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the real cost of selling something on ebay

posted to writings on oct 8th, 2008 with tag ebay and commented on six times

i recently sold something on ebay and actually added up all the little costs and fees and days of waiting. it's ridiculous, and there has to be something better out there. craigslist does not inspire confidence in buyers or sellers, and goes so far as to shut down sites that let you search outside of your local area making it difficult to sell to anyone outside your own city.

so i listed the item on ebay with a buy it now price of $1,285. i did this at like 1 in the morning and since that means the auction ends at 1 in the morning, i used ebay's "list in the future" thing to start it the following day at 2 in the afternoon. once the auction started, of course it got a bid right away since it had no reserve or high start price, which immediately removes the buy it now option. why does ebay do this? according to their site, it's because buyers would get confused by someone using buy it now after they placed a bid. but of course, in certain categories, they still retain the buy it now option after bidding, and those certain categories change randomly. i think that is more confusing.

so my auction is now at $0.01 with no buy it now option, and has 5 days to go. after waiting 5 days, the auction ends at $1000. for some reason i only put $20 for shipping on the auction but soon realized this was a mistake and was way too low. mea culpa. (my advice is to not put a fixed shipping rate on your auctions and just calculate it once the auction ends, then pad it with all kinds of bullshit handling fees like boxes and tape and gas to drive to the ups store.)

so the person sends me a paypal payment of $1020. (yes, i despise paypal, but when you're trying to sell something for $1000, most people are going to need to use a credit card and won't send you a check.) i login to paypal to discover they've once again changed their policies and now have some ridiculous "on hold" policy where they take the money from the sender and keep it for up to 21 days, then only release it to me whenever they randomly feel like it. according to their site, that may be 3 days after the package is confirmed to be delivered, after i get positive feedback on ebay, or 21 days after not getting any complaints from the sender. what the fuck? how can they do this? i'm sure they put it in some interest bearing account and make even more money off my $1020 during that 21 days.

so now my item has sold for much less than i was hoping, i've realized the shipping charges i collected are way too low, and paypal won't give me my money for somewhere up to 3 weeks. awesome.

i shipped the package at the ups store which cost me $32.37 with $1000 insurance. i probably wouldn't have done that much insurance especially since i'm losing money, but now i'm fearing the package will get damaged in transit, the buyer will dispute the transaction, paypal won't give me my money, and i'll be out a laptop and the money for it.

so now the package is out of my hands and i've spent $32.37. paypal takes their chunk out of the amount transferred to me and ebay will bill my credit card in a few days. $0.50 from ebay for the initial listing, $36.31 for the final value fee, $29.88 from paypal, and $32.37 for the shipping costs from ups, for a total of $99.06 to sell something on ebay, collect payment from paypal (an ebay company), and ship it by ups ground.

it took 5 days for the auction to end, a day for me to ship it, and will take another 6 to get delivered. assuming the buyer doesn't complain about something, it'll be another 3 days after that until paypal releases my money, then another 3 or so to actually transfer the money to my bank account. if something does go awry, it could be another 19 days plus 3 to get my money. for a total of somewhere between 20 and 40 days just to sell something on ebay and get paid for it.

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sma (authentic) on october 8th, 2008 at 16:06:03:

that's just one crappy thing after another. boo to ebay and paypal.

i just got some 'random account audit' email from paypal that i thought was spam, but when i logged in, it was forcing me to change my password, confirm my credit card number and then enter in my home phone number so they could confirm my address. it won't even let me use a cell phone number. what a load of crap. crappy crap crap.

joshua (authentic) on october 8th, 2008 at 18:18:32:

i hope you mean you logged in directly to and not at whatever link was in the e-mail.

sma (not authenticated) on october 9th, 2008 at 03:26:21:

of course.

bob (not authenticated) on october 9th, 2008 at 06:21:04:

In debate, McCain said one of his choices to be the head of the U.S. Treasury would be Meg Whitman, CEO of eBay and one of his advisors.

Dan (not authenticated) on may 11th, 2009 at 12:47:08:

It's similar to many aspects of living in todays world. Greenhorns get burned weather your dealing in the stock market or the Ebay resale world. Like anything, You try, you fail, you try and try again, you win, and learn to win. I have been dealing on Ebay for ten years now and I still occasionally get burned but most often because of my own faux pas. Know your product, know your market,present your product honestly and clearly and you should do fine. The ebay % take and PayPal are just the cost of doing business. Good Luck and tray again with smaller things. Dan

joshua (authentic) on may 11th, 2009 at 13:04:53:

who's a greenhorn?!
what's a greenhorn?!
-- homer simpson

Know your product, know your market,present your product honestly and clearly and you should do fine.

i've sold more than a few laptops, phones, etc. on ebay and craigslist and have actually been defrauded on the sale of a laptop through ebay/paypal in which the buyer's paypal account was compromised and used to fraudulently send me the funds for the laptop. i shipped it to the address he gave me, then months later paypal tried to get the money back from me saying the transaction wasn't authorized and i was just supposed to eat the cost of a $1000+ laptop. they sent my account to a collections agency and closed my paypal account. so much for doing fine.

i've pretty much switched to only using craigslist these days. dealing with high-dollar merchandise with strangers in person can be a bit daunting but i'll take it over the ebay/paypal mess any day. faster transactions, no fees, (hopefully) cash payments.