THE DARK ART OF SELLING AIRLINE MODELS ON E-BAY

THE DARK ART OF SELLING AIRLINE MODELS ON E-BAY

Without any doubt eBay offers the most reasonable, sensible and well protected way of selling on the internet pretty much anything. Sellers and buyers are well protected though it has to be said if you do get an unscrupulous buyer (and it’s mostly buyers in my experience) who then sets up claims in eBay and PayPal against you, it can take weeks to resolve and they nearly always favour the buyer over the purchaser unless you have followed every rule in the book.

THE GOLDEN RULE ON EBAY IS NEVER, EVER FORGET TO DO EVERYTHING EBAY REQUIRE OF YOU AS A SELLER WITHOUT EXCEPTION – AND THEN GO ONE STAGE FURTHER. 

I’m going to approach this logically. No technical explanations, but just what to never forget to do to protect yourself and your money. There is nothing, nothing more annoying than selling something, it being delivered and then the buyer saying it never was. They get to keep the goods and you have to give them a refund. Thats what will happen sooner or later if you don’t follow every rule.

I’m not saying everyone is basically untrustworthy, I’m saying treat everyone as though they’re untrustworthy.  Presume the worst every time, protect yourself every time and you’ll be absolutely fine.

1) DESCRIPTIONS

First of all get yourself some top notch quality photos of the item you’re selling. Many collectors like to see the model with a box. If it has no box you must say so in the detailed information. Photos must be clear, they must show any defects. If there are any you must point out any defects in writing in the detailed description. Failure to disclose defects will cause you trouble. If a box is worn, say so, if it’s bad show it in a photo. ALL of the photos were from eBay today!

A Good example, model is clear, so is the box
A Good example, model is clear, so is the box
Bad example. Too dark, central heating pipes, imagination free
Bad example. Too dark, central heating pipes, imagination free

DO NOT TAKE CRAP PHOTOS!!!! It staggers me how often I see abysmal photos on eBay. No carpets, no beds, no curtains, no pile of books, no cat walking in front of the tele, no mouse running along the skirting board as you take a close up on your Indian flock pile carpet.  Buyers only want to see the model and the box, everything else is utterly pointless and gives a very bad impression.

By all means be creative if you want to be, make your photos stand out. If you have a diorama or a suitable background, use it, but make sure there isn’t something hideous going on behind that! As with anything, use the KISS principle – Keep It Simple Stupid. Clean, well lit, not over-exposed. Dust the model first if its been out, make it look looked after. If you are using a diorama as a background, again, it’s a background. Detail of it on stand surrounded by vehicles we don’t need.

You'd need binoculars to see this one
You’d need binoculars to see this one

While eBay gives you plenty of images in your listing, one good one can just as easily do the job. If it’s like new, say so in the detailed description, one good photo should do.

The header is crucial as customers search for what’s in the header, it’s both a brief description and tagging. eBay automate you to a certain degree as they help you through the process. The key is to try to find something very similar and see what more experienced sellers have done.

YOU MUST INCLUDE:  manufacturer, scale, airline, registration, aircraft type (keep this as A320, or 737-800, 787-9, 747-400, A340-600 for example). DO NOT USE ACRONYMS. Some people put  “Not Gemini, Phoenix” at the end of a description say for a Witty, because by adding the words they become part of the searchable tag. There is nothing wrong in doing this if you have space in the header. Again look at what others do, especially big retailers. I find a precise description can sell things in minutes sometimes.

Yes you can see the model and the box but 70% of the photo has nothing to do with what's being sold.
Yes you can see the model and the box but 70% of the photo has nothing to do with what’s being sold.

In the detailed description you can give a bit more information about the model, anything that makes it special, its condition and so on. Technically if you had it out of the box it’s used and must be listed as such. However you can say it’s like new if it is. Anything that’s wrong with it must be declared. If you don’t you’ve left yourself open to a refund claim.

Use the description to emphasise your terms and conditions. For example, if you are shipping worldwide (the only option eBay gives you if you choose to set an international postage rate) this is your only chance to declare where you will actually ship to.

I refuse to ship outside of the UK/EU and North America (Canada/USA). Everywhere else has proved grossly unreliable – even countries like Lithuania, Latvia in the EU are dodgy. Its up to you to look at eBay’s guidance.

Make sure you say you don’t accept returns – as a private seller you don’t have to. There is a setting for this but say so here too. Don’t be coy, or weak in your wording, say what you need to say clearly and without any ambiguity.

Make it clear that your postage charges – never let eBay set them for you on international – are not for discussion, tell buyers if you don’t want to pay them don’t bid. If someone bids from outside of your defined postage destinations, tell them you will cancel their bids AND DO IT IF THEY DO.

ONCE YOU’VE WRITTEN YOUR SALES HYPE – SAY WHAT YOU NEED TO SAY.  THE DESCRIPTION AREA IS THE ONLY PLACE TO DO THIS.

As your lead photo this is far from ideal. Never use this close up unless there is damage or something special you need to highlight
As your lead photo this is far from ideal. Never use this close up unless there is damage or something special you need to highlight

2) POSTAGE

This is really important or you can get seriously stung. Make sure you have the right box for the model to be posted in, pack it carefully – eBay recommend bubble wrap and frankly once you start buying/selling models you end up with a stock of it quick enough. It’s very expensive to buy for what it is in small rolls, so buy it from a wholesaler – you can get meters of it for a few £/$, way less than in the shops. I have never bought any, it’s always been recycled as have the shipping boxes.

If you are having to post domestically (I use the UK only as an example), make sure you know the box sizes and weights the Royal Mail use, a big model like a 744 in a Gemini box should go easily in one just inside the small parcel rules that count as available for Second Class Signed For.  WEIGH IT & MEASURE IT BEFORE SETTING POSTAGE CHARGES!!!!

Wherever you live, never ever send anything that is not at least signed for and has a tracking number from the post office.

If you get a buyer that says he doesn’t want to pay for the postage and will not pay for tracked or signed, CANCEL THE SALE – DO NOT SEND IT, NEVER EVER AGREE TO THIS UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES, if you do they can claim it never arrived and demand a refund that PayPal will take back from you immediately. A certificate of posting is not proof of delivery and offers no protection!

Buy and print your postage through eBay. It debits it from the PayPal balance. This proves you have bought the postage. Make sure you print off the certificate of posting form and get it stamped when you take the item to the post office counter. They will give you the tracking number on your receipt. Make sure you provide the tracking number to the buyer on the item (there is a link button to do this in the sold items section for the goods in question). Make sure you printed the packing slip. Many people forget this, which is both rude and stupid.

eBay logs that you have printed each of these items – it proves you’ve done what you should be doing as a seller. Keep copies for your records.

Once again, the biggest sin with postage is not knowing what the rates are, the size limits and the true cost. YOU NEED TO FIND OUT WHAT THIS IS.   It can cost, with a box, packing materials and postage, as much as £16-20 to send Royal Mail International Tracked & Signed (RMITS). UK Domestic second class and signed for including packing is probably near £5.00 at time of writing. Charges fro the US can be just as high, Canadian international post is horrendously expensive.

Other reasons to use signed for and or tracked services are that you are insured by the post office for the amount of the goods – on UK Second & Signed max is £50. There are other services if the value is higher and most postal services offer something similar.

International Customs – outside of EU – eBay will provide you with a form with the international postage purchase. You must fill this in and stick it on the back of the box clearly visible.

Getting items into/out of the US even by air mail is s l o w using RMITS or USPS. 15 days is normal. Three to get there and then 8-11 sitting in the USPS International sorting, once its out of sorting it’s usually with the buyer in two days max. Canadian postage is horrific, the service slow. Make sure you know and your customer knows in the description how long things may take. European postage is pretty quick, especially in The West and Poland. The rest of East Europe is at best iffy but I’ve only ever sold one package over the old iron curtain line.

ONE STEP BEYOND: Photograph you boxing the item, photograph it boxed and packed with the labels on, photograph it being handed over at the post office.  Keep them just in case. I won a case of damage on delivery claim this way – it was clearly intact when it left me, eBay found in my favour.

Quite an usual model, little or no imagery of the aircraft itself, a plastic box with a wooden desk dominates.
Quite an usual model, little or no imagery of the aircraft itself, a plastic box with a wooden desk dominates. No way to sell anything for good money!

3) TIMING IS EVERYTHING

This is all too often forgotten as being important. Always assume your domestic market is the main target audience.

Auction Sales can be drastically affected by timing. 7 days is a minimum. Sell on a Sunday, set the timer from 7-9.30pm so that on a 7 day sale it will finish on the following Sunday at the same time. Most people are relaxed and getting ready for bed, watching TV,  or work the next day, their attention is available for you to capitalise on.

Research your market. If there are several of the same thing already on sale then don’t do it this week, wait.  Sometimes it’s worth waiting months. A few months ago the Gemini jetBlue A321 was being sold less than it should have been – it was oversupplied on eBay because it was generally undersupplied and sold out to retailers. Some buyers bought two or three from several retailers for a quick killing and then tried to sell them at a premium, unsuccessful in most cases. Six months later the market has swallowed them all up – I put mine on sale and it went for £40 in 20 minutes on buy it now (BIN), netting a £13 profit. It now lives in Illinois.

4) PRICING

There is no magic to this. Find out what the value is if you can, it’s not always easy. Some Gemini models go for ludicrous money – Thompson 787 or Singapore Airlines A345’s come to mind. Rare Phoenix A346 in Lufthansa liveries can be ludicrous. Staples like Virgin Atlantic, BA, American Airlines etc go for good money a lot of the time, other times they just don’t make “book” price (an old automotive term for Parkers Car Price Guide or Black Cat) and you feel disappointed. There just aren’t any real rules that hold.

I have seen wedges of models that are sold vastly over priced with astronomic postal charges, just ignore them.

Start things at what you’d like to get as a minimum. If it’s £15 or its equivalent, start it there, but don’t be amazed if nobody bids. Number of watchers is no guide to how well its doing or will do. Only the last minute of the last day counts. In fact the last 10 seconds.

If you set a buy it now (BIN) price and auction it at the same time, the BIN price needs to be close enough to the possible final auction value to be worth doing. If you get a  bid for £9.99 that you set as a minimum bid, but had a BIN of £22, the bid was put in to knock the BIN out of play which is automatically removed. Now the bidder can slide in and try for less than you’re £22 BIN.

However if you were to use £15 as your starting bid and say £19 as BIN, the chances of it going for that are way higher.

Frankly I’d prefer a BIN or an Auction, if you can’t get a BIN then you can choose to send it to Auction later.

When it comes to pricing only experience and constantly reviewing eBay sales will ever give you an idea. I log everything I sell, am interested in or watch to a spreadsheet. That’s excessively nerdy I appreciate but it’s saved and gained me a great deal of money. But I’m an obsessive compulsive micro-detail lover so you won’t be surprised.

5) Getting Paid: PAYPAL, accept only PayPal, no cash, no cheques, no bank transfers. ONLY PayPal. Never use anything else.

Now at nearly 2200 words you must be bored. So go eBay. Protect yourself, every time, don’t get complacent and don’t take shortcuts. That way you won’t get burnt and loose money.

THE ABOVE IS NOT LEGALLY BINDING, IT IS NOT PAID FOR OR PROFESSIONAL ADVICE, YOU SHOULD ALWAYS READ THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS OF ANY CONTRACT WITH EBAY OR PAYPAL REGARDLESS OF THE COUNTRY IN WHICH YOU LIVE. POSTAGE AND RATES, TERMS AND CONDITIONS VARY BY COUNTRY OR STATE, YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE FOR ENSURING YOU UNDERSTAND THE RULES REGULATIONS AND TERMS THAT GOVERN SELLING ON EBAY AND USING PAYPAL IN YOUR COUNTRY OR STATE. THIS ADVICE IS OFFERED AS NON-BINDING AND NON-CONTRACTURAL PIECE TO SUGGEST THAT YOU MIGHT DEVELOP BEST PRACTICE THAT APPLIES TO YOU IN YOUR REGION, STATE OR COUNTRY. NO RESPONSIBILITY WILL BE ACCEPTED OR IS IMPLIED IN THIS ATICLE FOR ANY FINANCIAL LOSS OR MISTAKES YOU MAKE. IT IS SOLEY YOUR RESPONSIBILITY TO ENSURE YOUR PRODUCT AND FINANCIAL SAFETY.

2 thoughts on “THE DARK ART OF SELLING AIRLINE MODELS ON E-BAY

  1. This bloke on eBay wants over $100 for a 1:400 Swiss 777 by Phoenix, on top of that he want $27 for shipping from Switzerland. I want to get the model but it is to pricey and the shipping is very high (on other packages from Europe the most I paid was $15 and that was for two 1:400 747s through Royal Mail to the U.S.)
    Truthfully Annoying

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