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Cautiously Clearing Clutter Through Online Sales
Most collectors eventually accumulate way too much stuff. Or, they occasionally run across a deal too good to pass up even though it doesn't mesh well with their own collecting interests.

The problem comes in finding a way to dispose of those items, preferably in a profitable manner, to make a little extra cash so you can keep collecting. If you haven't faced this type of situation yet, believe me, it'll happen sooner or later.

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One of the most common ways of reaching a broad collecting audience nowadays is selling online. Unless you're really new to the Internet, you're probably well aware of this fact.

With eBay and Yahoo auctions, along with tons of specialty web pages and smaller auction sites selling everything imaginable, there are plenty of choices here in cyberspace.

Remember though, even if you're familiar with shopping online, that experience won't instantly make you an expert at selling online. And since the Internet can be a vast, anonymous space for both buyers and sellers, it pays to learn a little about the game before you begin.

Some new online sellers are naïve enough to believe they are immune from hot checks, credit card fraud and a host of other problems large retail outlets deal with on a daily basis. Don't fall into this trap. Approach every deal trusting your customer, but pay attention to red flags that might signal something isn't quite right.

For instance, a customer from Indonesia or Nigeria places a sizable order for several items shown on your website and wants to pay by credit card. They'll put it on a credit card, it'll be approved and it's a done deal, right?

Wrong. Even if you're using a payment service, such as the popular PayPal, you're still subject to chargebacks if a customer's card is rejected days, or even weeks, after you've shipped out the merchandise. Be sure to know the policies of payment services and make sure that shipping addresses are verified to the credit card billing address to avoid problems.

Since Indonesia and Nigeria have a reputation for credit card fraud these days, it's best to request an international money order from customers in these countries. You'll find that once you refuse to accept a credit card from these sly crooks, you probably won't hear from them again.

Now, it's easy to say that you're only going to accept cashier's checks or money orders so you'll be safe. Then you have the obvious benefit of not having to wait for a personal check to clear or deal with credit card issues.

The flip side of the coin is turning away a perfectly upstanding group of personal check writers and credit card users who find spending extra cash on money orders to be annoying. And don't forget that money orders can be stolen, too.

Another point of contention comes with email addresses.

Some online sellers refuse to deal with customers using free addresses such as Yahoo and Hotmail since it will be virtually impossible to trace someone to a free email address if a deal happens to go awry. However, many of these customers are perfectly responsible and simply want the convenience of being able to check email from any Internet ready computer.

Learning to balance customer service with necessary caution can be a little tricky. Experiment and find your comfort zone in the online marketplace.

Basically, if something doesn't seem quite right when you're trading online, it probably isn't. Using your instincts, gut feelings and common sense, just as you would selling face to face, is the best advice seasoned online sellers have to offer.

However, before you go out and start buying like a fiend thinking you're going to make a killing selling through a website or online auctions, do a little research and by all means, pay attention to quality.

Not everything old sells well online. Not everything is priced as highly in online markets as in antique shop settings. Knowing the market is just one of the keys to successful online selling. Do some research before you begin to determine the best way to market your merchandise.

And remember that you always need to describe every flaw in detail to avoid angry sellers demanding a refund. Posting a photo will help to show any condition problems buyers need to know about before bidding.

To get those good photographs, the emphasis here being on good, investing in a decent digital camera makes sense. Learn how to use it so you get photos that are in focus and close enough to show some detail. Buyers shy away from items with bad photographs for good reason.

Selling online serves a useful purpose and it can be very rewarding and profitable, so don't be afraid to give it a try. But always remember that you'll end up with a huge pain in the neck if you don't approach it prudently.

Photo by Pamela Wiggins

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