Wednesday, December 19

I've started my holiday regifting

It’s getting crazy out there! Yesterday I was nearly killed (OK, perhaps almost maimed) by a couple of guys fighting over the last Wii. Duh, you’d think they’d know where to find one … eBay of course. Come to think of it, perhaps they were a couple of eBay sellers trying to stock their eBay store!

I’ve yet to see such a year where everyone’s going mad trying to find just the right gift. We’re all so tired of the many gifts we get that, frankly, just aren’t right. So we are faced with the traditional holiday “Seinfeld” dilemma. Do we become re-gifters?

If you decide to re-gift (or better yet, resell on eBay), here are a few suggestions.
1. Thank the gift-giver. No matter how horrified you are when you open the box that houses the chartreuse-and-lime-green wool scarf, work up a smile. The gift-giver is looking at you with expectant eyes, just waiting for you to squeal with delight. On the chance that you can’t work up a squeal, give them a warm-hearted “thank you” and a big smile. A hug can also punctuate your sincerity.

2. When you get home, thoroughly open the gift. Rip through all the tissue, and be sure there’s nothing else in the box. This is a very basic but sometimes ignored rule of re-gifting. Gifts that are going to be re-gifted or resold must be checked thoroughly for anything that is personalized, including checks or gift cards that may have been placed inside the misfit present.

3. Don’t be in a rush to get rid of the gift. Getting the stuff out of the house may be your first instinct, but patience is key. Items that you may not need can be perfect presents for someone else in your life. If you’re planning to resell the gift on eBay, be sure to do a Completed Items search to see if a thousand other people got the same thing and put it up on eBay at the same time. (After all, how many people really want that bizarre scarf?)

4. Remember who the gift was from. Keep the original gift in its box, and mark the gift with a Post-it note so you remember who gave it to you. Store it in a clean, dust-free place, so when you are ready to re-gift or resell, the item is as good as it was on the day you received it.

These tips should be enough to get you going for now. I’ll have more in next week’s blog. Feel free to comment with any other ideas you have. Enjoy the season!

Wednesday, December 5

It's the Holiday Re-Gifting Season 2007

During this holiday season I’m eBay’s shopping and re-gifting expert. And though I pride myself on being a great gift-giver, honestly there are times that I’ve been stymied. If the recipient doesn’t look up at you with a big smile after tearing away the scads of carefully taped and beribboned paper, then you know there’s a chance your misfit gift will end up in that nether land of unwanted gifts stuffed in a closet, never to see the light of day.

There’s always a chance that the recipient will re-gift your present or — if she's a smart eBay seller — sell the item on the site quickly. As the old saying goes, there’s a hand for every glove (or something to that effect).

Since I’ll be blogging and answering your comments every week, I’d love to begin this season with gift suggestions from all you shopping gurus in the eBay community. What gifts do you think will be most appreciated this season?

For my first pick, I’ll go with the Nintendo Wii — I think everyone should have one in their home. It’s the first gaming console that appeals to all ages, you don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to enjoy playing it, and it has a wide variety of games. The Wii is still in short supply at retailers (an opportunity for savvy sellers out there?). So if you want to give one, snatch it up as soon as you find it. eBay has a number of these listed too!

Please post your comments here, including some of your own picks for the hottest holiday gifts for 2007. I’ll be posting every week through the holidays, and I’ll offer some of my own dos and don’ts when it comes to gift-giving, re-gifting, and reselling gifts on eBay!

Monday, October 15

I'll be Teaching eBay University Classes

For all those who have emailed me and would like to take my classes, I'll be teaching the advanced sellers course in Atlanta on October 27 and in Kansas City on November 3. I'd love to see you there. To register go to the eBay University home page.

Saturday, October 6

Yahoo!, eBay and PayPal Join Forces to Protect Consumers Against E-mail Fraud and Phishing Scams

Yahoo! Mail First to Protect Consumers by Blocking Fraudulent eBay and PayPal E-mail

Yahoo!, eBay and PayPal today announced a collaborative effort to better protect consumers against fraudulent e-mails and the dangerous scams known as phishing attacks. Starting today, eBay and PayPal customers worldwide using Yahoo! Mail will have a safer e-mail experience - they will begin receiving fewer fake e-mails claiming to be sent by eBay and PayPal. Yahoo! Mail is the first Web mail service to block these types of malicious messages for eBay and PayPal through the use of DomainKeys e-mail authentication technology.

The technology upgrade will be rolled out globally over the next several weeks to all users of Yahoo! Mail.

"eBay and PayPal's adoption of e-mail authentication technology and this aggressive move on the part of Yahoo! Mail are significant steps forward in the fight to protect consumers against e-mail-based crimes," said Michael Barrett, chief information security officer at PayPal. "While there is clearly no silver bullet for solving the problems of phishing and identity theft, today's announcement is great news for our customers who rely on Yahoo! Mail."

DomainKeys technology provides a unique way to verify the authenticity of e-mail messages, allowing Internet service providers to determine if messages are real and should be delivered to a customer's inbox. The collaborative effort between Yahoo!, eBay and PayPal will result in the blocking of unauthenticated e-mail, reducing the volume of fraudulent e-mail received by consumers and lowering their risk of falling for phishing attacks.

"By reducing the risk of phishing scams, Yahoo! Mail now offers a much safer Web mail service for eBay and PayPal users, and this protection will benefit the larger Yahoo! Mail community as well," said John Kremer, vice president of Yahoo! Mail. "We look forward to helping to facilitate continued industry adoption of DomainKeys and the proposed standard DomainKeys Identified Mail, as we continue to increase our efforts to safeguard the inbox."

"Today is a significant milestone for the added protection of millions of eBay and PayPal customers," said Dave Cullinane, chief information security officer at eBay. "Through industry cooperation, we can collectively try to stamp out phishing and other e-mail scams. We welcome Yahoo!'s commitment to this endeavor, applaud its leadership role within the Internet service provider community, and encourage others join in the fight to keep consumers safe from phishing attacks."

Yahoo!, eBay and PayPal are in the process of transitioning their systems from DomainKeys to the proposed standard DomainKeys Identified Mail. The implementation is expected to be complete in the coming months.

Friday, September 28

A $5 Investment Against Phishing

This new device can help protect you against online scams and theft.

How safe do you feel with all your online accounts? I know when I really think about all the financial data I have on the web--technically accessible to anyone--I get a little queasy. I try to never click the links in e-mails to secure sites. But just when you think you're being careful--and lulled into complacency--an e-mail comes along containing a link that you click on. You realize you've just logged onto a financial site and the panic sets in.

I've done it myself--caught by a phishing e-mail. Should this happen to you, the best thing to do is immediately log out and close your browser window. As fast as you can, open a new window, type in the website URL--whether it be PayPal, your bank or your investment advisor--and log in again. Change your password and your heart will stop feeling like it's about to jump out of your chest.

Always make sure your wireless network at home is as secure as possible. I recommend using WPA over WEP, since WEP can be hacked by a junior high school student. Someone can pull up to the curb in front of your house and pick up your signal, log your keystrokes, get your passwords and drive away.

These are all pretty scary scenarios. But, VeriSign, previously known as the worldwide clearinghouse for credit cards and cash, has developed a new technology. VeriSign Unified Authentication provides two-factor authentication credentials through a one-time password token.

PayPal has embraced this technology through a new device, aptly named the PayPal Security Key, which looks like a small pager. PayPal generates a new--and different--security code every time you log in to your PayPal account. Just enter the security code displayed on the device's small screen after you enter your user name and password, and you're in.

Can anyone else pick this number up from your wireless network? Possibly. But the key code changes every 30 seconds, so even if someone does get the code, it will be invalid within 30 seconds.

If you're like me, the first question you have is: What if I lose it? You can still log in to your PayPal account if you can't find or break your Security Key. Before you can log in, though, PayPal will ask you questions to confirm your account ownership.

The device is available for $5 from PayPal. If you'd like your own Security Key, visit the security key area of PayPal. This technology will surely catch on with other financial sites, and technically, the device could handle codes from other companies. But only time will tell how this technology will progress.

Friday, August 31

eBay News FLASH!

If you’ve ever wanted to sell on eBay, here’s your chance! All during the month of September (until September 30, 2007) you can list any item with a starting price of $9.99 or under for FREE – as long as you purchase a 35 cent gallery picture. (I always recommend that you use this feature when selling an item on eBay). For thirty five cents you can throw caution to the wind and put up all the things you've been thinking of selling and empty out that closet! For items with a higher staring price, you can get 25 percent of your listing fees when buying a Gallery picture. This is a great promotion and will surely get more sellers (and more buyers – due to increased selection of merchandise) active on the site. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Thursday, August 16

eBay Live 2007 - Great Fun!

My favorite event of the year is eBay live. This year it was in Boston, MA. I taught my Starting an eBay Business class for those who are just branching out into their own eBay enterprise and signed books and met many wonderful old and new friends. Check out my quick video below and see Meg Whitman (eBay's CEO) bowling on a Wii. The two gentlemen with me in the photo are Brian Burke (eBay Director of Global Feedback Policy), and John Donahoe (President, eBay Marketplace). We also celebrated my 1,000,000th book sold!

Sunday, July 8

An eBay Seller's Conundrum - Boots No 7 Restore & Renew

Having family in London, I'm totally familiar with the "chemist" (pharmacy to us Yankees) Boots. They've always been a good solid company, and was pleased to find that I could purchase some of their products on the shelves at Target.

Then, the hype hits! A new beauty product (uh-huh, like one comes out every ten minutes). But this one is different! Women are lining up at Boots to purchase it as soon as it hits the store. (Note the excitement in my voice, that mob mentality can really win me over).

First its talked about on BBC, then CNN and finally Matt Lauer on the Today Show (hey, if Matt Lauer says its cool, it must be, right?) - they're all extolling the virtues and popularity of this revolutionary product. Stop here. When it comes to beauty products, I'm fairly cynical person. I get my heavy duty stuff from a person with an MD after his name - I feel it keeps me on the safe side. But all this hype sounds interesting, so I file the info away in the recesses of the beauty counter in my head.

This morning, while taking one of those girly trips to CVS (the kind of trip where women look and touch every bit of makeup in the store), I spy a whole area with beauty products from Boots! How very cool! Swerving my shopping cart with an acute flourish, I zoom over to the aisle, curious to see if they have the cherished beauty serum. *sigh* They do have a space to put it should they ever get it in stock, but the shelf was bare.

As I'm checking out, I ask the cashier when they will be getting some in and she replies that she has one bottle in the back. Seems some woman wanted to buy their entire stock. I ask for the remainling single bottle and my antennae go up.

Who would want a dozen bottles of the hottest beauty serum in the world? An eBay seller, of course. (you don't have to hit me on the head twice). I scurry home with my package and flip on my laptop. BINGO! My $21.99 (plus tax - eBay sellers always forget to factor in the tax they paid) purchase is selling for as high as $40 on eBay.

Hmmmmm. What to do? Possibly double my money and risk not becoming the 21st century version of Sophia Loren? This is an agonizing decision. It takes me about 15 minutes to think it through.

Vanity wins over greed and I'm actually going to keep and use the product. Maybe it really works? (After all the package says it "reveals younger looking skin in just 4 weeks").

In the meanwhile. I'll be checking that shelf at CVS and sending in confederates to buy for me should the product remain in demand.... heh heh

Tuesday, June 12

Marsha Collier visits eBay Singapore

Last fall I visited Singapore to expand the reach of eBay worldwide. I just found this super video, made by the folks in Singapore. I think you'll like it!

Tuesday, May 1

New Postal Rates! Change your store's listings!

With the upcoming USPS Rate Change just around the corner, May 14th, you need to change the shipping prices in your store items. Unfortunately, multiple-quantity Good 'Til Cancelled Store Inventory listings aren't editable once at least one sale has been made. These listings have to be manually ended and relisted in order to change the shipping details.

eBay is offering a limited time relist credit to help us out. From Monday, May 7th through Sunday, May 13th, they'll be offering relist credits to Stores subscribers who cancel and relist these types of listings. If your listings meet the following criteria, you'll be credited for your Insertion Fees, Listing Upgrade Fees and eBay Picture Services Fees:

  • They must be active Multiple-quantity Good 'Til Cancelled Store Inventory listings with at least one sale.

  • They must have been listed on eBay.com or eBay Motors (Parts and Accessories Only).

  • They must have specified a shipping option that will be affected by the USPS Rate Change. For the full list of eligible shipping options, click here.

  • Listing must be cancelled and relisted during the offer period.

  • For complete details, please visit the information page.

    Wednesday, January 31

    eBay Trends for 2007

    Want to maximize the return on your eBay listings in the coming year? Here's what to expect in the marketplace and how to keep up with savvy eBay buyers.

    It’s not too soon for sellers to be planning for 2007. As a matter of fact, as an experienced seller, you should all have your first-quarter business plan ready to go now. And while you probably feel you have your business under control, you should be prepared for plenty of unseen variables. Here are a few thoughts as to what you may see change in the marketplace and how you can make the most of your eBay listings over the coming year.

    Expect Cost Increases
    Sellers always seem to be caught unaware when eBay or PayPal changes a policy or when they (dare I even breathe the thought?) raise their fees. Like the changing of the weather, increased fees, in some form or another, should always be expected. Realize that it’s not because eBay's a big bad company that wants to pilfer from our pockets, but they're constantly attempting to improve the site to make it the ultimate marketplace for online shoppers, and they need to cover their costs.

    UPS, FedEx and the U.S. Postal Service also tend to raise their fees each year, plan to add that cost to your shipping fees. Last year the Postal Service increased the flat rate and one-pound priority rate to $4.05, bringing the amount we charge buyers for small-item shipping close to $5. Next year, you may have to exceed the $5 price point.

    Market With Charity Listings
    eBay Giving Works (through MissionFish) has raised more than $34 million for nonprofits to date. Many sellers have found that by participating in this program and contributing a portion of their sales to a charity, they've increased their bids and final sale prices. This marketing model makes a lot of sense based on my customer service theory: By donating to a charity, you build an image of being a caring business on eBay rather than just another seller. Remember these facts:

    • Listings stand out with a Giving Works ribbon icon.
    • Your chosen nonprofit’s mission statement is on every listing that benefits them.
    • Each donation is tax-deductible (MissionFish provides the receipt for you).
    • The eBay fee credit policy rewards your generosity.

    Increase Seller-Buyer Communication
    If you’ve been listing items for the holidays, you might notice a new option on the sell-your-item form: You have the opportunity to include a Skype link in your listings. Skype is eBay’s web communication arm. By using it, your buyers can either call you by using a microphone and their computer speakers or open a chat window to ask you questions. Although many sellers feel that communication with customers is a bother, by answering questions quickly, your sales will go up. Again, here's the theme of increased customer satisfaction in 2007.

    Be a Savvy Merchandiser
    I hear it all the time: “Oh woe is me! None of my items are selling anymore. eBay has ruined the market," or “The economy's down so no one's buying.” Yep, it's the American way--blame everyone else for the downturn. Why not look to yourself?

    Just recently, I was looking for a cowboy-style Christmas stocking on the site, and I found close to 100 different listings for the very same item. The pricing wasn’t very different (but the shipping charges were), and the sellers were all clearly buying from the same source. Is this a vibrant marketplace? Did the sellers do their homework before buying this item to sell?

    Before buying deep into an inventory item, do a little research. Check out the eBay site and see if the item is already listed. In a couple of days, check it again. Has the number of listings increased? Did anyone buy the item? Choose your items selectively. It’s a very competitive market.

    Reconsider Collectibles
    Many eBay sellers pooh-pooh the collectible arena and have stopped selling these one-of-a-kind items. But collectibles are the heart and soul of eBay--it's the primary online marketplace where shoppers can look to find a plethora of unique and vintage items. No local antiques or collectibles store can possibly carry the wide variety of items that buyers can find on eBay. If you can find unique items, this is the place to sell them.

    Expand Business Overseas
    Are you selling your products worldwide? You might consider it if you knew that eBay has more than 212 million registered users across the globe. Considering that there's a huge audience for Americana worldwide, you can easily find desirable items to build your sales. Visit outlet malls for current fashion, toys and home d├ęcor items. Just think: If you’re a U.S. expatriate living in Germany, the only way you’ll be able to buy your favorite products at a reasonable price is from an eBay seller. And foreign nationals also crave many of the items we take for granted.

    Sell (or at Least Link) From Your Own Website
    Do you have enough time and know-how to start your own e-commerce site? The most successful eBay sellers sell merchandise from independent websites. Your business can grow a good 30 to 40 percent by the simple addition of a website.

    If a full-blown e-commerce site seems too much for you just now, install an eBay editor kit on your free ISP page. When people click on your store items and follow through with a purchase, you'll get a 75 percent store referral discount on your final value fees for bringing a buyer to eBay. Learn more about the tools eBay offers to promote your listings here.

    Tuesday, January 30

    CarMD: Tool for the Small businessperson

    When I was at CES earlier this month, I saw a lot of great tools and toys. A very useful item caught my eye. Home businesses must have a reliable vehicle: whether it's for visiting the post office or picking up new merchandise. (Or even jetting off between tasks to pick up the kids from school). I found a new small electronic device called CarMD. that fits in the palm of your hand - you connect it to your car's computer. (The www.carmd.com website offers more information on where your post 1996 car's connector resides).

    As we all know, lots of things can go wrong with your car, and since we're all not mechanics, we're often at the mercy of the man who looks under the hood to diagnose our car's problems. Your “Check Engine” light will light up when your vehicle’s On-Board Diagnostics computer finds a problem and we all race off to a mechanic. By using this device, you can find out exactly what is wrong with your car. It could be anything from low oil levels, to an engine misfire (which may cause permanent damage), or something as simple as a loose gas cap. By using this device, you can find out exactly what is wrong by reading the data from your car's internal computer. Once you have this great tool, you access a portion of the company's website, get custom diagnostic reports and an estimate of how much repairs should really cost - before you go to the mechanic. (You can register up to three vehicles for every hand held tester).

    The website also has tools for using the CarMD before you buy a used vehicle. This way, you can check to be sure the car is in good condition, before you buy it! My car is an important part of my eBay business, so I thought I'd pass this information on to you. Its a handy gadget that everyone can use!

    Friday, January 5

    buySAFE expanding past eBay, Overstock

    buySAFE certifies and monitors online merchants and identifies qualified merchants with their buySAFE Seal. The seal ensures buyers that their transaction is guaranteed through a surety bond. They've previously focused on the eBay seller, but they're now looking to become a staple for all online e-tailers. They began their expansion this past December by announcing a cart solution with the widely used MIVA. Now, furthering their reach, buySAFE will be integrated into Cart32 software versions 6.3 and higher, allowing sellers on these platforms to seamlessly add the buySAFE trust solution to their Websites in minutes. Once integrated, merchants will display the buySAFE Seal on their Websites (which boosts buyer confidence and improves site conversion rates) and will also be able to offer their customers the ability to bond their purchases at checkout.

    Jeff Grass, buySAFE CEO says, “We are very excited to partner with Cart32 to provide their customers with a powerful, new way to build consumer trust and improve site conversion numbers. Cart32 has established itself as one of the premier e-commerce solutions providers, and the buySAFE trust solution is a perfect complement to their impressive suite of products. Together, we create a strong force to further buySAFE’s mission to make every online transaction reliable, trusted and virtually risk-free.”

    buySAFE will be available to Cart32 customers beginning in March 2007. Current Cart32 customers interested in being considered as beta testers for buySAFE should send an e-mail to cart32@buysafe.com.

    Monday, January 1

    Protect Your eBay Business from Audits

    By Marsha Collier
    From Cool eBay Tools

    You know that eBay's not exempt from government regulations, so get the lowdown on what you need to know to keep your business on the up and up.


    I'm not going to waste this column space telling you to shred your old paperwork, clear up your shipping area or, better yet, get your inventory organized so it's no longer the hellacious mess it became soon after you started your eBay business. What I am going to tell you about are your government responsibilities.

    When you have a small business, Uncle Sam and his state affiliate cousins knock at your door on a regular basis. Filing all your forms and paying your taxes correctly and on time will hopefully keep you off of the master audit list. But even more important is keeping good records for your business. When you keep your books current, filling out your tax forms takes a lot less time--and if you do get audited, you'll have everything at the ready.

    Beyond keeping track of your gross sales and expenses for your end-of-year returns, there are a few other state-mandated responsibilities you need to take seriously: your state sales tax (if applicable), employee data recording and your quarterly payroll taxes.

    State Sales Tax
    First, know that you only have to charge sales tax if you're selling to a customer in the same state your business is located in and if your state has a sales tax to begin with. If you don't have to bother with this, consider yourself lucky. Otherwise, there's a simple step you can take to ease the burden.

    My primary recommendation is that you keep the sales tax you collect in a separate bank account so the money's available when the time comes to send it in. The seller who collects sales tax gets another bonus--the tax ID number issued by the state is also usually a reseller or sales permit. This number will magically open the doors to buying wholesale merchandise to sell on eBay.

    Since the state sales tax issue varies so much by state and I can't outline it all in detail here, check your state's official website to get more information.

    Employee Data
    Many small eBay sellers may only have one or two employees--others may have 15. In either case, the drill's the same. You can run your business with your own Social Security number, but once you get employees, you need to get an Employer Identification Number.

    To obtain an EIN, call the IRS Business & Specialty Tax Line at (800) 829-4933. An IRS representative will take your information and assign you a number over the phone. Or if you're the online type (and what eBay seller isn't?), you can go to https://sa.www4.irs.gov/sa_vign/newFormSS4.do to access the application, IRS Form SS-4. You'll get your EIN as soon as your online form is successfully submitted.

    When hiring a new employee, you must get their Social Security number and have them fill out a W-4 form to indicate the number of deductions to take from their paycheck. When you get an employee's Social Security number, it's always a good idea to go to Social Security Business Services Online to confirm that the number is valid.

    Another important piece of paperwork to fill out is Form I-9. The Immigration Reform and Control Act requires employers to have their employees fill out this form to confirm that they're legally eligible to work in the U.S. A new employee must show you their Social Security or Green Card to confirm their eligibility--and you should make a copy of it. You don't file this form with the government, but you must keep it on file for three years after the hire or for one year after the employee is terminated. You can find out more about Form I-9 at the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration website.

    Automating Taxes
    You don't want to make mistakes on your taxes, so using a program such as QuickBooks, and subscribing to their payroll updates, will give you all you need to keep up with the frequent changes to the U.S. tax code. For instance, I can automatically fill out and print my quarterly federal payroll reports (Form 941) right out of QuickBooks--the program calculates everything based on my posted payroll. Also, the program's sales tax report takes all the pain out of filing that form. You can generate a report that includes all the pertinent data you need for any period of time selected.

    Forgetting the part Uncle Sam plays in your business can be an expensive mistake. Penalties add up quickly, and, not surprisingly, the government rarely accepts I didn't know� as a legitimate excuse.