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Can eBay Make You Rich? 235

adamlazz writes "For 11 years, eBay has been a great resource to buy or sell goods without leaving your computer. And with many stories of people getting rich exclusively from doing business on eBay, NewsFactor has decided to go in depth with these stories, and explore what it takes to really make your million on eBay. From the article: 'A tiered system designed to reward qualified sellers, the PowerSeller program is by invitation only, and has a number of criteria that must be maintained to keep the designation. At the lowest level, Bronze, a PowerSeller must average at least $1,000 in sales per month for three consecutive months; have an account in good standing; and get an overall feedback rating of 100, with at least 98 percent of the comments marked as positive.'"
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Can eBay Make You Rich?

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  • by 0racle ( 667029 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @02:39AM (#15654913)
    If you have enough of something people want at the right price then why couldn't you get rich selling things on EBay? It's not really any different then selling things in a shop or through your own website.
    • by TWX ( 665546 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @02:46AM (#15654937)
      It's like anything else. It's a little bit of creativity, a little bit of business savvy, work, and time. For those of us who are too lazy to go through this route to make our way there are 9-5 jobs. There are those whose job is solely to buy wholesale and sell retail, and they've been there since the day of the trader with his horse-drawn cart rolling into town. eBay just tweaks the rules a bit.

      I don't personally want to use something that could leave me high-and-dry if something goes awry, and I'm too lazy to research aspects that mitigate the risks. So, I don't eBay. I work a state-level IT job. Not a lot of reward, but not a lot of risk either, and I don't have to worry about stability.
      • by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:38AM (#15655451)

        I was running my own business up until early this year and I can confirm it is possible to make (some) money on eBay. I have come to see eBay as the business equivalent of a hidden reef for shipping. At first glance it appears to be a good way to get to customers and make some money but once you have taken into account all the factors the profit margin is tiny. I worked out that if I did nothing but pack boxes all day I could just about turn a profit over all.

        The problem is that every company is trying to grab their portion of the market and they all do it by having the lowest price. There were times when I would look at items for sale and consider bidding on them myself because they were going for less than I could get them from my supplier (and I felt I had a good deal from my supplier). Six months or a year after first appearing most companies have vanished, presumably because they have burnt through their seed money trying to grab a portion of the market.

        I'm not saying this situation is wrong, it's capitalism in action and it's great for the shoppers. It is, however, causing a lot of businesses to go to the wall and using up a lot of people life savings on route.

        • by Destoo ( 530123 ) <> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @10:49AM (#15656122) Homepage Journal
          As far as I can see, the money is in the shipping.

          Companies like UPS and probably others can "markup" your shipping cost.
          So even if you see the UPS invoice, which will show what the send wants to see as "shipping cost", the real cost could be lower and the sender will get his cut at the end of the month/quarter/year.
          • Some sellers on ebay actually sell 'shipping' because of the bulk discounts they get. Company A ships a hell of a lot of stuff and gets a nice discount for it. You pay Company A slightly less than it would cost you as a private citizen to have UPS/DHL/who ever collect your parcel and deliver it - and Company A gets them (UPS/DHL/who ever) to pick it up from your place. You get cheaper delivery and Company A gets even bigger discounts as they 'ship' even more goods that month.
            • by penguinrenegade ( 651460 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:57AM (#15656393)
              Two words:

              Yahoo! Auctions.

              Yahoo! does not charge ANYTHING to list, sell or buy. When enough people start switching to Yahoo! auctions, it will put eBay out of business. Yahoo! ought to actually start a new site, use the same software to run it, and advertise it on television the way eBay does with their site. eBay also actually has a contest with the US Postal Service - there are actually ads in the Post Office to get people to enter an eBay contest.

              Add to that the fact that PayPal (owned by eBay) charges you a fee on the TOTAL price (including shipping & handling) - you end up paying eBay TWICE.

              It's time to stop paying eBay and start using services that actually make sense for the seller.

              Hopefully Yahoo! will purchase StormPay or any of the other online payment services, keep the fees low there and take down the eBay behemoth.
        • If you were actually producing (or finding) the stuff yourself, you might have done better.

          Discount stores and mail-order retailers are flooding the market, but (some) independent artists, antique dealers, rare-book dealers, etc are doing quite well.
          • by squoozer ( 730327 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:18PM (#15657454)

            I quite agree. It became apparent quite quickly that there was little money to be made as a reseller. I'm not at all surprised - it is what I expected the Internet to do. Manufacturers needed distributers and resellers before the Internet because they couldn't hope to reach all their customers any other way. That's not so much the case anymore. I imagine we will see more and more manufacturers selling their own products direct to customers via the web.

            My next venture will actually involve me manufacturing something. I just have to decide what :o)

          • Discount stores and mail-order retailers are flooding the market, but (some) independent artists, antique dealers, rare-book dealers, etc are doing quite well.

            Yeah, the key is to find large quantities of stuff that's cheap because the seller has no market. A friend of mine trolls yard sales and library sales for books. Hit a sale at the end of the day and they'll sell you whatever is left for a dollar a grocery bag full just to get rid of 'em. Given a large enough pile of obscure books, all listed for $5-$

      • I work a state-level IT job. Not a lot of reward, but not a lot of risk either, and I don't have to worry about stability.

        In other news, massive layoff of state-level IT workers due to outsourcing. Film at 11.

      • It's like anything else. It's a little bit of creativity, a little bit of business savvy, work, and time.

        People have been going into business for themselves since prehistory. eBay is just a variation on a theme, it's very similar to opening up retail shop in a strip mall. It has a few advantages that make it more convenient/less risky than the shop at the mall - you don't need to lease the space, there's more driveby traffic that might actually be looking for your product, you can expand without leasing m
    • When the profit margin on the products you're selling is constant and eBay constantly raises the fees, then no, you can't.
      • by MrNougat ( 927651 ) <ckratsch@gmail . c om> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:21AM (#15655656)
        When the profit margin on the products you're selling is constant and eBay constantly raises the fees, then no, you can't.

        If your profit margin was constant while eBay was raising fees, you would have to be raising your selling price (so that the increased fees were not cutting into the profit margin).

        In other words, yes, you can. If eBay raises its fees, then you raise your price (or reserve). If you are still unable to compete in the marketplace, then you need to figure out how to spend less capital on something else (because, if you're unable to compete, then someone is succeeding, and you need to do what they're doing).

        More generally, when the market changes, businesses must change to keep up. Unless you're the RIAA/MPAA, in which case you can wave your arms around and sue people a lot.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @03:14AM (#15655014)
      Because we vastly overestimate the intelligence of people. Some idiot sold a million pixels on his website for a million dollars, but we sit here thinking people expect something that's, well, worth something ...

      Instead, all they want is pointless, worthless crap, or space on a giant banner ad site no sane person would ever visit save out of morbid curiousity after seeing an article carried by the AP. And no, I'm not about to link to the wretched thing.

      Thus, the formula appears to be:
      1. Invent completely something idiotic, yet popular[*]
      2. ???
      3. Profit

      [*] These traits are entirely too compatible. For example, take Adam Sandler or Jim Carrey...
      • by mjh ( 57755 ) <mark.hornclan@com> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:25AM (#15655670) Homepage Journal
        Instead, all they want is pointless, worthless crap, or space on a giant banner ad site no sane person would ever visit save out of morbid curiousity after seeing an article carried by the AP.

        Why do you care? If the thing that I want seems pointless to you, what do you care? I'd bet that you purchase some things that seem pointless to me. But the advantage of me earning my money and you earning your money is that we each get to decide what to do with it, even if it seems pointless to someone else.

        Just out of curiosity, how would you propose that purchasing be done? Are you suggesting that we prevent people from purchasing what you think of as pointless crap? How would you implement that? What if that enforcement agency looked at slashdot, saw all of the -1 rated posts and concluded that this was a pointless purchase? Don't you think that you'd feel your freedom was impinged upon? Don't you think that if you enforce purchasing controls, that ALL people who aren't allowed to purchase something they want (even if it's "pointless crap") will also feel that their freedom was impinged upon?

        Personally, I don't see any way of solving the pointless crap problem without dramatically curtailing individual freedom. IMHO, I'm happy to live with the problem of folks buying "pointless crap" if it means we get to keep individual freedom.

    • eBay allows someone to reach a very large market very quickly. If someone can find the right product cheaply and sell it on at a large margin to customers who normally pay higher margins to specialist retailers then eBay is an easy, fast and low risk (think of the bank loans you'd need to set up a high street store) way to start buying and selling.
    • by 1iar_parad0x ( 676662 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:27AM (#15655185)
      If you're bringing in $100,000+ per month in sales, you probably should get your own site. EBay is great for the 'small-time' or 'early-stage' seller. It's a robust engine that can handle heavy traffic and activity and is reasonably secure. However, if you've got sales as high as mentioned in the article, I can't imagine how EBay could provide an adequate solution for you. If you sell big ticket items, you probably want some binding contractual arrangement. On the other hand, if you have an incredibly high volume of sales, you probably want to better cater the shopper's experience and would have an E-commerce site of your own. Not to mention the fact that you'd need some internal system (even an Access database) to track all of your sales and shipping data. Maybe EBay's API allows you to do some of these things. I'd certainly be happy to hear about anyone experiences with it.
      • by pthor1231 ( 885423 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:30AM (#15655313)
        It seems to me that some of these people that do have a high volume of sales do have e-commerce sites, but use eBay as really cheap advertisement. Most regular people look to eBay as one of the first sources when they buy stuff. If the actual sale amount is cheap, then the percentage cut eBay takes isn't much, and the listing fees are constant if you do a high enough volume, which amounts to have much reduced cost of hosting, advertising, developing, and you reach a huge audience.
      • by billcopc ( 196330 ) <> on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:53AM (#15655478) Homepage
        A big eBay seller opening their own independent site could be the death of them. eBay is like the super mall, it brings in a whackload of potential customers and everyone's marketing efforts sort-of cooperate in that environment. i.e. if your competitor's ad brings in people to the mall, they will also see your store and maybe you'll get a sale too, for "free". Just as if someone's looking at one eBayer's item list, then glances down at the "related items" table they might come across one of your sales.

        The prime difference when it comes to eBay, and the one that makes it horribly dangerous, is that very same easy access to other shops. There is ZERO customer loyalty on eBay, people just check your feedback once they have already found what they want. You could be selling some doodad at the same price as a competitor, but that other fellow may charge a dollar less for shipping and you've just lost the sale. People come to the real mall with a specific store in mind, then walk around the rest to see if there's anything else they want. People come to ebay with a specific product in mind, and they will compare everyone's offerings to get the best deal. It's the Walmart effect, automated and unsupervised.
    • If you have enough of something people want at the right price then why couldn't you get rich selling things on EBay? It's not really any different then selling things in a shop or through your own website.

      Because once you start to make money, people will notice and undercut your price. Some will sell below cost, because they just want to move stuff. So unless you have something unique, with a lock on the supply, you can't keep a fat profit margin. That's the difference with shops; you're competing with t

      • I don't buy it. There is no advantage to 'gaining marketshare' by going below cost, because on ebay there is like 0 loyalty. People log in and buy the cheapest thing available and log out, unless the cheapest thing available is sold by someone with horrible feedback. This isn't Microsoft pushing the xbox to make room in the market for the 360.
    • by stuartkahler ( 569400 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @11:13AM (#15656221)
      The problem with ebay is that most sellers don't make their own product. So if you find something that sells at even a $5 profit after all expenses, you either kill your own sales by flooding your own market, or someone else undercuts you at a $4 profit. Any way you slice it, there is usually someone else willing to sell the same item for a smaller profit; eventually, everyone reaches a profit margin of zero or less.

      I've told the following to many, many people who wanted to sell on ebay as a primary source of income:
      1. Find alternate sources of cheap product (e.g. buy used cars locally and sell them on ebay) or deal in unique/collectible items (e.g. movie props from the studio you work at or jewlery from your pawn shop). You can't make money buying at wholesale because your competitors are doing the same thing. Before you know it, you'll be listing at $1 over cost and spending 12 hours a day packing items and wondering if McDonalds is hiring.
      2. Have a secondary revenue stream with reasonably profitable addons. e.g. If you sell electronics, have model specific batteries, memory cards, cables, etc. that you offer at 50% over your wholesale cost.
      3. If you're doing enough sales to reach powerseller (even bronze) status, you should quit ebay and sell directly through your own website.
      4. Your reputation is your only valuable asset. Even 98% is a terrible feedback score. Buyers only leave negatives when they've been badly screwed or to be jerks (these can be removed). If you lose 10% on your selling prices because of your feedback, that's probably your entire profit margin. BTW, don't overcharge on shipping, it just pisses people off and reduces your final selling price by an equal amount.
      5. Don't openly connect your local store to your ebay ID. People will expect you to take returns at the shop, and your shop customers will expect you to sell to them at your ebay prices. This assumes that you're selling regular inventory rather than closeouts.
      6. Be overly descriptive in your item descriptions and check your spelling. I once sold a used soundtrack CD for an obscure Anime title for 3X the going price (reg $15, new) because I listed the composer. People searching to expand their collections will pay top dollar. Typos will cost you a ton of money because prospective buyers won't see your item. Ur l331 $p33|{ |$ @ L1@b1L1TY.
      7. Even after all of the above, you'll quickly realize that ebay is only good for two things: liquidating excess product at cost or building your customer base.

      I used to sell on ebay a LOT. I built my feedback score up to over 1000 100% positive with bronze power-seller status, and eventually quit ebay alltogether. I quickly realized that between paypal and ebay, my fees on a $10 item were about $1.50 for a no-frills listing. I was then adding about $0.20 for a service to streamline my auction listings. All this for the privelage of selling at rock bottom prices. I now consider ebay useful only as a glorified garage sale (it's original intent).
      • 6. Be overly descriptive in your item descriptions and check your spelling.

        As an adjunct to this rule, I would suggest the following:

        The title should be carefully crafted and contain terse, properly spelled descriptive terms that people are likely to search for, as most people search by title first. "WOW!", "RARE!", and "L@@K!" in the title just make you look like an idiot.

        I occasionally search for the terms "WOW!", "RARE!", and "L@@K!", but only for entertainment at the seller's expense.

      • 4. Your reputation is your only valuable asset. Even 98% is a terrible feedback score. Buyers only leave negatives when they've been badly screwed or to be jerks (these can be removed).

        No, those comments can't be removed. Ebay claims they can, however they really don't do much about it. I had excellent feedback for the longest time, then I bought an item from one of the mega-sellers. I followed the sellers instructions after winning the auction, paying promptly. The seller claimed he would email me a con

    • Well, for one reason, when you have a shop, you probably don't have 100 other sellers on the same block selling the exact same product (some of them based in areas with a lower cost of living that allows them to undercut you on overhead). You have do do more than offer a product that people WANT, you have to offer something UNIQUE that people want (something that not everyone else can easily sell too).


  • Better question (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @02:42AM (#15654925) Homepage
    A better question than "can you get rich on ebay?" is "is getting rich on ebay worth the time, boredom, and effort?". I think the answer is no, at least for me, as there are more interesting things I would rather be doing (see sig.).
    • A better question than "can you get rich on ebay?" is "is getting rich on ebay worth the time, boredom, and effort?". I think the answer is no, at least for me, as there are more interesting things I would rather be doing (see sig.).

      It depends on what your goal is. I don't think you can get as rich as Bill Gates is by dealing on Ebay but you I know a few people who earn a living selling merchandize on sites like Ebay. If you happen to have a small corner shop that sells, say sports goods, photographers sup
      • by Umbral Blot ( 737704 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:11AM (#15655279) Homepage
        Well if you are already committed to physically selling and buying items as a way to make money then you are certainly right, there is no reason not to use ebay. What I was pointing out is that there is no "free" way to make money. Beyond ebay's transaction fees you must also commit a decent amount of time and energy making it work and moving enough inventory to support yourself. I think that in the eyes of many doing this kind of job is so boring that it isn't worth the money, and that we would rather be doing something else even if it pays less.
        • What I was pointing out is that there is no "free" way to make money.

          I agree completely it's a bit like this whole daytrading fad, it's the couchpotatoe's dream, making money whilst sitting on your arse and despite the fact that you have only basic education and no specialist knowledge of economics. There are certainly day traders, professional bank or investment firms employees and some savvy amateur traders, that know what they are doing but one gets the feeling that for alot of the amateur day traders wh
  • by pookemon ( 909195 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @02:48AM (#15654944) Homepage
    I'm sure the creator(s) of ebay are probably fairly well off.
  • Well (Score:5, Insightful)

    by thealsir ( 927362 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @02:48AM (#15654945) Homepage
    There are a bunch of spammers selling tons of things in various uncontextually related categories so they get the most bid. They have polluted ebay with noise, and it seems little is being done to stop them. It makes searching for some products (especially specialized ones) such a pain.

    "Getting rich on ebay" is akin to "keyword spamming with listings."

    There is a group that makes money legitimately. However, that group is not insanely rich.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @02:59AM (#15654972)
    If anything goes wrong for an Ebay transaction and you can't settle it with the seller, you may be out of pocket for at least the cost of providing 3rd party "impartial" proof on a company letterhead that there is indeed something wrong with the item you received, and if you're outside the US, you may to have to fax it at your expense to the US. On a low value transaction, it just isn't worth it and you're not going to get your money back...and this is if you pay by Paypal. One thing though. If you pay by credit card and you return the item if its not as described (again at your own cost) you might be able to get your credit card company to issue a chargeback.

    Now, the only reason that a seller can't sell 100 low value items, then ship turnips instead is that it'd affect their feedback score.

    I use to buy lots on Ebay until I had a problem with a low value transaction. I'm not planning to use Ebay again.

    I'm posting anonymously because even though what I am saying is true, I wouldn't want Ebay or Paypal to initiate legal action as prooving that I hadn't slandered them would cost a mint.
    • I ordered a 2 gig "SD" flash memory card from a Hong Kong vendor. The price for the card was $47.95 (au) ... the transaction appeared to me as $49.95 INCLUDING postage. I clicked "buy". It became apparent after accepting the transaction that the card was $47.95 and the POSTAGE was $49.95 on top. A total of $97.90. The postage was excessive considering the price of the article and I questioned the vendor by email. The only response that I received (multiple times) was "You bid - now you must pay - thanks" re
  • YES! (Score:5, Funny)

    by jlarocco ( 851450 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @03:02AM (#15654985) Homepage

    Haven't you seen the infomercial? That guy's made millions! And it couldn't be on an infomercial if it weren't true, right?

  • by Anonymous Coward
    "Gimme $2000 or I drop your posative feedback below 98%!"

    What's to stop someone from using cheap chinese labour from making thousands of bogus accounts just for blackmailing ebayers?
    • Nothing, really. Although ebay wants the name of your unborn first child in addition to a ton of other related financial information. If someone in organized crime wanted to do it, it would be almost trivial.
      Problem is that for the rest of us - IIRC, only one feedback counts per account (per time period?) - this was different in the begining, until people started boosting their feedback with false purchases (a week? ;)

      That all said, I hate the vultures on ebay who charge bullshit shipping prices and I've bi
      • Actually... (Score:4, Interesting)

        by way2trivial ( 601132 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:58AM (#15655593) Homepage Journal
        in the real 'beginning' feedback was not transactional.

        I have a collection hobby, and I actively pursued ebay for more items of my hobby

        when I saw weak or less than informative listings in their infancy I'd write the sellers, correct the name or spelling or whatever I knew about the piece to help the seller do a little better.. I have two feedbacks in my history that have no item #-- just sellers who bounced a thank you...

        'course, my motivation was- folks who wanted the same series of toys would have less cash for the ones where I didn't help the sellers out....

  • by mano_k ( 588614 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @03:21AM (#15655041) Homepage

    Realy, I learned a lot about the value of things by selling on Ebay!

    Sell something realy good and expensive - nobody will bid.

    Sell the contents of your wastebasket - undreamed of profit!

    • by thomasj ( 36355 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:00AM (#15655129) Homepage
      I know, I know. It is humourous. And I laughed too.

      ... But there is a grain of serious truth in this: If you value a good you are selling, chances are that it is rated too high. If you sell what you consider junk, chances are that you provide more value to somebody else than the good provides you.

      This the marginal law. If I have a thousand coconuts, the last coconut provides me very little value. On the other hand somebody without coconuts at all would want to give you good money for the first coconut, less for the next ones, and very little for the 100th coconut. But as economy works, there will only be one price: The price at which the seller would think the price of the last sold coconut is still fine, and the buyer thinks the same of the last bought coconut. And that is the marginal principle. If you try to sell something where the marginal value of the (one piece of) good you are selling is higher than any buyer would have of buying it, there is no provision for a trade.

      So, yes, funny but more than that.

    • Sell stuff you don't want/need/like and buy stuff you do want/need/like.

    • Why not take it to the next level? All you need is a toast grill and an ample supply of cheese...
  • by Nefarious Wheel ( 628136 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @03:22AM (#15655045) Journal
    Why does this sound like Amway?

    Tiered sales .... um, hint #1. Invitation only, hint #2. Minimum sell to achieve "privileged" status

    Can't I just buy the box of soap and go home?

    • It's more of a cult really, where the leaders take 10% in ebay and paypal fees.

      They show their "conventions" on CNBC sometimes. 1000's of middle aged, overweight women (and some men). Sadly, the thought that poped into my head was "wow, that crowd makes a Star Trek convention look like 90210."

      If any other organization was taking 10% of your income, they'd be called the mob, and arrested for shaking down merchants :)
      • If any other organization was taking 10% of your income, they'd be called the mob, and arrested for shaking down merchants :)

        There's an organization here that takes about 30% of my income, and there's nothing I can do about it. The locals call this organization, "the government". Instead of calling it a fee, they call it "taxes".

        Unfortunately we can't arrest them, they hold all the arresting powers and they aren't likely to use it against themselves.

        Help us...
    • Sounds like any average club party. Privileged status is equivalent to girls & cocaine on the second floor.

      *reviews parent*

      Or maybe you mean a whites only party?

      *reviews again*

      No wait I get it. You're anti-communist(TM).

      *reviews again*

      You're killing me here. Have mercy. What do you mean? Western politics? Oriental fairy tales? You ruined my day.
    • Amway, Herbalife, Rainbow Vacuum cleaners, the list is endless. What is interesting is that some of these "bronse/silver/gold recruit a marketeer" schemes are banned in large parts of the world. While I am not familiar with the actual variety used by eBay it will be interesting if it will stand to the scrutiny of European consumer law. It is quite vicious on the subject in some of the member states.
    • Tiered sales ....

      Well, you've just shot your argument down right there with the first two words. Recruiting new members to sell stuff is not part of PowerSelling. The invitation only comes after you've already sold stuff on your own, with nobody else in the program making money off of you on your way there.

  • by Skythe ( 921438 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @03:30AM (#15655064)
    My friends mum does quite well for herself on ebay. She buys clothing from op shops and sells them on ebay for higher prices, usually ironing/washing and restoring the clothes herself if needed. She makes at least a few hundred a month, cant really remember how much, but she does very good for herself for a mother of 5 kids.
    • A few hundred a month is doing quite well? I suppose it's better than nothing, but with five kids that probably only pays for groceries for a week. Factor in the time and expense it takes to acquire and repair the clothing plus fulfill orders and you have to wonder if it's even working out to minimum wage.
    • It is a mistake to call a few hunderd a month "doing well." Certainly that is not a living wage in most (all ??) of the western world.

      My cousin does the same (buying used locally, and selling on ebay for a small profit). While he makes a couple hundred a month, he could easily make more money for less work. He considers it a hobby that pays money. It can be argued that the auctions are a form of gambling with a small risk and reward. There is a thrill when a bidding war starts. There is a risk that a buyer
  • by Bing Tsher E ( 943915 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @03:49AM (#15655100) Journal
    As is the case with any flea market, there are going to be people who think like 'businesspeople' and make loads of money from the operation. But for the rest of us it's a good place to exchange cool stuff with each other easily and with less hassle than in many other markets or forums.

    The trick is to figure out who the 'hustlers' are so they can be avoided like pariahs. eBay can and is a peer-to-peer environment for many of us. I get cool older/odd/unobtainable tech there and don't regret participating in the least.

    Anyway, most of the 'hustle' people are similar to the same sort of people at the flea market. Their 'booths' suck.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @03:50AM (#15655102)
    I used to sell on ebay, as a full time business. In antiques, collectibles, and later on, pick ups at auctions.

    While this article alerts the viewer to the hard work necessary to get a profit, I feel the title alone makes people think it's more promising than other ventures. I say no.

    For me, ebay was booming goldmine from 1997-2001 for items in the mainly sub-$500 range. Back then, I generally got the prices I wanted for many items and once in a while something skyrocketed in price beyond my dreams. In fact, many items I could not sell locally for years found an interest buyer on ebay. About 75-85% of what I listed sold. Better yet, people emailed me after auctions to make offers and I often sold another 5-10% on the remaining 15-25% or so. Ebay fees were also reasonable. The one downside was the shipping. Many people don't realize it the time it takes to package 5-10 items and ship them off (my items were fragile) including filling out insurance/delivery confirmation tags by hand. It take a good chunk out of your day. Also, as paypal was not the norm back then, cashing checks or money orders took quite a bit of time. Remember, I was a mom and pop operation, I could not automate these processes beyond a certain point.

    To make a long story short, what happened?

    1. After this period, ebay has clamped down. Every single fee has been raised, doubled, tripled, or more in price. Items that used to cost 50 cents to simply list now cost over $2.00 to list in some cases. More and more pay-for "options" were added, which wouldn't be so bad but they had the effect of making competition stand out more - so on one level with seller's it became a cold-war style game on who could outspend each other. The "gallery option" of a small thumbnail (which is almost ubiquitous in some categories) added (now) $.35 cents PER auction.

    2. This all sounds like chumpchange, but my ratio of auctions sold went down, over time, to 25-40% selling rate. Worse yet, I hardly get after auction offers, as ebay clamped down on emailing members outside the control of their system a few years back. Also, the prices I had to accept were declining and going below what I actually could get locally for them. The fees started killing me. The profit margin was killing me. The shipping was killing me (if you ever see a guy with cheap prices on ebay but expensive shipping, that's because shipping is his profit margin, ebay doesn't collect fees/shipping off of that besides Paypal).

    3. Everybody pays now with paypal. It is great and convenient but another expense.

    4. The downswing in sales had several causes. One of which is because of ebay's success as a marketplace, every started selling there. While the amount of sellers went up exponentially by my estimate since 2000, the amount of buyers went up only linearly, creating a glut in that market. By looking at certain listings, it also is apparent to me that many must be or take sellers that work under minimum wage of the US. Some of that is because they are foreign sellers. It's fine that they sell, but I can't compete at their undercut prices - just a fact of life. They don't have the expenses I do. It's ebay's form of outsourcing.

    I know other companies that had an ebay branch that have been losing money for years by creating too many listings, dazzled by revenue, but not checking all the expenses or just hoping to "build an audience" until they become profitable (customer loyalty is not strong here if prices differ more than a few percent). One such colleague just stopped after posting over 200 auctions daily for the last 7 years in addition to his regular business (he has workers, not that he sat there posting himself). After all this time, he ran the numbers and just noticed it did not make sense. After paying his workers, he was actually losing money. (The reason he never caught this was that the workers were considered as a expense on the whole company before, not that branch - he didn't seperate expenses). He just quit
    • Well said, I too ran a mainly eBay business and found exactly the same problems. The nickle and dime death is the biggest problem. The fees are at the level where there is virtually no profit. I gave what I feel was very good service and I had people coming back on a fairly regular basis. Even so I would often be making £30 sale. By profit I mean what's left after shipping and fees. That £1 then had to pay for premises and other business expenses and provide me with a wage. I struggle to see how

    • One reason I never really wanted to start my own business on eBay is some of the things you stated.

      It seems like you need to really work hard in order to make any real money off the profits.

      The biggest kicker is that after all is said and done and you want out, you work so hard to build up a company that you can't sell. I know some people who's whole business model revolves around their future sale of their business that they worked so hard to build.

      There never really seemed to have an end in eBay.

      Maybe i'm
  • Advertise non-existent laptop computers or high-end bicycles on eBay. Ask for payment by Western Union money transfer, then scram. It seems to have worked for a number of people in the past, anyway ;-)
  • by Britz ( 170620 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:16AM (#15655165)
    Prices are very low on ebay. For someone selling stuff on an auction site you never know how much you are going to make on an item. But you can be sure of one thing. Ebay will make more on that sale than you will.
    • by loraksus ( 171574 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:44AM (#15655342) Homepage
      Prices are very low on ebay

      That is because they are often stolen goods.
      fenceBay is the greatest thing for theives since the invention of the crowbar. It's like a pawnshop that doesn't care and finds you buyers across the country to avoid those pesky "hey, Bill, that laptop you just bought looks an awful lot like my stolen one" moments.
      All for the low, low, price of about 10% of purchase price (which is actually quite good, dishonest pawnshops will charge you far more and will give you up if the 50 come looking for you)

      Now, granted, some people troll fatwallet and slickdeals looking for bargains, buy up all the stock and list it before it is even delivered, but you really can't say with a straight face that ebay isn't used by a good number of theives.
      • A friend's husband sells high-end tires and wheels, just a cottage industry for him. Someone broke into one of his storage lockers and stole some wheels. Fortunately, the thieves were stupid enough to post the merchandise on ebay, complete with photos that included shots of the boxes with the victim's address on them.

        But of course nothing beats this story: []
  • by rapiddescent ( 572442 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:27AM (#15655187)
    Here in the UK, the HMRC (Her Majesty's Revenue & Customs) have automated programs running on eBay to see if individuals are running businesses and not declaring the VAT (Value Added Tax, 17.5%) from the revenue. They target everyone, but chase up on anyone selling more than about £60,000 (US$110,000) worth of new goods, or more than £60,000 of profit on second hand goods. Also, they are keeping an eagle eye out for those not declaring the income from ebay activities on their tax forms.

    See an explanation here. []

    Also, eBay makes UK users fill out an anti-money-laundering form and performs an additional verification once a paypal account receives £4500 (US$8300). This probably goes into the UK Gov anti money laundering and terrorist profiling systems.

    Most IT folks who run home businesses should structure them carefully, because they could be subject to higher rate tax of 40% on profits plus 17.5% VAT. If you setup your ebay/paypal account as a limited company then you will only pay 25% tax and VAT can be paid as an offset percentage (agree with tax man) between 9 and 17.5%.


  • by XNormal ( 8617 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:29AM (#15655193) Homepage
    Why this focus on a few people getting rich? In general, the economic benefit of the internet is spread across many people. Customers that have a slightly cheaper alternative one click away. Suppliers that gain access to markets that they could not access effectively otherwise. The overall effect on the economy is enourmous but only a few people are getting really rich.

    How many are making a decent living off eBay sales? How many people's lives have been transformed by the ability to give up their day job and do what they like while getting paid for it?

    For example this artist [] who left her job as a web designer nad is now making lampwork glass beads and selling them on eBat.

    Disclaimer: I know her personally and this is a bit of promotion - but I think it's a valid example because it would be difficult for someone living in a remote place to have this kind of access to the markets that appreciate her art without eBay.
    • Why this focus on a few people getting rich?

      So that more people sell stuff on ebay (greed, you see). eBay would love to get more people listing stuff because they take about 10% of the purchase price.
      • So that more people sell stuff on ebay (greed, you see). eBay would love to get more people listing stuff because they take about 10% of the purchase price.

        If you don't want eBay's services you are welcome to hold an auction directly on your personal web site.

    • by AudioEfex ( 637163 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @08:07AM (#15655624)
      Making millions? Hard. Making enough to live on? Not so hard if you have a mind for business and something to sell that isn't your moldy used clothes from the basement.

      I do it just about every week (make a living off of eBay). I left a shitty office job with a decent chunk of savings in my bank account, deciding to live off of my savings until I needed to find another shitty office job to subsidize my writing and art ambitions.

      It's a couple of months later, and with the exception of one week where I had to take a few bucks out of savings, eBay has paid for my gas, groceries, cable, etc. And the week after I had to dip in I was able to replace the money with an eBay surplus.

      People complain about eBay and PayPal fees, but don't seem to get that eBay is providing the world's stage for you; it's the best damn advertising you can get. Yes, eBay has some ridiculous policies, but there are ways to work with them, and around them. For example, when I send out a package I include an enclosure with my name and website and an invitation for a future order. As previously stated by other /. posters, eBay doesn't like this because they loose out on a later fee. However, there isn't a tinker's damn they can do about a piece of paper in the package I send out saying, "Thanks so much for being a customer, if you need anything else..."

      In fact, that's how the lion's share of my large orders come from. Someone buys one off of eBay, then comes back and spends a couple of hundred bucks with me, off eBay. I guess someone would say that that wasn't really making money off of eBay, but I disagree; I would never have found that customer otherwise.

      As to PayPal, you just have to be careful with them. They are HEAVILY slanted toward the buyer, and their fees can be noticable. However, it is so convenient it is worth it for me. I have a PayPal debit card that I use for everything (and get 1% cash back instantly with each purchase, which helps ease the pain) and I never have to bother with money orders and checks and waiting and all that B.S. For orders under twenty bucks I don't worry about it, but I get delivery confirmation on anything above that to protect myself as much as possible.

      Now, I completely realize that this could dry up tomorrow, that eBay sales and the follow-up sales won't last forever, but right now it sure is nice to be working no more than 90 minutes a day and making enough to live off of. I get great pleasure in making nice packages for people to recieve as well, and I have time to live my life instead of living in a cubicle. What it takes to make it on eBay is to understand how it works, and to know what will give you the best profits. Selling old clothes for .50 cents each from your basement is going to be more trouble than it's worth (though, somehow, you see people doing this all the time), but if you actually have a product to sell you can really make a go of it.

      I guess the moral is don't quit your day job...unless you have the savings to back it up in case it doesn't work out and you have a decent mind for business and a good product to sell.

    • Nanaimo, BC, Canada artist Richard Hoedl ( Canadian surreal oil painting landscapes ) [] makes most of his income from selling his paintings on Ebay.

      He (and his web contractor ;-) ) is working on a site to teach artists to make a living from their art []. It's not ready to go live yet, but progress is fast.

  • Short Answer: No
    Long Answer: No, it can't make you rich.
  • by DirtyFly ( 765689 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @04:39AM (#15655213)
    I Live in Portugal and used ebay as a seller from ~2000 until 2002 give or take a year.
    It was a good business and a good extra income, I sold old items and collectibles that I managed to buy in Portugal for what I believe the stuff ws 'really' worth and then sold it on ebay where I coud get a good profit. The main things that made me quit Ebay were :

    1) The raise of Euro - When the US Dollar was high it was VERY profitable to sell stuff on the US not only did I made some profit from the Item but the dollar value was good for me.

    2) The raise of fees by Ebay.

    3) PayPal - more and more peolple want to pay with paypal, and that eats profits BAD.

    4) The decline of the market.

    I do believe you can get rich by using ebay but, if you live in acountry where the 'money is cheap compare to USD' youll get much better quicker

  • by mrshowtime ( 562809 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:01AM (#15655266)
    I used to be on ebay as a powerseller in the heydays of 1997-2001 and made a lot of money. Now, I would not touch ebay with a 12 foot clown pole. The only way you can make a profit now is if you have something that is a true collectable or very valuable or very hot. For instance, if you got your hands on 20 PS3's you could stand to make about $20,000 if you sell the day the PS3 is released. There are rich people out there for whom money is no object and you can profit off of them. The downside on ebay today is actually paypal BUYER fraud. Let's say you do manage to get your hands on 20 PS3's and put them up for $1,500 each. You will get buyers who are legitimate and very rich. You will also get a lot of scam artists who will use paypal to try and defraud you. All the buyer has to do is say "not as described" and paypal will hold the money till they investigate fully (read actually do nothing till YOU send them proof--guilty until proven innocent). Catch 22, if you don't accept paypal, then you can't protect yourself from dummy bids (someone using a zero or low fb id, bidding a rediculous amount or just simply "buy it now"-ing all of your auctions. Also, since you don't accept paypal it actually makes you look shady! Plus the public has gotten used to paying for everything immediately and if anything the people on ebay have gotten worse and worse over the years. Make a million on ebay? Sure, no problem. Take home a million profit? No way.
  • 1. Best way to make profit off eBay: sell short :-)

    2. First of all... I think "profit" is meant and not "sales". I could sell $5000 worth of cash for $1000 and easily make more than $1000 in sales per month.

    3. Why do people love to collect Mammy cookie jars []?

    4. What in the goddamn fuck is with those stupid, stupid "Mystery auctions"... where people auction off things saying "OMG OMG!! THIS BOX COULD BE FILLED WITH UP TO $10,000 in CASH!! AND YOU ARE BIDDING ON THE BOX, ANYTHING THAT COMES INSIDE IS MY GIFT T
  • by Rogerborg ( 306625 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @05:55AM (#15655377) Homepage
    It's getting harder and harder to find a genuine used bargain on eBay, because of all the rich idiots competing against each other to give the seller more and more money. Time after time, I see people getting sucked into paying more for a used item than its new price. Just last week, I bid £5 on a "used" item, only to watch the price rise to £68 by the close of auction - for an item that can be purchased new with a full warranty and returns service from an online retailer for £11. Astonishing, but common.

    There are demonstrably people out there who can't or won't google for items before bidding silly money on them, which means that they're unlikely to check your selling history either to see that you've sold a hundred identical "used but unopened, unwanted presents". That seems to be the trick; pitch your "used" item as a bargain, then watch the idiots spend more than they would on a "new" item, apparently convinced that all the other idiots bidding against them must know what they're doing.

    The only thing that keeps me coming back to eBay now is the opportunity to message the winning bidders in these auctions with links to where they can buy the same item new for less, often much, much less. Curiously, I've yet to receive a response to these helpful messages that's not a variant on "FCUK OFFF!!!!!!!eleven!!!!"
  • by loraksus ( 171574 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @06:12AM (#15655411) Homepage
    Maybe if you buy stock in UPS or FEDEX, because they look like they are making a killing.
    $19 to ship a saw blade? Are you fucking kidding me? [] (and yup, that's from a power seller)

    Before the apologists chime in saying "OMG GAS IS SOO MUCH AND I HAVE TO PAY FOR PACKING MATERIAL AND THAT IS WHY SHIPPING IS $12 FOR SOMETHING THAT WEIGHS 1 POUND" - USPS will provide (and even deliver) free boxes, packing material, tape (ok, no tape anymore, people sort of abused it, but then again, they did send you 24 rolls at a time) and will pick up your packages from your doorstep if you ship priority mail. A one rate envelope ships cross country for under 4 bucks.
    You can't defend abusive shipping or handling costs. I'm surprised that ebay hasn't made a serious effort to get rid of these sellers, but that's probably because they make enough on paypal fees to make up for what they don't get in listing and closing fees.

      That's small change. Try $134.97 to ship a Golf Pouch [] which costs less than $20 to Singapore.
    • The shipping is their actual profit margin. Ebay doesn't slap their fees on shipping and handling, so the seller takes most of the price and lists it as shipping. This isn't really a problem for you, if they actually state up front what the shipping charges will be (like in the description), or they respond to your inquiries about shipping costs. You just have to look at it and do some addition to get the actual price. If they don't, then yes, they are being shady.
    • It's just a simple way to shift a portion of the price into the part that ebay doen't charge commission on. Ebay certainly doesn't like it, since it reduces their revenue from the item. As an added bonus I guess there are some people who don't check the shipping charge before bidding and hence end up paying way more than they wanted to.

      And of course do you want to buy something from someone who treats the places they buy things from like that? Doing business with people who have shown they are dishonest in
  • Can Ebay make you rich?

    Well they won't supply items for you to sell, they take a percentage of each sale, and you have to do all the actual work yourself.

    So, "No".

    Unless you own Paypal.
  • by sl4shd0rk ( 755837 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @07:35AM (#15655539)
    You can get ripped off very easily with them, they are nearly impossible to track, and the best the banks can usually do is tell the remitter when they've been cashed. That's it.
  • rating system (Score:4, Interesting)

    by shieldfire ( 986754 ) on Tuesday July 04, 2006 @09:12AM (#15655765)
    I don't understand the rating system on eBay. But I now understand why it works the way it works. You can't really give other than positive feedback. If you try you risk getting slammed by sellers. I saw someone complaining that he got the things he bought in a flimsy envelope that just barely kept together during transport. So the poor sod gave a neutral feedback - to be slammed with a negative by the seller backed by the community when complaining. If one can't give anything but positive feedback without risking one's reputation on eBay - the system is flawed. But now I understand the mechanisms.
    • Re:rating system (Score:3, Interesting)

      by vux984 ( 928602 )
      So? Keep a separate account for buying. You get the odd bad "retaliation" feed back, big fucking deal.

      Sellers aren't going to blink at selling to someone with a 90%+ positive rating, especially if looking at the feedback makes it clear the negative feedback is all retaliatory.

      And if a seller does get all freaky and won't deal with you because you've been hit with some revenge feedback, he's probably not someone you want to deal with anyway. His loss.
  • a PowerSeller must average at least $1,000 in sales per month for three consecutive months

    So if I go a month at $3000, then two months at $0, I can be a PowerSeller(TM)? After all, I've averaged at $1000 in monthly sales over three months.

    Perhaps you meant a PowerSeller(TM) must have a minimum of $1000 per month for three consecutive months.

    I would be ever so happy if editors and submitters understood the math they were taught in the sixth fucking grade.

  • "eBay has been a great resource to buy or sell goods without leaving your computer"

    Ebay is a mediocre resource. It may have been great awhile ago, but it stopped being great a few years ago. Ebay bends to the will of the power seller, and does nothing to enforce their rules and ToS. Trying to report violations (like an asian seller who marks his location as Hong Kong, Canada) and clearly states the item ships from the pacific, gets you a canned response from ebay about how they just snuggled that seller las
  • ...You will DEFINITELY make eBay rich by trying!
  • I hear a lot of sellers and buyers saying that eBay isn't what it once was, and that it's too easy to get screwed on either side of the transaction.

    So, I ask you former eBay merchants: where have you moved to?

    And where are you finding bargains as buyers?
  • A Brizilian tribe composed of refugees from the Biz-Dev departments of imploded dot coms: "Hunter-gatherers from the Pirahã tribe, whose language only contains words for the numbers one and two, were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration, revealed the study." []

    This is the numbering scheme used to count the people that get rich on EBay.
  • I did the "ebay" business from 2000-2003. I quit my job in 2002 to do it full time. I mainly sold tv and movie related collectables as well as vintage toys from the 50's-80's. Business was brisk and I made what I thought was decent money at the time. Moneyu was constantly flowing and I put as much of it back into inventory as possible. Things got a bit out of hand in 2003 and I was quickly becoming overwhelmed trying to run the business with just my wife and myself. I hired a bookeeper with the hopes

Due to lack of disk space, this fortune database has been discontinued.