Mini-article – Using Ebay

By | February 1, 2009
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I’ve had a busy time of it this month. I’ve been selling off a few bits and pieces I had around the house that I didn’t want any more. A couple of bits of electronic equipment that I didn’t need any more and so on. I got more than I expected for them, plus I’ve not got a bit more space in the spare room – always handy!

So I thought I would let you know about ebay – the website I used to sell them. You’ve probably heard of it before but the thing that surprised me was it’s easier to use than I expected.

Mini-article – Using Ebay

Techies like to call ebay an ‘online marketplace’. To me it’s more like a massive online auction. If you want to sell, say, a gramophone, you put in all the details, maybe set a reserve price and say how long you want the auction to go on for. You can also say how you want payment (eg cash, cheque, electronic transfer…) and whether you’re willing to post it or if it needs picking up.

Then anyone else can come along and bid for your gramophone. At the end of the auction, whoever bid the most wins as long as they bid your reserve price or more. If no-one bid as high as the reserve price, you can choose whether to sell it to the highest bidder or not.

There’s one clever bit: When you bid, if the current highest bid is, say, £25, you might only want to bid £26. After all, there’s no point in paying £50 if you could have got it for £26. But then someone else might bid £30 at the last moment – and you’d have happily paid £31 to get it. But if they left it to the last minute you wouldn’t have time!

To get around that problem, when you bid you put in your maximum bid – the most you’re willing to pay. So if the gramophone was at £25 and I was willing to pay up to £50, I’d put in £50. Ebay would put the bid in at £26 and I’d be in the lead. If someone else put in (say) £30, ebay would automatically put in £31 for me. If your bid is the highest, you win. But you might not have to pay as much as your maximum bid, if everyone else put in a much lower bid.

Then once you’ve sold your gramophone you get the payment, post the gramophone (or wait for them to come and pick it up) and you’re done.

If you’re interested, here’s what to do:

  1. Go to
  2. Click on Register.
  3. You need to tell them your name, address and email address (they won’t let you sell things without knowing who you are – to avoid any dodgy business)
  4. You’ll need to choose a UserID – usually your name and a number. Eg CharleyBoy1664. You might be able to use just your name but chances are someone else is already using it. If the one you choose is already taken, ebay will make some suggestions of similar ones that are still available.
  5. Choose a password – so no-one else can pretend to be you. If I was you I’d write it down – somewhere safe.
  6. Ebay will email you to confirm and you click a link to prove it really is you.
  7. If you want to buy on ebay – you can go ahead. If you want to sell, you have to set up a paypal account, so you can take electronic payments. Go to and click on ‘sign up’ then go through much the same process with them. You then need to tell ebay about your paypal account – go to, put in your username and password to log in and click on “link my paypal account”.
  8. All that is much easier than it sounds, I promise! Just go through it one step at a time.
  9. Then to sell something, click on “sell” on the site.
  10. Ebay will ask you a series of questions – what the thing you want to sell is, whether it’s new or second hand and so on. Once you’ve answered them, it’s done – your gramophone, carved wooden ostrich or telephone box is for sale.

A couple more tips:

  • Keep checking your emails in case someone wants to ask a question before they bid.
  • If you have several things to sell, start with a really cheap one. It’ll help you get a better price for the others if you’re known to be trustworthy. Also if you do make any mistakes so you don’t get as much as you should, it’ll only be on something cheap!

Give it a try – you can always start with something only costing a pound or so to try it out, so you don’t have to risk lots!

You can buy on ebay as well – and if you look around you can find some bargains (even things you would normally get at the supermarket). Maybe worth spending a few minutes looking around – go to and click on ‘buy’ to have a look at all the different types of things you can find. Everything from razor blades to cars.

I know that’s just a quick overview – Ebay isn’t difficult to use but there are a lot of ways you can use it so I’ve had to stick to the basics here. Watch this space for more information about how to use it and how to get the best prices for what you sell (or how to find the bargains that are cheaper than Tesco!).

Website of the month –

You might have already heard me recommending specific programs you can download for nowt. And I give you a link to where you can get them. All well and good – IF it happens to be the type of program you want.

This time I’ll go one better. This is a website that gives you a whole load of software for nothing. Have a look at There are hundreds of programs to download there. Some are full versions and some just trial versions, where you have to pay if you want the full one. But usually you can find a program to do what you’re after, without having to pay anything.

The advantage of using this website instead of searching on Google is that they’ve already tested every program they list. There are reviews telling you what they think of each program and they also check them for nasties like spyware and viruses.

Next time you need a new bit of software, for example to edit photos, organise your time or just a game to while away a spare hour, why not have a look.

Reader’s Question
My laptop has a touchpad instead of a mouse and it has two arrows on the right-hand side. What are they for?
They act like the scrollbars you use to scroll up and down through a long email, word document or webpage. You touch in the middle of the right-hand side and move your finger up or down, staying over on the right hand side.

Personally, I’d recommend using a normal mouse, even with a laptop, if you use it at home. It’s much less fiddly than using a touchpad. You can just plug a normal mouse into one of the USB sockets on the side or back of the laptop. If you’re not sure which is the right type of socket, just lok for one that fits. If it fits, it’s right – you can’t physically plug it into one of the wrong ones, so you don’t need to worry.

Word to the Wise – GBP
You’ll sometimes see this on ebay (or other shopping websites). It just means pounds sterling – it’s short for Great Britain pound. They use that instead of the £ symbol because 1) some computer might not display the £ symbol properly and 2) it avoids any confusion with other countries that have the pound as their currency.

Right – that’s it for now. Have a good month.

Tim Wakeling

All the above © Tim Wakeling 2009

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