tbod's Guide On How Not To Sell On eBay (Part 2)

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Why Am I Writing These Guides?

I have had my own eBay account for over three years and was responsible for eBay sales for a small shop for a year prior to that. I am currently buying items on eBay for myself and family, and selling odd things I discover as I clear out my workroom.

During my four plus years on eBay I have been disappointed, amazed and downright appalled by the standard of many of the listings I have encountered. I have lost count of the number of times my jaw has dropped and I have shaken my head thinking "How the **** do they expect to sell anything with a listing like that?". Occasionally I am moved to laughter, more often to tears...

This is the second in a series of Guides inspired by some of the dreadful practices I have encountered.

The purpose of this particular guide is to highlight what is, to me, one of the biggest sins in eBay listings, the inadequate description. I know this was touched on in my last Guide but I simply have to elaborate.

Part 2, The Inadequate Description

If I am looking for a particular item on eBay I have an idea of what I am looking for: what is essential, what is not and what is to be avoided at all cost. With this in mind I do an eBay search and trawl the results.

Sadly this is, more often than not, a thankless task. Hundreds (if not thousands) of items with barely an adequate description among them.

If your description is inadequate, lacking essential information, a lot of potentional buyers will just move onto the next listing. After all, there are hundreds to choose from.

However, if the buyer is sufficiently interested to ask a question many sellers will screw up this opportunity to make things right(which is the subject of a later guide). Very few of them will do what is expected ie: answer the question politely and then update their listing to include the relevant details!

Let me give you some examples of the things I have searched for recently and the most common (and surprising!) omissions from those listings

Flat Screen TVs

Ok, so I'm not in a position to buy one right now but I can dream can't I?

What Do You Need To Know?

There are certain things I would have to know before I would even consider bidding on a Flat Screen TV yet to my amazement some or all of the following are often omitted:
  • The screen size!
  • The aspect ratio (4:3 or 16:9)
  • The tuner type - Digital or Anaologue?
  • What connectors does it have (SCART, S-Video, HDMI, VGA etc)? How many and are they positioned on the front, rear or side of the unit?
  • What is the native resolution of the screen?

I consider the first two points (screen size and aspect ratio) to be absolutely fundamental to the choice of a flat screen television and, with Digital Switchover looming large on the horizon, the tuner comes a close second (third?). Nevertheless, you would be simply amazed at how often these details are missing from the listing!

If your new television has to fit into an existing setup it is vitally important it has the right type, and number, of connectors. If you need HDMI and it only has SCART then it is not for you however pretty it may be. Having a VGA connector and knowing the native screen resolution is extremely important if the TV is to double as a computer monitor, a great space saver in the modern teenager's bedroom!

Flat or Not?

As far as I am concerned a 'Flat Screen TV' is one that is fundamentally, well, flat. Currently the only technologies that qualify are:

  • LCD (Liquid Crystal Display)
  • Plasma
  • OLED (Organic Light Emitting Diode)

I have seen people listing old CRT (Cathode Ray Tube) televisions like Sony Trinitron FSTs (Flatter, Squarer Tube) as being Flat Screen TVs. No matter what they say, a television using a CRT is NOT a flat screen TV!

Digital Video Recorder

I currently own a Thomson DTI-6300-16 DVR (Digital Video Recorder) but as it is possibly the biggest, smelliest, most festering pile of crap ever to have masqueraded as a DVR (see my Review for further details) I would like to replace it with something that actually works before I throw it through the window again!

While most DVRs feature one or more digital tuners some are analogue only such as the wonderful Toshiba RD-XS24 ( which is a true example of how these things should be done) and the Toshiba RD-87T which has both an analogue and a digital tuner!

What Do You Need To Know?

If you stop for a moment to consider what these things do and how they are used you will probably come up with a list something like mine:

  • How many tuners does it have? Are they digital or analogue?
  • Does it have Series Link?
  • What are the capabilities of the EPG (7 day, 14 day, programme synopses, etc)?
  • How many simultaneous recordings can it make:
    • If I am watching a recording?
    • If I am watching another channel?
  • How big is the disk / how many hours does it record?
  • How are the recordings organised?
  • Does it have an edit facility?

After the question of the number and type of tuners possibly the most important thing is does it do Series Link? The absence of Series Link would immediately eliminate any item from my consideration.

The EPG can make or break a DVR so it is important to know its capabilities and be comfortable with it.

A DVR with two tuners will usually allow you record two channels at the same time. Some also allow you to watch a recording at the same time. Exceptionally some will allow you to watch live TV while recording two channels (ie: a third channel) but this is only possible if the channel you wish to watch is on one of the multiplexes used for recording.

Unlike traditional VCRs and analogue DVRs, where the recording quality can be reduced to increase recording time and vice versa, DVRs with digital tuners simply rip the required PS (Programme Stream) from the TS (Transport Stream) and dump it directly to disk which consumes approximately 1.1Gb of disk space per hour of recording so you might expect a 160Gb unit to be able to store approximately 140 hours of TV.

While you may not realise it now but how your recordings are stored and accessed can make the difference between a dream machine (like the Toshiba RD-SX24) or a nightmare (like the Thomson DTI-6300).

While the Thomson stores everything in one long chronological list with no search facility the Tosh allows you to created named directories in which to store your recordings...

An edit facility is an added bonus. For example, the Toshiba allows you to edit your recordings: you can 'top and tail' a programme, insert chapter marks, remove unwanted adverts and even combine multiple recordings (or parts thereof). Not only does this save disk space but it makes watching your recordings far more enjoyable. The Thomson offers none of these features.

Computer RAM

Although you can never have too much RAM, getting the right stuff can present many problems.

To be honest I wouldn't recommend buying RAM from eBay unless you know EXACTLY what you are doing and EXACTLY what you want. Most people would be better off:

  • buying from the original manufacturer or dealer
  • going to their local computer shop (or, Heaven Forbid! PC World)
  • entering their exact system details into one of the reputable memory companies like Kingston, Crucial etc.

At the very least you would have someone real to blame when things go wrong and you could get your money back without too many difficulties.

I estimate something like 15% or 20% of all the listings for RAM I saw said something like "I bought this for my system but it is the wrong type so I am selling it on" and I wouldn't buy from them because the seller usually tries to pass the buck and blame the person they bought it from ("I bought it as working and have never used it so I can't have broken it you'll have to take it up with ...") and I really don't need that sort of grief!

Even when you DO know exactly what you are after you could still end up with something unsuitable as there are a number of well know 'dodgy geezers' on eBay selling inferior and defective memory.

What Do You Need To Know?

I don't have the space, time or knowledge to list all the things you need to know but here are some of the terms you might encounter:

  • The physical package
    • 30 pin SIMM
    • 72 pin SIMM
    • 168 pin DIMM
    • 184 pin DIMM
    • 240 pin DIMM
    • 184 pin RIMM
    • 72 pin SO-DIMM
    • 144 pin SO-DIMM
    • 200 pin SO-DIMM
    • 204 pin SO-DIMM
    • ...
  • Speed
    • MHz
    • PCxxx
    • DDRxxx
    • ...
  • Timings
    • CAS
    • RAS
    • ...
  • Synchronous / Asynchronous
  • Buffered / Unbuffered
  • Registered / Unregistered
  • DDR / DDR2 / DDR3
  • Non Parity / Parity / ECC (error correcting)
  • High Density / Low Density
  • ...

As you can see there are many things to consider and as the permutations are practically endless most people would be safer buying from a reputable seller who will guarantee the RAM will work on your system or give you your money back.

Digital Cameras

I recently borrowed a friend's digital camera and (long story short) it got broken so I needed to replace it. Their (now defunct) camera was bought second hand through eBay so they were more than happy for me to obtain the replacement the same way. The broken camera was a Kodak EasyShare C533 camera with a 5.3 Megapixel resolution and a 3x optical zoom so the replacement had to be of that specification or higher.

My first stumbling block was the eBay search system; they allow you to filter your search for digital cameras on all sorts of criteria:

  • Optical Zoom
  • Memory Card Format
  • Make
  • Model
  • Type (Compact, SLR etc.)
  • What type of batteries it takes
  • Whether it can record sound and / or video
  • And even whether there is a crappy little tripod, cheap bag or lens cloth included in the sale(!)

However, they do not allow you to filter the results of your search based on what is possibly the most important factor to the digital camera buyer - the camera's resolution! Personally I find that unbelievable...

Digital Camera listings are notorious for what I call the 'Customer Description vs PFI' dilemma. The seller enters details about their camera and also include the PFI (Pre Filled Information) section. Although eBay supply the PFI they do not guarantee any of the information is correct. Similarly sellers often enter their details incorrectly (either intentionally or accidentally). So which do you believe?

My advice is to ignore both (user details and PFI) and go to the manufacturer's website instead because they usually know what they are talking about!

What Do You Need To Know?

The following are, amazingly enough, some of the most commonly omitted details from digital camera listings:
  • The native resolution of the camera (expressed in Megapixels or MP)
  • The size of the LCD screen?
  • The type of memory card it takes and if any are included ln the sale?
  • The type of batteries it takes and if any are included ln the sale?
  • Whether a charger is included ln the sale?

It is extremely difficult, if not impossible, to make an informed decision about a digital camera without knowing the first two whereas the last two (or three) could be deciding factors if the buyer owns another camera - things are so much simpler if both cameras take the same cards and batteries.

Zoom, Zoom, Zoom

A common deception is to advertise a camera as having, for example, 15x Zoom because it has a zoom lens giving three times optical zoom and five times 'digital zoom' and 3x5=15, right?

WRONG! Nothing could be further from the truth.

Digital Zoom was a marketing con devised to improve the specifications of cheap cameras which didn't have a proper (optical) zoom lens by giving the appearence of zoom by cropping and interpolation. Unfortunately this process dramatically reduces picture quality, introduces 'artefacts' and proves once and for all that the camera can lie!

Sadly it seems we are stuck with the spectre of digital zoom even though most low end or entry level models have a zoom lens these days.

Just remember, when looking at a camera's specification the ONLY zoom that matters is Optical Zoom.


An inadequate listing suggests the seller hasn't put a lot of effort into selling you the item they want you to buy.

Sometimes this is simply because the seller doesn't know anything about the item but, to be honest, that is no excuse whatsoever. 10 minutes spent with google will usually turn up some basic details that can be put in the listing. At the very least they could cut and paste a link to a web page which describes the item.

Believe me, it's not that hard!

More often than not, however, the seller simply can't be bothered. They don't give a crap and expect you [the buyer] to do all the work so they [the seller] can reap all the benefits.

Think about it, would you buy from a shop where they expected you unload the delivery van, price the goods, stock the shelves yet still charge you for the privilege of shopping with them?

I wouldn't.

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