Dear eBay Queen: My husband and I recently (July 2012) started selling on eBay, and have had moderate success selling items from our house, garage sale finds and goodies from Goodwill.

Here is my situation. This past summer, I had some medical challenges that exceeded the limits of my insurance. We both work full time, but even with that, making those monthly payments is going to be extremely challenging. Outside of work, we are very involved in our church, so getting a second job really isn’t an option. We really need to kick it up a notch with our eBay business and take our sales to the next level so we can pay our medical expenses.

What I’m wondering is this: Where we can get our hands on decent things to sell on eBay, especially at this time of year since there are no garage sales? I have looked online at “drop shipping,” but I don’t really understand exactly how that works. I have read several articles warning people to be very careful of unscrupulous wholesale/drop shipping companies who promise a lot, but deliver terrible customer service and shipping times.

I would love to hear any advice you have to share on the subject of drop shipping. Even more, I would love to hear your advice on where we can get good stuff to sell. I’m willing to put in the work to take it to the next level, but I feel like I don’t even know where to start.

Thanks for taking time to read this. Any advice you can give will be greatly appreciated. — Kristi

Dear Kristi: It can be challenging to find inventory this time of year, but it truly can be done. Here are some ideas for you to acquire inventory during the winter months:

• Flea markets, antique stores, Goodwill and thrift stores — The ones in your area might be a good place to start, but have you thought of traveling someplace you normally don’t go?

• Classifieds and Craigslist.

• Estate sales — I always check the local paper and papers in surrounding areas for estate sales. Search for estate sales on www.estatesales.net

• Auctions — One of my favorite ways to acquire inventory is to go to auctions. There are lots of auctioneers who have auctions in buildings during the cold months. Here in Kansas you can try www.kansasauctions.net

• Discount store close outs — I’ve been known to purchase dishes, perfume, clothing and even BBQ sauce to sell on eBay. Just check out the market beforehand or on your smart phone directly in the store. When I see designer clothing or shoes at deep clearance prices, I buy them.

Another thing you could do is watch to see what toys and gadgets are hot right now, buy them at a discount price and sell them! I have friends who make boutique children’s clothing and there is even a market for boutique dog accessories. What about discontinued items like make-up or specialty foods that are only sold where you live?

Dear eBay Queen: It seems like I’ve read about things like this before, but how long should I wait to be sure a buyer isn’t going to cause a problem? I sold a $500 set of books for a friend. It went to a person with a zero-feedback who has had several days to look the items over. I don’t want to give the friend her money until I’m sure eBay isn’t going to snatch that $500 out of my account. Is it as simple as waiting for the 14-day return window to close?

The newbie buyer finally emailed me today (no replies to my emails) to say she’s so disappointed that the 100-year-old books I sold her are “not in excellent condition” ... I reminded her that I said, verbatim, they were in “excellent condition for their age.” I sent her a 50-book set, and she found a torn page, two broken bindings, and she’s terribly disappointed ... What do I do? — Joy

Dear Joy: I usually tell consignors that it will be 30 days after the item was sold before I can send them their payout, for just this reason. In this situation, I would try to explain to your buyer that they are very old books, and they were described to the best of your ability. If she still seems unhappy, I would offer a refund once the item has been sent back.

I hope your buyer is just complaining to you because she is having a bad day, and decides she really like the books!

Strange eBay item of the week: eBay item No. 181005697495. When I see stuff like this, it gives me hope for the economy. “Vintage Christmas Green Egg Shape Kugel Ornament 1860-1880.” It sold for $987 at http://www.ebay.com/itm/Vintage-Christmas-Green-Egg-Shape-Kugel-Ornament-1860-1880-Large-/181005697495

Suzie Eads is a nationally known eBay marketer and eBay trained education specialist. She lives in Rantoul. Do you have a question for the eBay Queen? Email her at the eBay Queen