Scavenger Life Episode 79: What's Happening In Your eBay Store This Week?

Old school sweater with old photo style. Sold for $8! Original kitsch nude painting, paid $10, sold for $185. Stars not included.

This week Jay and Ryanne talk about starting auto returns. We were inspired by our recent Caty Burt Amazon podcast and Suzanne Well's Amazon free e-book to start selling some books on Amazon. We are using the Profit Bandit app (App Store, Google Play) to figure out what books to list. Check out the International Shoe charts (here and here) we use to convert shoe sizes for listings. Since it's the end of the year, we encourage you to check out GoDaddy BookKeeping (formerly Outright) for organizing all your eBay store expenses.

Direct .mp3 link. Direct ogg vorbis link.

We've included our weekly Ebay numbers below. In the comments, go ahead and post what you've done this week. And let us know if there are other numbers you want us to share.

The Weekly Scavenger Numbers

Jay and Ryanne’s Store Week Dec 22-29, 2013

  • Total Items in Store: 3016
  • Items Sold: 50
  • Total Sales: $1,914.23
  • Highest Price Sold: $185.00 (Vintage kitsch painting of nude woman-MEOW!)
  • Average Price Sold: $38.28
  • Returns: 2
  • Positive Feedback: 30
  • Neutral Feedback: 0
  • Negative Feedback: 0
Mikey and Wendy’s store Week Dec 22-29, 2013
  • Total Items in Store: 1032
  • Items Sold: 19
  • Total Sales: $518.23
  • Highest Price Sold: $50.00 (Pressure Gauge)
  • Average Price Sold: $27.28
  • Returns: 1
  • Positive Feedback: 16
  • Neutral Feedback: 0
  • Negative Feedback: 0


  1. Happy New Year Scavengers ! I just wanted to let you know I too turned on automated returns and thus far have not had anyone abusing it. So far so good but only a week into it. Thinking about giving amazon a go. I have had pretty good luck with books on ebay. Car / Truck repair books sell like hot cakes. Computer programming books do good as well.

  2. Jena’s Store Week Dec 22-29, 2013

    Total Items in Store: 752
    Items Sold: 15
    Total Sales: $463.72
    Highest Price Sold: $84.00 (Three vintage Scottish mohair scarves)
    Second Highest Price Sold: $70.00 (Pair Men's vintage Sorel Boots)
    Average Price Sold: $30.91
    Positive Feedback: 15
    Neutral Feedback: 0
    Negative Feedback: 0

    Since I turned on "Hassle-Free returns" I have been inundated with returns. I can go months without a return and so far this week I've had 5. Here's the bummer part. One lady's wooden bowl was completely destroyed in shipping. She initiated a return with the automated process. I never knew anything about the issue until notified by eBay. The item was insured, so technically, she could have filed a claim with photos, etc and gotten her money back. But because the automated process takes out the part where buyers talk to sellers beforehand...that didn't happen. OK, so she says in her reason for returning the item, "item not as described" which of course is inaccurate since the item was fine when it was shipped but got wrecked in the transit. But when buyers select that option for their reason, eBay automatically directs you to return...get this...not only her original purchase price ($85)...but her original shipping ($13.90)...AND $7.00 for the return shipping label that she used. There is nothing in my return policy that says I give back original shipping cost.

    Flash forward a few days....another customer receives a vintage canister set. He keeps it and uses it for two weeks. The handle on the lid pulls off. He initiates a return. Says "item not as described" and in the comments says item is "defective". Basically, he broke it. He has shipped the item back and yep, once again, in the "return status" message from eBay, I am directed to refund original cost of the item, original shipping cost and will again be charged $7.00 if he uses the eBay return label.

    I spent over 45 minutes on the phone with eBay yesterday trying to find out why 1) I'm responsible for paying shipping costs both ways....AND 2) I'm going to get a strike against me for "item not as described". The customer rep kept me on hold for 34 minutes and then said, she didn't know any of the answers and she would file a report. Wow, thanks.

    I told her I had no intention of paying the buyers back the original shipping costs and that if eBay was going to penalize me, I was going to fight it. She basically just kept reading from her script and was no help at all. I did say that "hassle-free returns" were NOT hassle free for me.

    Keran and Bob say they send a letter about choosing "item not as described", but I can't see where that is going to stop anybody. Because if they choose that, then they're off the hook for return shipping AND they're going to get ALL their money back including original shipping. I'm totally disgusted with this whole operation and am planning on calling eBay again on Thursday to voice my displeasure.

    I am going to continue with the hassle-free program for another week or so, then if it's still not working out, I will go back to the old system. At least then, the buyer contacts me, we talk about it, I usually offer them some money back and everyone's happy.

    Anxious to hear other's experiences. Jena

    1. Jena, that doesn't sound good at all. We have only had them on for a week and so far no returns but everything you describe is what we fear about this program. Really sorry you got beat up on returns this week, I hope it gets better.

  3. Love your podcast. I was wondering how you store your wool items to prevent moth damage. I am afraid my customers would freak if something had a moth ball odor. Any tips? Thanks, d

    1. The key is to not attract moths. Obvious but true. We keep all our wool coats in a climate controlled storage building. This also means that there aren't bugs getting into our inventory. The same is true with humidity and mold (since many eBayers use basements for storage). It's worked for us so far over the past six years.

    2. The problem can come not from attracting clothes moths, but from buying something with clothes moths on it already. There is really no way to tell unless you see some adults flying around in the thrift store (I did once, did not buy any wool suits that day).

      It really is a game of chance- chances are, sooner or later, you are going to buy something that has clothes moths.

      Keeping the humidity down is helpful to slow down their developmental progress. You can buy the clothes moth alert traps- these attract the male, not the female. And they only attract the webbing clothes moth, not the casemaking. It will kill the males, not the females who are not attracted to the scent.

      They are hard to kill without chemical means. You can get them quite by accident when you are buying wool clothing. Unless you dry clean every wool item you purchase, chances are, sooner or later, you might have a moth problem.

    3. I think being vigilant is good for any potential issue (including moths). Know your inventory and keep the conditions optimal. If a problem arises, nip it in the bud right away.

    4. I think people need to realize that owning a business, even a small one like ebay, is still a business and you are going to have problems, issues and shrink. If it was a perfect world then we would never have these problems, but there are. I used to get all pissed off and worked up over returns and complaints but now I just take items back and don't worry about it. I am definitely not going to spend hours on the phone with Ebay over the problems. I just don't have the time and I should be using the time finding more product and listing more. Something I always think about is that I am buying a lot of items for 50 cents and a dollar then turning around and selling it for 20 dollars plus. You are not going to hit a home run on every sale. Out of like 371 sales, I have had probably 3 or 4 items I either broke even on or lost money due to issues. That's pretty good based on my average sale price. Prior to listening to this podcast I was selling cheap made in china stuff and my average profit margin was like a dollar or two per item. I am extremely happy. Just my 2 cents.

    5. Way to go Steven, it is true that the solution to pollution is dilution! It is tough for those that are starting out, and for low volume sellers, but If I have to eat a couple of sales thats ok because I try to maintain a high volume. One tactic that has been working really well for me is a PPR Preemptive Partial Refund it takes the customer by surprise and shows them right up front that I am not interested in jerking them around, I just want the positive feedback and DSR.

  4. I have heard that once you opt in to automated returns you cannot opt out--ever! Reason enough for me to avoid it.

    1. We were skeptical, but tried it about a month ago. So far we've had buyers use the program to automatically return three items. They paid shipping. Doesn't feel like a big deal. I'm assuming it helps to get higher in search results as well.

      I think there are valid reasons to not use the automated returns system, but this isn't one of them. eBay clearly states that you aren't locked into the program once you join.

      Q: Once I opt in, can I opt back out?
      A: Yes, but you are expected to complete any returns your buyer has already started within the process. When you opt out, for all active listings, the restocking fee field will be removed and the "Additional return policy details" text box will be restored with any content that existed prior to opting in. You should verify the content is still accurate. You can opt back in at any time.

  5. I sell books on Amazon, and do quite well. In December 2013, I sold 116 books that totaled just over $1700. So, $400 per week is not only doable, but that's probably on the low end for most dedicated Amazon booksellers.

    1. Holy cow Scott ! That is fantastic ! Do you sell fiction non fiction or self help or what ? I would like to get into it but really my biggest success has only been with computer language books and car repair books. Any advice appreciated :-)

    2. Almost exclusively nonfiction. Fiction usually isn't worth the effort. I've had moderate success with computer language books, but they quickly become OBE (overcome by events) and out of date. Car repair books are a mixed bag; some sell well, while others race, pun intended, to the bottom, and become penny books.

    3. This is really interesting to hear. I love talking numbers. Do you mind if we break them down?

      If you made $1700 on 116 books, that's about $14 for each book. How much of that is actually the Amazon fees and the cost of buying the inventory? What is the actual profit in your pocket? Also, do you sell on FBA? Or ship from home?

      We sold a cookbook book on Amazon and made about $7 after all our fees were paid. Not bad, but be tough to earn a living with that margin of profit.

    4. You are exactly right on the average. Here is a breakdown of one of our sales: Order Detail
      Item Price $14.50
      Shipping Credit $3.99
      Commissions $2.17
      Processing $1.35
      Handling $0.00
      Tax $0.00
      Shipping Cost $0.00
      Total $14.96

      The book cost $2, shipping was $3.03, and packaging was roughly $.50. Subtracting the $5.53 from the $14.96 leaves $9.43 profit on the book.

      Books are just part of our inventory; we also sell CDs, DVDs, and toys/games on Amazon (both from home and through FBA); our inventory is also sold on several other online venues.. We also have an Ebay store.

    5. This is great info. Thanks for sharing the breakdown. So if you can buy a book for $2 and make an almost $10 profit...then that's not bad. I find listing on Amazon is easier since you don't have to take photos etc.

      We're still trying to get the "eye" for books. I'm often finding books that sell for 1-CENT(!) on Amazon. And the ones that sell for more are older books and less popular. I guess like anything, it just takes time to figure put the market. It's interesting that you can compete with the big used booksellers.

      Are you just buying books at thrift stores? Or have you found a better consistent source?

    6. I'm still looking for that elusive consistent source. Until then, I just keep making my rounds of thrift stores, garage sales, etc.

    7. Yep, that's why we call ourselves Scavengers. Listing is the easy part. The mystery is always searching searching searching. Can't teach someone how to find valuable items in the wild.

      Thanks again for sharing your numbers. No one's going to get rich on $9 profit for a book, but you can make a living with a lot of work.

  6. Lol! I'm listening to your podcasts for the second time around while I'm listing. I was looking up a price for a Woolrich sweater, and I see 2 pictures of Ryanne modeling sweaters!