RISC World

Buying & Selling Online: HelpDesk

When you run into problems buying or selling online, the RISC World helpdesk is here to help. We welcome new questions to the address at the bottom of the article; after all we're here to help. And if we don't know the answer, Aaron knows a man who does...

It has been an age since RISC World included a Q&A page, so I felt it time to bring it back. Our focus this time is very much on what I had to hand - eBay. Having just completed eBay Advisor magazine, I felt a large chunk of this would be relevant to RISC OS users so what I've brought below is a selection of questions and answers covering online commerce.

We're looking to bring the HelpDesk back to RISC World on a regular basis. If you do have any questions for the RISC World helpdesk, direct them to me directly ( and I'll answer directly. We'll then put your answers into print for the benefit of everybody else.

Sound good? Okay, let's begin....

Lost password
Help! I have not been on the QXL auction site for a while and I now find that I cannot remember my password. What can I do? Alison Stevens

You can get your password emailed to you. Just go to and enter your email address. However, you will not receive the password if you have changed your email address because your new one will not be registered with the site. In this case, you could try contacting the customer service department on 011 3236 0640 or or simply create a new account with a new alias and password.

Wrong feedback
I am a new member on eBay and have been trying to get a good feedback rating. I have received five feedback comments and they are all positive. However, if I look at my member profile, it says that my feedback score is only three. Is the fault at eBay's end or with my computer? I should have a score of five. Rachael Thomas

Neither eBay nor your computer is at fault and it is actually possible to have a feedback score that is different to the number of feedback ratings that have been left. The reason is that for feedback to increase your score, it must come from different people. You cannot buy 10 items from the same person and then get a score of 10. Your member profile page will show the 10 feedback comments, but your score would only be one, because only one person has left feedback.

Cutting costs
It is all very well selling things on eBay, but all the costs add up. A listing costs money when you create the auction, another fee is added when you sell something, and fees go to PayPal when the buyer pays for it. Sometimes there isn't much profit left! How can I cut costs? Phillip Jackson

One way to cut costs is to wait until eBay has a special offer. Keeps your eyes peeled and watch for notices of when these will take place because they can happen at any time. For example eBay regularly has 5p listing days at which every item you list (in a basic auction or buy it now format) costs just 5p per insertion.

PayPal does not charge you for sending or receiving money if you have a Personal account, so it sounds like you have a Premier account. This is compulsory if you want people to be able to pay you using a credit card, but then PayPal slaps on a charge. The only way to avoid the charges is not to use it. You could tell your customers that you prefer payment via a cheque. Of course, this is not as convenient and is a step back rather than forward.

eBay is huge and it sometimes seems that everyone is using it, but there are several other auction Web sites that you could try. Some are cheaper than eBay. For example, QXL (, charges just 5p to create an auction listing for items up to £4.99, whereas eBay charges 20p. The savings are even greater for more expensive items. QXL's final value fee is just 3.75% for the first £29.99, but eBay charges 5.25%. There are more savings for higher priced items.

It is certainly wise to shop around and don't just use eBay because it is the best known. Take a look at the others like QXL, which is cheaper and eBid (, where you can create auctions for free.

Size Matters
Can you tell me what the maximum size of a parcel is that I can send via second class post? I have just started selling some larger items and want to use the cheapest postal method. Stephen Stewart

If the parcel is rectangular, then the maximum size of a second class item is 610mm x 460mm x 460mm. However, if the item is cylindrical, such as a rolled up poster, then it can be up to 900mm long, but the length plus twice the diameter must not exceed 1040mm. Best get your calculator out for that! Second class items also have a weight restriction and they must be under 750g.

These size limitations apply to first class post items too. However, you can send slightly heavier items and the maximum permitted weight is 2Kg. Anything over this size or weight must be sent using the Standard Parcels service which has fewer limitations.

It's worth adding that the UK postal system will, in August, be going through a tremendous shake up. A new system where you are charged by the size of your item will be introduced - pricing in proportion. We'll have an update on the implications for online sellers in a future issue of RISC World.

Mailing charges
I am in the process of setting up an online store to sell some items I currently make as a hobby for friends and relatives. The idea is to run this as a small business from home in my spare time. My problem is that I don't know what to charge for postage and packaging. Without driving to town and getting each item weighed at the Post Office, how can I tell how much they will cost to post? Gary Taylor

Go to the Post Office's Web site at The design of the site changes occasionally, but the information that you need is always there somewhere. When we visited, there was a drop-down list on the right-hand side from which you can select either first class or second class post and a wide range of other services like recorded delivery, special delivery by 9.00am next day, HM Forces Mail and so on. Just select the one you want and click the Go button.

Scroll down the page and you will see a table showing weights and costs. For small items up to a kilogram or so, you can use ordinary kitchen scales to find the weight and then look up the cost on the site. Remember that the weight includes packaging too, so either weigh it packaged or add a bit more to allow for it. You can also add a bit more to the cost of posting to cover your time too, after all, you have to wrap up the item and take it to the post office.

Trade Secrets: Be a success
Do you wish that your auctions were better? Are you struggling to sell items that should be going like hot cakes? Do you want to make more money online? Of course you do, but how do you go about it? The secrets of success are revealed in a free publication you can get from the iBusiness School. The book is called 5 Ways To Be Successful On eBay and to get your free copy, just go to and type in your name, email address and company (if relevant). The book shows how to get started, present your listings, pricing strategies, fraud issues, and building a store.

David Bradforth