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I write about eBay a lot, so I might’ve fooled you into thinking that I’m some kind of pro.
Unfortunately, like everyone else I’m not immune to mistakes. And even though I’ve been selling on and off for over 10 years, I still make mistakes now.You’d think I’d have it sussed by now, right? Nope, sometimes I really don’t! But anyway, here are a few examples of just some of the ebay mistakes I’ve made over the years, and what you can do to avoid making them yourself.
Most of my mistakes happen when I am rushing. I am trying to save time so I make assumptions or take shortcuts and unfortunately, this doesn’t always work in my favour.
One such mistake is the assumption that the item I am sending fits within a certain weight and dimension parameter. If it doesn’t, it costs me a lot more to send which then eats into the money I make from selling the item.
How to avoid
When selling on eBay you really need to get your postage and packaging routine nailed down. Having a preferred method of postage and a supply of packaging materials really makes life easier when you make a sale.
I have an eBay kit – you can see what is in mine here.
Included in that kit is a set of weighing scales, which I keep with my eBay stuff ready for packaging sales.
If, when I am listing something I notice it’s quite heavy, I will quickly weigh it and double check. I can then charge the correct amount of postage at the time of the listing, rather than footing the difference later.
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This happened because I was listing from the app and had assumed that eBay had defaulted to my usual 2nd Class small parcel. It hadn’t.
Somehow, it had set to Free P&P. Unfortunately for me, this happened on two items which were both purchased from the same buyer. In France.
Luckily, I had GSP switched on, so I only had to cover the cost of sending it to the GSP centre. Unfortunately for me, both items sold for 99p and it cost me £2.90 to send them.
This meant I was in a loss making position before even considering final value fees and PayPal fees.
I could have messaged the seller and asked for extra postage payment or explained my mistake and asked to cancel the order.
However, since it was my mistake and it wasn’t a huge amount of money I decided to suck it up and let the buyer enjoy their bargain.I received 2 positive feedback for my troubles.
How to avoid
Double check your listings before you publish. Especially if you’re listing on the app. Ebay tries to help you out by auto-filling specific requirements based on your title.
Unfortunately, they don’t always get it right.
If you are not careful, you could end up with ‘Item Not As Described’ cases being opened through no real fault of your own. Well, except for not checking your listing of course. Check the postage and listing duration as well and make sure these are as you require.
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How do you send the wrong item? You might ask. Well, I’ve done it. In my defence, it was because I had two listings which were the same brand. But that just goes to reiterate my own advice of double checking everything! I ended up having to pay for postage twice out of my own pocket (for the buyer to return the incorrect item and for me to resend the correct one).
How to avoid
I’m sure I don’t need to advise you on this one do I?
I listed an item as blue. Buyer received it and requested an ‘Item not as described’ return as they thought it was grey.
In instances like this, I just accept the return and learn the lesson for next time. I don’t see the point in trying to argue with an unhappy buyer. And I don’t want to risk receiving items back purposely damaged. So I just smile and accept.
How to avoid
Take pictures with flash on and off. Write in the description that the colour may differ in person. And include multiple interpretations if necessary. For example, if I was to list the item mentioned above again, I might say ‘blue/grey’ or ‘top looks darker in real life’ etc. At least this way you’re preparing the buyer and covering yourself.
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Not to tar all buyers with the same brush, but if you sell on ebay, chances are you’ll come across an awkward one. The one that’s looking for faults and reasons to get a full or partial refund, but keep the item as well. You can usually spot an awkward buyer before they buy your item – they’ll be the one who messages a thousand times asking question after question before they bid.
What you mustn’t do is give these buyers any reason to try and pull this one on you. One example of my own is a dress I sold – I mentioned in the description that there was a few pulls in the fabric, but I didn’t take pictures up close of the flaw because in my opinion you really couldn’t notice them. Unfortunately my buyer did and opened a ‘not as described’ case ‘disgusted’ that I would sell her ‘absolute rubbish fit for the bin’ (the defect honestly was minute!). I asked her to return it and I would refund and she argued that she was putting it in the bin and wanted a full refund – don’t let buyers bully you into refunding without getting the item back – this is against ebays return policy.
She finally gave up on trying to get a refund and never sent the dress back so I didn’t end up refunding. But just be wary of situations like this.
How to avoid
If there is a flaw, clearly describe it in your listing description. Take close up pictures as well and refer the buyer to these. Even the smallest of flaws – a small stain or rip in a hard to see place – photograph it! Slight bobbling on the inside arm? photograph it! The more photos you have to prove the condition of the item, the better chance you’ll have at fighting such cases.
I listed a pair of ladies board shorts. Unfortunately the eBay app and it’s assumptions let me down again and listed them under Men’s Shorts. They sold and I sent them all the while not noticing this until the buyer messaged me to complain I’d sent him ladies shorts. Fair enough mate.
How to avoid
I’ve said it already in another example, but double check the fields that eBay prefill for you when you’re listing on the app. 90% of the time they might get it right, but that 10% that slips through the net could be the ones to give you a headache.
And if you’ve learned anything from me so far, learn to pay attention and not rush like I do sometimes!
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I sold an ornament a few years ago and it arrived to the buyer in pieces. This was my own fault. I knew it was a fragile item but put it in a jiffy bag and sent it off.
How to avoid
If you’re selling something fragile on eBay, go overboard with the packing. For things like clothes, a mailing sack is absolutely fine. Anything that has the potential of being broken if dropped needs a bit more attention. Wrap in bubble wrap or paper and put into a box, but pad the box out with paper too to stop the item moving around.
You might want to use a ‘fragile’ sticker or tape, but I’m honestly not sure how much attention the posties pay to these – it’s better to make sure it’s packed well.
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This happened when I started selling on ebay again after having a break from selling for a while. I didn’t realise that eBay had started charging a final value fee on postage, or that they had reduced their free listing allowances. You used to be able to list 100 items per month at 99p start price for free. This changed to 20 free listings (if I remember correctly) and I hadn’t realised so went in all guns blazing and listing loads of items only to be charged insertion fees on all of them because I’d gone over my allowance. These items then sold for just 99p, I got charged a FVF on postage too and in the end made about 10p on every item.
How to avoid
Know your fees. You can list 1,000 items a month now so you’re unlikely to incur insertion fees. But it’s easy to get caught out elsewhere. For example, a 1 or 3 day auction costs. But if you list using these durations during a promotional weekend, they don’t.
When you get to the bottom of the page when you create a listing, ebay does tell you how much the listing will cost, so just make sure you haven’t selected something you shouldn’t.
Ebay charges 10% on the sale price, plus 10% of postage charges as a final value fee. On top of this, PayPal charge 3.4% of total sale proceeds (selling price + P&P) PLUS a 20p transaction charge.
If you’re not sure what the fees will be on an item you’re selling, a website like Final Fee Calc is a handy tool to use.
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I think my photos have improved a lot over the years – they’re not perfect (I don’t have professional lights or a decent camera) but they do the job.
However, I used to be terrible for just throwing clothes on my bed and snapping a picture. The item would be creased, would be against a patterned background so it didn’t stand out and quite often I’d manage to get other clutter in the room into the shot.
How to avoid
You don’t need an all-singing, all-dancing photography set up to successfully sell on ebay. You just need to follow a few key pieces of advice:
– Present the item well – clean, crease free
– Photograph in natural light if possible, but if not in a well lit area
– Photograph against a plain, light coloured background so the eye isn’t distracted away from the item
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This actually happened in June this year. I like to think I’m quite savvy but somehow this one got past me. I had an email which said something like “buyer has made you an offer” and had a link to click to view the offer. So I clicked it, was taken to what looked like the eBay log on screen and input my username and password. What an idiot.
Needless to say it wasn’t legitimate and all I had done was give fraudsters my log in information. Though I didn’t even realise it at the time.
It wasn’t until a few weeks later that I noticed a listing on my eBay for a £20k car!! Fortunately I realised before anyone had bid on it. But the fraudster had somehow also managed to manipulate my messages and create an auto response to anyone who messaged me. They turned my messages off and the auto response to anyone who did message me said “There is a problem with ebay and I can’t read your message, the car is still for sale, please email me at MYUSERNAME@email.com”.
I no longer receive messages from buyers to this day and eBay still can’t work out what’s wrong or how to fix it. So this stupid mistake on my part has really affected me in the long run.
How to avoid
Don’t click links in your email. Go directly to the website or app and log in. This email really looked authentic. I even clicked on the sender and the ‘from’ email looked genuine.
If you receive anything you’re even slightly suspicious about forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org to be on the safe side.
If there’s a mistake to be made on ebay, I’ve probably made it! This was just a round up of some of them. The important thing to remember is that one mistake doesn’t have to be the end of your selling career. Learn the lesson for next time, but don’t let these situations put you off – they happen to us all!
I started Katie Saves while on Maternity Leave to document our adjustment to living on less. Now back in work - I blog about all things money with a little life organisation thrown in for good measure. Join me!