Tuesday, December 29, 2009


One of eBay's most under-appreciated sales tools is the Best Offer option on Fixed Price and Store listings. Why? If Buyers and Sellers would just follow a few simple Best Practices for using it to its best advantage, it can really benefit both parties. Buyers get bargains, and Sellers move merchandise.

Here's how it works: When listing a Fixed Price or Store item, the Seller has the option of allowing Buyers to submit their Best Offer (just check the box that says "Allow buyers to submit their Best Offers for your consideration." under the text box where you put in the price on the Sell Your Item form). Buyers can do so by clicking the blue Make Offer button on the Fixed Price or Store listing page. The Seller then has 48 hours in which to accept the offer, decline the offer, or make a counteroffer, at which point the Buyer then has 48 hours to accept the counteroffer, decline the counteroffer, or make a counter-counteroffer. In any case, once that 48 hours is up, or if the item ends in the meantime, or if another Best Offer is accepted, yours will expire. Buyers can make up to three offers per item.


First of all, you must understand that if you as a Buyer don't take advantage of the Best Offer option, then you're leaving money on the table. Seeing that blue "Make Offer" button is like a red flag stating that the Seller is willing to be negotiable on their price. Of course, Sellers love it when Buyers don't use Best Offer for whatever reason, because it's that much more money in the bank. So if you feel compelled to pay the full Fixed Price for whatever reason — or you're afraid to make an offer because someone else might snatch up your coveted item in the meantime — then by all means, please buy it now. But it really does pay to make that Best Offer first.

Second, be aware that most Sellers jack up their Buy-It-Now price by some margin so as to leave some haggling room. I've even heard from quite a few who double it. That seems a little extreme, but it should leave plenty of opportunity for you to score with a lowball offer.

Speaking of lowball offers, here's something else you should know: If you make a ridiculously low offer, you run the risk of antagonizing your Seller. Here are some examples from real life: $4 for a $20 sterling silver ring; $29 for a $148 18K gold and sterling silver retired Tiffany & Co. brooch; $42 for an $85 one-of-a-kind B Johnson handmade Liberty silver dollar pendant. Are you trying to waste your own and the Seller's time, or are you really interested in the item? Let's give you the benefit of the doubt, and assume that maybe you're just testing the waters. That's why eBay invented the counteroffer.

If you are lucky enough to encounter a Seller who has the sales savvy to utilize their counteroffer option, and you receive a counteroffer to your offer, then lucky you! It means that the Seller is indeed willing to be a little flexible on the price in order to make the sale. You can accept their counteroffer, or you can send the Seller a counteroffer (really a counter-counteroffer) for their consideration. They can then accept your counteroffer, decline your counteroffer, or come back with another counteroffer (a counter-counter-counteroffer, for those who are keeping track). Remember, Buyers can make up to three offers per item.

Yes, Buyers can make up to three offers per item. That's worth repeating, because it means that even if the Seller declines or ignores your original Best Offer, you can always make another one — and one more after that, if necessary. So if you really want the item and your initial Best Offer is declined, make another offer. And a third offer, if necessary. If you don't ask, you won't get. And don't waste your energy thinking that the Seller just doesn't like you, or has it in for you because they declined or ignored your offer. This is business for them, so be businesslike. It's just like haggling at a flea market or garage sale — it's nothing personal.

While you're using Best Offer to communicate to the Seller your desire to buy their item, don't overlook the opportunity to communicate with your Seller as well. There is a text box labeled Additional Terms, and you can write anything you like in there up to a limited number of characters. Maybe you want the amount you're offering to include shipping (not necessarily a good idea, by the way; most Sellers look at shipping charges as a separate line item from item profits, and they use it to cover not only the cost of actually shipping the item but also their expenses for packing materials and even time and gas expended on trips to the post office). Or maybe you want the item as a gift for your sick friend (or want to claim you do). Or maybe you're close to broke and can't afford to offer much more (or want to claim you are).

I'm not advocating lying to the Seller, but I do recommend that you use the Additional Terms box to say something, because it puts the transaction on a much more personal level and reminds the Seller that there's a real human behind the dollar amount offered. I usually say something like, "Thank you for offering this terrific item and for considering my Best Offer. I look forward to your reply. BTW, I pay immediately via PayPal. :)" That's more subtle than saying, "If my Best Offer is not acceptable, please feel free to make a counteroffer" but hopefully still opens the door for the Seller to make a counteroffer or at least actively decline your offer as opposed to just ignoring it until it expires (which is really frustrating, because then you're left hanging wondering if the Seller has even seen it).There's enough characters that you could add that additional line to the first verbiage I quoted, but then you are implying to the Seller that you too are willing to be flexible. If that's the case, then by all means, say so if you like. It just depends on how hard-nosed you can stand to be. Remember, haggling is like a game of chicken in some ways. It's definitely a test of nerve and skill.

My personal preference is to just say "Thank you for offering this terrific item and for considering my Best Offer. I look forward to your reply. BTW, I pay immediately via PayPal. :)" and leave it at that. Because really, the ball is in my court either way; maybe the Seller will counteroffer, but if they don't, then I can just make a second or even third offer. Again, I will use the Additional Terms box to talk to the Seller: "I hope this Best Offer will be acceptable to you. I appreciate your consideration and look forward to your reply. BTW, I pay immediately via PayPal. :)" Not only is it smart to communicate with your Seller, it's also courteous and gives a good upfront impression of you as a Buyer. And who doesn't like to see a friendly smiling face on the other side of the bargaining table?

Finally, timing may be everything when it comes to getting your Best Offer accepted. If you make your offer when an item is close to ending, the Seller may be more willing to discount the price a little more rather than having to pay to list it again. But if you cut it too short, you may not leave the Seller enough time to see and consider your offer. An hour or less probably is not smart. Some Sellers only check their My eBay page once or twice a day, especially if they have day jobs, so allow several hours at least.

Getting back to those lowball offers that may antagonize your Seller, let me tell you how two of the aforementioned lowball offers played out in real life. With the Buyer who offered $4 for the $20 sterling silver ring, we countered at $15. No reply. Conclusion? They didn't really want a ring, they wanted a Crackerjack prize. Fuhgeddaboutit. In the case of the Buyer who offered $29 for the $148 18K gold and sterling silver retired Tiffany & Co. brooch, we counteroffered at $135 and said (because Sellers can communicate with Buyers too; we'll get to how in a moment), "Thank you very much for your interest. We can't go as low as $29, but we can come down to $135. If this is not acceptable, we will be glad to consider a reasonable counteroffer." In other words, I signaled to the Buyer that we might be willing to come down more if they were willing to get real about their offer. But if their first offer had been better, our counteroffer might have been better too. Annoyed Sellers are less likely to be generous about their discounts. And they may even be so insulted, they won't bother with you at any price. I think that's counter-productive for a Seller, but right now we're still talking about Buyers.

If your Best Offer is accepted, follow through promptly. Pay as soon as you can, without having to be reminded (a good buying practice in any case). And don't forget to use the pop-open text box on the Checkout page to leave the Seller a message: "Thank you for accepting my Best Offer. I look forward to receiving this terrific item and will leave you positive feedback when it arrives." (I include some version of this message every time I win an auction, but that's another guide.) I find that the more professional you act as a Buyer — which also is respectful of the fact that this is a business for your Seller — the better a reaction you are liable to get.


Now that we've got the Buyers trained, let's figure out some Best Practices for Sellers to follow when using Best Offer. First of all, using Best Offer signals your willingness to haggle, so leave some room for negotiation when you set your Fixed Price. Some Sellers even double theirs. You'll have to decide what mark-up works for you. Different price points may dictate different strategies.

Next, fix your mind-set: This is business, and emotions have to be kept in check when considered in comparison to your desire for sales, which should be paramount. Remember that lowball offer of $42 on the $85 one-of-a-kind B Johnson Liberty silver dollar pendant? We countered at $60, and they came back with an offer of $45. That's just rude. In fact, it ticked off my listing client so much that his first response was to say, "Tell 'em that now our counteroffer is $75." I discouraged that, suggesting we go back to them at $60 again and give it one more shot, but he had seen the offer shortly before I did and worked up a real mad-on over it by the time we were discussing it, so he ended up just telling me to ignore their offer.

My opinion? If we'd gone back to them with our original $60 offer, pointed out that it was a pretty good discount from $85, and reminded the potential Buyer that it was a one-of-a-kind piece by a famed Native American silversmith and contained a goodly amount of both pure and sterling silver, the Buyer might have caved and bought it at $60. Or maybe they would have come back at, say, $55, at which point we might have caved and sold it. Now we'll never know, because I had to just sit back and let their (admittedly puny and insulting) offer expire. We could even have harnessed the energy of that initial mad-on to our own advantage: My client was angry because he felt that their going from only $42 to only $45 was a real slap in the face/screw-you kind of move, but if we'd just stood firm and counteroffered again, we could have had the last word.

To put it in terms my client could have understood at that point in time, if we countered again at $60 and they still didn't accept or even get real with their third offer, then we could feel like we'd said, "no, screw you" because we'd have refused to sell them the item. And if they did cave and accept our second counteroffer, or at least got real and made a third offer we could accept, then we can say "screw you" again because they bought on our terms plus we got money for it.

Leaving out the "screw you" mentality (remember what I said about not letting emotion get in the way of doing business?), what it boiled down to is that worst case, we still have the item and can look forward to receiving a better offer for it, or best case, we sell the item. But since we ignored their counteroffer, we shut the door on the possibility of any sale.

Of course, we also could have come back with a slightly lower counteroffer, but we really felt that $60 was a fair counteroffer and we weren't inclined to try to meet in the middle when the Buyer's second offer was still so lowball. Again, it's all about strategy. Psychologically, though, if the Buyer's second offer had been more realistic in terms of meeting us partway, my client might have been more inclined to come down a little lower. Again, we'll never know.

Notice how I've been talking about counteroffers as if they're a given. That's because they should be! Counteroffers should be a no-brainer. If you don't bother to make a counteroffer instead of just declining, then you've done yourself out of a possible sale. Some Sellers even set up their Best Offer rules so that offers under a certain amount are automatically declined. That might be OK if you're a very high volume seller and can afford to turn away possible sales — but who really wants to do that?

The "I don't want to bother with lowball offers" excuse is only hurting you. You've got somebody who has expressed an interest in your item (even if they're being a cheapskate about it), so why wouldn't you want to try to sell it to them? Remember, Buyers can make up to three Best Offers per item. That means they can make an offer; you can counter it; they can make a second offer; you can counter it again; and they can still make one more offer. That's how you do it at a flea market or garage sale, so why not do it on eBay as well if that's what it takes to make the sale? Don't tell me you don't have time; it only takes a minute or two (plus a little thought and possibly some profit recalculation on your part) to deal with a Best Offer. You are in business to make sales, right?

So counteroffers are essential. And there's another important part of every counteroffer: the opportunity to talk with, or at least to, your Buyer via the text box that's present on the counteroffer page. Use all of the characters they give you. For example: "Thank you very much for your interest. We can't go as low as $__, but we can come down to $__. I hope this may be acceptable to you. This beautiful whatever-it-is is a rare estate piece in excellent condition." So you've thanked them for their interest, courteously expressed the hope that your counteroffer will be acceptable, and extolled the virtues of the item you're selling. You might even want to say, "I hope this will be acceptable to you. If not, please feel free to make a counteroffer" if you're willing to maybe come down a little lower. Just as for Buyers, if you don't ask, you won't get.

Re: timing, some Sellers feel that it's good strategy to wait awhile to reply to a Best Offer, so the Buyer has to sweat it. Obviously that won't work if there's not much time left to begin with. The other point of view is to respond right away so you strike while the iron is hot. You'll have to decide for yourself which strategy will work when.

So here it is in a nutshell: Keep your cool, counteroffer, and communicate. It'll work for Sellers, and it'll work for Buyers too. Now go make Best Offer work for you!

p.s. At the time I wrote this guide, there were six other Best Offer guides in eBay's Reviews & Guides @ http://reviews.ebay.com. By now, there may be even more. Read them too, for tips I may not have covered or even thought of. Find them by searching for keywords "best offer, counteroffer". And as a loyal OBS member, please take a moment to vote for my eBay Best Offer Guide, which is linked from the title of this blog post. I'll do the same for you when the time comes! Thank you!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Helping Women Entrepreneurs

Our Fearless Leader Beth posted an interesting article from the New York Times today which referenced some of the effects from our American problems into the slums around Tegucigalpa, Honduras. This is a place that is close to my heart. I've accompanied large groups of mission minded teenagers from around the USA to Teguc, as we referred to it, twice. 

This is a quote from one of those teens, ""I went to Honduras to work with the poor and learned that I am the poor one. What we did was easy. What we experienced was God's infinite ability to provide in every circumstance. God is amazing."
-Shane Mayv

From this group of Christian missionaries has grown another charity, one that reaches out only and especially to the WOMEN of Honduras. This group is known as 'Mi Esperanza' which translates to 'My Hope' in English. And after all, isn't HOPE truly the one thing every Human being needs, and deserves?  Please, check out Mi Esperanza - learn how they offer HOPE to the women and children of the slums of Tegucigalpa and watch Kat's Kloset for ways you can help them! 

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Cookie Rules

Christmas Cookie Rules...

1.If you eat a Christmas cookie fresh out of the oven, it has no calories because everyone knows that the first cookie is the test cookie and thus calorie free.

2. If you drink a diet soda after eating your second cookie, it also has no calories because the diet soda cancels out the cookie calories.

3.If a friend comes over while you're making your Christmas cookies and needs to sample, you must sample with your friend.
Because your friend's first cookie, it is calories free, (rule #1) yours is also.
It would be rude to let your friend sample alone and, being the friend that you are, that makes your cookie calorie free.

4. Any cookie calories consumed while walking around will fall to your feet and eventually fall off as you move. This is due to gravity and the density of the caloric mass.

5.Any calories consumed during the frosting of the Christmas cookies will be used up because it takes many calories to lick excess frosting from a knife without cutting your tongue.

6. Cookies colored red or green have very few calories. Red ones have three and green ones have five - one calorie for each letter. Make more red ones!
7. Cookies eaten while watching "Miracle on 34th Street " have no calories because they are part of the entertainment package and not part of one's personal fuel.

8. As always, cookie pieces contain no calories because the process of breaking causes calorie leakage.

9.Any cookies consumed from someone else's plate have no calories since the calories rightfully belong to the other person and will cling to their plate.

We all know how calories like to CLING!

10. Any cookies consumed while feeling stressed have no calories because cookies used for medicinal purposes NEVER have calories. It's a rule!

So, go out and enjoy those Christmas Cookies - we only get them this this time of year!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Let it snow,let it snow let it snow! Wow, it's coming down out there fast and furious. I live in East Liverpool Ohio, & it's pretty much a white wonderland. Jimmy had to take the truck to work, so he's stressing. Van's broke down; same /same! It'll do him good to drive the truck; then maybe he'll fix it, too!

I have called and called people for help with the house situation, but NO ONE will return my calls! The Salvation Army; Community Action Agency; Catholic Charities; Fish; Ohio Dept. of Welfare... It's as if I do not exist. People I have known for years, friends I made online, even my family.

I realize it's the holidays, but I'm in dire straights here! Faulty electric, no gas; couldn't use the furnace even IF the gas was on.?! I sure would love to see any of these people have to deal with my life for one day. I wonder if they lived in fear, even overnight, like I have for a month, would they answer my calls, then?

We are using Kerosene heaters, which are making me ill. ( I have COPD). We have electric heaters, but what can we do if the electricity goes? Not to mention the fact you CAN NOT put an electric heater in the basement. How else am I to keep this woman's pipes from freezing?...The way the breaker box is, would YOU trust it? I think not!

Only one of my relatives has tried to help. She did exactly what I asked...leads. I truly appreciate it. BUT, that's one in how many? Well, my dad's mom had 14 kids! You figure I got a LOT of relatives, huh?

I am 50, Jimmy's 55. Our respective parents are gone. Half of his family are gone. I tried to contact the rest of mine for leads, and all I got was an email from one telling me they could not help because they where helping their kids & 13 grandchildren! ALL I WANTED was 10 minutes of their time. Talk to some friends, a few acquaintances, and ask if anyone knew of a safe place we could rent; a room? An efficiency apartment; an old trailer?

BUT, like everyone else, these people who are supposed to love me, seems to have deserted me. Like I said, only two answered my call for help. If any of these folks would of asked me for help, I would of stepped up to the plate for them. Even now, if someone I knew needed a warm spot, I would help them as best I could.

So, I sit here, old, worn out, all but forgotten, and I wonder, is this why so many people kill themselves? I know it's a sin, and I would not do it in my right mind, but I'm quickly loosing my mind! I'm scared; I'm scared of failing Jimmy, myself & my kids/grand. Depression is hard enough to deal with in a normal environment, but now? I'm alone, so very alone...BUT, I do have Jimmy & Jae, & would not hurt them for the world.

As far as I'm concerned, I'm just a burden to everyone around me. Jimmy, my kids, my so called family & friends. I can not seem to hold down a job to save me. I have nothing but old junk that when my back's turned my kids & even Jimmy throws away. I try really hard to sell online, but it seems I'm held back there, too.

It does no good to go to the hospital. I have no insurance. I have no money. Believe me, there is a BIG difference in how you are treated when you can pay. Been there. Around here you need money even to go to a health clinic.

They say God does everything for a reason, that we need to be patient. Give our troubles to him and forget them. But how? How do I just forget the electric might go and not come back on? How do I forget the terror of the fire where I lost so much? How do I put this in his hands and forget it's cold here? How do I forget I can't use the stove and lights at the same time? Can anyone tell me how? I have even called/emailed churches for help...no answer, not even a sorry no funds;info?!

One of my friends wants me to stay in this house and fight my LL. Well, I'm fighting, but I sure as hell would like to do it from some place SAFE! She will fix this house. BUT, I have to move for any work to BE done; and so far there is no place to go.

I love my friends, but where are they? Where's all the people I have helped through the years? I took in strays; baby sat for days on end; helped raise a bunch of kids; I fed armies of people; I've listened and been so many peoples free psychiatrist...so, where is my turn? Guess I don't get one?

So, that's my day, how's yours?!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

My Wish for You!!!

Copyright 2009 Maria Soto Robbins

Thanks for reading and following my blog and checking my online ebay and etsy stores. For all your kind comments and helpful advice throughout the year, which I truly appreciate!

Wishing all of you a wonderful holiday, filled with peace, joy and love this season and throughout this coming year!

Maria Soto Robbins
Miami, Fl

My Etsy & Ebay Stores will be closed from December 17 through January 2, 2010.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Lost Glove

The Glove

I lost a glove yesterday and it made me sad because I knew I couldn't replace it. I've had this pair of gloves for years. It's one of those tiny gloves, one size fits all. They look like a child's glove, but they expand to fit an adult small. I really liked them and now one is gone.

It was lost because I took less care of them than I had in previous years. It was housed in a different sweater and the pockets weren't as deep as my old faithful sweater I'd put aside for some repairs. I'd put both gloves in one small pocket instead of putting one glove in each side.

One day last week it had fallen out and I'd noticed it and picked it up, but yet I stuffed it back in that same small, shallow pocket, forgot about it and now it's gone; probably forever.

Did you ever think that your friendship for someone is like that glove? You've had it for years. It kept you warm when life was cold. You've had fun while you've worn it - you've been happy and sad. All that time it's been with you like a faithful companion. Now it's gone, lost, maybe forever and you're cold.

It would have still been keeping you warm if you'd paid attention to it - but you didn't. You took it for granted that it would always be there; just like it always had been. You pushed it to the side when you didn't need it. You stuffed it in a pocket thinking you could drag it out when you needed it, but you didn't care to see that it was safely taken care of and now it's not there.

A little extreme? Maybe, but while you have a chance, take that friendship out of your pocket, dust it off and wear it again. Give them a call, send an email or card, go somewhere together.

Now, if you keep wearing those gloves and taking care of them, they will be there with you for years to come - during the hard times and the happy times they'll be there.

Don't keep your friends stuffed away in a long forgotten pocket. You might just find one of them missing the next time you need one.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009



North Carolina pottery is pretty much an easy sell. North Carolina is home to the only continuing pottery tradition in the United States outside the Native American tradition of the Southwest.The pottery tradition dates back to the colonial days when early settlers quickly found that the clay-laden soil was an excellent resource for pottery wares. Probably the most notable pottery name associated with North Carolina is Seagrove....which is a location rather than the name of a potter. It's a small, somewhat rural area located south of Asheboro and Greensboro and it's home to several world renown potters such as Owens, Teague, Jugtown and Cole.

Just 100 miles due west of Seagrove is the Catawba Valley, the site of North Carolina’s other great pottery tradition. During the 18th century, numerous families, most of German origin, settled what are now Lincoln and Catawba Counties in the western Piedmont. The Catawba River encircles this region, and its South Fork, which meanders through the heart of both counties, has provided superb clays for the potters’ wheels.

The regional style of pottery in North Carolina began as a simple difference between cultures. In the mountains, the Cherokee and the Catawba Indians tribes, both native to North Carolina, have been making pottery distinctive to their own tribes for centuries. The Catawba, known as the river people, use a type of pit-firing and burnishing that makes their products shine, and they also imprinted animal designs on their work. The Cherokee used a paddle to imprint designs on their pottery.

In the Piedmont, a Moravian settler named Gottfried Aust (1722-88), from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, brought pottery to the Winston-Salem region in the latter half of the 18th century. In order to protect themselves from Indian attack, the Moravians began selling their wares in 1761, primarily to introduce trade with the Indians and also to attract the attention of other settlers. The Moravians were more creative than the British North Carolina folk potters. Whereas the North Carolina potters produced predominantly earthenware and later stoneware, the Moravians provided English cream ware, a form of earthenware, and introduced stoneware to the Salem region in 1774. British potters, who moved into North Carolina through the Shenandoah Valley, introduced stoneware to Randolph County.

British and European potters brought salt glazing to North Carolina in the 1700s. Salt was one of the region's earliest and most popular glazes. Other potters used a lead glaze to make earthenware watertight. As potters began shifting to stoneware production, the differences between British and German pottery became more pronounced, as did the regions they inhabited. By 1850, Randolph County was the center of salt-glazed stoneware, and Lincoln County primarily sold alkaline-glazed stoneware.

Whether Cherokee in western Carolina, Moravians in the Winston-Salem area or British settlers in the eastern Piedmont, original potters gathered their clay from the North Carolina soil. In addition, British folk potters ground their clay and turned it on a treadle wheel, while the Cherokee and Moravians used the clay directly from the ground or washed it before turning it on a kick wheel.

Do a completed item search on eBay and you will find a kaleidoscope of pottery pieces from North Carolina. Anything from antique utensils to ugly face jugs, to more modern forms in texture and glazes will show up. People from all over the U.S. buy NC pottery and if you are in a position to buy one piece or an entire collection for the right kind of money, do it! You will get your money back and more.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

How Important is Networking?

I have been selling online since 2003 and have seen many changes happen since then and wonder what the future holds. I started to sell on Ebay and things were pretty simple you put up an item and often had many bids and it was exciting to watch an item sell. I also sell on Amazon and Bonanzle . Things today are not the same and more and more people are selling online including all the big stores that were only brick and mortar stores years ago. I think anyone and everyone now has some kind of presence online and is selling something. How do you make yourself stand out in the crowd?

That brings me to the question of how important is networking in this new world of online selling? I believe that it is very important and is the same as word of mouth referral in the brick and mortar world. My next question is how much and how often do you network?

This blog is one way our group of online sellers network and we all post on many different topics and it helps our online presence.

Some of us have joined paid membership sites to learn and grow our businesses such as OSI Rock Stars and Web Sellers' Circle. Many of us have our own website including blogs with our businesses names, we Twitter, use Facebook and any other way we can to add to our network and generate sales.

There are many ways to track the traffic to your online venues and see what networking works the best for you but that is another post for another day. If you take a look through this post you will see how I used my links in the post to show you how easy it is to network. Today there is no excuse not to be doing some type of networking.