The Basics of Online Selling: How to Calculate Your Costs

I’ve been selling on eBay for a long time, just random stuff that I or my siblings don’t use or want. I never understood the basics of selling something, except the concept of getting money. Just recently, though, I have been selling collectibles for which I have no more use. Collectible stuffed animals, mainly; I was really, REALLY big into the whole TY Beanie Baby thing when I was a teenager, and now I find them just sitting around collecting dust.

So, while I am keeping a few that have some sentimental attachment to my heart, the rest are being researched and shipped off to new owners. Here’s what I know now (after a few sales and incurring more loss than gain), and here’s how you can avoid my mistake.

Learning how not to lose:

First off: Grab a pen and pad, and ask yourself these questions:

How much did (insert selling item) cost you? Write that down.

If it was a gift, then it cost you nothing, and you can basically pick your price. But hold up! Picking your price doesn’t mean selling your item for way more than it’s worth. Do some research and see how much items like yours are selling for, and that will give you a good price range from which to pick.

If you bought this item, how much was it? And since buying it, has it become damaged in any way? Look very carefully, and use a detailed eye. Look for scratches, dents, dirt, stains, marks, chips, broken pieces, et cetera. Be aware that these devalue the item in your possession, so anything you can do to clean it up helps you sell it for a better price.

(Major tip: Avoid “cleaning up” if you have a piece of art. Where art is concerned, unless you are a professional in the field of restoration, DO NOT try to clean it up… you see this on shows like Antiques Roadshow, where the owner tries to paint over a mistake or glue something back together, only to find that their work has greatly decreased the value of the item by trying to fix it. Take your piece to a professional first, if you can.)

How old is your item? Time itself devalues any item. Once it is no longer brand-new, its value drops. If it has never been used, it can be sold for about the same price.

Does your item use batteries? Make sure it works fully and completely. If it doesn’t work somehow, make a note.

Write down what you think the current value of your item is, and subtract that from the original price.

Second: Pictures are essential to selling things online. Take pictures with good lighting. If you are selling furniture, leave pillows or decorations out of the picture (unless they come with the furniture you’re selling). Let people make their own deductions. What you think is pretty and fashionable may not be your buyer’s cup of tea. If your item has any important features or damages, be sure to get a close-up shot of it. Do not hide details that you think will not allow it to sell. Be honest.

Third: You want a good, detailed description of your item, its benefits and/or accessories. You can make the description appealing and marketable, but be honest. If there is damage in any item, in any form, put it in the description. This ensures that the buyer knows what they are getting when they buy, and cannot come back to say, “This isn’t what I ordered! I want my money back!” It also helps you sell things later on, because people leave good reviews and know you are a trustworthy seller. Trust goes a long way in the online world of shopping.

Fourth: You need to account for shipping when selling an item. I made the mistake of putting things online for great prices with free shipping. People love free shipping. The problem was that my item’s bid price did not go up as I had hoped it would, and left me to pay more than the selling price. If you want to go the free-shipping route, that’s great; but make sure you know how much shipping is going to be, and add it into the selling cost. If you do not want to pay for shipping, most websites (like eBay, Amazon, or Etsy) will calculate shipping costs for you; just put how big and how heavy the package will be into their calculator, and they tell the customer how much it will take to ship the item.

Fifth: If you use a site to sell, like eBay, you may be charged a selling fee, such as 10% of the selling price. Make sure this is added into your cost, because you’ll be giving 10% of the money to the website.

Just for kicks, let’s run through how you would do this with a simple item.

This is one of the selling items I had a while back.


Let’s say this bear cost me $1.00 at a thrift shop. With some research, I find out that with its original tags still attached and great condition, it could sell for up to $17.00 (USD). I decide to go a few dollars lower to make it more salable.

Price for which I bought it: $1.00

      Value and selling price: $15.00

This means that I could make $14.00 in profit. To ship it, I’m going to be paying for it. The United States Postal Service will cost me about $2.54 to purchase shipping for this beanie bear. I have to count in my website’s selling cost, as well. So, if I do free shipping and subtract the selling cost:

                                    Current profit: $14.00

                                 Minus shipping: $-2.54

Minus selling cost (10% of 15.00): $-1.50      

                                      Profit now  =   $9.96 USD

If I decide that the buyer will pay shipping, I don’t need to worry about it. I just need to know what the item weights, and what kind of packaging I’ll use. My profit will be $13.50, having only subtracted the selling cost of my item.

Nice job!

STUFF TO KNOW:  1. Remember to take any batteries out of your item before shipping it – it’s illegal in the USA to ship anything with batteries inside. So, if your item runs on battery power, they CANNOT be inside your package. Take them out before packing it. Be sure to tell your buyers that the item needs batteries to run, what kind, and that you will not provide batteries.

2. In your description of anything, make sure you put “PLEASE READ DESCRIPTION BEFORE BIDDING OR BUYING”. As you know, we humans can be idiots and we ignore things. Putting this in your description or subtitle tells people that there is need-to-know stuff in there. It also helps you if someone tries to say they had no idea your product had a scratch, a dent, a paint splatter, or whatever. Be on the safe side!

3. Remember, be honest!

Feel free to comment, ask questions, or correct me if I forgot something! Ciao!

Why We Kant Accept This (Immanual Kant & the Moral Rules)

Ethics is not my strong suite. I’ve said this many times in my other posts. While the debated subjects in and of themselves are not too bad, the conclusions are what throw me off. Why? Because there are no conclusions. At the end of each chapter, it seems like the philosophers forgot how to properly end a story: “…and they lived happily ever after! The End.”

Instead, it ends more like, “…Based on all of these essays and theoretical accounts, no one knows whether they lived happily ever after or not; because the Guild of Important Philosophers cannot decide what it truly means to live ‘happily’ or ‘ever after. As for “The End,” no one can agree on what “the end” really is, or how it happens.” Am I the only one who is frustrated with answers like these? News flash, philosophers: I’m not taking a class to NOT learn anything!

There are no conclusions.

And, to answer the question to which you are simply dying for an answer: No, there is no real ‘Guild of Important Philosophers.’

This week’s lesson was on Immanuel Kant, who was a Prussian philosopher in the late 17th century. In our textbook, The Elements of Moral Philosophy by James Rachels, we follow his Categorical Imperative (CI), which is based on his supposition that there are a set of moral rules that we are to follow, no matter what. These are set by God, and it is my guess that they are based off of the Ten Commandments. He argues that because God made the rules, he will never put us in a position where the dilemma is whether to break one or the other.

The CI means that whether we follow the rules or not, there will be consequences. One situation, he describes, is that you passed by someone who tells you that there is a killer coming after him, and he is going home to hide from the killer. A few minutes later, the killer comes by and demands to know if you’ve seen his victim or know where he has gone. Do you tell the truth? On your part, it would easy to say that no, you would purposefully mislead the killer so that he would never find the man. But what if, Kant supposes, the man has decided to leave his home and make a run for it? Perhaps this forces him right into the killer’s path, the one you happened to send him on. If you had simply told the killer where the man had gone, he would have found the house empty. Either way – by falsifying information or telling the truth – you have helped the killer find his victim. As hard as it is to accept, Kant believes that telling the truth will always lead to the correct outcome.

 I believe in the Commandments, but I do not follow with Kant’s CI. It bothers me to say it (as it should), but when it comes to it, I will lie under certain circumstances. Sometimes, it is necessary to break the rules.

Categorical Imperative says we are to follow these rules, no matter what. Period. End of story.

So the discussion question was:  “Consider the following argument:

“The problem with Kant’s ethics is that silly or immoral maxims pass muster [become accepted] under the categorical imperative.”

What does this criticism mean?  Give an example of the kind of maxim that is being referred to.  Is this criticism right?  Why or why not?

My answer (with a few modifications for the internet):

“The criticism is correct, and simply because (going back to the argument about Ethical Subjectivism) when it comes to what should be morally accepted and what should not, people have different opinions and perspectives. One person saying that “It is okay to lie in order to keep the peace,” contradicts another person’s opinion of “It is never okay to lie.” When we make our opinion a universal truth, we assume that everyone else accepts this as a universal truth, as well.

A couple times in Chapter 9 [in James Rachels’ The Elements of Moral Philosophy, 7th Edition], Kant’s example is based on giving aid. Saying that we should always help those in need is already a maxim in itself (i.e., “You ought to help others, period.”). Nearly everyone would agree, on the surface. But consider this: perhaps you were walking through [a city] and a homeless man asks for a bit of money, but you have none to give. The rule is to help those in need, but you know you do not have the means. Therefore, you are denying that universal truth.

Or maybe you do have change available, but you know the man will spend it on alcohol, instead of using it for food or a new coat. In the short-term concept, yes, you would be helping him by giving him money; but do you give it to him, knowing it will not help him in the long run, by furthering his alcoholism? In this example, you would be assisting him in one way, but the other end of the problem would contradict your response.

The problem with Kant’s ethical theory is that it does not take into account people’s utility of good judgement. It does not explain that for every situation, there is a slightly different answer. People will generally say, “It is good to help those in need,” but we make a judgement call when doing so. We have to consider the situation in the short- and long-term run. There are no absolute moral rules, because different circumstances require alternate answers.”

As is the commonality, I say, “End Rant.”

What do you think? Is Kant’s Categorical Imperative sound? Let me know what you think in the comments.

BTW: Most of my posts have been about Ethics lately. I am working on some other posts, but if you get tired of it, just holler. I’m not one to write things on the fly and post them immediately. I am very thorough when it comes to my writing, especially in essays or blogs. That’s why it takes me a while to post anything.

Patrick Henry vs. Thomas Hobbes vs…. Me?

When something makes me frustrated, but I have to submit work for it anyway (like Ethics homework *cough, cough*), I tend to make fun of things. Sometimes – not all the time, but once in a while – it becomes a GREAT way to make the assignment fun. Now granted, this was one of my more creative entries on our discussion board. The last time I remember doing something like this was when I dressed up as the Joker for a muscle biology presentation.


Continue reading Patrick Henry vs. Thomas Hobbes vs…. Me?

Could We Be Heroes? The Altruism Argument


“Mary: “Everyone always does what is in their own best interest. Altruistic acts (i.e. acts done from the motive of helping others) are a myth.”

Sheila: “But how can you say that? Soldiers have been known to jump on hand grenades to save their comrades. How can that be self-interested?”

Mary: “That soldier no doubt thought his life would go better by ending with an act of glorious heroism than living a long life as someone who let his comrades die. It was a self-interested act.”

Who is right? Why?

Thus begins my fourth chapter discussion question in my Ethics philosophy class.

Continue reading Could We Be Heroes? The Altruism Argument