The downsizing bug has bit you. You’d like to get rid of those dishes, purses, and the bicycle you never ride, but you don’t want to donate them because they’re worth some money, money you could use. So, how to cash in?
Lately, more and more people are selling their stuff online. Including me. In this post, I’ll share what I’ve learned.
I’ve long been intrigued by this idea.
In one of my novels, Key Largo Blues, young Jessie starts an online clothing business. In the same book, my main character, Karen Grace, reinvents herself by doing consulting via Skype from her RV. As an author, most of my sales are from online contacts. The internet makes this possible.
And there was one more reason.
My sis and BIL have a whole garage full of things they’d like to sell but they don’t know how. Yard sales are long, exhausting, and can be dispiriting. Everybody wants free. Or ridiculously cheap. My sis tried Craigslist and Ebay but was intimidated.
They love going to estate sales and buying things. They would love to sell. It could be a fun little business in retirement, if they only knew how to do it online.
I made up my mind to try it, and then I would teach them.
Decide on a Network. Or Two.
I wanted the process to be local, easy, and fast.
(Late add: Roxanne Jones told me about selling on Facebook. Here’s a link https://www.facebook.com/marketplace/109383152414125/
First, I created a profile (it’s easier to use your smartphone. Laptops are a little kludgy, to use my friend Marj’s word.) Note about profile: except for Nextdoor, I didn’t use my face. This was for privacy’s sake. Instead, I put up some nondescript shot of people at a restaurant. Then I clicked on the “Sell my stuff!” button, and posted the first bag, the rolling biz case here.
Add Your Stuff
All three of the networks are easy to use. They really walk you through it, step by step. Just pay attention to your screen. For ex., if they offer you a choice of categories, pick one. For another example, notice if your listing gives your location, because it might be wrong. If you’re posting a sale while in Hemet, your phone will autofill the seller location as Hemet, even if you live forty miles away. Pay attention.
You can take a photo right there or upload one that’s on your phone. This process isn’t perfect. Every network has its quirks. I found that it’s pointless to try to be Annie Leibovitz.
Give your listing a short, clear, plain title. Leave the description for the description area.
When I was selling electronics, I went to their page on Amazon for the description. There, I copied the writeup and pasted it to the description area of the item I was selling. I personalized the beginning and ending a bit, because my stepdaughter, Donna, said to include a little story in your description. For example, with the case above, I said I had bought it because I loved the color and the saddlebag look, but I never really used it. Not much of a story, but I think it makes it more appealing.
Also, for something complicated like the electronics or the stove Tom is selling, I would take a picture of the user manual, if you still have it. Thus displaying the formal name AND the fact that you still have that document.
With the business case shown above, I cleaned it up, took a reasonable batch of photos, listed it for $35 on both networks, and waited.
The Buyers Will Email You
Part of filling out your profile is including your email address. That’s how the buyers make their offer. “Andre” emailed me with an offer of $25.
“Great,” I wrote back. “Are you in the Hemet area? If so, how about the parking lot of XYZ Bank?”
We agreed to meet the next morning. I asked Bill to come with me. I picked the bank because there are people and security cameras there. Another spot was outside the door of the garden department at Walmart. Many city police departments encourage you to meet your buyer in their parking lot.
DO NOT let people come to your house unless it’s unavoidable. If so, haul the item out to your front yard and meet them there. Preferably with a couple of family, friends, or neighbors present. I’ve only met nice people so far, but you have to be on guard.
Think Like a Business Person
Before I left the house, I cleared out the back of my SUV, laid down a blanket, and put some electronics equipment in the back with the suitcase. I put a sticky-note on each box, displaying its price. When Andre came for the suitcase, he also bought a set of wireless microphones that just happened to be in the back!
I’ve sold everything but an antique dish set (service for eight; $120) and a St. John’s 4-pc. suit that I no longer wear ($375; originally $1600. Boy, those were the glory days!)
Because they’re the most expensive items so far, I posted them both on two networks. I might try a third if they don’t move. Everything else has been between $25 and $75, and has sold within a few days.
Sometimes people say they want to buy but then you don’t hear back. I even got stood up once, but it’s not a big deal. I never pursue them, and I don’t bother ranking them as less-than-stellar customers. Who needs more negativity in this world?
I do tend to price things lower than they’re worth, but this is because I don’t do a lot of research. I glance at comparables (on Amazon for new, and Ebay for used.) Then I settle on a number that I feel good about. I never click the “firm” box on price, and so far, all initial offers have been for less than I’m asking, so I pad the number a bit to allow for that.
What If Nothing Happens?
I suspect Tom’s listing won’t fly out the door. He only posted one photo, gave no story, and didn’t include the dimensions. For the table he posted, I would have said, “makes a perfect plant stand,” and for the stove, “super clean and works perfectly.” Don’t just list it. SELL it.
But Tom is new to this. After his first sale, he’ll be excited. He’ll learn and develop his game. Pretty soon, he and my sis will have a nice little retirement business going.
Have you tried this yet? What have you sold? What network do you like?