It's in Columbia, it's on eBay

Tuesday, May 2, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 12:20 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

So you’ve got this once-adored Mickey figurine that is now sitting on your shelf, collecting a whole lot of dust. You want to trash it? Think again.

Columbia-based eBay trading assistant Amy McBride will tell you that by doing so you’re losing an opportunity to earn enough money for weekend drinks or even a classy meal for two.

The 21-year-old college student, whose eBay nickname is “stuck_on_mickey,” has been in the business of being a middleman for the online auction site for two and a half years. Her business has made over $20,000, including her personal transactions. It’s a service that not only saves time for the seller, but it can also help increase the value of the product by 300 times.

McBride explained how people should approach eBay trading assistants:

1. Find and contact a trading assistant near your area. There are five trading assistants in Columbia listed on the eBay Web site.

2. Bring your Mickey Mouse with you to meet with the trading assistant. You can discuss terms, go over everything about the Mickey Mouse, including how much it’s worth, how much you want to sell it for or what condition it is in. Of course, if you do not want to take the pain of going through all the details, you can just leave it to the trading assistant.

3. You will get a check from the trading assistant in several weeks.

Simple, huh? But a lot of work goes on once Mickey lands in her hands, McBride said. The process includes:

1. Researching the item online to find more details and figure out a right price for it.

2. Taking pictures. The more professional the pictures are, the more it can sell for, McBride said. She photographs items against cardboard draped with a brown satin cloth.

3. Writing down all the information about the item. For example, “It is about 7 inches tall with a mark at the bottom saying it was made by Disney. It is a little dusty...”

4. Listing it on eBay. McBride uses a free software called Turbo Lister, which will help to list your item step by step. At this time, the trading assistant will insert the picture of the Mickey Mouse and the description into the listing.

5. Explaining the shipping method, cost and payment method. Currently, PayPal is the most popular way to pay on eBay, but there are others.

6. Choosing special eBay promotional tools, such as gallery pictures, bold effects, or highlighted titles. Those tools will help your item get more attention from bidders.

7. Shipping the item to the person who won the bid once the bidding ends.

8. Writing a detailed report. What was the item? How much did the item sell for? Who bought it? How much was the total? How much were the eBay listing fees? How much were the PayPal fees? How much are the assistant's service fees?

11. Writing a check and delivering it to you.

You might be an eBay geek if...

10. You bid on eBay at least twice a day.

9. When you’re out shopping, you think of how much an item would cost on eBay.

8. You do all of your shopping (Christmas, Birthdays, etc.) on eBay.

7. You truly believe that you can find anything on eBay.

6. In your financial budget, you take into consideration your eBay addiction.

5. When you’re watching a bid, your brow sweats and your hands clamp up.

4. You’ve pulled all-nighters, not because of a test, but because of eBay.

3. Your keyboard has been thrown across the room, more than once, because someone outbid you.

2. When you get your credit card statements, it repeats like a broken record eBay, eBay, eBay, eBay ... etc.

1. It’s crossed your mind, how much a friend, relative or pet would sell for on eBay.

Profile of an eBay geek

Name: Josh Connon

Age: 25

Occupation: Sells high-speed Internet service to businesses at Socket.

Average daily eBay time: “Maybe a half-hour per day on average, sometimes a lot more,” said Connon.

eBay user since: 2001

First heard about eBay through: His friends were buying things on eBay when he was in high school.

Reason to eBay: “You can find anything, I mean anything on eBay, at fair-market to under market price if you don’t mind a used item,” Connon said.

First eBay purchase: Thinks it was a down-comforter for his wife.

Typical purchases on eBay: Motorcycle parts, birthday gifts. Sometimes looks on eBay for something that is not urgent or hard to find, he’ll look on eBay fist before venturing out to the store.

Most expensive eBay purchase: A Gazelle exercise machine (marketed by blond pony-tailed Tony Little) for his wife that cost about $200.

Most unusual eBay purchase: A three-blade throwing knife set for his brother’s birthday.

Most recent eBay purchase: An FM transmitter to play MP3s on his car stereo.

Usual searches on eBay: “I’m always looking at motorcycles, what variations of custom bikes and different things that people have done with their factory rides. It’s almost as good as buying a magazine!” Connon said.

Typical items sold on eBay: Connon was re-selling weight benches to make some extra money, then he started to re-sell treadmills. “It’s easy to sell one or two things at a time, but if you are selling multiple items it turns into a part-time job,” Connon said.

eBay frustrations: Josh’s technique is to wait until the last minute to bid on items so he doesn’t attract other bidders. There have been times that he either forgot to be on the computer when the auction closes or he bid too late over his dial-up connection and his bid didn’t go through.

Monogamous relationship with eBay: No; sometimes Connon will find what he wants on eBay and see if the seller has a Web site where he can go to find more items. “The prices are the same, and the seller avoids the overhead from using both paypal and eBay closing costs,” Connon said.

eBay vs. shopping: “It depends. Sometimes you just need to see the item in person,” Connon said. “Sometimes I’ll be looking for a specific part or model number and it’s much easier to find and buy online and have it shipped to your door and at a lower cost, to boot.”

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