Like many during the early stay-at-home orders, with nothing else to do, I tackled my closet, an unorganized, overstuffed box in the corner of my bedroom-slash-work-from-home office. Faced with clothing and accessories I no longer wore, I took to eBay. First to clean out my closet, and then to fill the missing wardrobe gaps.
In the past, I’ve tried and failed to use eBay as a viable source of selling and buying clothing, opting to, instead, sell and buy my secondhand goods at local thrift stores. Using eBay felt like too much of a commitment — between communicating with buyers directly to standing in line at the post office. It's also overwhelming for a newcomer buyer — with an abundance of results to sort through. But, once the physical stores shut down, I was forced to turn to the platform. In the process, I learned the ins and outs of selling and buying, realizing how easy it actually is. Now that stores have reopened, I continue to use eBay as both a shopper and seller.
For selling, all you need to do is take some photos and measurements (more on that below) and fill out the required boxes which ask about the brand, size, color, and style of the item. Next, pick a pricing method: auction — where you choose a starting bid price and shoppers bid against each other for a specified amount of time — or buy it now — where you choose a price from the get-go that allows shoppers to buy your item right away as they would at any traditional retailer. (With the buy it now feature, you can also give shoppers the option to send you an offer.)
For buying, the process is even easier: Search the item you’ve been eyeing, and, if it’s available, either bid on it and wait, or buy it straight away. (Though, to be fair, as anyone who tried to buy a Telfar bag prior to the brand’s Bag Security Program will tell you, it’s not as seamless with every item.)
To ensure that your buying and selling experience on eBay is without fail, I present you with my beginner’s guide to the craft. I’m no Sophia Amoruso in her early Nasty Gal days, but I did snag never-worn Loewe loafers for next-to-nothing in the last five seconds of a nail-biting auction. Below, read through my tips for navigating the rewarding world of eBay.
Tips For Buying on eBay
Be Specific When Searching
As mentioned, there are a ton of items for sale at any given moment on eBay, which makes it an intimidating place to shop for a newbie. If you’re looking for a particular item, be specific about what you want in your search. Say you want a leather trench coat à la Katie Holmes (hi, me!) that won’t cost you an arm and a leg. Leather trenches might be trendy now, but they’ve been around for a long time, so there will likely be a lot of affordable vintage options available. To avoid wading through thousands of results, include “long,” “brown,” and “belted” in your search. Add a brand if you like a particular style (Holmes’ trench was designed by Magda Butrym). Even if the exact item may not be available or too expensive, similar options are likely to result. You can also filter by price range, condition (new or used, etc.), size, and color.
Use The Advanced Search Function
If your search is coming up empty or, on the other end, with too many results, you have the option to take it a step further using eBay’s advanced search function. For instance, you can exclude certain keywords to eliminate options you don’t want. One example of where this would be helpful is if you’re looking for items by a designer who has participated in collaborations with other brands. For example, you want a Jil Sander shirt, but none from the Jil Sander x Uniqlo collaboration — you can search “Jil Sander” and exclude “Uniqlo.”
For Designer Pieces, Look For The Blue Check
According to eBay North America’s General Manager of Luxury Tirath Kamdar, if you see a little blue badge on the listing, that means that the item you’re eyeing qualifies for the company’s Authenticity Guarantee, ensuring that you aren’t buying a knock-off. “Your items will be vetted by professionals to ensure they’re 100% real, at no cost to you,” Kamdar tells Refinery29. This is useful if you’re splurging on something rare or expensive.
Save Your Searches
If, after scouring page after page of items, nothing comes up, the piece might simply not be available. To ensure that you’re the first to find out when it does land on the site, you can save the specific keywords to come back to later. When items fitting your search terms are added to the site, they’ll populate in your saved searches. Even better, eBay will only populate items there that arrived since you last looked, to save you time from looking through old sales that you've already seen.
Check Out The Seller’s Reviews & Return Policy
If you find an item you love, but think maybe it’s too good to be true, check out the seller’s reviews. The more items they’ve sold, the better, especially if they have positive reviews to go along with them. In addition, check that the seller allows for returns. That way, if for any reason when you receive the item, it’s not up to your liking, you can send it back without having to file a case with eBay.
Auctions can be intimidating the first time you join one, but with a few tricks, you could very well snag your own Loewe loafers (or something equally as covetable to you) very soon. I like to get in on the action early, putting in a bid that’s right around the starting number. Then, I’ll set a reminder for 30 minutes prior to the end of the auction. If you’re lucky, no one else will be bidding, and you’ll win by default. More likely, though, one or more bidders will hop on around the 5-to-10-minute mark, too. If the price isn’t too high by the time 15 or so seconds are left before the end of the auction, bid. In the case of my loafers, I bid at five seconds and won. Take it from someone who wears her prize at least three times a week, there’s no better feeling than winning a big auction at the last second.
Tips For Selling On eBay
Optimize Your Listing
According to Kamdar, the best tip for selling is to optimize your listing and use quality photographs against a “white or neutral background” and simple, accurate descriptions of the item’s style, color, size, and condition. (Example: “New Never Worn With Box Gucci Women’s Lug Sole Loafers Size EU 40 US 9.5 in Black.”) Personally, I like to hang my garments up against a white wall or sheet when photographing them. For shoes and accessories, I’ll photograph them on my bed (on a white duvet) or on a sheet on the floor. Tip: Avoid taking photos at night or on particularly dreary days — it’s all about the light.
To reduce the risk of a return or unsatisfied customer, you should also include measurements of the item and photos of any stains or damage. In my experience, if I can find the item online from a retailer, I’ll link out to those websites. This allows shoppers to see how the item can be styled and the original price.
Price Items Fairly
Speaking of price, unless you have the time and space to hold onto the clothing for an indefinite amount of time, price your items to sell. Unless you’re scouring the market every day, you might not know a fair price for every item off the top of your head. That’s where eBay’s advanced search feature comes back into play. On the selling side, one of the best resources from the function is its “search including” section, which houses the completed and sold listings filters. These filters can be used to see how other sellers priced similar items and at what price they eventually sold for. Sold listings will show you all of the completed listings that ended in a successful transaction. Completed listings show every single listing whether or not they sold.
Use The Reminder Feature
Recently, eBay added a new feature that’s especially useful for selling items with active watchers. Once you have a few watchers, eBay will allow you the opportunity to send them personalized discounts, further motivating buyers to purchase. (This is also helpful for buyers, because who doesn’t love a discount?)
Whereas I used to feel like the shipping process was the most daunting of all, once I realized that eBay does most of the work for you — you can purchase your shipping label on the site and either print it out or use a QR code at the post office — I now don't dread my weekly post office trips to drop off packages. I bought blank poly mailers in bulk in a couple of different sizes, a roll of packing tape, and some blank stationery so that I could write a quick, personalized note to every one of my customers — this, in my opinion, helps if you want a good review — rather than always buying one-off items at the post office. After all, the point is to make money, not lose it because of hidden fees and packaging costs. Often, I’ll try to ship out my packages as soon as possible, though, with the pandemic, this isn’t always an option. That said, in my experience, if you’re transparent about timing with your customers, more often than not, they’re understanding.
Another Money-saving tip: If you’re looking to avoid shipping costs as both a buyer and a seller, and discover that the item you want to buy or the person you’d be shipping an item to is local, you can offer to pick it up in-person or have them pick it up. (This option is located at the bottom of the page when you’re uploading an item.)