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After the consumerism of the past decade, many people are realizing that they own an awful lot of stuff – at a time when making money has become more and more difficult. One way to turn “like new” items into cash is to join those who already recycle pre-owned items on Internet auction and sales sites.

The best-known is eBay (eBay.com), created in 1995. Some others are ePier (ePier.com), started in 1998 by James Kim, still its CEO; MyStore (MyStore.com: “A marketplace for the people – by the people.”); and Etsy, a site for buying and selling vintage and handmade items and craft supplies, founded in 2005.

Although the idea of selling online can be off-putting to a novice, online-business tyros will find that all of these sites have clear instructions. After all, the sellers’ business is their business.

Where and How to Sell

“Laura” – a composite of several people who became part-time Internet sellers -needed money and did not need quite so many pieces of designer clothing (in sellable size 8), the very large Miro serigraph she had accidentally bought at an auction or the collection of craft supplies in the closet gathering dust.

Laura went to a consignment shop with the clothing. Horrified to hear how little the owner thought she would get for them – minus the shop’s percentage – she took her clothing home. She took a photo of the serigraph to a favorite art dealer but was told apologetically that it was worth about a third of the price she had paid, and obtaining that amount would happen only in a happier economy. And there were the craft items – yarn, beads, art papers, and the like, which might best be donated to a school so she could chalk the value up to a tax deduction.

Turning to eBay, she found it cost nothing to register on eBay – though insertion fees and “listing upgrade” fees (for bolding, italics, home page listing, etc.) for encouraging visibility, and of course the site’s “final value” fee would add up. Etsy, MyStore, eBid (eBid.com) and Craigslist (Craigslist.org, a sales and classifieds site rather than an auction site) also offered free, easy, straightforward registration.

Many online sellers use instant-payment services such as PayPal or NoChex. A third option, PPPay.com, allows both instant and escrow payments, greatly lowering the possibility of fraud: The buyer’s payment is held in an escrow account until the buyer receives the item; then the seller is sent the money.

Laura watched and listened to eBay’s 8-minute video on selling and the site’s other seller tutorials, and decided to put the rest of her clothing pictures up on eBay.

She followed the site’s suggestion and looked up a number of completed auctions so she could figure out what kind of description would sell her items.

Instead of “Wow! Fantastic blue wool jacket!!!” Laura entered, “Perry Ellis navy blue wool blazer, 8 NWT.” That allowed potential buyers to know immediately the designer, color, fabric, style, size and condition (“New Without Tags”) – all the information she would have wanted to know were she a buyer.

She decided to list the opening bid at $12, hoping that it would reach at least the average price of $19.65 that the 13 other similar items had sold for over the past three weeks.

To help set the price for this 2-year-old, never-worn-but-elegant jacket, Laura found helpful information after clicking on “Start Selling” at the page’s main prompt, “What’s it worth?”

She also put up a photo of the 6-foot-by-3-foot Miro serigraph, with a fixed lowest bid of $300, and the stipulation that the buyer would have to pick it up. If no one bid $300, Laura would keep the piece and try again at a later date, or maybe put it up on Craigslist or on ePier (where she had examined the exhaustive new-sellers’ Frequently Asked Questions page).

Though it is not an auction site,
Craigslist has regional virtual centers to help buyers find a desired object or service locally. Instructions for posting an item for sale can be found at http://www.craigslist.org/about/help. 

One can either go through the site’s e-mail connection or copy the Craigslist e-mail address from the post and e-mail straight from one’s own e-mail to express interest. In addition, many Craigslist sellers post their phone numbers so a buyer can just call them. While transactions generally take place face-to-face with no difficulties, Craigslist suggests making the exchange in a public place or having others around.

Laura’s craft supplies were another story. She worked through the Etsy FAQ section. Even though she was not doing crafts for the time being, she liked Etsy’s Handmade Blog (http://esty.com/storque/) and found the community (“Etsy’s Community is made of thousands of Etsy members with a love for handmade.”) appealing.  She found on an even simpler page, (http://www.esty.com/how_selling_works.php), that to list an item for four months would cost only $.20. Deciding that would be her best bet, Laura finished posting her belongings and sat back to wait.

It was not long before her “stuff” had become someone else’s treasured possessions and she had some money she needed to pay off some of her bills.