Selling Broken Stuff on the Internet

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Sometimes I wonder how we got by before the internet.  It used to be that when something broke, you were out of luck.  Accept the damange and go buy another one. Now – thanks to auction sites like eBay – when something of yours breaks, you can sell it on the internet! People actually want to buy your broken stuff.  This can be a little tricky though, so be careful and follow these steps.

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List on a site that sells broken items. You can get in a lot of trouble for selling something that’s broken if you don’t do it right.  Sites that promote unique item sales are more likely to allow sales of broken items.  A site like eBay or craigslist is perfect.  A site that only sells new/used items like Amazon is not.

Be honest when you list the item. The first time anyone sells something that’s broken, they usually think to themselves “I have to hide that it’s broken or no one will buy it.” That’s only going to cause trouble.  These sites are well versed in handling this kind of thing.  If you fraudulently sell something like that, you will be forced to return the money and will probably lose shipping or face fees as well.  Put the item up and say it’s broken.  Describe what’s broken about it.  Make sure no one would possibly mistake it for a working version.

Show the broken part in a picture. To no fault of your own, there are still people who will occasionally buy something without reading the listing you made.  Unfortunately most online marketplaces will side with the buyer for purchasing something they didn’t pay any attention to, so you really do have to go the extra mile to get your point across.  Nothing says HEY, THIS IS BROKEN! quite like a picture.

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Ask for (and respond to) questions ASAP. Make it very clear on the listing page that you respond to questions promptly – and encourage people to send you those questions! Some will send you questions like “is this item working?”  I know it’s painful, but you need to respond to all these questions as soon as possible before they do something like bid on the item.  If the place you’re selling it is in an auction format, be prepared to get a lot of these questions a minute and a half before the listing ends.

Understand why people buy broken items. For some it makes a lot of sense.  If I know someone who can fix it, I’d save a lot of money buying something broken.  If I own an iPod repair company, I might buy up a lot of iPods to fix and resell.  Maybe your buyer wants your broken item for parts.  Whatever the reason, there is a very real market out there for broken things. Don’t get your hopes too high though.  If something’s broken, it’s going to sell for a lot less than if it weren’t.  You’ll still get more money than just throwing the item out, but it’s not a 1:1 ratio.

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Additional Tips

  • Your broken item may be under a manufacturer’s warranty. Do a quick Google search before you list it, some manufacturers have outstanding warranties!
  • Don’t bother with that extended warranty! You’ve been let in on the internet’s big resale secret.  Now when something breaks, you can sell it and buy a new one.  Depending on the item, you could even take less of a loss doing this than buying the warranty itself.  Also take into consideration the fact that most things don’t break.  Now what if you had bought warranties for all those things? Don’t do it.
  • Reselling instead of throwing away cuts down on waste.
  • Seriously thought about that extended warranty.  I wasn’t kidding, I could write an entire article about not buying extended warranties. They’re a scam.
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