Reselling For Profit Through Etsy, eBay & Craigslist — Lessons from The Non-Consumer Advocate

by Katy on December 14, 2013 · 30 comments

Midcentury table

Although I work as a part-time nurse, I also rely on a myriad of alternative sources of income. (I call it my “patchwork income.”) I help my mother run her guest cottage business, I blog and I also resell thrifted finds through eBay, Etsy and Craigslist. Some might ask why I don’t just switch over to full-time work, but my job requires me to be gone from 6:20 A.M. to 8:15 P.M., which makes it next to impossible to run a household and be present for my family.

Plus, I really enjoy the challenge of finding under appreciated thrifted finds, cleaning them up and then finding new homes for them. I consider it to be free money, especially when I sell through Craiglist, which charges no fees and does not require packaging and shipping.

I recently experimented with putting an Etsy store together to sell some of my lovelier vintage finds. (Etsy allows you to sell either homemade or vintage/twenty-plus-year-old items.) I set up a makeshift photo studio on the front porch and was able to quickly list eighteen items. Almost immediately I sold two things, (a midcentury menorah and a Dansk casserole dish) and then nothing else.

If my Etsy shop had a soundtrack, it would include the sounds of crickets.

I decided that eBay’s larger audience might be a better forum for my wares, so I spent an hour or so switching everything over to their online marketplace. I’ve sold hundreds of items with eBay since 2005, and even had my own eBay store in 2006. eBay was good to me, but the grind of listing, packaging and mailing items got to be a pain in the tuchus, so I’ve mostly just sold in fits and spurts in recent years.

I’ve always done very well with eBay, and can only recall a few things that haven’t sold. However, my current items are currently sitting unloved and unbid upon. It might be because I’ve priced them too high, it might be due to the non-exciting nature of the items themselves and it certainly might be due to other factors that I haven’t even considered. Whatever it is, I have fifteen items up on eBay right now, and only one has an opening bid. They don’t end until tomorrow evening, and I do expect that I’ll get a few last minute bids, but at this point nothing would surprise me.

I used to start my eBay auctions at 99¢ to generate interest, but I’ve been burned that way, and found that it’s better to just start the price at how much I actually want to get for the item. Sometimes there’s just one buyer for your whoosey-whatsit, and it’s better to price it correctly.

Ironically, I left two items up for sale in my Etsy shop, thinking they were not worth putting up on eBay, and one of them just sold. So yeah, it’s kind of a crapshoot.

My favorite and simplest method to sell is through Craigslist. However, I mostly only use it for larger items like furniture, anything that would be difficult to ship and highly desirable items like expensive children’s toys. Unfortunately, Craigslist requires a human interaction, which has its own inherent risks. Many Craigslist sellers prefer to meet with buyers at a neutral location like a coffee shop, but I’m lazy and do not relish the idea of waiting for a flaky buyer who may or may not ever show up. So I do have buyers come directly to my home.

If you sell on Craigslist you will get some phishing responses. However, they’re really easy to vet. A genuine response will mention the item you’re selling and will usually ask a question or two.

A fake Craigslist response will look like this:

“Is your item still for sale?” There will often be poor spelling and grammar as well.

A real Craigslist response will look more like this:

“I’m really interested in your table. Is the top solid wood or a veneer? I can come by either this afternoon or early tomorrow morning. Please let me know which works better for you. Thanks!”

See the difference?

Here’s how I safely sell on Craigslist:

  • I make sure to have a couple of e-mails go back and forth before I give out my address. This way, I can get a sense of the whether the person seems hinky.
  • I put all items on the front porch, so the buyer never comes into my house.
  • I only sell during daylight hours.

I’ve sold at least a hundred Craigslist items through the years, and have never had a negative experience. And almost always, the person who comes to look at the item will buy it.

In the past week I’ve sold four Craigslist items:

  1. A doll high chair. (Bought for $3, sold for $10.)
  2. An Elf on The Shelf book/doll. (Bought for $7, sold for $18.)
  3. A Pokemon X game for Nintendo DS. (Bought for $1.80, sold for $30.)
  4. A vintage typewriter. (Bought for $15, sold for $65.)

I also have a few Craigslist items that have yet to sell, but since it’s free to place an ad, and you can renew every 48 hours, I can be patient. (I probably relisted the doll high chair at least six times before it sold.)

The true key to reselling is to only buy what you know about, and to only buy when something is significantly underpriced. I’m not paying $35 for a $50 item, and I’m not buying things that I’m unsure about. There are countless categories that do not fall under my area of expertise, and I’m sure I’ve passed up zillions of potential sales while out thrifting. I also prefer to pay just a few dollars for items that I plan to resell. That way if I’m wrong about the sale-ability of an item, I’m not out too much money.

Also, whatever method you use, take the very best photo you can. I just use my humble iPhone, but I keep the photo unfussy, make sure the background looks nice and clean, and include as many detail shots as possible.

Do you resell items, and if so do you have anything to contribute? Please add your ideas and questions in the comments section below.

Katy Wolk-Stanley

“Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.”

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{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

AnnW December 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

I’ve been reading a few books about eBay by Nick Vuich. One of his main points is to not waste one character of the 88 things in the title. He says to include everything that someone could search for, because the search brings your item to their attention. Even if the title doesn’t make sense. I try to do that, but sometimes I just run out of ideas. I started about two months ago and have sold $1600.00 worth of stuff. Most I had around the house. But some I bought at thrift shops and Goodwill. Also, about 60% of sales now are Buy It Now. He also found more luck with the make an offer feature.
I’ve found that I have a lot of books that are old and worth more than $20. Media mail is really cheap, so that’s a good category. There are so many book sales from libraries and garage sales that you could build a business on books alone. My speciality is silver-plate flatware. Not sterling and not stainless. The kind that needs polishing, but you can use everyday. Where else can you buy a fork at Good will for $.10 to .25 and sell it for $1 to $5. Anyway, it keeps me out of the mall.

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Katy December 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Great tip, thanks!

Katy

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cathy December 14, 2013 at 10:53 pm

AnnW,
How can I find your flatware listings?

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cathy December 14, 2013 at 10:56 pm

I’m sorry if this posts twice. I have a problem when I try to post comments because I get error messages that the maximum time (30 seconds) has been exceeded. Not sure what the issue is.

AnnW, how can I find your listings?

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alysha December 14, 2013 at 11:59 am

A fake craigslist response usually goes: “I was reading about your table and you sound like a sincere and hot lady. I don’t usually do this, but I just know that I can’t miss this opportunity to ask if you’d like to meet. I am not a bot…….”

LOL! Seriously! This happened to my friend.

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Katy December 14, 2013 at 1:02 pm

Too funny! 😀

Katy

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Barb December 14, 2013 at 7:57 pm

Which reminds me of all the years i did family day care. Every so often there was a call at around nine pm and nite by a father who would ask innocently “do you spank”. hahahehehoho

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Jackie December 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm

As someone about to graduate from nursing school I too have though about working part time. Here part time is 2 12 hr shifts per week while full time is 3. Not a huge difference BUT the holiday and weekend requirements are significantly less for part time. I would still get full benefits and could pick up shifts as the hospital I currently work in as an aide is constantly short staffed and utilizing agency nurses. I would also keep my ridiculously easy and lucrative waitressing gig (that is next door to my home) to supplement especially during times of reduced shifts. I am totally on board with “patch work income”!

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Patti December 14, 2013 at 12:36 pm

I have sold a lot on eBay and do agree it is hit or miss… but you have to learn the timing, too. I never list on Wednesday – usually on Friday afternoon (so it runs out then) or Saturday or Sunday. That is when people are on eBay looking for stuff. Also, remember the holidays – people probably were out in the stores during Thanksgiving so that may not have been the time to sell… and now that it is close to Christmas, if you can’t get it to them in time, they probably won’t buy. But AFTER Christmas and January are excellent months because people who receive cash for Christmas are looking to spend it. I agree to limit yourself to what you know. I could sell tons of children’s clothes but I really don’t know what is “in”. However, I do sew and love to find old sewing tools or fabric that I know is going to be a go. It has to be “fun” – once it gets to be a chore, I stop for awhile.

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Katy December 14, 2013 at 1:01 pm

Thanks for the reminder about being deliberate about when listings start and end. I always start at 7:00 P.M. on Sundays, which has worked well for me. I got this information from a “How to Sell on eBay” book a million years ago.

Katy

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Bellen December 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

Hubby & I sell sporadically on Craig’s list – like you we have several e-mails before giving our address. We also sell the item outside of our house and keep the garage door and all front window shades closed. Both of us go outside for the sale, we are older and couldn’t outrun anybody if they chose to grab it, but much less likely to happen if there are 2 of us. Besides, one of us tries to get the license plate number if we get bad vibes from the deal.
We also have exact change, for example asking $25 have a five and a couple of singles in case we lower the price, so we don’t show a wad of money or even have a purse or wallet on us. We do not accept checks and make that very clear in the listing. We also sell as is with no returns. If it is electrical we have an extension cord so they can try it. Recently sold a paper trimmer for $25, cost me $5, and because it was so sharp I did the demo with 2 weights of paper. We have never had an attempted return altho we did have an e-mail asking for address to get replacement parts.

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Lindsey December 14, 2013 at 1:39 pm

I had a Craigslist person try to sweet talk me into a lower price by saying, “You live in a better neighborhood than I do. Don’t you think it is greedy to want $25 for an All Clad soup pot? What would Jesus do?” There are very few times in my life that have caught me completely speechless, but this was one of them!

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Megyn December 14, 2013 at 2:51 pm

I’m a HUGE Craigslister. I can’t believe I’ve been doing it for almost 10 years! I’ve tried Ebay, but to me it’s pointless with the amount Ebay AND Paypal take. I’ve had a lot of scammy emails from CL-ers, but I have yet to really meet anyone shady. About the craziest people I’ve met are those who repeatedly come for free stuff. They tend to fall under stereotypes of “white trash” or “crazy”, but they are polite about it and seem grateful. I wonder if I’m fueling hoarders sometimes though. I generally donate to Savers lately since I get a coupon, so rarely do the free thing anymore. I’ve also purchased things and even did a few photo shoots with CL photographers with zero issues. CL definitely gives me faith in humanity, that’s for sure!

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JoDi December 14, 2013 at 3:31 pm

I really miss reading your posts daily. I used to get them via email subscription every time something new was posted but the last few weeks I only seem to get one email with a week or more’s worth of posts in it. I tried resubscribing, but it says I’m already subscribed.

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Katy December 14, 2013 at 3:53 pm

Yes, I know. Everyone is having the same problem. I’m trying to figure it out from my end, but haven’t figured it out yet.

Sorry.

Katy

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Diane December 14, 2013 at 5:50 pm

I have just stated listing my handmade baby quilts on ebay with great success. Sometimes they need to be relisted, but every quilt I have put up has sold for either the starting bid I entered or for more. Like you, I start with what I want to get for the quilt. I know PayPal and ebay take a %, but so do shops if I sold on consignment.

I appreciate the ebay tips in the replies to your post.

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Anne Burner December 14, 2013 at 6:25 pm

I’ve used eBay off and on for years (mostly off the last several), but as I’m gearing up to move, I’ve been trying to get rid of some odds and ends from my previous collections, and figured eBay was the best place for them (not many people in TX want Japanese drama CD’s or art books). Have had some success. I’ve been pricing low, though, to try to get it out of my house more than to make a buck.

I’ve only used Craigslist once so far, but it was a rousing success. May have to try it again soon, especially with the holidays coming.

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HeatherB December 17, 2013 at 8:12 am

Have you tried selling on Amazon? These type of items tend to sell well there and you may receive more $ for them.

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Anne Burner December 19, 2013 at 1:11 pm

Hi HeatherB,

I never think about Amazon, actually. Is it much more difficult/easier than eBay?

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Linda December 14, 2013 at 8:50 pm

What exactly is happening when you get a “Fake Craigslist response”?

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AnnDenee December 15, 2013 at 5:15 pm

It’s usually a spammer and looks something like this: hey i was looking at your table (whatever you listed) and you look hot. i don’t usually do this but would you like to meet for coffee.

There are others but that is the one I got the most often.

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jennifer December 14, 2013 at 9:06 pm

I utilize my local Facebook sales pages/swap sites. I’ve made quite a bit selling off toys, games and other random household items that way. We meet in a neutral location and I set it up to be times where I am doing errands so not making a special trip. I estimate I have made $3-$400 the last 18 months that I have lived here. (we moved to a bigger town about that time).
I have had a fair amount of luck on CL as well. Sold a large lot of related toys my son no longer played with for $100.
I also take my son’s nicer outgrown clothing to the children’s consignment store in town. I don’t find it worthwhile to list the kids clothes on the swap site so I am willing to go consignment for those.

I split my earnings between our vacation fund and paying off school loan fund. I am also a nurse. Hired for part time hours (20/week) and some I average 35-40 but some it’s 12-16. So, I figure every little bit helps.

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PoppyEcho December 15, 2013 at 10:18 am

There are a couple of people in my city who resell on craigslist and suggest you check out their blog for additional items. at their blog they have the same description of the item but also occasionally some personal info or comments. You get to know the sellers, or you think you do. They create a “store brand”, so that you just want to buy something from them. Its not totally brainwashing, but more like they introduce you to things you didn’t know about. When they provide more details about the items, their dates and history and stuff (its always vintage not modern items) you get interested in glass, or needlework pictures, or whatever you never noticed before. I think I should do a blog this but I don’t have much discipline, and the key is to post often. When I was trapped in a crazily boring office job I’d check back to these blogs twice a day to see the pretty things, it was a bit like the roulette machine, you click the bookmark and maybe a prize pops up! Psychologically very powerful.

If you are interested in seeing what they did, I will share the URLs. one of them has become a real estate agent and stopped, but the other is going strong. I would recommend going back 2 years or so to get a sense of what the defunct blog was like.

You might find the prices for items to be very low. I think the market in my city is for a lot lower priced items than say in Portland. Also, mid-century is a lot less popular here. I’m always amazed at what Katy charges and succeeds with. I recently bought a similar typewriter to the one Katy just sold, at my local Goodwill, for $14, but when it didn’t sell for $55 I relisted for $45. And it was the brand made famous by the Oscar speech of the winner of the screenplay award a few years ago (Brokeback Mountain). Perhaps I should have relisted at the same price and been patient, I don’t know.

http://www.thediscerningmagpie.ca
http://www.ladyjanestreasuretrove.blogspot.com

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Robin R December 15, 2013 at 12:36 pm

We have sold cars through CL but might be done with that as well. The haggling drives me nuts even if you make it clear what your best price it. The email below was a personal favorite – many aggressive emails followed. I think its a scam to get your cc info.

Hello, my bank is asking for the car history with the seller name on it.
Please go here and get it http://vin-judge.autovia.cl/
This service will cost you $10, i can refund you when we will meet or I can go now to walmart and send the funds to you if you don’t want to pay from your own pocket. You can also choose other website but all are asking over $30. You can get it even from a car dealer if you don’t want to pay for it online. Any of that reports are good but I will only refund you 10 because i have found the cheapest one. Once you will have it please save it as pdf and send it to me so I will forward it to my bank. I will be able to meet you within 48h after that, so please also tell me when you can show the car.

Thank you

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Pat December 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm

One thing about getting several email responses on craigslist before you give out your address, is that after the initial email from them through the craigslist site, their true email address is usually revealed. Often, their full name is available too. Since I am on Facebook, I look them up to see if they are members and if they are, I know who to expect and can sort of size them up beforehand. I have never had any problems with buyers on craigslist (or ebay). I agree with only having people come to my home in the daylight – and when someone else is home with me.

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Kim Stewart December 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

I’ve been selling on Amazon since July 2012. Amazon is much more buyer centric, eBay more seller centric and is not really the place for one of a kind, handmade or vintage items. For the most part, all items must have a SKU or ISBN#.

I TOTALLY agree that you should only buy what you know about and that are significantly underpriced. It’s also important to know about shipping and to take into account all of the costs of selling- site fees, packing materials, damages and refunds, as well as the cost of the item.

Today I am shipping 6 orders (so far!). The orders are for a new sealed game, 3 bars of a discontinued household soap, a sealed craft product from bankrupt scrapbooking company and 3 books of which one is going to Australia. All of these items were specifically purchased for resale. I buy my shipping online and my mailman picks up at my door. I use delivery confirmation on every order and signature confirmation on anything over $100.

Few tips about selling media/ books online:
~Most books are not worth selling online, particularly best sellers, “Oprah Book Club”, most fiction. They drop in price to being a penny book within a very short time.
~I concentrate on a few niche markets in books. The book going to Australia is a photography book that has limited offerings on Amazon.
~More and more DVDs are restricted from being listed, because of fear of counterfeits and studios don’t want them listed, so Amazon doesn’t allow.
~Find a used book store in your area that will buy your unwanted books, normally for store credit. It keeps my husband in audio books for cheap since he’s always in the car for his job!

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Derek December 19, 2013 at 5:27 am

I just wanted to comment that I am one of those people who will ask simply if an item is still available, because if the ad is a few days old I might have been sold and the seller may just be too lazy to take the ad down,. it frustrates me to no end when i do not get a reply to my query.

often ads are worded in such a way that there are no questions left to ask. so I am here to tell you that you are absolutely wrong in your belief that a inquiry that simply asks if the item is still available, often is real, and you are loosing sales by not replying.

Derek

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Katy December 19, 2013 at 8:37 am

I do reply, but I it is a just the facts answer. I once texted someone per their request and got the answer “donkey balls,” as well as other bizarre pseudo-crass replies.

Katy

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Rebecca December 30, 2013 at 7:48 am

I also have been guilty of asking if the item is still available. I have only purchased two items from Craigslist, but I have texted about several. Now I know why the sellers didn’t respond! Good to know!

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