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Selling on eBay – The real story

I’m a regular customer on eBay. If I want something, I price check it on eBay’s site first before actually buying it as I’ve come to realise you can usually get things a lot cheaper from there and not just because it’s second hand or “pre-loved” as the PR spin has christened it.

I’m well versed in the ‘buyer’s etiquette’ of the site and believe I am a responsible and fair purchaser. We’ve all experienced a purchase that has arrived and unfortunately isnt quite how you thought it would be when comparing it with the photos taken by the seller. I’ve also had a few bad judgments in terms of sizes etc., even though I’ve read the particulars. If the item arrives and it’s not what I thought it would be but I think the seller has been reasonable and truthful in describing the item, I’ll suck it up, move on and give them the highly prized 5 star feedback. I believe that mistake is my fault

Perhaps it’s this very buyer’s view that caused me so much grief when I recently decided to significantly pare down my bursting wardrobes before moving house. I decided to list all the items I didn’t want on eBay, earning myself some extra cash to help with the move. I think I had around 250 items that needed selling (Yes, I’m that good as a buyer!) but by the time I’d taken 7 hours to lovingly arrange, photograph and describe 118 items, I had a massive case of the fuck-its and decided to stagger my listings, hoping to get all of the 118 items sold, sent and paid for, before listing the next batch. This plan very quickly went out of the window. In my opinion I was selling some very saleable items; all high street, good quality, barely worn and all in immaculate condition. Now, we ladies all know that with some high street shops, certain sizes from those shops, don’t necessarily match our dress size. There I was diligently listing the items, based on measurements and listing the item as the internationally regarded size and not necessarily the size on the garment. Don’t ever do this, unless you state that’s what you’ve done clearly on the item description and make sure you include the measurements just for extra clarity. I thought my listings were all extremely self explanatory, especially next to the accompanying pictures but no, instead for the next 7 days (my chosen listing length) I was bombarded with ever increasingly stupid questions which started to wind me up. That’s when I realised that what I initially thought would be a labour and time saving initiative (i.e. saving me from having to pack it all and move it to the new house) was actually anything but. The stress of the impending move may have added to my lack of patience with answering these stupid questions, but in hindsight I really don’t have time for not only idiots, but what I can only assume were lobotomised fuck nuggets.

Q: “Can you please tell me what the fabric content is”

A: (I’m thinking: FFS, it’s on the listing you moron) actual response: “Hi, as per the listing the cardigan is a cotton and polyester mix”

Q: “I noticed a pair of shoes in the background of the photo of the jumper. Are they for sale too?”

A: (I’m thinking: No! They’re accidentally in the picture because I was in a rush. I’m not selling them because I’m fucking wearing them! If I were selling them, there’d be a listing for them!) Actual response: “No, sorry. Please feel free to take a look at my other items though”

Already, as you can probably tell, selling on eBay is making me very sweary and stressed with having to be polite to people that, in my opinion, don’t deserve it. The questions eventually seem to slow the closer it gets to the auction ending. I’d listed everything for a 99p start price with sensible (for my location) postage prices. As a buyer I’m more likely to want to bid on something that starts at 99p as it helps me feel like I’ve got an absolute bargain which I’m then excited to receive. Clearly, this isn’t exactly how everyone else feels. Once the auction time was up, I had about 60 items that didn’t sell and those that had sold, in my opinion, sold for a lot less than they were worth with many selling for just the 99p start. However, fair’s fair I thought and eBay’s legal contract and all that and off I trot to lovingly package up all the items but not before a new wave of messages crash into my inbox – “I won three items and the combined postage is excessive!!!!!! Can you please combine postage?” (I’m thinking, “Well no-one made you buy 3 items! And also… no because it will still cost me that much to send all of those” Actual response: “I’ll see what I can do and let you know after I’ve visited the Post Office.”)

Fuck.My.Face. If I thought listing the fucking things was bad, this is a whole new pain. It ended up, after a serious emotional meltdown being remedied by a whole tub of Haagen Dazs Dulce Leche (not for sale, other ice creams are available), with me and my other half sat in the middle of the lounge, playing a weird game of snap by matching the description of the item to the purchaser’s address. Miraculously all of the items got to their correct destinations but then started another round of fun. I totter down the high street to the local Post Office with two bin bags full of parcels to post. Whilst the ever growing queue gives me evils, I’m methodically going through the bag with the woman behind the counter, filling in certificates of posting and negotiating about which packages fit through their ridiculous “letterbox” sized hole. I don’t know where they got their standard sizing for letterboxes from but it’s not the same as any I’ve seen; it seems a lot smaller. By the time I’d emptied my bags and the post office after an hour of solid work in there alone, I discovered I’d significantly underestimated my postage amounts quoted and was now out of pocket, especially on those items where they’d only sold for 99p. Shit. The postage did work out slightly better for those items where I’d combined them and did a little to close the gaps where I was out of pocket, but I’ve already promised those buyers I’d reassess their postage and I know they’re going to be checking the postage amount label when the item gets to them on their side, so I feel I have no choice there but to be honest.

A couple of days pass then I get a wave of complaints in my inbox. This is where I learn that while I use eBay to search for bargains, other users seem to be there to get something for nothing. Some of the complaints I’ll take on the chin, where they’re stating the item doesn’t fit because I’ve listed the wrong size – this goes back to my earlier point about trying to be helpful and listing actual size, not the size from that store and then not explaining that’s what I’ve done. Fail. Other complaints relate to issues that must have either occurred during shipping or in my opinion are just downright lies in order to get money back. As a buyer on eBay, I appreciate the security that purchasing through the site and using Paypal gives me. As a seller, when you’re dealing with unscrupulous purchasers, not so much fun. One complaint related to a button being broken on a skirt, which I believe occurred during delivery – perhaps going through a franking machine, or maybe that purchaser’s letterbox is in fact quite small too as the Post Office would have us believe. Who knows. The other complaint was about a top with sequins on the shoulders. I checked every single item thoroughly before I sent them for any defects or marks etc. That top was perfect when I sent it, but according to the recipient, had “at least 8 or more sequins missing.” (that’s out of about 800 by the way) I replied with a message stating this must have happened during delivery, but her reply flies back in my face almost instantly with “well the sequins weren’t in the bag, so that can’t have happened!”. By this stage I’m seriously losing patience. They’ve won a top which is easily worth £10, paid only 99p and I’ve paid for more postage then I quoted anyway so I’m out of pocket and now she’s demanding a refund. On this occasion I refused so she opened a case against me on eBay which automatically means there’s a hold on that amount in your account. Then, just to add to all the angry messages from your customers, eBay joins in for shits and giggles too with their system messages. Great. I’m still trying to move, organise 1001 things and trying very hard to give a fuck but not reply sarcastically to these messages.

Next comes the money aspect and the monthly invoices from eBay. I utilised eBay’s promotion for listing the first 20 items free, which I tried to take advantage of by listing the more saleable and ultimately more expensive items within that 20, so theoretically meant I should pay nothing for these items. That’s not the case. I also don’t fully understand the calculations for the other items. When you have a whole link to a very long page which explains their fees, I’m pretty sure you’ve failed from the get go. Sure, if I had had the time I’d have sat down with a calculator and worked it all out, but I’ve got a life to live and Netflix to watch. Ain’t nobody got time for that. By the time eBay had taken their cut, Paypal’s had theirs which confusingly is based on the total amount received which cuts into the postage taken, (now doubly fucked on the underestimated postage amounts, cheers Paypal) total refunds or partial refunds for the knobbers (which incidentally, don’t seem to affect the amount due to eBay, it seems to go off the original amount of the winning bid. If it does change things, this doesn’t appear to be made clear anywhere – thrice screwed on the money side now) I think I was left with the grand total of 25p. That’s obviously an exaggeration but by the time it was all over I felt like I may as well have just stood on a street corner and handed my clothes out for free.

I took a step back after the experience and wondered if a lot of the issues were really down to my lack of time and stress at the time of listing as already explained, or whether clothing is just a difficult category to sell. While I was busily listing my clothing my other half was also listing electrical goods he no longer needed or wanted. These items should automatically make more money and therefore lessen the sting of incorrectly calculated postage. This wasn’t the case and the questions he got were even more stupid. At one stage he almost became a fully fledged Customer Support Agent for one purchaser to the point where I suggested hiring an extra bloke and setting up our own call centre to handle his questions.

So here’s what I learned and my tips for you (because lord knows, I’m not selling on eBay again, EVER) if you decide to sell your stuff:

  • Describe everything thoroughly. If you believe the sizing is incorrect, provide a full explanation as to why.
  • Get a proper idea of what your postage will be and remember to add a premium onto that amount to cover the amount PayPal will take. State, on the item description that postage includes your time, your packaging materials, petrol to the post office etc. and therefore you can offer no refunds where the stated amount of postage on the package is less then stated in the item particulars
  • Take good photos in daylight. Describe the colour. You may think the colour of the item is obvious, but you’d be surprised how many messages I got asking this over and over again until I wanted to beat my face to a bloody pulp against the nearest wall/desk
  • You must have a laptop to list. Listing from your phone, despite what eBay tells you is very clumsy and you don’t have access to everything you need to. Same goes for when your delightful customers start raising cases against you. You also cannot view your monthly invoice from eBay via your phone. Dead handy that…
  • Don’t do it! Sell locally at charity shops as some of them now offer commission or Shpock it.

N.B More than half of my ladies clothes were bought by males. I can’t quite decide whether some blokes are the (kind of) romantic type buying second hand clothing for their women (who wouldn’t want second hand clothing from their boyf, right?) or whether this is the Caitlin Jenner effect…

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