What’s eBay’s Take?

Last month I went on a little eBay selling binge as part of my ongoing efforts at simplification. A satisfactory stash of cash trickled into my PayPal account as a result (my goal was to cover Christmas expenditures whilst also clearing sanity space). This month, the bill came due. Here’s how it broke down:

Yowsa! eBay takes nearly 13 percent of your earnings! That’s quite a chunk. Realize, however, that you also get dinged for using PayPal to receive your money. Here’s how that works out, using a sample line from my PayPal statement as illustration:

So, to process my $75 sale (some of which was to cover postage, mind you), PayPal charged me $2.48, which works out to 3.44 percent. Strangely enough, the percentage appears to vary. In all the instances I calculated, it worked out between 3.1 and 3.5 percent. I have no idea what sort of sliding scale they use. I do know that 12.5ish plus 3.5ish equals 16ish. So I’m out 16 percent of my sales income using eBay. There’s fudge in there since, as I mentioned, some of that money flowing into PayPal goes right out the door in postage, so it’s not really income. Let’s just say 18 percent of your money goes into the pockets of these online services.

If you’re an old fogey, you’ll remember that eBay and PayPal used to be one and the same company, back before the gummint made ’em split up. Seems criminal that they would charge you on both ends of the deal that way.

Selling on eBay can be a lot of work. I suggest that, if you are in de-clutter mode and sorting must-go stuff into piles of “trash,” “sell,” and “donate,” you set yourself an expected-price threshold for what goes into the “sell” pile, especially if you are planning to do all of your selling on eBay. I figure each item costs somewhere between 20 and 30 minutes of your life by the time you photograph it, build the listing, pack the item, buy and apply postage, and carry it to the post office (along with others–carrying single items to post would greatly increase this estimate). Mind you, this is speaking from an amateur’s standpoint. Pros will have facility with apps that reduce the time it takes them to list items, and they will likely be able to schedule pickups from their delivery service of choice, which will also reduce the time burden. But for a schmoe like myself who just wants to unload the occasional item or pile of items, I think my estimate is fairly accurate.

If each item costs you 20 to 30 minutes, that means you’re going to sell 2-3 items per hour of your time, right? What do you need to be making per hour in order for the whole thing to be worth it? What’s your “minimum wage?” If it’s $30/hr, you’d better set your threshold at $10 in profit, which means the items would need to sell for around $12 or more. Personally, I’m setting my threshold at $20 from here on out. If I don’t expect it to fetch at least that much, it gets donated. Or conglomerated. I understand now why you often see things being sold as “lots” on eBay. That seller is being careful about her time investment.

Of course, eBay isn’t the only game in town. I am a big fan of Craigslist. If I think my item has a good chance of selling locally, I’ll start with Craigslist. For niche items, however, my tendency has been to go to eBay. There are some alternatives, though. A lot of things are being sold nowadays via Facebook. I’ve done it. It makes sense. If you have hobbies, you likely belong to Facebook groups (or other online associations like forums and such) that are associated with those hobbies. If some of the stuff you are selling is associated with those hobbies, what better market are you going to find?

So there you go–My takeaways from a brief, though ongoing, fling with online selling. I’d probably be finished with it, and have a clean house to boot, if I didn’t have such a short attention span. Now that I think of it, having a short attention span probably increases one’s tendency to accumulate a bunch of junk in the first place, since persons so afflicted are likely to flit from one interest to the next, and each new interest will likely have associated accoutrements. Live and learn. I’ll try to curb my acquisitive impulses from now on or, at least, be sure to get rid of one set of toys before moving to the next.


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