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Selling online

From 12 issues of Playboy magazine ($9.99) to a kazoo ($4.99), Bob Golub sells it all on eBay, the ubiquitous online auction and shopping Web site.

“You name it, we see it,” he says of his eBay drop-off store, where customers can bring in items that they want to proffer; he does the rest of the work, from writing the listing (“Great deal on your first harmonica in the Key of C”) to handling the shipping. Browsers can “buy it now” or bid in auctions that can get fast and furious, especially on highly desired collectibles such as vintage cameras.

And while other companies are facing grim times, the downturn in the economy has been good for the Sudbury-based business. “People are looking to raise cash, and one way to do it is to sell the items they have,” says Golub, who takes a small percentage of the proceeds, from 25-38 percent, depending on the final purchase price.

What Golub earns on items can be all over the place: A motorcycle trailer sold for $10,000, for instance, while other items, such as a painting by an obscure artist, doesn’t attract a lot of attention and might even end up in the charity bin.

And while Golub is an eBay professional, he says that “anyone can do it,” although being successful requires a dedicated effort.

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Q: What’s so hard about getting into this e-commerce world? You set up an account, post your item, entertain bids, and send the item to the highest bidder.

A: There’s actually more than initially meets the eye, like establishing your feedback rating, which is eBay’s mechanism for monitoring and rewarding those who have done a good job. So, when you first start out, you have no track record. You establish credibility through time, by good customer service: answering people’s queries fast enough; shipping items quickly, and making sure your ads are clear and concise so people don’t complain. If they do, it’s a black mark on your reputation. It takes a while to establish credibility. And customers can be tough.

Q: Whether it’s eBay or Craigslist or some other online site, writing the description of the product and having good photos are a big part of it. Can you give some tips to new eBay users?

A: Be clear about the details, including color, size, condition, and model number. The ad does the selling for you. If something has a flaw, it’s important to show that in the photo as well as describe the damage in the text. And photos need to be in focus with good lighting.

Q: Watching the last few minutes of an auction is supposed to be so exciting that some people are even addicted to watching the action. Do you find it’s a rush?

A: I do bring my computer home and spend every night looking it. Watching an auction near the end is the fun and interesting part of selling on eBay. It’s kind of amazing how the bidding can pingpong back and forth, and the price can skyrocket in just five minutes. When I first started selling on eBay, I’d really get a kick out of it. Now, not so much. But it’s still fun.


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