Thanks to the wonders of the web there’s no excuse for keeping three old iPhones in a drawer or letting an old tablet gather dust. There are now a huge number of sites and apps willing to turn your unwanted stuff into cold, hard cash—and these are the ways you can make sure the process is as smooth and profitable as possible.
Perhaps the platform you think of first when it comes to shifting something is the venerable eBay. It started way back in 1995—and parts of its web interface still look stuck in the last century—but it’s a comprehensive and largely secure portal for getting cash in return for unwanted stuff.
eBay works well for reaching a wide audience and is perfect for tech kit that can be posted or couriered, plus the bidding process means you’re usually guaranteed whatever the going rate is. Several key seller safety measures are in place to keep you safe though you do have to cough up fees.
Craigslist has no fees and is both less restrictive and less well policed than eBay. It’s good for selling bigger items or odd items to people in the local neighborhood—everything is based on where you are in the world so you’re restricted in terms of potential buyers.
Certain items are particularly popular on Craigslist, including furniture and gadgets, but for other categories (like clothes) eBay might be a better bet. Transactions are usually cash only on Craigslist which again is simpler than the alternatives—just be on the look-out for counterfeit notes.
Don’t forget Amazon, though it’s more for serious long-term sellers rather than people who just want to get rid of a few unwanted bits and pieces. It can be a good option for electronics, books, music and movies, but you’re up against some stiff competition, and there are usually better options for the occasional flogging of stuff.
As you might expect there are plenty of apps and startups trying to muscle in on the territory claimed by eBay, Craigslist and Amazon, though their availability and reach remains limited at the moment.
Gone handles the pricing, packaging and all the other selling logistics for you, and has a concierge service currently live in New York, the Bay Area, Seattle and Austin (so someone comes to pick up your items). If you’re anywhere else in the US then you get packing materials sent to your door instead.
Sell It Easy works in very much the same way as Gone: you say what you want to sell and get a guaranteed offer for it, like an online pawn shop. It works anywhere in the US, and, like Gone, taps into several second-hand markets to find a buyer and save you the hassle (for a cut of the final price of course).
Then there are a plethora of mobile apps that all work in a similar way, offering instant access to a local, second-hand marketplace—a garage sale on your phone in other words.
Try giving Wallapop, Shpock, OfferUp or 5miles a go (and that’s just a selection of the many apps on offer). The best one for you probably depends on how widely it’s used in your area and what exactly you’re selling, so some trial and error might be required to narrow down the choice.
Nothing sells your item like a good photo and it’s worth digging out a dedicated digital camera for the task rather than relying on your smartphone, good as it may be. Remember the photo quality might be the difference between someone bidding on or ignoring your item, particularly in a crowded field.
Get the lighting right, make sure everything’s in focus, and take pictures from as many different angles as you can so potential buyers are getting a good idea of what they’re getting. Looking like you’re pushed for time or trying to hide something isn’t the impression you want to give.
It’s important to put time and effort into the listing description too—don’t rush it and cover every detail you think a buyer might want to know. If you can format the text in your item listing, use a light touch to bring out the key details, but don’t go overboard (no one wants to see huge, bold, pink text).
Being accurate and honest can make a difference too, and if there’s something wrong with the item then say so. Potential bidders will appreciate the honesty and of course you’re likely to be paid back with decent feedback too.
Damaged or faulty goods can get more than you think on certain sites—there are a lot of repair specialists out there—but be honest up front about what’s involved.
Remember that buyers browsing through listings will likely only see the title and the photo of your item in a long list. We’ve mentioned photos already but cram as much information and appeal into the title as you can, without descending into email spam levels of language.
Doing some prior research always pays off: check out how other people are listing items similar to yours and look for details and phrases that would pique your interest as a buyer. That said, when it comes to buying second-hand over the web, people are usually just looking for trustworthiness—you don’t have to be a master salesperson.
As with anything you sell, pricing will make a big difference as to how much interest you’ll get (a lot of people love a bargain, particularly when it comes to gadgets). Again, put in the research to see what other similar items are fetching, and factor in the fees for whatever site or service you’ve signed up for.
For a smooth transaction and some decent feedback (if you’re using a platform that supports feedback) put as much effort into postage and packing and general post-sale communication as you have into the listing itself.
You’re not finished when someone’s agreed to buy whatever it is you’re offering: don’t cut corners with packaging materials and be prompt and straightforward when replying to emails (so don’t schedule an eBay auction to end when you’re on holiday...).
As for staying safe, the site or app you’ve chosen will have detailed safety instructions, so follow them. If you’re meeting a buyer in person, take someone with you and stay in public places, and get photographic proof that you’ve handed the goods over.
Sending items via recorded mail is a must if you’re posting them. People have been known to claim they’ve never received the goods promised so anything you can do prove you have indeed kept up your part of the deal.
That said, don’t fret unnecessarily—most buyers are just like you and will probably be more suspicious of you than you are of them.
Exchanging personal details is sometimes unavoidable (and can help build trust) but don’t reveal more than you need to. Avoid closing deals outside of whatever service or app you’re using—if someone asks you to settle outside eBay or wherever else, it can be because they’re looking to scam you in some way.
The more expensive the item you’re after, the more you’re likely to attract the attention of unscrupulous types, so be extra wary and methodical with laptops, phones, cameras and the like.
One trick is for scammers to buy a faulty gadget identical to the one you’re selling, then claim you sent them the faulty one, meaning they keep your item and get a refund. Taking detailed pictures and noting down serial numbers can keep this from happening.