Our Infamous eBay Store Story

I’ve talked a bit about our fairly success eBay store which my dad and I used to run in the past.

There’s been some inquisitive minds, including Maggie at Northern Expenditure, so this one’s for you.

July 4th, 2008 was the day we opened up Suncoast Classic Bikes in St. Pete Beach, Florida. It was a brick-and-mortar classic motorcycle shop where my dad and I repaired, restored, and serviced older motorcycles that were mainly produced between the 1960’s and the 1980’s. We also offered various apparel for sale such as jackets, helmets, gloves, shirts, and sweat shirts.

As you probably know, 2008 was when the Recession hit and most people weren’t spending money on luxuries like they once did.

The timing couldn’t have been worse!

Combine that with the overhead costs of rent, utilities, being bonded and insured, and having to have someone consistently at the storefront and it was costing us an arm and a leg.

We thought that most of these things sucked so when our lease was up a year later in 2009, we decided to move operations back into our 2-car garage at home.

With leftover inventory in the form of motorcycles and clothing, I decided to see what we could sell on eBay.

Like anything new, things were moving slow at first.

It didn’t take long to list all of our clothing inventory on eBay and I quickly realized that motorcycles were a logistical nightmare to try to ship. Not to mention, pretty damn expensive! No one wants to buy a motorcycle for a couple thousand and then spend a couple thousand to ship on top of it!

On a whim, I decided to list everything that our clothing supplier offered for sale in our eBay store. I just took their pictures and I developed a description which I easily copied and pasted. It wasn’t difficult work but it was time-consuming, tedious, and monotonous.

That turned out to work well. Very, very well.

And it was great too because we didn’t have any inventory.

This is how things went down:

A customer would place an order on eBay and pay for it. We’d take that money and place an order with our supplier. Our supplier would make it for us and ship it to us. We’d then ship it to our customer. Most often, it would arrive to us and be shipped out just a few hours later. We didn’t even have to waste a trip to the Post Office for domestic orders. Our mailman would pick it up from our house. Everyone was happy!

For a while.

Since whole motorcycles weren’t really selling and they weren’t easy to ship, just for shits and giggles, I thought that we should take the motorcycles apart and sell the parts separately on eBay. We’d be a legit and legal chop-shop if you want to think of it like that.

That turned out to be pretty lucrative as well. Apparently, people enjoy putting in the work and restoring their motorcycles on their own. They don’t necessarily want a bike that’s already finished and ready to go.

How much money we made on these parts was determined on the condition of the part and how “rare” the motorcycle was. Old Ducati and Triumph parts sold for a lot more than Yamaha and Honda parts because higher number of these types of motorcycles were produced.

These two breakthroughs led us to make just under $130,000 in revenue selling on eBay that first year.

But things weren’t that simple for a couple of reasons.

Mainly, people didn’t like that it took so long for them to get their clothing even though we specifically wrote in the item description that it could take a certain time frame for their product to arrive since they were made-to-order.

eBay also came up with a new rating system. Customers would rate you on certain criteria such as if the item was accurately described, if shipping rates were fair, and how quick shipping times were.

That’s the one that really hurt us. We got enough poor ratings that eBay banned our account from selling ever again. Thousands of transactions later and we were done for.

We tried creating our own website and directing traffic and sales to there but results weren’t that favorable.

It was also a huge bummer that eBay would take about 10% of our sales. Not to mention that PayPal took a cut too and we had to pay for shipping supplies as well. When all was said and done, our margins went down from making about 35% profit to about 20%. It’s not horrible for some products and industries but it is when you’re selling products that sell for $20-45 each.

It was a fun ride while it lasted and I definitely learned a lot about business and how things worked. It was a great hands-on experience for a 20-year old.

Have you ever had an eBay store? Any similar experiences?