I recently started a more stressful than relaxing hobby of selling stuff on eBay. I also sell on the Swiss equivalent auction site, Ricardo.ch; I do not know why it is that eBay does not have much penetration here in Switzerland. Could be that Swiss eBay is only in German, despite there being three other official languages of this country (French, Italian, and Romansh) and one unofficial but very widely used language (English — so widely used in fact that the Swiss Army uniforms have writing in all five languages). It could be too, that since Swiss postage rates are so high, shipping outside of the country becomes cost-prohibitive to participating on global auction sites.

You learn very quickly that when you sell used household goods or clothing, the products are really worth very little. So auction prices tend to be pretty low, but I’d rather make $10 on a bag that’s been hanging in the back of my closet for years, than leave it there to keep gathering dust. Plus, I’m currently in this purging phase, which I define as the need to eliminate everything extraneous from my home before adding anything more to it. Thus, this whole process in cathartic.

Once you start selling on eBay, you need to deal with all the fees. First there is eBay’s sale fee (10%), and then PayPal’s transaction fee (2.9% + $0.30), and finally shipping. Oh, and by the way, both eBay and PayPal charge their fees to the total sale price. In other words, PayPal does not wait to apply its fee to the reduced total after eBay applies its fees. Thus eBay deducts 10% of $10 which is $1, and PayPal deducts (2.9% + .30) of $10 which is $0.59. So, before shipping, that $10 I earned selling my old bag has already shrunk to $8.41.

The I get to deal with shipping and if you are like me living outside of the United States this is one big headache. I’ve spent hours pouring over Swiss Post’s website of fees, and have figured out that for *most* of my sales abroad, I can charge $18, which is not precisely the same as the CHF 18 I pay, but close enough. I’m getting better at recognizing the products and countries that will deviate from this flat rate; I do still get tripped up from time to time and it costs me. The shipping process in eBay is relatively transparent, so I just ask to get paid what it costs. But eBay has decided that because some people may reduce their sale price by padding their shipping rate in order to get more bidders and/or to avoid the sales fee, they charge the 10% fee on what they consider to be higher than standard shipping costs. And my $18 rate falls into that category. Therefore I get another $1.80 taken from my sale, bringing my take home to $6.61. Yes, the answer is I need to increase what I charge for shipping, but it is already pretty high and it makes it more difficult to compete for buyers. This is just something I’ll figure out eventually.

Now I am going to make a long story short. I made two sales last night, very cool! I packaged one of the sales this morning before work, and came home planning to package the other one and get down to the post office before it closed. Having exhausted my stash of boxes, I only had one left. In order to qualify for the CHF 18 rate, the box dimensions can be no larger than 90cm cubed and the one I had sitting outside on our balcony was just ever so slightly too big. I figured I would see what the shipping price is and if it is too much, I could buy a box of the correct dimensions at the post office, although I really wanted to avoid such drastic measures so as not to cut into my profit margin any further.

However, while packing the box, I saw a spider crawling around in the paper I was adding to cushion item. Sorry, let me repeat that: I SAW A SPIDER! Yes, I always have been, still am, and always will be afraid of spiders. I know, my mother always told me, they are more afraid of me than I am of them, and my husband repeated the same thing to me today when I freaked out while packing the box. He, however, was ordered to quickly tape the box closed and then stand guard while I added the address label just to be sure the creepy crawly didn’t try to escape. I’m completely frazzled at this point and just want to ship this sucker off to the U.S.

I get to the post office, and when they inform me that the box is just a few centimeters too big to qualify for the reduced shipping rate and that the regular economy price is CHF 45, I really had no choice but to accept it. I mean, what was I going to do, open the box and repackage it there knowing that there was an angry or scared spider desperate to get out? Yeah, that dude is on his way to America as I write this, and yeah I know this how movies like Outbreak and Contagion begin, and I totally took a loss on this auction, but at least I got that spider out of my house.