Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Know Your Inventory (Don't Be Like Me)

Whenever I get a set of three new emails in my inbox for an in-hand transaction on ebay -- the acknowledgement to the buyer ("you won!"), the acknowledgement to me of the in-hand sold, the paypal payment notification) -- I'm a happy camper. I send my acknowledgement to the buyer and later that day, mark the paypal email in my inbox that it's ready for shipment and later that day I get prepare the shipment of the in-hand which begins with fishing the card out of the monster box that lives under my office desk.

But there are a few times each year that when I go fishing I come up empty. I double check: no bites. Then I triple-check: uh-0h.

Yes, ladies and genltemen of the jury: I have accidentally sold a card (or two) I didn't have. It's not something to boast about and it's down-right embarrassing especially when it's time to fess up to the buyer. It's so much easier at a card show when this happens: "Sorry, sold out."

So how can this happen to me? Or to you? If you do not have an ebay store, you probably do not have much to worry about.

If you have an ebay store, listings last 30 days. At the end of 30 days, you get a notification that the listing has ended. Simple, right? You re-list for another 30 days and so on. There is also another option for listing - you can keep it going indefinitely until you end the listing manually. For one card, this is fine. Ebay just charges you for the re-list and it continues until you want it to stop. Which is fine, too.

The problem is if you have multiples of a card (or any item), by default ebay will re-list the card with the quantity you started with. In other words, if you have a store listing that shows you have 3 2005 David Wright in-hands and 1 sells in that month, unless you manually change the quantity to 2 that are available the next time you re-list or when it re-lists automatically, the listing will say you still have 3 of that in-hand rather than 2.

And to add to this when you list a store item, you better make sure you have it listed for 30 days because by default it's set for "end when notified." So if you created a store listing of an in-hand which you have multiples of and forget to change the time of the listing from forever to 30 days, you'll come up empty on a card in your inventory...eventually.

If this happens to you, I recommend the following: curse ebay under your breath, refund the buyer fully as soon as you can and then email the buyer through ebay saying that you simply screwed up with your inventory, apologize profusely, recommend other cards you have that they may be interested in, etc. The longer the apology the more understanding they will be...hopefully. I have never received negative feedback for making this kind of mistake. I handle it professionally and the buyer is usually more appreciative of my actions than frustrated.

The lesson to all of this is to know your inventory, especially if you have an ebay store. It's always a good idea to make sure you have everything that you have listed and you may be surprised that you have that Derek Jeter you thought you had listed but missed.

Another good tool to keep track of your in-hand inventory is to create a new portfolio on cardtarget. Simply enter each card manually. It helps a lot and you can keep track of what you paid for each in-hand as well to calculate to figure out your margins. This may take time depending on how many you have but in the long run, it's worthwhile and could prevent your monster box from eating that in-hand you just sold.

If you consider selling all of your in-hands, you can always make this portfolio public similar to selling an online portfolio to make it easier for potential buyers.

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