I Tried to Sell Stuff On eBay to Channel My Inner Gary Vee, Here’s What I Learned

My spring cleaning frenzy started a bit earlier than usual this year.

It all started with my cluttered bedroom. As an avid collector of weird and useless things, taking a stroll through the East Village is like venturing through the bountiful land of Canaan—except that the milk and honey are thrown out street art and quirky bar stools.

Unfortunately, this strange joy can dwindle pretty quickly when your thimble-sized New York apartment becomes a claustrophobic trove of street debris. My room desperately needed purging, but relegating previously trashed items back to the pavement felt weirdly perverted. Luckily, social media maverick Gary Vaynerchuck was there to give me a hand.

Gary’s effect on people is often transformative, and it’s not just because his advice is steeped in economic pragmatism. What is so seizing about his business savvy is the heart and conviction behind his words—Gary always finds a way to make the stressful climb toward financial stability something accessible with hard work, and not some far-flung fantasy.

One of his simplest, most inspiring video series focuses on his #TrashTalk yard sale runs. Traveling to New Jersey and beyond with his right hand cameraman and lead video editor David Rock (otherwise known as DRock), he flips bits of children toys, comic books and baseball cards into enough money for a month’s rent of a one-bedroom apartment in Lower Manhattan. Much like how Maiya Miller ran ads on LinkedIn to impress Gary, I decided to put some of his advice into action, killing two birds with one stone: I would make some extra dough while simultaneously regaining control of my living space.

Here’s what I learned from my glaring failures:

mannequin3 0
Artwork by Nick Baron

Free Shipping Entices Consumers

When I was thinking of candidates to put up for digital adoption, my superhero mannequin immediately came to mind. Bearing an eerie resemblance to Slenderman with its blank face, it was frankly too creepy to hold on to any longer. I didn’t want my room to look like a horror movie prop house anymore.

As a new disciple of the Gary Vee eBay gospel, my first order of business was to filter through the “sold listings” to get a sense of its potential value on the reseller market. Although mine wasn’t a full-body version, I knew its price tag was higher than your standard storefront model.  

Based on what I saw, I decided on $75. It seemed a sensible choice at the time, and I really thought it was a surefire sale. Who wouldn’t want the top half of a muscular, faceless mannequin in his man cave?

What I forgot to consider was the shipping cost. Whoops!

Mr. Buff Mannequin / Courtesy of Nick Baron

Offering “free shipping” is a well-known online marketing tactic. From mom-and-pop shops to corporate brands, the promise of free shipping is ubiquitous on e-commerce sites, giving the perception that the buyer is getting a deal.

Essentially, it is an easy maneuver that plays on consumer psychology. “Free shipping” is like a hood ornament—it’s just there to draw attention to your product. If you are concerned about losing money, you can just raise your price to cover the shipping cost. After making that small change, I went from eight views in seven days to 38 in three: Around a 91 percent increase in traffic per day.

On the flip side, a reasonable shipping fee can give off an air of honesty. Then again, if you are selling in a crowded category, a “free shipping” tag may separate your item from the pack. Success on eBay is contingent on experimentation: Play around a bit, tweak the conditions of your offerings and see what gets people clicking on your product.

Free shipping isn’t always the cure to a lack of traffic and offers from buyers, but it doesn’t hurt to switch up your tactics.  

Consider Alternatives to eBay


The internet is filled with countless alternatives to eBay, and all it takes is a quick Google search and some discipline to access them. Spend a couple hours researching—Netflix can wait!

I’ll never know because I never tried, but my mannequin might have fared far better on a site like Etsy, which specializes in selling vintage and handmade goods. Before choosing a C2C platform, think about the potential buyers for your product and figure out which site they are most likely to visit. An art major is much more likely to visit Etsy than collector’s haven Ruby Lane, a less popular destination for quirky wares.

Many of these reseller destinations are cheaper than eBay for selling products, charging less per listed item and having lower fixed commission rates. Some sites like eCrater don’t charge at all. Cha-ching!

Paris Hilton's Magnum Opus / Artwork by Nick Baron

Watch Out for Scammers!

Fifty dollars for this pink, glittery, gaudy monstrosity? Really?

I don’t mean to throw shade at Paris Hilton’s perfume line, but the packaging and bottle for her Rose Rush fragrance are objectively a bit extra.

Regardless, someone named “ojvs3972” wanted it for $30 over my asking price. It didn’t matter what my initial judgments were—as long as she was helping me pay my electric bill, I was Hilton’s new biggest fan!

The email that crushed my dreams. / Courtesy of Author

It turned that ojvs3972 was about as real as the tooth fairy. A word of advice: Make sure you have an actual buyer before throwing $10 down the drain for packing materials.

Gary Vee is a hard man to replicate, but I haven’t given up just yet. None of my lovable pieces of junk sold for anything, but I came away with a few lessons you might want to heed for your future reselling endeavors: Research before you list, consider every online offering and, above all, be patient!

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