eBay Watch: Postal Rate Tips and Selling Resources

This week we highlight changes in the feedback system, provide resources that will help you plan for upcoming postal rate changes and profile The Auction Man site. Plus, the perfect summer business opportunity: hot dog carts are on the auction block.

News and Announcements
In March, eBay announced that changes would be implemented to the Feedback system in eight markets, and this week, Brian Burke, director of global feedback policy, said that these changes would be launched on eBay.com on April 30th.

Under the new policy, buyers can rate sellers on specific aspects of a transaction, such as shipping and communication. Item titles and prices will also be displayed beneath each Feedback comment for 90 days to provide buyers with more information while making their purchasing decisions. EBay posted a FAQ that provides details on all the upcoming changes to the Feedback system.

Also, in anticipation of the upcoming U.S. Postal Service (USPS) rate changes on May 14, eBay announced it is working on ways to help sellers who may be impacted. The company will post detailed information about the new rates and how to prepare for them at the eBay Shipping Center.

The "Research Rates" Tool in the Sell Your Item form has been updated so sellers can research the new rates and services during the listing process. Starting in early May, vendors will be able to click on the "See new rates" link in the Research Rates tool to see the future rate for that service.

EBay's Shipping Calculator will also be updated in early May. The new rates will update automatically to accommodate the majority of items likely to ship after the new rates take effect. On May 14, PayPal shipping labels will calculate the new shipping rates to coincide with the USPS changes, and also beginning on May 14, Priority Mail International will be discounted by 5 percent and Express Mail International will be discounted by 8 percent.

In eBay company news this week, Reuters is reporting that Ticketmaster is suing eBay in Los Angeles, accusing its subsidiary StubHub of fraudulently obtaining premium tickets to sell online. The lawsuit claims that: "StubHub induced artists' representatives or promoters to demand tickets from Ticketmaster's venue clients as part of a deal to bring an act or sports team to a location."

In other news, eBay has been reeling in negative publicity this week after several reports surfaced alleging that Seung-Hui Cho may have purchased ammunition on eBay that was used in the Virginia Tech murder spree. EBay released a press announcement this week making it perfectly clear that guns and ammunition are not permitted, and that while Cho did buy and sell numerous items on eBay in recent months, he did not purchase guns or ammunition on the auction site. EBay added that Mr. Cho purchased empty ammunition clips and a gun holster, items which are unregulated and can be legally bought and sold on eBay as well as in retail stores across the US.

Services and E-Commerce Tools Round-Up
x-percent is offering a new service that allows shoppers to search eBay specifically for discounted and sale merchandise by searching for items store sellers have discounted using EBay's Markdown Manager. X-percent lists only those eBay items on sale and also has been officially certified by the eBay developers program.

For those sellers wanting to focus on selling Antiques and Collectibles, eBay PowerSeller Skip McGrath, just released a new book titled "How To Sell Art, Antiques and Collectibles on eBay." The book is a basic guide aimed at beginners that deals not only with the basics of selling on eBay, but with the specifics necessary to sell expensive, art, antiques and collectibles.

UniteU Technologies, Inc., updated its Connected Commerce eStore platform (version 4.94) with several new features. They added security and performance improvements, including access to the Akamai Dynamic Content delivery system, CISP compliance and an expanded security encryption layer. In the shipping area, USPS rate-calculation has been added and there is a new ship rate estimator as well.

Eye on the Little Guy: The Auction Man Profile
The Auction Man, or TAM for short, offers a free membership that lets you list auctions, purchase items and set-up an eStore for free as well, with no insertion fees. For those interested in upgrading to featured or preferred anchor stores the fees are a mere $3 and $4. The Auction Man also offers additional listing upgrades including bold, highlighted, and category or main page featured at fees ranging from 10 cents to $2. Additional images on listings are also free on TAM. With a tagline of "fighting to keep ecommerce free," you can hardly expect anything other than super-cheap auction listings and storefronts.


The Auction Man
The Auction Man: A Super Hero in Terms of Pricing.
(Click for larger image.)

The traffic numbers, naturally, are important to those online sellers looking for new revenue generating outlets. TAM boasts 339,000 visitors per month, and it appears that even successful eBayers are investing in TAM. One member introduces himself through a TAM eStore by saying, "I am an eBay Powerseller who is expanding in other directions. I have an eBay feedback number of 5798 and a total of 9600 positives. My feedback rating is 99.99 percent." For seasoned eBay sellers, TAM also offers both an eBay feedback and listing migration tool. Using TAM's eBay Listing Migration tool lets approved sellers add relevant eBay listings to their The Auction Man pages.

This month The Auction Man announced new Web site design and hosting packages, leaving many to wonder if this is an ad-revenue sharing plan or a new direction for the Web site.  Users of the site have been suggesting that the owner isn't necessarily maintaining TAM and the site does appear to still be working out some glitches. We stumbled across multiple page errors, for example, on the link to reclaim a member password or e-mail verification, and a few stores that are highlighted through the rotation on some categories are empty. Still, as you browse the site, you do see items listed and there are also members with TAM feedback scores, so obviously it is an auction site that is being used to some extent and just might be worth looking into by those sellers wanting to list on multiple auction Web sites.

Research and Trends
This week "wii," "xBox 360" and "Apple iPod" still remain in the top three keywords searched for on eBay. Following those top keywords, "PS3," "Webkinz," and "Louis Vuitton" round out the top six searches. For those sellers with items to list in the Cell Phones & PDAs category, here  is a snapshot of several related eBay categories and the corresponding top three searches in each for April 26, 2007:

  • Cell Phones & PDAs: Cingular, Verizon and Nokia.
  • Cell Phones & PDAs> Bluetooth Wireless Accessories: Bluetooth, Motorola Bluetooth and Bluetooth headset.
  • Cell Phones & PDAs> Phone & SIM Cards: cell phones, cell phone and Cingular.
  • Cell Phones & PDAs> Wholesale & Large Lots: Motorola, Nextel and cell phones.

Only on eBay...
We often hear success stories about people who created their own full-time business selling on eBay, but on the other hand, there are those who buy their next business on eBay. The latter is the focus of our favorite IT this week; a nifty little hot dog vending business. The equipment is in next-to-new condition, and apparently was only used for a few hours.


Only on eBay
Hot Diggety Dog: Sell Your Weenies Walking.
(Click for larger image.)

Included in the auction is two hotdog carts and everything you need to get started selling hot dogs. Also included is a commercial block freezer and a cam chiller cart.

Each New York City style cart comes supplied with essentials such as condiment pans, bun storage containers, a griddle for hamburger and a deep fryer. The winning buyer even gets an enclosed 14-foot trailer to haul it all around in.

So far, more than a dozen bidders have boosted the auction price up to $4,000, but since the seller claims to have paid $14,000 for the whole set-up, we're not surprised to see that the reserve price on this doggie biz hasn't been met yet.

Vanige Beal is a frequent contributor to ECommerce-Guide.com. She is also managing editor of Webopedia.

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