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eBay for dummies Part One

as featured in Events Magazine

Winter 2008

by Wayne D'Amico

Music Editor

Well I finally got the word from our publisher, let's write about buying and selling on ebay. OK David, I'll do it anecdotally, but I can't do it all in one column?

Let's begin with the proverbial, "What is ebay?" Nut shell? The world's largest online buy/sell platform. For more go on line or ask the person sitting next to you 'cause I can't afford the real estate to explain the basics. Originally known for its auction format, if you have not checked it out lately, it is now simple an online marketplace for anything and everything you've ever wanted, new, used, auction, direct purchase or opportunity to find your product and haggle on the spot. Sounds amazing and it is, HOWEVER it is not for the faint of heart and more than ever, let the buyer and seller beware.

My friends, more than me have been using ebay for over a decade. Although my account notes since 2002, I really got my feet wet the last year selling over a dozen musical instruments ranging from $300 to over $4000. What an education.

As a buyer or seller you first need to set up an account. To do so is not that difficult, but to begin using it, there is a bit of a curve both in what you need to know. The list is a bit daunting. How are you going to pay? Certified Check, Electronic Check, Credit Card, PayPal account, Wire transfer? How are you going to receive payment for something sold? Same list applies. When you buy something, where is it going to be delivered, have you "confirmed" the address or multiple addresses. Some sellers will not deliver to unconfirmed addresses. To confirm an address requires a process involving eBay sending out a USPS letter to the address with a code that upon receipt you have to log into your account and enter the code, "confirming" that the one who has the account also controls delivery at the address. Pretty smart, but it you didn't set this up you could be a week to 10 days away from being considered a credible buyer. Money accounts, also have a bit of a lag to verify your identify and that the user on the account has access to the money accounts, etc. More days. When I first went online to buy something, it took me so long to get ebay "cred", that I forgot what I was going to buy and also did not have enough time to go to the next step each time I sat at the computer and learned of some other "requirement".

Posting an item online requires a digital camera, good lighting for pictures taking of close-up details, a steady hand or tripod, a scale to weigh the items, packing supplies (Peanuts, bubble wrap, cardboard, boxes, tape, labels), plan for how you expect to ship it, how to price the shipping cost to anywhere on the globe and be prepared to have to respond to inquires about the most insignificant thing you never even noticed or thought pertained to the very item you've held in your hands for years.

Now that you're ready to pull the trigger on buying or selling, there's one more thing? You have to establish an unspecified level of transactional history for buying and selling. The unknown threshold at different value levels. There is a level of experience that is critical if you plan to do higher priced deals. Each user has a history that is available with your account and although you remain anonymous to the world, your history is not, and you must build up a history to establish credibility with the marketplace. Each user also has a rite to leave feedback about the user after a transaction. If you treat someone poorly or are treated poorly your self, reporting this against the user will haunt them for quite some time and hinder their ability to get the best deals from the most credible online traders.

This feedback and history is the only quality control mechanism you can create in an anonymous marketplace. There is a huge level of trust in online e-commerce. The concern is a result of two sometimes painful realities. First the item is only "seen" through the computer screen and the words of the seller. Talk about trust. Was the picture blurry or taken from the right angle, was it taken from all angles. Cheating buyers by selling them on the package cover has been around for centuries. Ever hear about the guy that bought a DVD player on the street of NYC and opened it up to find a brick wrapped in newspaper? Once you hit send on your payment there is a high level of stress until that UPS gal shows up to your front door, you open the box, peel through the peanuts and touch and plug in your prize. But PRIZE is the critical word, one thing that remains constant for successful ebay users. You can find what you want and what you really believe is the best buy. That feeling of purchase and sales satisfaction is a true PRIZE.

BTW, what a great event I went to at the Community Music School in Centerbook a couple weeks ago. They held an open house to the community. What's that about? Well I was not sure either, but the program was simple, get your music instructors in individual rooms with a whole bunch of their favorite instruments set up, let people peruse the building, walking in and out of various open discussions about the various musical instruments they teach. What a great opportunity to learn and experience at arms length many instruments some have wondered about or never even new about. I know my it was of interest to my entire family and from the turn out many more. Support you local music center. It can and should be a center of vitality and opportunity for the entire community.

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