Top eBay Tips After 20 Years

To commemorate my 20th year anniversary selling on eBay I wanted to write some thoughts on how I’ve been successful in this hobby turned career.

Top eBay Tips After 20 Years

To commemorate my 20th year anniversary selling on eBay I wanted to write some thoughts on how I’ve been successful in this hobby turned career. eBay is not my sole career, but I’ve been able to buy lots of things and do lots of things with the profits I’ve made over the years on eBay.

My most expensive and elaborate item purchased on eBay was my Lincoln Navigator. While not brand new it was exciting for me as I made it a goal to be able to drive one “one day” years before. It was exciting as I was competing against another bidder and won in the last second.

I have won many items that way, but this just had my heart beating. The vehicle delivery was to a parking lot near me and after inspecting and approving, I drove it home. While my real success has been in selling, I’ve also purchased many items.

The key to success in selling on eBay is to treat everyone right and make sure you are descriptive with your listing and your photos are excellent. Most importantly, BE HONEST!

If something has a flaw, then list it! After years of listing thousands of items, people will see if you try to sell them something that isn’t as described. A marketing strategy that used to have me worried is making sure I make a profit on my items by starting them out at .99 or $1.99 and then only selling it for that amount.

After taking a bit of a risk and beginning the listing at those low and alluring prices, the item begins to get traffic and more and more bids will appear. I have also found that offering Free Shipping on items will attract more bids and as the world has evolved to Free Shipping in most of the online shopping. It’s an easy decision to follow suit.

I usually begin the auction with shipping costs in mind when I select a starting price, so I have confidence that I will not lose a profit. If I do here and there, then I take the chance, but I have more than made up on profit from any items I may have lost on by trying new marketing ideas.

Until now, 20 years later, I still try different things or change things up on different items. I purchased a very popular athletic jacket that couldn’t be found anywhere. I found four of these jackets then listed them. Within five minutes of listing them I made a considerable profit on each one.

A perfect scenario also because it was in the holiday shopping season. These are the easy things, but sometimes I have listed items over and over and have to change up the listing in some way in order for something to sell.

Dealing with Negative Feedback

Negative comments are always a concern. While sometimes a negative comment makes you seem “real”, I am a stickler at keeping my rating at 100% positive.

I’ve dealt with buyers that just want to leave negative comments no matter what the situation. I try to list on my auctions to contact me before leaving anything negative about a situation that might be able to get fixed.

When you sell pre-owned items like I do, there’s always something you can easily overlook and the buyer notices after they receive it. I, myself would never rush to leave negative feedback on someone until I contact them first. Over the years, eBay has promoted returns and guaranteeing items.

In the early years, returns usually didn’t happen. I recall a person leaving me negative feedback over a pair of shorts that they won for .99. The color of the shorts didn’t match the photo on the listing. So as you can see some comments are really not anything to obsess over, and it’s better to just move on.

However, that wasn’t a friendly person and as I tried to explain our monitors are different from computer to computer. Additionally, they got a designer pair of shorts for .99, it didn’t kill their conscience that they left me negative feedback. I value my reputation and in all these years of selling I’ve only experienced it a few times.

The first thing I do is reach out to the purchaser and ask them why and if they state their reason I tell them it most likely was an oversight. They can see my history of feedback and know that I’m not trying to scam them or sell them something I knew had prior issues.

Additionally, I ask them to return it to me. I’d rather eat the cost of the sale than have negative feedback. My psychology is that if I ask for the item back, maybe they will realize it truly was overlooked and that I’m willing to provide excellent customer service.

Besides the shorts, I’ve only had a couple of times that I have had people that just won’t budge and believe I wasn’t being honest. eBay has guidelines that suggest working it out with the customer and if you do after they leave negative remarks they can always edit their feedback to a positive one. So, all is not lost.

My experience selling on eBay has been very positive. I’ve made some considerable profits on items, and I’ve also been able to enjoy my lust for shopping and clothes. I’m able to shop and find some outstanding pieces of clothing and then sell them. While I love clothes myself and keep a gigantic inventory for my own personal wear, I can have this fabulous hobby while making money.

I have put together a list of the top tips I believe, led to my success for 20 years on eBay. Not in any particular order, these tips will help anyone get started selling on this venue.

What Items Do I Sell On eBay, and How Do I Know How Much They Will Sell For?

Buy items to sell that are relevant, trendy, and popular. Make sure you are selling items that people want. If it’s clothing you want to sell, you always have the current fashion trend items, but there are also items that people seek out such as vintage high-end designer labels, antiques, and even your grandfather’s old polyester leisure suit.

The latter is sometimes sought after for Halloween costumes. Even vintage Christmas sweaters are in high demand for “ugly sweater” Christmas parties.

eBay provides a way to look up items to see the sold prices. This is done by searching for an item and then filtering to the “Sold Items” box. This enables you to see what the item has sold for. Hands down, this is my most used tool that eBay offers to sellers.

Always Offer Excellent Customer Service

If a buyer receives their item and doesn’t like it, or it doesn’t fit properly don’t be discouraged if they want to return it. Your success in selling is your feedback status. Good feedback attracts new customers. They will hesitate on bidding and have a questionable trust on what they will receive from you.

So, always offer returns and accept them back immediately. I have found that sometimes when I resell these items I sell them for more than originally. Your customers will leave fantastic feedback and this only ensures the next customer you are going to give them a good product.

If you do receive negative feedback without a customer contacting you first, approach them hastily and ask them why they didn’t contact you to work out a solution and give you the opportunity to remedy the situation.

I have had to do this several times when buyers left feedback assuming there was not a solution. eBay allows feedback retraction and if you offer good customer service, your customers will see that you deserve the feedback reversed.


I’ve struggled with Free Shipping and I don’t apply the shipping rule to all items, but I look at how popular an item is or if I’m able to start an item higher with the shipping cost already built in. This depends on the item and with some research or just experience you will learn how to approach this decision.

For instance, I purchased an evening dress for $90 at a thrift store. After looking it up for a “sold trend price” I found it was worth possibly over $1,000. So of course my decision to buy to resell was given. This item was very heavy, so it would cost close to $20 to ship to any U.S. area. However, the profit I could make would be amazing!

I look at the situation and weigh the cost of the item and the profit and realize I could offer free shipping and still make a ton of profit. You could also apply the demand for an item and see what quantities are already out there for sale. If you have a lot of competition, free shipping would be a good way to make your item more appealing to the customer.

How Do I know What Price to Start an Item At?

Determining the price point to start an auction at is a little experience and a little research. Once you sell something over and over you will kind of get an idea of where to start your pricing. I have in the past started my auctions at $1.99 and let them go.

Very seldom do you get “stuck” with a sale that goes for the initial $1.99 and never gets bid more. Of course, you have to make sure you have an item that more than one person will want.

A pair of popular jeans, for example will most likely get bid on more. Sometimes if you play that game and start something valuable at a low figure you get more bids.

Because of the low price people will want to bid even if it’s .50 more than the last bidder then once the “want” is instilled in the bidder they will fight the competition for this item. Once you have bid on something you begin to get an attachment to winning it. So, the mind tells you to keep bidding.

By using the eBay app during the listing process, you will be shown the average price of something with both the starting price and the sold price, so that will help give you an idea of where to start. Most of the time, I will let eBay suggest, and I follow. It just depends on how much you paid for an item and if you want a certain amount. Taking the risk of starting low is there but if you’ve got a good product it won’t last long at that price.

Do I Offer Returns?

Yes, undoubtedly. In earlier years, eBay didn’t have a system for returns. You had to deal with them, and it wasn’t clear on how to do them. By offering returns, you have a better shot of people bidding on your item.

Overwhelmingly, you aren’t going to get many returns, but it does happen. I didn’t like accepting returns at first because I wanted the sale and got discouraged. However, in past transactions I’d say the majority of my returns got resold at a higher price than the initial sale that was returned.

Many times for buyers it is a hassle to have to send something back. Especially since they have to cover the cost of the return postage and then ship it back. However, if your product is good, you will sell it.

Offering returns is just another good customer service technique, and you will find that if you do and gladly accept it you will get a good feedback comment because of it.

Don’t take a return as a negative. Accept it and move on. If it’s damaged, and they send a photo of it you can tell them to throw it away, donate it and not worry about returning it and just refund the customer back.

If you can’t sell it again, then there is no reason to have it shipped back and cause additional cost. Be positive in your value and assume anything you list and have to take back is an opportunity to sell it again and for more.

Quality Photos Sell Product

Photos are key to maximizing sales of your items. Again my forte is clothing and accessories, so I have mannequins and backgrounds appropriate to that industry. Be cognizant of your background and lighting.

I take much of my photos outside in natural light and there are certain times of the day that it just doesn’t work. I cannot stress this enough about lighting. If the sun is shining bright on your item it can ultimately change the color of something when you shoot the photo. Glares can cause a photo to look horrible so watch your photos and inspect them after you have put them in your photos app.

I use an IPhone for all my photos, so you don’t have to invest in special equipment or cameras to take your photos. Also watch your background when shooting.

You don’t want your trash can or a dog walking around in the back of your shot. I have a beautiful pool I like to use sometimes and other times I use the natural background of living in the country to portray my items.

Normally, my items are in a tight shot, so you don’t see a lot of my backgrounds but just in case make sure it’s nice. Dollar Tree has a three-sided white cardboard background that is great to use for shoes and smaller items. You can find this by the poster board and office supply aisle. Your photos will look professional, and you won’t see a display of your home in your background.

Be patient while taking photos, and you will begin to see what background is best for you. eBay offers 12 photos on each listing to make sure you take advantage of that and list as many as you can. It’s FREE advertisement so WHY NOT? With clothing, I always take a photo of the size tag and then front and back of the item.

Certain designs and buttons can have close up photos to show a pattern to a material or a unique button. Even photos showing a measurement with a tape is great! It’s actual truth and if you make an error in the listing the customer will see what the real measurement is.

These key things will help determine how much you will sell an item for. Remember people are buying from you without seeing and touching in real life like they would at a store so the more information you give them the better the item looks.

Details: Be Descriptive and Honest

This is another critical rule to live by when listing. When you are in the description section of the listing make sure you describe exactly what the item looks like and feels like and how it fits if that applies to you.

Be honest with any flaws or defects the item has. Always apply what you are selling to someone to how you would feel about buying that yourself and receiving it with missing buttons. Buyers expect to have honesty.

There are so many people scamming people these days you don’t want to get caught up with a bad reputation because you don’t describe things in details. Good or bad. Hype something up if an item has unique details or something is great about an item you want to get through to your buyers.

And the opposite for something that is worth fixing but just has one thing wrong with it. Sometimes people look for those items that have flaws as they are looking to repurpose for something else but need just key parts of an item. So don’t think just because something has a flaw means a definite “no sale”.

A good example is size. If you have an extra large jacket that fits like a medium...describe that right out of the starting gate. Otherwise, you will end up with a return. eBay’s listing app gives the seller many dropdown tools for describing items for categories.

Clothing for example, you can put the material, unique details, accents, and a slew of other selections as part of your listing in addition to writing in your detail paragraph.

You wouldn’t believe how many sellers put just one sentence for their description and don’t give any details. Buyers want to be sold on something. I even put suggestions on what accent jewelry or where to wear a particular item. This helps tell the customer what to do with it or give them a variety of uses for their purchase. It doesn’t hurt to give them more.

Packing for Shipment

People love to unpack their purchase. I have always kept in mind how I feel when I receive something wrinkled or just rolled up and no pride taken into the impression that is left when someone opens their purchase.

My first step in shipping is to spritz the item in a fabric softener diluted in water solution. This just ensures that the item will have a fresh clean scent while sitting in its package for several days. It’s a first impression.

Also fold the item, if it’s clothing, nice like a retail store would do. These steps are important if you want to be considered for good feedback and returning customers.

I once ordered a pre-owned item of clothing and when it was received it wasn’t folded nice and smelled of cigarette smoke. My first impression was to never buy from them again or leave negative feedback.

Ship Fast!

In the days of websites offering one-day delivery, fast shipping is critical. A large majority of my feedback is about how fast the item got to the customer. My routine after an item has been listed is to put it into an area that basically is “ready to go”. All I have to do is retrieve the item and ship. eBay also monitors your account on how fast your items are shipped.

If you are compliant, you get discounts on shipping costs and listing fees. So, there’s incentive to move your items fast. Sometimes a buyer will say they need the item for a specific event, and they’d like to receive it in enough time. Simply go by how fast you would want to receive something you ordered. People love fast shipping!

Remember if you want to make money you will need to ask yourself what you want to sell and if you are buying pre-owned what condition would you expect your purchase to be in. All these things are key in whether you will be successful in selling on eBay.

One last tip to keep in mind, is that sales can be seasonal and if you decide to list something a few days before Christmas your hopes will be diminished when you realize no one is shopping the last couple of days because of shipping constraints during that time of the year and there’s no guarantee that it will arrive and be delivered before Christmas.

That’s where the box stores come in to play and last-minute shoppers head out to do their shopping. Spring Break and the first week of summer vacation are slow periods. Days before and after major holidays are as well. Shoppers are on trips and vacations and are not shopping on eBay.

So schedule yourself out and make sure those really cool items that are for Christmas or maybe a Halloween costume and Valentine's Day jewelry will be listed with ample time to list a week and shipping time to arrive before the deadline.

Good luck to all who are reading my article. Again this is 20 years and I still love it.