In light of the fact that it’s Spring Cleaning time AND because I’ve been spending time with a super-fabulous group of ladies on Facebook selling vintage clothing… some of whom have had more positive experiences than others… I decided to write up a little guide to buying and selling stuff online…since I’ve buying and selling my stuff online for over 2 years and have had really positive experiences.
( Oh, are you looking for my Ebay store? Here it is! )
#1. Open a Paypal account
(There may be similar alternatives to Paypal, but as of this writing I don’t know of any.)
This is easy, all you need is a bank account. You’ll need your bank routing number and whatever account you want to link – savings or checking, etc. Follow the instructions on the website and take note of the restrictions or limits you may have per month. Paypal has a minor fee for all transactions, so keep this in mind when you price items.
Customers don’t need a paypal account to buy through paypal; they accept major credit cards. The email address you sign up with will be the only info your buyers need.
Note your proper shipping address within your PayPal account, for purchases or for returns.
If you want to make an E-commerce site, Paypal has a lot of info on how to do this. You may need a Merchant Account with Paypal if you plan on selling at high-volume.
#2. Open an Ebay Account/Create your Seller Platform
3rd party sites like Ebay and Etsy link to your PayPal account, since Paypal offers seller/buyer protection. Ebay has small fees associated with each sale, and Etsy charges per listing with restrictions on what items can be listed (vintage, handmade, or supplies only)…so keep this in mind when you decide where you want to sell items. Read the website’s instructions, terms and conditions, and their “How To Sell” guide.
You can buy/sell through a private website using Paypal buttons, or make or join a Facebook group among people with common interests (parents, models, friends) to swap or sell items. Be sure to clearly outline or read the rules of buying and selling …. these should be a buyer/seller beware situation, so get tracking info, take care when reading/listing item descriptions, and use Paypal to protect your sales.
You can also just post single items on Craigslist, or within your social network.
Buyers don’t need a PayPal account to buy through Paypal; they accept major credit cards. The email address you sign up with will be the only info your buyers need.
#3. Decide On Shipping
Do this before listing any item, since it will be a major factor in price. Go to USPS.com to make sure of the current rates. You can pick up the shipping boxes or envelopes at your local post office/mailing house, or if you’re a storefront, you might get them delivered/picked up.
Food or perishables have definite limitations on how you can ship and may need cold shipping.
Priority Mail. Within the US, I usually ship clothing/small items USPS Priority Mail, which is a flat rate envelope of $4.95 as of 4/2012. It will fit printed material, a few CDs and DVDs, a rolled-up dress, swimsuit, shirt, or a pair of pants folded very flat.
Shoes or larger items are usually a medium flat rate box for $10.95. USPS also has Tyvek Priority Mail envelopes for excessively bulky clothing, but you’d have to price that at the PO or use a postal scale for the cost since these are NOT flat rate.
Because it gets tricky and expensive, I only do international shipping on a case by case basis, for that US First Class International is cheapest. On Ebay, on items where I think it’s worth it to sell internationally, I plug in my zip code and Ebay calculates the shipping on their end. Not on Ebay, you’d have to confer with your buyer to figure out the price beforehand.
Either price items with free shipping (with the shipping factored into the price) or state the flat ship rate and the limits. I usually state something like: Ships within ___ days from ___ (zip code) to (country or worldwide) for $____)
Keep in mind that packages over a certain weight that are not metered need to be hand-mailed at the PO and not dropped into a box (for security reasons). It may be 12 oz? Check with USPS.com on the weight restriction. I always meter or drop off, for this reason.
Tracking and Insurance. I offer complimentary tracking on orders of $50 or more, this is about 70 cents, so if you want to track everything you sell, factor that into the sale price. Unless it’s an item of extreme value or at the customer’s request, I don’t get a delivery confirmation, since if they have to sign for it, it’s a pain in the ass for everyone.
I also offer insurance for half the value of the item on orders over $100. This is not tracking, though, tracking is separate. The number on an insurance label is just a claim number if it gets lost.
Ship in a way that accommodates your life. If you can only get to the post office on Saturday mornings, allow yourself 3-5 business days turnaround in your listings, making sure your auctions end on Thursdays or Wednesdays. Or, note that items ship out Saturdays in your group postings.
#4. List your item
Now that you know what the item will cost to list and ship, you can post!
Follwing the Rules.
Is it a specialty group, such as for children, pets, or pin-up items? Is it handmade or vintage only (such as Etsy)? Does the site not allow knock-off designer items (such as Ebay)? Honor the group or website, read the terms and rules about posting, and follow them as best you can. This helps you avoid ugly situations. The point is not only to sell items, but to network or get positive feedback as well.
To get an idea of what items go for, Ebay has a feature that helps you price. You can also google the items and see what they retail(ed) for. Price to sell, but leave a few dollars wiggle room for sales if you need to later. Re-listing an item as REDUCED or SALE is a buyer incentive. Don’t forget to include shipping and any seller/paypal fees you might incur.
Picture what you’d want to know about the item. Always note the size, condition, and color of each item, plus the material if you can. If there are ANY defects, take a picture and describe. If there’s a smell (like with vintage items) note this as well, and suggest a dry-cleaning. If you have pets or smoke, you should disclose this in the listing, or if you have a smoke-free or pet-free home, this is a plus. Note designer names or details if you feel it’s a selling point.
If you DON’T know enough details about an item (not sure of the vintage, or origin) it’s okay to state this or simply not provide the information.
If it’s an item that would otherwise be large (miniatures or doll items), or which does not have a standard size (such as a handmade toy) you should clearly state this and even include a picture of the item with something next to it for scale, such as a quarter or dollar bill. (Once I bought a vintage menorah online for Hanukkah, only to have it arrive and be 6″ tall. Stonehenge. )
When selling clothing online, the chances of returns or try-ons are slim. Therefore, take measurements (with garment lying flat, and make sure your readers know to double this).
Use care when stating small/medium/large. A “Medium” can fit differently on many builds or within many different garments, since fit models for clothing can be different builds. If the retailer or website where you got the item has a size chart, include the link or write out the measurements they go by. If it runs small, boxy, or large, note that.
If you are going by size number, make sure to note if it’s petites, misses/juniors, women’s, maternity, bridal, vintage, or european, since all of these differ. A size 6 in bridal can be as small as a size 2 in street. A size 8 in modern women’s can be a size 12 or 14 in vintage sizing.
Take well-lit, focused photos. Front, back and sides, plus any details of interest or areas of damage. If you want to provide more than one photo per item and don’t want to pay for the additional Ebay gallery listings, consider opening a Flikr or other photo-sharing account to show more pictures. In the HTML editing field for each post, you can include a hyperlink for each photo or photo set.
Stuff for Kids and Pets.
If you are selling toys or items for children or pets, you must specify safety issues or recalls. If items are handmade, state any allergens or choking hazards and be ultra-specific on the age group appropriate and materials used.
#5. Packing & Shipping Out
You should ensure clothes are as clean as possible and lint/hair-free. Fold or roll them so they stay as fresh as possible during shipping.
Package your items with care, using bubble wrap, newspaper, or other material to make sure it doesn’t slide around. Include a card and a note to make it personal if you have the time, and if selling on Ebay, make sure to leave positive feedback after they pay and note you’d appreciate feedback as well. If you like, include a business card or two.
Ship promptly and within your allotted time frame. Communicate with your buyer to let them know when items ship and provide the tracking if you have it.
#6. Buyer/Seller Etiquette
After the transaction, leave prompt feedback, either through Ebay or within the group/personal note. Be gracious, polite, and mature. If someone has a problem, try to accommodate them directly or as much as you can. If you bought an item with a problem in the description, try to be fair and calm and work with a seller to resolve it. Act as you would buying and selling in person.
www.paypal.com PayPal Payment and $ Transfer, Merchant Services
www.ebay.com Buy/Sell/Auction Anything
www.esty.com Etsy Buy/Sell Handmade or Vintage
www.craigslist.org Online Classifieds – by City
www.facebook.com Facebook Social Network
www.flikr.com Photo Sharing
www.photobucket.com Photo Sharing
www.usps.com United States Postal Service (Priority Mail)
www.ups.com United PARCEL Service