Last-Modified: Dec 17, 2001
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1.0 Introduction 1.0.1 Disclaimer 1.1 What is a.m.o.e? 1.1.1 Who should read this FAQ? 1.1.2 Who created this FAQ and why? 1.1.3 Where can I find the latest version of this FAQ? 1.2 Who is welcome at a.m.o.e? 1.3 Guidelines for posting questions 1.3.1 Can I advertise my auctions here? 1.3.2 Can I post announcements here? 1.3.3 What other types of posts are not welcome here? 1.3.4 How are these rules enforced? 1.3.5 Where can I advertise my auctions? 1.3.6 Can we talk about other auction-related sites here? 1.3.7 Can I cross-post my posts in a.m.o.e. to other groups? 1.3.8 I have a question not answered in this faq. Who should I ask? 1.4 Is this newsgroup moderated? 2.0 General eBay questions 2.1 Common Acronyms 2.1.1 a.m.o.e. 2.1.2 FVF 2.1.3 NARU 2.1.4 NPB 2.1.5 NR 2.1.6 EOA 2.1.7 BIN 2.1.8 VeRO 2.1.99 Links to category/item-specific terms, definitions and acronyms 2.2 Is eBay down? 2.3 How do I contact eBay? 2.4 How can I get an unjust negative feedback removed? 2.5 Are there any alternatives to eBay? 2.6 How long do auction listings stay on eBay? 2.7 If I change my eBay handle, will I lose my feedback? 2.98 Who has the highest feedback rating on eBay? 2.99 When does the [Insert Season] slump start? 3.0 Seller questions 3.1 Listing 3.1.1 What items should I sell on eBay that can make me a lot of money? 3.1.2 What items aren't allowed on eBay? 3.1.3 What should be in my auction listing? 3.1.4 What shouldn't be in my auction listing? 3.1.5 Auction Pictures 22.214.171.124 How do I put more than one picture in my auction listing? 126.96.36.199 Why are my pictures broken? 188.8.131.52 Where can I get free picture hosting? 184.108.40.206 Someone is using my pictures. What can I do? 3.1.6 Can I use my About Me page for my auction terms? 3.1.7 Should I use reserves in my auctions? 3.1.8 When is the best time to start/end an auction? 3.1.9 Are those extra-charge options worthwhile? 3.2 Getting Paid 3.2.1 What payment services should I accept? 3.2.2 What is PayPal? 3.2.3 What is eBay payments (formerly known as BillPoint)? 3.2.4 What is BidPay? 3.2.5 Can I charge a fee if someone pays me with one of these services? 3.2.6 What if my bidder doesn't respond? 3.2.7 What if my bidder responds and refuses to pay? 3.2.8 How long do I have to wait to relist my item? 3.3 Shipping 3.3.1 How much should I charge for shipping? 3.3.2 Can I use Priority Mail boxes for other types of mail? 3.3.3 Should I ship to International bidders? 3.4 After the Auction 3.4.1 When should I leave feedback? 3.4.2 What if I don't hear back from the buyer? 3.5 Selling tools 3.6 How do I become a PowerSeller? 3.7 I'm new to eBay and want to sell. How can I convince others of my honesty? 4.0 Buyer issues 4.1 Bidding 4.1.1 How much should I bid? 4.1.2 I bid $20 and my bid only shows as $1.00. Why? 4.1.3 I just lost an auction by $1.00. How did this happen? 4.1.4 I lost an auction in the last minute. How can I keep that from happening again? 4.1.5 What is proxy bidding? How does it work? 4.1.6 What are the bid increments eBay uses to increase bids? 4.2 After the auction 4.2.1 How long should I wait for a seller to reply to my emails? 4.2.2 What should I do if my emails to the seller bounce? 4.3 Paying for your winnings 4.3.1 The seller doesn't accept [payment type]. What do I do? 4.4 After you've paid 4.4.1 How long should I wait to receive my merchandise? 4.4.2 When should I leave feedback? 4.4.3 I've been ripped off. What do I do now? 5.0 How to get kicked off of eBay 5.1 Shill bidding 5.2 Bid shielding 5.3 Don't pay for your winnings 5.4 Engage in keyword spamming 5.5 Don't pay your eBay fees 5.6 Link to your web site from your auction listing 5.7 Listing auctions with copyright violations 5.8 Have a bad email address 5.9 Registering with invalid contact information 5.10 Auction Interference 6.0 Things that _won't_ get you kicked off of eBay 6.1 Sniping 6.1.1 Why people snipe 6.1.2 Why some people hate snipers 6.1.3 How to protect yourself against snipers 6.2 Bid retractions 6.3 Posting negative feedback 7.0 EBay Stores 8.0 Credits and Thank You's! 1.0 Introduction This article attempts to address the most commonly asked questions about eBay and the newsgroup alt.marketing.online.ebay . In thisarticle you will find answers to questions about both eBay in general and about the commonly accepted guidelines for use of a.m.o.e. 1.0.1 Disclaimer This article is provided as is without any express or implied warranties. While every effort has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information contained in this article, the author, maintainer, and contributors assume no responsibility for errors or omissions, or for damages resulting from the use of the information contained herein. 1.1 What is a.m.o.e? a.m.o.e. is the acronym for our little corner of usenet, namely alt.marketing.online.ebay. 1.1.1 Who should read this FAQ? If you want tips to improve your auction business or feel a bit lost about how this whole auction thing works, you are in the right place! This faq is a sampling of the collective wisdom from many longtime residents of amoe and provides a broad cross-section of information relevant to both buyers and sellers. 1.1.2 Who created this FAQ and why? This faq was created by Bill Shaw with contributions from a vast number of the denizens of amoe. See Section 8.0 for a list of credits. The goal is to provide a balanced answer devoid of politics and emotion for many of the common questions asked on amoe. 1.1.3 Where can I find the latest version of this FAQ? The latest version of the faq can be found at http://www.banneditems.com/amoefaq.html. 1.2 Who is welcome at a.m.o.e? Everyone with something positive to contribute to the discussion of online auctions is welcome. 1.3 Guidelines for posting questions Posting questions is a pretty simple process but you might very well find that your question has already been answered! Before posting the question, take some time to read the FAQ, lurk in the group for a while and get a feel for the types of questions that are allowed. Unlike many other usenet groups, amoe is very tolerant of newbies and basic questions are generally answered in a very helpful fashion. Check http://pages.ebay.com/help/usenet_policy.html for eBay's general usenet guidelines and policies. 1.3.1 Can I advertise my auctions here? No. You may want to try alt.marketPLACE.online.ebay or a category specific to your product that allows for auction posts. Be sure auction announcements are accepted in any category you decide to use before you post them. If in doubt, don't post in that category. 1.3.2 Can I post announcements here? That greatly depends on what you are announcing. If your announcement is strictly a commercial message and not of general interest to the online auction community, such as for sale or for auction notices, then the answer is a resounding NO. Because this newsgroup is informational in nature, posts that do not contribute to the ongoing discussion of online auctions are considered off-topic. If you have a tool or resource that might be of interest to auction buyers and sellers, announcements should conform to generally accepted usenet guidelines and should be posted no more often than monthly. Frequent, repeated postings are considered spam. Responses to genuine queries may direct the poster to your tool provided the reference is on-topic and brief. An excessively long description of your product in response to a general question is not acceptable. Signature lines should be no longer than four lines and may include links. 1.3.3 What other types of posts are not welcome here? No posts containing anything but plain text are permitted. Do not post HTML-formatted messages. Do not post binaries (pictures, executables, archives and other non-plain text posts (usually encoded using encoding schemes such as UUencoding and base64). Posts must be "human readable" in a "human language" (such as English, Spanish, French, Korean, for example). Posting of plain text computer language "source code" should only be used to explain something related to a proper topic. If your comments are blatantly off-topic or purely inflammatory, take them somewhere else. No posts offerring money making schemes (legal or otherwise) or employment offers of any sort whatsoever. Do not post a message whose primary purpose is just to display your sig. 1.3.4 How are these rules enforced? Since the alt hierarchy of Usenet is inherently anarchistic, there is no formal enforcement of any rules. However, you can be assured that several of the regulars will report inappropriate posting to eBay, your ISP, or any other party adversely affected by your post. Many of our regulars subscribe to SpamCop (http://www.spamcop.net) and other similar services. 1.3.5 Where can I advertise my auctions? If you are bound and determined to advertise your auctions on Usenet, take the time to ensure your posts are on-topic and welcome in the groups where you plan to post. I strongly suggest lurking in the group for a while to see what types of posts are welcome. You can also search the group for a faq or check news.answers to see if a faq is regularly posted for that group. Most ISP's provide free webspace for picture hosting and for your own web site. Take advantage of it! Also, make sure your "About Me" page on eBay is up-to-date. You'd be surprised how many people check it when they are looking at auctions. 1.3.6 Can we talk about other auction-related sites here? You bet! These types of posts are considered on-topic as long as the discussion is informational in nature and contributes to the collective knowledge of this group. Please note, this does NOT give you the license to spam this newsgroup with advertisements for your latest and greatest auction widget. See Section 1.3.2 for more information on allowable announcements. 1.3.7 Can I cross-post my posts in a.m.o.e. to other groups? Cross-posting to a limited number of relevant groups is appropriate so long as the post is on-topic for all groups. Excessive cross-posting is considered spam. When replying to messages, be sure to trim any irrelevant cross-posts. 1.3.8 I have a question not answered in this faq. Who should I ask? Check out the usenet archives at Google Groups and search for the answer to your questions. Odds are that it has already been asked and answered. If you can't find it there, by all means, post your question. 1.4 Is this newsgroup moderated? No. As far as I know, there are no kill-filters in place for this newsgroup. However, the members of this group enjoy a relatively low noise-level of off-topic posts and spam-reporting is generally in full swing, particularly for repeat offenders. 2.0 General eBay questions Many eBay-specific questions can be answered in a matter-of-fact way. If you need to post a question that hasn't been adequately answered, provide a link with an example so others can see what you are talking about. 2.1 Common Acronyms As with all auction titles and listings, don't always take these acronyms at face value especially if there's no picture to back up the title's claims, if in doubt contact the seller and ask about the condition of the box/packet/item. 2.1.1 a.m.o.e. alt.marketing.online.ebay (this Usenet group). 2.1.2 FVF Final Value Fee. This is the fee eBay charges as a percentage of the final bid at the end of a successful auction. If nobody bids or the reserve isn't met on a reserve auction, there's no FVF to pay. If the winning bidder backs out for any reason, the seller can reclaim the FVF from eBay as the transaction is not deemed successful. To do so, the seller must file a NPB alert and wait 10 days, except when the winning bidder is NARU'd. For more information, refer to http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/npb.html. 2.1.3 NARU Not a Registered User. The user in question is not currently able to sell or bid on eBay. This situation may be temporary or permanent. It may also occur at the user's request. Generally speaking, most NARU'd accounts have violated some policy or have an outstanding bill with eBay. Unless the user has really bad feedback it can be difficult to guess why a user is NARU'd as eBay doesn't state any reason why. For more information, refer to http://pages.ebay.com/help/myinfo/user-not-registered.html. 2.1.4 NPB Non-paying Bidder. Also refers to the Non-Paying Bidder Alert form. In other words, the bidder of an auction hasn't paid, so you file a NPB alert to provide a little push to help convince them to pay for your auction. It's also the first step to reclaiming the FVF that eBay billed you. NPB alerts don't go down as a black mark on the bidder's history, but FVF's do (unless the FVF reason was that you both agreed to mutually cancel the transaction). For more information, refer to http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/npb.html. 2.1.5 NR No Reserve. This short acronym is often found in auction titles to indicate items offered with no reserve. 2.1.6 EOA EBay's End of Auction Notice or alternately, your own End of Auction Notice. 2.1.7 BIN EBay's Buy It Now feature. When a buyer uses BIN, the auction is immediately ended with the bidder as the winner at the specified BIN price. BIN prices are only present if the auction has no bids or, in the case of reserve auctions, the reserve has not been met. 2.1.8 VeRO Verified Rights Owner. EBay gives the VeRO special privileges in determining if auctions listed by other seller's violate their intellectual property rights. If a VeRO member decides someone has violated their rights, they can unilaterally cancel the auctions of other sellers. All you need to do to join eBay's VeRO program is register an account, create an About Me page describing your rights, and then register with eBay as the owner of whatever intellectual property you are claiming. 2.1.99 Links to category/item-specific terms, definitions and acronyms Until I have some good links, here are some product acronyms I received by amoe members. Keep in mind that many sellers aren't terribly accurate with these descriptive terms and you should check the seller's reputation (always good advice) before bidding. HTF Hard To Find, or so the seller believes MIB Mint In Box. Implies that the item is in mint condition still in it's original box, note that this does not explicitly mean the box has never been opened MIP Mint In Packet, implies that the item is in mint condition still in it's original packet, again note that this does not explicitly mean the packet has never been opened but implies the seal has not been broken MOC Mint On Card, Star Wars figure etc. unopened still on it's card MWMT Mint With Mint Tags, especially important in Beanie Babies collecting. MWT Mint With Tag, beanies etc. that are in mint condition still with their tag attached NIB New In Box, implies that the item is in new condition still in it's box, the box may have been opened NIP New In Packet, similar to MIP NOS New Old Stock, a seller has acquired old stock that is in new condition, i.e. it's been sitting in a warehouse for years NRFB Never Removed From Box, implies the item has never been removed from it's original box and the item is in mint condition OOAK One Of A Kind, usually seen on custom-designed Barbies or other fashion dolls OOP Out Of Print, usually seen with books or videos VHTF Very Hard To Find, or so the seller still believes ;) 2.2 Is eBay down? Probably (VBG)! EBay seems to suffer more downtime than many other large commerce sites. Although eBay doesn't always acknowledge downtime, you can obtain the official status of the eBay site at http://pages.ebay.com/community/news/index.html. Unfortunately, eBay's announcement page doesn't always provide any notice of downtime until after the fact. In case it does, you can find it on the announcements page at http://www2.ebay.com/aw/announce.shtml. Otherwise, clear your cache, reboot your PC and give it another try. 2.3 How do I contact eBay? It depends on the problem. As of the date of this FAQ, you can send email to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. 2.4 How can I get an unjust negative feedback removed? The short answer - you can't. There appears to be only three ways to get a negative feedback erased from your record. First, if you can show that the feedback YOU left was for the wrong user by referring the eBay representative to another user where you left identical feedback. Secondly, you can apply to Square Trade (http://www.squaretrade.com), pay them $15 to mediate and IF the other party cooperates and agrees, the feedback can be removed. Finally, obtain a court order. Check with your attorney to determine costs and the timeframe associated with this type of action. EBay's policy on this can be found on their Feedback Basics page located at http://pages.ebay.com/help/basics/f-feedback.html#6. If you receive an unjust negative feedback, remain calm. The character portrayed in your response is more important than the feedback itself. Leave a factual, professional response and forget about it. Your trading partners will most likely understand and not hold it against you unless they see a pattern of negatives. 2.5 Are there any alternatives to eBay? There are plenty of other auction sites on the Internet, but eBay is widely recognized as the 800 lb. gorilla and currently delivers a much higher percentage of buyers per auction than any other site available. With that said, other auction sites commonly referenced as alternatives to eBay are Yahoo Auctions, ePier, and SellYourItem.com. A fairly current list of auction sites can be found at http://www.auctionguild.com/generic.html?pid=1. 2.6 How long do auction listings stay on eBay? They are available on eBay's site for a minimum of 90 days. This is the same as the length of time guaranteed for leaving feedback on an auction. Completed items are only available through My EBay for 30 days and via search for 10 days (subject to change without notice). After 30 days, you need to know the auction number to view the listing. 2.7 If I change my eBay handle, will I lose my feedback? No. Your feedback stays with you as long as you use the same eBay account, regardless of the name assigned to the account. You will have to wear the shades for 30 days indicating your ID has recently changed. 2.98 Who has the highest feedback rating on eBay? Last time anyone checked, email@example.com had over 50,000. 2.99 When does the [Insert Season] slump start? Right after the [Previous Season] downturn. 3.0 Seller questions Often times, selling on eBay is quite similar to aiming at a moving target while blindfolded. Hopefully, these selling tips can help you learn some of the finer points. 3.1 Listing Deciding what to list, how to list it, and when to do so are so dependent on your own resources and preferences that no one can really give you definitive answers on what works. All anyone can really say is what has worked for them in the past and what hasn't worked. Keep in mind that the Internet and eBay are constantly changing and things that went well yesterday may not go so well today. You'll need a constant and watchful eye to track those changes and ensure you are getting the most out of your selling experience. 3.1.1 What items should I sell on eBay that can make me a lot of money? If you figure it out, please let me know. ;-) Take stock of the resources you have for obtaining merchandise. Make a list of what you can readily obtain and then research the heck out of it by searching eBay's closed auctions. Your best bet when you are just getting started is to run an eBay garage sale. Find things around the house that you no longer need. Not only will you build feedback, but your cash flow is high since you aren't having to buy merchandise. This also gives you the opportunity to fine tune your listing templates and establish a solid method to stay on top of your auction sales and customers. Once you have things down, you also can reinvest your income in items that you think might be profitable. 3.1.2 What items aren't allowed on eBay? We try to keep up with the constant policy updates regarding allowable items on eBay here, but the final authority is eBay. You can view their current policy here. 3.1.3 What should be in my auction listing? At a minimum, you should list a clear and concise description, a clear picture of the item being sold, and any necessary terms of sale. Terms should include details about shipping, payment types accepted, and contact information in case a bidder has further questions. If possible, list a fixed shipping price for the item. 3.1.4 What shouldn't be in my auction listing? Background music, large or dark backgrounds, animated images, and huge photos of the item for sale all can take a long time to load and buyers are often too impatient to wait. Also, if the listing is too "busy" visually, bidders will have a difficult time figuring out what you are offering and may move on. Complicated backgrounds, particularly with small text, are extremely difficult to read. If the background has a pattern containing colors similar to the text, the text may be illegible. The bottom line to consider is the value of the graphic, image, or other elements in helping to accurately describe your item. If it doesn't help the buyer determine what they are bidding on, leave it out. Sellers should also keep abreast of listing violations that may cause your auction to be cancelled by eBay or cause them to NARU your account. Current listing guidelines can be found at http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/png-list.html. 3.1.5 Auction Pictures It is said a picture is worth a thousand words. Items with clear pictures generally receive higher bids. 220.127.116.11 How do I put more than one picture in my auction listing? You can do this two different ways. If you don't want to spend any time learning html (the language of the web), you can take advantage of eBay's picture services for a nominal fee for up to six pictures. For those will basic skills, you can upload the pictures to your webspace and then link the pictures into your auction description using an IMG tag. 18.104.22.168 Why are my pictures broken? If the links you provided to your pictures don't match the actual URL of the picture, your pictures will appear broken. Also, some free webhosts block links from eBay's servers and don't allow picture hosting from their sites. Try cutting the URL for your picture and pasting it directly into the address bar of your browser. If the pictures still don't work, you'll get an error message stating why. If they suddenly work, your web host is probably blocking the link from eBay's site. You'll either need to upgrade to a paid service or switch to a different web host. EBay provides some additional help here. 22.214.171.124 Where can I get free picture hosting? There are a number of sites that provide free web and picture hosting. A relatively current page listing free and low-cost web hosts can be found at http://www.webnology.com/~geekaw/ImageHosts.htm. 126.96.36.199 Someone is using my pictures. What can I do? If they are linking to a picture in your webspace, you can always replace the picture. A great gag would be to use a picture of your item, but horrible destroyed. Be sure none of your current auctions are using the same picture! If the seller was smart enough to copy your picture before using it, you can complain to ebay or the seller. This is mostly ineffective since eBay takes 2-3 days to respond and you'll need to prove somehow that you indeed own the picture. If you consider your artwork and auction listings valuable, register with eBay's VeRO program and state your rights on About Me page. I haven't heard any feedback on how effective this tactic is, but the VeRO email address is looked at quicker than safeharbor. A good way to discourage people from using your pictures is to put your name or eBay handle in the graphic image with an editor. For example, put the text "Copyright 2001 -your ebay handle-" in the image using your favorite paint program before posting it. Someone could always edit it back out, but it takes much more effort, especially if your background is multi-colored. 3.1.6 Can I use my About Me page for my auction terms? Many sellers do, but this practice is actually prohibited by eBay. EBay states that all terms must appear in the auction listing. The problem with putting your terms elsewhere is that they can be unilaterally changed by the seller during or after the auction leaving little recourse or protection to buyers. 3.1.7 Should I use reserves in my auctions? Reserves perform two important roles on eBay. First, they protect the value of your item. Second, the BIN price is maintained until the reserve is met preventing a buyer from eliminating your BIN price with a low, starting bid. Many sellers believe that reserves reduce the number of bidders and hurt your final fee. Other sellers believe the opposite-by starting an auction with a low price and a reasonable reserve, you will attract early bidding and bidders will gravitate to your auction (i.e. bids beget bids). You'll have to experiment a bit to see what works for you. Remember that your fees are higher for items that don't reach the reserve price. As a general rule, if you are selling items that have a large bidder pool, reserves are unnecessary since the bidding usually reaches a fair price. If your items only receive a few bids, you'll either need to use reserves or start your auctions at the minimum price you are willing to accept for the item. 3.1.8 When is the best time to start/end an auction? Again, it depends on what you sell. Ebay seems busiest on Sunday nights, but there are numerous reasons why ending auctions at that time may not be a good idea. For instance, if many of your competitors are ending auctions at the same time, the bids may be split between those competitors and the final values might be lower. Also, keep in mind that holidays are generally a bad time to end auctions. Also, consider your audience. Some items sell very well during the daytime since the bidders for those items are surfing from work or when the kids are at school. Other items sell better with evening closing times for similar reasons. Experimentation is strongly recommended. And don't forget that you'll need to retest your assumptions periodically since buying habits change with time as well. 3.1.9 Are those extra-charge options worthwhile? The answer to this question greatly depends on the type of items you are selling and the type of buyers you attract with your listings. The more exclusive your item is, the less important these features become. Remember that these features are designed to increase your exposure by making your item more visible or prominent when a potential buyer is looking at lists of auctions that they might be interested in. Before you consider paying for extra features, you should first make sure the best possible keywords are present in your auction listings and titles and that you are in the best categories. Buyers find auctions two ways - by browsing categories and by searching keywords. If your keywords are inappropriate or misspelled, your item won't even make it onto the list and those paid features are worthless. I recommend you fine-tune your listings before you start paying for extra features. If you don't use counters on your auctions, start right away. You don't have any other way to measure the results. The key to making effective use of features like bold, highlight, and the various incarnations of "Featured" placement is to experiment and to pay attention to what your competition is doing. Unless you can differenciate your auction listing in some meaningful way, your customers won't notice your auction buried on page two of a category with 120 featured auctions. If you are relatively exclusive in your products, skip the extra features. The only real exception is the Gallery. If you product is very visual in nature, a clear gallery thumbnail can make a huge difference in your auction results. Keep in mind the goal is to entice the buyer to click through to your auction, so make sure the gallery image you select is eyecatching and the title gives enough information to reinforce the image. With the other features, bold is bold is bold (as an example). With the gallery, you can do a lot for your auction by making sure your gallery pics are better than the competition's. Finally, experiment. Watch your click-throughs on your auctions and track how many people view your auctions with the various features enabled. Be sure to keep other variables (such as auction length and ending day/time) consistent to ensure your numbers are as meaningful as possible. If you aren't selling multiples of an item, compare your results to your competition by searching closed auctions. See if your selling price is in line with others that using different options. If the selling prices aren't improved by using the optional features, drop them. 3.2 Getting Paid You'd be amazed at how fussy some sellers are about what forms of payment they'll accept. After all, why wouldn't you take live chickens? As a seller, you should make it convenient as possible for your buyers to pay you. 3.2.1 What payment services should I accept? The more payment services you accept, the less likely someone will pass on your auctions. With that said, there are perfectly valid reasons for NOT accepting certain forms I payment. For instance, I have no place to store live chickens and won't take them. I recommend at least one option that the buyer can use without getting out of their chair. For online payments, the current choices are PayPal, eBay Payments, Yahoo PayDirect, BidPay, and C2It (listed in order by payment volume AFAIK). All of these services allow buyers to use their credit cards or bank accounts to pay the seller electronically. 3.2.2 What is PayPal? PayPal is the most popular payment service accepted by sellers on eBay, as ranked by the number of auctions. They started as a person-to-person payment service with the premise that you can send and receive money via email or wireless via your Palm handheld. 3.2.3 What is eBay Payments (formerly known as BillPoint)? EBay Payments is the official payment service of eBay backed by Wells Fargo Bank. It is currently the only online payment system integrated into eBay Stores and their checkout process. 3.2.4 What is BidPay? BidPay is a bit unique in that payments arrive in the form of Western Union Money order rather than electronic form. Many International buyers find it very convenient when paying US sellers since the money order is easily converted to cash and is present is U.S. funds. 3.2.5 Can I charge a fee if someone pays me with one of these services? No. Not only is it against eBay's terms of service on the U.S. site, it probably also violates the terms for your payment service (You should check with the payment service to be sure). With that said, many sellers include it in their handling fee which is spread out among all buyers and thereby ok. Laws regarding credit card surcharges may vary from state to state. More information on credit card surcharges are available at http://www.gofso.com/Premium/LE/06_le_ic/fg/fg-merchants.html#C. 3.2.6 What if my bidder doesn't respond? Have you given them at least 3 working days to reply? If so, try using a different e-mail service to contact them in case your messages are being blocked by their ISP. If you still aren't able to make contact after at least 7 calendar days, you can go to eBay's Non-Paying Bidder Alert Form located at http://cgi3.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?NPBComplaintForm . You can file the NPB anytime between 7 and 45 days after the auction closes. You may also wish to obtain the buyer's contact information from eBay. If you have a current or recent transaction with someone, you can have eBay send you their contact information comprising their name, phone number and city/state. You will not receive their address. Keep in mind that the user will also automatically receive your information when you make the request. The contact request form is located at http://cgi3.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?UserInformationRequest. A special note should be made regarding dutch auctions. When filing the NPB Alert, the seller must file all NPB's for the auction at the same time. Any NPB's not filed at this time are forfeited and the seller will not be able to recover fees. 3.2.7 What if my bidder responds and refuses to pay? Go directly to the NPB form after the 7 days have past. Remember, you only have 45 days to file a NPB report and 60 days to request a FVF refund. Once you file the NPB alert, you have to wait 10 days to file the FVF request (for most NPB Reasons). Once you've completed the FVF request, leave appropriate feedback for the buyer. 3.2.8 How long do I have to wait to relist my item? Technically, you can relist the item if you haven't heard from the buyer in the three business days. Most eBay users would probably agree that this is MUCH too soon. It's not uncommon for a buyer to send a payment without contacting you first. EBay recommends you send a payment reminder between three and thirty days from auction close. 3.3 Shipping 3.3.1 How much should I charge for shipping? If you want to see a spirited flame war, ask this question on a.m.o.e. Since your basic choices are to charge more, less, or exactly your cost of postage, you have to decide for yourself how to market your auctions. However you decide, make sure it is clearly spelled out in your auction listing. If you are unable to put an exact figure in your listing, give enough information so the buyer can request a shipping price or look it up for themselves. 3.3.2 Can I use Priority Mail boxes for other types of mail? The USPS provides certain Express Mail, Priority Mail, Global Express Guaranteed, Global Express Mail and Global Priority Mail® packing materials at no cost to the consumer specifically for use in shipping via these services. For information on usage restrictions: http://supplies.usps.gov/disclaimer.htm. No one knows how many federal laws you would be breaking by misusing those supplies and the postal inspector probably won't be knocking on your door (and then, they might . . .), but you are certain to get hassled by your local postal employees if they catch on. 3.3.3 Should I ship to International bidders? Another hotly debated topic. The tough part about international shipping is the potential for fraud, cost of shipping, establishing acceptable payment terms, and language barriers. It takes a bit of work initially and a little experience to get used to these types of transactions, but the potential for higher profits is tremendous. If you want to dip your toe a bit before plunging in to the world-wide market, eBay lets you select certain regions giving you some control over your exposure on the various worldwide eBay sites. From the United States, you might want to try just Canada for a while until you have a level of comfort with International sales. Once you feel you've mastered Canadian sales, expand to Europe or Australia. When you decide to offer your goods to International Buyers, you'll want to be sure to specify how you want to be paid. If you get a request from a potential buyer asking if you'll accept payment type X, it's always a good idea to check with your bank to make sure you aren't going to be hit with any outrageous fees. As a general rule, it you are taking payments in U.S. dollars and the payment instrument is drawn on an American bank, your bank shouldn't be charging extra for these types of deposits. If they are, shop around and find a bank that doesn't. 3.4 After the Auction Service after the auction is twice as important as the service you provide before and during the auction. First impressions go a long way, but keeping in contact with your customers and handling their orders professionally is truly where the rubber meets the road. 3.4.1 When should I leave feedback? Incendiary topic #1!! Opinions vary greatly. Many sellers don't consider the auction to be complete until the buyer acknowledges receipt of the item and states that everything is in order. Other sellers feel that once a buyer has paid, they have fulfilled their obligations and feedback is in order. Whatever your decision, stick with it and don't keep it a secret. Post your feedback policy on your 'About Me' page so that buyer's can know what to expect. Keep in mind that many buyers consider themselves 'feedback hostages' when sellers employ the strategy of leaving feedback only after the other party has done so. Good sellers generally only receive feedback on about 50-60% of their sold auctions. Many buyers will react strongly if they feel pushed and an otherwise smooth transaction can end up with poor results for the seller. 3.4.2 What if I don't hear back from the buyer? See Section 3.2.6. 3.5 Selling tools If you intend to sell in any volume on eBay, a number of selling tools can greatly improve your organization and reduce your time spent managing your burgeoning auction business. Here is a brief list of tools and services: Mister Lister. Ebay's free bulk listing tool. Auction Trakker. Complete auction management and listing tool. Shooting Star. Intelligent Auction Management Software. Auction Watch. The Complete Sales Management Solution. ChannelAdvisor. Consumer marketplace management services and technology. 3.6 How do I become a PowerSeller? Powersellers get that way by selling a minimum of $2000 per month through eBay. That amount doesn't include shipping and handling. You can't apply to become a power seller, you are invited. Criteria for the various power seller levels can be found at http://pages.ebay.com/services/buyandsell/powersellers.html. 3.7 I'm new to eBay and want to sell. How can I convince others of my honesty? Start small, selling relatively inexpensive items, that can be shipped cheaply. Deliver them promptly, and pack them carefully. It's a whole lot easier to sell a $5 to $10 item when you have no feedback than it is to sell a $50 or $100 item. Count on not making too much if anything on that first group of auctions. When you've built up a few positives, start selling more expensive merchandise. People want to see a pattern of transacting business in an honorable fashion. Starting small is the easiest way to establish a record of honorable behavior. Admittedly, some people do the same thing to sell nonexistent $2000 laptops, but if you're selling books and toys, starting with the cheaper stuff first, and gradually moving into the higher priced but still similar merchandise, people are less likely to automatically assume you're a scammer. 4.0 Buyer issues EBay's full buyer's guide can be found at http://pages.ebay.com/help/buyerguide/. 4.1 Bidding Bidding strategy is one of the least understood areas of eBay. Terms like sniping and proxy bidding can be pretty confusing to a zero-feedback bidder and it's easy to lose an item if you don't understand what is happening. 4.1.1 How much should I bid? Bid the maximum amount you are willing to pay for an item less the expected cost to ship. If you lose the auction, you'll have the comfort of know you weren't willing to pay more for it. What? you would have paid that extra $1? That means you really didn't bid your max. 4.1.2 I bid $20 and my bid only shows as $1.00. Why? You have just been introduced to the proxy bidding system. When you place your bid, eBay only shows the minimum amount necessary for you to win the auction. If other bidders jump in, your bid will automatically increase until the other party quits bidding or your maximum bid (the amount you entered) is exceeded. This method is very effective as long as you bid the maximum amount you are willing to pay. If you are only incrementally bidding, you are drawing attention to the auction and potential snipers can easily take the auction from you at the last moment. 4.1.3 I just lost an auction by $1.00. How did this happen? Remember that eBay only bids the amount necessary to win the auction. You don't really know how much the winner was willing to spend, all you know is that it was at least $1 (or whatever the bid increment was) more than your bid. 4.1.4 I lost an auction in the last minute. How can I keep that from happening again? Bid your max. The only real protection from last-minute bidders is to have your maximum bid in place before the auction ends. Any lesser amount usually results in a loss. 4.1.5 What is proxy bidding? How does it work? Essentially, when you bid, you aren't telling eBay how much of a bid to place. You are actually informing ebay as to the maximum amount you are willing to spend on this auction. The actual bid placed by eBay's bidding system is either the minimum amount for the auction (if you are the first bidder) or one bid increment above the previous high bidder. In the event someone else bids, eBay will increase your bid up to your maximum to keep you one bid increment above the other bidders. If another bidder exceeds your maximum, they become the high bidder at no more than one bid increment above your maximum bid. EBay gives some very good examples at http://pages.ebay.com/help/buyerguide/bidding-prxy.html. 4.1.6 What are the bid increments eBay uses to increase bids? When eBay bids up to your maximum amount on your behalf, the bidding system automatically determines the next bid based on a simple schedule of increments located at http://pages.ebay.com/help/basics/e_item11.html based on the current bid price. The higher the item price, the larger the increment, bid increments range from a nickel to $100 on the U.S. Site. 4.2 After the auction Post-auction activities are probably the most important part of the auction. This is where most problems occur between buyers and sellers. Ensuring solid, timely communication is the best way to minimize these types of issues. 4.2.1 How long should I wait for a seller to reply to my emails? You shouldn't need to wait more than three business days to exchange contacts with a seller. Remember that eBay states that both parties should make contact within that timeframe. Unless the seller states in their auction that they don't use the eBay checkout system, checkout is a great way to initiate that contact. If the seller doesn't use checkout, you should expect a timely email from the seller or the auction listing should have detailed instructions on what to expect. 4.2.2 What should I do if my emails to the seller bounce? When the email bounces, it might indicate a bad email address or another problem with either of your email accounts. Before you panic, there a couple of simple things to try. First, use the Ask Seller a Question link on the auction page to attempt contact. This message comes from eBay's servers and is less likely to be blocked by anti-spammed mail systems. If the message bounced because of a full mailbox, wait a day before attempting to send another message. If you don't think you'll be able to make email contact, request the user's contact information using http://cgi3.ebay.com/aw-cgi/eBayISAPI.dll?MemberSearchShow from eBay and give them a call. If the email account is not valid or the contact information is wrong, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. 4.3 Paying for your winnings Pay promptly. If for any reason, you are going to have trouble paying, contact the seller to make arrangements for a delayed payment. Many sellers react better if they know what is going on up front and aren't being strung along. With that said, the buyer is obligated to fulfill their obligation by paying and the seller might, rightfully, leave a neg no matter how good you think your reason is. 4.3.1 The seller doesn't accept [payment type]. What do I do? If they state in their auction listing that they do accept that form of payment, insist upon it. You have every right to expect the seller to live up to the terms they stated in the auction. If you get a neg, handle it accordingly. If the seller didn't state in their auction listing that a specific form of payment is acceptable, you should have clarified that bit of information before you bid. Note that many sellers will check the Visa/MC option for payments by eBay Payments and PayPal. EBay considers this acceptable. If you try to force a payment type onto a seller, be prepared for a no sale and possible negative feedback. 4.4 After you've paid Most sellers are quite prompt about shipping your merchandise once they've received your payment. If you haven't heard from the seller in a reasonable timeframe, you have several options. 4.4.1 How long should I wait to receive my merchandise? Even if a seller ships your order on the day they receive the payment, there is still an interval of time before your item arrives at your doorstep. Factors that affect shipping time include distance, class of service, unexpected mail delays, misaddressed mail, and quality of packaging. Normal delivery times can range anywhere from one day to eight weeks. If you've done your homework, you should know the seller's track record for shipping by reviewing his or her feedback. If you feel your package is late, contact the seller to find out what is going on. Whenever possible, obtain a tracking number so you can check the status for yourself online. If you need to contact the seller, you should verify the shipping address, date sent, and the tracking number. 4.4.2 When should I leave feedback? Incendiary topic #1!! Opinions greatly vary for sellers, but buyer's should leave feedback once they've received the item and verified it is as specified in the auction description. If something is amiss, contact the seller first and give them an opportunity to fix it. If you lash out immediately with a neg, you have lost a valuable lever that can't be regained. 4.4.3 I've been ripped off. What do I do now? Your options depend greatly on a number of factors such as how you paid, the dollar amount, and where you and the seller are located. First things first - contact the other party and make sure there hasn't been some sort of misunderstanding. If you aren't receiving results, contact eBay, your credit card company or payment service, and any appropriate law enforcement officials. If you mailed your payment or the package was expected via US Mail, see http://www.usps.com/postalinspectors/fraud/ to determine if mail fraud statutes might apply and you can file a complaint with the United States Postal Service. Generally, it is very difficult to get cooperation from law enforcement unless the dollar amount is in the thousands range. Many times your recourse is through the civil court system which can be expensive and can take a very long time. The Federal Trade Commission has a very comprehensive guide here. A fairly extensive guide to both buyer and seller options when an eBay transaction goes wrong is listed at http://www.mindspring.com/~bookdealers/help.html 5.0 How to get kicked off of eBay Unless you aren't paying your bill, eBay generally enforces their rules only in response to specific complaints from other members. 5.1 Shill bidding Sellers who bid on their own auctions or have a closely related party bid on their auctions without any intention of winning are engaging in shill bidding. Shill bidding is done to increase the final price for auctions or to make an auction appear more popular than it really is. With the changes eBay has made restricting access to email addresses and other member information, it is becoming increasingly difficult to detect this type of activity. If you see the same bidder in the bid history for many of a seller's auctions or a high number of bid retractions, these are indications (not guarantees) of shill bidding. If you suspect shill bidding, but aren't sure, post the auction link to amoe and let the group help. 5.2 Bid shielding Bid shielding is done by a buyer to keep the price high until the end of an auction to discourage other bidders. The high bid is then retracted leaving the buyer's second account as the new high bidder. Note that a buyer has to have two separate accounts or a partner to accomplish this. With eBay's new rules on late bid retractions, it is more difficult, but not impossible to shield low bids. If you suspect bid shielding, but aren't sure, post the auction link to amoe and let the group help. 5.3 Don't pay for your winnings Three strikes and you're out! If three separate sellers go through the NPB/FVF process, you are automatically banned from further activity on eBay. 5.4 Engage in keyword spamming By adding keywords into your auction title or description that are totally unrelated to the item you are selling, your auction shows up on a much greater number of searches. The problem with this is that search results become unusable since potential bidders have to wade through pages of junk to find items they want. First-time offenders are usually given a warning and have their auction cancelled. Subsequent offenses may result in account suspension. 5.5 Don't pay your eBay fees Need we say more? You'll get an email if your payment doesn't post and will have only a limited amount of time to make the payment. 5.6 Link to your web site from your auction listing This rule only seems to apply if you aren't a power seller. The official policy at http://pages.ebay.com/help/community/png-adsfaq2.html makes most links illegal, but enforcement is not consistent. 5.7 Listing auctions with copyright violations With eBay's VeRO program, your auctions can be unilaterally cancelled by eBay at the request of other sellers. The strategy employed is shoot first, ask questions later. Repeated violations can result in suspension of your eBay account. 5.8 Have a bad email address If eBay receives a complaint that your email address is no longer valid, they will send a test message. If they confirm your address, nothing happens. If the message bounces, your account is automatically cancelled until you register a new email address and request to have it reinstated. Invalid email addresses can be reported to safe harbor. 5.9 Registering with invalid contact information If eBay receives a complaint that any of your contact information is wrong, they will quickly cancel your account. Bad contact information can be reported to safe harbor. 5.10 Auction Interference Auction Interference can take many forms. The essential elements necessary to constitute a violation, however, are that the interference occurs while an auction is running. EBay tends to be quite diligent about cancelling accounts, provided the party making the complaint goes through all the hoops and provides any requested information. 6.0 Things that _won't_ get you kicked off of eBay 6.1 Sniping Sniping is the act of placing a bid with in the last few minutes, usually seconds of the auction ending. Sniping does not ensure that you will win the auction as the previous high bidder may have placed a proxy bid that is higher than your snipe bid, meaning they win. See: http://webhelp.ebay.com/cgi-bin/eHNC/showdoc-ebay.tcl?docid=212826&queryid=s niping 6.1.1 Why people snipe Other than the joy of sniping, bidders generally snipe for three practical reasons. a. Since other bidders may not have bid their max, snipers can get bargains by waiting until the last minute. Many bidders only bid enough to become the high bidder without considering their max. Other bidders think they have bid their max, but reconsider and are willing to go higher when the receive they outbid notice from eBay. b. Items with bids tend to attract more bidders. If the auction has little activity, snipers perceive the auction will be overlooked by potential bidders. c. Some bidders are stalked by other bidders with similar buying interests. After all, why should you search for auctions if someone else is doing the work? By sniping the auction, the sniper prevents the stalker from placing a competing bid. 6.1.2 Why some people hate snipers It's extremely frustrating to see yourself as the highest bidder for the duration of an auction and lose to someone who crawled out of the woodwork at the last minute. Novice bidders, who don't understand the proxy bidding system, are particularly prone to being successfully sniped. This is the type of bidder who bids repeatedly on an auction to get one step ahead of the next bidder. Many bidders feel quite helpless in the face of sniper activity and don't know what they could have done to prevent being sniped. 6.1.3 How to protect yourself against snipers Although no one can guarantee that someone else isn't willing to pay a higher price for any given item, there are a few common sense strategies that can help prevent losing auctions to a sniper. a. Whenever you place your bid, bid your ABSOLUTE maximum. If you think you have determined your max, ask yourself if you would have bid $1 more to win in the face of a competing bid. If you are willing to spend another dollar to win, you haven't found your max. Remember that the amount of your bid is far more important than the timing of your bid. A sniper can only win if they bid higher than your maximum bid. b. Become a sniper yourself and use it to your advantage. Just remember that you only have time for one bid and the current high bidder may have entered a bid much higher than what is currently showing. Therefore, bid your max. c. Recognize that very few items are truly unique. If an item is on eBay, it will probably come up again. Move on and catch it next time around. 6.2 Bid retractions There are very few legitimate reasons for retracting a bid on eBay. With that said, there is nothing to prevent a bidder from retracting their bid for any reason (or no reason). A count of bid retractions you make are noted on your feedback page. Excessive bid retractions can be seen as suspect (see Shilling) as the user could be bidding & retracting high amounts on items just to find out what the present high bidder's proxy bid really is - that practice is against eBay's rules. There appears to be little, if any, repercussions for retracting your bid. The seller has no say in the matter and feedback can not be left either way. More specific information can be found at eBay's page: http://pages.ebay.com/help/buyerguide/bidding-retract.html 6.3 Posting negative feedback EBay's feedback system is only effective if all members leave deserved feedback for both good and bad transactions. Many buyers and sellers are hesitant to leave negative feedback for fear of retaliation. I can state from personal experience that this fear is for the most part unfounded. Out of the first 77 negative feedbacks I left for other members in my eBay career, not one resulted in a retaliatory negative on my record. With that said, I would caution that retaliatory feedback does exist and I do expect to receive one at some point. If you do receive a retaliatory feedback, the best solution is to respond to it in a professional and matter of fact manner. The response speaks louder than the negative and can show potential trading partners where the fault actually lies. If your feedback is otherwise sound, very few people will concern themselves with isolated derogatory feedback. One way to potentially protect yourself against retaliatory feedback from buyers is by proactively contacting other sellers who haven't left feedback and asking how the transaction went. Often, if they also had a bad experience, they will follow your lead and leave the negative feedback and claim their FVF refund (three of which NARU's the buyer and prevents them from leaving any feedback. 7.0 EBay Stores Many of the questions about eBay stores are answered in the main faq and do not bear repeating. The stores are so new that I don't believe any faq could possibly be current until eBay decides their long-term strategy for their stores. This is purely conjecture on my part, but I believe eBay is holding back on heavily promoting their stores until they complete the integration of half.com into their eBay branded properties. It makes sense to me that eBay would integrate half.com into the ebaystores rather than the main eBay site. Until this happens, eBay Stores will not be a major consideration for eBay and they'll continue to play with the feature set. I also don't believe it is outside the realm of possibility that eBay might drop the current eBay stores site in favor of the selling format used on half.com, effectively making half.com the true eBay Stores site. Once half.com has been integrated, I will update this section of the faq to represent the current state of eBay stores. 8.0 Credits and Thank You's! I would like to extend my sincerest thanks and gratitude to the following individuals. They all provided a meaningful contribution to this faq: Richard Ward, Kredai, Ridwan Hughes, Mike Quiqley, Kimberly-Murphy Smith, Kris Baker, Dave Mitton, and zzozz (whoever you are). Copyright © 2000 - 2002 by William B. Shaw. All Rights Reserved. This FAQ may be posted to any USENET newsgroup, on-line service, web site, or BBS as long as it is posted in its entirety and includes this copyright statement. This FAQ may be distributed as class material on diskette or CD-ROM as long as there is no charge (except to cover materials). This FAQ may not be distributed for financial gain. This FAQ may not be included in commercial collections or compilations without express permission from the author.