CeePrompt! Computer Connection

Originally published Monday, April 03, 2000

Maiden Voyage on eBay pays off

It's been nearly a year since I reviewed the online auction house eBay and registered as a seller. Though the proverbial road was paved with good intentions, actually putting items up for sale on eBay just never made it to the top of the ubiquitous to-do list. It wasn't until the garage began to overflow and Wanda Wellerstein advised she was making money selling her old shoes online, that I decided there was no time like the present.

I took the plunge on a lark just one week ago and listed a pair of JL Audio speakers on eBay, sub woofers to be exact. I have little or no understanding of a sub-woofer or it's overall purpose in the grand audio scheme, but it was the first thing I spotted occupying valuable garage space. Similarly I had no clue what these two-year old, 10-inch speakers might be worth, so I estimated the real estate value they occupied instead. $75 seemed a fair price for that piece of concrete.

The entire process was painless and easy to follow. Without reading the step-by-step instructions, I dove in feet-first and completed the online seller's form. I set the sale conditions as money order or cashier's check and included shipping and handling fees (a wild guess), to be paid by the buyer.

As proof that I really did own two sub-woofers in their original packages, I used the digital camera to snap a picture of the speaker duo, poised pertly in front of their chic pink and turquoise boxes. I uploaded the image to my website and provided eBay with the link http://www.ceeprompt.com/ebay/speakers.jpg.

It's not necessary to have your own website in order to upload images, just access to a server and permission. Believe it or not, if you have Internet access you probably already have server space at your disposal. Most ISPs and commercial services like AOL offer server space free of charge to their members for personal web pages, or simply pictures.

eBay auctions last 7 days, down to the minute. Each time I looked at the site reserved for my sale item, I was notified how much auction time was left in days, hours and finally minutes. eBay participated actively in the process, sending daily e-mail notifying me of bidding activity and to remind me of seller responsibilities.

Business was slow the first five days of the auction. Two bidders jockeyed between $80 and $95 and then the high bid was retracted. After the auction was over, I learned the reason from the bid history: "Using mom's credit card. Won't allow me to buy." This offered some insight into the demographics of a woofer fan.

I was beginning to think my first foray into the online auction business was going to be ho-hum until the last 24 hours. Each time I looked at the site throughout the day, the bid grew higher. During the last hour, each time I hit the Reload button in my browser window, the bid increased in one-dollar increments. A total of 22 bids were collected by the auction close and the lucky bidder bought the sub-woofer pair for $135.50, plus shipping and handling.

eBay runs on a system of mutualism and trust. The seller promptly sent me e-mail requesting the mailing address for the money order. Upon receipt and verification of authenticity, I'll ship the twins. When he receives the speakers, he'll file a report rating me as a seller for future auctions. If I fail to deliver the goods, I'll be ostracized from the eBay community and boycotted in future auctions.

Overall, the week I spent on eBay was most entertaining and profitable as well. The woofer duo finally earned their keep and are off to a welcome home. I expect the full-scale virtual garage sale will be in full swing shortly, just in time for Spring-cleaning.

Cathi Schuler owns a computer literacy training/consulting company, Cee Prompt! She is a co-author of computer textbooks and can be reached by e-mail at cschuler@uop.edu or cschuler@ceeprompt.com or by mail c/o The Record, P.O. Box 900, Stockton, CA 95201. She is on the Internet at: http://www.ceeprompt.com. Click here for past archived columns.

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