Buyers have the added benefit of eBay's 'money back' guarantee
IF A recent survey is anything to go by, there should be a bargain bonanza of various second-hand items for sale on eBay.ie this month. Many of the 300 Irish families recently surveyed by Aviva Health Insurance on the subject of household spending said they planned to sell unwanted items on eBay, such as Christmas gifts, toys, books, clothes and other stuff that is doing nothing but taking up space, in a bid to take more control of their spending this coming year.
It's true that eBay is still king of the online auctions, but alternative services for selling stuff online are rising in popularity, too, such as DoneDeal, Gumtree and Adverts.
However, if you have items that might be of interest to international sellers, eBay can open up the market for you if you opt to list them on its website.
Some good rules of thumb include the following:
Browse through similar items on eBay to see how other sellers describe them and what categories they are typically listed in. This will give you a better idea about how you should be listing your item and what you should be pricing it for.
SELL ON SUNDAY
According to eBay.ie, Sundays typically tend to be the day when there is most traffic on the auction site, so it's a good day to end your item listing.
TAKE LOTS OF PICTURES
Take digital photos of your item – make sure it is clear, and always upload more than one photo.
KEEP IN CONTACT
Throughout the purchase process, keep in contact with whoever bought your item.
The last two points of advice are likely to be among the most important for sellers.
This is because buyers have the benefit of eBay's 'money back' guarantee (as long as they use PayPal), where eBay will refund the buyer if it finds that the buyer did not receive the item or it was not as the seller described it.
If the buyer raises a dispute, a seller will have up to eight days to try and resolve it to the buyer's satisfaction. But if this fails and a dispute goes unresolved for more than eight days, eBay will step in and adjudicate.
However, while most transactions occur successfully, there have been a few reports in the UK of dispute cases where sellers have complained that eBay, which runs its customer service operation from Ireland, has stacked the odds in these cases against them.
For instance, there have been cases where buyers have obtained refunds from eBay for items that they say never arrived, even though the seller had proof of postage, or postage tracking numbers.
However, proof of postage is not deemed sufficient by eBay or PayPal if a buyer claims not to have received the goods, so the advice to sellers is always to use special or recorded delivery.
And in cases where the buyer might dispute the condition of the item, taking lots of pictures of it before dispatching should help you if eBay has to step in.
Another sign that the rights of buyers on eBay are stronger than those of sellers is that buyers are entitled to give negative feedback to sellers, but sellers are not permitted to return the favour.
According to eBay, this is because it would scare off buyers from using the site again if they received negative feedback.
An eBay.ie spokesman said it used to be the case that sellers could give buyers negative feedback, but they changed this system. "The feedback section is really only effective for buyers to leave on sellers' profiles, so that other buyers can see who they are buying from and read about other people's experiences," he said.
"If a seller notices a buyer who's acting unusually or suspiciously, there's a 'report' function which immediately alerts eBay who then investigate the buyer on a case-by-case basis. Sellers can use things like 'tracking deliveries' so that they can see exactly where their goods are going, thus protecting them against people who claim their item never arrived."
Sellers can also protect themselves by adding 'buyer requirements' to listings to buyers who have too many policy violations, or who aren't registered with PayPal.
Case study: The Mulligan family
As parents to two fast-growing children, Sarah (9) and Sean (11), Ann Mulligan and her husband, Damien, from Kingswood, Tallaght, in Dublin, know all too well how easy it is for stuff to accumulate in a household.
"I feel guilty whenever I throw out stuff that could possibly be of use to someone. And as the kids are growing out of clothes and interests so quickly, we accumulate mountains of items at lightning speed."
As well as donating regularly to St Vincent de Paul shops, she also uses eBay to sell off unwanted stuff in good condition.
"I've been selling with eBay, on and off, for the past five years. As my kids are in their growing-incredibly-fast phase, I've sold a lot of kids clothing, kids toys and presents that we've gotten that may not suit us."
She finds that eBay is a good way to help subsidise other projects and household expenses.
"We were refurbishing our kitchen and were delving into every money pot possible, so we sold unwanted clothes and bits and bobs from the attic and around the house."
What is the most she has made on a single item?
"I collect Diet Coke bottles from the various fashion collaborations they do and I heard they were selling on eBay for large sums, as they were limited. So I sold my Karl Lagerfeld edition for over €190 to a collector in Germany. I was delighted, seeing as how I paid just €20 for it in Harvey Nichols."
She has also used other sites, such as DoneDeal, but says she feels a greater element of peace of mind with eBay.
"The fact that eBay uses PayPal to facilitate money transfers, this puts my mind at ease as I use PayPal across a variety of websites. It's super easy to use and has a great reputation for being very safe."