Stay Organized with eBay's Purchase History

Until you become an eBay expert and are comfortable with other ways to electronically store your information (if you are, be sure to keep files with the following information), you might like to print and file these essentials:

  • The listing page as it appeared before the item closed: This page gives you a record of the item name and number and a lot of other useful information. The page also includes the auction item description (and any revisions you made to it), which is handy if the buyer argues that an item's disintegrating before his eyes and you honestly described it as just “well-loved.”

    Use the Print feature on the item page located just above the description on the right. You will get all the details, including the seller's description and images.

    You can also look it up in your Purchase History on your My eBay page. However, if you use the custom link that appears in your End of Listing (or Order Confirmation in the case of a buyer) e-mail, you can access the listing online for up to 90 days. Print the page before you forget about it, file it where you know you can find it, and then forget about it.

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  • The Order Confirmation or Listing End e-mail you receive from eBay that notifies you that the sale is over: If you lose this e-mail, you can't get it back because eBay doesn't keep it. Sellers can find your ended listings, whether sold or unsold, for 90 days via their My eBay pages.

  • Messages between you and the buyer: In the virtual world, e-mail is as close to having a face-to-face conversation as most people get. Your e-mail correspondence is a living record of all the things you discuss with the buyer to complete the transaction. When you use eBay messages, the record is archived online for you (or eBay) to inspect should there be an issue.

  • PayPal payment notices: You get a notice from PayPal when the buyer pays for the item. The notice has the listing information and the buyer's shipping information. (When that e-mail arrives, the clock begins to tick on sending the item.)

  • Any insurance forms: Until the item has arrived and you're sure that the customer is satisfied, be sure to keep those shipping and insurance receipts.

  • Refund requests you make: If you make a request to eBay for a refund from a sale that doesn't go through, keep revisiting it until you can view the credit on your statement.

  • Tracking numbers: PayPal and eBay want to have a tracking number for every item you ship, and you should upload them as you print the labels. When you print your shipping labels on eBay, they are automatically inserted into the transaction record. If the customer claims it never arrived, the tracking number can prove that it did.

  • Receipts for items that you buy for the sole purpose of selling on eBay: This comes in handy as documentation at tax time.

Someday, the Internal Revenue Service (or the government agency that collects taxes in your area) may knock on your door. Like hurricanes and asteroid strikes, audits happen. Any accountant worth his or her salt will tell you that the best way to handle the possibility of an audit is to be prepared for the worst — even if every eBay transaction you conduct runs smooth as silk and you've kept your nose sparkling clean.

If you accept online payments by PayPal (PayPal Premier or Business members only), you can download your transaction history for use in QuickBooks, Quicken, or Excel. Additionally, these programs are excellent sources for your documentation.

When you're starting your career as a casual seller, once a month conduct a By Seller search on yourself so that you can print all the information on the bid histories of your most recent auctions. Do this independently of any auction applications you use. Having the listings neatly printed easily helps you see what sold for how much and when.

When it comes to printouts or electronic archives of e-mails and documents generated during transactions, you can dump them as soon as the item arrives at the destination and you get your positive feedback. If you get negative feedback, hang on to your documentation a little longer (say, until you're sure that the issues it raises are resolved and everyone's satisfied).

If selling on eBay becomes a fairly regular source of income, save all receipts for items you purchased to sell; for tax purposes, that's inventory.

If you sell specialized items, you can keep track of trends — and who your frequent buyers are — by saving your paperwork and connecting with them through social media. This prudent habit becomes an excellent marketing strategy when you discover that a segment of eBay users faithfully visits and purchases your items. A community of buyers. Imagine that.

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