In late 2016 I reached a high point in my eBay selling career, or a low point, depending on your outlook.

I was running out of my writer’s existence savings and putting off an inevitable return to some kind of office-bound employment. 

I’d sold my old laptops, cameras, phones, clothes, CDs, books, most of the things of value that I no longer needed. I was running out of second-hand merchandise. Still in denial about the necessity of going back to work, I was down to my last box of old crap when I found two crossword books.

The first was empty except for the first few puzzles, which had been completed in ink; 98 unfilled ones remained at a new owner’s disposal. The second one had half the puzzles filled out but in pencil, light ink, so a user could erase them all to make the book new again.

There was still a lot of utility for a crossword lover from the two books. 

Isn’t it time you got a job? A horrified friend asked me. 

She was right, but not that day. That day I would sell the dusty box of unsellable, including the crossword books, which went to a delighted buyer. 

Something destined for my recycle box caused someone else a good six months’ worth of joy. 

 “What makes eBay successful- the real value and the real power- is the community,” said founder Pierre Omidyar.  

Beyond the power of community and alter ego of our old crap, there are also opportunities to dip into lessons in life and humanity. So here are my top six.

1. You Should Always Set Your Own Value

eBay always works out the suggested price on your items; however, the final say is still up to you. You owe it to yourself to set your value. I’ve ignored many a 99p starting price suggestion on items that have sold successfully. The algorithm probably works on numbers of other sales, but only you truly know the value of your item. 

The same is true in life. The system of capitalism that we operate within likes the tidiness and finality of a single value on something. It makes it easy to compare one thing or person to another. 

Value is subjective; self-value is entirely up to you, but if you don’t know your worth, then no one else will.

2. Humanity Can Beat Efficiency

At the start of the lockdown, I sold a cardigan to a woman in Dorset, but with everything going on, I clean forgot about the sale, and the email account that eBay sends to is no longer my main one so I missed the notifications.

A month after she had paid for the item, she got in touch, but the lockdown was in force by then, and she was in the high-risk category. Settling into my new comfortable regime of not leaving the house, I offered a refund, but she was happy to wait.

And wait, she did. After an embarrassing three months and one eBay case opened, I finally sent off the item. We’d been in contact and had agreed to wait a certain amount of time but three months. Wow, Sarah, that’s a new kind of late.

When I finally posted the article, I wrote her a letter apologising and told her a funny story about a mask I’d been wearing and the strange looks I’d been getting.

She emailed me to say she’d given me a five-star rating on eBay. A human story overcame my poor efficiency.

3. The Humans Are Alright

eBay does have some governance, but at its core, it relies on people being honest and communicating human to human, and it works.

 Insurance, weapons, gates; a whole sector of the economy profits from the idea that we need protection from the darkness of human nature. Of course, this does exist but not everywhere, and eBay proves that people are more interested in doing the right thing in some parts of the universe.

Another quote from Pierre Omidyar.

“If you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, you’ll rarely be disappointed.”

Pierre Omidyar

4. Dropping Your Assumptions Can Be Profitable

The £2 I made on my crosswords was pure profit because someone had left them at my house, and before you think me too mean, I have made it a general rule to tell people not to leave anything at my home, else it could end up on eBay.

The very act of selling your stuff on eBay is letting go of certain expectations about who might want to buy your crap, but the crosswords incident has taught me don’t make any assumptions. Just go for it.

It’s the same when reaching out to contact people of interest, applying for jobs, or trying out a new craft. Don’t assume something isn’t for you or you won’t be of interest. Likewise, don’t assume someone doesn’t want to use your services. Maybe they don’t but imagine just one saying yes.

5. An extra bit of effort goes a long way

You can seriously increase your chances of selling on eBay if you put that extra effort into packaging and describing your goods. For example, you could tell the item’s story or spend time researching the context and history.

And the effect of putting more effort into one thing will often spill over into other areas of your life before you know if you could be a high achiever. That’s a theory I’m trying out — I’ll let you know how it goes.

Our entire convenience lifestyle is based on the assumption that the minimum amount of effort for any given task is the best. For example, at the supermarket here in the UK, you can buy an apple already chopped up and wrapped in plastic. But, seriously, when did washing and eating an apple become hard work?

6. One Person’s Story Of Desperation Is Another’s Hero’s Tale

I mentioned my friend who told me to get a job after the crossword incident, well, I had another reaction to that story, and it was pure delight. Not only did my ex-boss offer me another job after hearing that story, but he also hired me to sell the furniture that his family no longer wanted.

And there was no £2 crossword about his fancy furniture either.

I hope you have enjoyed this read; remember, life is for the adventurers and where there’s a glass half empty, there’s also a glass half full.

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog. If you’re interested in using blogging as part of your content strategy, why not send me a message, and we can have a chat?