EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 38 - May 19, 2001 - ISSN 1528-6703     5 of 6

Avid Collector Turns Into 'Mystery Seller'

By Miss Terri Seller

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It was high time, all right. After years of scooping up stuff at shows, in malls and on eBay, our living room was overflowing, our closets full of collectibles we didn't even remember buying. We thinned out most of it through a major international auction house. But what were we going to do with the hundreds of pinbacks and Cracker Jack premiums, the Japanese lusterware ashtrays, the vinyl hand puppets, the plastic spacemen and other odds and ends that didn't get the auctioneer's heart fluttering?

Hey, why not turn back to eBay, the culprit, and try our hand at selling? We suspected some collecting colleagues, miffed that they hadn't had first crack at the cream of the crop, would turn up their noses at the "rejects." So I decided I'd be a mysterious new player on the scene. I turned to a friend in the area and asked if he wanted to team up using his eBay nickname. He would be in charge of taking the photos while I would write the scintillating listings and post them via Auction Watch. He would handle the emails (that way, buyers would still not know it was me dumping my overflow) and concentrate on packing and mailing. His hard work would net him 20 percent of the selling price.

Well, let's just say that his photographs didn't always sing. And since he was not a collector himself, he rarely knew how to play up the important angles of the piece. He was just learning the ins and outs of a digital camera, so the colors were sometimes way off. But I didn't have the heart to tell him.

He was Mr. Nice, but hardly a seasoned auction buyer or seller; and he knew nothing about eBay protocol. To top it off, he was also just learning how to use his antiquated home computer, and would go days without checking his email. This, as we all have learned, is a no-no. At first we muddled through, with me doing the steering, all the while paying him a commission.

Whenever I had doubts, however, I only had to look at his packaging. This man could wrap a little $4.95 tin whistle like it was being shipped to the Louvre. But the stumbling blocks kept growing.

We all love to get our shipments fast, fast, fast. Mr. Nice, though, would sit for weeks on an order until I prodded him off to the post office. Feedback was an alien concept for him, and he would rarely remember to leave a few kind words. Again, not because he was a jerk, but because firing up his slow computer and unreliable Internet server was a big ordeal.

You all know how this little morality tale is going to end. Yes, we started getting the dreaded negs. "Too slow," complained one buyer. "I had to wait weeks," snorted another. Our reputation was sullied. Smeared beyond redemption. Soon we had three negatives within a month. As someone who had a perfect record as an eBay buyer, the slap on the wrist was particularly damning.

Our attempt lasted just a short while, but one deal is still underway, four months after it was listed, with a collector in China. It will be too late for either party to leave feedback, because the item has already dropped from eBay's records.

As for me, I have confiscated my digital camera and am determined to start again, this time under my own name. My emails will be answered promptly and cheerfully, and I will bite the bullet and learn the fine art of packing. Bubble wrap will be my middle name. Because there's one thing I know: If the item arrives at your door dented or broken, the dreaded negs will start all over again.

About the author:

Miss Terri Seller is a pseudonym for our writer, who chooses to remain shrouded in mystery.

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