EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 121 - June 20, 2004 - ISSN 1528-6703     7 of 10

eBay Seller Turns Teacher: Learning the Finer Points of eBay

By Mark O'Neill

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One of the most common things I hear when I encounter someone not willing to pay me for an eBay auction is, "I'm new to all of this, I don't know what to do!" But thanks to classes being run by a Massachusetts eBay user, that excuse may be harder to use in the future, at least for people on Cape Cod.

George Trudeau (eBay ID: itcomputes & japanesegeta) teaches an eBay class "Using eBay" at Sandwich Community School in Massachusetts, a town of 20,000 residents. The course of five 2-hour sessions teaches students the finer points of how to buy and sell on eBay as well as learning about back-up services such as Paypal, and bidding techniques such as proxy bidding. Students are also shown how to work the eBay site including bidding, buying and browsing.

Turn-out was low at first, but very quickly word of the class spread and class numbers rapidly picked up. George now has a maximum of 18 students in each of his three classes.

"Here in Sandwich, we are fortunate to have a very active community school which runs a lot of courses on every imaginable subject," said George, "so I submitted a course proposal, and they decided to give it a try."

So what makes students come to the class? What areas do they most need help with?

"Mainly it seemed the whole process (of doing eBay) was very daunting," replied George. "eBay has added a lot of newbie-friendly features in the past couple years that help, but it's still an awful lot to learn all at once."

The class has its own eBay ID, scsauctionclass. Students bring something along to the class to sell on eBay, which George says can range from speciality shampoo to joke terrorist-hunting permits.

"I try to teach my students to be the kinds of sellers people want to deal with," said George. "No whining in listings about non-payers, cost of gas to the post office, PayPal fees, etc. I tell them how to get free Priority Mail shipping materials and about the domestic and international flat-rate envelopes."

George first signed up for eBay in 1998 and started selling odds and ends from around his house, mostly books and electronics. His second ID, japanesegeta, was set up to sell traditional wooden Japanese sandals, "but my supplier fell through and I got busy with other things." But after talking to friends, he very quickly realized that many people wanted to sell on eBay but didn't know how. It was then he realized there should be a class in how to use eBay.

The class costs $89 with discounts available for seniors. Non-Sandwich residents pay slightly more. The classes are roughly 80% female. "The class is mostly women, probably age 40 and up," George said. "I get quite a few widows who want to sell off their husband's collection of fishing lures or whatever else is cluttering up their lives."

Useful tips that George passes onto his students include looking for misspellings. "I once got a great deal on a Panasonic cell phone because it was listed as Panosonic," said George. "Usually I search for "shrit" in the class, and it's never fails to get at least 30 hits."

According to George, changes are introduced to the course as eBay evolves, but he says he is spending more and more time dealing with the issue of fraud. He is also considering writing a computer program to help explain the different auction prices, such as Buy It Now and proxy bidding.

So what does eBay think of the course? "I don't know," said George, "they're so hard to communicate with unless there's a form for it."

As well as his eBay class, George keeps himself busy with a computer repair business called Home Computer Rescue (http://www.homecomputerrescue.com). If you live in or near Sandwich, Massachusetts, you can register for George's eBay class at the following address:

http://www.egeorgeonline.com/profauction/index.html

And you can see a picture of George teaching at:

http://www.auctionbytes.com/cab/abu/y204/m06/abu0121/images/class.JPG


About the author:

Mark O'Neill is Managing Editor of the popular tech blog, MakeUseOf.com. He is a Scotsman, now living the ex-pat life in Wurzburg, Germany. You can also find him on MarkO'Neill.org.


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