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Part I: The eBay Story and How It Can Help You.
Chapter 1: eBay’s Business Model.
Chapter 2: Highs and Lows in eBay History.
Part II: Getting Started: The eBay Basics.
Chapter 3: Registering and Assembling the Tools You Need.
Chapter 4: Exploring eBay: Beyond the Site Map.
Chapter 5: Understanding eBay Auction Types.
Chapter 6: Personalizing Your eBay Experience.
Chapter 7: Joining the eBay Community.
Part III: Buying Practically Anything You Want on eBay.
Chapter 8: Researching Before You Bid: Comparison Shopping.
Chapter 9: Locating and Buying Just about Anything.
Chapter 10: Bidding Strategies.
Chapter 11: Bidding on High-Ticket Items.
Chapter 12: Tracking Auctions Anytime, Anywhere.
Part IV: Selling on eBay.
Chapter 13: Choosing the Right Things to Sell.
Chapter 14: Assembling Your Tools and Opening a Seller’s Account.
Chapter 15: Creating Sales Listings That Sell.
Chapter 16: Managing Your Current eBay Sales.
Chapter 17: Making the Feedback System Work for You.
Chapter 18: Capturing Digital Images That Attract Bids.
Chapter 19: Accepting Online Payments.
Chapter 20: Packing and Shipping Like a Pro.
Chapter 21: Legal, Tax, and Accounting Needs .
Part V: How eBay Can Help You Run a Business.
Chapter 22: Turning Your Hobby into an eBay Business.
Chapter 23: Strategic Purchasing to Build Your Inventory.
Chapter 24: Tools for Managing Multiple Sales.
Chapter 25: Formatting Auction Listings.
Chapter 26: Creating a Business Web Site to Boost eBay Sales.
Chapter 27: Finding or Providing Professional Help.
Chapter 28: Developing eBay Business Applications.
Part VI: Troubleshooting.
Chapter 29: Problems with Questionable Listings.
Chapter 30: Problems with Completed Transactions.
Chapter 31: Avoiding Licensing, Legal, and Other Trouble.
Part VII: Appendixes.
Appendix A: eBay Lingo.
Appendix B: Hardware and Software You Need.
Appendix C: eBay and Auction-Related Web Sites.
Appendix D: Basic HTML Markup Terms.
Appendix E: Digital Photo Hosting Services.
If you want to become an eBay power user, you need to get all the background information you can before you start buying and selling. After all, for both new and experienced users, eBay functions much like a business partner. You pay fees for selling items on eBay. All of your business activities take place under eBay's supervision. Knowing something about the ideas behind eBay will give you an idea about how to conduct your own business activities there.
It's amazing to think that my nine-year-old daughter will grow up thinking that eBay always existed when in fact eBay is relatively new. In the beginning, when it wasn't regulated, eBay evolved in a haphazard, personal fashion. If you are wondering where all the regulations and rules came from, you only have to look at how things worked before the site was popular and before it became a highly organized business operation.
eBay is the creation not of a corporate conglomerate, but of one computer programmer who was looking for a way to make it big on the Internet. Pierre Omidyar started eBay in his San Jose, California, living room in September 1995.
A widely circulated story that is still believed by many eBay users says that the auction site that eventually became eBay was conceived initially as a result of a conversation between Omidyar and his wife, Pam. She commented to Pierre how great it would be if she were able to collect Pez dispensers and interact with other collectors over the Internet.
The Pez story might have played a part in eBay's development, but the fact is that Pierre knew that people around the world needed a central location to buy and sell unique items and to meet other users with similar interests. He started his auction site, which was originally called AuctionWeb, to fulfill this need. He wrote the code for the basic site on Labor Day weekend of 1995. As Pam related in a video shown at the eBay Live event in summer 2003, Pierre used to come home from his day job, work on the AuctionWeb site, have dinner, and then go back to work in the evening.
The first day or two after it went online, AuctionWeb didn't even attract any bids. Omidyar posted a notice on the NCSA What's New site, which was created by the makers of the first Web browser, NCSA Mosaic, to announce new resources that Web surfers could visit. For the most part, eBay began to attract buyers and sellers the way many Web sites develop: by word of mouth. Omidyar began to get postings for items people wanted to sell. Among the first dozen was a 1937 Rolls Royce. When his laser printer broke, Omidyar put it up for auction himself rather than simply throwing it away-and it eventually sold for $14.
eBay arose because it combined personal passions with business interests. Its founder and his wife wanted a new way to buy and sell things they loved or things they needed to get rid of. Pierre Omidyar didn't start the business by saying, "I'm going to create this worldwide marketplace where millions of people can buy and sell online." The point is that eBay started from small-scale, personal interests. If you are thinking of buying or selling on eBay regularly, you should think the same way-with something you know and love. If you buy or sell items whose value you are familiar with, you'll enjoy it and you'll be more likely to get a good deal, too. But, the first lesson is to start with what you know. After you have this lesson down, you can branch out and buy or sell a wider range of items.
From AuctionWeb to eBay
In the early days, AuctionWeb primarily sold collectibles. From the beginning, the site was based on honesty and trust that, Omidyar believes, is part of people's basic human nature. If you entered in the URL ebay.com, you went to a "splash" page. The actual AuctionWeb site was at //ebay.com/aw. An early version of the site, as presented on the Internet Archive, is shown in Figure 1-1.
The Internet Archive's Wayback Machine (web.archive.org) maintains an online record of many Web pages dating back to 1996. Unfortunately, you can't find records of individual eBay auctions from years past on the site.
You can use eBay's Completed Auctions feature to search a limited selection of past sales as is described in Chapter 4.
The name eBay was chosen because the domain name Omidyar originally wanted, EchoBay.com, was already taken. Echo Bay Technology Group was the name Omidyar had chosen for his consulting company. eBay seemed like the next best thing, and it was available. The rest, as they say, is history.
When Omidyar met an MBA graduate named Jeff Skoll, the site began to develop and attract customers. Skoll, who became eBay's first president, had the business skills that could balance Omidyar's programming experience. Skoll and Omidyar became business partners in 1996, and Skoll wrote the first business plan for the company they called eBay Inc. eBay began to charge fees for successful sales (not for listing auction sales) when the site began to generate traffic and had to be moved from Omidyar's $30 a month ISP account to a more expensive business hosting account.
Omidyar eventually brought in Meg Whitman, who had been a general manager of Hasbro and president and CEO of FTD, to help the new company grow. In September 1997, Omidyar, Skoll, Mary Lou Song, and Whitman sat around a table and brainstormed about how eBay could take advantage of the booming popularity of the World Wide Web. (Song was eBay's first senior product manager, a Northwestern University journalism graduate who was in charge of developing the eBay user community.) At the time, eBay had about 25,000 users. But there were signs that it was set to experience dramatic growth. The four came up with the idea of a city. They would set up a place where people could buy, sell, and trade their wares (and they charged a modest fee for rental space and sales). After they set the rules and provided a safe environment in which to do business, they let buyers and sellers run their own transactions. The more active sellers would be given the opportunity to "build" permanent stores. Banks and moneylenders would help with financial services. Eventually, you would have the equivalent of a medieval city with the trading marketplace at the center (see Figure 1-2).
AuctionWeb lives on in the many eBay item listings today. When you connect to a listing, you often see the initials "aw" in the URL. They stand for AuctionWeb.
To realize the vision of an online community fueled by a marketplace, Whitman culled her senior staff from companies such as Pepsico and Disney, created an experienced management team (with each member having an average of 20 years of business experience), and built a strong vision for the company. The core message was that eBay is a company that is in the business of connecting people, not selling them things.
The company established a trading community where buyers and sellers would do much of the work by using the World Wide Web. It organized items by topic and by category and created a search system so that prospective bidders could look through the entire catalog in an automated way. It also set up a system of collecting fees. Browsing and bidding on items is free of charge, but sellers are charged as follows:
* Insertion fees. When an item is listed on eBay, this nonrefundable fee is charged. It ranges between 30 cents and $3.30, depending on either the seller's opening value or reserve price.
* Promotional fees. Fees are also charged for additional listing options that help attract attention for an item, such as highlighted or bold listings.
* Final value fee. This is a commission that is charged to the seller at the end of the auction. This fee generally ranges from 1.7% to 5.25% of the final sale price.
After eBay set up the system in which bids could be placed, items could be put up for sale, transactions could be completed, seller fees would be charged, and feedback could be left, eBay stayed in the background. For example, at the end of an auction, eBay notifies the buyer via e-mail that he or she has won. eBay also e-mails the seller to report who won and at what price the auction finished. At that point it's up to the seller and buyer finish the transaction independently of eBay.
Over the years, eBay has quickly branched out from primarily auctioning collectibles. It gradually moved into an array of upscale markets where the average sale price (ASP) is higher. ASP is a key metric in determining eBay's transaction fees, so increasing the ASP has become an important way for the company to be profitable. By forging partnerships with name brands such as GM, Disney, and Sun, eBay has managed to do exactly that. Sun has sold $10 million worth of equipment on eBay and now lists between 20 and 150 items per day.
Meg Whitman is now president and CEO of eBay; Omidyar is chairman. Whitman actually sold her old college textbooks on Half.com, an online marketplace that eBay purchased in 2000.
Getting Advice from Other eBay Users
It's always good to get second- or third-party opinions. This book can help improve your experience on eBay, whether you're just starting out or have bought and sold there for a while. But eBay also provides workshops and tutorials that can come in handy when you encounter a specific problem and need advice, or if you want to meet experienced eBay buyers and sellers in person. The following sections give you some suggestions for ways to expand your eBay knowledge with some personal help.
You have chances to meet other eBay users face-to-face if you want to at the classes held around the country and the annual eBay Live user convention. This reminds you that you are part of a real community and not working in isolation.
eBay's online workshops are among the best educational features the site offers because they are often conducted by experienced users who have decided that they want to share what they've learned with others. Designing and conducting a seminar improves the users' credibility and boosts their reputation; those who sit in benefit from personal experience of the workshop leaders.
eBay's Workshops are online instruction sessions conducted using eBay's message board format. Anyone who is interested connects to the Web page on which the workshop is conducted; the leader begins with some introductory remarks that appear on the user's browser window. Those who are in the audience can submit questions to the leader, and a discussion ensues. The browser is refreshed whenever new comments are received.
The first step is to connect to the Workshops area where you can find both upcoming workshops and archives of sessions that have been recently held. Click Community in the eBay navigation bar, and then click Workshops under the heading Events. At this writing, the upcoming workshops were listed in the right-hand column under the heading Information Central (see Figure 1-3). The past sessions were listed in this same column under Workshop Archives; you could click on a hyperlink to read the record of the presentation and subsequent questions and answers. Alternatively, you could click the link Workshops board in the left-hand column to go to the Workshops board, which also presents you with a convenient list of both past and upcoming sessions.
Reviewing an archived workshop
At any one time, perhaps six to eight upcoming workshops are announced on the eBay US-Workshops page. If you are interested in finding out more about a topic that is not listed among those that are scheduled for the near future, you can read through workshops that have already taken place. If you aren't familiar with eBay chats, however, you might find the process of reading the archived workshop comments confusing. Follow these steps to get the most from the preserved comments
STEPS: Reading Comments in an Archived Workshop
1. Choose a workshop. On the eBay US-Workshops page, click the link for one of the past archives. Archived workshops are organized by date in the center of the page (see Figure 1-4). You can also view the number of comments, which indicates the level of interest in the workshop when it was held.
2. Read the introduction. At the top of the workshop comments, you'll find an introduction from an eBay moderator or discussion leader. They set the ground rules and introduce the topic at hand. 3. If necessary, display more comments. Workshops that have a high number of comments don't display them all on one screen. You may, in fact, only see one or two introductory comments, followed by buttons labeled More, Recent, and All Msg. Click All Msg to see all messages in the workshop in a single, long screen.
4. Scroll past initial comments from the audience. It's almost inevitable. Before the person leading the discussion has finished the introduction and invited questions, some eager beavers anxiously type their questions right away. Scroll down to finish reading what the moderator has to say.
5. Find out more about who's commenting. Click on one of the icons next to the person's name to find out more about that individual. You might see icons like the following:
If you see a me icon next to someone's User ID, for example, that means the person has created a personal Web page on eBay called About me, which buyers and sellers create to provide some personal information about themselves to the rest of the eBay community.
A Power Seller icon means the user has attained Power Seller status for selling a large volume of items each month-but clicking on the icon only takes you to a general Power Seller information page.
An eBay Stores icon means the member operates his or her own eBay Store, where items are sold at fixed price.
If you don't see any icons, click on the number in parentheses or on the User ID. You go to the Member Profile page, where you can view feedback comments that others have left about that individual as a result of completed transactions. You also learn how long the person has been a member and the general location (the country or city, not a street address) where the person lives.
6. Look for the answer you want. If you've participated in online chat rooms, you should be familiar with the type of discussion that takes place on workshop message boards. Often, the reply to a question occurs several comments after the question was posted; you have to scroll down past several other user comments before the discussion leader answers that question.
Excerpted from eBay PowerUser's Bible by Greg Holden Excerpted by permission.
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