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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 of eBay.

We do about 100 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.

eBay now allows users to search for auctions by checking a box that says “only show sellers who take PayPal.” This feature is used by lots of eBay bidders (including myself) as a way to screen out those who don’t accept PayPal because people just don’t want to be bothered mailing a check or logging onto some other payment system.

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.


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 auctions 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.
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.
Now 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, etc.)
State your shipping method and cost clearly right in the description –don’t make the reader hunt for it.
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 you 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 fifteen to twenty paragraphs long.

Lastly, avoid the temptation to use overly large type, weird fonts, dancing dollar signs, and multicolored type. 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 and not doing so will kill your eBay profits.


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), click here to read about my book, Online Auction Photo Secrets. I show you how to make more money on eBay by taking better digital photos and what kinds of photos to use in your auctions.

This brings me to the gallery option. eBay has statistics that show auction listings with a gallery photo get 40% more hits than those without it. The gallery option is 35¢ and yes, this can add up. But if you are selling anything that will sell for more than a few dollars it is well worth it. Not using the gallery will lower your hits, your bids and your final values.

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 an email 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 potential customer.

Part of checking your email frequently is also checking your SPAM filter. If someone sends you an email that they just mailed you a money order and it is sitting unchecked in your junk email box and you then file a NPB claim you will have one really upset buyer.

eBay is a business. If you are going to be in business you have to 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 tend to earn you glowing feedback comments.

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 really using a different email for eBay and rarely checks their PayPal email. 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 on eBay, I have a file where I copy paste it into because some people just don’t believer 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 bother.

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 found 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.

An additional advantage of starting your listings at lower prices is that you save on eBay listing fees which increase as your starting bid increases.

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. Holding Feedback Hostage – Although eBay has rules against using feedback to extort feedback and concessions from users, I still see variations of this practice all the time. I am talking about the sellers who withhold giving feedback until the buyer leaves them feedback. I call this “wimp feedback.”

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 I do so, 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.


Copyright 2007, Skip McGrath - www.skipmcgrath.com

This article may be reproduced as long as it contains links to this website and/or Skip McGrath affiliates may use it with their affiliate links. Members of the press may quote short excerpts with appropriate attribution.


 






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