Friday, December 21, 2012

Bah Humbug – Georgia Lottery Style

Ella’s brother, Jimmy, loves to play the Georgia Lottery, and was all grins late last week when he knocked on our door, and proudly displayed his $1000 winning scratch-off ticket.   You see, Jimmy doesn’t make much money, lives on food stamps, and this unexpected windfall had perked him up considerably.  I was happy for him, and, for reasons we won’t discuss, I even agreed to cash it in for him.

Needless to say, he was in a hurry for the money.   He had big plans.  He was going to send $100 to each of his kids, and get a tooth pulled.
However, since the lottery office was in Macon, about 30 minutes away, I had to wait until this past Monday to make the drive.  With ticket in hand, I stepped into the lottery office, my first time there, and handed over the ticket.  The lady behind the counter looked at the ticket, and asked me how I wanted it.

Huh?, I thought, and asked “what do you mean?”
“Do you want cash, or another ticket?” she clarified.

“But it’s $1000,” I said. 
She picked it up again, finished scratching it off, and said, “No, it’s $5,” and showed it to me.

I looked at the ticket, and sure enough, it was a $5 winning ticket.  Jimmy had not scratched off enough to realize that he had misread the numbers.
“Cash,” I said dejectedly, and she handed me over a $1 bill, and four gold dollar coins. While I was disappointed, I knew that my disappointment was going to pale in comparison to Jimmy’s.

In hindsight, I should have kept the ticket to prove its worth, or lack thereof, because I knew it would be difficult to explain how $1000 just evaporated.   So, I waited for Jimmy to drop buy, dreading to give him the news.
All things considered, he took it pretty well, alternating between disbelief, and claiming that the lottery office had cheated him, before settling down to just a numb silence before leaving.  I genuinely felt sorry for him, like he had actually lost something valuable, even though he never had it in the first place.

Last night, however, the universe proved that it was indeed a magical place, especially at Christmas time.  Jimmy called and said that he had won $100 on a scratch off ticket.  He politely refused to let me cash it in for him, though.
Meanwhile, on the ‘bay and the river, sales have been brisk this week, even though mailing deadlines for Christmas have passed.  One buyer purchased a Christmas cartoon collector’s edition DVD set on Monday morning, and I, being of good holiday cheer, bumped shipping to Priority just so they would get it before the holiday. Late Monday night/early Tuesday morning, the buyer emailed me asking me to ship it overnight, even though they had only paid the $2.98 Amazon shipping cost. I politely declined, especially since the package had hit the mail stream some eight hours or more previous to her email. Another buyer asked how much it would cost to overnight a CD.  She balked at the $30 price tag.

Hopefully, your selling season went well, and you are looking forward to another productive year.
Have a happy holiday.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Monday Musings - Someone turn the river back on, please

Last week was an amazing sales week on Amazon for me right up until Friday, when someone turned the faucet off.  From Sunday to Thursday, I averaged 12 sales daily, easily surpassing, sometimes doubling, my goal of $100 in sales per day.  On Friday, sales dropped to two, and didn’t get much better on Saturday with seven.  Sunday was also slow, with only seven sales.  Fortunately, one of the overnight sales was:

Over on Ebay, sales also trickled in, including, much to my delight, this one:

The Macon Whoopee was a semi-pro hockey team in Macon, GA, which was ridiculed once by Johnny Carson on his show.  Obviously, it had a strong following outside of Georgia because the jersey was shipped to Wisconsin.

I had picked the jersey up for $1 at a sale earlier this year after I read that memorabilia from defunct sports teams can bring big bucks.  Obviously, you can believe some things that you read.

In between my fretting about slow sales, I did manage to attend a few yard sales on Saturday.  The first sale was at a local school, and Ella and I arrived promptly at 8 a.m.   As we pulled up, another dealer got out of his car, saw us, waved to be neighborly, and then trotted inside the sale as fast as he could.  It was meant to be humorous, and I was amused, but only slightly.  Fortunately, that particular dealer looks for different stuff than me, and while we have a friendly competition, I can see that competition intensifying as I expand my Ebay store, and encroach on his inventory “territory.”

The only other sale of any consequence was one that advertised Star Wars merchandise, and it didn’t disappoint. Even at mid-morning, there were still a large assortment of NIP action figures spread out over the drive way, and the owner didn’t even question why I was scanning each one.  I toyed (pun intended) with the idea of purchasing all of them, but mentally figured the return on investment wasn’t sufficient to justify the expense.  Still, I did pick up a boxful of higher priced items, including four Star Wars lego sets ($5 each) that are selling individually for $30 to $40 online.

Sunday was spent packing, listing, and watching the Falcons get embarrassed by the Panthers.

How was your weekend?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Monday Musings - Diamond Tester

I’m always trying to improve my business savvy, whether by talking, listening, reading, or watching TV. As the Redneck Picker on YouTube says, you need to “keep your head on a swivel” to be successful.

Case in point, last weekend, I caught an episode of Baggage Battles, a “Storage Wars” type show where the stars bid on lost luggage, attend customs auctions, etc.  It’s pretty much a rip off of the more successful auction shows, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn from it.  For instance, one of the cast members whipped out a small device to surreptitiously test a diamond ring before bidding on a jewelry lot.  After winning the lot, he pulled out the device again to verify that he had made the right decision, and briefly described his “diamond tester.” 

Intrigued, I immediately conducted an Internet search for the device, expecting it to be quite pricey.  Imagine my surprise when I found a diamond tester on Amazon for $18.  Granted, it wasn’t top of the line, but reviews were mostly positive. So, thanks to Amazon Prime, I had the tester in hand overnight, and after testing it on some personal jewelry, I was ready for the weekend.

Fortunately, there was an estate sale that featured jewelry, and after looking over the collection, I eyed a small ring for $5 that looked like it could hold a diamond.  Powering my new gizmo up, I touched the stone, but got no response from the machine.  Bummer, not a diamond.

While it would have been nice to find a diamond on my first try, I wasn’t dismayed.  Much like my book scanner did when I first started selling online, I have a feeling that this fancy little device will open a whole new world of potential revenue for me.  I can’t wait to try it again.

Otherwise, I spent most of the weekend listing and, thankfully, packing a wide variety of merchandise.  Sales were brisk over my three day selling period (Friday, Saturday and Sunday), with 26 items sold across multiple venues (Amazon, Half, Alibris, etc.), and seven sold on Ebay, including these two beat-up Braun shavers picked up for $1 at a church sale.

I did have an unhappy customer this weekend, though.   Back in the summer, I purchased a large lot of clearance toys from K-Mart.  All were new, but most had some shelf wear from constant handling.  A customer who purchased an $8 baby toy was upset that I had sold her a used toy that I described as new.  She was “kind” enough to mention protecting my feedback rating as she angled to return the product.  I thanked her for contacting me before leaving feedback, and refunded her money without making her return the toy.  I figured it was worth $8 to avoid a negative feedback.

How was your weekend?

Monday, November 26, 2012

Black Friday and Cyber Monday

On Thanksgiving, Ella announced that she wanted to go shopping on Black Friday.  I said go for it.  Oh, wait, she wanted me to drive her.  While I tend to get up early, I had no intention of getting up early, braving the cold and the long lines just to save a few bucks on something/anything that we probably didn’t need.

So, we compromised.  In order to get my beauty sleep on Friday, I had to take her to Wal-Mart on Turkey Day.  A fair trade, I thought, and dutifully drove her to Wally World around 7:45 on  Thursday night.  Now, Wal-Mart has a huge parking lot, and it was full, totally full. I dropped Ella off at the door, and parked at the IHOP, about as far as you can get from Wal-Mart, and not be in the middle of busy Watson Boulevard.

Apparently, Wal-Mart was doing some tiered sales, with the first one starting at 8 p.m.  As I walked in, Ella was nowhere to be found among the mass of humanity, most of which was just standing around.  At 8 p.m., however, it became a madhouse.  People running around, laughing, and generally having a good time, I suppose, as they grabbed, fought, kicked, and screamed for the bounty that lay before them.

Sorry for the blurry picture. I was trying to take the picture with one hand
while holding Ella's DVDs in my other  hand
Since I had no desire to participate, I found a post, put my back to it, and just watched. I finally saw Ella as she made a beeline toward the media sale. It was amazing that people, including Ella, would actually push and shove for a discount DVD.  OK, maybe Ella didn’t push and shove, but she darted in and out like a madwoman until she found what she wanted.

Luckily, with DVDs in hand, Ella was done shopping, and we quickly checked out (kudos to Wal-Mart for such speedy service).

I actually spent Black Friday, as well as Saturday and Sunday, listing in preparation, hopefully, for a big Cyber Monday. I’ve had three nice Ebay sales so far this morning, so maybe my hard work will pay off.

Even though the Christmas selling season has just begun in earnest, we need to be mindful of post office shipping deadlines.  December 3, which is just a week away, is the last day to send Priority Mail International for Christmas arrival, and the Express Mail International deadline is just a week after that.  Domestic Parcel Post deadline is December 15, First Class deadline is December 20, Priority deadline is December 21, and Express deadline is December 22.

Of course, after December 22, we can all rest, right?

Have a great selling week.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Let's talk turkey

Thanksgiving already?  Time sure flies when you are thrifting.

By now, hopefully, everyone will have everything listed in anticipation of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, and can concentrate on preparing that ridiculously large meal on Thursday.  It’s just me and Ella this year, so we probably will eat out instead of me spending all day in the kitchen for a meal that takes all of 20 minutes to eat.

Yes, I said me.  Ella can whip up a mean dessert, but I handle most of the culinary action in our household.  Granted, most of my meals are fairly simple, but occasionally I like to tackle something bigger, like, say, a turkey.  It’s usually a recipe for disaster, with the bird over done or under done, but two years ago, my turkey ineptitude reached new bounds when I almost broke our oven.

I had big plans for the fowl after watching a video of Alton Brown on make it look so easy.  In anticipation, I purchased a digital meat thermometer and a large roasting pan, and followed the recipe precisely, or not.  OK, I didn’t have all the proper ingredients, but I improvised, and after brining the bird for 24 hours, I was ready for roasting.

I hate messes, and I’ve never cooked a large piece of meat without getting drippings in the bottom of the oven. So, even though we have a self-cleaning oven, I lined the bottom with aluminum foil to catch the drips.  I know some of you are shaking your heads already, but, in my defense, it seemed reasonable enough at the time.  After all, I use aluminum foil in the oven all the time, and never, ever had a problem.

Of course, I didn’t take into account the recipe calling for cooking the bird at 500 degrees for 30 minutes.  Yes, much to my chagrin, the aluminum foil melted and stuck to the bottom of the oven.  I didn’t notice it at first because I was too busy dealing with hungry relatives and the big bird, which, paradoxically, was both overcooked and undercooked at the same time.

When it was time to clean up, I was pleased to see that my aluminum foil had indeed caught the drippings.  I congratulated myself for being so smart, but quickly started cursing myself for being so dumb, when the foil and drippings could not be removed.

Not knowing what to do, I turned to the Internet for advice, and was only marginally pleased to see that I wasn’t the only one who had made such a stupid mistake.  After much research, I discovered that a product called Naval Jelly could be used to remove the melted metal.  So, I spread and scraped, spread and scraped.  Eventually, I got most of it off, and vowed never again to be such an idiot, or to cook another turkey.

I must admit that I have tried to cook a turkey since then, but haven’t had much luck.  This year, Ella found a recipe for a turkey breast prepared in the crockpot.  It was so simple, with only three ingredients (turkey, onion soup mix, and cranberry sauce), that even I couldn’t mess it up.  I tried it a week ago, sort of a Thanksgiving test run, and I must admit, it was pretty good.  So, if I ever get talked into fixing a turkey dinner for family and/or friends, this will be my go-to recipe.

I hope everyone has a great Turkey Day, and a great start to the Christmas selling season.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Monday Musings - Baby, It's Cold Outside

It was 30-something degrees on Saturday morning as I visited my first yard sale of the day, and, as I often do, I posed a simple question to the bundled-up folks taking the money:

Who’s sillier … the person who runs a yard sale when it’s 30 degrees, or the person who attends the yard sale when it’s 30 degrees?

Usually, I think it’s me, but given what some of the “huge” sales had to offer, I now think it’s the proprietors who brave the cold weather to sell what can only be charitably called junk.

Fortunately, the morning warmed up nicely; unfortunately, most sales still offered only junk. 


Jimmy, Ella’s brother, went thrifting with us recently, and paid $5 for a Polaroid camera.  Now, $5 is a lot of money for Jimmy, who works only sporadically as a construction worker.  I asked him why he wasted so much money on that old camera. He replied that he wanted to take some pictures (duh!).  I then broke the news to him that he couldn’t buy film for the camera any more.  He didn’t, and still doesn’t believe me, and told me later that K-Mart said that they probably would get some film in soon.



Speaking of Jimmy, I wrote/bragged that he found a new in box Disney Fairy TV/DVD Combo for $20.  Well, I wrote too soon.  He was watching a DVD, and the unit just died.  Jimmy wasn’t too heartbroken over the loss of the TV, but he wanted his Scooby Doo DVD back.  After we pried the DVD tray open, the DVD was nowhere to be found.  We are both at a loss, literally and figuratively.


I finally found a Betty Crocker cookbook with the red pie cover.  Of course, I wouldn’t have known to look for it had it not been for all you wonderful bloggers out there.


Buyer Feedback:  I received this item promptly but the tape is not in a condition where you can play it without first tapping on the sides of the tape because the tape keeps getting caught in the VCR. I know it is not my VCR because I have other VHS tapes and they do not get caught in the VCR player. I give it 3 stars because of prompt delivery and the ability to view the tape after manipulating it.

My Response: I'm sorry you are having issues. However, the tape tested perfectly in my VCR without "tapping the sides."

Maybe I should start tapping all my VHS tapes.


Two local radio stations have started playing Christmas music 24/7.  Isn’t it still a little early? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Dragged, Kicking and Screaming

You can’t make me, you can’t make me.

I thought those words over and over this past Friday as Ella tried to convince me to go thrifting on Saturday morning.  My storage area was at near capacity (a good problem), my cash flow was low due to poor sales (a bad problem), and, honestly, I was feeling burnt out on the whole shebang.  I wanted to sleep late, list some items, maybe attend a local fall festival, and then watch Georgia play football.  In short, I wanted a semi-normal Saturday.

Yet, Ella really wanted to go to the half-price sale at the local historical society flea market.  She had seen an 8-track player (remember those?) two weeks ago at their main sale, and hoped it would still be there for half price (a whopping $7).  Apparently, she has some old 8-track tapes that she wants to record to CD.

So, reluctantly, I agreed.  Of course, the sale didn’t start until 9 a.m., so Ella decided we had time to attend a couple of early sales, including a church bazaar.  And since we were going to be in Macon for the flea market, we could attend some sales in the area afterward as well.

After all was said and done, we thrifted from 7 a.m. until around 1 p.m., and my dream of the normal Saturday slowly slipped away.  Pretty much as soon as we got home, it was time to go to the community fall festival at a local church.   I figured we could stay for an hour or so, then make it back home for most of the 3:30 p.m. football game.   Wrong.  Between the free lunch, continuous cake walking (Ella finally won a cake), and waiting for the door prizes (you must be present to win … and win I did … a pound of pecans), we didn’t get back to the house until around 6 p.m.  After getting the dogs fed, and settling in for the evening, the game was over (Georgia won), and I was just too tired to list Ebay items.  I then dozed through the movie that Ella put on, and wound up in bed before 9:30 p.m.

Despite my whining, I grudgingly did manage to find some good items, including a whole copier paper-sized box of guitar strings for $3; a Nespresso D290 Concept Espresso and Coffeemaker with five or six boxes of individual coffees for $20; and assorted odds and ends.

On Sunday, after packing my sold items, I managed to list all my tacky Christmas sweaters/shirts, and then got dragged out of the house again by Ella, who wanted to go to a local flea market to see a wooden wishing well that a vendor was selling.   Fortunately for my wallet, it was too small for Ella’s tastes.  It was then on to Lowe’s for some rocks for Ella’s garden, and then to Wal-Mart for routine stuff.  I did find some clearance items there, including half price Mario costumes, and assorted toys to send to Amazon’s FBA program.

I can’t complain about what I found to sell over the weekend, although at this point, it just adds to the clutter in our storage area.  I won’t even complain about missing the football game on Saturday.  I will complain, though, the next time Ella looks at me, looks at the clutter in the storage area, and then utters the phrase the I’ve come to know and hate:

“Why don’t you get this stuff listed?”

Monday, October 29, 2012

Monday Musings - Rude?

I got my feelings hurt on Friday by a stereotypical little old lady.

The scene of the assault on my psyche was Granny’s Attic, a rummage sale billed as the biggest in the area.  It may be, but, unfortunately, the building housing the sale isn’t so big, and quickly becomes standing room only, with little room to move between the aisles once it fills up with shoppers.

Ella and I had gotten to the sale early, about an hour in advance, just to get toward the front of the line. Once the doors opened, it was a slow motion dash as shoppers filed in, stopping to look at stuff, which prevented the shoppers behind them from entering the building.  Dragging my rolling tote behind me, I methodically made my way to the Book Room in the back of the building, while Ella veered off toward the toys.  Luckily, I had the room to myself for a while, and found a few good books.  Upon leaving the room, I realized that it was going to be a lesson in patience to make my way back up the aisle to the CDs and DVDs, where Ella already was.

After running over a few ankles, and hitting only the occasional shin, my tote and I made it, and I spent some quality time looking over the media, again finding a few good items.  With the crowd the way it was, it would have been silly of me to try and work my way up or down an aisle, and I told Ella that I was going to stay there while she looked around some more.  After a bit, she was finally ready to go.

The checkout line was stretched in front of where I was standing, and the only way to get to the back of the line was to fight my way through the crowd.  Fortunately, at that time, the line wasn’t too long, and I told the last person that I was going to squeeze behind them once the line got to where I was, instead of trying to drag my tote, and two of Ella’s bags through the mass of humanity.

A little old lady (no more than 5’ 2” or so, and hunched over), directly in front of me, however, somehow took offense at my ploy to hold a spot in line without actually standing in the line, even though I wasn’t going to get in front of her.  In fact, I would be several people behind her.

With her grandson playing around her feet, she looked at me and said, “I know where you were” (pointing to where I had been looking at the media), and that I was being “very rude,” with her voice rising above the din on the word “rude.”

“How am I being rude?” I smiled as I asked her.  “I’m going to the end of the line; I’m just waiting right here until it gets to me.”

This little old hunched-over lady then raised her hand to the “talk to the hand” position, and yells, “leave me alone.”

Needless to say, everyone around was watching us by now, with most looking at her in bemusement. I half expected the rummage sale police to sweep in, take my stuff, and escort me out for harassing this sweet, innocent little lady.

Fortunately, the scene ended as quickly as it began, with the lady shuffling forward, and me keeping my mouth closed, even though I really, really wanted to say something.

At a church sale on Saturday, I picked up three items that had a “Make an Offer” sticker on them.  They were two vintage car amplifiers, and a vintage 8-track player for a car.  I researched them the best I could on my phone, but really couldn’t find any information.  So, I decided to make a low offer on these nearly 40 year old electronic pieces.  I asked the cashier what she wanted for them, and she said I had to make an offer.  I said $5 each, and she said that was too low.  OK, what did she think was fair offer, I asked.  She said $20 each, which was way too high.  I countered with $25 for all three, but she stuck with $60 and wouldn’t budge.  I passed on the items.

What irritated me, though, was that my brother-in-law, who attended the sale with us, bought what turned out to be a new in-box 20-inch Disney Princess TV/DVD player combo for a whopping $20.  Not that I wanted the TV, but I thought it was ridiculous for them to sell the new TV so cheap, and 40-year old untested electronics so high.

C’est la vie.

I skipped the book sale this weekend, including the preview sale on Thursday.  I had dropped by the site of the sale during my lunch hour on Thursday just to get a feel for what the AAUW had to offer.  The volunteers were still setting up, but I could tell right then that the nonfiction selection was going to be small.  Since the preview sale usually attracts many dealers, I figured the competition for the few quality books would be crazy, and I just didn’t feel like joining the feeding frenzy.

Overall, the weekend was productive, despite the hurt feelings, missed electronics, and avoided book sale.  I did get to spend Sunday listing items, thanks to Ella, who had spent some time last week taking pictures for me.  It was her first time taking ebay shots, and she did a great job, and really saved me a lot of time.  Of course, now that I know she can do it …

With Halloween upon us, I’m starting to get a little antsy about not being ready for the silly season.  I still have tons of things to list, so I had better get to it.

Have a great week.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Monday Musings - End of Season

In early spring, I usually create a work breakdown structure (WBS) of the upcoming thrifting season.  It’s a “map,” so to speak, of known thrifting events, from book sales to church bazaars, and everything in between.  I add to it, and subtract from it, as the year progresses, and it keeps me on track to maximize my weekend thrifting time.

Unfortunately, this weekend marks the end of my WBS for the year, with Granny’s Attic at the local Catholic Church signifying the end of a long thrifting season that started with a single church sale back in early Spring. Oh, sure, there will be some sales on weekends, but with the approaching cold weather, Thanksgiving, and, of course, the silly season in December, major thrifting opportunities will be few and far between until next year.

In hindsight, this year has been one of the best ever as far as inventory is concerned. I’ve blogged about many of my bigger purchases, but never mentioned other smaller, but still lucrative, finds.   Local thrift stores have been disappointing overall, but even Goodwill has yielded some amazing finds, despite their best efforts to keep all the good stuff for their online sales.   

The aforementioned Granny’s Attic is part of a large fall festival, and always draws a crowd on Friday morning.  I usually have to skip a couple of hours of work just to wait in line, and fight the other shoppers for the good stuff.  The church crams a year’s worth of donations into a smallish building, and if you aren’t one of the first in, good luck making your way through the crowd.

The night before, though, is the AAUW book sale preview night at the old mall.  For $5, you get to have an hour of fighting all the other dealers before the casual readers get a shot at the books.  This used to be a good sale, but in the last few years, the quantity and quality of books has been seriously declining. With some luck, I will be able to get my money’s worth without pushing the other dealers out of my way.  Just kidding, of course, but as quality inventory dries up, dealers ARE getting ruder and more desperate.

With the addition of inventory from Granny’s Attic and the book sale, I hope to have accumulated enough merchandise to have a good Christmas season, and to tide me over until the first sales of Spring.  Our great room is overflowing with stuff, from books to toys to odds and ends for Ebay. I’ll also keep checking on Craigslist for sellable items; visiting the various thrift stores in the area; and waking up early on Saturdays, freezing my assets off, to visit whatever brave soul decides to have a yard sale.

I’ll also be listing like crazy, not only because I need the sales, but also because Ella is getting sick of her great room being full of boxes and totes, with only a small path clear from one room to the other.

How do you handle the slow season?

Friday, October 5, 2012

Did cowboys have yard sales?

Way back in January, I wrote about our trip to the Memphis Film Festival, and how interesting it was that elderly TV cowboys still had groupies, young and old, who treat these aging “stars” like royalty.  One of Ella’s favorites, James Drury, also known as The Virginian, is a regular at this annual festival, and Ella was thrilled with the opportunity to meet, share a few words, and have a picture taken with her western hero.

Flash forward to now, and The Virginian is headlining Georgia’s Official Day of the Cowboy on Saturday at The Rock Ranch, an “agritainment” cattle ranch about 45 miles away.  From the website:

This year's special guest will be none other than James Drury from the 1960's T.V. western series, "The Virginian".

Guests will enjoy shows by cowboy stunt performers who will rob the train and engage in gun fights. There will be mounted drill teams, quick draw demonstrations, a trick horse, a large model train display and live country music. Guests will enjoy vendors selling western wear, watch an action packed wild west show with shooting and knife throwing and a Hop-A-Long Cassidy look alike.

Of course, Ella, to use a horse metaphor, is chomping at the bit to attend the all-day event.  Unfortunately, the ranch will not release a schedule of events in advance, which means, theoretically, we’d have to show up at 10 a.m. to see every thrilling moment of this western extravaganza.

Normally, I’d just bite the bullet and show up early and stay late.  But, and you’d knew there had to be a “but,” tomorrow is turning out to be the biggest thrifting day of the Fall season, which multitudes of church and school sales, as well as a host of estate and garage sales dotting the middle Georgia map.  Since I missed an annual book sale two weeks ago while at Disney, I feel compelled to take advantage of every remaining thrifting opportunity before it gets too cold; after all, the Christmas shopping season is literally right around the corner, and you can never have too much inventory.

I think Ella realizes this, since she already has started printing out yard sale listings from Craigslist for Saturday morning, and, realistically, we will have several solid thrifting hours before we have to head toward the ranch.  However, there won’t be enough left of me to snore if I make Ella miss anything exciting.

Have a productive weekend everyone.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Tuesday Musings – Disney Edition

After packing my last book on Sunday, September 16, I put all my listings across five different venues on vacation in preparation for our family trip to Disneyworld on 18-23 September.   After this much needed break from reality, I should feel rested, refreshed, and ready to face the Christmas selling season.

Instead, I’m exhausted, broke, and my feet still hurt.

Yet, despite my whining, we all had a wonderful time, especially my 6-year-old niece, Jacelyn, who was celebrating her 7th birthday early. She was treated like a princess by everyone on the Disney payroll, starting with her appointment at the Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique, where she was “magically” turned into Alice, complete with appropriate hair style, nail polish, and dress.  After her pampering, she was fortunate enough to be selected to actually meet Alice, get an autograph, and ride the teacups with her.

Alice took time out of her busy Wonderland schedule to pose
and ride the teacups with Jacelyn

Not even Jacelyn could remove the Sword from the Stone

The rest of the week was a blister-inducing thrill ride, with park hopping from the Magic Kingdom, Epcot, Animal Kingdom, Hollywood Studios, and Downtown Disney.  Crowds were fairly light most of the time, wait times for rides were only 5 to 10 minutes usually, and our hotel, the Pop Century Resort, wasn’t spectacular, but was clean and comfortable.

The only negative from the whole trip was on Thursday when it started pouring rain just after Tinkerbell flew from Cinderella’s Castle and the first fireworks lit up the sky.  I lost Ella in the crowd as we tried to dart, along with hundreds of others, to the nearest shop, all the while getting pushed, shoved, and run over by baby strollers.  Fortunately, she found me a short time later, and after a little forced shopping (it was still raining), we left the park, along with everyone else, it seemed, and endured a long, cold (A/C on full blast) bus trip back to the hotel.

While I enjoyed the time away from my online activities, I couldn’t fully turn off the thrifting portion of my brain, and continually thought about the business, and how we could learn a lot from Disney’s business model. 

Granted, there is nothing thrifty about Disney.  However, they are experts at separating you from your money.  To do so, they mine every conceivable niche (vacations, food, toys, souvenirs, etc.), and they are constantly marketing, advertising, and, of course, selling.  Disney also excels in customer service, with every employee, from the restroom attendants to the cast members on the parade floats, trained to ensure that park guests are treated like royalty, or, at the very least, like human beings, and not just like paying customers.

To be sure, our businesses are not and will never be comparable to Disney.  However, if we take advantage of every opportunity afforded us; learn as much as we can about what actually sells; train ourselves to recognize, then exploit, potential new markets; and ensure that our buyers receive nothing less than total customer support, then maybe we will have a little more magic in our kingdom.

OK, that last line was kind of corny.

Back to work. Have a great week!

Monday, September 17, 2012

No nudes is good nudes

Saturday, for all intents and purposes, was a total waste of a perfectly good morning. It started out badly, with geek tool (scouting PDA) trouble, making us late for the first sale, and really didn’t improve, with sale after sale yielding little if anything of resell value.

So, I decided to just relax, and appreciate the hunt, rather than the buy.  In addition, since it’s Disney week in two Davis households (yes, we are going to Disneyworld this week with my brother and his family), I felt OK with saving my inventory money for Mickey Mouse Land.
Even though I wasn’t finding anything of value, I did have an interesting experience.

One estate sale had advertised a large collection of nudes, with no other information. Such quirky descriptions always intrigue me, and about mid-morning, we pulled up to a fairly non-descript looking house.  We wandered through the house not seeing anything remotely resembling nudity until we went to the basement.  While that may seem like the opening to a bad porn movie, it really wasn’t, for at the bottom of the stairs was the largest collection of nude artwork and statuettes that I have ever seen.  OK, it was the only collection of nude artwork and statuettes that I have ever seen, but that’s beside the point.
This collection included a multitude of oil paintings and charcoal drawings, both framed and unframed; tapestries; the aforementioned statuettes; and even small selection of Marilyn Monroe (sans clothes) items.   It was beautiful, more art than porn (OK, maybe that small box of Playboys and assorted girlie magazines technically could be called porn), and everyone was looking, but no one was buying.

While I was looking at the girls … uh … art, it was announced that everything was going to half price after 12:30 p.m.  As most of you know by now, I love buying in bulk, and I began to think about how easy or difficult it would be to sell such items.  I must have had a certain look in my eyes, because Ella, who had been patiently watching me fawn over Marilyn and the rest of the babes … uh … models (purely from a resell standpoint, of course), had one word for me:

She then asked for the car keys, and left the basement.  I ogled … uh … examined the artistry for a few more minutes, before deciding it was one fight with Ella that just wasn’t worth waging. 
Have a productive week everyone.

Friday, September 14, 2012

90 reasons why I love FBA

I started using Fulfilled by Amazon (FBA) two years ago with some trepidation.  I had read horror stories about lost shipments and increased negative feedback and returns, but I was drowning in media, and was starved for time in the evenings due to my caregiver activities for my elderly mom. 

So, one Sunday, I signed up for FBA, followed Amazon's step by step directions, and by Monday afternoon, had dropped off three boxes of books at the local UPS store for shipment.  It was time-consuming at first, but relatively painless.  On Wednesday night, Amazon had received, checked in, and began "receiving" my inventory.  Shortly thereafter, in my "View Your Orders" section on Amazon, I noticed that my FBA inventory was already selling fast, and my inbox was filling up with " has shipped the item you sold" emails.

Granted, many of the items that I sent in had low rankings, and would have sold relatively quickly anyway.  However, FBA items in your inventory get a boost from a competitive pricing scheme, and the fact that many shoppers get free shipping on your items thanks to Amazon Prime and/or the Super Saver Shipping promotion.

It's a great feeling when your online inventory sells, obviously, but it's an even better feeling when your inventory sells, and you don't have to worry about packing and shipping.  In fact, once Amazon has your inventory in house, they even handle any customer service issue, including returns.

Overall, I've had a good experience with FBA, with very few returns, and overwhelmingly positive feedback.

FBA does have its drawbacks, though, and one seller likened it to the Hotel California, where "you can check out any time you like, but you can never leave." Not totally true, but if you wish to quit the program, you have to pay Amazon to either send your books back, or to dispose of them.  However, even if your inventory doesn't sell, as long as you only have one each of your items, it's free warehouse space until the right buyer comes along.

The chart below shows my sales over the last seven days.  My seller-fulfilled sales are somewhat disappointing, but the FBA sales have more than made up for it. 

Another plus of FBA is that when you put your store on vacation, FBA keeps plugging along, semi-guaranteeing you at least some income while you hopefully are resting and relaxing away from your computer, or taking one of those Disney vacations that we all save up for.

These weeks are just flying by, and it's amazing that it's Friday already.  I hope everyone has a productive and profitable weekend.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Are we negotiating again?

Another Saturday, another lot buy.

Several weeks ago, I wrote about an estate sale where I purchased hundreds of books, new CDs, DVDs, and computer games.  During the transaction, Debbie, a sister of the deceased owner of the media bounty, mentioned that they also had comic books to sell, and asked if I would be interested.  I said yes, left my card, and promptly forgot about it.

Friday night, Debbie called, and said that she finally had sorted the 3500 to 4000 comic books, which were mostly from 1970s and early 1980s, and that they were ready to sell.  She also said that she had looked up their value online, and sidestepped my question of how much she wanted for the lot.  Still, I made an appointment to look at the comics on Saturday.

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t know anything about selling comic books.  I still have two full boxes that I purchased in July that I haven’t even touched yet.  So, I decided to take a crash course in comic book sales.  Between Friday night and Saturday afternoon, I spent some time perusing the web, looking up everything I could find about buying/selling comic book collections. Forewarned is forearmed, so to speak.  Here are some tidbits that I gleaned from my research:

  • Comics from the 50s and 60s are worth the most.
  • Comics from the 80s to today are worth the least (or nothing at all).
  • Comics from the 70s are usually worth something.
  • Selling comic collections is not easy.

I also learned that most comic book dealers only offer between $.05 and $.10 per book for large collections.  After all, dealing with 3000 comic books is apt to be very labor intensive.  I also learned that to take a full value tax donation for the collection, if you believe it is worth more than $5000, you have to have the collection appraised, which, of course, costs money.

I also learned that as in all negotiations, the person who names a price first usually loses.

Satisfied that I knew enough to make an informed purchase decision, I decided to offer $350 for the collection, with no negotiation. 

Debbie was late for our meeting (she had the comic books in her SUV), so I chatted with her brother-in-law for a few minutes.  I learned that Debbie had spent weeks sorting and researching the comic books, and that she also had shopped them to a comic book store in Atlanta before offering them to me, but wasn’t satisfied with their offer.

When Debbie arrived, I looked over the collection, which consisted of eight long boxes, plus about four other boxes, which contained, as Debbie put it, the more expensive books, as well as comic/TV/movie-related magazines.  Again, I asked her how much she wanted for the lot.  She hesitated, and the asked for $1 per book.   I refused (nicely), and the price dropped to $.50 book.  After some more discussion, I offered my best (and only) deal of $350.  Ironically, she then admitted that was about what the comic book store had offered.

As she hesitated and thought about it, her sister and brother-in-law, who made up the original negotiating team for my media purchase, joined us.   Debbie asked their opinion about the offer, and to my semi-delight, they really didn’t care, and said so.   It seems that neither of them wanted to store the comic books any longer, nor go to the trouble of trying to donate them for maximum tax benefit.  So, after more back and forth, and after trying to negotiate her perceived most valuable comics out of the deal, we finally settled on my original price for the full lot.

After getting them home, I looked over the more expensive comic books, and listed a few of the graphic novels, one of which promptly sold to a buyer in Australia.  I also looked over the magazines, including bagged copies of Starlog, Star Trek magazines, and Dr. Who magazines, and after some research, discovered that those were worth money as well, and probably will help me recoup my investment without listing a single comic book.

I stored the rest of the boxes in our guest house, and I’m sure I’ll be hearing from Ella soon about getting rid of them because they are cluttering up the place.

Speaking of Ella, she also benefited from the buy.  As I’ve mentioned before, she’s a big Western buff, loving all things cowboy.  In fact, she wears one of her Western character shirts (i.e., the Virginian) on Saturday mornings, and it’s a running joke between us that when she wears said shirts, she finds something Western to add to her collection.  This Saturday though, despite wearing her Western shirt, she didn’t find anything, and we even talked about it on the way home.

Late Saturday evening, though, as I was going through the comic books, I found a book about The Wild, Wild West TV show, and gave it to her.  So, her streak is still alive.

How was your weekend?

Friday, September 7, 2012

An Oopsie Daisy Christmas Story

It’s a familiar story.  Christmas. Hot toy. Short supply. Crying kid. Desperate parents.

Solution?  Search the Internet … Amazon, Ebay, etc.  Pay a premium, but have a happy kid on Christmas morning.

Only, this was the late 1980s.  Amazon and eBay weren’t even twinkles in their creators’ eyes. The Sears Christmas Wishbook was king. And my niece wanted a special doll, an Oopsie Daisy doll, that just could not be found.

My brother and his wife had searched all over Atlanta for the doll to no avail, and finally asked if we could search in our area, about 90 miles south in Macon.  Of course, the doll was sold out here as well, and I broadened my search to the small town where I worked, Milledgeville, and to the city where my sometime girlfriend lived, Athens.

Unfortunately, it seemed like Santa wouldn’t be able to deliver that year.

Then, I had an epiphany.  I worked at a newspaper, so I wrote a column detailing my problems trying to find the special gift. Now, Milledgeville is a small town with a small town paper, but never, ever underestimate the power of the press.

Two days after the column ran, I received a call from a reader who said they had a doll that they would sell me.  It seems that they too had wanted a doll for their little girl, and were lucky enough to have found one.  And like my brother, they too had put out the word to relatives to look for the doll.  And, lo and behold, a relative in Alaska had found a doll, and sent it to them.  So, they had two, and offered to sell one to me at retail price.

Obviously, my niece had a merry Christmas that year.

That was about 25 years ago, and while the song may have changed, the dance is the same.  Kids still want the newest, flashiest, cutest toys, and parents are still eager to please their little munchkins, no matter how much it costs. 

As online sellers, we can take advantage of this parental devotion, provided we have enough foresight to purchase stock of hot items before the Christmas frenzy hits. For example, in 2009, Zhu Zhu Pets and their accessories were hot, and in short supply, even months before Christmas.  Retail price was around $9 each, but I was fortunate enough to buy a few on eBay in September for around $20 each.  I held on to them until Black Friday, and listed them for $60 each, and most sold within hours.  In December, though, the manufacturer caught up, and the online priced dropped back to normal.  Luckily, all mine had sold by then.  Today, it’s hard to give away Zhu Zhu Pets; their time has passed.

By now, I’m sure you are asking yourself which toys are hot this year.  Wouldn’t it be cool if there was a website that lists all the hot toys?  You maybe could catch a few on sale now, and sell them for a profit later as we plunge headlong into the silly season. 

And wouldn’t it be even cooler if that same website could tell you which major retailers had the toys in stock? After all, if no major retailer has them in stock in December, and you were lucky enough to buy a few in September, cha ching!

OK, I’ve kept you suspense long enough.  There is such a website:

Good luck, good hunting, and don’t say I never gave you anything.

Have a profitable weekend!

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Trendy sales

There are many sellers out there who live and die by statistics, meticulously plot sales trends, and try to anticipate current/future sales by looking at past sales.

Fortunately, I am not one of them.  Math tends to confuse me, and one of the reasons I went into journalism was to avoid working with digits higher than the number of fingers and toes that I have. However, there comes a time when even the most numerically challenged seller has to look at the numbers, and either shake his head in disgust, or smile in relief.  

After what seemed to be a particularly busy August, and after packing my last item on the 31st, I felt the need to assess my sales for the month.  My sleep-deprived state preventing me from even attempting such an endeavor at that point, but the long weekend provided ample opportunity, as Jethro Bodine would say, to do some ciphering.  Truthfully, I was expecting a moderately successful month (after all, it had been busy), but was pleasantly surprised to see just how well the month had treated me.

Like many booksellers, I use www.theartofbooks (AOB) to manage my online inventory. Not only does it allow me to sell across multiple venues (Amazon, Alibris, Half, Biblio), but also it provides some rudimentary record-keeping, which is just perfect for a rudimentary guy like myself.  In August 2012, I sold 270 items across all venues, plus another 40 items on eBay.  Using simple math (my favorite kind), that equates to shipping approximately 10 packages a day, which wasn’t too shabby.

Impressed with my analytical skills at this point, I decided that to judge just how good August 2012 actually was, I had to compare it against August 2011.  I also decided that number of packages shipped didn’t adequately define how successful the month was, so I decided to use gross revenue.  Now frightened by my own initiative, I opened Microsoft Excel, and created a chart comparing August sales for 2011 to 2012, using data from AOB. 

It was a cute chart, but kind of sparse, so I added sales from as far back as August 2007 (my first year of serious online selling), thinking I may see some trend.  Sheesh, did I actually think about a trend?  I realized at that point that I was dangerously close to becoming a math geek (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but the information provided showed that August 2012 was my second best August ever.

More revealing, though, is that it shows just how consistent my sales actually are from year to year, at least in August.

Talk about a smile of relief.

At that point, I was hooked, and decided to compare eBay sales for August 2011 and 2012.  The current year sales far outstripped 2011, but that was to be expected since I was fairly new to eBay selling last year. 

On a totally unrelated subject, Ella and I had our first foray into hunting for our new Barry’s Bookmobile over the weekend. In a previous blog, I had discussed either wanting a Ford Transit Connect or a pickup truck with a cap on the back. After test driving the Transit Connect, I can say that it’s a cute vehicle, and probably would suit our needs, but the pokey engine (4 cylinder for you car enthusiasts) and the high price $22,000 to $25,000 led us to believe that the truck/cab combination probably would be the better deal.  To my amazement, Ella has taken the lead in looking for the truck, and was routinely talking to the salesmen about mileage, model year, and number of doors (she wants a four-door truck).  Unfortunately, everything we (Ella) liked was out of our price range, so we are still looking.

As far as actual thrifting, the weekend was pretty much terrible, with few sales yielding even fewer treasures.  I’ll chalk it up to being a holiday weekend, but August garage/yard/church sales had been trending (there’s that word again) badly, and the first weekend of September followed suit.  Fortunately, there already is a church sale advertised for next weekend, so maybe with Fall upon us, the trend (I just can’t get away from that word) will improve.

How was your weekend?

Monday, August 27, 2012

A philosophical question

I ran into an acquaintance this weekend, and he related a story to me about a fellow thrifter finding a genuine Rolex watch in small bag of assorted watches, which was purchased for $1 at a church yard sale.  

It sold on eBay for $1900.

After hearing about the fantastic find and sale, I was more than a bit jealous.  After all, it’s our business to buy low and sell high, and we all have mortgages to pay, tuitions to cover, and Disney trips to fund, and most of us can only dream about uncovering such a treasure.

Yet, something was bothering me, from a philosophical standpoint. Given the age of the watch, I’ll go out on a limb and say that it was donated by a senior citizen, either directly, or through an estate, and neither of which would have parted with it if they had known its value.  Of course, that’s true at any sale, but we aren’t talking about nickel and dime items.  Two grand is a lot money, and, for most people, could make a difference in their quality of life, at least in the short term.

So, the question I kept asking myself is at what point does our hobby/business/obsession become less about thrifting, and more about taking advantage of people’s ignorance and/or misfortune?  Is there a monetary value of a find that should make us stop, assess the situation, and be a good Samaritan, or should we always take the money and run, so to speak, regardless of the circumstances?  

Does our conscience have a price?

Admittedly, I don’t have all the answers, and, honestly, like most of you, I probably would have kept and sold the watch for the almost obscene profit. By asking the questions, though, I’d like to think that I haven’t quite become so jaded that I wouldn’t at least consider the implications of my gain vs. the donor’s loss. 

Elsewhere in my little corner of the thrifting world, Saturday again was hit and miss.  I did find five USB bar code scanners for $20; a family of Care Bears; several new games and puzzles; and assorted books and CDs.  I also had to work to make a nickel by buying the individual Twilight books for $.25 each to sell as a lot.

On a happier note, Ella returned on Sunday.  Despite enjoying two months of bachelorhood, it’s good to have her home.

Plus, she brought me a plush ALF to sell.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Thrifting can be a depressing activity

The older I get, the less I like getting up early on Saturdays to attend yard sales. There just has to be a better way.    However, until I figure that out, I’m stuck being an early bird going after the proverbial worm.

On Saturday, the worms were few and far between, but I found myself driving to a 6 a.m. sale, arriving about 5:30 a.m. I had hoped that since it was at a church, it would be inside, but those hopes were dashed as I drove up and saw a few people setting up tables under the romantic glow of car headlights.

I sat in my car for a bit, not wanting to get in their way, but was invited to start perusing their wares, even though most everything was still in boxes.  I accepted their kind offer, but found it hard to see anything, let alone anything of value.  Luckily, another set of car headlights further illuminated the area, and I was able pick up a few items.  No one wanted to take ownership of pricing, though, except for an eight-year old girl, who seemed to be doing most of work anyway.  I actually had to negotiate with her on a couple of items; she was one smart cookie.

Unfortunately, that was the highlight of my day.  I attended a few more sales as the morning progressed, finding a few items, but generally wasting my time and gas. 

What would become my last sale of the day was at a storage unit, but it was being packed up as I arrived, even though it was only 10:15, and the ad said it would last until 1 p.m.  I got out of my car anyway, but the couple running the sale said they had to leave because they had to take their dog to the vet to be “put down.”  They pointed to the open passenger side door of their car, and I saw a small white dog sitting on a pillow, panting.  Apparently, the 10-year-old dog was suffering from congestive heart failure, had almost died twice that morning, and was obviously in distress.  After asking permission, I walked over to the dog, and gently rubbed its head and back.  Despite its ragged panting, the little dog raised its head, and with bright eyes, seemed grateful for the attention.  I kept the little pooch company until its owners were ready to leave.

I really didn’t feel like going to any more sales after that, so I went home, gave my dogs a couple of bites of cheese as a treat, and dreaded the day when I might have to make the same decision for one or both of my dogs.

I spent the rest of Saturday listing items on eBay and Amazon.  Sales had been strong both Friday and Saturday, and I woke up Sunday morning with about 33 items to pack.  After getting everything packed, I loaded the car and headed to the post office.  I never use their Automated Postal Center, but I love their oversized dropbox.  I dragged the largest of my totes full of packages inside, but after dropping a few in, the door wouldn’t open anymore.  Apparently, my packages had filled it up.  Great, just great.  The post office rarely empties the box, except at the officially listed pickup times, so I knew I would have to carry the rest of my packages inside the post office on Monday, and pretty much waste my lunch hour.

Lugging my packages back to my car, I decided to head over to the local Goodwill, just for grins.  To my surprise, I actually found a few books and a new in package game.  Taking my loot to the register, I got my favorite clerk, I’ll call her Nancy, who always has a tale of woe.  Nancy, a petite dirty blonde, appears to be in her late 40s, maybe early 50s, and it’s a cliché, but you can almost see years of bad breaks and/or bad decisions on her face.  I asked her how she was doing, and she sort of shook her head, and looked as if she was wearing the weight of the world on her shoulders.

Tallying my purchases, she told me that her sister suffered a stroke last week, and that she was exhausted from trying to work and provide care-giver support while her sister recuperated.  While she detailed her ordeal, I thought that if this woman didn’t have bad luck, she’d have no luck at all.  A few weeks ago, her divorce from her husband was finalized, and someone poisoned her two dogs.  She was more upset about the dogs.  Before that, her grandmother was in the hospital in serious condition.  Before that, she was hobbling around the cashier stand, suffering from chronic back pain.  For whatever reason, this woman seems to attract bad karma.

As always, I listened politely, sympathized with her, wished her well, and left, not wanting to hold up the line.  I think she enjoys venting for a few minutes to a semi-stranger (me), but I suspect that if circumstances warranted it, she would talk for hours about her troubles. 

Sunday was pretty much shot after that, so I decided to begin “Operation Straighten the House Before Ella Comes Home.”  I’ve got a week to de-clutter the house before Ella returns next Sunday.  It’s not going to be fun.

How was your weekend?

Monday, August 13, 2012

Exhausting weekend - One week later

Last week, I posted about my bulk buy of media at an estate sale.  It included many boxes of books, new DVDs, new computer/video games, and CDs.  I paid $910 (initial scouting plus estate buyout), and drove back and forth between my house and Macon (about 20 miles) three times to get it all home.

After working all last week, and most of this weekend, on listing, I decided to take a look at my progress, and to see if I am even close to getting my money back out of the deal. 

I have listed all the sellable books on Amazon; non-sellable books, worth less than $1, have been donated.  I also have reserved two boxes of low-ranked books for Amazon’s FBA program, and I have several boxes of books, and a Star Trek book collection, that will be listed on eBay as sets.  Neither the FBA nor eBay books are included in my tally.  I also have listed all the CDs, and a tote full of video games.

So far, I’ve added … drum roll please … 321 items to my inventory, of which 56 items have sold for $506 (plus shipping allocation).  So, in a week’s time, after expenses, I have made about half my money back.

The other 265 items have a combined listing price of $3024.

I still need to list all the new DVDs and the rest of the new computer games, but Ella, who is coming home from Ohio on August 26, has decreed that she wants to see the DVDs before I sell them.  I guesstimate, though, that the DVDs and games will bring in at least another $1000, probably more.

I write this not to brag, but to point out the benefits of buying in bulk.  I’ve been fortunate enough on several occasions to purchase collections, including 500+ classical music CDs, a Christian bookstore closeout, and, of course this one.  I’ve also missed out on a few because I was too timid to pull the trigger on the sale.

Granted, initial monetary outlays can be huge, by thrifting standards, and your positive return on investment can be measured in months or years, as opposed to weeks. 

However, the benefits, both immediate (initial bump in sales) and long-term (I’m still selling classical CDs) can help keep your bottom line steady as opposed to the sales slumps/spikes that we’ve all come to know and hate.

Monday, August 6, 2012

An exhausting weekend

Saturday started out so innocently.  All I wanted to do was hit a few yard sales, pick up a little inventory, and come back home to catch up on my listing.  Granted, there were quite a few sales on my morning’s agenda, including a church sale, but I was predicting an easy, hopefully productive, day.

However, it was this sale that put a kabash on my best-laid plans:

Estate sale Saturday 8/4/12 8AM – 12PM Furniture, electronics, thousands of books, hundreds of DVDs and music CDs, computer games. Lots of new items in the box.

I arrived early, about 7:30, and the sale was already crowded.  Tables full of books were lined up and down the driveway, with some in the yard as well.  Boxes of books had been shoved under some of the tables.  Two CD stands were full of CDs, and there were totes full of new, in shrink-wrap DVDs.  Did I mention the boxes of new computer games?

Taking a deep breath, I went to work with my scanner, and soon filled a box, then another box, then another box, and finally a fourth box.  The folks in charge had been adding up my purchases per box, and I told them when I reached $110 (all the money I had) to let me know.  My fourth box took me over the top, and I had to stop.  I hadn’t even scratched the surface of the DVDs, CDs, and software, though.

As a side note, a good Samaritan picked up a vintage Commodore computer that had a $10 price tag, and handed it to the proprietors of the sale, saying they should put it on eBay for lots more money.  Thanks a lot, I mentally said.

Upon paying my tab, I asked the proprietors what they were going to do with the remaining media at the end of the day.  They said that they would take offers for the lot, or give it to the Salvation Army.  I made it clear that I was interested in purchasing it, and they told me to come back at noon.

From there, I had to stop for more money, then decided to visit the church sale, and head home to unload the car.  I picked up a few things at the church, but I already was thinking ahead to noon.   There were no other dealers at the sale while I was there, so there was a pretty good chance that most of the “good stuff” would be left.

I arrived shortly before noon, and the proprietors of the sale began negotiating with me for the remainder of the media.   They wanted me to make an offer.  I hate it when that happens.  I opened the bidding at $200, which was low, and they knew it.  They countered at $500, but then started actually counting the remaining DVDs and games, and it ballooned to $1200. I balked at that, and they dropped the price to $850.  I asked how much for just the DVDs, CDs, and video games, since I had been through the books, and got all of the good ones earlier in the day.  They said $600, but I was greedy, and countered with $800 for the whole lot.  After some discussions, they accepted.

They wouldn’t accept a check, so I had to run to the bank.  By the time I got back, they were in the process of boxing up everything, and moving it to the end of the driveway to load in my moving van.  Of course, the only problem is that I didn’t have a moving van, only a Honda CR-V.  So, we loaded the CR-V to the brim, and I took off for home to unload.  I was back in an hour (20 minutes home, 20 minutes to unload, 20 minutes to return) for the second load.  Same process, and one hour later, I was back for the third load, which filled the car without an inch to spare.

I’m fairly certain the car needs new struts now.

Any progress that I had made clearing out our Great Room/Warehouse while Ella was away was lost in the span of a single afternoon.  Two loads actually went into the house, and the last load went to my storage unit.   My laundry room was full, my kitchen was full, and the Great Room/Warehouse, while not full, soon would be.

I was exhausted by that time, but I still needed to sort the books, so I sat on the kitchen floor with my scanner, and checked every book, separating the chaff from the wheat, so to speak. As expected, most of the books weren’t worth much, and I boxed up all the books to be donated (six boxes), put books to be listed in totes, and put aside books that I actually wanted to read.

On another side note, during loading at the estate sale, I had learned that the former owner of the media was only 47 years old when he died.  His tastes in books ranged from religion to science fiction. In fact, I got four or five big boxes of Star Trek books, plus a small box of trading cards, in the deal.

After going through the books, I decided to add up just the new DVDs and computer games to see if they were worth as much as I hoped they were.  So, I scanned each one, and kept a running tally in my head. I lost track after $2500.

On Sunday, I started listing the bounty from the day before, but wanted to differentiate between my first haul $110 and my second haul $800.  So, I listed just the first haul, which totaled just over $1000.  Later, I listed all the CDs from the second haul, and decided to call it a day.

I plan to send most of the new DVDs and computer games to Amazon (FBA) to sell for me. I’m not really sure what I will do with all the Star Trek books.   The Salvation Army and/or Friends of the Library will get the cast-off books.  I also separated two copier-paper sized boxes of nice religious books, which aren’t worth anything online, but probably would mean something to a nursing home or a small church school, etc.  I am researching that.

Oh, by the way, the Commodore computer was in the garage as we were negotiating a price, and I asked if I could look at it.  They agreed, and I discovered that the computer was in the box, but the power cord was not. Obviously, the value of the computer plummeted at that point.  I relayed the bad news to the proprietors, and they later asked me how much I would offer for the computer.  I politely declined.

So, obviously, my weekend was consumed from approximately 7:30 a.m. Saturday to late Sunday evening.  No one can say that I don't put my heart and soul into this business.

How was your weekend?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Pushy buyers

Since I’ve started selling online, I’ve been blessed with some wonderful customers, most of whom buy my product, then ride off into the sunset without a word spoken between us.  Amazon and eBay consider no communication between buyer and seller a good thing, and so do I.

Over the weekend, though, a pushy potential buyer happened upon my auction for a large lot of action figures.  Unbeknownst to me at the time, she bid, became the high bidder, THEN emailed me to ask if I would accept a cashier’s check.   My listing specifically said PayPal only, and I said as much in my email to her.

Her return email:

“i did not get your message in time and I won the bid. it would have to be casheirs check or money order. i am so sorry but i had paypal and it was hacked into and i will not get another one.”

OK, first off, she hadn’t “won the bid,” since there was still a day left on the auction.  Secondly, no, it wouldn’t have been a cashier’s check or money order because I don’t accept those kinds of payment. 

I then told her, via email, that she could either retract her bid, or if she won, she could cancel the sale.

I can empathize with her PayPal story, but that doesn’t give her any leeway to change the terms of my auction.

Thankfully, I didn’t hear back from her, and she didn’t “win the bid.”  Had she won, and not been allowed to use her preferred method payment, I probably would have received a negative feedback.  After the auction, I added her to my blocked bidders list.

On a totally unrelated subject, I’ve been busy this week trying to clear out our Great Room/”Warehouse” before Ella returns from Ohio later this month.  It’s a mess (a good mess, but still a mess), and one of my friends suggested that I would be a prime candidate for the TV show “Hoarders.”  She was kidding, I think.  However, as a precaution, I don’t answer any phone calls from the Hollywood area code.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

K-Mart Update

In a recent blog, I wrote about finding toys on clearance for $1.99 and $4.99 at K-Mart.   Since I am continually in scouting mode, I decided to revisit K-Mart today during my lunch hour to see if they had any clearance toys left, or had restocked the clearance shelves.

Much like my first visit, I was disheartened when I didn’t see any $1.99 and $4.99 signs.  And, also like my first visit, I wasn’t satisfied, so I grabbed a toy that I knew had been $1.99 last week, and took it to the nearest price scanner.

99 cents.

Holy cow.

Semi-excited, I walked back to the clearance aisle to find three K-Mart associates re-pricing the clearance toys to 99 cents.  Trying to be as unobtrusive as I could, as they repriced a toy, I grabbed it, scanned it on my phone to determine return on my $.99 investment, and either put it in my buggy, or back on the shelf.  All told, I grabbed 28 new toys and games. 

Speaking of the toys, over the weekend, I finally had time to get the first batch of toys ready to ship to Amazon for sale through their FBA program.

For FBA, I use a third-party service called FBA Power (, which makes the whole process of labeling sale items so much easier.  It also keeps track of how many of each toy I send, as well as the total value of each shipment.  I shipped 31 toys in four large boxes, including this Baby Alive doll.

Remember her?  She’s the doll that randomly makes baby noises, and bounces up and down for no apparent reason, and scares me in the middle of the night.  Well, I didn’t have the foresight to turn her off before shipment …

Yes, you guessed it.   As I am carrying in my boxes at the UPS store, this annoying little girl starts making baby noises, and bouncing up and down, which made my box look like something was alive in it.  The employees had a dubious look on their faces as I explained the situation, and expressed my worry that the chatty toy might somehow affect the shipment.  One employee then said that as long as the baby doesn’t yell for help, it should be OK. 

We all got a good-natured laugh at that.

Fortunately, the boxes made it to Amazon without incident. Now, I’m just waiting for Amazon to check them in, and start selling them for me.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Reverence, Empathy and Sadness

Another weekend, another car full of stuff.  I keep telling myself that I need to skip scouting for a while, and concentrate on listing, but the siren song of the Craigslist ads keeps me heading out the door every Saturday morning.

Some friends had taken pity on me, and invited me over for a home-cooked meal early Saturday evening, and given that meals with actual conversation (talking to the dogs while eating a sandwich over the kitchen sink doesn’t count) have been in short supply since Ella left for Ohio, I wasn’t going to miss it.   However, I wanted to get some work done on Saturday before the meal, so I decided to keep the thrifting to a minimum.

I hit some early sales, including a 6 a.m. church sale, and then drove to a book and record sale at a local college that had been heavily advertised for two weeks, and was scheduled to open at 9 a.m.  I arrived at 8:30 a.m., expecting to see a line.  Two cars were in the parking lot, and no one was waiting by the door.  Cool, I thought, and grabbed my rolling tote, and went to start the line.  I like being first in.

By 9 a.m., there were only six people there, including me.  No one seemed to have scanners, and no one had totes, baskets, wheelbarrows (OK, maybe not wheelbarrows), or any of the equipment that I usually see at book sales.  When the doors opened, I casually strolled in, confident that it was going to be a good sale.

It was, I think, but not for me.  The majority of the books were ex-library (duh … it was a library sale), but the books were old.  It gave new meaning to the words “old book sale.”  I don’t deal in old books, but the other five people in line obviously did.  There was none of the mad rush to grab the books off the shelves, like a typical book sale, but more of a quiet, almost reverent, feel to the room as the other dealers painstakingly examined volumes, keeping some, and reshelving what they didn’t want.

Fortunately, there were a few newer titles, and after 30 minutes or so, I had filled my tote about halfway, exchanged pleasantries with a few of the workers, and paid for my books.

Originally, I had planned to head home at that point, but like an itch that you can’t quite scratch, or being hungry and not wanting anything in your refrigerator, I couldn’t be satisfied with the meager pickings, and decided to visit a few nearby estate/moving sales that I had researched (just in case, you know).

At the moving sale, I picked up a few more books; an original Playstation game system plus games for $5; and a box of action figures for $3.  I also kept looking at two long boxes full of well-organized comic books (with cardboard backings) in protective bags, which were advertised at $.25 each.  There had to be at least 200 comic books in each box.  The owner obviously saw me looking, and said he would make me a deal on all of them.

I don’t normally buy comic books; they are difficult to grade and sell, at least to me.  The word “deal,” though, always makes me listen.

OK, I asked, how much for all of them?   He started pointing out a few of the “gems” in one of the boxes, which, I guess, were worth a little money.  I began to think that his idea of a deal and mine were not in the same league.

After his sales pitch on the comic books, he said I could have all of them for ... he paused to think …

I waiting patiently, mentally coming up with reasons to decline his “deal.”


I automatically started to decline, but caught myself.  I guess his idea of a “deal” was exactly the same as mine.

Sold, I said.

After paying for my goods, the owner helped me carry the items to my car.  I asked if I could cut through his yard to get to my car instead of walking down the walkway, up the driveway, and then down the road a bit.  He said it was the bank’s yard now, and he didn’t care.

Uh, oh.  Suddenly, I felt guilty for not paying more, given that his house was in foreclosure. 

Like always, though, it passed. I can certainly empathize with his predicament, but I have my own mortgage to pay.

My next stop was an estate sale in a Victorian-mansion type house in an old-money part of town.  It was packed, even at 11 a.m. 

As I wandered through this beautiful house, full of exquisite and expensive antiques, furniture, and furnishings, I couldn’t help but feel that the owner, wherever he or she may be, probably would be sad to see his/her possessions (possessions that could have been passed down from generation to generation) sold off piece by piece, and carted off in pickup trucks.

I left empty handed, and a little sad myself, and decided to call it a day.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

RIP Mazda Pickup Truck

I knew this day would come.   My faithful 18-year-old Mazda pickup truck, which has served as a moving van, landscaping vehicle, book hauler, and even dog washer, has wheezed its last bit of exhaust in my care, thanks to a faulty transmission.

Oh, I could pay to have the transmission fixed, a repair likely to cost in excess of $1000, which would get the truck back on the road.  However, the truck leaks like a sieve, including some fluids that I don’t even recognize.  I live in constant fear that the truck will overheat, thanks to a defective coolant system that no amount of money can seem to fix.  Plus, the ever present clicking of valves as I accelerate from 0 to 60 in about five minutes leaves me calculating the odds of making it home, or being stuck on the side of the road.

In short, I always said that I would keep the truck until I had to take it out and shoot it.  Well, folks, I think it’s time to load my gun.

As much as losing my long-time companion depresses me, it does present an opportunity to acquire a new, or at least newer, vehicle.  Thanks to a small inheritance from my mom, who passed away last year, I have the ability to pay cash for vehicle, within reason, of course.

You’re probably asking yourself how this relates to selling online.  I’m glad you asked.

We currently use our second vehicle, a Honda CR-V, as our book hauling vehicle, and trust me, we have hauled many, many books.  In fact, I think it permanently sits a little lower now thanks to the weight.  Also, we have filled it up more than once on Saturdays during peak yard sale season now that I am thrifting with both Amazon (media) and eBay (non-media) in mind.   I hate having to return home to empty the car, and then head back out again.

So, after much consideration, I am in the market for a Barry’s Bookmobile, a vehicle that not only can haul my Saturday yard sale bounty, but also pine straw for the yard, guy stuff from Home Depot, and the dogs to the vet.

My first inclination is a Ford Transit Connect. 
I’m sure you’ve seen these strange-looking little vans on the road.   Built for the business customer, the little vans get decent gas mileage, are easy to drive (a prerequisite for Ella), and have a huge amount of cargo space.

My other idea is to get a used pickup truck, and put a camper shell on the back. It would be cheaper, and probably carry just as much.

Since I am fairly anal retentive about big money decisions, I will probably debate this for a while, or at least until Ella gets home, and we need a second vehicle.

However, if you have some ideas about my next Barry’s Bookmobile in the meantime, I’d love to hear from you.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Attention K-Mart shoppers ...

I’ve written before about the value of connections in this business.  You just can’t have too many friends with benefits, so to speak.  Of course, you also can’t forget about family when it comes to sourcing inventory.

Case in point, Ella is still in Ohio, and is staying with relatives, one of which, her cousin, just happens to be the manager of the local K-Mart. She told Ella on Saturday that K-Mart was putting many of their clearance toys on sale for $1.99 and $4.99 on Sunday.  Of course, Ella immediately called me.

So, bright and early on Sunday morning, I took off for K-Mart, arriving at 8:30 a.m.  Since I source inventory regularly, I knew where the clearance toys were, and beat a path the furthest reaches of the store.  To my chagrin, while the sign over the toys did say 50 percent off clearance price, there was no sign of any $1.99 or $4.99 toys.  Bummer.

Determined, though, I picked up a Barbie, which was marked $9.99, and would be $4.99 at 50 percent off.  While still a bargain for a casual shopper, my scan of Amazon prices showed not quite enough profit for me.  On a hunch, I took the Barbie over to the price scanner …  $1.99.  Ka-ching!

I proceeded to scan the toys on the shelf, filling my buggy with items that would be profitable at either the $1.99 or $4.99 price point.  I then rolled the buggy to the price scanner, and separated the on-sale toys from the misfit toys.  I then put the misfit toys back on the shelf, and repeated the process.

As I was working, two K-Mart associates began separating the $1.99 toys from the $4.99 toys, which made my job a little easier.

After all was said in done, I had accumulated close to $150 worth of clearance toys, including this home run for $4.99:

It had been reduced to $75, but was on sale for $4.99.

I also got several of these creepy dolls for $1.99:

The dolls are cute, but tend to randomly make baby noises, and bounce up and down for no apparent reason.  They startled me and the dogs several times yesterday.  You laugh, but hearing a baby giggle at 2 a.m. in the morning can be quite disturbing to a guy who is home alone.

Later Sunday, I drove up to Macon to visit their K-Mart, and came away with other assorted clearance toys.

My goal is to ship all the near perfect condition toys to Amazon to sell via their FBA program, and to list the toys in less than perfect condition on eBay.

I told my brother in Roswell about the toys, but his store didn’t have any on clearance.  You might want to check your local K-Mart, though.

Backtracking a bit to Saturday, it was a mixed-bag day.  There were no big sales, only lots of little sales, although I did manage to find quite a bit of media (books and CDs), which is still my biggest seller, although eBay is coming on strong lately. 

I also found this remote-control robot:

I paid a whopping $5 for him at a church sale.  He works perfectly, and even shoots little Nerf darts.  I’m not sure if I want to sell him, or keep him to play with.

On a totally unrelated subject, I have short story about poetic justice.

Friday morning, I walked out to my truck on the way to work, and noticed that the right front tire was almost flat.  I had three choices at that point … change the tire, called the auto service to change the tire, or limp to the nearest gas station and put some air in the tire.

The first two options would have made me late for work, so I chose No. 3. 

I drove slowly to the end of my road, and waited to pull out onto the busy main street.  Since it was about 6:30 a.m., the traffic was light, but steady, and I waited to pull out.  When the coast was mainly clear, I pulled out, and rolled slowly up the road.  Soon, a car came up behind me, almost touching my bumper, obviously agitated that I was going so slowly.  I also noticed another car behind him.  Apparently, I was leading a parade.

After a minute or so, the car immediately behind me passed me on a double yellow line, pulled in front of me, then slammed on his brakes (in retaliation for making him go so slowly) … making me slam on my brakes … and making the second car behind me slam on his brakes.  The car in front of me then sped off.

What I hadn’t noticed, and obviously the impatient driver hadn’t noticed was that the third car in the parade was a police officer, who saw what transpired, and, with full siren and lights flashing, passed me, and pulled the first car over well up the road from me. 

As I slowly passed the officer and the impatient, and now ticketed driver, I couldn’t help but feel a bit of satisfaction.

How was your weekend?

Monday, July 9, 2012

Monday Musings - 9 July 2012

"We can't all, and some of us don't. That's all there is.
" - Eeyore

I read a blog about the fairness, or lack thereof, of starting a sale early.  You know, the paper lists an 8 a.m. start time, but the seller actually starts selling at 7 a.m.  Therefore, you miss all the good stuff by playing by the rules, and showing up at the published time.

Obviously, the seller is master of his (or her) domain, and can start the sale any time he/she wants to.   But does the seller have an obligation, an implied social contract, if you will, to be fair to all potential buyers by starting on time?

I think not.

When it comes to yard/garage sales, my motto is if you aren’t early, you’re late. I wouldn’t show up for an 8 a.m. sale at 6 a.m., just out of consideration, but I have been known to show up shortly after 7 in the off chance that the seller is ready to sell. And, more often than not, even if the seller is not completely ready, he/she is more than proud to let me start sifting through her items.

Church sales, at least in my area, are notorious for starting on time.  8 a.m. means 8 a.m., even if there is a line of 25 to 30 people waiting outside in the cold, begging, cash in hand, to be let in.  I’ve stood in lines like that, and I see absolutely no sense in keeping the doors closed when you have people ready to buy.

On a related topic, I learned on Saturday, thanks to Ella, who is in Ohio, that most sales in Zanesville start at 9 a.m.  9 a.m.?  Are you kidding me? By 9 a.m. here in Georgia, I’ve been working/thrifting for more than two hours.

Speaking of Saturday in Georgia, it was slow, slow, slow, both sales-wise, and yard/garage sale-wise.

I did find a few items, though, including a basketful of Eeyore merchandise, including several talking plush, a couple of shirts, a hat, a picture frame, key chain, etc. Hopefully, there will be an Eeyore fan out there in eBay land.

I also added a couple of more Nerf guns to my arsenal, including an apparently rare red Scout IX-3 pistol.  I finally got around to listing them, but still have to list my Nerf rifles.

That’s about it.  How was your weekend?

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