Wednesday, April 1, 2009

There must be something left you can sell.

You probably think you’ve already sold everything you own that had any financial value. But chances are, you’ve still got a few possessions that you can really cash in on if you auction them off on eBay.

Unlike a garage sale, eBay keeps personal interaction down to a minimum and spares you the shame of alerting the neighbors that you’re broke. EBay sells everything from baseball cards to virginity to Korans etched into the head of pins. And even in this economy, there always seems to be someone out there who wants to buy them.

So take a look around you with a fresh eye. Maybe you have a potato that looks like Abraham Lincoln (or Jesus on anything works). An old piece of ABC gum that was chewed by someone two degrees separated from Kevin Bacon. An ancient Roman coin dated 214 BC. A plot of swampland in Florida. A body part you're not using. Think outside the box.

Once you’ve decided on something to sell, how it’s presented is critical to the price you get. Writing the listing may be one of the rare instances in life where having writing skills can pay off.

Say you've decided to put one of your kidneys on the market. Here's the wrong way to list it:

One slightly used 45 year old kidney.

Opening bid: $9.99.

Shipping and handling: $86.95 in the US (first class mail).

In good working condition. Current owner has had no major illnesses or addictions since entering rehab in 1999. Kidney benefits from a calm lifestyle and a healthy diet rich in kidney beans. One of the best kidneys I've ever had. Will hate to part with it.

There are several glaring mistakes here. First of all, the subject line. The product has to sound enticing. Romance the kidney. Make it sound desirable. Secondly, anything over 40 years old should be referred to as “vintage” or “antique”. It sounds more appealing than “old” or “used”.

When listing a vital organ, humor is not always appreciated. Those in the market are generally in the mood for facts, not jokes. Lose the kidney bean comment. Potential buyers won't think you're serious.

Remember to include all important information (like your blood type). It’ll weed out responses from kidney shoppers who you’ll never be able to convert into buyers (unless you find a really dumb one). Make sure you leave no room for misunderstanding on your listing. Spell everything out. Clearly state your policy on returns and refunds.

The $9.99 opening bid seems a little low. Hospital expenses, missed work days and shipping costs must be factored in. If you don’t want to include the contingent costs in the opening price for fear of scaring off potential buyers, consider including them in the price of shipping. The added advantage of this method is the shipping and handling costs aren’t taxed.

Honesty is good, but the 1999 rehab mention could be handled more deftly. Give it a positive spin.

Photographs work better than illustrations. People think you're hiding something if you don't post a photo.

Make sure your words inspire action.. The more urgent, the better. Phrases like "I'm going to hate parting with it." raises doubts and nobody really believes it anyways.

Here’s the right way to list your kidney:

WOW! One rare vintage kidney—in flawless working order!

Opening bid: $9.99

Shipping and handling: $9,999,999.99

Highly sought after o+ blood type. Kidney underwent renovation and refurbishment in the 90s, so it’s like new!!! One look and you won’t be able to live without it!!! Left or right kidney available. Hurry, before it's too late. No returns, exchanges or refunds.


  1. Wow... Very unique blog.
    Fantastic pictures.
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  2. A kidney! That's a good idea. Great blog.

  3. I'm 65 and wondering whether my kidney should be listed as "vintage" or "antique". Help!

  4. your kidney takes a good picture.

  5. Dear success,
    Thanks for the compliment!
    I've always wanted to go to Bali. Can you help get me there for $0./day or less?

  6. Thank you, Gift Blogger. I'm working on a gift piece for the holidays. Any suggestions are welcome.

    And to Adslut: Thank you. My kidney watches America's Next Top Model.

  7. Dear anonymous: I checked with eBay and technically, anything under 100 years old would be considered "vintage" or a "collectable". "Experienced" also works.

  8. Dr. Lesley,
    One question:
    Since eBay requires that listings fall into a category, would my kidney have the best chance of selling if listed under household items/organs; collectables/personal effects; or foods/non-vegan?
    Thanks for this inspiring column, I'm sharpening my x-acto knife in anticipation of a little surgery tonight, right after a few bottles of anesthetic.

  9. This comment has been removed by the author.

  10. Great question, Soupless. List it under Health and Beauty/medical, mobility, disability/other, to attract those who NEED a kidney. Use the secondary listing option and also list it under Collectibles/Science and medicine, 1930-now, to attract collectors and well funded medical research labs.
    One more bit of advice: The minute the kidney leaves the body, it's value starts to depreciate. you might want to hold off on the surgery until after you've found a buyer and the money has been deposited in your paypal account.

  11. 1930? That really hurts, doctor.