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Here you will find my online buying and selling information.

I'll step through some of the various aspects of buying and selling online.

Last updated on Jan 27, 2013





Handling payments - PayPal

 

Whenever possible I both buy and sell online using PayPal. Welcome to the internet age - it makes the transactions instantaneous!

Most everyone has heard about PayPal by now. But I do meet some people who haven't. 

Here's the short of it - PayPal is an online bank of sorts. You sign up with them, get an account, link that account to your existing bank and optionally to your credit card account so you can transfer funds between the various accounts, and you  basically have another bank account. However, this bank account has extra benefits as follows:

  • The ability to both send and receive credit card payments to other individuals or small businesses that don't have the ability to handle credit card payments directly. 
  • With PayPal you get to both send and receive payments INSTANTLY as opposed to waiting for checks and money order via snail mail.
  • Buying and selling via PayPal provides some amount of buyer and seller protection from getting ripped off. I'm not intimately familiar with this but I believe it's PayPal arbitration, and once you go through the ropes they'll garnish the offenders PayPal account until you finally get your money back. Though there's no guarantee that'll ever happen. But it's better than nothing!
  • New for 2012 you can get a free credit card reader that plugs into your smart phone and lets you take point-of-sale payments directly to your PayPal account. Way easier than a standard credit card merchant account.
The only downside to PayPal as a seller is that PayPal eats 2.9% + $0.30 of the money people send you. But even then there's ways around that. Have the seller cover the fee

I've simplified my PayPal description significantly. But you can read more of the nitty gritty details right on their website.

If you really don't want to use PayPal you can still get USPS Money Orders via mail. They're as good as cash and are government issued. I've stopped doing money orders, it's too much hassle to go to the post office to get them, pay for postage, and then wait to see if it gets there successfully. It adds days of waiting to the process for everyone.

Shipping

  


OK, so you're buying and selling things via PayPal or regular checks and money orders. Half the battle is the shipping of products. Most people still go to their local Ship On Site or UPS Store, hand them some goods, and pay out the nose to have them box and ship the item(s). It's seriously expensive! Typically they'll want $25 to box-and-ship some small item you can ship yourself for $8 or less. Instead, you can handle all of the shipping from the comfort of your own home and never have to leave the house! 


Here's how:

  • Collect boxes.
    • Save boxes from products shipped to you. You can easily break them down flat and store them somewhere.
    • Get totally FREE boxes from USPS (US Post Office). They will even deliver them to your door. FOR FREE! You pay nothing at all! That goes for all Priority and Flate Rate boxes, stickers, labels, everything but packing tape.
  • Collect packing buffer. I save bubble wrap, and keep a garbage bag full of packing peanuts and bubble wrap, then reuse as needed.
  • Get packing tape. This you'll have to purchase. But it's inexpensive if purchased at Walmart, BJs, Target, etc.
  • Get a scale. I purchased this $20 scale that can weigh up to 75lb items. If you're going to sell a lot of items I strongly recommend the scale, it's not a big expense. Previously I would borrow my wife's 5lb cooking scale to weigh my smaller boxes. Larger boxes I would take to my local Ship On Site and they happily weigh them for me for free.
So now you have the ability to fully pack and accurate weigh your items. You still have to be able to physically pay for and print shipping labels. But it's EASY!

  • Always pay for and print your shipping labels online. You don't have to leave the house, you get easy access to tracking information directly in your online account, and best of all it's the cheapest possible way to pay for shipping. For excample, USPS saves you at least a couple of dollars thanks to discounted prices and free delivery confirmation, which normally costs $0.80 at the counter. No matter what, shipping from home is always seriously cheaper than going to Ship On Site or the UPS Store.
  • If you are shipping small or light items (guitar effects pedals) ship them USPS Priority. It's typically the least expensive method to ship these types of items, usually $6-$8 depending on the weight and how far it has to go and whether you opt to pay for insurance.
  • If you are shipping small but heavy items look into USPS Flat Rate. You have to use one of their boxes, but as long as it's 70lbs or less you pay the flat rate which I believe is $13 maximum. However, I've yet to find anything that's heavy that'll actually fit into their boxes. They never seem to be the size I need. And then often it's cheaper to ship using a different carrier.
  • If you are shipping items that are large and/or heavy (rack effects, amps, guitars) or are travelling more than a few hundreds miles it's almost always cheapest to use FedEx Ground. I shipped a 35lb amp head 1/2 way across the US for a mere $17. Guitars are usually around $30 or less depending on how far they have to travel. Another benefit is FedEx provides $100 worth of shipping insurance free, at no cost.
  • If you ship USPS Priority or Flate Rate you can handle the shipping labels directly in PayPal. Just go to your account, and click the "Print shipping label" option for the transaction. PayPal will fill in the addresses, you just plug in the box type and weight, click a couple buttons, the fees are taken from your PayPal account, and it prints the paid shipping label on your printer. You just tape it to the box and you're done! Leave small boxes in the maibox, drop them off at any USPS location, or even drop them off at Ship On Site or UPS Store, they happily accept prepaid items.
  • If you ship UPS you can still process that directly in PayPal as well.
  • If you ship FedEx you'll have to process that directly on the FedEx website as there's no PayPal integration at this time. But you can still enter the tracking info into PayPal. They have a handy link in the transaction details to help you do that.
Note that when processing your shipping online you can request a carrier pickup. Then the postman or FedEx carrier (for a small fee) will simply come to your residence to pickup the package. Or you can still drop them off at any location that accepts or ships for the carrier you've chosen. There's US Postal and FedEx drop boxes everywhere. Or simply drop them at Ship On Site or The UPS Store. They've always been happy to accept my pre-paid shipping and hand it off to the carrier during their normal pickups.

My last tip regarding shipping is to consider self insuring inexpensive items. Items are rarely lost or damaged. Think about all of the money you're basically throwing away on paying for shipping insurance you never use. When shipping inexpensive items I simply don't buy the insurance unless the seller is specifically paying for it. I do opt to insure expensive items like amps, guitars, or anything worth more than $100 usually. At that point spending a couple dollars on shipping insurance has the potential to save you a lot of money. And larger and heavey items are more likely to be damaged during transit.

Shipping is the most annoying part of selling things online. But if you're prepared with the packing material and the knowledge you can print shipping labels directly from home you'll find that its a lot less stressful, less hassle, and most important LESS EXPENSIVE than you think.

 

Buying

  


Buying is generally easy thanks to sites like eBay. Buying locally is easy thanks to Craigslist. But what do you do beyond those two resources? Here's some helpful hints:

  • Search ALL OF CRAIGSLIST for the product you're interested in. Just us Google your product and add  site:craigslist.org   to your search terms. It will force Google to only search Craigslist for you. It's a great way to find individuals selling what you want to buy. However, not everyone will want to ship the items, others won't know how to do PayPal (send them to this page for help!) and many will simply never respond to your soliciation thinking it's a scam, or who knows what. That's why I always compose my emails as follows:
    • Interested in selling <product name> for <your price> shipped to <your location>?

      I'm a serious buyer, cash in hand, and an adult with a long term PayPal account with hundreds of transactions and can pay immediately.

      Thanks,
      <your name>
      <your phone number>  This seems to be the most important part. It shows you're really a human with a US phone number and are serious about the transaction. I have at least 1/2 of the people that bite on my offers phone me. However, these are usually the same people that don't know about PayPal. Send them to this page for help!

  • Search PART OF CRAIGSLIST for the product you're interested in with the site http://www.searchtempest.com  This lets you target specific areas and limit your search to specific categories, which the general Google search won't do. If you have a smart phone look for one of the many Craigslist tools there. For iOS I've found CraigsPro+ to be excellent and actually better/easier than using a web-based tool on a desktop. 
  • Join forums related to the general subject your desired product belongs to. For example, I currently play bass guitar. Here's some online forums I've joined and their respective classifieds section. Some have feedback rating systems like eBay to help you choose good sellers, otherwise you're left to judge sellers yourself.
The advantage is you get to negotiate a deal directly the a person. No eBay bidding and waiting. I hate that!  You can also search the forums for all of the users previous posts, often finding discussions they've had about the gear they are now selling. For example, I saw someone selling a DIY de-fretted bass. Searched their past posts and saw where they were discussing what a terrible job the previous owner did de-fretting the instrument and horribly chipping the fretboard. I didn't buy that one! Other times you can see where they bought the instrument recently from someone else and are now flipping it. It's possible they simply don't like it, I know that's me quite often, but maybe there's some issue with the instrument they're not advertising.

The potential downside to just randomly buying items from seemingly random people on Craigslist and online forums is you have no eBay feedback system or eBay protections behind you. But you really do if you pay via PayPal. When sending money you are provided the number of transactions the person has handled via PayPal. Generally speaking the more transactions on record the more confident you can be they won't screw you over. Additionally, if you pay via PayPal "Purchases" instead of "Personal" you get the PayPal buyer/seller protections.

If you do like eBay auctions my suggestion is to use Gixen a free eBay sniping service. It's very functional, lets you do targetted bids, and really works! For example, if you want to buy a 42" TV. You can setup bids against 10 different auctions, and group them as a single item. As soon as one TV is won, it won't bid on the others. Best of all it keeps you from watching the auctions which usually makes you keep jacking up your bid price which is why so many auctions on eBay end with extremely over inflated purchase prices. Bid sniping is the way to eBay success all around.

I've yet to be personally screwed on any of my buying or selling transactions. I have had some issues with items not being as described, or items so poorly packed they've been damaged. But the seller has always made good, probably thanks to a potential PayPal arbitration and/or negative eBay review at stake. And I've done hundreds of transactions since 1999 when I first joined PayPal. You just have to be smart about which deals you participate in and wich sellers you do business with. That's no different than buying something in person with cash.
Conclusion

  


I personally LOVE buying and selling online. You get to do everything from the comfort of your own home. You don't have to leave the house. And overall it's a huge time and money saver. I can't tell you how many times I've done local Craigslist deals where you've waited around an entire Friday night and the buyer never shows. Or you have to drive 45 minutes each way to pickup a product locally just to save a few dollars. Which you probably just negated by blowing 1.5 hours of your day and all that gas.

Hopefully this page was helpful. If so, share it with your friends and family!

Feel free to drop me a note using the form below.

Enjoy!
-Chris

 

 

 
 

 

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