Selling on Listia.com – a losing proposition

I originally wrote this posting in April 2010.  I’ve recently taken a new look at listia, and I’ve revised this posting with the current (April 2012) credit values.   While “prices” for many items have increased as the value of credits has plummeted, the problems outlined below continue to be an issue, in particular for items that are not very popular.

As followers of my blog (and my friends in facebook) know, I have been using lista.com for a few weeks now, mostly as a buyer (they give you a bunch of free points when you sign up), and finally as a seller. Well, after some calculations I’ve decided that Listia.com is as bad a business for “sellers” as Mary Kay.
In the last week I’ve listed a bunch of small, lightweight stuff: scrapbook embellishments, beads, pendants and little bottles of perfume.  I offered free shipping in all of them, and put minimum bids so that it wouldn’t end up being a completely losing proposition. Still, I pretty much lost money on everything I “sold”.  And by losing money I mean that I will end up having to pay in shipping costs more than the number of credits I got for the item in question.
While listia.com sells credits for 2-cents each (it was 10-cents in 2010), the value of each credit is actually about 1/6th of 1-cent (1 cent in 2010). If you post a $1 Amazon.com gift card code in listia, you will get about 500 to 750 credits for it. That means if you want to buy credits all you do is buy the online gift card from amazon, then post it on listia, send the code to the winner and pocket the credits.
Meanwhile, postage starts at 44 cents for letters and $1.22 for one-ounce packages.  This means that the minimum amount you need to break even on shipping alone is 220 credits for items that fit into a regular one-stamped envelope and 610 credits, if you’re going to actually send a very lightweight package.  Anything you send in a small flat rate box better net you at least 2575 credits, and don’t do a large one unless you are sure you can get 7325 credits from it.  The actual numbers are actually higher, as you must pay for delivery confirmation or risk having the credits returned to the buyer.  Packaging materials also add up (though once you start getting stuff from listia, you can re-use the ones you get).

Given those numbers, it’s usually hard to recoup the costs of shipping items for free.  Very popular items – or very expensive ones, such as Coach purses and silver and gold jewelry – will easily net tens of thousands of credits, but a no-brand purse, a pair of shoes or even a mystery box filled with low-priced cosmetics, will likely sell at a loss.

More and more people are realizing this and they are charging shipping – but as shipping consists of real dollars, it’s easier for users to figure out when they’re getting a good deal and when they’re not – and people are on listia to get great deals.   People are willing to pay shipping for expensive or unusual items, but don’t count on getting it for an old t-shirt.

That said, many ebay sellers who can’t afford the high posting fees on ebay are moving to listia, and are trying to “sell” their items by asking for shipping costs many times over the real ones.

Listia is also starting to push their “local” listings, to be a competition to craigslist and freecycle I imagine.  If that takes on, there will be more reason to join.

If you do want to join, use this link and you’ll get an extra 100 credits.

 

On giving stuff away

Listia.com
It’s horrible, I’ve gone from ranting about Listia.com to starting to like it to literally become obsessed with it. I can’t tell you how many times in the last week I’ve logged in and search for free stuff. I thought this would stop when I got rid of all my credits (and I’m trying to), but as I keep losing auctions I still haven’t managed to do so, so far. Aaaack!

My main reason to list was to see if there was any interest in the (small) stuff I have. I’ve been throwing the caps from coke bottles forever, and I was surprised to see that people actually wanted the codes that come on them (go figure). As for the beads, these are the ones I have no use for (they came in packages of assorted beads I bought). I particularly hate the bumpy beads. I already had a bid on my bird beads, which was kind of surprising. Of course, I’ll have to pay the shipping to get rid of them.

And that continues to be the problem – it’s really not practical to have the “buyer” pay for shipping on low-weigh items (where the shipping charges are no more than $3), specially as paypal has such horrendous transaction fees. But then you are stuck not only giving something for free but having to pay for the privilege. Oh well, this is just a trial.

Freecycle

I continue to use the San Leandro Freecycle to give away most of my good stuff: things the kids have outgrown, stuff I no longer want, stuff my mother sends me (some specifically to put on freecycle), etc. Basically, freecycle is a mailing list where you post stuff you don’t want and people who want it e-mail you saying so. Generally you give the stuff to the first person who e-mails you about it. I’d say that I get responses to about 2/3rds of the stuff I post (people, for example, never want stuffed animals).
The problem with freecycle, however, is that people are very unreliable. I’d say that about half the time the person does not come to pick up the stuff they wanted. That means I have to keep it in my house for longer – which is exactly what I don’t want. I’m becoming more and more disillusioned with freecycle as time goes by (one of the reasons why I’m trying listia with small stuff – there are too few local users to make it viable for big stuff) – but there are few alternatives.

Thrift Town

Thrift town is our local thrift shop (well, there is also a goodwill but they don’t have good stuff). They pretty much take anything you have (I’m sure they throw away the stuff that won’t sell) and I love it for finding clothing for the kids and a knick-nack (read tea cup) here and there. The problem with them is that they have limited drop-off hours and that we are not good about just taking stuff there. Plus I’m not thrilled that they are a for-profit corporation. On the other hand, it’s the easiest place to drop off unwanted stuff.

Swaptree.com

Swaptree is a great place to exchange books. The way it works is that you list the books you have and no longer want, and the wants you want to get – and when they make a match they e-mail you and ask you whether you want to accept the trade. It’s cool because they don’t just do one-to-one matches. If someone you want book A and have book B, and John has book A and wants book C, and Jane has book C and wants book B a match is made. You also get to look through the books that you can “get now” by trading one of the books you already have – that’s a great way to find new books that might interest you. They also give suggestions of books that you might like.
I’ve used swaptree intensively, in particular in the couple of months after I signed up. Then I ran out of popular books and for months I was unable to get any book I wanted. I just checked it out again, with a few new books I wanted to get, and was able to get two of them (A Smart Girl’s Guide to Friendship Troubles and Oops! The Manners Guide for Girls) both for Mika. Of course, I’m paying as much to ship the books I have to send in return, as I would to just buy the books – but it’s still cool. The big problem with swaptree is that I have to keep the books at home until someone wants them, which can take months.

So now that I only have unpopular books at home, I think I will take them off swaptree and just donate them to the library.

Friends of the Library – San Leandro

If you have extra books, you should really donate them to Friends of the Library. Pretty much every library has an attached group of supporters who fundraise for library services. And they do provide great services, not just new books, but, in San Leandro, at least, they fund most of the activities for little children. With budget cuts as they are, these would not be around without the Friends.

Donating books there is quite easy – you just take them to the library whenever it’s open and give them to the people in the front desk. They’ll even give you a receipt for them that you can use for your taxes.

The problem for us is that we always forget to take them. We never forget to go to the library sale, though 🙂
So this is it, if you know of another method of easily and cheaply getting rid of stuff, please let me know.

Listia reconsidered

A little over a week ago, I wrote a pretty negative review of listia.com, a site that lets you bid for stuff using “credits” rather than actual money.
My review was negative because the site purports to be “free”, but in reality there are too few users at the local level that can pick up the stuff you give away, so you end up having to pay for shipping either as a “seller” or a “buyer”. That’s not a big deal if you are shipping small things, but an issue for bigger ones (and everything I have to give away is large). On the plus side, I’ve noticed that sellers on listia actually seem to charge real shipping charges, unlike the inflated ones on e-bay. Plus, so far, we’ve gotten the things we won within a couple of days of winning them (but they were small).

I have to say that so far I’ve been really lucky with listia. I signed up and got my husband and sister to sign up as well. I was able to get a nice assortment of charms and a 1/2 oz of some essential oil mix. I have a few points left, so maybe I’ll be able to get something else.
makeupset.jpgMike, meanwhile, got a Hannah Montana bodypaint set and a lip bloss/body glitter set (he had to pay shipping for these, though). He still has points left as well. My sister got a kids make up set and also has points. So hopefully we’ll get even more stuff, for free.

Of course, after the next round of stuff we won’t have a way of getting enough points to get much. They do give you 5 points occasionally for signing in or bidding, and for putting them on your status in facebook, but most things do cost quite a lot of points. Still, I’m glad that I signed up for it and got some stuff for free – now, if there were only more users in San Leandro who would come and pick up the stuff I have to give away.
BTW, if you want to sign up for listia.com, please do it through my account, so I get some credits in the case you do manage to list something and get someone to bid on it.

Update. Well, it’s been one more week and I’ve come to realize that the listia experience is different for different users. Mike is quite lucky and often gets free credits for signing in, bidding and posting a listing to facebook. I rarely do. My sister is somewhere in the middle. I have no clue why this is so – what sort of formula listia uses to award points to some users and not others. It’s very frustrating for me as well, though 🙂

Something else I’ve figured out is that while listia charges 10-cents per credit (a ridiculous amount, and I can’t imagine anyone pays it), the actual “value” of a credit is closer to 1 to 1.5 cents. A $5 Walmart gift card, for example, tends to go for about 500 credits. So if you offer free shipping, you really need to make at least 40-credits on what you are giving away to not lose any money in the transaction. And that only works for things small and light enough to fit in a regular envelope.

Anyway, so far I’ve been unlucky with my auctions. I’ve placed some Golden Gate Ferry tickets on listia.com, worth $15, with a minimum bid of 50 credits and I haven’t gotten any bids (but that may be because of the geographical limitations of the item – listia still doesn’t seem to have that many users). I’ve just put some scrapbook frames & stickers, we’ll see how I do with that.

Listia – Review

Update: After writing this post I continued using listia for quite a while. My original experiences as a buyer weren’t bad, which led me to the post listia reconsidered. To get more credit to buy stuff I had to sell things, however, and soon found out that for seller’s listia is a losing proposition. I still use listia, but mainly to get rid of Coke Rewards points.


Someone on a craigslist forum I frequent mentioned listia.comas a good place to get free craft material (or really, anything). I decided to give it a chance, but quickly realized that, unlike with freecycle, you can’t really get anything for free at listia. I’m not really surprised, but a bit disappointed.

Listia works as e-bay, except that you bid with “credits”, and you can earn credits by giving away stuff. They do give you a small amount of credits when you sign up and list something (I got 165 credits), but that’s basically a one-time deal. Listia gives you the choice of having the winners of your bids pick up the stuff, you mail it for a price or you provide free shipping. The problem is that listia has a limited membership, specially in smaller cities, so it’s not that likely that you’ll find bidders that want to pick up your stuff (compare that with freecycle, which has much greater and only local memberships). If you charge for shipping, then chances are people will bid less on what you are offering (and remember, you are only getting credits) – and you have to go through the hassle of mailing it. If you provide free shipping, you have to pay for it.

If you don’t have enough credits, listia does allow you to buy them at the outrageous price of 10c each. It’s outrageous because listia things do cost a lot of credits. For example, a set of 10 paper cut-outs, with free shipping, is listed at 100 credits – or $10!!!!!. With the credits I got for free, I won an auction for a few charms (for bracelets). It “cost” me 150 credits, or the equivalent of $15. I probably could buy the charms for a couple of dollars.

As for me, I listed 6 items, including books and clothing. They are “pick up in San Leandro” only, and I think it’s unlikely anyone will bid on them. After the auction is over (they are open for 7 days), I’ll put them up on Freecycle or take them to the thrift store.

If despite what I said, you do want to join Listia – please do it through this link. This will allow me to get some free credits, and perhaps get something else for free 🙂