All About Ebay

Buying & Selling Online

By Lisa Grotts

Imagine a week in Union Square without getting a single parking ticket. Welcome to eBay - the world's largest department store. Shopping's never been easier, and you don't even have to leave your home.

eBay was founded in September 1995 in the San Jose living room of entrepreneur/philanthropist Pierre Omidyar, and now has more than a 100 million users worldwide, making it the most popular shopping destination on the Web. Whether you're a small business or enterprising individual, eBay can turn your possessions into cash. Should you plan to sell last year's must-have Chanel pumps or buy Roman Intaglios from the turn of the Century, the odds are eBay's the place!

On a daily basis, millions of items are traded on eBay in every possible category, from cars and collectibles, to tea sets and televisions to golf clubs and gardening tools. Most people have heard of eBay, but how many have actually engaged the website, and how many more would if they knew how?

Why sell on eBay, and if you want to sell, how do you go about it?

If you've been "bitten" by the eBay bug, chances are you've ransacked every room in your house and even held back estate sale items to sell online. And what about the Oscar de la Renta and Carolina Herrera evening gowns that you've only worn twice? They go for big bucks online.
Like most things in life, there are rules to follow for e-auctions.

How to Buy on eBay

  1. Go to the eBay website: The top-left tool bar will have the commands to get you started.
  2. Click on Register to enter your personal information such as name and address. You'll then be asked to create an eBay Identification (this is generally your email address) and Password.
  3. Sign In using your new eBay Identification and Password. From this point on, you'll only need these two pieces of information to buy or sell. Make sure to keep a copy of your passwords in a safe place for future log-ins.
  4. To buy, either click on the word Buy or type in the item you're looking for under the Search bar on the left side of the page. For example, if you're looking for a vintage comic book, scroll under Categories (with listings from "Antiques" to "Everything Else") until you see what you're looking for. Comic Books, for instance, are listed under Collectables.
    If you don't see your particular item, type the words "Comic Books" in the Search Bar and the item(s) will be displayed. To be even more "item" specific, type in "Comic Book Spiderman," and your search will be dramatically narrowed.
  5. If you'd like to ask the seller a question about their item prior to placing a bid, click on the member profile, listed in the top right corner, as Meet the Seller. Here you can ask a question or read the Seller's Feedback Score. For each transaction made on eBay, both buyer and seller are allowed to rate each other by leaving feedback - such as, Was the item as promised and shipped on time?
    Each feedback score consists of a rating (positive, negative or neutral) and a short comment. The higher the positive feedback score, the better. Anything 99.0 percent and above is excellent and means the eBay customer you're doing business with is reputable. It's also a good idea to buy only items that offer a 100 percent money back guarantee. Otherwise, who knows what you're getting?
  6. Once you've identified the item you'd like to buy, double click on it, and the next page you'll see says, Place a Bid. The Starting Bid will be listed so your bid must be above this number. If your bid is too low, you won't be able to proceed. eBay will let you know the next minimum bid. For example, if a Comic Book is listed at $5 and there are no other bids, a bid of $5.01 is acceptable. Why pay more if you don't have to? If, however, you've been watching an item that has multiple bids, you may wish to wait to bid towards the close of the auction to ensure your bid is successful.
    Also, some sellers offer something called Buy It Now. This means you may buy an item outright (at a set price) without going through the auction process. If you click Buy it Now, the item is yours.
  7. Once you've placed a bid, click Continue. eBay will then Confirm Your Bid. Remember that once you hit this button, you're obligated to buy if you're the highest bidder. You'll get an email that says you're the high bidder, or that your bid is too low and you need to bid higher (if you so choose). Then comes a page that says, You are the Current High Bidder, with your bid amount.
  8. Congratulations, the item is yours. Please pay now! eBay will send you an email within seconds after the auction has ended with this exact header. The email will contain detailed information about the Seller, item name and confirmation number, date and time of the sale, price of the item and payment instructions. There will be a button on this page that says Pay Now.
  9. How do I pay for my items? Other than Visa, Master Card, Discovery or an old-fashioned Money Order, PayPal is eBay's preferred method of payment. It's a system that allows anyone with an email address to securely send and receive online payments using a credit card or bank account. eBay members can use PayPal to quickly and easily pay for items.
  10. If you use PayPal, you must first go to PayPal:, and set up a separate account. PayPal gives a choice of accounts such as personal or business. Much like eBay, you'll need to complete a form with your personal information, then log-in with your PayPal email and password to their secure site.
    If you choose not to use paypal, you simply choose one of the credit card options and enter in your card number.
  11. Once you've registered all bank account information, your items can be paid with a few clicks on eBay.
    First, eBay will send you a page to Review Your Purchase. If you pay with PayPal, they'll send you a page to Complete Your Payment. It's wise to print a copy of the receipt until your item has arrived or in case you need to get in touch with the Seller.
    Buying on eBay may sound complicated, but you'll be surprised - It's actually quite simple!
Selling on eBay

Selling is a bit trickier, as you have to type a written description of what you'd like to sell, and that can take some time. The more detailed you are, the better chance you have of setting your item apart from others and therefore selling at a higher price.

After Registering as a Seller, which involves Creating a Seller's Account - and giving secured credit card information (unless you've previously registered as a buyer) - you can sell your item in five easy steps:

  1. Choose a Category;
  2. Title and Description;
  3. Details and Pictures;
  4. Payment and Shipping details for the Buyer, and
  5. Review all information before you Submit your listing for auction.
To begin:

  • Go to the eBay website: and click on Sell.
  • Click Sell Your Item.
  • Enter your eBay Identification and Password to sign in.
  • Click Sell Item at Online Auction and hit Continue.

  1. Choosing a Category. What type of item are you selling? Browse Categories section and click on one that fits. For example, if you're selling a Versace Evening Gown, click on Clothing. It will then prompt you to a subcategory. Click on Women's Clothing, then select Dresses, then click Continue.
  2. Title and Description. First list your Item Title, such as, "Versace Lace Evening Gown Magenta Size 6." Then go to Item Description to add such specifics as, sleeveless, floor length, worn twice, or, brand new with tags, and so on. The description can be only up to 55 characters, so choose wisely, but use all characters for maximum buyer exposure.
    Omit punctuation marks as they take up too much space. Be clear and descriptive in the wording of what you plan to sell. Use keywords and list such basics as color, size, and type, and always include brand names, as they are a big selling point. The goal is to create interest in your item.
  3. Details and Pictures. You're almost there. Enter your Starting Price. It should be low to encourage bidding activity. There's a button called Buy It Now. If you add this option to your listing, buyers can buy your item at the set price and your auction will close immediately. You'll also need to decide on the length of your auction, anywhere from one to 10 days. Seven days is the most popular auction length, but 10 days is a good choice for higher-priced items as it gives buyers time to find you. eBay charges an additional 40 cents for a 10-day auction.

    If you post a photo, and this is a good selling strategy, your photo file must be either gif or jpg format. There will be a Browse button to allow you to upload up to 12 photos. eBay pays for the first one and charges 15 cents for each one thereafter.

    How do I attach photos to my eBay item? This is easier than you'd think, using a digital camera and uploading it to your computer (or use your neighbor's camera and have the jpg[s] emailed to you). Keep these photos on your computer in a file named eBay Photos or something similar.

    From here, it's no different than attaching a Word Document to an email. Instead of clicking a paperclip symbol, eBay will ask for photos under Browse. Click on Browse, which will lead to your personal documents. Go to eBay Photos (or the name of your file) and attach the photo(s) you'd like to use. Post more than one to properly market your item.
  4. Payment and Shipping Details. As stated earlier, PayPal is the easiest and most secure way to accept payments. Plus, it's the most convenient way for buyers to pay you. But you may choose other forms of payment, including credit card, if you wish.
    Provide clear payment and shipping information, such as shipping costs, and don't forget international shipping costs, which will be expensive. This way, when the buyer clicks on Pay Now, the price will be inclusive, and there will be minimal need for email clarification.
  5. Review and Submit
    Carefully review your listing before you submit to auction. Each of the four sections mentioned above may be edited at this time, so don't panic.
    After this review, click Submit Listing. eBay will send you a page that says your Listing is confirmed.

    To Watch this Item, click on the tab, and it will send you an update when there is activity. When you are in "selling mode," it's also a good idea to check your listing(s) under My eBay on a daily basis. Buyers may submit questions about your item that await your response.
Secret Tips

  • If you want to bid and win online but won't be at your computer to monitor the progress, esnipe ( is the answer. It places a bid for you just eight seconds before an auction ends. If you have access to your computer during the close of an auction, esnipe will also notify you when you're outbid to give you a chance to re-bid. This site charges a small fee, but its automation is convenient and effective.
  • Keep Buyer and Seller Accounts Separate. If someone gives you a bad rating as a buyer and you go to sell, your online eBay reputation will be ruined. Having separate accounts keeps things clean and makes it easy to keep track of your small business.
eBay Fees

When you list an item on eBay, you're charged what is called an Insertion Fee. If the item sells, you are charged a Final Value Fee.

Insertion Fees are based on the starting price of your item and are very small. For example, if an item is $10 - 24.99 you are charged 60 cents; $200 - 499, 3.60. The highest fee is 3.80 for anything listed $500 or more. Final Value Fees are charged only if an item sells. If it sells for $1-25, you pay 5.25 percent of the closing price, and so on. Now you know how eBay makes their money. Buy It Now Fees are: $1-9.99, 5 cents; $10-24.99, 10 cents; $25-49.99, 20 cents; and $50 or more, 25 cents.

You may pay your eBay fees by PayPal, Credit Card, check or money order. Click on My eBay at the top of the home page. Click the Seller Account link to view your account status, and pay using one of the payment methods offered.

Have fun - and good luck!

Lisa Grotts is president of the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary and recently wrote a book on travel etiquette. She loves to shop on eBay and keeps her husband John up late at night during nail-biting auctions.