CLOSE
iStock
iStock

10 Secrets of eBay PowerSellers

iStock
iStock

When selling on eBay ceases to be a hobby and starts to become a career, the site may honor you with its vaunted PowerSeller status—a designation reserved only for those with high sales volume and exceptional customer service. It’s an exclusive club with a lot of benefits and more than a few headaches: a seller’s policies, after all, may not always mesh with eBay’s.  

So what happens when you become a member of the elite? We asked e-commerce experts and a bonafide PowerSeller for the inside scoop on the perks (and perils) of being a professional eBayer.  

1. You’ll Get Bumped to the Top of Searches.

eBay’s search engine is a proprietary tool that considers a lot of things when you type “Spider-Man body pillow” into its prompt. The company doesn’t reveal all the factors of turning out a results page, but according to Ina Steiner, co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes.com, PowerSeller items are usually among the first to be seen.  

Since PowerSellers are grouped based on volume—lower-tier accounts must have a minimum of 100 transactions a year, while Gold, Platinum, and Titanium sellers can graduate into international powerhouses with thousands of items sold—preferred search engine placement can make a radical difference in bottom lines. (So can listing discounts, which can be as much as 20 percent off Final Value Fees.)

“It gives you more visibility on the site,” says Dave Knittel, a Silver PowerSeller who runs TygaToys. “People are usually just looking at the first page. They’re not scrolling.”

2. Buyers Won’t Necessarily Know You’re A Big Shot.

eBay no longer displays a PowerSeller logo next to a seller’s user name for buyers to see. Their other badge for providing exceptional customer service, Top Rated Seller, is also invisible to everyone but the seller and the site. In order to humble-brag to consumers in listings, sellers need to qualify for Top Rated Plus status, offering same or next-day shipping and a generous 14 day return policy.

That little icon does matter, according to Marsha Collier, author of eBay for Dummies. “If the price is close, generally people will go with the Top Rated Seller,” she says. “It makes a huge difference.”

3. You’re Five Stars or You’re Nothing.

Ever go into a department store and have a cashier ask (or plead) to call the number on your receipt and award five stars for great service? The same is true on eBay, where buyers can fill out Detailed Seller Ratings, a star system evaluating their shopping experience. The totals are counted toward an Order Defect Rate, eBay’s way of measuring customer satisfaction. If more than two percent of your total transactions have a “defect,” you could lose your PowerSeller/Top Rated Seller perks. As a result, Knittel and other sellers often explain to buyers that they aim for five-star service; some slip notes into packaging encouraging high marks.

4. You Can Sell Too Much.

iStock

In late 2013, Steiner profiled “John Doe,” a Titanium PowerSeller who had planned on hiring more employees in order to grow his substantial eBay business. He was surprised to learn the site had throttled his account, putting a cap on the volume of items he could sell. Feedback from eBay indicated they look at a seller’s tenure with the site in order to place caps. (Letting an unproven seller run wild could, in theory, hurt eBay when buyers come looking for refunds.)

The problem? Mr. Doe did not know he had a selling limit. That could mean investing in an online presence without knowing if you’ll be able to recoup inventory costs. You can call eBay to try and get your limits raised, but there’s no guarantee they’ll say yes.

5. Buyers May Try to Extort You.

If you haven’t logged in to eBay recently, you may be surprised to learn that sellers can no longer leave negative feedback for buyers. But sellers depend highly on received feedback—specifically, a lack of negative comments. Buyers know this, Steiner says, and some purposely angle for discounts before leaving positive marks.

“Each seller has to make a determination whether it’s worth it,” she says. “But you need those sales in order to stay at the top of search results.”

6. One Size Doesn’t Fit All.

eBay’s preferred return policy for sellers is fairly clear: anything should be returnable for any reason. But certain categories aren’t quite so black and white. Used clothing, for example, lends itself to frequent returns; antique collectibles can be more weathered-looking than expected. And once a buyer returns something through eBay’s system, it’s considered a “defect” that goes against a seller’s two percent margin for error—even if the item wasn’t defective or misrepresented.

“Sellers say eBay is trying to use one set of guidelines across different types of products,” Steiner says. “Used clothing has a high return rate, but you still get penalized for returns. It’s the same set of requirements as someone who might sell iPod cables.”

7. You Can Beat Bad Feedback.

It’s likely easier to get a criminal record expunged than it is to get negative feedback removed from eBay. That’s why sellers who get hit with poor marks sometimes enter a new category and ring up a slew of transactions in order to dilute the harm of a sale gone wrong.

8. China Will Undercut You.

iStock

The United States Postal Service’s deal to subsidize Chinese suppliers can actually make it cheaper for them to ship small items to American buyers than if they were in the U.S. “There are things you can’t sell on eBay as a U.S. seller,” Knittel says. “These guys are selling for a nickel with free shipping. They might only make pennies, but it’s volume.”

9. Health insurance? They Thought About It.

In 2002, former CEO Meg Whitman announced PowerSellers would be eligible for health insurance via the site. It was premature, and slightly confusing. What if sellers failed to meet sales goals in a given month? “The program ultimately provided only catastrophic coverage,” Steiner says, “and was never widely adopted by sellers.”

10. First Rule of Diamond Sellers: You Never Talk About Diamond Sellers.

In 2008, eBay partnered with Buy.com and allowed the retailer to sell DVDs and books without paying listing fees as part of their newest and highest-tier PowerSeller status: Diamond. Exact qualifications to attain that rank have never been disclosed; Steiner believes it might be due to the fact that perks are different for everyone. Benefits like personalized account managers are often rumored but never confirmed. It wouldn’t be too hard to arrange concierge services: at one time, as few as 10 Diamond sellers were thought to exist.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
John Fielding, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
arrow
science
9 'Scientific Mysteries' the Internet Loves, Debunked
John Fielding, Flickr // CC BY 2.0
John Fielding, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Whether it involves aliens, moving rocks, or crop circles, no one loves a scientific mystery like the internet—even if that "mystery" was solved years ago using all of the rigors of science. Here are 10 so-called mysteries that the global online community can't bear to part with, debunked once and for all (we hope).

1. KUMMAKIVI BALANCING ROCK // RUOKOLAHTI, FINLAND

The "Mystery": This so-called "strange rock" is a balancing act comprised of two rocks, one teetering precipitously on top of the other. Locals of ancient yesteryear, apparently perplexed to discover that the top rock was in no danger of sliding off the bottom rock despite the extremely small point of contact between them—and was, in fact, too heavy to be moved at all—decided giants tossing boulders explained the phenomenon. "And it's true," one theorist wrote: "There is still no exact scientific explanation, but contrary to the laws of physics, the stone stands quite firmly and human strength is not enough to move it."

Science Says: It's not true, actually. Geologists put forward a much more likely cause for this balancing rock and the countless others that exist worldwide: Melting glaciers deposited them where they currently squat.

2. FAIRY CIRCLES // NAMIBIA

geographic features called fairy circles in namibia, created by termites and plants
iStock

The "Mystery": Are they footprints of the gods? Barren patches caused by a dragon's fiery breath? Marks left behind by UFOs? All of these ideas were perpetuated by the internet after tour guides in the region passed them on to tourists, according to The New York Times. The scientific community was pretty sure the dirt circles found in the Namib Desert were none of those things, even though they were hard-pressed to come up with a more logical explanation—until recently.

Science Says: Research published in 2017 suggests that they're the work of colonies of termites, which clear circular patches around their nests; the barrenness of these shapes is possibly enhanced by plants as they stretch their roots to reach scarce water—which prevents other plants from growing in the process.

3. KLERKSDORP SPHERES // OTTOSDAL, SOUTH AFRICA

klerksdorp sphere
Robert Huggett

The "Mystery": These grooved spheres have been the subject of many strange theories, most revolving around the existence of intelligent aliens who made the pod-like trinkets—which apparently can rotate on their axes—using intelligent alien technology and otherworldly metals some 3 billion years ago. Virtuescience.com has proposed a whole host of theories about the spheres' uses, including ancient ammunition, messages from space, and currency.

Science Says: Geologists have a more tempered explanation for how the spheres came to be: They're concretions—little balls of rock that have grown around a core object—of the minerals hematite, wollastonite, or pyrite that have hardened over time in nests of volcanic ash or sediment. The myth of alien metalworking skills was debunked back in 1996, but it still resurfaces every once in a while.

4. WEBDRIVER TORSO // YOUTUBE

The "Mystery": The Webdriver Torso YouTube account has been freaking out the internet with its videos for several years. Commentors posited that the videos—which were usually 11 seconds long and featured colored rectangles moving around on a white screen—were spy code, alien code, or recruitment searches for expert hackers. At the channel's peak, videos were uploaded as often as every two minutes.

Science Says: Google revealed in 2014 that they were simply video clips the company had created to test the quality of YouTube videos. "We're never gonna give you uploading that's slow or loses video quality, and we're never gonna let you down by playing YouTube in poor video quality," the company told Engadget in a statement/Rickroll. "That's why we're always running tests like Webdriver Torso." Conspiracy theorists, however, pointing out that videos had been uploaded elsewhere before Google took credit for the channel, continued to suspect darker intentions. One reddit user posited in 2015 that Google "could … have a secret agenda." Maybe Google wants this chatter to continue: Even today, googling "Webdriver Torso" will yield an easter egg.

5. SAILING STONES // DEATH VALLEY NATIONAL PARK, CALIFORNIA

Sailing stones of Death Valley National Park
Thomas Hawk, Flickr // CC BY-NC 2.0

The "Mystery": Known alternately as sliding, walking, or moving rocks, for more than 100 years these so-called "living stones" have seemingly slid across the floor of a dry lake bed all on their own, leaving trails of their movements—and causing plenty of speculation. Magnetic force is one popular theory, along with psychic energy and the interventions of alien spacecraft. Some claim a 700-pound stone named Karen disappeared for two years, only to somehow reappear again.

Science Says: In 2014, scientists studied the situation and discovered that the stones move when the lake bed they rest on becomes covered with rainwater that freezes overnight into a sheet of ice; when the ice melts, it pushes the rocks here and there—assisted by Death Valley's powerful winds. (No word on what Karen's been up to, though.)

6. NAZCA LINES // NAZCA, PERU

Aerial view of a geoglyph representing a Duck or a Dinosaurius at Nazca Lines
Martin Bernetti, AFP/Getty Images

The "Mystery": If conspiracy theorists like aliens, they love ancient aliens. When it comes to the Nazca lines, they speculate that ancient astronauts from outer space drew almost 1200 geometric, animal, and plant shapes in a vast, arid plateau on Peru's Pampas de Jumana. Ranker.com also purports that the designs were made by humans, "most likely to signal extraterrestrials," and possibly to provide a runway for their space ships.

Science Says: The truth—which has been known since at least the 1940s—is that the figures were created 1500 to 2000 years ago by the Nazca people, who removed rocks and/or a portion of topsoil to create an image in negative. At first, scientists believed the figures were astronomical symbols, or an early sort of calendar, but later research indicated the drawings were used ritualistically, in ceremonies involving the quest for scarce water.

7. BERMUDA TRIANGLE // ATLANTIC OCEAN

aerial view of bermuda

Peter Burka, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

The "Mystery": Three hundred ships and planes, all supposedly sunk or gone missing in the same general area in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean: The Bermuda Triangle (so-named by pulp writer Vincent Gaddis in 1964) has had conspiracy theorists of all stripes spouting endless theories for years. Atlantis! Alien interventions! An opening in the fabric of the universe! Attack by sea monsters! A popular theory in the 1970s involved magnetism wreaking havoc on navigational devices, and one more recent theory suggested that bursting bubbles of methane gas were responsible for missing craft. Online speculations, like this one from BuzzFeedBlue, attempt to stoke the (nonexistent) fire.

Science Says: This has been settled for decades—there is no mystery. In 1975, librarian turned investigative author Larry Kusche unearthed the actual facts: Some "missing" vessels were simply made up; some sank far from the Triangle; and others along the route—which is still heavily trafficked today—fell prey to the region's frequent bad storms.

8. CROP CIRCLES // BRITAIN

The "Mystery": A lot of otherworldly meaning has been ascribed to these designs squished into fields of wheat, rapeseed, and barley. Once again, aliens—mathematical-genius aliens this time—are said to be responsible for them, hiding complicated messages in the circles' sometimes intricate imagery. Others suggest they're spiritual centers that beam energy. In the video above, a farmer who found an intricate crop spiral in his field says, "I don't know what caused it, but I'm not sure that it was made by people."

Science Says: The truth is simple, and perhaps disappointing, which may explain why the alien theory never seems to die: The circles are made under cover of darkness by people, sometimes with the permission of the farmers whose land they're created on. They use measuring devices, rollers, and other low-tech gear to push patterns into grain.

9. ATA THE MUMMY // ATACAMA, CHILE

The "Mystery": When a small, oddly shaped, strangely featured mummy was discovered in Chile's Atacama Desert in 2003, some on the internet called it proof that beings from space had once lived among humans—and perhaps even mated with them. The mummy had 10 ribs instead of the typical 12; a strangely sloped head; and at just 6 inches long, was fetus-sized, but its bones were as dense as a child's. Some thought that the 9 percent of the mummy's DNA that didn't match the human DNA they compared it to was further evidence of its non-human origins. As UFO/ET conspiracy theorist Steven Greer says in the above clip, "Is that all computer read error? Maybe. Is it what's called DNA junk? Perhaps. We don't know."

Science Says: Testing of Ata's genome destroyed these theories, proving that Ata was 100 percent human and died, likely in utero, from genetic defects. Many of these mutations related to bone development, explaining her missing ribs and thick bones. Exposure to nitrate-contaminated drinking water may have been a factor in her deformations as well. And that 9 percent genetic difference? Standard contamination of a mummy that was exposed to the open air.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
arrow
Big Questions
Why Do Memes Usually Feature All-Caps White Font?
By Iamlilbub, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons via MakeAMeme.org

Why is all-caps white font so often used in memes?

Archie D'Cruz:

Because of laziness, mostly. And Microsoft.

A great majority of memes floating around on the internet today are created using meme generators—web tools where you can select an image, add your text, and post it to social media. Easily done in under a minute without you having to fiddle around in Photoshop.

What’s common to just about all of them is the default setting: the same blocky typeface, in white all-caps, and text outlined in black. Those settings make it easy to read on virtually any image, dark or light.

Most of the popular meme generators don’t allow you to change the typeface, the color or the case, but even with the ones that do, these options are downplayed. So when you do run into a meme, you will almost certainly see something like this:

A screen shot of several popular internet memes

But how did this come to become the default? That’s where Microsoft comes in.

The typeface used in most memes is Impact, created in the sixties when the Swiss typographic style—clean, strong, legible—began to dominate graphic design. It was created by Geoffrey Lee, who sold it to British typeface foundry Stephenson Blake, which in turn sold it to Monotype after getting out of the font business.

As the internet gained in popularity in the '90s, Microsoft spearheaded a project to create a standard pack of fonts for the web.

It licensed 11 fonts, including Impact, from Monotype, and published them as freeware. These were included in the Windows 98 operating system, which dominated the market at the time.

Little surprise, then, that the earliest memes—which were created using MS Paint or Photoshop—would feature Impact. Along with Arial Black, it was easily the strongest of the core fonts and the most legible when placed on an image. Unlike Arial, it was also very condensed, which allowed for more text to fit in.

When websites featuring meme generators (or image macros, to use the technical term) arrived on the scene, Impact was an obvious choice: free to use, and easily readable on virtually any image.

Over the years, there have been sites that have tried to be unique—offering different font choices, darkening the image below the type, putting text above and below images, putting text in boxes—but by now using Impact in white all-caps for memes has become something of a meme itself.

The Impact font gets its own meme

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios