Buying and selling online is a great way to spend less or earn extra – but how can you do so effectively?
We’re all so used to clicking to buy online, sometimes we can feel awkward dealing with actual humans to agree a price and arrange collection.
Worry no more! Last week, I was delighted to discover top tips on negotiating prices when I attended a workshop organised by Gumtree, the UK’s #1 classified website and app. Maybe it’s a British quirk, but 61% of us don’t feel comfortable asking for a discount – and that means a whopping £6.5 billion of savings get missed, according to Gumtree research.
Read on for great advice on using online marketplaces with confidence and getting what you want at a price you’re willing to pay.
Why buy from an online marketplace?
We all have stuff we’d like to get rid of, or bargains we’d like to buy without paying high-street prices.
I like buying second-had stuff, because I can often find better or more unusual items for less money than buying brand new. Selling stuff means I can raise money while clearing clutter. Once-loved toys and clothes can go to benefit other children. And whether I’m buying or selling, it means more items get reused, rather than adding to landfill.
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Using an online marketplace like Gumtree brings wider choice than heading to a car boot sale or charity shop. You can create ads for free, without worrying about listing fees. If you take cash you don’t have to stump up for PayPal fees either. Plus, if you’re buying and selling locally, with stuff to be collected, it also avoids the faff and expense of postage and packing.
Where to get top tips on negotiating the best prices
Gumtree has teamed up with the How to Academy and negotiation expert, Gavin Presman, who really knows his stuff, to create a guide called “The Etiquette of Buying and Selling Online”. (Think Debretts but for second hand stuff).
You can download the guide for free. It’s packed with simple tips for both buyers and sellers, to give you confidence using online marketplaces, right from making first contact to meeting up to exchange the goods and arranging the transaction itself.
If you’d rather learn about it all in person, you can even rock up at a free interactive workshop. The workshop will be at 6.45pm on Tuesday 4 September at the Condé Nast College of Fashion & Design in London – get your tickets.
I really enjoyed the Gumtree workshop, with the chance to hear an explanation of the steps to successful buying and selling. It was fascinating discussing how to create more effective listings, that would actually bring in more buyers!
Top tips for buyers
I’ve definitely benefited from bagging some bargains on online marketplaces. Remember the saucepans for my new induction hob? (Previous post) I’d spotted them online for £119.99, but found a brand new set, still in their original box and packaging, listed for £30 on Gumtree. The nice man even agreed to take less, at £25, and dropped them round on his way to the gym. We’ve bought a whole load of other items on Gumtree too, from a Lloyd Loom chair to my daughter’s dolls house and a big box of Playmobil.
Listening to the advice from Gavin Presman, I’m confident I could negotiate some low-stress, low-price deals.
Here are the top tips for buyers that really resonated with me:
- Benefit from bargains: Be grateful that some sellers don’t research their listings and check prices elsewhere. That means you can still pick up incredible bargains (better hope they haven’t all read the guide!)
- Ask away: If you see a listing that looks good, don’t be afraid to ask questions if you want extra details. According to Gumtree, buyers who ask questions early on and establish a link to the seller are more likely to end up with the item
- Always ask, politely, for a discount. You could ask for money off, or extras like accessories thrown in for free. Go on, be brave, just try saying: “Is there any way of getting a better price?”. Maybe you could ask if they’ll take say £5 off if you pay cash, or come to collect quickly, so you’re suggesting a benefit they will get in return
- Don’t send payment beforehand, wait until you’ve seen the item
- Check how the buyer would like to be paid, and if it’s cash, take the exact amount as they may not have change. Best not show up in a dark alley with a huge wodge of money though, eh?
- Treat the handover like a blind date. If you don’t feel completely comfortable, take a mate and / or agree to meet in a public place. I get round this by sending my husband to collect items I’d like to buy…
- Show up when you say you will, or if you’re unavoidably detained, let the seller know asap
- When you arrive, don’t trash the item in the hope of getting money off. You’ll only irritate the seller. Try a compliment instead – their house, the area, even the weather if you’re stumped for ideas!
- Don’t be offended if the seller wants to count your cash or check your PayPal transfer got through. Avoids any issue that they might complain later about not getting the right money
- Take a print out of the listing and double check you have everything promised before you leave
Top tips for sellers
Selling items online that you no longer need is a great way to raise spare cash. I was amazed when I listed an unused shower curtain online, and it raised well over £20. Who knew goldfish shower curtains were so popular?
I have a cupboard full of clutter (who am I kidding? several cupboards. And drawers. And a basement) which I’m keen to sell online. The guide and workshop have inspired me to get started. That Ben 10 starter bike stashed in the cellar has got to go!
Here are the top tips I took away for sellers:
- Lavish care on your listing. Research other listings to see what people mention, describe your item and any faults honestly, and include loads of photos. Make sure you write a clear title that really encourages people to click
- Use your own photos. Better to use your own pics, even if they’re only snapped on a smartphone, than lift an image online. This helps the seller trust that you actually own the item, and it’s in the condition you describe
- Make it personal. This was really interesting. Don’t just describe the features – explain what difference they made. The 10 gears helped me ride the bike more easily uphill, the 10-hour battery life meant I could get through a whole day at the office without charging my phone, you get the picture. As Gavin said: “Sell the sausage, not the sizzle!”
- People buy people. Answer questions promptly and professionally, so the buyer trusts you to deliver what you say you will
- Pad your price a little. Everyone likes a bargain, so maybe add a bit extra to the price so you have room to negotiate down, and still reach a price you’re happy with. Keep it realistic though!
- Don’t be offended if people offer a lower price, but remember, you don’t have to agree. Stick to your guns if you think it’s worth more
- Brace yourself for bargaining, perhaps you could offer to stay at the same price, but chuck in extra accessories or a lesson on how to use the item. Draw attention to any similar items you’re selling, in case they’re interested. So if you’re selling a mobile phone for example, see if you can top up the deal with the power pack and phone cover too
- Suggest meeting elsewhere to hand over the item, if you’re not comfortable with people showing up on your doorstep
- Email directions if that would help and make the boundaries clear – “welcome to collect between 6pm and 8pm” – rather than waiting till past midnight
- Check the payment before you let the buyer take the item away, whether that’s counting out cash or confirming an online payment has reached your account. If they’ve left, it’s too late
Now – over to you. What’s your top tip for selling stuff on Gumtree? Or bagging a bargain? Do say in the comments, I’d love to hear!
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