eBay Your Old Gear

What to do with your old gear after the irresistible upgrade? It seems a shame to let a perfectly good camera or lens languish in storage while you cavort with your new fling. Better to let your unwanted gear find a new home and get some cash back in return. eBay makes it easy, but you need to pay attention to the details if you want a good price and a trouble-free transaction.

eBay Basics
If you’re new to eBay, it’s essentially an online auction, where users buy and sell just about anything you can imagine. You’re dealing with strangers, so there’s always the risk of a problem. You’re protected in a number of ways, however.

As a seller, your chief risk is a buyer who doesn’t pay. It’s inconvenient, but there are ways to avoid potential pitfalls that we’ll cover later in this article. Ship only after you receive payment, use a trackable, insurable shipping method and you’ll eliminate most of the risk.

Good sellers put themselves in the buyer’s shoes, so it’s good to know what protections the buyer has. As a buyer, eBay has programs in place to help recover your costs if a transaction goes sour; however, this system can be a lengthy process and there are limits to the amount of money a buyer can recover. Pay with PayPal or your credit card, and you’ll have additional protection through your bank. Fortunately, most people are honest, and in nearly 100 transactions buying and selling, I’ve had only one bad experience, which was eventually resolved to my satisfaction through my bank.

Feedback Scores
The best way to get a handle on other eBay users is through their feedback scores. After each transaction is completed, buyers and sellers give a positive, neutral or negative rating to their trading partner, along with a brief comment, if desired. A positive rating adds one point to the user’s profile, a negative rating subtracts a point and a neutral rating has no effect. Therefore, the higher a user’s feedback score, the more positive transactions he or she has had, and the lower the trading risk. You can also view the percentage of positive ratings that make up a user’s overall feedback score.

In the eBay community, it’s rare to give a negative rating. Since positive feedback equates to credibility, most people want to avoid retaliatory negative feedback, and so those users who do receive negatives probably deserve it. If you’re unsure about a user, you can view his or her feedback profile in detail and read the reasons behind negative ratings.

Just because someone has a low score doesn’t mean you shouldn’t trade with that user. Everyone starts at zero, after all. However, with expensive and fragile items like photo gear, you want to be careful, and there are ways to block buyers who have a negative feedback score or don’t meet other conditions.

Preparing Your Item
To get the best price for your item, you want to present it at its best.

1. Clean the item gently but thoroughly. You want the camera to look as good as new when the buyer receives it. Dust, grime and fingerprints might not affect the performance of the camera, but they may lower your buyer’s satisfaction with the item and lead to complaints. For camera bodies, wipe down the exterior with a soft, lightly damp cloth, and follow with a soft, dry cloth. Use water only—detergents can damage the finish of your camera. Cotton swabs help you clean exterior crevices. If you’re selling a D-SLR, you can clear dust off your camera’s sensor with products like the Arctic Butterfly from VisibleDust (www.visibledust.com). Be very careful when cleaning anything inside your camera, as you can easily cause expensive damage.

2. Gather all of the accessories, manuals, discs and the original box. I’ve been chided for saving product boxes, but when you want to sell used gear, nothing helps add value to the sale like including all of the original packaging.

3. Check that everything works. This is especially important if you haven’t used the camera in a while. Charge the battery, take a few shots and download them using the camera—basically, do everything your buyer will do when it arrives.

4. Include a bonus. If you have an extra memory card or camera bag, it can be a big selling point if you include it as an added value. This may be what sets your listing apart and fetches you a higher price.

Photographing Your Item
The photographs you show of your item are your most valuable sales tool. They don’t have to be technically perfect, but they need to be clear and show the item in good detail. After all, this is the only visual confirmation for the buyer that the item is in the condition you claim.

eBay lets you post one image free with each listing. Additional photos are an extra charge, but the charge is minimal and you’d be wise to include three to four images of your item to help your buyer feel confident.

Here’s how to make some great shots for your listing.
1. Use a white background. A roll of white butcher paper, available at most art stores, makes the perfect smooth background. In a pinch, a white tablecloth or linens will do the trick, too. Smooth out the kinks, and clean up the background in Photoshop if there are elements that distract from your item.

2. Light the item well. If you think you’ll be a regular seller on eBay, consider investing in a simple lighting setup. I use two Lowel Ego lights (www.lowel.com) at 45 degrees to light my items from the front. The quick and dirty solution is to photograph the item in a well-lit room. Don’t use flash, as it creates harsh highlights that look bad and may obscure important details. Soft, even lighting is key.


3. Double-check your focus. Blurry shots don’t sell products. Also, use a tripod.

4. Fill the frame with your item or at least crop the image in Photoshop. Extraneous background is just a distraction and wastes pixels.

5. Slightly overexpose black cameras. This ensures you’ll have detail in the shadows. Web images often block up in the shadows due to file compression. Ideally, bracket your exposures and use the one that looks best on your computer monitor.

6. Get multiple angles and a group shot. The group shot is important. Spread out everything you’re including with the item: packaging, manuals, discs and accessories. Showing them all together lets the buyer know immediately what he or she is getting. Detail shots of controls are also helpful.

7. Don’t use shots from the web. It’s tempting to just Google your camera and pull a stock photo of it from someone else, but your buyer wants to see the actual item he or she is buying.

8. Size your image files. eBay restricts the size of photos you can upload to its servers and will reject files that are too big. Conversely, images that are too small won’t give buyers the detail that they want. JPEGs of about 300 x 500 pixels are just right.

Creating A Great Listing
The b

est eBay experiences come when everything is spelled out. Buyers don’t want to be surprised, and as a seller, you probably don’t want to field a lot of questions during the auction. You also want to price your item right and consider listing add-ons that draw attention to your item.

1. Search for similar items. Always start here. Search for the item you’re selling and see what other sellers are doing to market theirs. You can get a lot of good ideas this way.

2. Categorize correctly. The first step in creating a listing is to specify the category of your item. eBay’s listing wizard will help direct you to the right category, but pay close attention to be sure you’re selecting the best one. You can also choose a second category at an additional cost.


3. Use “Prefilled Item Info.” If your camera is a popular one, you may be able to use a template prefilled with product specs. This is a useful feature, as it does some of the work for you, while still allowing you to edit the item title, subtitle and description, and upload your own photos.

4. New or used? Odds are, you’re selling a used item. New means you haven’t used it, even for a little while. You must specify new or used in a drop-down menu during the initial auction setup. Don’t mislead—if the item is “like new,” you can put that in the description, but not here.

5. Write an engaging item description. You don’t have to be clever, but some personality isn’t a bad thing. eBay is a virtual community, and you may be able to reassure buyers with a little charm. However, the most important thing in the item description is its factual accuracy. Tell the buyer exactly what he or she is getting, what your terms are, the conditions under which you’ll accept a return and any other important information. Use bullet points to highlight key features. This is your one chance to quickly convince potential buyers of the great value you’re offering.

6. Keep it simple. Some sellers get obsessed with HTML formatting, graphics and design elements in their listings. These do very little to help and may actually distract from your item. Simple HTML text tags are fine (see the sidebar “Quick HTML Text Formatting”), but don’t sacrifice readability for supposed style.

Pricing Your Item
How you price your item can make or break your listing. Check out similar auctions that are almost over to get an idea of what you can expect.

When setting up your listing, you determine the starting price, but can also set an optional reserve price and “Buy It Now” price. Ebay recommends a low starting price to encourage bidders to jump in, because once they’re in, they’re more likely to keep bidding if they get outbid, thereby driving up the price.


The reserve price, if you choose to set one, is the lowest price at which you’re willing to sell the item. Buyers can bid lower than this price (which isn’t revealed to buyers), but their bids don’t qualify until the reserve price is met.

Setting a “Buy It Now” price can help end the auction quickly if a buyer is willing to pay this amount for the item. I often use a “Buy It Now” and set that price a little higher than what I actually expect to get. Once a normal bid is placed on your item, the “Buy It Now” option goes away and the auction continues. Note that there are additional charges for setting reserve and “Buy It Now” prices.

Payment & Shipping
I prefer to use PayPal for my auctions. You pay a fee for this service, but it’s convenient for buyers, as they can pay with a credit card, and you don’t have to worry about bounced checks. You can verify that the funds are in your PayPal account before you ship the item.

Be specific about your return and shipping policies. I’m very clear that I don’t accept returns without my prior approval and that requests for returns must be made within 24 hours of receipt of the item. I generally won’t accept a return. This may scare off some buyers, but I’m confident in what I sell and want to avoid the silliness of buyer’s remorse. You can set whatever terms you like, just leave no doubt about them.

Also, detail your shipping terms in the item description, including your charges and how quickly you’ll deliver the item. eBay offers shipping tools for sellers that you may choose to use.

One of the best things you can do to have a happy buyer is to ship quickly. Make it your priority to ship the next business day after you receive payment. If I get a good price for my item, I usually upgrade the shipping service one level beyond what I charged the buyer for. The buyer gets the item sooner than expected, which sweetens the deal.


Most Important: Communicate
The best thing you can do to get a good price, have a happy buyer and receive good feedback is to quickly answer questions from buyers when they come up. If you have a buyer who seems unresponsive after the auction has ended, don’t panic. They may be out of town or have had some other emergency come up. Give them a week or so to get back to you before you seek eBay’s help in finalizing the transaction. Good communication during and after the auction will help keep things smooth and can be a lot of fun. More often than not, you’ll meet nice people who share your interests. Happy eBaying!

Quick HTML: Text Formatting

When you’re typing your item description, you can use these basic HTML tags to format your text. You won’t see the results of these tags until you preview your listing. HTML tags are like light switches in that they toggle formatting on and off. For example turns on bold type and turns it off. So, type before the words you want to bold and then when you want to return to plain text. You can also use them in combinations.

Bold text on; Bold text off
Italic text on; Italic text off

HTML tags also let you create new paragraphs or line breaks. Note that simply typing a return in the item description box won’t insert a paragraph return—you must use these tags.

New paragraph (includes one line space)

New line (no space)

In addition to these tags, there are many others that let you change type size, color, alignment and more.
You can view all of the HTML tags supported by eBay by clicking the link “Get more HTML tips” just below the item description entry box.