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:
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.
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.
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.