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5 Ways to Save Money Selling on eBay


For some of us, eBay is a necessary evil. We may not like dealing with them, but they are nearly a monopoly, so if you want to sell something, especially something used, eBay is still going to get you more exposure than most other online outlets. That said, how can you keep as much of your own money and not pay it to them? I thought I'd jot down a few things I've figured out.

1) Open an eBay store. Most people pay 10% in selling fees every time they sell something on eBay. But did you know if you open an eBay store, you only pay 7%? Yup. It's an easy math problem to figure out if a store makes sense for you: fees for a basic store are $20/mo. (if you commit for a year, otherwise it's $25)--so you need to average $665 monthly in eBay sales for the store to "pay for itself."

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2) Use eBay Bucks. This program has taken a hit because eBay used to give you 2% in eBay Bucks for purchases, but they cut that in half to 1%. Still, they have promotional days up to 8% at times. Try to time you're purchases. Wait until they advertise an eBay Bucks promotion and buy at that time. It might seem paltry, but if you spend a lot on eBay it can add up (8% of a $500 is $40!). Consider opening a second or even third eBay account and just do some small sales on it. You may get offered eBay Bucks promotions on one account but not another.

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3) Become a Top-Rated Seller. Another program that's taken a hit, eBay has made it very hard to maintain "Top-Rated" status, but if you can manage it, you get a 10% discount on your Final Value Fees. (it used to be 20%--thanks eBay). It also used to be easier to keep Top-Rated status. You really need to ship everything on time and follow all of eBay's insane rules to maintain it now, but it can be done!

4) Do sales outside eBay. First, this doesn't have to mean breaking eBay's rules. It could just mean opening and promoting your own website, or selling on an alternative marketplace. Maybe one that specializes in something you sell. (For a music retailer like me, Reverb.com is a good spot.) Or even good old Craigs List. When you make sales outside of eBay, in general you'll save money.

Now for a gray area: For the most part eBay has clamped down on members exchanging any contact information to avoid people connecting outside eBay to do business (understandable). Still, some enterprising eBay members may get through to you, for instance if they Google the name of your business, etc. They may offer to buy direct from you. Sometimes they just want a few bucks off the price. Situations like this may come up from time to time and you'll need to make your own decisions on how to handle them.

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5) Ask for your money back. Things happen on eBay that often end up costing you money as a seller. Ebay has skewed the marketplace to favor buyers. But you can fight back. Let's say a buyer returns an item and claims the item was defective even though you know it wasn't. You are now on the hook for return shipping--unfair. So call eBay and explain the situation. Ask them to cover the return shipping. If you don't get the answer you want from the first representative, call back a second or third time. You'd be surprised how often this works. All it takes is getting someone on the line who cares and they may help you out. Sometimes they will make a "one time adjustment." It's in their power to throw you a few bucks to keep you happy if you're a regular seller. There are countless situations that come up for sellers like this. It takes some persistence and time on the phone, but you can often get some of your money back when the eBay system shortchanges you.

V. Wade Contreras has been the owner of Still Kickin Music since 2007. He played for years in bands in the LA area. Now that he has a wife and kid and needs to eat more than Ramen once in a while he makes a living buying and selling really cool used guitars.

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