RISC World

eBay True Life Story: Robert Pugh

Bored with the fast-paced life of a business executive, Robert Pugh decided to take a change in direction and to earn his money through eBay. He then wrote a book all about it...

When most of us reach 40, our mid-life crisis makes us do silly things. Whether it's buy a car, go bungie jumping or quit a job with a six figure salary the aim at the end of the day is to get more pleasure out of life.

Having worked for the same company for 24 years, Robert reached his 40th birthday and resigned. Tired of life being so hectic all of the time, he was after a new life. One where it could be taken more relaxed, and where stress has lost all of its meaning. While he'd used eBay briefly before, it now became a potential means to earn an income; hence he adapted his activities to support his new life.

He wrote a book, The eBay Business Handbook, which explains in detail how to build a business on eBay. From selecting stock through to completing that first sale; and ways to promote your listings too. Is Robert regretting his decision to leave work for eBay? Not at all. Life in the fast lane is somewhat lacking when you can't enjoy it.

What first prompted you to get involved with eBay?

It was my former boss who first introduced me to eBay back in January 2003, well he was actually my General Manager. I was a Senior Account Manager with BT and we were at a Corporate lunch at the top of the BT Tower. When your General Manager tells you how lucrative eBay can be, you have to take notice. That evening I logged onto eBay and was hooked. In April 2005 things got a little more serious when I resigned from my job of 24 years to sell on eBay full time, although I was a little nervous.

What was the first item you bought, and were you pleased with it?

I know most people start by buying and then progress to selling, for me it was selling from day one. The first thing I actually bought was a collection of Lego sets, they were all mixed up, but I assembled each set, resold them and made a tidy profit. In my house there are defined roles, my wife buys things and I sell them.

First item sold?

We are going back a few years now to when songs were recorded on large black vinyl discs, it was my collection of Black Sabbath and Hawkwind LPs. My listings were terrible, no picture, poor description and I even misjudged the postage - those were truly happy days.

What was your best eBay experience?

Every time I watch an auction end with the price rising into the final seconds, the rush is still as exhilarating as the first time. Perhaps the most memorable experiences are of the high profit sales; the box of train accessories bought at a car boot sale for £20 and sold for £1,400 and a collection of Napoleonic figures bought from the local paper small ads for £220 and sold for £1,700.

And your worst?

When my computer goes slow in the final seconds of bidding and a screen refresh shows that my bid was just too late!

In almost 10,000 trades I have had three negatives, the first one felt like a personal attack, I sulked for days. My other bad experience comes with non-payers, 1% don't pay and it is a real pain with admin fees to be re-claimed and items re-listed.

What advice would you give new users, when it comes to scams?

When buying, check the seller's details, their feedback and track record of sales. Ask yourself why would somebody offer to sell you an item at a fraction of it's price. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never deal outside of eBay as you will lose seller protection and make payment through Paypal or by personal cheque where possible.

Remember that by paying through Paypal you are offered a degree of protection should the item not be delivered. In many cases you can make a claim through Paypal and they will refund the money direct to your account.

When selling, only post to a confirmed address and never to Nigeria! Obtain payment before you send the item, sell only within the eBay system.

How would you recommend a new user gets prepared for eBay?

Put on a big pot of coffee, kick back and do some homework. Check out the site, click on as much information as possible and make notes as you go. When buying, compare similar items for price, condition and postage charges. Check out the seller and ask questions if you need to.

When selling for the first time, think small. Size does matter, sell something that is easy to pack and post, learn how the system works, refine your own processes and then expand.

Whether buying or selling, learn how the advanced search engines function, they are very impressive and are invaluable for every eBay user.

What precautions would you recommend?

Whenever money changes hands there will be the opportunity for fraud. However, this is not as widespread as the media would have you believe. Be aware that nobody will sell you a genuine X-Box 360 for £50 and if somebody offers you £300 for your two year old mobile phone if you post it to Romania, alarm bells should ring.

Read the community notice boards and NEVER enter personal details via a link sent to you in an e-mail.

You can find Robert's book at or in your local bookstore. Why not take a look at eBay, and search for The eBay Business Handbook. You may find it cheaper than anywhere else.

David Bradforth