Wouldn’t it be fun to make a little money when RVing around the country?
What if sight-seeing, restaurants, and museums finally got a little old?
What if you wanted a little something to do that could focus you a little bit and give your days some structure or directed purpose?
But what if you DIDN’T want another job?
Well, maybe if you fooled around on eBay just a little bit you might find something that could work for you.
RV52 has been dabbling on eBay since the 1990’s. I thought I would share some very high level ideas about eBay I’ve learned and experienced over the years. I can go in depth later, if I get asked. But for now, I thought it would be fun to share some eBay stories with my RV52 readers.
I think I’ll break this into a series of short headlines and topics that will give a great overview to the idea.
eBay is a moral concept that is good for the earth!
While many people sell NEW things on eBay, eBay has a massive appeal in that you can sell USED items or even items that are only good for parts – like an old working bike.
By selling something used, you get a little money which is fair, you get paid shipping, the buyer gets a great deal, and no additional earths resources were used to repurpose the item. You could could the transportation expenses, but I think I can make a solid argument that the truck was going to go with or without your package. That makes the incremental shipping cost in terms of pollution $0.
Sheri and I even re-use boxes! For packing material in boxes we use advertising circulars as padding/packing material. We reuse whenever we can. Our favorite sources of boxes is the ones in which we receive goods from Amazon.
The only boxes we’ve ever used NEW have been the boxes from the USPS for packing “Priority Mail Fixed Rate”. For those items you MUST use USPS boxes – no exceptions. More on this later.
One extreme example of reuse involved several used coffee makers. To sell them on eBay used, I would have had to make sure that they worked. Yuk. Lots of work (cleaning, testing, etc) – and for what? The best price you could get for a used coffee maker would be $5 if you are lucky. No one wants to make coffee in your old used coffee maker.
What we did instead was to sell the coffee pot or carafe as a replacement for the coffee maker. We also did this with the filter basket and the drip tray. Now when people have a bad coffee pot but they LOVED their coffee maker, they look for a replacement. Their trade-off mentally is between buying a NEW coffee maker – which probably has been upgraded so they aren’t sure it will be as good *OR* a replacement part which gives their KNOWN LOVABLE coffee pot new life for MUCH LESS than the new coffee pot price.
It is a win-win for everyone in this situation. But you see, by parting out the coffee pot, I did well, the buyer did well, and LOTS less material got placed in the land-fill and less material needed to be manufactured.
eBay and its cousins (craigslist, Amazon used, etc.) are literally GOOD for the planet.
A story about a person who called a friend on the carpet for selling stuff on eBay
The moral concept is something that weighs heavy on my mind. Always people judging. So I thought I would spend some time on it.
Its not made up that there are a class of nurses that work in a style of nursing called PRN. This allows nurses to have a limited nursing schedule and the employers to avoid paying full-time positions. It can be a win for both parties.
PRN nurses typically work for agencies. The agencies take cases for home health care (for example) and administrate a nursing plan and the PRNs go do the work. The agencies pay for supplies for that specific home health care instance.
Home health care supplies are expensive.
Nurses can’t mix agencies and patients.
So one course of care was finished with a nurses agency and the family asked “what do we do with these supplies?”
The nurse said “Sell them on eBay.”
The family said “We’re not going to do that. You can take them and do it for yourself OR we will throw them in the trash.”
So the nurse took them. But before she sold them on eBay, she offered them back to the agency that purchased them as the correct thing to do. The agency said “We don’t want to mess with them. You can throw them away.”
The nurse did NOT offer them to another agency, because the agencies need to purchase supplies that have a specific chain of custody.
So the nurse sold them online.
Another nurse, said “that just sounds wrong”. We asked why and were told “it just does.” People are odd. Any other action and the materials would have been in the trash.
Lesson #1: Most people don’t want to mess with stuff. If you don’t sell it on eBay, it will likely be in the landfill – before its lifetime has been used.
Lesson #2: If someone else can use your stuff – you should make it available.
Lesson #3: Instead of paying exorbitant fees for medical supplies – you can probably find them online on eBay for a reasonable cost.
You can find stuff to sell on eBay almost everywhere and anywhere
With just a little effort and not much time, you can easily generate $200, $300, or $500 per month or more selling things on eBay.
But you gotta have stuff.
You can get this stuff almost anywhere. I’m going to list ACTUAL places we got things (directly or indirectly) to sell on eBay. We don’t get greedy – many times we are doing something else and simply “run across” something we can sell on eBay.
- Your own stuff – Most people throw or give their stuff away. But if you sell this stuff you can think of it as an income stream you would never had had before. Yes, you had to pay for it and you sell it for less, but again, the choice most people make is to get NOTHING for their stuff. We sell tons and tons of old electronics (Apple computers, weight watchers calculators – those amazed me at how well they sell, old books, and so on.) Believe it or not, we bought an Apple TV 2nd generation 3-4 years ago for $99. Then we sold it on eBay for $125. This is absolutely true. I only found out later that was due to the 2nd generation being more hackable and people were making super cool TV gadgets with them.
- Friend’s stuff – Again, most people don’t want to sell anything on eBay. So we occasionally have stuff given to us.
- Garage sales – Now that you know you can “part out” old coffee makers – you can buy them for $2-5 and sell the carafe alone for $10 all day long. Sheri bought a box of pocket knives for $10. We took them to a pawn shop – probably a mistake – and they bought 8 of them from us for $35. We sold the rest on eBay for around $75. This took up very little space so it would be a really good activity.
- Estate Sales – These are better when the estate seller is in experienced. We find places away from large towns are better since the large town folks get to do this way more often they get a better sense of what things are worth. I’ll attach the picture of some coffee cups I bought for $1.00 and sold for $50 plus shipping.
- Thrift Stores – We find less stuff at thrift stores, but still a few things. You have to look a bit harder. I now notice people walking around with their smartphones looking up prices on Amazon. What they don’t do is look in the knives section behind the counter. We can almost always find a good German knife for $2 that you can sell on eBay for $15. Sheri recently found a set of books that looked oddly unique for $15 and sold the set for $60.
- Storage Auctions – Storage wars are alive and well. This would be a space problem for an RV owner, but we were OK by having stuff at RV52.com world headquarters. We ended up with bunches of stuff from a storage locker – we didn’t buy the locker, but a friend gave us the contents and we split it 60/40 after costs and sold it for him. Inside the locker was about 50 pair of Nike Air Jordans. Dang those things sold and sold and sold. We sold WWII medals, German military knives, Marine letter openers, and stuff I can’t even explain. There was some drug paraphernalia which we just through in the trash – nasty stuff. Again – Forest Gump would have loved the storage locker.
- Store Returns – It turns out you can buy the returns that come back to the stores. The manufacturers don’t take them back. The stores don’t want to mess with them either. So they get sold to intermediaries who buy them for something like $100-200 a pallet and then sell the pallets. We ended up with 7 pallets of “just stuff”. Sheri got an entire pallet of books. She listed almost all of them on Amazon and has a book sell just about every day – sometimes 5 or 6 – for the last 4 months. Her book pallet cost $300 and she has about $900 from selling books. The activity alone only costs her about 3-5 min per book. It can take her substantially longer if she can’t find the book – her filing system was by the size of the book. Who knows the mind of a female anyway?
There are other ways – like having your own product built, but I stopped with just the things that we’ve done.
Allow eBay to “bend your mind” on returns just a little bit
We recently purchased a DVD player for a family member and sent it to our own address by mistake. Its easy to make this mistake on Amazon if you get in a hurry.
We bought the player for $40 brand new.
To send it to the family member we paid at a Pak Mail store – proximity thing – the RICH price of $18 to ship USPS priority mail.
In retrospect, we made the following mistakes by being in a hurry – assuming we still incorrectly shipped to our mailbox of course.
- We should have sold as “BRAND NEW” on eBay (allowed) in which we would have received the FULL price PLUS been paid for shipping. People do this all day long.
- Then we should have ordered a new one from Amazon Prime and it still would have came out better for us.
- For shipping if we didn’t want to hassle with selling on eBay, we should have had our own labels for shipping printed off of Paypal – we would have saved grandly.
- One more note on shipping, we could have gone w/ USPS Fixed Rate and probably saved money too.
- I do not think it would have been proper to file an Amazon return and then ship a new one to the other address. That is ugly and improper. It is what most people would do – but I’m not most people either.
The point I’m trying to make is that you can sell brand new things and sell them on eBay and do just fine.
Expect people to be a bit crappy with you
I don’t offer returns. I also make mistakes. Sometimes bad things happen in shipping.
I don’t offer returns because most people are very lazy. They will take advantage of you and have absolutely no concern about whether or not their actions are decent or not.
So, when things don’t go well, I’ve noticed that people think that “starting strong” with a mean-spirited offensive is their best strategy to get things back. I think what they do and say is tremendously ugly. Once I get responses like this, I know a lot about people’s character.
I gave this person a refund because I actually didn’t test that cable. But his crappyness is i think pretty indicative of the kind of people you have to deal with quite regularly. There are nice people, don’t get me wrong, but you’ll have to deal with this. The sad thing is that I would have given the return anyway.
I feel sad for this person – to have such ugly evil inside. I’m sure this colors most of his interactions in business and life. My guess is that he has been a lifelong under achiever probably blaming everyone and everything for his lack of success. All along it was probably his attitude.
I hope you aren’t that way.
You’ll get good at shipping
You DO have to know your shipping stuff.
The best thing I can tell you is to put your stuff in boxes, measure and weigh ahead of time or you’ll lose money on your auctions – every time.
Since getting a return is a very real possibility – I would recommend not allowing people to use expensive shipping on you or you’ll have to eat the shipping costs when they ran them up on you.
I continue to find that the best prices are USPS First Class for things 13 ounces and under, USPS fixed rate for really heavy compact things, Fedex SmartPost if the USPS Priority Mail range of rates is large and finally Fedex Home for really big stuff or odd sizes.
Admission – I’ve swapped shipping services on people a couple of times when I’ve mis-weighed something and was able to keep from eating all my profit on shipping.
Admission – I don’t pre-box. I eye-ball the stuff, add about a pound for shipping box weight and then add 3-4 inches over the item size. It mostly works but sometimes I’ve been in a mad scramble for a workable box. I don’t like that.
After shipping about 30-40 items using eBay, you’ll start laughing at people who wait in line at the post office. The ONLY thing you need to do there is drop off packages that won’t fit in their receptacles. I haven’t waited in line for 5-10 years. I don’t miss that at all.
You can ship almost anything outside of eBay using Paypal Multi-ship and/or USPS.gov online. It’s easy to establish an account and you get good rates.
Tax is a bit tricky
Taxation to feed our wildly growing needy and hungry state and federal budgets is a reality. Online businesses have been popular because governments have not caught up.
For an RVer, sales tax would be almost impossible based on the state where you are physically located. I think you’d have to go by your home state.
If you do more than a handful of items and your intent is to make a little money, you probably should get a sales tax certificate in your home state. If your home state doesn’t collect sales tax – hurray for you. I’m not sure what to do.
You can’t collect legally without a certificate. In Texas I have one. When I sell to Texas residents I collect sales tax. I thought it would be more than it it. It feels like a waste of time but I try to fly right.
2015 will be my biggest year in eBay. However, I’m told that eBay doesn’t provide 1099’s. I’m not exactly sure what I’ll do. Not having a 1099 will make this way more complex. I’m pretty sure I’ll show some income, but it has turned into a tracking nightmare. I’ll tell you more after I file. Yuk.
I continue to be surprised when people continually want “more help” from the government. That usually means more paperwork and more headaches. I know I’ll RESIST hiring any employee as long as I can in my small private business. The government has completely incentivized Americans to NOT hire helpers anymore.
That is one thing that eBay has taught me.
Winding it all up
This was a bit random for sure, as article go. But my main point was to get you thinking and maybe give you some ideas about some alternative ways to make a little cash and maybe give your RVing trips a little bit more mission.
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