Monday, December 26, 2005

You may have awakened after Christmas or Hanukkah with a nagging feeling: That item Aunt Ethel gave you just isn’t what you want. Or maybe a new computer arrived, and now you have to dispose of the old one.

Instead of the junk heap or standing in line to return an item, what about selling it online through EBay? It’s not an original idea, I know, but it is one in which millions of people are indulging regularly.

On the plus side, EBay will bring a world of buyers to your door: Anyone interested in, say, Grateful Dead paraphernalia will be able to find your signed Jerry Garcia poster in a flash. On the negative side, a single seller has to prepare things for online sale, including photographing and preparing the auction write-up.

If that sort of work isn’t your thing, a chain of franchise stores called ISold It may be your answer. The concept is simple: The store receives your merchandise on consignment, does the photography, auction write-up and listing on EBay, then ships out the merchandise. This is a true boon when it comes to large or unwieldy items.

That’s how I felt about my old Clarion Joyride car stereo/global positioning system auto computer combination. I replaced the 30-month-old Joyride with some new gear and had the old equipment rattling around the back of my Hyundai Santa Fe. I had no idea what it might be worth. If someone offered $50 cash, I might have taken that on the spot. One Sunday afternoon, I pulled into an ISold It store in Gaithersburg, filled out a short form and left the merchandise there to be processed for auction.

What I liked about the ISold It experience was the way my items were photographed and presented. The store has a large photography stand with separate lighting and good digital cameras, which meant the various components of the Joyride could be spread out and photographed attractively. The description was clear and sales-oriented, written in a way buyers were able to grasp, because there was some competition in the bidding.

Within a week, the old stereo was up on EBay. A week after that, it had sold, for close to $400, and in about two weeks after that, my check arrived for about $252 — my amount less commissions and fees that were about 34 percent of the sale price. All told, it was very painless and more profitable than I might have expected otherwise.

ISold It has another Maryland store in Glen Burnie and plans to open several in the District and Fairfax County. A Falls Church store is already open, according to the company’s Web site,

Would I use ISold It again? It would depend on the item. If I felt I could better handle the write-up and photography, as well as the packing and shipping, I’d do it myself in many cases. But when it comes to bulky items, or things for which I may not have much enthusiasm, this is a marvelous way to make quick cash.

At the same time, many people are making a living — or trying to — by selling on EBay. For those folks, I would suggest Michael Miller’s excellent book, “Making a Living From Your EBay Business,” which tempers the hype you may have heard about EBay incomes with a bracing dose of reality, especially when it comes to the nuts-and-bolts of building any business. The $25 list price of this book is a small investment compared with the headaches, and heartaches, you’ll save.

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