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I Was An eBay Virgin! by Max Barclay :: making money online ::
Advice, Solutions, Escapism

I Was An eBay Virgin!

Are you an eBay veteran? Yes? Then find something else to read about! This article is for those of you who've not yet experienced the phenomenon of buying and selling on an eBay auction, UK. So… eBay UK virgin? Read on! If you would like to skip directly to the all-important questions: How do I bid on eBay? How do I sell on eBay? and How to use eBay UK, click here.

I used to sell stuff out of the back of my car in a field surrounded by lots of other people selling stuff out of the backs of their cars. In England we call this a car boot sale. I don't know what the rest of the world calls it – e-mail me to let me know. Anyway, never again.

Everyone has heard of eBay. If you haven't, you have now. Until a couple of months ago, I knew it existed, but I'd never taken advantage of it. To tell the truth, I was a little daunted by the apparent complexity of it. I mean, how the hell do you go about buying and selling stuff online from Joe Public and be confident that you'll receive payment or goods? It's not like dealing with a company – there's no guarantee of anything.

So there I was, getting up absurdly early, loading piles of unwanted stuff into the back of my car and driving into the middle of a field. I'd unload it whilst the probing hands of professional traders (who had turned up even earlier than me) found their way into my still-packed boxes and over-loaded back seats. It was far from ideal.

I suppose what encouraged me to give eBay UK a try (other than the gathering junk in the garage) was the success of my brother-in-law, who has successfully bought and sold valuable etchings and prints world-wide; many via an eBay auction, UK.

I had a leather jacket. I hadn't managed to sell it at any of my early morning excursions, and my wife had been banging on at me to get rid of it. The miser in me refused to throw it away, because it was in good condition and hadn't been cheap. I decided to bite the bullet and give it to charity. "But hang on", the angel of commerce whispered, Eeeeeebay… Eeeeeebay … give… it... a… tryyy…" "ALRIGHT!" I thought back.

Half an hour later I was sitting back in my chair with nervous excitement looking at the newly listed item on the screen. The world could see my jacket! I could almost hear the visitors pouring in to my item's virtual page, pushing people out of the way to bid. What's more, I had the new found ability to accept credit card payments! How the hell did I manage that in half an hour?

It had been fairly straightforward. After registering as a user, (which involved the standard online form, requesting name, address etc), I was asked for my credit card details. A little apprehensive, I entered them. I've never been entirely comfortable about entering credit card and bank details online, but I appreciate the unparalleled convenience of online shopping and banking. So I have no choice.

I was then asked if I would like to accept payment by credit card. Huh? I said, silently. Didn't I need a complicated, expensive merchant account for that sort of thing? Apparently not: welcome to Paypal. I have been surfing the Internet for years, and suddenly I felt like a freshman again.


Paypal is excellent. It's free to sign up. After registering for a (free) premium or business account, you enter credit card details and a bank account. That's it. You can accept credit card payments. You can send funds to anyone with a Paypal account free of charge. You can receive money from anyone else with a Paypal account for a fee, which is deducted from the incoming funds. This fee is comparable to the amount you would pay if you had you own merchant account, but without all the additional costs. You can transfer the funds to your bank account at any time for no charge to a USA bank account, or for a small fee if your bank is outside the USA. A real bonus is that eBay now owns Paypal, so I had no real concerns about security and trustworthiness. The payment system is completely integrated with eBay, so I was able to select the Paypal option as a preferred method of payment for my jacket.

One last thing about Paypal; it has built-in tools that enable you to integrate a simple shopping cart into your website. This is a big deal for individuals or small businesses that have thus far resisted selling online due to the costs involved. I might have to try it myself.

Anyway, after setting up my account, I clicked on the "sell" button. I went through the simple form, entering the details of the jacket, the price (£10 as a starting price) and the cost of postage (I estimated another £10 for postage within the UK).

A couple of days passed. Then three… four. No one had bid for my jacket. Damn. I had a counter on my jacket's page, which seemed to be stuck on nine. I was fairly sure seven of those had been me. I knew this had to be a waste of time. I prepared myself for the fact that Oxfam was going to get their hands on a very nice jacket.

On day seven of the auction I checked my e-mail. There was the message from eBay letting me know that the auction had ended. What a waste of… wait a minute… did that say "congratulations" in the subject line? There must be some mistake. I opened the message. Unbelievable! I had sold my jacket. Not only that; there had been seven bids. SEVEN! The final price had been £22 plus £10 postage! I clicked on the "create invoice" button and e-mailed it to the buyer. The same day I checked my Paypal account and saw that the money had already been transferred, all £32 (less £1.29 Paypal fee). I packed it up and sent it to the address supplied. Job done.

Each user on E-bay has a feedback rating. Each time you buy or sell an item, your seller or buyer rates the service they have received from you. This gives you an excellent idea of how trustworthy the other person is. The buyer who took my eBay UK virginity had 129 feedback ratings, 128 of them positive. I had none; I appreciated his taking a chance on me. I gave him a positive rating as soon as I received the money.

A day or so later, I saw the magic (1) next to my user name. He had rated me. What had he said? I suddenly had a horrible feeling he hadn't liked my jacket. What had he said about me? Suddenly I was convinced my career as a "eBay-er" was over. People would see what he had written and boycott me for life. "Calm down…" I forced myself to click on the (1) link.

"Excellent item, fast service". I'm in business!

Use these links to find out how to use eBay UK:

© Copyright 2003 Max Barclay
Max Barclay is the editor of I NEED SOME and DRUM SETS FOR He has worked as a graphic designer in the South of England for thirteen years, and is a Director of Tinstar Design Ltd.

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