How to Make Money on eBay

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I buy crap and resell it. I used to have a niche, but I can no longer make money in that niche, so now I buy and sell whatever I think I can resell. (Hint: It’s getting harder and harder to make money selling ANYTHING on eBay.)

How to Make Money on eBay

Making money online is not as easy as you may have heard. I go to Goodwill a lot. Occasionally I find something I can flip, but often I don’t.  I’ve seen videos of people getting huge hauls from their local Goodwill, and all I can say is they must be in some swanky neighborhood where there are tons of rich people donating designers duds they’ve worn once.

My Goodwill is full of mart brands of clothes people wore one million times then donated. The clothes are completely worthless. Mostly I browse the electronics section. Sometimes I find something there I can flip. Mostly I don’t. If you think making money on eBay is easy, think again.

Making money on eBay: Not as simple as it looks on YouTube. W. T. Fallon @wtfallonauthor
Making money on eBay: Not as simple as it looks on YouTube.

Today I went to a local discount store that does sort of what I do—resells rejects from other stores. I recognize clearance labels from many local stores. (Also, they still have about a hundred boxes of crayons from the store I used to work at, which closed its doors in 2014. Guess they couldn’t unload them any better than we could.)

1. Look for Stuff That Isn’t Made Anymore

Saturday is bin day, and I usually spend a couple hours foraging through the bins. A few weeks ago I found a remote control for $5. I took it home, listed it, and in less than an hour it had sold for $30. Even after eBay’s insane fees and four dollars for shipping, I still made a very nice profit.

I also went on dollar day (Wednesday) and got a bunch of AC adapters for various laptops/devices. Someone, somewhere needs a new one of that damn thing, right?

Today I was lucky enough to be there when they brought out a couple new bins.

2. You Have to Be Fast

When they pull the cover off the bin, grab the first big thing you see. Don’t waste two seconds looking at it to see what the hell it is. Just start grabbing. You can always put back what you don’t want. You can’t grab something someone else already grabbed. Well, you can, but I don’t recommend it. You try snatching something out of my hands, I will see your crazy and raise you to batshit in a heartbeat.

3. When You Get a Chance, Look Your Items Up On Ebay

Before buying, look up every item on eBay. Go to Filter>Completed Listings so you can see what they actually sold for. The fact that someone has one listed for $500 means nothing. I can list a wad of my belly button lint for $500, doesn’t mean anyone is going to pay $500 for it. Completed listings will show you exactly what the market will bear for that item. It also shows the number of unsold listings (noted in red). If you see ten red and one green, hit the back button, even if the one green one was a profitable price. The item obviously isn’t that popular and it’s probably a fluke.

The same should be done when buying at yard sales. If you see the yard/estate sale is being managed by an auction company, I suggest bailing right then. Auction companies tend to price things at what you’d get for them on eBay—before the fees and free shipping. There’s no way to turn a profit on that stuff. You want to buy from people who have no idea what stuff is worth and don’t feel like looking online to find out.

Tips for Internet Resellers
Tips for Internet Resellers

4. Be Very Careful About Telling Store Employees You Are Buying to Resell

Although I have had a few managers who would call me about deals and helped me out, I don’t recommend broadcasting what you’re doing. Some stores seem to think they have the right to tell you what you can do with your items after you have purchased them and they are legally yours. Dillard’s is especially bad about this. I once got into it with a store employee who stormed up to me at a clearance sale and demanded to know why I was buying so many items. I told her it was none of her business. I was literally standing in the middle of bins and bins of this type of widget, and only buying specific ones, and there was no crowd of other people grabbing for stuff. The store had been open for business since eight or nine in the morning, and I had gotten there about five in the evening. Other people had had the entire day to shop the sale. This idiot clerk proceeded to read me the riot act about how resellers were taking items away from other customers who couldn’t buy them. (Again, empty fucking store, everyone else had their chance.) She wanted to limit me to six items.

I told the Retail Gestapo that if she didn’t like it, I’d be happy to take my money and leave. And I did.  I don’t make empty threats. I left all that merchandise behind. And you know what? I swung by a month later, not to buy anything but to look and see if it was all still there. And it was. No other customers came along and bought it.

Meanwhile, I went to the same store in the next city where they encouraged me to take as much of that crap off their hands as possible. They even carried it out to my car for me. That two grand in inventory I was going to spend at the first stores? Went to the second one. I did not shop at that store again for almost a year. I sincerely hope I contributed to that store not making its bottom line each quarter. It’s unfair to have a sale then tell people they can’t buy a lot of stuff. Do you want to unload your merchandise or not?

However, stores will let you buy all the items you want if you say you’re buying gifts for family and friends. Even if you’re buying two hundred gifts. So when store employees ask why I’m buying stuff, I always say it’s a gift. Always.

That being said, it does not hurt to get friendly with management and let them know what kind of stuff you’re looking to buy more of…for your friends and family. Because you’re such a generous person. Sometimes they will call and tell you when they see something you’d like to buy as a gift.

V. R. Craft is the author of Stupid Humans, a thought-provoking science fiction novel that asks the question, “What if all the intelligent people abandoned Earth—and we’re what’s left? 

6 thoughts on “How to Make Money on eBay

  1. Retail Gestapo…… it! You’re right about finding upscale neighborhoods. My son once worked at the Humane Society in the San Francisco area. They had a second hand store for fundraising and he often did the run to pick up donations. Some of the wealthiest neighborhoods are around SF and he used to score some amazing stuff. It’s incredible what the wealthiest among us will discard! (of course he paid the regular donation price to the SPCA). Thanks for a nice blog


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