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View Full Version : eBay posting strategy (what to include in the listing)



ohhim
Oct-07-2008, 11:53pm
I was looking to post an old mandolin for sale via ebay (won't make any references to make/model/etc.. to ensure no conflict on the board policies), but I was curious if there are any recommendations from folks here on what would constitute a solid listing (to hopefully get as much value as possible) vs. one where there would still be lots of doubt, getting folks to hesitate on making a serious bid.

Clearly, it is hard to demo the instrument online (unless you are in the same city), but what could/should be included in the listing? (photos of specific angles, serial number, ownership history, etc..)

Any good pointers/examples?

Jim Broyles
Oct-08-2008, 12:18am
Plenty of pictures, thorough description of the mandolin, including flaws and issues. An approval period is nice but it doesn't have to be a deal breaker as long as they can send it back if it isn't as listed, even at their own expense. Anything proving authenticity such as serial #, photo of label, that type of thing. If you have a link to an audio clip of it that is a plus, but truthfully, it's rare to see such a link posted on eBay. Just be honest and up front, don't start the auction at a ridiculously low figure with a high reserve unless you are really only testing the market. If you need a certain amount, start the bidding at that figure. If you do use a reserve, do not reveal it, but to me a reserve is kind of like a game. Start it at what you'll take for it, or take your chances that people will know what it is really worth and bid accordingly. You could always try a buy it now with a fair but on the high side price, and include shipping. Take PayPal. Buyers love it and it protects sellers as well as buyers. Price it accordingly so that you can absorb the selling fee from PayPal. You are not allowed to use the PayPal logo on your listing and then not take it or refuse PayPal charge cards or something like that. People do try it, but it is not allowed by eBay. I have a feedback rating of 400, 100% positive, as a both a seller and a buyer. I have bought about a dozen mandolins on eBay and have never been burned. I did get two that were not what I expected, and in both cases, the sellers refunded my money and gave me positive feedback. One hit me with a return fee %, but the other gave me all of it including shipping and handling. I have also sold all of them but one, on eBay. That one is the one I still own. Hope this helped.

Rob Powell
Oct-08-2008, 1:45am
I have seen some listings that link to youtube and even a few that play video right in the listing which I think is a very cool idea . You can do a little in person sales job on top of people hearing the mando. I haven't seen that a lot so maybe that costs more. I agree with Jim that good pictures can tell the right story. I've seen a number of listings with fuzzy photos.

If there are flaws that you think might be a reason for a return, it's easy to point them out in pictures even though apparently a lot of people don't think about how to do that. You can include pics that you have photoshop'd with circles or arrows or put a piece of paper or masking tape near them when you take those pics.

I also agree that reserves are silly. Like Jim said, start the bidding at the least you will take.

And of course, you could skip the whole auction site experience and just sell it here on the cafe ;)

MikeEdgerton
Oct-08-2008, 7:20am
I didn't think eBay allowed live links in autions. They used to pull them when they found them. Avoid any reference to another brand such as "This is an exact copy of a Gibson F5" as ebay considers that keyword spamming and again will pull the auction if it's reported. Just be honest about the condition, show the flaws as well as the fine points.

TomTyrrell
Oct-08-2008, 7:33am
If you want a lot of people to see the item start it low and put a reserve on it if you need to protect yourself. Starting at a high price pretty much ensures that you won't get many lookers or buyers. That high starting bid will keep a lot of people from even clicking on your auction.

I've done it both ways and the items with a reasonable reserve always sell for more and usually do sell. A buyer who won't bid because there is a reserve isn't likely to bid when the starting bid is high either.

If the mandolin is a piece of junk just take one fuzzy photo and claim you don't know nothin' about nothin'. Amazing how well that works!

WindinBoy
Oct-08-2008, 7:53am
*Sellers Rating
*Good pictures and images of flaws
*Attempt at an honest evaluation of the condition
*Known history of the item
*Luck

These are items that concern the buyer, but t is what I would try to include in a listing.

manjitsu
Oct-08-2008, 8:30am
Here's a strategy I use that may not help you sell the mandolin, but may help ensure that your buyer is actually serious and intends to complete the transaction. I always include the clause that anyone with fewer than 10 feedback ratings or excessive negative feedback MUST contact me before bidding or their bid will be cancelled.

At first I thought this might come off as a little harsh, but after awhile I began to notice that serious bidders understood and didn't mind contacting me. Scammers/undesireables generally ignore the request anyway, and I always cancel 'em immediately.

If your auction isn't a particularly high-dollar item this may not matter as much but it's amazing how desireable/expensive items seem to attract people who just want to bid and "play the game", with no intention of completing the sale.

I've found that ebay can be just as much hassle for sellers as for buyers these days!

-Chris

ohhim
Oct-08-2008, 8:42am
Thanks for all of the advice... just put it together, posted it (w. lots of pics, description of flaws, acceptable starting price, video, etc..), and it looks like it is well on its way.

Jim Broyles
Oct-08-2008, 9:07am
I didn't think eBay allowed live links in autions. They used to pull them when they found them. Avoid any reference to another brand such as "This is an exact copy of a Gibson F5" as ebay considers that keyword spamming and again will pull the auction if it's reported. Just be honest about the condition, show the flaws as well as the fine points.

Mike, I have put live links in auctions, and I learned to do it by checking eBay's help tutorial. I think they let you do it.

markishandsome
Oct-08-2008, 10:45am
"If you want a lot of people to see the item start it low and put a reserve on it if you need to protect yourself. Starting at a high price pretty much ensures that you won't get many lookers or buyers. That high starting bid will keep a lot of people from even clicking on your auction."

That's funny, I always sort the mandolin page by "Price: Highest First" and ONLY click on the more expensive items. I guess everyone has their own way of browsing ebay. I'd think how you started the auction would depend on the value of the item. If it's a $10k mandolin and you start it at $0.99, you look like a sleaze, but if you list a $100 item at $100, the bargain hunters won't be interested. I don't like reserve auctions because I don't want to waste my time watching an auction only to find out afterwards the seller had an unreasonable reserve. But I would still bid on a reserve item if I really wanted it.

Jim Broyles
Oct-08-2008, 11:45am
Regarding the shipping cost being a big deal to buyers - I believe this is true, but only insofar as it affects the total price of the item. If your mandolin in worth $500.00 and you sell it for $400.00 and charge $100 to ship it, it's still a fair deal. If you sell it for $450 and charge $75 to ship it, it's overpriced. If you sell it for $500 and ship it free, it's a fair deal. I have bought many items which had a rather high shipping cost, if the total was still at or less than I was willing to pay for it. What I can't stand is ridiculous packing and handling fees, combined with jacked up shipping charges, and the price of the item without any extra charges is about right. I will never buy such an item.

Dan Margolis
Oct-08-2008, 2:04pm
Use photos--lots of photos. The more expensive the item, the more clear photos you should use. I am amazed at the number of high-ticket items I see on Ebay with only two or three cruddy-looking pix.

Jim MacDaniel
Oct-08-2008, 2:55pm
Lots of good advice above, but make sure you also include key selling points about your mandolin in your auction title, so as to attract more people to view the auction (e.g., all solid woods, wide neck, radiused fretboard, hand-crafted in the UK, made in USA, loud, nice tone, etc.)

markishandsome
Oct-08-2008, 4:12pm
"What I can't stand is ridiculous packing and handling fees, combined with jacked up shipping charges, and the price of the item without any extra charges is about right. I will never buy such an item."

Shipping mandolins is pretty expensive. Depending on how you pack it you might end up with an oversized item fee (guaranteed for guitars). Plus insurance.... You can spend up to $100 on shipping, but most ebay buyers have never tried to ship an instrument and will think you're "jacking up" your shipping to gouge them if you put $100 shipping in the listing. I usually list a nominal shipping fee (say $20) and build the difference into my starting price.

As for including "Martin Strings" in the description, it's pretty transparent to buyers and it looks like you're trying to con them. Credibility is a big issue in a fraud-rich environment like ebay, I wouldn't want potential buyers to get the impression that I was dishonest before they even saw my item.

Jim Broyles
Oct-08-2008, 4:30pm
Well, Mark, I have never spent close to $100.00 to ship a guitar, a case, a mandolin, a bass, a guitar in a hard shell case, a mandolin in a hardshell case or a 210 combo guitar amp, but my real point is that when the shipping and handling shoves the price too high I will never buy the item. If the item is reasonable but the S&H is ridiculous it's no bargain. I always look at the total cost, and I compare it to buying local, if such a thing were possible, because of the 6% PA sales tax.

MikeEdgerton
Oct-08-2008, 5:11pm
Look, if you're trying to get my attention add the line "recently tuned" to your auction.

Jim MacDaniel
Oct-08-2008, 5:14pm
LOL! And don't forget to mention that it has all eight strings.

Jim Broyles
Oct-08-2008, 5:19pm
My favorite specification in a mandolin ad is the one where they tell you it's 60 years old, hasn't been out of the closet in 40 years and it "may need new strings."

WindinBoy
Oct-08-2008, 5:46pm
The danger of buying a mandolin with a "perfectly straight neck" that has no strings is when you put on a set of strings and tune it to pitch you have a bow that would have won the battle of Agincourt singlehandedly.

Clever description:))

Ted Eschliman
Oct-08-2008, 9:38pm
After the sale advice:
My favorite trick (and this is the retail veteran in me speaking), "promise less, deliver more." Don't set the buyer up for a disappointment. The best thing you can do to accumulate positive feedback is to give the buyer MORE than you promise in your ad. Better to undersell, and things like extra sets of strings, a strap, a cloth, any sort of whiz bang that you can include as a surprise after you've made the deal will hedge your bet for a positive response. Once you're paid, pack it nicely, get it shipped quickly, and keep in constant contact with the buyer until it lands.

MikeEdgerton
Oct-08-2008, 9:49pm
Ted, those words have changed my life. :)

Welcome back.

ohhim
Oct-09-2008, 9:23pm
All -

Thanks for the advice, as things seem to be going really well with the auction (surpassing my initial estimate by $1300 already, with plenty of time to go).

I ended up including a video w. audio (of my awful out of tune hacking as I'm not a mandolin player), lots of detailed pictures (with super-detailed versions offline), description of flaws (didn't have software to draw the small circles on the massive image files, but will do it next time), low enough initial bid price to get the action going (without a reserve), included the strings :), offered a conditional return policy ("misrepresentation"), been pretty responsive on the Q&A, offering to host live demos (but won't travel for them), and shipping isn't included but is a tiny fraction of the cost as of now. Per Ted's comment, I might even throw in a free case, and new set of strings after the bid, but will see what the buyer says.

I didn't specify a minimum feedback requirement to bid, and suspect I might get burnt by it, but we'll see what happens over the next week. Definitely curious how the christie's auction will go, as there is a very similar model which could help establish a price.

Thanks!

Jim Broyles
Oct-09-2008, 10:10pm
The original case would have been nice for that one. You should have searched that year and model on this site to get a better idea of a price. I think you can get a fair amount more than what it is going for right now.

ohhim
Oct-14-2008, 9:04am
The original case would have been nice for that one. You should have searched that year and model on this site to get a better idea of a price. I think you can get a fair amount more than what it is going for right now.

Given the condition the Mandolin is in, I would have expected that the instrument had been sitting in its original case (unopened) since 1916, with some cheesy "learn to play" manual sitting on top, but couldn't dig it up when doing more packing up of my grandmother's place.

Up until 10 years ago, I think the instrument also had its matching tortoise shell pick (what I believe to be based on the relatively unscathed condition of the pickguard) and (most likely) its original strings - both of which I proceeded to break when messing around on it and had to promptly replace to avoid the wrath of my grandmother.

Jonathan Peck
Oct-14-2008, 4:35pm
Well, you must have done a good job, it's current bid price is now higher than the buy it now price. Someone is probably kicking themselves for that gaffaw:crying: BTW - I think I figured out which one it is, but I won't let the cat out of the bag;)

Martin Jonas
Oct-15-2008, 9:12pm
For what it's worth, my own strategy when selling obscure vintage mandolins is to write very detailed descriptions and historical background in order to differentiate, say, a Ceccherini bowlback from the vast glut of unplayable no-hoper Italian bowls when most punters have never heard of the name of the builder. Then I include an audio file to reassure the buyer that this is an actual playable instrument and not a wallhanger (there are too many sellers out there who blithely write "playable condition" for complete pieces of junk). Finally, I have a starting bid that is on the low side of reasonable (maybe two-thirds of where I hope it will end up) and no reserve. I find nothing more frustrating than reserve auctions where I'm wasting my time to find that the reserve is way above what I would ever consider paying.

Martin