Archive for the ‘eBay consignment’ Category

How to spot a scam when working as an eBay Trading Assistant

November 28, 2009

This morning I received the following email:

Travis Peterson ✆
to me

show details 10:01 AM (15 minutes ago)

Hello there,
Currently, I am looking for a selling assistant in the bay area who I can work with that would help me liquidate excess inventory that I have in stock during this holiday season and possible after. Mainly I deal with videogames and videogame accessories which are very easy to list and package. I have extensive knowledge to how ebay works and mainly need someone that could list my products and collect the payments and dispense the funds to me on a regular basis. This would require minimal time from you as I could do most of the work. Please let me know if you would be interested in working with me. If you can send your phone number in the response I could give you a call to better explain exactly what I am looking for and to discuss terms etc. I look forward to hearing from you.


If you receive an email such as this one, your best bet is to ignore it. There is nowhere to report it to eBay, and sending an email like this isn’t inherently illegal, so there’s no reason to let it go on further. But how can you tell whether these emails are scams?

Name and e-mail address do not match

Usually such an error happens when you get generic Viagra-style spam. I suppose the reason for this is because if the “From” name or signature at the bottom of the e-mail are familiar names to you (because most of us could know a Brian or a Travis Peterson) you are more likely to believe it. Or maybe this randomizing fools spam blockers. Or maybe spammers are just lazy. At any rate, this is a dead giveaway. Sure, some people go by their middle name (hello, Miles Edgerton), but they usually aren’t going to have the “From” be their official name if they don’t ordinarily use it.

He asks for a phone number to reach you

When you sign up for the eBay Trading Assistant program, you basically give eBay permission to do whatever it wants with all of your contact information. Our contact here should have my phone number already if he wants it. He doesn’t need me to give it to him. A common tactic for these scams is to ask for several bits of information because of the EXTRA information you may give along with it. The more the scammer can learn about you, the better he can come up with a convincing scenario to get you. For example, you may say, “I can be reached at 555-1212 in the evening, but during the day you can reach me at 555-1234.” He can search for your work number (what other reason would you have a daytime number?) online and find out where you work. You haven’t done business with this guy yet. Do you really want to risk having a stranger show up at your work, where all he knows about the company is your name? This can create issues for you at your day job, too.

Unclear of the concept

Some people sign up to be eBay Trading Assistants because it’s free. They may qualify to be one based on their experience with the auction site, but it doesn’t mean they are proficient at being an eBay seller. (This in and of itself is an issue eBay needs to take care of on its own end.) Others sign up because they see it as a get-rich-quick scheme. So if someone comes along and says they want you to sell some items for them, but they’ll do all the work — you just have to list the items — it’s time to turn around and run. Listing an item is the easiest part of selling on eBay. The form is there, and you just fill in the blanks. Or if you have a lot of things to list, you can just use eBay Turbo Lister 2. The other clue is that he tells you how easy it is. I know how easy it is. When you contact the Trading Assistant, you can see his stats. With nearly 8,000 positive feedbacks and 10 years’ experience, I don’t need to be told how easy this is. Perhaps this prospective business associate has some money orders from Nigeria that he’d like me to cash for him as well, complete with a 10% commission!

Using eBay without PayPal, a credit or debit card, or even a clue

August 10, 2009

eBay calls them “Trading Assistants” instead of “Selling Assistants” for a reason. We’re expected to be able to help any user on eBay, whether they be buyer or seller. Of course, most don’t need help with buying stuff on there. The whole site is set up to make it easier for the buyer. This makes sense because there are more buyers than sellers on eBay. Although each of those buyers (obviously) buys fewer items on average than the sellers, buyers drive traffic on the site, and every effort should be made to make their experience better. Sellers have nowhere else to go; buyers can go to the store.
So when the fastandfriendlyservice hotline rang this morning, I expected it to be another potential client with a closet full of crap. Instead it was a woman with an interesting predicament: She needed a book in New York tomorrow. Oh, and she has no credit or debit card.
People have different ideas of entitlement. Some expect electricity. Others expect healthcare. But generally, being able to buy something online is seen as something that requires a little bit of buy-in, namely owning a bankcard of some sort with a Visa or MasterCard logo on it. Not this person.
Now, as a Trading Assistant, I have to evangelize the eBay brand, even if it results in my having nothing to show for it. Some call it karma; others call it trickle down economics. The truth is that you don’t know when these nutjobs are going to need you and your services in the future, and it pays to put on the right face every time, just in case. You’re doing it for you and for no other reason.
So the woman on the phone goes on and on about having trouble finding the book and then not being able to reach the seller because Amazon requires a credit card number, and her talking is like this sentence, only with less punctuation and perhaps a lot of capital letters, too. In the ’90s, typing in caps only meant yelling. Now, it really only sheds light on the writer’s intelligence.
She was all over the place. Finally, I interrupted her, and I asked her how secure she was in obtaining the book, because if she couldn’t do that, it did not matter how it could be paid for. Her response began to meander again, and I decided to use the time to pet the cat and think about what she needed to do. Clearly, her mind was a mess, for whatever reason, and what she needed was someone to come up with a plan for her.
Savannah started biting me, so I turned my attention back to the call. I had to interrupt her again, which I hate to do, but there was nothing new coming out of my phone. I explained the importance of doing this in the right order. I told her to look on eBay and Amazon for the book and to contact every seller she could find in any way possible until she received confirmation from someone (anyone!) that the book was ready to ship, by overnight mail, and at that point it would be time to figure out how to pay for it.
She had thought that picking a seller in New York made the most sense because that is where the book needed to go. The problem with this is the time difference. When you’re shipping something small (like a book) overnight, it does not really matter where it comes from, if you’re shipping within the company. It will cost the same and still get there. But here is the rub: It is three hours later in New York than it is here on the West Coast. If she wants to get that book there tomorrow, she needs to find someone with the time to do so, and if you buy here, you are giving the seller three extra hours to do this. It was already 2:30 back East when she called me, so this was key.
So I told her to focus on West Coast sellers but to keep e-mailing and calling people till she received confirmation. At that point, she can worry about how to pay, and maybe she’ll call me back for that. I do buy things for people if they don’t want to give out their information. (Don’t laugh. There are a ton of people out there like this. My mom is one of them.) It costs them $10 or 5%, whichever is higher. Even unemployed, my time has a value associated with it.
You never know what you’re going to hear when you answer the fastandfriendlyservice hotline!

Lowball offers

July 18, 2009

One of the advantages to selling on eBay with a fixed price format is you never get surprised by an invisible auction. What I mean by that is you never have an auction that receives no bid or, worse, sells for the opening bid. All that money you “saved” by using a lower starting bid has been replaced by the loss you incurred by selling that $10 bill for 99 cents.

Nothing’s ever that simple, of course. It’s always a good idea to accept best offers if you list at a fixed price, especially if you’re selling several of the same thing. If someone wants to buy more than one, you want to be able to offer a price break. This used to be done by discounting shipping, but in this day and age of free shipping on eBay (which you have to do if you want good DSRs), you have to find other, more creative methods. So you tick the box that says you will accept best offers.

There are options to automatically refuse offers below a certain amount. You can even have it auto-accept offers over a certain amount, although this is a slippery slope that I refuse to go down. It doesn’t take long to accept an offer. But even the auto-decline option is one that I stay away from.

I have more than 100 listings going at any time on eBay, and as my consignment business continues to grow, that number will grow as well. I cannot take the time to individually tweak the listing prices of my items, and if I have something overpriced, I want to be able to start accepting lower offers than I’d otherwise choose to. But how low is too low?

I am selling some NASCAR shoelaces on eBay. They’re listed for $4.99. I probably should not even bother, because even my time is worth more than that, but the owner is a nice guy, and I am listing other, more lucrative stuff for him too, so it’s worth it in the grand scheme of things. But oh those lowball offers.

Someone offered me $2 this morning for one of them. I had to decline, and I left a note saying how much it costs to ship, plus the fees eBay and PayPal charges. All told, I would have been paying the user to take the shoelaces from me. (Why can’t I have it set up to auto-decline at $2? Well, if someone bought all of them for $2 each, that would be fine.)

So about an hour later, I receive another offer: $2.50. Looking at it from an isolated point of view, it definitely is not worth my time, but like I said, this owner has other stuff I am selling that makes it all worthwhile. I guess it’s like that “free phone” I got from Verizon.

Wedding dress hard to part with

July 8, 2009

Another new category for the site. While I wait for my employment ship to come in, I’ve been stepping up my activity on eBay. As viewers of the vlog can attest, I picked up some leads from a guy who moved to Southern California but has a Website that gets a lot of local traffic. Good for him, and good for me. In addition, my own activities as a Trading Assistant on eBay has generated a couple of leads, including some sports merchandise (mugs, hats, keychains etc.) that is in the queue to be added this afternoon through the weekend.

I’ve sold on consignment for about seven years, mostly for friends but for a lot of strangers too. There’s a reason they’re called “strangers,” I might add. The purpose of this category is to share some of my experiences, as well as indirectly plugging my consignment service.

I’d like to start off with a key point that no one understands: Your stuff is worth less than you think. The reason it cost more when you bought it is because it was new. It’s used now. In addition, you have no leverage. The reason why goods cost what they do in a store is because the owner is assuming liability of the item, meaning that his money is locked in that whatever.

When you’re selling something and are desperate to move it, you are at the whim of who has money. The best deals are obtained when you have money burning a hole in your pocket, and someone else needs money to pay bills. You can imagine the mindset of some people when they show up and would like to bring me on as their Trading Assistant.

And that brings me to today’s subject. This is one of the leads from the guy in LA, so it’s always a surprise as to what it is they would like me to put up for auction or list as a fixed price. Today’s contestant had gone with another TA who has disappeared off the face of the earth. I guess she had a bad experience with a handbag, because she was looking for me to be the one to sell her wedding dress.

Every listing on eBay has a story behind it. Some of them are downright boring. (“I opened a pack of 2009 Bowman Chrome baseball and pulled an autograph card.”) This one was not the most exciting but entertaining nonetheless. She was engaged five years ago and for whatever reason did not tie the knot. So she still has this $1,100 wedding dress NWT — that’s “new with tags” in eBay parlance — complete with receipt, measurements: the works. I knew there would be trouble as soon as I heard “I’d like to get top dollar for this.”

Who doesn’t want top dollar? Why do the other dollars even exist, except merely to serve as placeholders? I suppose that only I would get into a business dominated by greed and then act like money is not a big deal, but here I am. And I’ll tell ya: Some of these guys find it refreshing. And it results in referrals and more business. Which is what takes us to where we are now.

So after the song and dance of what this dress’ history is, she decides to talk about terms. As an aside, the first thing I try to do with anyone is discuss terms, because I don’t want to waste anyone’s time. I charge a little more than some consignment sellers because I am reachable 24/7 and provide a good service. Also, more importantly, I am not hurting for consignment business right now. I’m not swamped, but keeping up is occasionally challenging when you work in job interviews, dice training, KSCU and being a good boyfriend.

Let’s recall that the reason we are discussing the dress in the first place is because the one selling her handbag has disappeared into the ether — with her handbag! With that in the back of my mind, I am then told that this other seller is charging only 30%, and would I be interested in lowering the 38% I charge?

Any successful businessperson knows to take everything on a case-by-case basis. The easier it is to work with someone, the more of a break I will give them. And to steal a phrase from a friend, the pain-in-the-ass rule is always in effect.

It’s obvious to me that, after complaining about another TA (and therefore coming to me), you don’t really have any leverage. But when you then try to play him off of me to see if I will lower my rate, that’s insulting. If you’d like a lower rate, ask for one outright, and if I want to know why, I’ll ask. But when you tell something that’s clearly a misguided truth at best, it ruins your integrity, and it makes me not want to sell your item.

When I was looking at houses, my girlfriend at the time and I looked at a nice condo in the Villages in Saratoga. The seller was going to go into foreclosure soon, and she likely was going to have to do a short sale. To top it off, living in Saratoga has long been a dream of mine. (So was living in Willow Glen, so clearly I am quite happy at the results.) However, the woman selling the unit was unbearably extroverted and insecure. This is the worst combination of person for me, compatibility-wise. It’s ridiculously distracting, and it makes me not want to deal with you. Everyone is insecure. But when you’re trying to sell something for $400,000, you should think before you speak. It’s expected that something is going to be hidden, and when you lay it all out there for the world to see, it leads people to wonder what is being held back.

Or as my now-ex put it, “if you can’t stand the person, don’t buy the house. You’re going to have to work with this person intimately and directly (it was a for sale by owner) for six weeks, and you’ll go insane.” She was right, and I knew it. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that unit, but I don’t regret the decision to walk away for a second.

And it rings true here as well. As it became clear to the woman with the wedding dress that I was not interested in changing my terms to match the unreachable trading assistant’s, she changed her tone and could not wait to get off the phone. I was set up twice to deliver the obvious zinger: If the other seller is so great, then why not have him sell the wedding dress for you? But, I did not. Maybe because I knew I would write about it here and get my satisfaction that way. Regardless, I maintained my professionalism, wished her luck and let her hang up on me. Because that’s what I do.

It’s got to suck to look at this wedding dress after five years and be reminded of everything that went along with it. Whether it’s because he cheated on her, or he died, or she had second thoughts or something else entirely, no association with that dress is going to be a healthy one. And now she’s just going to have to keep looking.