7 Golden Rules for eBay Sellers

No matter how many times you sell items on eBay, the advice in this list of golden rules can help you survive and thrive on eBay.

Really know your stuff

Do some homework. Know the value of your item. At the very least, get an idea of your item's value by searching completed listings for similar items. If it's a new item, check out other online sites and see what your item is selling for by running a Google product search.

Knowing about your product also means that you can accurately describe what you have and never, ever pass off a fake as the real deal. Make sure that your item isn't prohibited, illegal, questionable, or infringing. It's your responsibility!

Before posting your listing, you should take the following actions:

  • Write an honest description.

  • Take a good, clear photo.

  • Work out your shipping costs.

Add each of the preceding pieces of info to your item's description to avoid any unnecessary disputes later.

Polish and shine

Make sure that your title is descriptive enough to catch the eye of someone browsing a category and detailed enough for eBay's search engine to identify. Don't just write 1960s Board Game. Instead, give some details: Tiny Tim Vintage '60s Board Game MIB Complete Good Cond.

Taking advantage of all 80 characters that eBay allows for your title gives you a fighting chance for your keywords to be found when prospective buyers search. The more search keywords you list, the easier it will be for someone to find your item.

Play editor and scrutinize your text for grammar mistakes and misspellings. Typos in either your title or description can cost you money. For example, a search engine will keep skipping over your Mikky Mouce Choklit Cokie Jare. Spelling counts — and pays. Always double-check your work!

Picture-perfect facts

Photos can be a boon or a bust on eBay. Double-check the photo of your item before you post it. Is the lighting okay? Does the photo paint a flattering image of the item? Crop out unnecessary backgrounds. Would you buy this item?

Take your picture as if you didn't have a description; be sure that it totally illustrates the item. Also, write your description as if you didn't have a photo. That way if the photo server crashes, the prospective buyer will have a good idea of what you're selling.

Be factual and honest. On eBay, all you have is your reputation, so don't jeopardize it by lying about your item or terms. Tell potential buyers about any flaws. Give as complete a description as possible, with all the facts about the item that you can include.

Communication is key

Respond quickly and honestly to all questions sent via eBay Messages and use the contact to establish a good relationship. Don't let more than 24 hours pass without sending a response. If a bidder makes a reasonable request about payment or shipping, going along with that request is usually worth it to make a sale.

Be up-front and fair when charging for sending merchandise to your buyer. You can't make much by overcharging for shipping and handling. Besides, charging outrageous fees will penalize you in eBay search and is a violation of eBay's policies; you could get yourself in trouble.

After the item arrives, the buyer may realize what it cost to ship. Unreasonable charges inevitably lead to bad feelings, negative feedback, and low DSRs.

Be sure also that all tracking numbers are input into PayPal or eBay after an item ships. PayPal will send an e-mail to your buyer with that information. It's just another way to communicate and keep your buyer at ease.

Be a buyer's dream

Just because you're transacting through the computer doesn't mean that you can forget your manners. Live by the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. Ship the item within a day of the buyer's payment — immediately is even better.

An e-mail stating that the item is on its way (with the tracking number) is always a nice touch, too. That way, buyers can eagerly anticipate the arrival of their goods.

When shipping your items, use quality packing materials and sturdy boxes to prevent disaster. Broken or damaged items can lead to reputation-damaging negative feedback. Pack as if a gang of clumsy robots is out to destroy your package (or as if you had made this purchase). Your buyers are sure to appreciate the effort.

Listen to the music

Don't underestimate the power of positive feedback. Your reputation is at stake. Always generously dole out feedback when you complete a transaction. Your buyers will appreciate it and should return the favor.

What should you do if you get slammed unfairly with negative feedback? Don't freak out! If you feel it's unjustly posted, do, however, contact the buyer and ask for a revision. If that doesn't work, at least post a follow-up response for others to see. Those who read your feedback can often see past a single disgruntled message, especially if they can see you handled it well.

Keep in mind that, in most cases, negative feedback results from misunderstandings. Contact the buyer the moment you smell a problem arising and see if you can work things out to your satisfaction. Always work to keep your eBay reputation pristine.

Keep current, keep cool

You'd be surprised at how many users get suspended even though they have automatic credit card payments. Maybe they move. Or their e-mail addresses change because they change Internet service providers. Regardless, if you don't update your contact and credit card information, and that leaves eBay and other users unable to contact you, you can be suspended.

If you make any major moves (home address, billing address, ISP), let eBay know this new contact information. Click My eBay on the main navigation area at the top of eBay pages, click the Account tab, scroll down the links on the left side of the page to Personal Information, and update the appropriate data.

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