Online trading secrets

Posted August 23rd, 2005 by Penny Wise

I must give you an update on how my new floor fund is going! My online auctions have currently managed to accumulate almost $500 so we are well on the way to the $750 target! It's amazing what is just lying around isn't it - all I've done is go through some of my cupboards! I use Trade Me ( which I find easier to use than eBay, and they only accept traders from NZ and Australia so you don't end up buying and selling things from outlandish locations. I'm not sure whether to be proud or embarrassed that I now sport a 150 next to my user name, which means I have completed 150 trades! I'm happy to report that out of all those I have never had a single negative trading experience, but I can't even remember what half of them were for, and there's the catch. Online auctions are a fantastic easy way to make money, but they are also the perfect place to lose a lot as well if you can't control your bidding habits.

Looking around my computer room, I can see perfect evidence of that! Take last year for example. One of my hobbies is aromatherapy, and while browsing on Trade Me I found some really unusual oil burners. I snapped them up for a couple of dollars each, and of course the postage was extra. For some reason, from then on I decided it would be a really good idea to collect oil burners - not just any old ones, they had to be special. At the height of my obsession, Trade Me emailed me every day with new listings of oil burners (yep, go ahead and feed that addiction!) which I eagerly perused. I suppose the good thing was that most people weren't barmy enough to collect something like that, so most of the time I was able to pick them up fairly cheaply. Woe betide anyone who was bidding against the same oil burner as me though! There was no way I was going to lose out on an auction and I paid happily for it. Of course, with oil burners mainly being ceramic and rather fragile, it often cost more to courier the item safely to me than it did for the burner, but I didn't care as I added each new one to my rapidly growing collection. It didn't take long before I had successfully filled an entire wall unit with more than 30 oil burners created in shapes of teapots, flowers, pot belly stoves, houses, teddy bears and even Roman monuments. It was an impressive collection alright, but I had run out of space, run out of steam and spent more time and money than I would ever care to dream about now on acquiring them.

From that point on, things changed. I cancelled my daily email updates and instantly felt liberated. I now have my own set of rules when buying and selling through online auctions.

If you are a buyer: Do NOT browse online auctions because you are bored/curious/want something to do. You will inevitably find something that you never knew you needed and you will LOSE your money. Remember, a bargain is only a bargain if you were always going to buy it! If you are genuinely looking for a bargain on a particular item, type in the keyword and stick to that item, don't browse through the different site categories to find what you are after, you are bound to go off on a tangent. Don't get caught up in the excitement of bidding. Give yourself a spending limit and stick to it. No matter how important you feel the item is, it doesn't matter if you don't win every auction; these sites have hundreds of thousands of members and the item you want WILL come up again.

If you are a seller: Before listing your auctions, do your homework. More often than not, there are others listing the same type of item as you. Check out their listings to give you an idea of reasonable prices and how much interest there is from bidders. That way, you will know what you can hope to achieve for your auction, without overpricing and risking losing bids. It's also important not to sell yourself short! Photos sell. You wouldn't go into a shop and buy something without seeing it first, so don't expect people to buy things unseen online either. If two listings are side by side and one has a photo and one does not, trust me, the one with the photo will get the higher price. Take the time to describe what you are selling properly. Sure, it might take a little more time and effort, but it could well mean that your auction fetches a higher price against a similar listing. For example, if you are selling a CD, people want to know what songs are on it! Make sure everything you sell is clean before you post it to its new home. I take it as a bit of an insult if I receive something in the mail which the seller has not even bothered to clean up. I bought a CD which arrived in a really grubby case with fingermarks all over the CD and one of my precious oil burners arrived absolutely covered in melted pink candle wax! It doesn't take a minute to give things a dust or a wipe over before packaging. If something has batteries, such as a child's toy, I also refill with fresh batteries before sending. If a buyer trusts you enough to purchase an item from you, the least you can do is make sure it's the best it can be. After all, you're already making a considerable profit from them. Packaging doesn't have to cost a fortune. I used to insist on buying expensive boxes from the Post Office to mail my trades, but soon changed my ways when I saw how people would mail my purchases to me! I now keep the bubble wrap from all my trades (or anything else I receive that has bubble wrap too) and use this to wrap up my items, before covering in brown paper and sealing well with parcel tape. It costs far less; the main thing is that the item is wrapped carefully and that it arrives to its new owner in one piece - how you achieve that is up to you, but a shoebox will work just as well as a flashy Post Office box!

There are heaps more tips on this subject in the Vault; these are just ones I have found work specifically for me from experience. I guess they must work as I have had 100% positive feedback from all my trades so far. I only use online auctions now when I am serious about trying to make some extra money, yep, like paying for my floor! First, I go around each room of the house armed with a notebook and write down everything that I no longer want, need or have never used and gather them up. It's amazing how fast the list grows! Then I photograph everything with my digital camera. The tedious part is uploading all the photos and listing all the auctions, but after that comes the fun part, making money! I haven't sold anything remotely exciting to earn my $500 so far; some exercise videos, books, sports equipment, toys - nothing unusual, but somebody out there wants it. I guess the old clich is true, 'one man's trash is another man's treasure'. Now if I can only find someone who wants to relieve me of my collection of oil burners...

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