Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Demise of eBay


I decided to start listing some crap, er...treasures, on eBay, instead of getting nothing for it at a garage sale. I have an old Polaroid One Step Camera, and now that the film is no longer in production, I thought I'd sell the camera. It still works and I have the original box with the $39.99 price tag on it and the instructions. The camera is worthless. They are selling for the opening bid of $0.99 with shipping of $4.95.

So as long as the camera is both worthless and working, I thought instead of selling it, I'd see if I could buy some film. It's still fun to take those instant pictures and watch them develop. Well, since the film is no longer in production, the price is very high, $15 to $20 per package of 10, plus shipping. So the question now is, do I just throw out the camera? Or should I hold onto it. No point in selling it for $0.99. Also no point in buying the overpriced film, when I can just take digital photos, also instant, and print them on plain paper on a laser printer or at a drug store.

But eBay (and Half.com too) used to be a great place to sell your stuff. People would bid like crazy, it was well worth your time. eBay has become a dumping ground, and the recession hasn't helped. Two years ago, eBay did a great job of chasing their sellers away by raising fees; earning the nickname Feebay. It didn't help when the US Postal Service raised rates and changed key details of shipping (rates, package sizes, etc.). Many sellers fled, others just disappeared, realizing that selling on eBay was no longer profitable and now just a waste of time.

In January of 2007, having just finished a consulting gig, I joined my wife who was selling on eBay. Together we bought three palettes of off-price dresses and suits, excess inventory from Macy's and began selling them on eBay. It was a lot of work, and the margins were slim. There were a half dozen other seller around the country doing the same thing, and some were just dumping their stuff, losing money and driving the prices down. Although we ordered another three palettes, that was it. We sold off most of the inventory and packed it in. On balance it was a good experience and we learned a lot. But the idea of earning a living in sweatpants from home, remained an elusive fantasy.

My wife has moved most of her selling to Etsy.com, and rarely sells on eBay. I occasionally sell my junk on eBay. I guess it's still a "Viable" business and they will remain somewhat profitable, but the idea of full time, professional eBay sellers has gone the way of the Polaroid Camera.

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