Tuesday, 28 January 2014

Top tips for Ebay sellers

My one experience of buying a bicycle from Ebay was not a happy one. The description was somewhat lacking in detail but in the picture the bike looked perfect. And indeed it so nearly was. It was a 1970s Peugeot roadster that was exactly what I wanted in every way except one; it was a little on the small side. Well actually really very very small indeed. Tiny in fact.

The author on his ebay purchase

Chastened by this experience, and also by an unwillingness to buy a bike that I haven't had at least a short test ride on, I probably wouldn't buy another bike from Ebay. I do however think that it is a great medium for selling bikes. I have now sold two bikes on the site; the first was a Boardman mountain bike that sold for a little less than I had hoped and the second was Bianchi racing bike that sold for much more. While there will always be an element of luck when selling on Ebay I learned a number of lessons from the first sale which I think helped the second. Because I never intend to buy from Ebay again I am happy to share these lessons with you here:

Check the completed listings first.
Before listing your bike search for it amongst the completed listings. Pick the the one that sold for the highest price and use this as the basis for your advert; the chances are whoever listed it did a good job of writing the title and description and selecting suitable filters and search terms.

Take good pictures
It is the pictures that sell the bike. As well as the obvious (in-focus, correctly exposed etc) there are some less obvious rules to obey. When the winner of the auction for the Boardman collected the bike his first act was to scrutinise the left hand side of the frame. All of the pictures I had taken were of the drive side and he (and presumably other potential bidders) had assumed there was something wrong with the other side.

A complete set of pictures should include straight views of both sides of the complete bike, a 'hero pose' taken at a 45 degree angle from the front of the bike and then close-ups of the best features; neat frame welds, upgraded components, Campagnolo logos and anything that shows the bike off to the best effect.

Finally avoid anything too arty. My mountain bike had a set of DMR magnesium pedals that were twice the age of the bike. Several years of hard riding had warn away most of the paint in a way that I, ponce that I am, thought looked stylish and worthy of a close-up. On the basis of these pedals the buyer assumed that the bike had been much more heavily used than it in fact had been and expressed some happy surprise when he collected it, even though I had taken other pictures of the frame showing it to be pristine and shiny.

Always give a postage option
Bikes are a bit of a faff to package and post. Do not let this put you off however; unless you live in the centre of London, insisting that the buyer collects will greatly restrict your target audience and will therefore restrict your winnings.

Posting is actually easier than you might expect. If you speak nicely to your local bike shop they will probably give you a box to fit the bike in. The Royal Mail will not accept a bike box so you will need to use a courier. I used Parcel Hero and for about £35 they collected the package within an hour of the order being placed and delivered the package safe and sound the next day. There are dozens of blogs and videos providing instruction on how to pack a bike box; I used this one.

Do not specify a reserve price
This is obviously a bit of a gamble, but I started the auction for both of my bikes at one pence and did not stipulate a reserve. All Ebay buyers use the site in the hope of finding a bargain. There is therefore general resistance towards 'buy it now' items and anything with a reserve price; however low the reserve is set, people always feel that they are not getting the best possible deal. The flip side of this is that people tend to assume that if they win something in an auction with no reserve price it must ipso facto be a bargain. This can happen to an extraordinary degree; I once participated in an auction for a second hand Rapha jersey which eventually sold for £140 at a time when you could still buy the item from the Rapha website, new and unused for £130.

It is for exactly this reason that I will continue to sell bikes and bike bits on Ebay. As someone wiser than me once noted, an Ebayer is someone who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.

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