I hate clutter. I love selling extraneous stuff and making money. But because I mostly donate my belongings or take them to secondhand/consignment stores, I don’t have an established selling presence on sites like eBay or Amazon.
These characteristics make me an ideal candidate for eBay’s Valet program, which sells products for people on eBay on a consignment basis. eBay launched Valet a year ago, in December 2013, to cater to people who don’t want to spend time and energy selling products on eBay or who don’t know how to sell on eBay.
Participating in Valet is easy: Request a mailing label or box online; pack up the items you want to sell; and FedEx them to the nearest Valet facility. Valet workers (also just called Valets) will unpack your box, list your items on eBay and ship them to buyers, if they sell. You get 70% of the item’s purchase price; Valets take a 30% commission. Proceeds are transferred into your PayPal account. All communication takes place over email.
Unlike brick-and-mortar consignment stores, Valet consignors never have to meet or talk to the people who actually sell their items. This setup reduces operational costs, but can breed confusion between the two groups.
Curious how other people had fared with Valet, I began reading the comments left in eBay’s own online forums. I found dozens of posts relaying negative experiences. There were tales of lost packages, error-filled item descriptions, bizarre pricing strategies and weeks-long payment delays. (When I tried out Valet myself, I experienced all of these mishaps except for the lost packages problem.) People whose items sold successfully through Valet seemed as irritated as people whose items failed to sell at all—they were just annoyed for different reasons.
Perhaps most surprising was the fact that eBay didn’t sell Valet items itself; it contracted out the work to companies based in Indiana and southern California. Yet many consignors believed eBay was handling their item listings and sales. This misconception led to inflated expectations since these consignors assumed eBay would wield its expertise and/or inside knowledge to masterfully market their products.
Clearly, there were multiple issues with the Valet program, yet no publication had covered them. So I decided to write an article myself. You can read that story here, on Medium.com. I tried to outline the frustrations people have with Valet as well as the advances eBay has made to the program over the past four to six months. Compared to the beginning of the year or even this past summer, Valet listings look better, waiting times have decreased and processing charges have been eliminated. So, if you had a negative experience with Valet early this year, you may want to give it another chance.
Challenges remain, however. To continue to improve Valet I would recommend:
- eBay provide consignors with more information upfront (to eliminate any false impressions about which company is responsible for what)
- Valets collect more data from consignors (to improve their item listings)
- Valets tweak their selling prices (since they often seem strangely high or low)
Consignors, meanwhile, should lower their expectations. Despite its name, Valet is not a white-glove service. It is a high-volume, outsourced work-in-progress. If you would be happy to earn any amount of money from your consigned items, you’ll probably be satisfied with Valet. If you hope to fetch top dollar, you should sell your products yourself.
Feel free to ask me questions about Valet by commenting on this post.
UPDATE: Ina Steiner, who runs the EcommerceBytes blog wrote two pieces about eBay Valet. This one, in which she interviewed me about my eBay Valet experience, is more of an overview of the program and its impact on small-scale eBay consignment sellers. This piece looks at a current promotion eBay is running to encourage people to try the Valet program.