Running a small business on eBay

Ordinary people are making big profits using the online auction house.
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  • Updated:26 Feb 2008

03.Tips and tricks

Getting feedback

Building up your reputation is key to succeeding on eBay. It’s measured by a feedback system, where buyers and sellers leave comments on each other’s profiles, based on their satisfaction with the transactions.

To ensure the best feedback, always respond to buyer’s enquiries swiftly and deliver your product promptly once payments have been confirmed.

However, a downside to the feedback system is that from May 2008, sellers will no longer be able to leave negative or neutral feedback for buyers. This is an action on eBay’s part in response to concerns that sellers will leave negative feedbacks to buyers who rated them negatively for their service or products.

While this might leave limited avenues for sellers to report dodgy buyer behaviour, at the same time, sellers will be given an increased ‘block bidder list’ capacity to stop any suspicious buyers from bidding for their products.

There are lots of other features on eBay to maximise your sales potential. You can put ads on the homepage and use the 'featured listing' option so that they stay on the top of any particular category at any one time — or consider having an eBay shopfront to promote all your products at an added cost.

If you’re selling many items at once, try using a function called 'turbo lister'. It allows you to create listings in bulk for faster uploading.

Many sellers also find it useful to have listing tools with automated features that might help you manage your inventory, send out emails or check what time of the day they get the best auction results — these can be found on the eBay site at

Traps to avoid

One of the biggest dangers on eBay and Paypal is identity theft. Fraudsters may attempt to obtain passwords and account details with emails that claim to be from eBay or Paypal and use them to hijack members’ accounts.

To avoid losses arising from selling or buying from hijacked accounts, never deal with any user you've met through eBay who attempts to trade with you outside the eBay system. This includes emails from dodgy online suppliers who may sell you counterfeit goods or have nothing to sell at all.

A single mistake can be costly if you sell high-value goods and the buyer turns out to be a fraudster. This is because any payments made from a hijacked account can be reversed and taken back from the seller (charge-back) if a transaction is proved to be fraudulent. This can occur weeks after the goods have already been shipped out.

While eBay claims the chances of charge backs are very small, there are signs to watch out for to identify hijacked accounts:

  • Be cautious if a buyer’s registered address is different from their delivery address (for example, an Australian member requiring goods to be shipped to Nigeria).
  • Check the buyer’s feedback. A low or negative history of feedback indicates they may have had prior problems with other sellers.
  • Look at what the buyer has been buying and the types of items they usually buy. A fraudulent buyer may have purchased an unusually large amount of goods in a short time.

Recently, eBay representatives acknowledged the need for better seller protection and told CHOICE that it has launched a new program in February 2008 that will reimburse the seller in the event that charge-backs arise.

To qualify for the reimbursements, sellers will need to provide sufficient evidence (such as using registered post and insurance) to prove that the transaction has been completed following proper eBay procedures.


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