eBay is a great place for people looking to get rid of their excess junk, and an even better place for bargain hunters looking for a great find. Hard-to-find treasures can be won at the highest bid. Depending on the popularity of the items, bidding wars may spike up prices, or rare items may sell for next to nothing.

I have used eBay online auctions to sell a wedding dress, purchase missing Monopoly tokens, find matching pieces to a rare antique collection, and re-sell gently used electronics and baby clothing. The most profitable eBay transaction for me was the sale of a rare penny – an 1877 Indian Head Penny that sold for $550. Now that’s terrific example of how eBay can bring buyers and sellers together in a win-win situation. The seller made some cash, and the buyer purchased a rare penny that he had been searching for.

However, there are times when a seller’s profit is lost due to common errors made on listing, such as miscalculating postage, not charging enough for an item, miscalculating packaging costs, and other unexpected expenses. This article will shed some light on some common errors eBay buyers and sellers make and how to avoid them.

eBay Buying and Selling Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them
eBay Buying and Selling Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

Avoid Shipping Cost Errors

Errors in shipping costs are common among novice eBay sellers. Calculating the exact shipping costs for an item selling can be a tricky, especially if the item is large or over-sized. There are several steps an eBay seller can take to safeguard themselves against shipping errors:

  • Purchase a shipping scale – This helps to avoid making errors in the weight of an item.
  • Pack before listing – After photographing an item, sellers should pack the item in the box or envelope that it will be shipped in. They should then measure the box or envelope, and weigh the item before calculating the postage. Be sure to add extra postage surcharges for over-sized items.
  • Shipping calculator – eBay’s shipping calculator helps to determine if the postage will cheaper through the U.S. Postal Service or through the United Parcel Service.
  • Flat rate boxes and envelopes – Use flat rate boxes and envelopes whenever possible through the U.S. Postal Service.
  • Ship via media mail – Books and educational materials may often be shipped via media mail though the U.S. postal service, and oftentimes costs a fraction of what priority or parcel post mail costs.
  • Wholesale vendors – Boxes and bubble wrap can get expensive. Purchasing these items from a wholesale vendor, or using the U.S. Post Office’s free flat rate or priority mail boxes can save time and money.
  • Have packages picked up – UPS and the Postal Service will pick up items to be shipped from a seller’s door. The seller just needs to make sure to create an account with both agencies, weigh and print out postage, and prepare the packages for shipping. This will save the seller both time and money.

Auction Snipers

eBay Auction snipers are people who wait to bid on an item until the very last minute or 30 seconds of an auction. These bidders may have placed an earlier bid, or have been just watching the auction. These auction snipers will post their highest bid at the very last minute in hopes of outbidding the current winning bidder, or any other bidding snipers who may also be watching the item. The benefits of becoming an auction bidder are:

  • Element of Surprise – an auction sniper may believe he’s going to win an auction because there has been very little interest generated in an item.
  • Avoid Inflated Prices – Instead of getting into a bidding war, interested buyers wait until the end of the auction and take their chances on a last-minute bid. This ensures the winning bidder gets the lowest possible price on an auction item.
  • The Downside – One downside to this method of bidding is that oftentimes the seller ends up sacrificing a profit. So the best way to combat auction snipers is to place a reserve price on the auction, which sets a minimum price requirement for the item.

Live Auctions and Auction Software

Another added expense in eBay’s live auction software comes from the added features when loading an item onto the site. A seller can go with a very plain listing, or purchase extra features such as more photo slots, a border or frame around an item, and the like. The only problem is that every added extra selling features takes away from the seller’s profit. The best advice in with regards to adding extra selling features on the eBay site, is to only go with the bare necessities unless the item requires more advertising.

Luckily, once an auction has gone live on the site, sellers can cancel an auction item if they feel they’ve made a mistake in the listing such as setting the price too low, or not setting a reserve price. Buyers can contact sellers and ask questions before bidding, and sellers can provide extra pictures and information about an item. It’s always wise to thoroughly research consumer interest and prices before posting an item. Most of the time, selling can be a rewarding experience for both buyers and sellers. Just try to avoid some of the selling pitfalls to ensure the highest profit. Leave feedback once the transaction is complete, and enjoy the benefits of eBay’s live auction site.