Education & Training

Before the Auction: Selling for the Holidays continued ...

Too Much (Eye) Candy Will Spoil Their Appetite

Many sellers like to roll out a barrage of excess yuletide glitter and glee in their listings--to the point that it becomes enough to gag an elf. Overdo it and your bidders will grab the next Polar Express out of there. Fight the temptation to roll out the biggest, brightest, blinking-est holiday listing--it's typically very slow to load and will succeed only in detracting from the great item you're auctioning. If you like, throw in a simple holiday image or a nice holiday font, but leave the animated GIFs and blaring Muzak out, giving more attention to the picture and description of your item instead. (P.S. Big hint here: Be sure your listing includes a good picture and detailed description of your item.)

Yellow Snow

Though there's a joyous sound in the air, a flat note might be heard if a winning bidder takes the next sleigh ride out without paying up. Though most auction-goers know the routine and frustration of dealing with deadbeat bidders, the holiday season doesn't offer as much time to sort such matters out. If you feel it's necessary, clearly state in your listing description when you expect to receive payment from the winning bidder. Most honest bidders will understand the need to close transactions quickly during the holiday season. If a bidder does stiff you, just move on to the next highest bidder or relist the item, knowing there's a lump of coal coming in that bad bidder's stocking (or feedback profile).

North Pole or Bust

State your shipping terms clearly in your auction's description so bidders know whether they can expect to receive their winnings in time for the holiday. During this time of year, make special shipping methods available to your bidders (Fed Ex Overnight, UPS Second Day, or USPS Express Mail). If bidders are willing to pay the extra charge, accommodate them with the special delivery services your usual carrier provides. Sometimes offering fast shipping options could determine whether a bidder will bid on your item or shop elsewhere. And, more than any other time of year, be sure you and your buyer agree to the shipping method and delivery expectation before the package leaves your hands.

Damage Claims and Postholiday Returns

With all those packages being shipped, it's a given that damage will strike something, somewhere. Encourage the buyer to pay for insurance and clearly state that you will not be responsible if the buyer waives the extra protection.

Then, whether you open a virtual returns desk or not, be sure to clearly state your return policy in your item description. During this time of year, many bidders are prone to impulse bidding and buying--some may change their minds after the item is in hand. To protect yourself from those who may bid today and refund tomorrow, make it clear up front what your policy will be if the buyer changes his or her mind.

Postholiday Sales

And lastly, consider this: Hasn't there been a holiday when you didn't get everything you were wishing for? The same goes for many auction-goers out there today, and there will be hordes of them looking to fill that empty spot on their wish list. After the holidays pass, sellers can typically find a resurgence of bidders still looking for the stuff they really wanted this year, as well as some postholiday bargains. Unless you need a holiday break yourself, keep those listings coming and, if you're looking to unload a bunch of stuff you want to get rid of before the new year, list items with low opening bids and no reserves. Let the bidders do the rest.

Dennis Prince is the author of Vendio's Official Guide to Online Buying and Selling and Online Auctions at eBay: Bid With Confidence, Sell With Success. He has been an active buyer and seller at various online auction sites since 1995. Send him email at