FW-79 -- Frugal Favorites (A Guide to Online Auctioning)

* * * * * * * * F R U G A L W A T C H * * * * * * * *
A weekly roundup of how to be frugal in the world's most
expensive country to live (unless you read this!), written
and compiled by Wendy J. Imura.

Regular edition, November 8, 2005 Issue No. 79

- Frugal Favorites (A Guide to Online Auctioning)
- Credits

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+++ FRUGAL FAVORITES (A Guide to Online Auctioning)
(Note: While Frugal Watch author Wendy Jonas Imura is on
maternity leave, please enjoy a "Blast From the Past" - favorites
from past Frugal Watch issues. Wendy will resume new Frugal
Watch content later this month.)

Dear Frugal Readers,

One frequent dilemma of every foreigner in Japan, and one subject
that Frugal Watch frequently addresses, is how to get rid of unwanted
items. Unlike overseas, no readily accessible "catch all" for items
in good condition really exists - such as Goodwill in the United
States, a reliable newspaper classifieds section, or even the
perennial favorite garage sale.

One information-age solution in the United States has been the use
of E-bay, the mother of all online auction sites.
Online auctions in Japan are quite popular as well, and in general
quite effective: auction watching is a popular pastime among
Japanese young women and housewives, and you can sometimes
get quite good prices for your stuff. The major issue: the language
barrier. Unless you read or write elementary Japanese, auctioning
online can be a major hassle.

Despite this, I think it is worthwhile to explore the topic. I've had
several good experiences both auctioning my own items online,
and helping others do their own auctions. The first question is,
of course, what to auction: a quick troll online at the major Japanese
auction sites will show that the most popular items are usually used
or new brand name items, fashion items, children's items, and
electronics. CDs, books, and computer parts also sell well, while
furniture, men's clothing, and other items appear less popular.

In general, your first priority should be to make sure that the item
you want to sell is clean, free of stains, and in as good condition
as possible. If you are selling a brand name item, having the
original box, bag, or certificate of authenticity is almost a must.
If you are selling a coat or dress, dry clean it first and advertise
the fact - it will probably add some 10-20 percent to your final bid

The next step is to take a good quality digital photo of your item.
I recommend using a digital camera with a resolution of 2 megapixels
or higher - the tiny fuzzy camera on your cell phone will probably
not do. Take, and post, as many photos as your auction provider
will allow (usually five). Make sure your pictures of the item are
taken against a white or neutral-colored background in good light.
I usually take one overall picture of the item, then several detail
shots. If selling brand-name items or clothing, be sure and take
a picture of the tag, bag/box, or interesting/pretty detailing on
the item.

Once this is done, your next step is to select your auction provider,
and create an account with them. Of the major auction providers
(http://www.bidders.co.jp, http://www.rakuten.co.jp,
and http://auctions.yahoo.co.jp/), I selected Bidders, as it is the
only one of the three that allows you to create online auctions for free.
They take a percentage of your final auction price (usually 2-3 percent)
as a fee, but do not charge for failed auctions that do not end in
a winning bid. They will also charge your credit card for the auction
fees, which is quite handy.

The final step, after successfully registering, is to write up a brief
description of your item in Japanese, a title for your auction, and
decide your opening price. If you like, you can include some English
in your description - it might make it stand out! But be sure and have
the basics in Japanese.

I usually title my auctions with something like "geki yasu"
(very cheap) and then the item name, or advertising a unique
quality of the item (Used Tiffany Pendant with Original Box!).

I also try and set the ending time for my auctions at around 11:00
or 12:00 PM on a Saturday evening. Why? Most young women
shoppers with extra money to spend do their auction shopping in
these hours, and I've had several last-minute bidding wars help the
final bids on my items skyrocket as a result. If you are aiming for
the housewife crowd (for children's items, for example) you might
try an end-time for midday.

Finally, how to solve the language barrier: if you do not read/speak
Japanese, I would try and hook up with a good friend or partner
who does. If you have a Japanese spouse or partner, this always
helps, but if you don't - why not ask a friend? You can offer to do
the dirty work (photography, mailing, email checking) as long as
they help you with registration and Q&A from bidders. (Note: make
sure you check your email during your auction, as Japanese buyers
like to ask lots of questions about the item.) Even if your partner
is another foreigner, sometimes the 'unique' Japanese in your
advertisement actually helps sell the item.

Good luck online with your auctions, and I hope the above advice
is helpful!

Frugally Yours,
Wendy J. Imura

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Written by: Wendy J. Imura (frugalwatch@japaninc.com)
Edited by: JI

Copyright 2005 Japan Inc. Communications Inc.