Steve, here, writing for The Whine Seller…

I’ve been performing a lot of computer repairs lately for family members and this time around, I had to replace the power inverter for a laptop screen’s backlight. A brand new part would have set me back about $45, so I went straight to eBay. Bingo. $4.99 with free shipping from seller ny-citi-com.

Then I notice the following line in the seller’s description:

IMPORTANT! Please compare your current inverter to the one pictured since there are several different inverters that are used within these models and they might have different screw hole alignments.

Huh, I didn’t even think about that… One peek at the photograph and I realize that this part won’t fit. I eventually locate the part I need, albeit from a different seller.

The moral of this simple tale? Even if it doesn’t generate a sale, a complete, accurate, and honest description, especially when the listing is a used item, generates good will with buyers. Specifically, a note highlighting a specific misconception about your item can be very useful, but it can also be a pitfall.

What sets this example apart form other sellers’ attempts, is the clarity and the tone. The auction formatting is very clean, and this particular note is set apart form the rest of the description, not buried within a paragraph of gibberish. Perhaps more importantly, it is a very polite and positive message. What do I mean?

Let’s compare the example above to another example from a different seller who shall remain nameless:

***Warning*** This Item Is NOT FUNCTIONAL & It Is Being Sold FOR PARTS ONLY!!! Please Read the Item Condition Section Closely. Item Sold AS-IS – No Returns Possible!!

Basically, I’m insulted. I don’t like the word “warning” or the double exclamation points.

Did I mention it was repeated 3 times? And again in Spanish? Moreover, the whole tone of the message is that I’m probably too stupid to be buying this item and I should expect trouble when it arrives.

OK, sellers, I realize that most disclaimers like this are reactionary – the seller has processed too many returns for the same reason and decided to add a note to warn off ignorant buyers like me. You need to protect yourself form the uneducated hoards who click without reading the fine print…or reading any of the print. I get it. I live with The Whine Seller, so I’ve heard plenty of war stories.

Let me show one more example to illustrate a well-crafted description. Below is part of the description for a used, broken cell phone. Ignore for a minute the layout and graphics and focus on the words. This is professional…just the facts, and I am left to make my own decision based on them. (Click to make it larger.)

All I ask as a buyer, is that you strike a balance with you descriptions. Give me the details; don’t treat my like a child. I want to feel like I’ve just been offered a friendly piece of advice. Not easy, but I promise you, it is appreciated. You efforts may boost my confidence and generate a sale. Maybe I’ll realize a mistake before placing my bid and save you a headache. Maybe I’ll appreciate it so much, I’ll blog about it.

Note: I can’t personally vouch for ny-citi-com, that’s what feedback is for, but I feel that this seller deserves a mention for saving me time and money.