The Seven Deadly Sins of eBay Sellers
by: Skip McGrath
There are many ways to lose money trying to sell on eBay. But if you want
to build an eBay business and make money consistently on eBay, then you
need to avoid the Seven Deadly Sins:
1. Don't Take PayPal
- If you haven't looked you might be amazed by all of the "I hate PayPal"
websites and blogs. Over the years I have received dozens of complaints
about PayPal and gotten many emails from eBay sellers asking me what other
payment methods they can use. I am the first to admit that PayPal has it
problems and they can seem a bit arrogant at times, but they are the
payment system of choice for most eBay buyers.
We do about 60 transactions a week and at least one or two of those will
happen without any notice from PayPal. But, when it comes to eBay, PayPal
is the 800-pound gorilla in the room. You can't really build a successful
eBay business without it.
PayPal now handles more merchant transactions in a day than Citibank.
Almost 90% of eBay's 90 million users have a PayPal account. If you don't
take PayPal, you will have a very hard time making money on eBay.
A few years ago, eBay changed their policy that now requires all sellers to
accept electronic forms of payments. These include PayPal and Merchant
Credit card accounts. eBay also allows certain other online payment systems
such as ProPay (and a few others). So if you have been frustrated by PayPal
in the past you will have to get over it if you really want to build a
profitable eBay business.
You can still use checks and money orders in certain situations such as
selling a car on eBay Motors and certain products in the Business &
But, in the final analysis, taking PayPal will increase your sales on eBay.
2. Not Enough Information
- I am continually amazed when I look at eBay listings that have
descriptions containing one or two sentences. Or, I see descriptions that
go on for several paragraphs, yet say very little about the product.
People want information before they will part with their hard-earned money.
If you want to make money on eBay, a high percentage of your listings have
to succeed. After writing a keyword-rich auction title that gets hits,
writing a complete attractive and easy-to-read description is the best way
to increase your sell through rate on eBay.
Here is a checklist for item descriptions:
||State clearly what you are selling right at the beginning
of the auction before you say anything else. (Note: In addition to
the title, eBay’s Best Match search engine also looks for keywords
in the first 100 characters of your description).
||List all important features such as color, size,
accessories included, model names or numbers, whether it’s new or
used and if used, its condition and age.
||Turn the features into benefits. For example if an
implement has a rubber handle you want to turn it into a benefit by
saying something like, “soft molded rubber handles for a safe, sure
comfortable grip while you are working.”
||List any other minor features, specifications or details.
(voltage, speed, materials used, etc.)
||State your shipping method and cost clearly right in the
description in a prominent location –don’t make the reader hunt for
||Use a slightly larger type size. This will make your
listing easier to read.
||Don't forget the return policy. eBay has a place for a
return policy –but bidders have look around and click to another
page to find it. I put it in a prominent place right in the
description. (Note: My return policy is a no questions asked
money-back guarantee if the buyer is not happy for any reason.
||Lastly close the sale by asking for the order. Write
something at the end of your description that asks for the bid.
Example: “Don’t lose out to a sniper –bid now” or “Place your best
bid now so your child doesn’t lose out on this darling Suzy Doll
that she will treasure for years.”
On eBay, it is always better to provide too much information rather than
too little. When I am writing an auction description, I connect features to
benefits and keep writing until I run out of features and benefits to write
about. Some of the descriptions for my best selling products on eBay are up
to 2000 words long.
Another recent development is the advent of mobile buyers. It is unlikely
someone on a mobile device will read a long description. Therefore, make
sure you mention the most important information at or near the beginning of
Lastly, avoid the temptation to use overly large type, weird fonts, dancing
dollar signs, multicolored type and Words such as "L@@K". I guarantee this
will affect your trust and credibility with bidders and buyers.
Keep your descriptions clean, simple and easy to read. Use several short
paragraphs instead of one long one.
The ability to write good item descriptions is one of the real keys to
making money on eBay (or any online site for that matter) and not doing so
will kill your profits. So this is where you should spend some time getting
good at it. (I pre-write my descriptions in Microsoft Word and paste them
in, so I can take advantage of spell-check and grammar-check).
3. Poor or Missing Photos
- Bad (or missing) photos can absolutely kill your bids and, conversely,
really great photos can increase your bids and final values. Believe me; I
know this from personal experience.
Taking good photos is a lot of work. You have to set up some type of
uncluttered backdrop, set up lights, put your camera on a tripod, take some
shots, upload them, crop them, see if they look good -and if they don't,
take them again.
And yes -on eBay like everywhere else, time is money. But a little time
spent taking a better photo will always pay off. If you want help taking
better photos for eBay (and your website), visit www.EZAuctionTools.com. There
are several articles on taking better digital product photos and links to
inexpensive light tents.
Here is one example:
Next is the Gallery Plus option. eBay has statistics that show
auction listings with a gallery plus photo get 40% more hits than those
without it. The gallery option is 35¢ for an auction and $1.00 for a
GTC fixed price listing.
Yes, those fees can add up. But, if you are selling anything that will sell
for more than $20 or so, then it is well worth it. Not using the gallery
will lower your hits, bids and your final values in auctions and you will
get fewer sales in your fixed price listing. (But don't use this special
feature on low cost items as it takes too big a chunk of your margin.
4. Not Checking Your Email Frequently
- If you are really serious about your eBay business, not checking your
email often, can be a killer.
I can not tell you how many times I have found something interesting on
eBay, sent a question to the seller (see Sin #2 - If your descriptions are
complete you will not get as many emails) and by the time the seller
answered my email, the auction was over.
When someone sends you an email question, no matter what they ask, that
means they are really interested in what you have to sell. This is a
These emails can come at all times of day. I check my eBay email first
thing in the morning, several times a day and just before I go to bed.
Some of you eBay email will end up in your SPAM filter. If you check your
email on your My eBay Page, you will not have to worry about
eBay is a business. If you are going to be in business you must be
responsive to your prospects and customers. Besides prospective bidders you
will also get email from those who bought from you. It might be about
payment or shipping, or some other question. Answering these emails quickly
and completely in a friendly manner sends a message that you care and will
earn you better feedback comments and scores.
One last thing related to email. My wife Karen handles most of our customer
email. One thing that drives her crazy are buyers who have one email
address for eBay, and a different one for PayPal.
This can get really confusing when you get a payment notice from one email
but the member is using a different email for eBay and rarely checks their
The same goes for sellers. People get confused if they get an email from
one address and a payment link from a different one. In fact, sometimes
they are suspicious of a scam when this happens. You should always have different passwords for eBay and PayPal, but please use the same email address.
5. Rigid or Silly Payment, Return and Shipping Policies
- Rigid is a polite way of saying there are some people who write their
auction policies that appear to have been written by a prison guard giving
instructions to inmates. I know you feel that there are some people on eBay
that belong in prison -but most of them don't and you need to treat that
larger group with respect.
Whenever I see something really horrible or silly, I have a file where I
copy paste it into because some people just don't believe how stupid some
sellers can be.
I now have over 75 entries in that file. Here are a few of the best (or
should I say worst) policy statements I have actually seen in auctions:
(The spelling and grammar are theirs -not mine.)
If you are not going to pay then don't bid me. I will chase you down
and find you if you win this auction and don't pay me.
Yes I am making money on the shipping. What did you expect me to do
???, ship it at my cost.
I only take money order, cashiers check or Western Union transfer.
PayPal is a screw job. They want to charge me a 3% fee on every deal.
If you send a personal check I will just throw it away so, please don't
Note: eBay policy no longer allows Western Union or money order on most
My Returns Policy: No returns for any reason except if I send you the
wrong item and then you need to send me a photo of what you received so
I can be sure before your return it.
Don't bid unless your feedback is at least 25. I don't deal with eBay
cherries. I will cancel your bid if you have less than 25 feedbacks.
Rigid also means "not bending." We have clearly stated shipping, return and
payment policies, but we always try and remain flexible and give the
customer what they want within reason.
6. High Starting Bids
- eBay is a place where people come for bargains and fun. As a seller I
know it's not fun when an item sells for less than your cost, or at too
little money to make a profit, but if you set your starting bids too high,
you won't get many -of even any bids.
I have learned that if you are selling a product that is in reasonable
demand, take attractive photos, write a good description and a keyword rich
headline, your auction will attract more bids and a higher final value if
you start it at a low price.
Don't stress out if your auction sits there for several days without any
bids. Fixed price items can sell at anytime, but most auctions do not get
bids until the final day (or even hours).
The other option is to use a Reserve Price Auction (RPA). Reserve auctions
are somewhat controversial -there are a percentage of eBay bidders who
don't like them and will not bid on them. However, you may be selling a
really valuable item that you cannot afford to lose a large sum of money,
or you may be selling a highly specialized item that only appeals to a
narrow range of people and does not attract a lot of bidders.
A good example of this is eBay motors where the vast majority of cars are
sold using a reserve price. You also see reserves used for expensive art,
antiques and jewelry. Despite the critics there is a lot of business
transacted on eBay using RPAs.
When I have had this situation I have tried it both ways: listing the item
with a high starting bid and listing with a low starting bid and a reserve.
I have always done better with a low starting price and a reserve. The
other advantage of using a reserve is that the Buy-It-Now price stays
active until your reserve price has been met. In my experience I actually
get a lot of bidders who buy-it-now, because they keep bidding and the
seeing the Reserve Not Met message and decide to buy-it-now rather than
risk losing the item.
7. Being Unreasonable with Feedback
- A few years ago, eBay changed the rules so that buyers can only leave
positive feedback -but buyers can still leave negatives.
Our policy is to leave positive feedback as soon as the seller sends their
payment. If they send payment quickly and communicate with us, we always
leave a glowing feedback comment. If they are slow to pay, but do, we still
leave positive feedback but the comment may be more generic -such as "Thank
you for your business." But we don't wait for them to leave feedback for
us, before we leave feedback.
Whenever I see comments in an auction about feedback policy that says a
seller will only leave feedback once the buyer does, I usually click away
and look for another seller.
If you are honest, deliver what you say, ship your items quickly and
professionally, communicate with the buyer and leave feedback quickly, your
feedback score and reputation will grow.
We all know there is the occasional nutcase that you can't satisfy no
matter how hard you try, but these people end up getting high negatives
themselves and usually don't last that long on eBay.
In fact, the last two negatives we received were removed by eBay because
the member was suspended or kicked off of eBay within a few days or weeks
of leaving the feedback. (When eBay cancels an account for cause, they
adjust your feedback score to remove the offender).
Yes, there are more deadly sins than seven --and lots more mistakes you can
make on eBay, but in my experience these are the ones I see most often.
eBay is a business where you have to do a lot of things right. They aren't
really that hard, but a little extra effort and attention to detail will
pay off in increased profits for the eBay seller.
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