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eBay 101

Need a one-stop guide to starting, running and growing a business on eBay? Then you've come to the right place.
October 1, 2004

If you're ready to dive into the world of eBay but aren't sure where to start, you're in the right place. Our "eBay Essentials" will answer your most basic eBay questions: What types of listing formats does eBay offer? What are the rules for selling on eBay? What tools can I use to promote my product? What types of products can I list on eBay, and which are prohibited? Where can I find more information about starting my business on eBay? What terms do I need to know to understand the eBay process? Following are some terms and procedures you'll need to know to get your business on eBay started off right.

Types of Listings

Under the broad category of "listings" falls a variety of types, and you need to choose the one or ones that will get the best results for you and your particular products. Keep in mind that in addition to the type of listing you opt for, you'll also choose a 1-, 3-, 5-, 7- or 10-day duration for the listing.

Types of Bids

For most listings, the bidding process is fairly straight-forward. You set your minimum bid, and people interested in buying your merchandise place successively higher bids until the listing ends. Beyond that, however, are some details about bidding you need to know.

Rules for Selling on eBay

Complete details on current ebay policies can be found on eBay's Web site, so we won't go into all of them here. However, there are some you should know about before you begin selling on eBay.

If a seller lists in more than one category, the categories must be relevant. Any additional identical listings will be ended by eBay. There are a few exceptions: Sellers who list general admission tickets in the Tickets category may list up to 20 identical listings, and sellers of vehicle light bulbs may list up to 25 listings simultaneously.

If you violate an eBay policy by either your action or the content of your listings, you will typically receive an informational alert explaining the violation and detailing any further action to be taken on your part. When deemed appropriate, eBay will end the listing, and your listing fee will be refunded.

For serious or repeated violations of eBay rules, a user may be indefinitely suspended. Though indefinitely suspended users may be reinstated by eBay at its discretion, eBay also has the right to determine at any time that the suspension is permanent.

What You Can't Sell on eBay

The following items may not be listed on eBay:

These items may be listed under certain conditions. Do further research before listing items of this nature to be sure yours is allowed. To learn more, click on "Security Center" at the bottom of any eBay page, then click on "Market Place Rules and Policies." Questionable items include:

Potentially Infringing
These items may be in violation of certain copyrights, trademarks or other rights. eBay prohibits some of these items, regardless of any particular item's legality, because they almost always violate copyright and trademark laws. As with questionable items, do your homework before posting your item. Potentially infringing items are:


Insurance protects you and your customers by paying to replace or repair items that are damaged in transit. For high-end or very fragile merchandise, insist that buyers pay for insurance for the full value of the goods. For low-end or very sturdy merchandise, you may allow buyers to make the choice of whether to buy insurance. But stress that if they reject insurance, your responsibility ends when the product leaves your possession. Be sure you can prove that you shipped the merchandise, either by using a carrier (such as FedEx or UPS) that will provide you with a shipper's receipt or by using the U.S. Postal Service's delivery confirmation service. Also be sure to print a copy of the closed-item page.

Some carriers automatically provide coverage for loss or damage up to $100 per shipment at no extra charge; others charge for the first dollar of insurance coverage. Don't bother to buy insurance for more than you can prove the item is worth; the carrier will reimburse you only for the actual value, not for the amount of insurance you purchased. Documents that are generally accepted as proof of value include a current bill of sale, an invoice, or a statement from a certified appraiser.

Even when you purchase insurance, it's important that your items be properly packed for transit. If damage occurs and the carrier determines that the shipment was not appropriately packed, your claim (or the buyer's claim, in most cases) will likely be denied.

Under the eBay Umbrella

eBay actually offers buyers and sellers a collection of options and services. In addition to standard listings, the variety of other offerings includes the following: