Selling Items on Ebay

How Do I Start?

I am intrigued with the prospect of using Ebay to sell items, but I haven't done it before and am timid about it. Also, I am quite curious about where a lot of these gals are getting the merchandise they are selling, i.e., Pottery Barn bedding, which some of the venders at the Pottery Barn page on Ebay have indicated this stuff is returned, discontinued merchandise, but in good/great condition. How are they getting access to that stuff? I'd like to know how to find this supposed "returned" merchandise, which Pottery Barn (and other venders) must be making available for sale elsewhere.

Great Alternative to Garage Sales

Ebay is a great site to use if you want an alternative to a garage sale. But keep in mind that it can be a somewhat more complex process than a garage sale. You are relying on pictures and your product description to sell your goods to someone who is taking your word that the item is as described, and you are taking their word that they will come across with the payment.

Tips: How to Sell Your Stuff at Consignment

I have made over $5000 in the past year selling both used and new goods. But the amount of work involved can result in a feeling that it's just not worth it. Don't forget, at a garage sale the person picks up the item and leaves with it. Sales are final. With an Ebay sale, you have to wrap it carefully and take it to the post office or UPS for delivery. You have to notify the buyer that the package has been sent (usually just an email), and hope that it is delivered. In some cases, if your descriptions are not crystal clear, the buyer will feel that the item doesn't reflect your description and will want a refund (happens occasionally -- maybe twice for me in over 200 sales).

In the early days of Ebay, the sellers were just regular people who wanted to clear out their garages or attics. Now, the site and interest has grown so significantly that "mainstream" businesses sell on the site. For example, you will see products offered by "Sharper Image" and other well-known companies. You can buy automobiles, boats, and almost anything imaginable. With reference to your concern about where sellers get their items, many buy discontinued goods from major retailers, so I wouldn't necessarily suspect the source. Just like any other business, Ebay is "buyer beware", because there are scam artists out there who will take your money and give you nothing or inferior products. That's why it is very important to read the seller/buyer feedback.

I have enjoyed my experiences on Ebay and would recommend it to potential sellers who are well organized and have the time to photograph their items, write descriptions, track the bidding, and package and mail their items in a timely manner. Not only can you make a few dollars but you also get to meet some really neat people.

Related: 5 Things to Sell on eBay Instead of a Yard Sale

Merchandise From Outlets

I know the Pottery Barn items are coming from a Pottery Barn outlet. After Christmas they have all their quilts on sale for about $30 any size. There is a line just to get in the store. People stock up and then sell the bedding on Ebay. If anything is returned to Pottery Barn it automatically goes to the outlet even if it is still in perfect condition. The outlet I know of is in San Marcos, TX although I am sure there are more.

Buying in Bulk

It seems like a lot of sellers find something they get a good bargain on locally and sell it to a wide market that doesn't have that same access. For instance, I discovered two years ago that 6 lb. tubs of Oxy-Clean were selling on Ebay for quite a bit more than our local Sam's Club charged. To go one step further I contacted the manufacturer and found a wholesaler to purchase it in bulk. Some manufacturers will work with you this way and some won't. You just have to do the legwork to find them and ask. I've visited a closeout store for Spiegel Catalog many times. It's a pot luck selection that sells for way below catalog price, and the Ebay sellers are looking to make the margin from people who don't have access to these stores.

Way to Get Merchandise

I've sold hundreds of items on Ebay. I get my "merchandise" from a variety of places. I shop at a lot of yard sales (you'd be amazed at how much "new" stuff can be found at yard sales - many times with remnants of Christmas wrapping paper is still attached!) I also shop regular stores for discounted merchandise. At the Tuesday Morning stores, they had all the discontinued merchandise from the now-defunct website. I bought a bunch of sock puppet dog key chains for $1 each and have made a tidy profit selling them on Ebay.

I also shop stores like Target and JC Penney for their clearance racks. At Penney's, this winter I bought several summer maternity blouses marked down to $1.99, which were originally $22 each. Nope, I'm not pregnant. I'll be selling them on Ebay in the spring.

Having a picture in your auction is very valuable in helping to get bids. As long as you have a scanner, many items (such as books, CDs, records, and other semi-flat items) can be scanned with good results (rather than running out and buying an expensive digital camera).

The US Post Office provides free Priority mailboxes in a variety of sizes along with free labels and packing tape. Order at:

Take the Next Step:

  • Look around your house and find something you want to sell on Ebay. List it and learn from the process.
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