Tips for selling coupons on eBay

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To wrap up my recent series on auctions, I decided to try my hand at selling something on eBay: a Dell coupon. Here’s a frugal tip: if neither you nor family (or friends) needs a coupon like this, why not sell it? The coupon in question came with two codes, one for 35% off Dimension and Inspiron systems above $999 and one for $35 off electronics and accessories orders above $250. Selling it on eBay wasn’t an entirely smooth process, so I thought I’d list a few things I learned here:

  1. Time your listing: Coupons will obviously sell better when there are fewer of them out there. In this case, Dell had issued similar coupons whose valid dates overlapped each other. Techbargains is a good place to check if there are other deals that might be combinable with your coupon, thus increasing demand. Coupons may also be in higher demand near their expiration dates, but if you go this route, make sure you plan your auction and delivery time correctly.
  2. Hold a shorter-length auction rather than the normal 7 days: This works better with time-sensitive nature of coupons, and in case you run into a bad buyer (see below)
  3. Know that you must physically send the coupon per eBay rules: eBay pays attention to manufacturers’ coupon rules (the coupons must be transferable, etc.) and won’t allow the seller to simply e-mail coupon codes for discounts. You can offer to email the codes as soon as the auction’s over, but you still must mail the physical coupon to the winner.
  4. Restrict buyers: Again, due to the time-sensitive nature of coupons, if you run into an invalid buyer, the process for disputing the purchase will reduce the amount of time you have left to sell the coupon. Last week, several sellers (myself included) got their coupons bought by someone who had no intention of paying for the coupons.

    My guess is that it was just an unethical pre-emptive strike by another seller who only wanted his listing shown, so he bought up all his competitors’ listings. Ebay has an option that allows you to disallow bidders based on feedback and history, and while this may limit the number of bids you receive, it’s better than not being able to sell a coupon because it expires before you can disentangle yourself from actions by a fraudlent buyer.

Of course, the usual good tips for selling apply: be honest about the item, include pictures, any wording or official verbiage from the manufacturer, etc. In the end, my coupon sold for $25.50, including $1 for shipping. eBay made $2.78 from my listing (including $1.04 from PayPal) or 11% in fees. For those who don’t know, in order to use PayPal with eBay, they make you “upgrade” to premium or business status, which just means you get charged fees for receiving funds. Bummer.

It’s against eBay policies to do this, but I finally realized all those people who were charging $0.99 for the coupon but $35 for shipping rather than the other way around were doing it in order to avoid fees, and not (necessarily) screwing with bidders. Since the coupon was free, cost me $0.39 to mail (and again, ignoring the time spent listing the item), the lesson and experience in selling on eBay was pretty fun and worthwhile, and the money I made will no doubt be put to better use on a more necessary purchase elsewhere.


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