This column is continuing a discussion on selling and buying on eBay. Check out Part 1 for more information.
HINT: New computer users may be unfamiliar with some of the terms used in this column. If you come across something you are unfamiliar with you may go to the Computing With Bifocals Index for help. So with that, let's start with some more selling tips.
A Picture Says A Thousand Words
Will a picture sell it? Sellers need to also consider how well their items can be described in a picture. Your rating, the price, and the picture are the combination of things that can win or loose a sale. If you are selling something small like a book, scan the book jacket for your image. Everything will be easy to see in the resulting picture. Other things require traditional pictures. Anything black is going to be hard to show adequately. Think about the background, and if the item is two pieces, take two pictures. Also, consider advertisement pictures that you may have available. A lot of people selling Pottery Barn items keep old catalogues and if they find something they want to sell, they look back through the catalogues and scan in the catalogue picture. Mind the copyright of any images you may use, however.
It is also very important to reduce your picture so that the file size is as small as possible, while still presenting a viewable image. Remember that not everyone has a fast computer or a fast Internet connection. If your picture takes too long to download, many shoppers will just skip to the next auction. With the Internet downloads, patience is not a virtue. The best way for a Mac novice to reduce image sizes is to use Graphic Converter. This wonderful software is covered in the Computing With Bifocals Index.
When listing your auction you will have the option of choosing a "gallery" listing. This is a small version of the image you have included in your ad. It shows up to the left of your listing on listing pages and at the top left of your specific auction page. Gallery listings cost US$.25. A potential bidder may be looking for a red shirt. If the bidder does a search for men's casual shirts in size L he or she may get 1,500 listings. It is not uncommon for the potential bidder to simply scroll down the pages, and quickly glancing at the gallery images for anything red. Those will probably be the only auctions that the bidder opens.
Start Me Up
What should be the starting bid? This is a biggie because you pay a listing fee based on your starting minimum bid. So do you start at US$1.00 or do you start at the minimum you are willing to take? Like everything else in life, it depends. If you are selling something so popular that you know absolutely, positively that it will sell for at least a specific price, then it will probably be safe to start the bidding at a low amount. However, and this is a big however, if you list something for US$1.00 and you only get one bid, you will have to sell the item for US$1.00.
Unless, of course, you have set a reserve price on your auction. A reserve price indicates a minimum price below which you will not sell the item. The problem with this is that the bidder will not know what that reserve price is, and that can make some bidders angry. However, selecting a reserve option means that you can list the item starting at a low amount without taking any chances on not getting what the item is worth. If you think this option is for you, I suggest you read all the details at eBay before using it.
How should I ship packages? Good question. Remember that as discussed last week, the buyer almost always pays shipping. It is in your best interest as a seller to ship as inexpensively as possible while getting it delivered as quickly as possible, but this is going to depend somewhat on what is easiest for you.
My recommendation for new sellers in the US is to use Priority Mail with the US Postal Service. The mailing supplies are free and bidders are accustomed to paying for priority delivery. Keep in mind that the post office has changed how rates are calculated. If your package is under 1 pound, the rate will be $3.85 anywhere in the U.S. Above 1 pound the fees depend on the postal zone (Zip Code). eBay has recently started including the winners Zip Code along with the auction sold message, which makes it easy for you to calculate the correct rate.
If you have the means to weigh your package you can quickly go to the USPS Web site and calculate the exact postage amount to send to the winner. The domestic postage calculator can be found here. There is also an international postage calculator available at the same web site.
Wrap It Up
Finally, I suggest you include some kind of documentation with your package that summarizes the details of the sale, including the auction number. Even a copy of an e-mail or the ad itself will suffice. If you want to look really professional, create an invoice, or purchase software that will create them for you. You need some kind of record for taxes no matter what method you use.
On To Macworld
The next Macworld convention will be held in San Francisco early in January. I will be presenting a break-out session concerning ways to encourage your parents and grandparents to use a computer. I would like to have your input as I prepare my presentation. What was the most confusing thing you encountered when you first started using your Mac, or if you helped your own parents, what issues did you encounter with them? Please take a few minutes to let me know.