Ebay Internet auction site, has 16 million users

Ebay, the Internet auction web site, has over 16 million users and 4 million individual items for auction on any given day. It truly is a phenomenon. It is revolutionizing the way many small businesses sell goods and is becoming the world's biggest swap meet for individuals.

I was surprised Friday when I asked those attending "Coffee and Computers" whether they were using Ebay. Very few were. A couple of people had browsed the site but no-one had placed anything for sale. So this is for those who are new to Internet auctions.

A couple of weeks ago my neighbor came over and asked me to offer his outboard motor for sale on Ebay. No problem, I told him. The procedure is fairly simple.

I am a registered seller on Ebay. This means that I gave them a "username" and "password" to set up a seller's account. Then I gave them my credit card number. They use it to pay those fees involved in their auctions.

My neighbor already had taken pictures of his motor. I took those pictures and scanned them into my computer after cropping them and changing them into Internet compatible format.

Next we went to the Ebay web site, logged in using my username and password, and selected a category for his motor. Ebay has 13 major categories with hundreds of subcategories. We chose "Sports: Sporting Goods: Boating: General" and entered a description of his motor and added the pictures.

We filled out the rest of the seller's form indicating the minimum bid we would accept, that we wanted cashier's checks only for payment and the buyer would pay actual shipping costs. We chose a ten day auction period and submitted the form. Within moments the item appeared on Ebay. I was identified as the seller with a link to my email address so potential buyers could contact me if they had questions. At this point, my account was charged a two dollar listing fee for the ten day auction. We would be charged a small additional percentage fee if the item sold. Then we waited.

Each day we would check our listing. It indicates the number of bids and the current bid price. Sure enough, after a day or two, a bid appeared. We jumped with joy. As the ten day period progressed, there were additional bids. In the last two days, twelve bids appeared from seven individuals. When the bidding was closed at the end of the ten day period, the winning bidder had placed a bid just fifteen minutes before the close and one other person bid 20 minutes before that. We found this is typical. The "serious" bidding takes place in the last days or hours before closing time. How interesting. Incidentally, the winning bid was nearly three times the minimum.

Within minutes I received an email from the winner. We corresponded about shipping method and costs. Then my neighbor and I went out and found boxes and packing material. This was another adventure because you can imagine it isn't easy to ship an outboard motor even when there is no fuel or oil in it.

We finally packed it up and got UPS costs and emailed them to the winner. We were told a check would be in the mail the next day.

Currently we are waiting for the check and the motor is all boxed and ready to go. We don't anticipate any problems. My Ebay account was charged a small commission on the sale in addition to the two dollar listing fee, a total of around ten dollars.

If you want to try Ebay, go to their web site,, and read their excellent tutorials about buying and selling. Then join the millions who daily browse for bargains.

In the mean-time, come to "Coffee and Computers" with your computer questions and experiences any Friday morning at the Tustin Area Senior Center.

And remember, keep the neurons happy, the synapses snapping and enjoy computing.

Dr. Art Holub is a long time resident of Tustin and teaches computer and Internet courses at the Tustin Area Senior Center and the Tustin Adult School. Visit his web site at: This column is written to address the computer adventures and concerns of older adults. If you have comments, questions or suggestions for future columns, Email HIM at:

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