anywhere, so try and ship whatever you sell on eBay via USPS.


So now that I’ve done my research on how to use eBay, I’ve made an executive decision. There’s no damn way I can use eBay and maintain any semblance of sanity. Instead, I’m going to find one of those “authorized eBay merchants,” and go from there.

THIS site looks interesting – have you used it?

how to use eBay


What do you know about selling and buying stuffs on eBay? What kinds of experiences have you had on eBay? Time to dish!
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7 thoughts on “How To: Use eBay

  1. Pingback: The Tiniest Caped Crusaders - Mommy Wants Vodka

  2. Beware those beezid and quibids type sites. Some of them nail you with a charge for each bid placed with bids in .01 (just one penny) increments. So, you may only pay 44.99 for a $800 item, but they get you for as much as a buck and a half for every one cent increment bid that was placed.

    Also, ebay is where I got my one-of-a-kind, irreplaceable moldavite stone that I recently lost, at an amazing price. Also, silk Dolce and Gabbana trousers for pennies on the dollar. Ebay is dangerous to me. There’s so much STUFF, and I have so little money. Being underemployed sucks ass.

  3. You forgot the step about not using the “back” button to unbid.

    Seriously. $100 worth of Star Wars shit, because my husband didn’t realize the “back” button wouldn’t undo his bid. He tried in vain to sell some threadbare yoda sheets and a torn yoda mask, then I finally threw the shit out and banned him for life.

    His next error was a $650 comic, that he swore was an “investment”. He’s lucky it got damaged int he mail, and we got our money back. The next time he bids, it better be on a mobile home that will fit him.

  4. Gah, I’ve sold tons of stuff on eBay. The best part is watching prices go up on your crap, cause you never know what people will like. Two hints:
    1. Post a bunch of items at one time… more fun to watch bids raise the price, and less disappointment for the items that don’t sell.
    2. Don’t charge too little for shipping. Get all your packing materials ready and weigh the item WITH them.
    3. Don’t end up feeling like a sucker. Set your starting bid at the price YOU WILL REQUIRE (emotionally) to go to the Post Office. And be ready to take the piece of crap to a thrift store if it doesn’t meet that price.
    4. Approach international buyers with caution… do a lot of research before allowing people outside Canada and the US to participate. Find out what’s involved ahead of time, so you can set the right price for your effort (see 3).
    5. Don’t eBay during a week when you’re too busy to answer bidder questions, and DO answer them promptly.

    I think you can handle all that, but it depends on how much you make doing other stuff. You know, stuff that pays. Yeah, never mind.

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