Since its inception, eBay has changed the way that we get rid of our junk. Things we thought too unique to find an audience at a garage sale or local flea market were tossed to the back of the closet or dumped at the local landfill. But the proliferation of the popular internet auction site hasn't just meant a resurgence for hawkers, but also for entrepreneurs, including local Steve Adler and his wife, Priscilla, who have seen their six-month-old I Sold It on eBay store thrive in West Ashley.
The concept of the store is, "you drop it off and wait for the check," says Steve Adler. The couple takes in anything with an expected value of $50 or more and places it on eBay. They take photos and add descriptions for the item, field questions from prospective buyers, and then ship the things that sell, with the couple collecting a third of the selling price under $500 and a quarter if it's over $500. If the item doesn't sell, it's returned to the owner at no charge. In the six months that the store has been open, the Adlers have sold about 2,000 items at an average price of $180 to $200 a piece.
The idea for the store came when the retired Kiawah Island couple visited their daughter in Kentucky. She had been excitedly selling things through her local I Sold It store, but the couple couldn't find a local store when they returned to Charleston.
"We thought, 'Why not open one ourselves?'," says Steve Adler. So the couple bought the franchise rights for Charleston, along with future franchise opportunities in Dorchester and Berkeley counties.
A tour around the store shows just what people are looking to unload. There's an old food processor and a sewing machine, large puppets in medieval clothes, a stove for an RV, a kayak, a toilet seat, a candy machine, an orchid grower, and 62 boxes of Star Wars memorabilia.
Adler says he's able to sell about 80 percent of the stuff that they take in. Some of the items that sell well are eBay staples like car parts and electronic equipment. Things online now include a variety of keyboards and cameras and enough car parts to start putting a vehicle together.
While other stores in Greenville and Myrtle Beach have failed, Adler says his business has thrived because he and his wife both own and operate the store and because South Windermere is a high-traffic area with many of the types of customers looking to use the store. Typically, their customers are divorcées ditching the rings or anything else that reminds them of the unhappy union, newlyweds getting rid of unwanted wedding gifts, or older people settling in to a smaller home or condo and needing to downsize.
And sometimes its the average Joe who's found something in the back of the closet that might be worth something to someone, just not to them.
Adler notes there's been hundreds of items he's just turned away.
"They're either not going to sell or they're too low-cost," he said. "I'm not going to make any money and they're not going to make any money."
Those items include things that aren't worth much, like clothes and comic books; stuff that is too difficult to ship, like china and furniture; and things that just don't sell, including chandeliers, random paintings, and old luggage.
That's not to say there aren't exceptions to the rule, particularly designer jeans.
"Girls will walk in here with jeans that have holes and rips all in them and I think they should be in the garbage," Adler says. "Then they end up selling for $400 dollars and I'm like, 'Oh my God.'"
There are other times when people have unrealistic expectations for their items.
"There will be people that say, 'I paid $800 for that. I want my $800 back'," Adler says.
While the appeal for some sellers is that they'll be able to find affluent collectors willing to drop a lot of money for a unique item, more often then not the eBay buyer is somebody looking for a deal.
"It's really a glorified garage sale," Adler says.
Things that sell well:
• Toys and electric trains
• Collectable coins
• Name brand clothes and accessories
• Musical instruments
• Unused appliances
• Authentic sports memorabilia
• Sports equipment
• High-end jewelry
• Boating items
• Electronics (stereos, cameras, computers)
• Artwork from known artists
• Automobile parts
• Horse saddles
• Old clocks
Things that don't sell well:
• Paintings from unknown artists
• Comic books
• Old furs
• Luggage (unless new)