In late 2016 I reached a high point in eBay selling, or perhaps it was a low point depending on your outlook in life. I am a glass-half-full kind of person, so I took it as the former. Here’s my story.
I sold a set of used crossword books; the first was mostly empty, except for two puzzles that were filled out in ink but all in all a healthy range of crosswords remained for the buyer to play with.
The second book had half the crosswords filled out, but in pencil, so the buyer could, if necessary, erase them all to double his playtime.
If I viewed the product value purely from a customer’s perspective, I would conclude that there was still ample functionality available, especially if they erased the pencil answers in the second book. I should state that I am pretty easily pleased, particularly in the material possessions front.
But horror and disbelief came from my friends. How could I sell something so gratuitously used and abused?
Another friend looked at me in despair and asked a good question.
Isn’t it time you got a job?
My friend was right, it was time to get a properly paid job, but I remain charmed over the incident. Something destined for my recycle box caused someone else a piece of joy.
Selling on eBay has been a wonderful experience for me. I agree with eBay founder and creator Pierre Omidyar when he says,
“What makes eBay successful- the real value and the real power- is the community.”
And here follow six lessons in life and humanity that I’ve learned from conducting sales on eBay.
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 own 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. You can be the exception.The 8 Lessons Learned From COVID-19, But They Won’t Last | Data Driven InvestorWith life changing significantly almost overnight in early March 2020 due to COVID-19, there is a growing thought that…www.datadriveninvestor.com
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. This is problematic because things can’t always be broken down into a single element, pricing.
Value is subjective; self-value 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 by then the lockdown was in force, and she was on 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 subsequently 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.
Our society is built on assumptions that we need to be protected from the underlying darkness of human nature and of course, it does exist, but this enterprise proves that in some part of the universe people are more interested in doing the right thing.
Another quote from Pierre Omidyar.
“If you give people the opportunity to do the right thing, you’ll rarely be disappointed”
4. Dropping Your Assumptions Can Be Profitable
The £2 I made on my crosswords was actually 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 house, else it could end up on eBay.
The very act of selling your stuff on eBay is a letting go of certain expectations about who might want to buy your crap but as 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 or applying for jobs or trying out a new craft. Don’t assume something isn’t for you or you won’t be of interest. 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
On eBay, you can seriously increase your chances of selling if you put that extra bit of effort into packaging and describing your good. You could tell the story of the item 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. At the supermarket here in the UK, you can buy an apple already chopped up, and wrapped in plastic. Seriously, when did washing and eating an apple become hard work.
This is bad for society, but for us individuals who are willing to go just that little bit further it is good news.
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 deployed me to sell the furniture that his family no longer wanted.
And there was no £2 crossword about his fancy furniture either.
While there’s plenty to grimace about right now, there are also discoveries to be made in the microcosms around us. 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.
Originally published in the Data Driven Investor on Medium. If you’re interested in reading another one in this collection check out my blog on Holding Onto Your Instinct In The Age Of Data.