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How to Sell on eBay and Not Get Scammed

by Diane

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Everywhere you look, there are articles recommending you sell your unwanted goods (aka clutter) on eBay.

That used to be excellent advice. Now? Not so much. Maybe. The rules have changed considerably over the last 12 months and those rules do not bode well for smaller sellers.

side hustles - selling on ebay

I’ve been a business seller on eBay for 10 years and have seen many changes take place during that time; some good, some not so good. In the last 12 months, the changes have all been bad for sellers, whether you’re a business seller or not. In fact, hobby or casual sellers will bear the impact of these changes more acutely than high volume business sellers.

So, what’s changed? The two most important changes are:

  • eBay Money Back Guarantee
  • Seller Defects

eBay Money Back Guarantee

ebay money back guarantee

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The eBay Money Back Guarantee looks like a good thing. Usually, a business offering a money back guarantee does so because it knows it offers excellent service and excellent products. On the face of it, it looks like eBay is generously offering this guarantee with their own money. They’re not. It’s your money they’re giving away.

The money back guarantee is a nightmare for you as a seller because it takes the decision of whether or not to refund a buyer out of your hands. In effect, eBay have taken over an integral part of your business not to mention your ability to manage your cash flow.

In addition, eBay rarely decides in favour of the seller so even if the buyer has misrepresented your product, failed to provide evidence or just out-right lied, you will invariably be required to provide a refund for the product and the postage, plus the buyer will probably get to keep your item, too.

If you’re already a member, take the time to visit the discussion board for selling on eBay, I guarantee it will be an eye-opener. Or, take a look at this article in the Guardian.

Seller Defects

ebay seller defects

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It used to be that sellers only had to worry about Feedback (positive, neutral and negative) and Detailed Seller Ratings (star ratings for item as described, communication, postage time and postage and handling costs) now eBay has introduced Seller Defects.

Seller defects are, in essence, black marks against your account that occur when certain events take place. For instance, you’ll be issued a defect if you receive either negative or neutral feedback. Yes, eBay have changed the definition of neutral, it’s now treated just like a negative and incurs a defect on your account. You’ll also receive a defect if your buyer leaves you three stars or less for Item As Described in the Detailed Seller Ratings.

Defects are also applied when your buyer initiates a request via eBay for a refund, item not received or item not as described, regardless of the actual status of the transaction. That means, even if you check the postage tracking and it shows the ‘item not received’ is awaiting collection at the post office – you will still wear that defect for anywhere between three months and a year depending on your selling volume.

If being described by eBay as ‘defective’ isn’t bad enough, it can also adversely affect your ability to sell on the site. If you’re deemed to be below standard (as shown on your Seller Dashboard) eBay can limit your selling activities until your performance improves. Logic that belongs in the ‘beatings will continue until morale improves’ category.

What can you do?

If you still want to try to make some money by selling your stuff on eBay, you can try the following:

  • Take excellent photos and lots of them, especially detailing any wear and tear or faults
  • Write a clear and concise description for the item in a simple type face
  • Use the Item Specifics fields and add your own
  • Make sure your shipping method has tracking and for high value items include insurance and signature on delivery
  • When your item sells, make sure you maintain communications via eBay messages so there’s a record
  • Upload tracking numbers for the transaction as soon as you have them
  • Take the time to read all the fine print on eBay’s Rules & Policy Pages.

While eBay is no longer the venue it once was, you can still make money if you’re careful. Keep the above steps in mind and you ought to do OK. You might never have a problem selling your items and be lucky enough to always have pleasant and honest buyers, but… you just never know so it pays to be prepared.

My final piece of advice is: if you’re getting odd or over the top questions from a buyer, check their Feedback Left for Others. If you’re in any doubt about their calibre as a buyer – block them. Sometimes, a sale just isn’t worth it.

Note: The fine print on eBay’s Rules and Policies can differ depending on the site on which you register so make sure you check the appropriate site’s pages, for example Australian sellers will need to check the information specifically on ebay.com.au and US sellers will need to check ebay.com, etc.

If you’re serious about building a business, consider your own self hosted website. It’s the only way to maintain control over all aspects of your business.


Do you sell on eBay?

Have your experiences been mostly good, bad or a bit of both?

What other hints and tips would you share with someone about to start selling on eBay? 

Images: Pixabay

This post contains affiliate links.

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Nancy - 9:40 am

I have been selling on Ebay for almost 6 years. It was great at first but with the new rules regulations and price hikes by Ebay. When my store subscription is done I’m no longer going to sell on Ebay. Not only are they charging me for a store they take a percentage of your sales there now pushing if you give a bigger percentage of your sales they will promote your listings. When I did not do this my sales dropped noticeably. Ok so I decided to give them an extra 5% of sales to promote my listings I started selling better but not worth the bother. I’m a small mom and pop store and once again the mega marts are pushing us out.

J. Reinhart - 2:03 am

I agree eBay is really making it tough on sellers. I am a top rated seller and in the last two months I have not hardly sold a thing. And I also have been scammed myself like everyone else who sells on eBay . I sold a large clock and the buyer said the box was empty the bottom of the box open and no clock inside, so she said. I had to give her money back and I lost a very expensive clock . Why on earth would the post office deliver an empty box! I like a lot of other people am about ready to dump eBay it’s getting to be a joke !

Diane - 9:18 am

You’re definitely not alone! eBay was a great marketplace when it behaved like a ‘marketplace’, not the owner of your business. And now, the good buyers are being overwhelmed by the ones who are there to play the system. If you’re serious about online retail, your own site is a must.

Good luck!

Carrie Smell - 4:54 pm

I’ve mostly had an excellent experience selling on eBay. However, this December I was horrified at the things people can do. I had a customer tell them they received their item damaged. Ok, this happens… This is why I pay for insurance. Not only was he reimbursed by the Post Office, he asked eBay for a refund and they gave it to him. I was able to prove this and eBay still sided with the customer. I have since taken a break from eBay selling.

Diane - 6:59 am

I’ve been pretty lucky and not come across too many scammers in my 10 years on eBay but it’s getting harder to avoid. Especially when eBay helps them steal from you. Their policies are becoming more and more questionable as time goes on.

I’m just clearing dead stock on eBay now. It’s too risky for small sellers to base the livelihood of their business on that platform any more.

Elise@SimplyScaledDown - 6:31 am

Wow! I rarely buy things from ebay anymore, their fees make things so much more expensive than craigslist. Maybe, however, these new policies will make everyone more honest all around. Who knows, but here’s hoping!

Diane - 5:33 pm

I think that’s the primary issue. Sellers have to be honest or they don’t stay on the site long but buyers are not held to the same standards. If anything, the changes have made the site less honest. It’ll be interesting to see how things pan out over time.

Alexis @Fitnancials - 5:07 am

I’ve never sold anything on Ebay because I was never sure how to do so. I am sometimes hesitant on buying products from Ebay because certain items can appear totally different in real life.

Diane - 5:30 pm

Buying can be a bit scary at first. Just check the feedback of the seller. You’ll know a good one not just from their positive feedback but how they respond to any negatives in their feedback.

Holly@ClubThrifty - 11:45 pm

I was scammed on ebay once and it made me not want to try it again. I sold someone a brand new shirt with tags and they said it had a hole in it. They wouldn’t send a picture because they “didn’t have a camera,” but they threatened to leave negative feedback if I didn’t refund their money right away.

Diane - 5:22 pm

You’re definitely not alone Holly. It makes you wonder what eBay’s end game is…

Abigail @ipickuppennies - 5:17 am

Yikes! I thought it was bad enough just getting all the items weighed, packaged and in the mail.

I really prefer Craigslist because it’s easier. That said, you can be nicely surprised by what something goes for on eBay.

Diane - 8:28 am

I know a lot of small business sellers are packing up their shops and moving off eBay. It can work but you really need to make sure you protect yourself. I’m not sure what eBay’s endgame is, because it looks to me like they just want the big corporate businesses and not the little guys.


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