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Introduction to Online Auctions Like eBay

Lesson Goals

This lesson was created with funding provided by USDA in partnership with the Idaho State University Special Programs Workforce Training Office, led by director
Margaret Phelps phelmarg@isu.edu, as part of a series of state-of-the-art rural innovations now entering the fourth year. Additional resources are available at http://lone-eagles.com/connect-idaho.htm  and the following sites. Beginning in 2004, "The Montpelier Project" has established a partnership with the Montana Choice Project http://lone-eagles.com/montana-choice.htm,  a demonstration project for the U.S. Department of Labor showcasing the Montana Choice Process for rural community Internet self-empowerment as described at http://lone-eagles.com/montana-choice05.htm

The Purpose of this Lesson

This lesson is designed to point you to resources that will teach you how to buy and sell, and much more, using eBay and other online auction sites. eBay is just one part of a whole range of interesting new opportunities related to web-based self-employment. eBay is a good place to get started with buying and selling online, but once you raise your confidence and better understand the broader range of options, then you will better understand that eBay is just the beginning and you'll really be on your way!

Avoiding Regrets for Missed Opportunities

Have you ever regretted a missed opportunity, such as seeing an idea of yours become a money-maker for someone else? Perhaps there was a piece of real estate or stock available at a rock bottom price that has since skyrocketed in value? Knowing when a genuine window of opportunity opens up for you, and having presence of mind and self-determination to take action, can mean the difference between fortune and failure. Seeing others benefiting by taking action can sometimes cause us to freeze in our tracks, somehow unable to get ourselves going. Doubting our abilities and making excuses why others succeeded and we never got around to taking action are common self-deception mechanisms. Your solution is to commit to taking action, and are advised to take it one small step at a time.

In this lesson prepare to be overwhelmed with facts on how many people like you are already benefiting from online auctions. Your opportunity - which is made explicit in this lesson - is to define your first next steps and to get yourself going - taking action. The more you learn - the more self-confidence you'll gain that you, too, can learn-to-earn using not just online auctions but far more. If you commit the time to feed your imagination by learning what's working for others, you'll be amazed how quickly you can learn to be successful.


In 1995, eBay, the largest online auction site, was just someone's new idea and the primary collectables being sold were beanie babies. Today, eBay has demonstrated effective entry-level ecommerce education opportunities resulting in 114 million users, 430,000 full time self-employed eBay entrepreneurs, and 150,000 online eBay stores. As one of the fastest growing companies in the world, eBay has expanded into 28 countries and last year 28 billion dollars in goods were exchanged on eBay.

Did you miss the boat? Have all the great opportunities already be taken? Are you too late? Not at all! In fact, the market is growing so fast that only 4% of the global market for eBay has been tapped. There are nearly one billion people on the Internet with another six billion coming over the next ten years. The sooner you get started, the sooner you'll amaze yourself with real step-by-step successes of your very own.

Recommendations for Learning eBay and More

Below you'll find a self-tour of eBay and recommendations for what to explore at the eBay site. While many people find their needs for supplemental income are met by occasional posting of items on eBay, others will become interested in selling items for others as a "transaction assistant" or in creating your own eBay online store, or in creating an eBay drop-off center or perhaps becoming a certified eBay trainer. There are many new eBay-related businesses popping up all the time. You'll learn below how you can stay current on the new emerging opportunities on an ongoing basis.

Start With A Self-Tour of eBay

Learn what's possible by exploring the recommended beginners' resources for getting started with eBay. Explore the audio tour and summary resources intended for beginners (listed on the left); at  http://pages.eBay.com/education/
"New to eBay," "How to Buy,"  "How to Sell,"  and then "Advanced Selling."

Explore the link to the Site Map at the top right of the screen. Prepare to be overwhelmed, but see what you can discover, one small step at a time. Take a break whenever you feel overwhelmed. Plan on many regular short sessions instead of trying to absorb everything all at once.

Explore the My eBay options at the top right of the screen. Registered users can customize their own My eBay page to quickly see the status of all items they have posted for sale, and all auction items they have selected for monitoring.

The key to eBay is to keep watching what others are doing and to take advantage of the advice that others offer freely in the discussion forums. Explore a few eBay discussion groups to get a feel for this style of interaction - which is often key to staying current and doing business on eBay. Much of the fun of eBay is interacting with others in this huge online global community. Select the Community button on the home page and/or review the forum topic listing for Community Help in the Site Map. At the bottom of this lesson is a link to an eBay forum for individuals with disabilities. Note the links to the Disabled Online Users Association which has 200 members and a peer-mentoring program.

There is also link to a free online course, but they require that you first have to become an eBay user and register. This is not a scam, so go ahead and register. You'll need to have your bank account number ready. Establishing a PayPal account is strongly recommended for future convenience. eBay will do everything they can to make you happy, and this is part of why they are so successful. The only way you'll learn is to jump in and register. Then buy something inexpensive, just to learn from the process, and then learn to post an item photo and description, just to learn how this process works. There is no risk and you'll amaze yourself at how easy this can be. Register as an eBay user and explore the eBay University Online Training  at http://pages.eBay.com/university/

Finding the Best Lessons and Books

There are many promises of online lessons that will teach you how to make a fortune on eBay, and some are excellent while some are not. How can you tell the difference? eBay wants you to be successful and their recommendations would be a good place to start. They have their own eBay University with online lessons, and many excellent tutorials right on the site. eBay certifications for trainers and training resources are likely to be far safer than non-certified resources. Specific recommendations follow:

You can buy eBay for Dummies and Starting an eBay Business for Dummies written by Marsha Collier from Amazon.com for $10 each. Lots of other books exist and most are probably based on genuine successes, but I'd suggest sticking with books recommended by eBay.

The "Official eBay Bible" - Jim "Griff" Griffith, $19.95 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, is now also available on CD-ROM!. Since Griff is dean of eBay University,  it might be safe to assume he knows what he's doing. You can also purchase this book direct from the eBay University link below.

At http://eBay.com you'll find all the lessons you need and as you discipline yourself to methodically explore eBay and expand your understanding, you'll begin to feel more comfortable with your challenge of educating yourself on how others have learned to make money on eBay. With patience and perseverance you'll soon be buying and selling, too.

Become an Authorized eBay Trainer

Learn how to you can be paid to teach others to use eBay through eBay's educational specialist program ($149) by becoming an authorized eBay trainer. http://pages.eBay.com/university/specialist/   No doubt there are lots of folks in your local community who want to learn about eBay.

What Are You Going to Sell on eBay?

If you don't have products of your own ready to sell, a first option is to become an eBay trading assistant which is simply someone who sells items on eBay for those who don't want to do it themselves, in return for a ten to thirty percent commission. You can start small and see how this works for you. You don't need a store front or to invest any money and will be in full control regarding how fast you want to grow your business.

eBay Trading Assistants Program and Directory
http://eBay.com/tradingassistants.html Introductory resources are listed on the left.

Product Sourcing Businesses
If you don't already have a product to sell, you still have many options - based on what others are doing successfully. At http://www.worldwidebrands.com  you'll find the only wholesale product sourcing business certified by eBay. They help you find discounted products you can resell for a profit on eBay just like millions are already doing! At this site you'll also find a "Market Research Wizard" to help you learn what items are hot sellers and which are not. You'll find a directory of drop shipping services, listings of ebusiness product sourcing experts and more. A new competitor to eBay based on this wholesaling theme is http://overstock.com See what they have to offer and compare it with eBay's offerings and World Wide Brands.

Seller Central maintains hot lists of best selling products
http://www.eBay.com/sellercentral/ There are many other related services including free software tools to increase your efficiency dealing with lots of buying and selling. Get to know these invaluable services.

You can scout for product sources that charge less, and resell these items yourself for a profit. For example, if you see that dutch ovens are selling steadily for over $70 each, and you find that your local discount store or an online product sourcing business has them for $35, you can buy one or more and see what profit you can realize by reselling it. If successful, you use your profits to buy 2 dutch ovens and sell them, build your business capital, and reputation, and customer base, one step at a time.

Transparent Pricing
The Internet is changing the way we shop. eBay aside for the moment, before many of us purchase items in our local stores, more and more of us enjoy first checking the Internet for better prices. Many sites like http://mysimon.com allow us to instantly get a listing of the best prices from dozens of national discount stores. Local retailers are quickly learning that they need to be ready to say "We'll match whatever price you can get elsewhere if you buy from us!"  Watch for new ways local retailers are learning to use eBay to make money! You can find other sites like MySimon by reviewing the specialty search engines at http://www.searchenginewatch.com

A Word of Advice on eBay Training Scams

There are way too many eBay-related scams out there. Stick with eBay certified services.

Here's an ad offering you a telework job selling on eBay. Be cautious about such offers as they don't guarantee you'd make money and they quickly have many services for which they'll charge you on a monthly basis.Take a few minutes to review the following site.

I'm sure you'll see many similar ads, but be cautious. There are many scams and hard sells that you want to avoid. When I called, I was asked to pay $6.95 for a 14-day free trial at http://www.onlinesupplier.com  I recommend you NOT call and would like to report on what I learned when I did call. When I went to this site for my "free" trial, I was required to give them an electronic copy of my signature  "to allow them to protect my privacy" but then I read in the ten pages of legal agreement that I was required to agree to - that I have to agree to allow them resell my personal information. This experience was like sinking in quicksand. I was required to give away my privacy rights and money and they promised absolutely nothing in return! I don't need them to be successful on eBay and neither do you.

They will supply products to sell which are supposed to be hot items on eBay. I would then learn how to sell these items, but no profit is guaranteed. They quickly pushed an automatic monthly fee of $29.00 for ongoing support services for my new eBay online business. Then, they had additional automatic sign-up for another $19.00 a month for Business Max, Business Matters, and Privacy Matters security services. If I don't call to cancel within 14 days, they will automatically bill my credit card these amounts. Maybe there are lots of folks who are making money thanks to this type of service, but maybe many people paid for the hard lessons that they should have just learned how to use eBay themselves using from the free lessons on eBay as the easiest way to go.

Growing a Business on eBay
          You'll find extensive resources on how to grow a business, how to create an eBay store, and more at the eBay site.

Business services on eBay

Here's a quick Success Story on how one person started small and grew a business.

Shane Johnson, the high school janitor in Montpelier, Idaho, posted a photo of a baseball bat on eBay. He wrote a description and set the number of days  for the auction. When it sold, he used his profits to buy more bats, and soon created his own web site such that each time he posted a bat on eBay, he included a link to his new web site. This worked to drive traffic to his web site and eventually he discontinued using eBay. Shane started an "affiliates program" whereby he offered a ten percent commission to any web site owner who would post a graphical hyperlink button to his site. Affiliate program software allowed Shane to easily keep track of what purchases were initiated by customers clicking on his graphical button from over 700 affiliate web sites. This allows Shane to automate sending commission checks as an incentive to all his affiliates. This model has become very common because it works so well. Shane keeps a mailing list and sends out print catalogs to thousands of former customers.

Shane has recently expanded to five new web sites and product lines, has over a dozen employees, and has just built a warehouse.
The janitor from the High School retired after creating a successful Ecommerce business selling baseball bats globally. This model can be replicated for many other products. The growing number of daily shipments range from 50 to 120 packages. He has successfully homesteaded his global niche and and is expanding with five new websites...which are:

Halloween Supplies http://alarmingproducts.com 
Golf Supplies http://theonlinegolfshop.com
Hockey Supplies http://2playhockey.com
Sports Balls http://jjsportsballs.com 
Sports Cards http://jjsportscards.com

You can read more about Shane's success at http://lone-eagles.com/montpelier-bats.htm

Affiliate Programs
You can search for "affiliate programs" and review many variations of these services. Amazon.com has affiliate programs so you can receive a commission for selling their products through your web site, Google.com offers payments to you for posting their ads on your web site, http://overture.com has information on Yahoo affiliate programs, and this model is booming. You can easily find articles on this trend by using search engines. See also http://payperclick.com  You don't need eBay to establish an Ecommerce web site and/or an affiliate program. At http://tripod.com is one of the easiest places to establish a very low-cost Ecommerce web site.

Buy It Now
For over a year now, eBay's Buy It Now allows posting products with a flat fee instead of as an auction. As a result, IBM and many other big corporations now post products for direct sale on eBay. You'll see a link for Buy It Now next to the Auctions tab on most eBay pages.

Learn About Creating a Store on eBay

eBay has affordable services to help you create your own web site store right on eBay, at http://pages.eBay.com/storefronts/seller-landing.html Your store will be posted right along with 150,000 other eBay stores. If you read their suggestions you'll better understand the advantages of being part of their E-mall and how to make your site appear unique and competitive.

eBay Drop-Off Centers

Beginning in 2004, over 1000 drop-off centers have popped up, including 3,400 UPS offices which now offer drop-off services. The concept is to have a storefront where anyone can drop off items for sale. Up to a 30 percent commission is taken for items sold, with no cost for items that don't sell. Since 70 percent of everything on eBay does sell, this model works well. Eventually others will offer the same services for a lower commission, and many people will eventually learn how easy eBay is to use and will begin using it themselves.

If you are interested in starting a drop-off center, you should first become a trading assistant. You might find you don't need to invest in a store front but could work effectively from home.  While many franchises are available starting at around $15,000, be sure to research how easy it is to start your own drop-off center without paying someone else. Articles and resources specific to drop-off centers are listed in the hands-on section of this lesson.

Keeping Track of Emerging New Business Models

We live in a world of accelerating change. Just as you can do your market research directly on eBay to see what is and is not selling well, so can you research the new business models that others are trying to make work.  When you see a new business model that is starting to prove itself, you can quickly create your own variation. This general theme applies to all innovative activity on the Internet. But, you have to be actively looking for what's new and this takes proactive self-determination. Subscribe to one or more of the Online Auctions newsletters listed below to stay current on the latest trends and successful spin-off business models.

A Word on Finding More Local eBay Success Stories

If you begin to ask around you'll find that eBay success stories are everywhere. Here's a few quick examples, Mary Ann Wofford paid 25 cents for a cookbook at a garage sale and sold it to a lady in England for $66 - this was her first eBay posting and since then she's been surprised to find she's been able to sell everything she's posted!  The Antique store in Phillipsburg, Montana does 90% of their business on eBay, which is important because Phillipsburg is not on a major highway. Frontier Anglers, a flyfishing store in Dillon, Montana, has a good location but today does more business online than they do from their store front.

Hands-On Activities

Online Newsletters on Auction Trends
Online newsletters are popping up to meet the need for ongoing current updates on these new trends, new online auction sites, and related spin-off businesses.
Sample resources for your exploration are listed below.

Auction Bytes
This site offers two free newsletters and many related resources.

Auction Know-How
This site contains resources telling all about eBay auctions, includes a free newsletter, links to online courses and more.

Auction Mole
See their Online Auction Help Directory!

Note the help directory lists other auction sites and more.

Online Auction Drop-Off Centers

It is recommended to read up on the various drop-off approaches before even thinking of paying anyone anything at all. You might just find this is easy enough that you can do it yourself. Most of the following sites offer franchise details and have listings of how many new stores are opening, press releases, and articles about their models. These articles are important for understanding the trends behind the boom of drop-off centers.

Start an eBay drop-off store:
Manual for under $100 will give you everything you need. No franchise fees.
Book details http://www.auction-sellers-resource.com/products/consignment.shtml
Lots of interesting reading even if you don't buy the book.

Auction Mills
As the first publicly-traded eBay drop-off center franchise you'll find a well-developed drop-off center model and franchise to study carefully. As an example of where to start - here's their listing of articles from their web site: http://www.auctionmills.com/press.html

AuctionDrop, the original eBay drop-off store, is now in your neighborhood! Visit us at over 3,400 locations (UPS Stores) in the continental U.S. (excludes Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories).

QuikDrop is a local store dedicated to providing a simple, fast and convenient way to sell items and vehicles on eBay. Customers bring in items or vehicles that they would like to sell. Digital photographs are taken. Descriptions are written and an attractive, detailed listing is placed on eBay. QuikDrop tracks the auction, answers questions from prospective buyers, processes payment, packages the item, and ships it to the winner when the auction closes.

Smaller Drop-Off Franchises
        Here are examples of similar approaches to articulating a drop-off business.

iSold It

Snappy Auctions

This business has only one store.


Auction Mojo

24/7 Auctions

eBay Mentoring for Individuals with Disabilities  

Disabled Online Users Association (DOUA)
The Disabled Online Users Association (DOUA) was established as a way to bring technology to the differently-abled and this is where eBay comes into the picture

DOUA Volunteer Mentors Program

DOUA Launches Program to Jumpstart Disabled eBay Sellers - Article

eBay Discussion Group - *Disabled Sellers And Buyers Unite
Welcome to ! *Disabled Sellers And Buyers Unite, Join Group.
Registered eBay users only.

Community Grant Templates Incorporating Drop-Off Centers           

SEEDS - Sustainable Ecommerce Entrepreneurship Development Strategies
A Rural Community Future-Proofing Program
http://lone-eagles.com/seeds.htm   A youth leadership community project.

Rural Ecommerce and Telework Incubator Centers
Montpelier, Idaho's vision to create a replicable model for rural communities.