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Monday, April 24, 2006

Ebay: Where the Dumb People Breed.

On a completely different subject...

Running an eBay store, even a small, part-time one that doesn't make much money, is a great way to have a garage sale year-round. I've managed to sell things that I would have otherwise thrown away, such as old college magazines, a very used Power Rangers blanket, and spare electronic parts that I found while cleaning for dorm crew. It's an invaluable business tool and a nice supplemental income for many people.

However, it can also be a big hassle when people are stupid.

I'm not saying that my customers are stupid; in fact, I get a lot of intelligent, kind and friendly clientele because of the stuff I list on the site. Yes, it's a given that there are millions of people on eBay and that a few of them will be a couple of fuses short of a circuit box. No one can avoid that. What should be avoidable is the massive influx of questions from people who obviously haven't even read the listing of the item that they're writing me about and who will probably not buy the item in question. It's one thing to be German and not have a perfect grasp of English; that disadvantage might make you ask repeat questions that have already been addressed (I'm not sure as to how my answers will be of any help to such a person, since I can't translate them into German, but that's okay).

Just for clarification, the good questions are AWESOME to get. I learn what I've been leaving out of item descriptions, what customers look for that I haven't even *considered* yet, etc. The bad questions are, not in any particular order:

--"What's the shipping cost to _____?"

Keep in mind that I have a shipping calculator for every item ON THE LISTING page and a link to it from the top of the listing as well. I will click the same button to calculate for the customer as he could have done himself, and I will get the same answer (unless I make a mistake in entering the ZIP code). I show people exactly what they will pay beyond the actual price, something many, many smaller merchants do not do for whatever reason until they send their invoices. The shipping cost will not 'magically deflate' if I calculate it for someone. ;)

--"I have __ episodes from the TV show ______. Can I trade them for _______?"

This when I have a crystal-clear FAQ at the top of the listing that says am not willing to trade stuff listed unless they're from one particular show. One. Show. I got one of these this morning, one day AFTER putting up the FAQ on this particular listing.

I used to assume that people would read the posted comments in the "Answered Questions" section at the bottom of every listing. I really did. I made my answers public so that the next person wouldn't need to ask the same question. Didn't help at all. In fact, it only made the problem worse. I started getting emails instead, in all caps, sans punctuation: HI INOTICE U R SELLING THAT DVD HERES MY LIST OF STUF 4 TRAD GET BACK 2 ME SOON K THANKS --SK8TRDOM

These were usually followed by a long list of movies and shows that I don't want or need, and even if I did, said person would be the last seller from whom I would buy them.

--"Hi! I see you sell lots of old Barbie clothes and shoes. I have a blonde bendable doll who is not a Barbie (skepticism starts here) with a stamp on her butt that says she is from [insert unknown manufacturer, usually Taiwanese]. She is about [insert height] tall and has a molded body and blinkable eyes. I have tried looking online everywhere (no, she hasn't) with no luck. This doll is unique because [it turns green after leaving it in a metal box for ten years / comes apart / smells like candles / has a beauty spot / used to talk / fits into Ken's outfits / ...]. I was wondering if you could identify it for me (without a picture) and tell me more about it (in other words, write my listing for me) and how much it is worth (so I can make money without doing any of the work). It's a very special doll to me (I stole it from my sister, who got from my aunt, so it MUST be valuable 'cause it's old!). Write back ASAP."

--"I live in the UK but I'm in Italy right now. I was cleaning out my grandmother's closet, and I have a box of old Barbie stuff. Do you want it?" (no pictures, conditon, asking price or description provided, and when you request these, you don't hear back)

--"I want the lawn chair from you Star Traveler set. I know you say on the listing that you'll only sell them as a set, but could I buy just the chair anyway?"

--"Hello. I'm a fan of Lancelot & Guinevere items, so I have those keywords on my favorite search listing. Now I'm getting email notices every time you list something because your store's name is Lance & Gwen. I know you've been in business for a while, but my inbox is filling up and I don't know how to stop it (you mean do something about it, as in, oh, I don't know, -changing- your search criteria in your account? *sarcasm*) Would you please switch your store name. Thank you."

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