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I Antique Online

A Community For People Who Buy, Sell or Collect Antiques, Collectibles and Art

NOT SOLD at Online Auctions: Why Not?

Hello again, IAO'lers,

It's Spring time again and the cleaning urge strikes us. Time to clean the house, the yard, the office, and, yes--the website.

Are our featured prices in keeping with today's market? What used to sell for much more is suddenly selling for much less. How do we know if we should lower prices and by how much?

A little market research won't hurt. There's no better place to do it than on the Net where prices are posted for the world to see.

I visit online auctions often as I both sell and buy there. One of the best places for comparing market prices is the Sold price record on the online auctions.

The Not Sold items record is even better as it tells the opposite story. Why items did not sell--or even get an opening bid--is worth studying so we can avoid their mistakes.

It always amazes me when I see the same items re-listed week after week without bids. Why aren't there bidders? The items appear to be as represented and the seller reputations are not in question.

So I looked a little closer and took some notes. Here's a brief summary of what I found:

1. The opening bid is often too high. The competition lists similar, even identical, items with lower opening bids and is often successful selling them at a higher final price than someone's high opening bid.

2. The image is bad, often dark, out-of-focus and/or poorly sized. Is there anything more annoying than trying to see what the tiny dark spot represents on a thumbnail? Cropping and enhancing images is something every seller should know how to do or get someone to help them with it.

3. The description is sketchy and often full of misspelled words. Poor spelling and grammar spell two things to me: The writer either can't spell or write English, but, worse, does not bother to enlist help with it either.

4. High shipping charges. Before I bid on anything I check the shipping costs. As I also sell I have a very good idea of what fair shipping costs should be. When someone appears to overcharge on shipping I read it as them making up on shipping what they expect to lose on the final bid. And if this tactic doesn't fool me, I doubt that it fools anyone else.

5. No return policy. If a seller states NO RETURNS I will sometimes bid if my final bid is so low that I can afford to lose on the item should it turn out to be really bad. On higher end items I will not bid when a seller just about states that the item is probably not as represented. And, in doing so, that he or she does not care about my returning to bid on anything else of theirs.

So if an online seller is guilty of all or some of the above, why would anyone trust him or her to bid on their items?

Right. Most people don't. Which is why their items do not get bids.

But, do they learn? Apparently not. I see the same items re-listed week after week with the same high opening bids, the same terrible images and sketchy descriptions full of misspellings and all the other sins described above.

What do you think of online auction listings?

Can they be done better?

What are your ideas for improving listings?

You are invited to post your suggestions here in my blog.


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Comment by Lynn on April 2, 2009 at 2:42pm
As a frequent buyer on Ebay, I have to agree with almost everything you have stated about your findings with the past failed auctions. Most often it has been because of starting bids being way to high, or badly taken photos or shipping costs being too high for my liking, especially since I live in Canada and the exchange is simply way to high to begin with nevermind factoring in the shipping on top of that too plus duties etc. Then, as you mention, possibly no return policies to boot! I must add one to your list though for me, and that is that with Ebay policies changed now for payments, paypal payments can be slow when paying by echeck which is what I do as I don't use credit cards and being in Canada the payments are slow being processed by paypal and most sellers don't allot enough time. They usually want payment to be complete within 7 days or sometimes less! It is impossible! Very rarely does that happen. Most often it is 8 days or so. I really wish they would allow 10 days to compensate for the delay in paypal's system. I don't understand why it only takes 2 days at most for the money to leave my bank account but takes so long to finish processing into the sellers paypal account??? Strange to say the least. Anyway, I agree wholeheartedly with your points...well done with your observations! : )


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