Buying and Selling Online With Ebay from the October 2001 Newsletter

by Rob Zorn

I would imagine that most of us have probably heard of Ebay online auctions, but, being the cynical, cautious kiwis that we are, many of us probably have yet to venture out and give it a go. It's something I heartily recommend, and exactly the sort of life-enriching feature of the Internet that we, as part of the new global community, should be making more use of. To illustrate, I wanted to buy a CD lately by a band from overseas who have virtually no following in New Zealand. Real Groovy here in Wellington had the album for $46.00. I could buy it online from Amazon for $15 U.S./$35 NZ (plus postage). I didn't. I'm currently bidding for it on Ebay. I have had the highest bid for the last two days at a staggering $1.75 U.S. If I win at this price, then, together with airmail postage, I'm probably going to get it for between $10-$12 NZ all up.

I guess my main motivation for writing this article is to encourage some of our newer users to take a stab at using the Net for more than just e-mail. The Net has incredible things to offer us, and once we gain a bit of confidence in sorting out what's useful from what's a scam or a waste of time, the closer it can come to fulfilling its potential as a wonderful tool. -Ed

Okay, so that's only a CD. It's not particularly important or life-enriching, but one only has to browse around the various items for sale (and there are currently one and a half million) to realise that no matter what you're after, you'll probably find it, or something close to it, on Ebay. A lot of things, like my CD, for example, are sold at low prices because many users treat Ebay like they might a business, selling lots of items cheaply rather than a few items at prices with higher profit percentages.

Ebay is highly organised, very powerful and very well set out. Using it with common sense is safe, secure and easy. To use Ebay, you have to register as a user which means there are all sorts of protections for you, whether you are a buyer or a seller. You can leave feedback on someone you've dealt with and you can check a seller's feedback before you commit yourself to a bid. People that use Ebay are serious and used to buying and selling internationally. You are able to get the e-mail address of the seller (once you've registered yourself) so you can contact them before or during your bidding in order to ask questions about the item, and so that you can establish some rapport or get a feel for the person you're dealing with.

My suggestion is that you surf on over to Ebay at and have a look around. Use the advanced search features to locate something that interests you, and then, if you think you might like to cut your online buying teeth, register to use Ebay. It's free to register, and there are no  fees for buying (there are small charges for selling - see below). As you sign up, the processes involved are explained very clearly, and there is an extensive online help file for when you become unsure. There is a New Zealand Ebay site where you can restrict searches to items that are located in New Zealand only. The URL for the New Zealand site is

As I said above, Ebay is well organised and presented. Clicking the Help link at the top of the Ebay page will take you to a series of explanatory guides.

Buying Via Ebay

The Buyer's Guide is located at (It also comes up as a button link after you click the Help button on the Ebay homepage) and details what you need to know about how to use Ebay to make a purchase. Ebay doesn't charge you if you buy, and one of the nicest things for buyers is Ebay's Proxy Bid system. When you bid, you simply list the top price you are willing to pay for an item. Ebay keeps this amount secret from everyone but you, and then automatically increases your bid for you by the minimum amount (50 cents or a dollar at a time depending on the level of the bidding) every time someone else outbids you. It carries this on until it reaches your designated maximum before it stops. This way, the system works for you, even if you're not paying particular attention to the auction. You can learn about Proxy Bidding and all the other information you need about buying safely with Ebay from the Buyer's Guide.

Selling Via Ebay

The Seller's Guide can be located the same way, either by clicking the button after clicking Help, or by accessing it from the following URL: Selling items on Ebay is also pretty simple, and the guide will step you through the process. If you know the basics of html, you can use your Actrix user homepage to put a picture of your item up on the Internet, and it will automatically display with your ad. If you're not sure how to do this, send me a picture of your item and I'll put it up for you, and send you back the address of your picture to include with your ad. It's all a lot simpler than it sounds, and again, Ebay will step you through the process. The Seller's guide includes short tutorials on how to accomplish stuff, and gives you the facts you need such as what commission Ebay charge you when your item sells. When the auction ends, Ebay automatically e-mails both the seller and the high bidder with instructions about what to do next.

Selling Fees

Ebay make their money by charging a small commission to your credit card, and by means of an insertion fee. The insertion fee is between 30cents and a dollar depending on the opening price you decide for your item. When your item finally sells, you will be charged 5% if it sold for under $25.00 and a further 2.5% if it sold for between $25 and $1000. For a full breakdown of Ebay's fee structure, try this URL:

My Ebay

One of the most impressive features of Ebay is the customised My Ebay page. Each registered user can log in to their own private page that keeps track of all of your Ebay activities in one place. All the auctions you're currently in will be displayed along with how long the auction has to go, what the current price is and so forth. You can set this page to watch auctions you're interested in (but not sure you want to bid on). You can also use your preferences tab to get Ebay to e-mail you every time a new item is listed that you might be interested in. You can read any feedback that has been left on you, and you can view all the feedback you've left on others - and all this in one place, and all at no charge!


Paypal is an international money transfer service (separate from Ebay) that just about every Ebay buyer or seller uses. It really makes paying for your items simple, straightforward and speedy. You can sign up for a Paypal account at and it doesn't cost anything. You register your credit card with them (and they charge a dollar to it to verify it, and then place your PayPal account $1 in credit). From there on, all you have to do to pay someone overseas is log into PayPal, enter the seller's e-mail address and the amount you want to pay them. Paypal then e-mails the seller telling them you've paid and that they can withdraw the money from their own PayPal account. It's virtually instant, and sure beats mucking about with money orders or worrying about the cleverly concealed cash you sent. If you sell on Ebay you can also accept money via Paypal. The buyer pays into your Paypal account, and then you instruct Paypal to transfer the money to your NZ bank account. Unfortunately, because we're not in the U.S.A. we have to use PayPal's international account system, and there are currency exchange transaction fees. Still, when you consider the service being offered, these fees are well worth it.

That will probably suffice as an introduction to Ebay. Why not give it a go? In the course of writing this article, I got my CD for $1.75, and the whole process was a lot more fun than walking into a record store and forking over $46.00.