Sunday, March 10, 2013

Making money by buying stuff on eBay

Yea, yeah, yeah. I know. This sounds like an infomercial but I swear I am not selling anything. All I am telling about is a way I found to make some extra money on eBay. Yeah, it actually works and in some cases I have made over 100% of the purchase price.

So how does it work? Well eBay is based on people searching for specific items. When you try and buy something on eBay you go and type in "rock climbing shoes" or if you are trying to be more specific "5.10 anasazi" or some such. From looking at eBay it seems that the majority of things being sold on eBay are not from you or I or Joey joe joe, they are from companies that buy up large piles of shit for nothing and then sell it all on eBay. This is great because most of the time they don't know what they are selling. If you do know what they are selling and they are selling it for much below the price that it is worth then you make money.

Ok let's have an example. I am scientist and know alot about equipment in the field of molecular biology, biochemistry, biophysics. I can identify things on sight.

If you are a are a molecular biologist you know what this is. It is not a programmable thermal controller. Well that is the name on the device but it is actually colloquially called a Thermal cycler or a PCR machine. Maybe you got the picture already. When things are mislabeled in the title people can't find them with a search so many times they are not bid on or go for really cheap. What one can then do is look up the colloquial name of the product and see how much they usually sell for. If the price + shipping is less than the price you would sell it for +  seller fees + $20 or so then buy it. When it is resold you can always reuse the box and increase your shipping price a little to make even more money. All you are doing is changing the title of the item.

The hard part is finding the miss-used names. That just takes some grunt work of browsing eBay. Just go into the Healthcare, Lab and Life Sciences category on eBay and just browse. That thermal controller one was a good one. Also, people call stir plates "mixers" or "stirrers". People call variacs,  autotransformers. Lots of things like that.

I ended up making about $1000 over 6 months or so. I sold about 30 items with a mode of about $30 some more, some less. Some I lost a little on. This was all before I wrote the tool below instead I would browse and browse.

I think the problem with this business model is throughput. You need to be able to receive and ship packages. Test stuff. Deal with peoples issues. You only have a certain amount of time each day and these things can take time. It is really easy to make $1-5 on eBay but unless the scale is huge you are just wasting your time. I felt like I needed to make around $30 per purchase or I was just wasting my time.

Here is code I wrote to quickly and easily parse eBay for selling prices and prices of stuff that has already been sold Click here for eBay tool.

Things to remember:
1. Sometimes it takes time to sell stuff, a month or more
2. Don't forget seller fees from eBay and paypal they usually amount to about 10-20%
3. Always pay for delivery confirmation when shipping things it is usually less than $1 or $2 and saves you the headache of a customer saying somethign was lost in the mail.
4. Be wary of items that are being sold "AS-IS" especially if testing the device is as simple as turning it on
5. Find keywords in the titles of sold items that correlate with price
6. Buy bulk if you can, some of the most money I made was by winning an auction is which someone was selling alot of something. Such as 5 stir plates or 30 lasers.
7. Sell things as working but no returns or AS-IS working, guaranteed non-Dead on Arrival. You don't know the long-term survival of the item and giving refunds to everything that breaks is just not reasonable.
8. The investment is not great, starting out with $200 is usually good to buy a few items.