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Wed Aug 21 2013 15:54:25

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

By: Julia Wilkinson

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With the recent announcement that eBay is shuttering the Trading Assistants program, some discussions of the business model of selling on consignment have cropped up, including this active one on the LinkedIn eBay Sellers group. It got me wondering, beyond the bricks-and-mortar drop-off store, and official eBay "Trading Assistant" directory, what kind of experiences have people had selling other people's stuff on commission? 

It was also interesting to see that some sellers are talking about setting up their own kind of selling assistant directory; in fact, one at localtradingassistants.com has already popped up, but they'll need to take that eBay TA logo down.

In the LinkedIn discussion, a couple of folks suggest taking a commission of at least 50%, or you'll essentially be paying to store other people's stuff. Others emphasize the need to be picky and turn down (hopefully gently) people who have a "treasure" that is really more "junk."

One good idea was from people who run physical resale or consignment stores (note: NOT eBay "drop-off stores"): they were giving people who consigned items store credit.

A seller named Betty wrote, "I have also implemented the CREDIT system and it works great! I have changed my "where's my money!" consignors into shoppers. I simply give them a credit to use in the store instantly which is equivalent to their payout. I now own ten items and have sold the equivalent items...I can't believe I didn't do this before."

As for my own experiences, I've had good ones, when friends or neighbors brought me valuable items to sell for them (like a vintage Martin guitar); and also bad ones, where I drove 40 miles to pick up some clothing that wouldn't make the cut at many upscale resale clothing stores. Another time, I was given designer clothing, but when inspecting it thoroughly after picking it up, saw that some of it had tiny moth holes. Other pieces were too dated to be sellable, and not the kind of vintage style that comes back around, either!

So I think it pays to be very picky and take on consignments only that have recent comps that will reward you fairly for your time when all fees are said and done, and the consignor is paid. That's if you decide to sell on commission at all. (If someone comes at you with an armload of vintage Kasper suits, run screaming!).

What have some of your consignment hits and misses been? Was there an item that was a laughable waste of your time (even if its owner was sincere and nice, but just not well-educated about its value)? Do you think a new, independent consigmnent seller directory would be helpful, and if so, what should the criteria be for being in it? Post a comment here!




Comments (11) | Permalink

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Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: mindelec This user has validated their user name.

Thu Aug 22 00:59:29 2013

i rarely do consignment because it just isn't worth the time.  but when i did, i didn't take anything with a value of less than $100 and i take 50% of the cut and fees come out of my pocket.

and it better be something that i think will sell quick.

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

This user has validated their user name. by: Philip Cohen
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Thu Aug 22 15:31:03 2013

The idea that had made eBay such a success in the first place was that sellers could move their unwanted stuff themselves without the need to involve such “professionals”. That professionals and eBay between them may take 60% of any sale price—if the item indeed sells, does not appeal to me. It seems to me that if you can’t be bothered listing the item yourself, you should donate it to the local op shop, or put it out on the footpath for the council clean up …

“eBay expects sellers to consistently provide service that results in a high level of buyer satisfaction.”—eBay …
By this test, eBay consistently fails miserably its own standard … http://bit.ly/11F2eas

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: belltowntrading This user has validated their user name.
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Thu Aug 22 22:17:49 2013

When sifting through inquiries we're very direct as far as the requirement that items be in excellent working condition and have a value of $50 or more. We also emphasize that all unsold items will incur a fee due to our costs. That generally makes folks think twice about giving us crap as it will eat the profitability of their better items away.  

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: Mimi This user has validated their user name.

Thu Aug 22 22:40:06 2013

I tried this at the beginning of the program and it was a pain. Just not worth it, imo.  

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Fri Aug 23 01:57:53 2013

I have done a few "Favor Consignments" for friends and for school fundraisers--one donated folio I sold for over a thousand  dollars above what the  person who donated it THOUGHT it should sell for--and this was an "Antiques Dealer"!!!!---

But this is large pain in the tuchas.  The Antiques Dealer was very good natured about it as he wanted the fund raising to go well--and the gave us a huge boost!--but he commented that "If I had only known!!!!"---

The others have been more or less happy as I had the knowledge to get them a better price on ebay than they could hope to get locally (and as we are rural our Criags is---dismal!)  

But when approached to do a large scale consignment by an actual bona fide Antique Dealer who I know and trust--I had to turn him down as the new rules could have burned us both if we had SNADS etc.  

This really burned ME and my friend as he needed the cash and was unable due to health to undertake this on his own;  and we BOTH blamed ebay for their absurd "rules" for turning the BEST way to sell stuff into an enterprise fraught with fear and loathing.

I have seen LOTS of places with signs in their windows that said:::: WE SELL FOR YOU ON EBAY--and every single one of these places were---OUT OF BUSINESS.  

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: trader_chris This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Aug 23 08:23:31 2013

I sell on consignment for a living on eBay. Although it has been a LOT trial and error, I've found a business model that works well for me.

We primarily sell collectibles on consignment at auction, which provides us with a weekly sell-through rate of about 80%-90%. Some key criteria for consignments are 1. It has reasonable re-sale value ($25+) and there's a good market for it on eBay. 2. It's not over-sized and I can ship and handle it myself, if needed. 3. The seller seems reasonable.

I've never relied on the stupid Trading Assistant website for quality referrals (having turned down most of them, as they were either junk or not things that I cared to sell). Instead, we've built our business by placing simple, yet effective ads in our local community paper and writing articles each month for the paper (both build trust amongst area residents). We also get a lot of referrals through word of mouth and offer a finder's fee (typically 10-15%) to local businesses that we partner with, in addition to having a lot of repeat business from long time collectors.

To get around just receiving mostly junk to sell, try selling with tiered consignment rates, so that you charge less and the seller keeps more for the more valuable items. I charge 40% (plus 10% for eBay Paypal) for items $99.99 and under, 30%+ fees for $100 - 999.99, 20%+ fees for $1000 - $10,000, and 15% for $10,000+ (and yes, I've had two consignments that I sold for over $10,000 each, which is a very nice commission for a single item). This will allow you to be competitive with consignment shops and auction houses in the area.

A very slow month may be 8-10K in sales, average month is about twice that, and out best month was about $40K in sales. Of course, that's not all profit and the lion's share goes to the clients (it's their stuff you're making money on) but there's less risk in the sense that it's not your money tied-up in the items that are selling. Any ??, just shoot me an e-mail.

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Fri Aug 23 11:26:37 2013

Years ago when auctions on ebay worked I took in a couple sewing machines for consignment with me to receive 40% of the profit. The owners were always disappointed at not getting more but I couldn't (wouldn't) do it for less money as to package a sewing machine for shipping takes a good half hour besides the multiple pictures, extensive listing description, etc. I've had friends that wanted me to sell things for them and not really thinking of being 'picky' I would find out what it was and what they hoped to receive from the sale. One girl wanted me to sell some big plastic outdoor toy and she figured $10 would be a good figure to receive and then I had to tell her about ebay fees, shipping fees and my fees and that something that cheap and bulky she should either put in a friends yard sale or pitch or keep it but wasn't worth the time to auction it. Some things just aren't cut out to resell on line.

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: Quality First This user has validated their user name.

Fri Aug 23 13:23:58 2013

We now have a minimum $75 commission which does not include the eBay/PayPal fees.   Those are deducted from the buyers final payout.

Best change we ever made.

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: Sierra This user has validated their user name.

Fri Aug 23 17:53:47 2013

I've sold on consignment for a few people. The most memorable (not in a good way) was the lady who wanted me to do the computer work, but insisted that customers pay her directly, which meant I had to wait on her to pay me! That arrangement didn't last long!

The most profitable consignment arrangement I participated in was an older fellow who had a HUGE self-storage ''room'' that he needed to clean out. I sold about 25K for him in 4 years.

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: SleepyTime This user has validated their user name.

Mon Aug 26 12:30:38 2013

I sold on Ebay from 1999-2008.  I only dealt with other people's items twice - a collection of horses for an older lady who was going into a nursing home and then I sold the collectibles from my best friend's estate a year or two later.  I liked it better when I had knowledge of what I was selling.  Luckily, I got the friend's sale finished when I did because two months later, I began boycotting Ebay in the Spring of 2008.    

Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly   Selling Consigned Items: The Good, Bad and Ugly

by: creedmoorcollections This user has validated their user name.

Wed Aug 28 23:06:15 2013

I've been selling on consignment since before the start of the Trading Assistant program. I use similar tiered consignment fees to those of trader_chris. Like him, I also have sold items over $10K. I get most of my business from word of mouth referrals. It has been highly successful for me too. I have more than I have time for.



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