December 18, 2010

eBay and Beginner's Mind

Mr. D has gotten some great play out of his hand-me-down Bey Blades (thank you, Feldini's), and has long scorned the newer generation of this spinning top toy. Recently, though, he's started to realize that the older ones are harder to get (they don't sell them in stores anymore), and his friends have all moved on to the newer generation. "I think maybe I'll try to sell some of my old ones on eBay," he said to me matter-of-factly, "so then I can try the new ones out with some of that money."

"Great idea, buddy," I said. Then I said, "But I don't actually know how to SELL something on eBay; we've only ever been buyers. So we'll have to figure that out." Well of course it turns out that eBay makes it SUPER easy to sell stuff via their site, so within a half hour or so of poking around I was confident that I'd be able to help Mr. D achieve his goal.

The fact that I didn't know what I was doing meant that I was truly able to stay in that place of "beginner's mind." This led to all kinds of great conversations. Which Bey Blades should we offer? Should we do a "these are the actual Bey Blades you'll get" listing or a "You'll get two Bey Blades like these" listing? Mr. D and I talked about why some auctions are less specific than others about the actual items you'll receive. We also talked about the reputational ranking system that eBay uses to help buyers uncover less-than-trustworthy sellers; we'd been very aware of it as buyers, but it was quite different to think about what it means to EARN those ratings as a seller.

Once Mr. D had decided to opt for a full-disclosure, "this is what you'll actually get" style of selling ("because I don't like it when they don't tell me what I'm getting," he reasoned), we moved on to talking about presentation. Mr. D staged and art-directed this photo, which he felt showed off his offered Bey Blades in the best possible light:

Then we talked about how to describe the tops, spinners, and rip cords. Who would be reading the ad, the children, or the parents? People who knew about Bey Blades, or people who didn't? Probably all of the above, we decided. We wrote several drafts of "ad" copy before we came up with a final version.

Then we had to decide about shipping. Would we charge separately for it, or fold that cost into the total cost of the sale? We remembered that we sometimes sort our eBay searches according to asking price, and so we decided to take what felt like a little bit of a risk and list Mr. D's Bey Blade lot with a starting bid of $.99, free shipping. This meant that we might lose money if the winning bidder came in under the total cost of shipping (which we estimated would be about three dollars). Mr. D was confident that it was a risk worth taking, and his goal with this initial sale was "not to make money, but to build up our good reputation!"

Finally the big day came. We posted our carefully staged photo and meticulously edited description and opened up the bidding. If you click on the picture below you can see how the bidding unfolded, but first... how much do YOU think someone offered to pay for those Bey Blades? (We were thinking the total might come in around $8.00.)

It was so exciting to be on the receiving end of those bids! We knew from having been eBay buyers that some folks were actively bidding while others had set a ceiling limit and then let their computer do the rest. But we were pretty surprised when the bidding went above the $7.00 "Buy It Now!" option we'd built into our sale and then kept on climbing.

Mr. D. insisted on packing up his own merchandise:

And when the winning bidder, who lives in Oregon (we looked it up on a map), received her package, she gave us full marks for service, so our eBay seller rating is currently 100% positive; just what we were going for!

This entire process clearly made an impression on Mr. D; later on in the week he opted to give away a few Bey Blades to a close friend of his at school. It will be interesting to see what he decides to do with his remaining "old school" Bey Blades. I am looking forward to doing a lot more side-by-side learning with him over our upcoming break. Next up? SketchUp!

(I would love to hear about
some of your side-by-side learning moments
as a parent, friend, or colleague...)


Tracy said...

Great! You know...those Bey blades came from Ebay in the first place. Wish I could remember what I paid...

Zina said...

Hmmm...I don't know what Bey Blades are (even after looking at the excellently art directed photo), and I've never bought or sold anything on ebay, but I love this little story.

Now I'm really looking forward to reading about your side-by-side sketchup experience.

Merry happy.