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Seven Ways to Lose Money on eBay

By: Skip McGrath

I was reading Jordan Malik’s new book, Buy Low Sell High and saw his list of how to find listings on eBay that were so bad that you could buy items for a song and turn around and sell them on eBay or Amazon for a profit.

So I went back in my archives and updated an article I wrote about 5 years ago. That article showed you five ways to lose money on eBay. In this article I have added a couple to that.

When you read these you will think; “Boy – this is just common sense, why would someone make listings like these?” And you are right, but believe me I see listings on eBay every day that violate these simple principles. And many of them are from sellers with high feedback so they should know better.

But if you really want to lose money on eBay, copy those sellers and see how they do that:

1. Use Crappy Photos

This is the number one way to kill your chances of getting any bids. When someone searches for something on eBay all of the results come up with a thumbnail photo beside the item. Here is an example – I did a search for interchangeable knitting needles. Here are the first three results:

The middle listing had no bids and there were only a few minutes left in the auction when I took this screenshot. If you look closely you will see a water glass stain on the product. The seller revealed that in her description, which is the right thing to do. But in the listing she actually had a better photo of the item with the case open. That is the photo she should have used as her main image.

2. Launch Your Listings in The Middle of The Night when no one is on eBay

If you ever search listings late at night you will be amazed at how many things end when no one is watching. eBay has a free scheduler - use it!

Remember eBay always puts listings to the top of the search that are ending soonest –usually within the next 3 to 4 hours. That is the best time for your listing to stand out.

I remember what it was like back when I had a full time job and the kids were young. You come home tired, eat dinner, help the kids with their homework and help the wife with the dishes. By the time I could get to the computer to work on our eBay business, it would be late in the evening. If I launched an item at 10PM west coast time that works out to 1AM on the East Coast. Back then eBay didn’t have a scheduling feature, which was one of the top reasons I signed up for Vendio. I could create my listings and schedule them to list any day or time that I chose.

Besides picking a good day and time to end your listing, be sure and use an auction duration that gives buyers enough time to find your item. One-day and three-day listings work great right before Christmas when everything sells, but the rest of the year stick with five-day or seven-day listings.

3. Use Poor or Inaccurate Listing Titles

You would be amazed at how many people sell stuff that they have no idea what it really is. If you find something at a garage sale or thrift shop and you are not 100% certain what it is, then take the time to research it. Jordan makes a great point in his book and shows examples of how he finds things selling for pennies that are actually quite valuable because the seller didn’t know what they had.

4. Use Short Product Descriptions – That Raise More Questions Than They Answer

My theory on writing product descriptions is to simply write everything I know about the product. You will hear people say that long descriptions turn people off and they are wrong! I have tested short versus long descriptions extensively and longer descriptions convert more sales.

The other thing you want to do is be excruciatingly accurate in your product descriptions. This is crucial when you sell any used or vintage item. Reveal any and all flaws. If you are not accurate and get a one-star DSR rating, that will kill any chances you have of making or keeping a Top Rated Seller designation.

5. Waste your Money on Optional Fees

When you create a listing you will be offered several listing upgrade fee choices. These include: Value pack, Gallery plus, listing designer, subtitle, bold, scheduled listings and list in two categories. All of these have a fee associated with them. Here is a link to the eBay Fee Schedule.

Don’t get me wrong; there is some value in listing upgrades. As I pointed out the 10¢ that eBay charges for scheduled listings is an important one if you want your listings to end at a good time of day. But take the Bold Listing feature for example. This will make your listing title stand out in bold face type when it comes up in a search. This upgrade costs $2.00. But is it worth it. I have tested this and found it is some help. In one test it increased my final value by about 11%. So if I am selling an item that should go for $50 or more then it’s a good investment. Eleven percent of $50 is $5.50 so I net an extra $3.50 over the cost of the fee. But it would be stupid to use this fee on a lower cost item where the $2.00 represents a huge chunk of your margin.

And believe me all of these little fees add up over time. Ten cents here and thirty-five cents there and pretty soon you are talking about real money.

6. Don’t Bother Using Important Key Words in Your Title

What are important key words? They are the words people type into the eBay search box when they look for an item. Besides the name of the product they include things like the color, size, model number, brand name, what the item fits and so on.

When someone types something into the eBay’s search engine, it looks for the nearest match by trying to find as many matches in three places:

  • Title
  • The first 100 words of your description
  • The Item Specifics

So you want to be sure and repeat you key terms in all three of those places.

Lastly CHECK YOUR SPELLING! It is amazing how many spelling errors I find on eBay. Savvy buyers even use those to find items that aren’t getting any traffic to snap up things at very low prices. A spelling error in any of the three places mentioned above will hurt your search position. Oh and one more thing about titles: Don’t use symbols next to a word. Here is a title with a symbol up against a word without a space.

This seller was smart enough to use the model number, but the symbol next to the word will fool the search engine if someone types that into a search.

7. Use Your Shipping Charge as A way to Make Money

It is quite reasonable to add a small handling charge to your shipping cost to cover things like the cost of a box and Styrofoam, but adding large amounts of money on to shipping is just asking for trouble.

For one thing a lot of buyers don’t pay attention to shipping costs when bidding or even when buying from fixed price. When these buyers get the bill with shipping and the amount is outrageous they sometimes go ballistic and leave you bad feedback and stars. The more savvy buyers who check your shipping price will realize what you are doing and just click away to another listing.

And if your charge is too egregious, eBay may catch it and shut your listing down which gives you a black mark. A few black marks and you have no hope of reaching top rated seller, and too many –eBay will suspend or cancel your account.

So there you have it. I could keep writing eBay tips for hours and probably come up with at least ten more things you can do to screw up your business, but these are all biggies –and as I said at the beginning –just common sense.

And take a look at Jordan Malik’s new book, Buy Low and Sell High. It shows you in great detail how to exploit the mistakes other sellers make to buy low on eBay and turn around and sell the items on eBay or Amazon at very nice profits.






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