Fees? Fie! Foes, Funds. – Dodging eBay’s Giant Boots

Boy at mailbox opening eBay item in horrible condition
Has this ever happened to you? Not if you ordered from Comic College!

I quit my job at Extranomical Tours and have gotten serious about selling Bob the Human’s warehouse, and what remains of the stock I moved from Minnesota. I’ve gotten serious about eBay and done pretty well for a few months, but it’s time to get Serious about the Fun, and get the products up here at my own online store at Comicopolis.com

For those of you who are thinking about eBay as a career, think on these things: 1) eBay is a huge marketplace so it’s easy to get “lost” and there are probably MANY people trying to sell things similar to yours,  2) eBay is the only game in town for SOME sellers to sell SOME products, and to aggravate both of the above 3) eBay is very protective of their profits. Therefore, it’s best to think of them as the big giant, and yourself like little Jack scurrying around on the floor of the giant’s house, living off the crumbs and the occasional morsel, and being very, very careful! I’m sure there are several, maybe even hundreds, of sellers on eBay that are making a a good living, or even tons of money, ON the eBay site, and if you want to liquidate your collection of Beanie Babies, but not make it a career, it’s a great place on the InternetS. But for someone who WANTS to make it a career, or just work at home, and by that I don’t mean a box in the park, I think most of us have to use it as only ONE outlet, but not THE ONLY outlet. You need to figure out how to sell some “where” else, use email marketing, and use eBay strategically to find customers and draw them into your own site or bricks and mortar shop or follow you to trade shows or whatever. The cut eBay takes out of your margin is big, when you count the cost of NOT selling one thing against the profit you make on SELLING the other thing, along with Paypal (which to be fair, charges in the same neighborhood of most credit card services). So that’s what I’m doing. The next few posts will therefore be about some of my best sellers on eBay, so search engines will find them here on this here blog. So there. Here’s my Jack and the BS view of eBay….

  • Fees – They got you comin’ and they got you goin’. When you comin’, they charge you to list. There is a sliding scale for your basic auction, based on what you decide is your starting price. There is a Buy-It-Now option, which must be at least 10% higher than your minimum, which I use a lot because I tend to list items I can list again, and why wait for the cycle to run it’s course when I can sell one today and maybe another one tomorrow? And it costs extra. You can sell multiple copies of the same item at a Fixed Price which will lower your overall listing fees a little. It’s like selling through on online store, like Amazon, or your own store, but I’ve found, through much experience and only quasi-scientific “research” that there is something about the auction (of a single item) that generates more interest and therefore actual sales. You can make your title that shows up on eBay’s search engine BOLD, and it costs extra. You can add a subtitle that will hopefully get them to click on your item, and it costs extra. You can make sure yours gets to the top of the search results, and it costs extra. You can set a reserve that will make sure your gem doesn’t go for peanuts when you happened to pick a time when ANYONE in the world that might be interested is busy watching the World Cup, or news of the latest war, or whatever, and it costs EXTRA extra. If it doesn’t sell, sucks for you (but if you have a reserve, at least it didn’t sell for 99 cents).  I’ve gotten pretty good at picking my items carefully, pricing them to sell (but well above peanuts), and getting a fairly decent rate of sale somewhere near one-third, maybe 30%. So for every item I sell, there are two that don’t, and I paid eBay fees for those two to NOT sell. Now, there are sellers out there who start every auction at 1 penny, with Handling fees structured to make sure they gross SOME profit even at the minimum, or they’re selling things with a lot of potential customers viewing them and bidding them up, and they average out the “winners” and the “losers”. In one way or another, almost every seller out there is doing it one way or the other, either selling at a loss on some, at a profit on others, or pricing the items so they have significant no-sales to be paid for by the sales. I choose the latter.
  • Fie (expletive – an expression of disgust) – More fees – When you goin’, they charge you when it sells. At the low end, it’s around 9% for an item near zero, and I mean into the 50 dollar range. And it probably costs about .50 and up to list, so an item that sells for, let’s say $10, costs you about 15% to sell, and another 3% to get paid, leaving you a little over $8 to pay any other costs sunk in that item, PLUS your time and effort typing the description and taking and editing photos on the front end AND packing and mailing on the back end. If your item sells for $5, then you have $4 to cover all that. In the comics categories, there are often one to two million items. I just looked, and out of 400,000 completed items, 3 out of the first 50 sold, for a total of $14, and 47 went unsold, which means eBay made 15% of $14, about $2, plus 47 times about 50 cents, or about $25 total (quiz question, how much did eBay make off the category if the same ratio holds over all 400,000?), and the 3 comics that sold gave the sellers about $12 to work with. At today’s new comic prices, that’s about 4 comics worth of cover price, so IF all the sellers were comic book retailers, they netted about $5 of gross “profit” for the 3 sales. Not counting the cost of NOT selling the other 47 comics, the listing fees.  Fie, this is disgusting. Since I started skulking around eBay back when I had the Comic College store, I’ve contended that over 90% of the comics sold on eBay are sold at a loss to the seller, IF you count the cost of NOT selling everything else against the actual sold items. I see no reason to change that opinion. Most of what I sell these days is NOT comic books per se, although much of it is related in some way. I’ll admit I’m being self-serving when I say, if you are thinking about eBay for your collection, think again, before you leap in and dilute the soup with another pile that makes eBay happy, but makes you just tired and disappointed. I’m not exactly saying DON’T , I’m just sayin’ – be careful, and do your homework. Run the numbers.
  • Foes – Your Foes? Every other desperate, hungry, penniless collector in the ENTIRE WORLD that has what you have. And for most of the million comics on eBay at any given moment, there are several to choose from. And they are starting at .01 and getting bid all the way up to .99 and there’s another one waiting in line when that one sells. If you happen to have anything “hot”, you’ll get people trying to get you to end the auction early with an offer that sounds great on Day One. But they may “know the market” better than you and “know” where the bidding will end up, and if you agree, you risk pissing off the dozen bidders who have “skin in the game” and get into an eBay “shouting” match because they were willing to pay a lot more than you settled for and they’re going to make it a point to bad-mouth you to whoever will listen! Does it sound like I’m speaking from experience much? Hmmm, maybe. And, like I said, be careful. Trying to turn an eBay customer into a non-eBay customer is “against eBay’s policy” of making ALL the profit in the entire e-commerce universe. There are ways to do it, but you have to be careful, or not. At any given moment, I’m sure there are hundreds, if not 1000’s of sellers violating eBay’s voluminous Rules to Maintain the Monopoly, but I have never been very good at it, maybe because I’m not “too big to be in violation”, or I haven’t bribed the right person, or their enforcement is so random and infrequent that everyone gets caught once in a while, and then goes for a while without getting caught. Now, they want us to open an eBay “store”, at $15.95 a month, or our fees are going up!
  • Funds – Let’s face it, if you put your scuba gear store in the Mojave Desert, you may have a tough time. So you go where the scuba divers are, the beach, a metaphor for eBay. If you are selling Beanie Babies, go where the mothers and Grandmas are, again, eBay. If you are selling, well, nowadays, almost anything, you go where the eyeballs are, and that’s eBay. Follow the money on the internet, and it leads to eBay. Then figure out a way to capitalize on those eyeballs, and lure them over to your site, where you have a monopoly on You, whatever you have to sell, plus something that eBay doesn’t have, like humor, fun, the Next Big Thing, above-and-beyond service, and maybe a great attitude.

Conclusion:  don’t just dump 10,000 comics on eBay at a penny starting bid. You might only sell a few books at 10 or 50 cents, and pay $100 to eBay and Paypal, and more to the PO and you’ll do all that work for a negative $90. Start small and see what happens. A lesson learned at the College of Comic Book Knowledge!

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