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eBay for beginners
5 Tips: Painless ways to get cash for your stuff on eBay.
By Gerri Willis, CNN/Money contributing columnist

NEW YORK ( - Is too much holiday booty and not enough cold hard cash your problem? Perhaps selling some of your stuff at auction would help take some pressure off.

For all those Luddites out there 5 Tips is going to tell you about some painless ways to sell your stuff on eBay.

1. EBay isn't easy money

EBay may have given a lot of people a new way of making money. But that doesn't mean it's easy, or safe. EBay is a very serious career for many people. So you have to make sure you're just as serious about it. And that takes a time investment. Just listing one or two items could take hours.

If you try to sell more than 10 items a week, it's equivalent to running a small business says Ina Steiner, the author of "Turn eBay Data into Dollars." Many times people buying things on eBay will want an immediate response to an e-mail, says Steiner.

So, unless you're really willing to be constantly monitoring your merchandise, eBay may not be the marketplace for you. Plus, by the time you get your item sold and shipped, it could be weeks until you see the payoff.

Don't forget that listing on eBay isn't free. You'll be paying listing fees and commission fees too. In fact yesterday the company announced it will raise transaction fees about 8 percent on items between $25 to $975. It does plan to cut fees on lower priced items.

As a new seller, you won't have any kind of reputation for people to measure against. And it's a reputation you'll have to continually improve. And of course, as any Internet user should be aware, never open suspicious e-mail. And don't click on a link in an e-mail. That's the only way to protect against bogus buyers. Finally, never ship anything until you receive payment, advises Harry McCracken of PC World Magazine.

2. Drop it off

If you like the idea of auctioning off your stuff, but you still don't think you have the time or energy to take pictures, write descriptions or deal with payment and shipping, just drop it off an eBay store.

Drop-off eBay stores let you drive your stuff over to them and fill out a form. Then, when the auction is complete, you'll either get a check, or your items back. You have the option of donating the item that doesn't sell to charity.

The caveat to eBay stores: you'll pay for the convenience. In fact, you'll be charged about 35 to 40 percent of the selling price, plus upfront fees for listing and handling. This option is best if you have some valuable items that can catch a good price.

3. Be shop savvy

If you decide to use this option, you'll want to be sure you list with a good seller. Check the web site for a list of eBay drop-off stores. You can also check out the web site

Then you'll want to get the store's eBay user ID number. Make sure you read the store's rating and get a sense of how buyers have liked the store. You should also note how long the store has been an eBay seller.

And of course, the proof is in the pudding. How do you like the store's presentation, the photos. Are the descriptions persuasive? Remember that eBay does not own these stores, so if you have a dispute with a particular store, it's between you and them. EBay is not involved.

4. Get an assistant

Sometimes it's even hard to figure out what's valuable and what isn't. If you'd rather have someone else do the heavy lifting, from picking out the treasures in your closet to selling it on eBay, you can hire eBay trading assistants or consignment sellers.

These are professional eBayers who will come to your home and figure out what's worth selling, and what's better off in a garage sale. They take photos, write the description and even take care of the shipping and handling. You can find these assistants by clicking on

Just remember these services are a better fit for someone who has more high-end items, like designer clothes or antiques. Consignment sellers won't want to waste too much time on your used $20 fitness videos. You'll also be paying them a commission of up to 30 to 40 percent and upfront fees of up to $20 regardless if anything is sold.

5. Have someone hold your hand

If you're still gung-ho about making an eBay splash, you may want to get some guidance. First, auction off simple items like musical instruments or clothes. These can be more easily packaged and you'll feel better if you make some mistakes, says Steiner.

You can also get phone support from listing agents. These agents give advice and pointers to people who want to sell their stuff on eBay. You can find them at

"They will walk you through the entire process, from the picture to the shipping," says Steiner. There is a fee of $9.95 for your first listing and $6.95/listing for each of your next five listings.


Gerri Willis is a personal finance editor for CNN Business News and the host for Open House. E-mail comments to

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