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How To Sell Your Sails

How To Sell Your Sails

The top two reasons readers come to Sailtrader.com are to buy sails or sell sails. If you’re here to sell a sail, we’ve got a few tips on how you can get your sails sold quickly for a good price while you conduct a safe transaction. If you’re buying a sail, you can learn a few things, because you also want to a smooth deal and a good price.

Our model at Sailtrader.com is simple – we provide a venue for sellers with sails they don’t want to connect with buyers. We don’t step into the transaction or take a percentage. So how you conduct your transaction is largely up to you; it’s on the buyer and seller to arrange payment, shipping, and any other details once they’ve made contact.

Our recommendations for best practices, which we will elaborate on, are:

  • Take many good quality pictures of your sails.
  • Measure them accurately.
  • Figure out a realistic price.
  • Upload pictures and complete details, and give the sail’s history if you think it helps.
  • Respond promptly and politely to buyer inquiries.
    When negotiating, get all details of price, shipping costs, disclosures, and guarantees in writing.
    Verify the identity of who you are dealing with as well as you can.
  • Use a payment escrow service to protect all parties.
  • Be very careful about fraud and scams.

sell your sail

Pictures are King

For most sales on the internet, it’s the picture that sells the product. Words are nice and dimensions are important, but a buyer will scrutinize pictures before they ever ask for information or consider buying.

Your listing on sailtrader.com allows for twenty photos, so make the most of them. Pay close attention to what’s in the picture, and make sure the sails look clean. It may be worth dropping them off for a cleaning if they look dirty in your pictures.

Spread your sail out flat on an overcast or dry day if you can. Take sharp, in focus pictures from all angles – standing at the foot, along the leech, luff, and at the head. Overcast weather gives even lighting and fewer shadows, while bright sunlight may wash out a picture of a white sail and cause exposure problems.

That’s three or four pictures, so what do you do with the other sixteen? The answer? Take lots of detailed shots.

Zoom in on each corner, and take closeups of the head, tack and clew on both sides of the sail, showing any rings, strops or loops. You’re trying to show the condition of the stitching and cloth at the stress points and the attached hardware. Get closeups of reef points, telltale windows, Cunningham grommets, chafe patches, or any other features or selling points of the sail.

Also, if there are any known flaws in the sail – patches, fixes, loose stitching, or other negatives that make your sail anything less than a grade “A” or “B” – take a picture. It’s better to disclose the flaw upfront and address it in your ad than to hide it and deal with an irate buyer who just found that frayed loop on the tack when he tried to bend on the sail.

As a bonus, if you’ve got a recent video of your boat sailing with the sail you’re selling, post a link to YouTube or Vimeo. Random video of your boat sailing isn’t helpful, unless you can point to the sail in question at a certain time mark in the description, or edit the video to show just the times that sail is flying.

how to sell a sail onlineMeasure Twice…

…cut once, is the old carpenter’s adage. And it makes sense here, too. Take careful and exact measurements of all three sides of the sail.

If you don’t have a measuring tape long enough to get a side in one pass, try to borrow one of those 100′ long tapes so you can get a good measure. If you can’t, work with a friend to make sure your measurements are exact. Stretch the sail out as tight as you can when you measure and carefully mark the position of your short tape each time you need to measure a new section.

Do not rely on the measurements from your sailmaker when you bought the sail. Sure, one design sails are supposed to be all one size, but over time, sails stretch. You want accuracy to make sure your buyer is happy.

Price it Fairly

There’s a natural tendency to think our stuff is worth more than it is. Just because we paid $7,500 for a new sail two years ago and it still looks nice, doesn’t mean it’s worth $6,000 to someone else. You need to be realistic – used sails are going to go at a discount for a fair amount less than you paid for them. No one is going to pay 70% – 80% of the price of a new sail for a used sail. They’re buying sight unseen, so they’ll just buy new because it’s less risky.

Just like pricing a used boat, you need to do a little research. Check for similar sails here on sailtrader.com and (ssh! don’t tell anyone!) on some other sites which sell used sails, including one-design class sites, used sail lofts and brokers, and even Facebook Marketplace. From there, you can find the ballpark value of a typical sail like yours, and adjust based on your sail’s condition, age, and usage history.

Fill Out The Complete Listing

Sailtrader.com gives you a lot of fields to fill out about your sail, and you should use them all. In particular, look at the Title of the listing, and the Description. Everything else is objective data, like numbers and addresses. But these fields can draw attention to your sail and some detail can get it sold.

The title should be descriptive, and include the boat class if it’s a one design, or the boat model it came from. “Used Mainsail” is a useless title, while “C&C 121 Quantum Carbon Mainsail (2015)” will draw eyes and clicks.

Anything you can say about the sail in the description will help, especially if it highlights how good the condition is or how little the sail was used or abused. “Bought for 2020 J/120 Worlds and never used elsewhere,” “Never flow in winds over 15 knots,” “Used for three summers of weekly club racing in New England” all give some sense of how much wear there may be on the sail.

If there was ever any damage or repairs to the sail, this also is where you’d disclose it. Honesty in the ad is the best policy. When your buyer opens the box and looks at the sail, any surprises can cause problems and a dispute.

Communication with Buyers

When you list your sail, you can include an e-mail address and phone number. You can include either or both, but whatever you choose, it’s best to always respond promptly to any inquiries you get. An interested buyer may lose interest if you take too long or find another sail, or even be insulted if you take a week or two to get back to them. It’s not a good footing to start negotiations.

Honesty about the age and condition of the sail is critical. If the buyer thinks they’re getting an “A+” condition sail and opens a box with a “C+” in it, you’re going to have a post sale dispute. You don’t need to disparage anything or voluntarily down talk your sail, just be completely honest when you talk about it and answer all questions, especially about repairs and history. They’re going to see the sail, eventually.

Formalize any verbal discussions or agreements with a follow-up e-mail to document the deal and make sure all parties are clear on exactly what is expected of them. So any agreed prices, shipping costs and methods, time frames, whether the buyer wants insurance (and who is paying for it), and what happens if they don’t think the sail is as advertised should all get spelled out and agreed on.

sell sail shipmentBuyers should pay for:

  • The sail
  • Shipping costs
  • Shipping insurance
  • Excessive or unusual packaging

Get shipping quotes as best you can once you have an address, and offer multiple options if you can. You’ll need to box the sail for shipping, measure the box dimensions, and weigh it to get an accurate estimate. You are free to give them a flat cost or guesstimate if you want to, but you’ll need to stick to that even if shipping is much higher than you expect and you have to eat the difference.

However you choose to communicate, do your best to verify who you’re talking to is who they say they are. There are a lot of opportunistic people on the internet who run scams on sellers and buyers (more on that later…), and they’ll waste your time even if they don’t defraud you.

Fraud Protection

If you’ve ever sold something to the public at large with a site like Craigslist, you’ve probably been approached by scammers. Sailtrader.com does its best to make a marketplace for only sailors, but there’s no guarantee that whoever your speaking to is who they say they are.

We highly recommend that you use an escrow protection service, like Escrow.com to protect yourself. This also applies to buyers, too – be careful sending money off into the void without knowing where it’s going. Paypal isn’t bad, but doesn’t offer quite the same protection as they are quick to refund on buyer complaints.

If you use a service like Venmo, Cashapp, or Zelle to send money familiarize yourself with the fraud to look for, and how to avoid them. Remember, they created these services primarily for sending money between people who know each other, not for sales transactions between strangers. So you may not have the protection you expect if something goes wrong.

Speaking to someone on the phone is also a good screen. Since we’re all sailors, it’s easy to identify someone who is only pretending. We all love sailing war stories and talking about our boats…just ask, and see how it goes. You’ll probably know.
Be aware of the most common scams out there, and what tipoffs might clue you in to a scam in progress. A few red flags include:

  • Any request to pay by check, especially bank or certified checks.
    Any request to pay you more than your asking price, which asks you to refund the overpayment.
  • Anything with an unrealistic sense of urgency. We’re talking about used sails here, not emergency medical supplies after a regional disaster.
  • Anyone buying or asking for a third party, especially someone with a brother/cousin/friend stationed abroad in the military. This is often linked to an urgent need to close the deal ASAP with a certified check in an amount over your selling price.
  • Someone asks to send the goods with no questions, or doesn’t ask questions that make sense, or shipping that makes no sense. Like sending a used sail so far, the shipping costs much more than the sail.
  • Insistence on using certain payment services, like Western Union, that don’t have good consumer protection, or refusal to use escrow services or Paypal.
  • Anything that involves you, the seller, sending the buyer money.
  • Delays in payment based on demands that you show proof of shipment of the item.
  • Requests to ship the sail before they make payment through a recognized escrow or transfer service.

This isn’t an exhaustive list, so do your homework and be careful. As of this writing, we’re a small niche community that internet scammers have not noticed. But there’s no guarantee everyone you speak to is who they say they are. And even sailors can play games and be dishonest. Rule 69 exists for a reason, so take some care in any deal with a stranger.

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