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My Experiences Selling Online

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I recently sold a number of possessions in my year-long quest to vanquish my credit card debt as quickly as possible. Before this, I had very limited experience using online selling tools, and generally thought of them all as a hassle, so I thought I would try more than one and see how they stacked up. Your experiences may differ, along with your selling requirements, but here’s what I found:

Craigslist

I’m fortunate enough to live in a city with a Craigslist presence (check to see if your hometown is on the list), and I had something that I really didn’t want to bother trying to ship: Guitar Hero III for the Nintento Wii. Craigslist, if you haven’t heard of it, is sort of like a city-wide distributed garage sale. You describe what you have using a free-form text entry field, pictures optional, prices optional, limited only by your imagination.

I said that I had Guitar Hero III for sale, found some Creative Commons photos on Flickr, asked for $50, and that was all there was to it. Within a couple of hours I had two offers. The first person haggled with me and asked if $40 would be okay. So I found a Starbucks that was easy for both of us to get to and met her that evening. If I’d waited a little longer, I could have gotten $50 for it from the second person. Lesson learned.

eBay

I had a number of DVD box sets of a favorite TV show that I wanted to unload (while keeping a soft copy of the better episodes on an external hard drive at home). It was easy enough to copy the details of each episode from a wiki to the “Sell item” page on eBay, and after a few repetitions I found it was even possible to find the vital stats with a database that eBay provided.

There are, not to put too fine a point on it, a lot of options for how to sell an item on eBay. I sort of wish there was an “eBay lite” option, or better wizard that stepped me through the process. Also, it tended to break when I used the Safari browser at home. I had to remember to use Firefox.

But my biggest problem with eBay was not really eBay’s fault: they wanted me to estimate shipping costs. The thing is, I don’t own a scale, and I can’t hold something in my hand and say, “yep, that’s about six pounds.”

In general, it seemed to me that eBay is geared toward professional sellers.

Amazon Seller Account

One-click patent silliness notwithstanding, I like Amazon because it is easy. Even without 1-Click, it’s easy. And that ease of use has expanded to their options for selling things online, in my case it was a used video camera.

All I did was find the right model camera by acting as if I was looking to buy one and click a button labeled “Sell yours here”. Specify the condition (new, used, etc.), add comments, pick a price and that’s about it. You get to benefit automatically from any pictures, customer reviews, or any other information that Amazon is already storing about that product.

Amazon also did a good job of estimating the shipping cost for me. The drawback I experienced using Amazon was that I had to wait. This will vary from product to product, of course.

Conclusion

With both Amazon and eBay, there’s something of a process to setting up an account and getting paid. Craiglist is a lot more free-form in that respect. If I was in a real rush, I’d probably use Craigslist again, but for the most part, I prefer Amazon’s way of selling things. I hardly had to lift a finger.

Updated September 7, 2011 and originally published July 31, 2008. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to the RSS feed or receive daily emails. Follow @ConsumerismComm on Twitter and visit our Facebook page for more updates.

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About the author

Smithee formerly lived primarily on credit cards and the good will of his friends. He is a newbie to personal finance but quickly learning from his past mistakes. You can follow him on Twitter, where his user name is @SmitheeConsumer. View all articles by .

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Jason Kratz

“I had a number of DVD box sets of a favorite TV show that I wanted to unload (while keeping a soft copy of the better episodes on an external hard drive at home).”

You sure those are details you want to share on a high-traffic blog considering its illegal? Just asking…

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avatar Smithee ♦1,358 (Quarter)

Yeah, I’m familiar with some of the more idiotic parts of copyright law, and I’m okay with publicly disregarding them.

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avatar Melissa

I’ve been using Half.com (owned by ebay) to sell textbooks and other media (CDs, DVDs) for about a year now, and it’s a really great option. I found eBay a little intimidating, but Half is really easy to use – you can set whatever price you think is fair based on past item sales, then just sit back and wait for someone to buy.

If you have an existing eBay account you can use it on Half, so any positive feedback you already have can be used to your advantage when selling here. I think Half uses Paypal exclusively, both to collect from the buyer and give to the seller, and you can also use Paypal’s USPS connection to print mailing labels – it’s really a seamless process. Half takes a commission on the initial but they reimburse shipping, so I find it works out about even unless you’re shipping something huge and heavy.

For finding the weight of books, try using Amazon. Once you find the book there, you’ll usually find the weight in the product details.

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avatar KC

I find half.com is great for books, CDs and other media. EBay, however, has become a hassle. About 8 years ago I sold a bunch of stuff in order to move and it was great. But through the years their fees have increased and they’ve pandered to the buyer more than the seller. They’ve squeezed out the home-based people/collectors who aren’t in business, just trying to unload some crap – which is who the site was originally designed for.

I sell a lot of baseball cards cause that’s my hobby and I frequently have buyers ask me if they can come by my store and see what I have. My initial thought is “this is eBay, no one has a store”. But of course, I’m wrong – only “real” businesses are on eBay anymore – its evident from their fees and their policies.

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