Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Monday Musings (Tuesday Edition)

A few weeks ago, I wrote about buying the inventory of a closed Christian bookstore.  Well, I finally got the last of the cassettes listed. The finally tally was 38 boxes, mostly Medium Priority Mail boxes, for an approximate total of 2100 cassettes.  I’m still working on all the CDs and books.

Speaking of the books, many of them are wonderful, practically new, Christian non-fiction and gift books, many with multiple copies.  Unfortunately, most are worth only $.01 on Amazon.  So, I had this bright idea to list them on eBay.  I’ve started running listings as buy one, get one for a friend, all for one price and one shipping charge. It helped beef up my listings total, and maybe will beef up my bottom line ever so slightly. 

For the rest of them, it’s either donate, or take them to local bookstore for credit.  We took five boxes yesterday to the bookstore, and got about $170 credit.  Sounds good, but the hitch with this particular store is that you can only use credit for half the purchase price of a book (i.e., book costs $6, but you can only use $3 credit toward it).  

On the other hand, maybe it’ll help, in some small way, to keep an actual brick and mortar bookstore, a dying breed, open.

The stereo transmitter and the nine speakers that I picked up from Goodwill for $100 work perfectly.  I’ve got them listed at $100 each, which is half off retail.  Hopefully, they will sell soon.

I hate not being able to find something in my inventory.  A customer purchased a card game, and I searched high and low for it, to no avail.  When this happens, I usually find another source for the item, and have it dropped shipped, even if I have to take a loss, rather than cancelling an order.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find an exact match.  So, I had to refund the money.

At a recent yard sale, I picked up a small box of cosmetics labeled Nu Skin.  Inside the box were four unopened, and one opened, but unused, boxes of Nu Skin Galvanic Spa Pre-Treat and Treatment Facial Gels.  A quick search on eBay via my Droid showed big money on Nu Skin products.  The seller reluctantly let the box go for $3, saying she spent a lot of money on it.  The items sold for $125.99.

Aliens and monsters sell, at least on eBay.  On subsequent days, I sold a plush Alf and a new, but vintage, Gremlins record set.  I’ve had the Gremlins record for a while, but the Alf was a recent purchase (thanks, by the way, to everyone who has pointed out that Alf merchandise is BOLO).

Ella will be visiting relatives in Ohio this summer, and has this grand idea about sharing our online sales strategies with several of her kin who are out of work.  Since Ella is not really knowledgeable about the behind the scenes activities (listing, packing, and shipping), she wants me to create a step by step book, so to speak, that she can pass around, as if I don’t have enough to do already.

My list.  It’s a running joke around my house when Ella asks me to do something. “It’s on my list,” I always say.   Ella’s book is now on my list.

T-shirt seen at Goodwill: Geek wielding a light saber with the expression “Come to the Dork Side.” If it had been my size, I would have bought it.

Ever get jealous of another seller, especially when you see him/her pick up something that you absolutely had no interest in until you saw it in his/her hands?  Me, neither.

Memorial Day weekend was slow, yard sale-wise, around here, so we stayed in bed a little longer, and hit a few sales a little later, not finding much.  On Sunday, it was the same story, but I did pick up this:

It’s an actual Marshall battery-powered guitar amplifier, complete with belt clip, that is only about five inches tall.  It looked like a toy, and was only $1.  It’s missing a knob, which will reduce the sale price, but eBay completeds show it selling in the $20 range.
Hope everyone has a great week thrifting, listing, and, of course, selling.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Life rarely gives gentle pushes

On Saturday morning, we went to a thrift sale that benefited the Alzheimer's Association.  With ridiculously low prices and a diverse selection, the sale was a perfect opportunity to help an organization that is near and dear to my heart.  Both my grandmother and my mother had undiagnosed dementia/Alzheimer's, so I've seen first-hand the effects not only on the sufferer, but also on the family.  In addition, my mother passed away exactly one year ago, so it was a gentle push, a reminder, so to speak, to always help when I can.

Yet, life is rarely satisfied with gentle pushes.  On Saturday night, Ella and I, along with another couple, attended the Powersville Opry, a down-home concert venue featuring country, bluegrass, and gospel music, and attended mostly by a senior citizen crowd. While Ella and I haven't quite achieved senior status yet, we do have many friends, mostly from our square dancing days, who have.  As the evening progressed, Joan and her husband, Roy, walked in.  Both were fellow square dancers, and Joan was instrumental in helping both Ella and me learn the rapidly fading craft.

I had heard through the grapevine, though, that Joan was suffering from Alzheimer's, but she seemed happy, animated, and social.  It had been about a year since I had seen her, and I was anxious to say hello.

I finally got the opportunity to speak, and when I walked up to her, she smiled, but I saw no recognition in her face.  After making small talk for a few minutes, I asked her if she knew who I was.  She admitted that she didn't, and even after I explained where she knew me from, I still wasn't sure that she remembered.

As I walked away from her, she left her seat and went back to the dance floor, started to line dance by herself, and seemed to be in her own little world.

It was sad that one of my friends didn't remember me anymore, but I was gratified that by buying something at the sale that morning, I had helped in some small way.

Deep down, though, I knew it probably wasn't enough.  I'll have to think about that.

Speaking of Saturday …

Once again, our main competition in the area beat us to the first yard sale of the day around 6:50 a.m. Luckily, it was the first sale on the main road of neighborhood yard sale, and, after seeing them, we went to the next sale, and stayed one step ahead of them throughout the neighborhood.

We exited the neighborhood with momentum, having acquired, among other things, this monster.  Complete with tags, and standing about 2 feet tall, this bad boy roars and his eyes light up when you press his paw (?). I'm not really sure about what to do with him, but he looks cool guarding my inventory.

We spent the next six hours going to two church sales, the aforementioned Alzheimer's sale, and a host of smaller sales.  In the process, we picked up a box full of character cake pans by Wilton, including my favorite, one of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, for less than $2 each.  The owner of the pans wanted a firm $2 each, but I pressed for a volume discount for the whole box.  He declined, so I picked up 12 of the pans for $24.  After handing over a $20 and a $5, he realized that he couldn't break the $5.  So, I got them all for $20.  How do you host a yard sale, and not have any change?

Speaking of the Ninja Turtles, I also got a bag full of action figures for $5 at a moving sale.  I also picked up many books and books on tape, and several Beetlejuice action figures, still in original packaging.  Ella picked up some Louis L'Amour books on tape.  Truth be told, it was all I could do not to offer a buy out of the whole sale, which included many toys, baseball cards, books, books on tape, VHS, etc.  But my warehouse (Great Room) and storage unit are full, so I resisted the temptation.

We ended the day at an estate sale that we had attended several weeks ago.  Of course, we didn't know that until we pulled up and recognized the house. Since we were there, we decided to take a look around just to make sure we hadn't missed anything.  I'm glad we did.  The family had run the original estate sale, but turned it over to an estate company this week.  They also had opened up another room full of goodies, including many, many craft books, craft magazines, and DVDs.

It was like Christmas to me.

As I was haggling with the organizer over a large plastic storage box full of good stuff, I engaged her in a lively discussion about Goodwill, and about them donating the leftovers to the Friends of the Library and/or the Salvation Army, two of my favorite charities.  She shared my disdain for Goodwill.  She was tough, though, and wanted $50 for the box.  Knowing full well that the price was a bargain, I immediately agreed, and checked my wallet.  $40.  Uh oh.    My next two questions were met with a polite, but resounding "No."  No checks, and she wouldn't accept $40.  I started trying to figure out what I could put back.

I sent Ella to the car to scrounge in her purse, and fortunately she came back with $10.

When I finally hoisted the box into the already full car, we were tired, starving, and broke.

What a fun day!

Our haul from Saturday

Friday, May 18, 2012

Goodwillism = great find ... maybe.

Goodwill stores always amuse me.  They seem to have a split personality.  Are they a thrift store, or an upscale boutique, as they like to call themselves?  In addition, pricing has become a joke, whether it’s putting a $1.01 price tag on a dollar store picture frame, with the original $1 price tag still attached, or printing out an eBay listing for an item, and attaching it to an item in their store, and charging the same price as on the listing.

My favorite Goodwillism (my new word), though, is when they put supposedly high-end items in their display case, where they languish because they are really not valuable, and let the valuable merchandise sit on their shelves, where it still is over-priced for a thrift store, but still a deal for a bargain hunter.

Case in point, during a recent thrift run, I casually strolled by the electronics isle, and noticed a small electronic device in a plastic bag with a $30 price tag on it.  Crazy, I thought, but took notice of the name, “Broadcastvision,” and decided to look it up on my phone as I walked toward the book section.  Completeds showed it selling in the $140 range.  Intrigued, but not actually “sold” yet on the item, I looked over the books (pathetic selection … don’t get me started), and then the toys, where $8 spent on a puzzle and a woodburning kit should net me about $80 (but, I digress).

I strolled back over the electronic aisle, and looked at the device again. It was a remote stereo transmitter with adjustable frequencies.  But it was missing the power cord.

It was then that I noticed the other boxes, each priced $8.08, with the same name, “Broadcastvision,” and serial numbers on the sides. Several had been opened, so I put my toys down to look over one of the items.  Sliding it out of the box, I couldn’t figure out what it was.  It was black, about 9 inches tall, had an on/off-volume switch, and obviously rechargeable because of the metal strips across the bottom. It had the name “Sports Select” in addition to the “Broadcastvision” label.  There were nine of them in all, some opened, obviously, and some not.

After some internal debate, and mental calculation ($30 for the transmitter, and $73 for the matching items … ouch), I decided to grab them all.  So, I pulled them off the shelf, and laid them on the floor, since I didn’t have a buggy.  Between those items, plus my toys, I had more than an armful, and was trying to figure out how to get them to the register.   As I was trying to figure out a way, including trying to slide the whole pile, I noticed an older lady watching me.

“Will you do me a favor?” I asked her.

“Probably not,” she said.

Sheesh, so much for that, but I persisted.

“I need to get a buggy.  Would you watch this pile for about 30 seconds while I run to the front?”

“Hurry,” she said.

So, I did, and got back in less than 30 seconds, and proceeded to put the items in my buggy.  Then, this woman had the nerve to pick one of my items up, open it, and ask what it was. After stifling several smart remarks, I had to admit that I had no idea, which, for some reason, seemed to irritate her, and she walked away muttering something about me selling them.  I bet she’s some kids favorite grandma ... not.

After paying, I headed back to work, still unsure of what I had.  Taking a few minutes away from printing slides (yeah, I know, putting my college education to good work), I looked the unknown items up online.

Holy {expletive deleted}.

They were wireless speakers for the transmitter, and I had nine.

The only problem is that I need power cords for the transmitter, plus the wireless receivers.  So, I have to hit Radio Shack for the cords before I can see if they all work.

Keep your fingers crossed.

Have a great thrifting weekend!

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Gadget Boy Dance

Yesterday, I read a mildly interesting article on CNET by Sree Sreenivasan about “5 lessons from a lost iPhone.” I don’t have an iPhone, but could relate due to my reliance on my Droid smart phone.

What really piqued my interest, though, was the description of his “Gadget Boy Dance.”

“It's what you do when you get out of a taxi in NYC, tapping various parts of your clothing to make sure you have your gadgets, keys, wallet, etc., with you.”

When I go thrifting or to yard sales, I take my “geek tools” (smart phone, PDA/scanner combination, and iPad), and, of course, my wallet and keys.  The smart phone attaches to the right side of my belt, and the PDA/scanner combination hangs on the left side.  My keys and wallet go in my front and back pockets, respectively. The iPad remains in the car.

Since my phone generally stays attached to my belt, it’s usually just a matter of hooking my PDA to my belt as I get out of the car, and putting my keys in my pocket.   As I walk up to the sale, I know every scouting tool is in place and ready for action, and money is in my wallet.

Returning to the car, however, is when I go into my own Gadget Boy Dance.  I touch my PDA, my phone, my wallet, and my keys last.  And when I get in the car, I always check for my iPad, just in case.

Then, because I’m semi-OCD about germs, I always use hand sanitizer.  After all, you never know what grimy hands have handled that Nerf gun (by the way, Lorraine (http://clamco.blogspot.com), I found another one at Goodwill this week; now that I am looking for them, they are everywhere. I really need to get them listed. Thanks for the tip).

The process then repeats at the next sale.

Once I realized what I was doing, I felt self-conscious.  However, given the price of my geek tools, perhaps an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, even if I do look silly doing the Gadget Boy Dance.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Are you the grasshopper, or the ant?

It is best to prepare for the days of necessity

That’s the moral of the Ant and the Grasshopper, an Aesop's fable, and it’s one that I had to keep reminding myself of this weekend.

Being Mother’s Day weekend, advertised yard/garage sales weren’t quite as plentiful as normal, and after looking around the backlog in my storage room (AKA our great room), I decided to take the day off, sleep a little later, and try to get caught up on my listing.

Ella, however, wasn’t buying it (pun intended), though, and took it upon herself to peruse Craigslist on Friday night, and make a list of yard/garage sale targets for Saturday morning.  Admittedly, there were more than enough sales to keep us busy, but the lure of sleeping late still lingered in my mind.

Dutifully, though, I set my alarm, and was up at the crack of dawn on Saturday, and we were out the door by 6:40ish, running a little late for the first 7 a.m. sale.  I was still grumbling to myself, wiping the sleep out of my eyes, when we pulled up to the sale, and saw our main competition already there, getting the perceived, and probably a few real, bargains.

At that moment, I realized that I was being the proverbial grasshopper, and, much to my chagrin, my competition was being the figurative ant.

It was an eye opener, literally.  So, I spent the rest of the morning shedding the grasshopper mentality, and becoming very ant-like, and very methodical with my purchases, with an eye toward not only maintaining a large inventory, but also making sure I always have something to list, no matter how big a mess my great room is.
D'oh! Moment of the Weekend
It wasn’t the first time, and knowing me, probably won’t be the last time, but we tried to go to a neighborhood yard sale a week in advance.

The sale was to be one of our main stops, but when we pulled into the neighborhood, we were surprised by the lack of open garages.  Now, it’s not particularly uncommon to find sparse participation in a big neighborhood, but this was nothing, nada, zilch, zippo.

After riding around the block, I stopped to look at the Craigslist ad.


It was scheduled for next weekend, as the ad plainly said, but they listed it right in the middle of this weekend’s sales, and we goofed by not reading the date.

I hate it when that happens.

Email of the Weekend

I sold one of those urban dog-tag type charms/pendants designed to be worn on a chain that seem to be popular these days.  It was from my failed experiment of buying storage units, and had taken forever to sell.  I had lowered the price repeatedly, and it finally crawled out the door for $40.  

Obviously, it’s cosmetic gold jewelry, probably gold plated, but it is labeled as 14k on the back, which was plainly detailed in the ad. So, I had no problem using “Gold” as one of the keywords in the title.

What I should have done, though, is put this in the description:

“No, you idiot, I am not selling a high-end gold pendant for $40 that you can sell to the gold store on the corner for 10 times that amount.”

Had I done so, though, I might not have received this email from the buyer:

“I received the item today. I need to return it to you so you can refund the money to me since the item it's not gold. It's metal.”

I was nice, and said he could return it, instead of commenting on the fact that gold is actually a metal, and that he should spend a little more time on his grammar instead of trying to make a quick buck off eBay.

 Sale of the Weekend

It was a nice way to end Sunday evening.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Monday Musings – You Can Never Go Too Far

I knew Saturday was going to be crazy when I counted six church sales advertised in either Craigslist or the local paper.  In addition, there were several neighborhood yard sales, and a few multi-family sales that sounded promising. Plus, we wanted to go back to the Friends of the Library book sale mentioned in Friday’s blog for their half off day.

Running a few minutes late, we were out the door by 6:45 on the way to our first church sale.  I had the option of two different routes to the church, and fortunately selected the road that passed right by an unadvertised church sale (No. 1) (six sales now became seven … crazy, I tell you) that was supposed to start at 8 a.m.  Seeing as how it was still before 7 a.m., and the church volunteers were still putting stuff out, I did the only courteous thing and stopped anyway, despite Ella’s protests. 

I’ve learned that cash in hand makes up for being early 99 percent of the time.  So, a box of books and CDs, and one ugly Christmas sweater later, we were on our way to the second church sale (No. 2) of the day, which, fortunately, was only a few minutes away.  Unfortunately, though, it pretty much was a bust, other than a $40 new in beat-up box toy that I got for $1 (original price was $2, but since he didn’t have change for a $10, I got it for $1).

Next up on our sales tour of local churches was a church (No. 3) that always, always has good stuff, and we were about 30 minutes late by the time we got there.   The church always has its sale in a long, narrow mobile classroom building, and each room has a theme (i.e., media room, toy room, electronics room, etc.).  I always head to the book room first, and Ella goes to the toy room.  She came out with a box, and I came out with a box, and we got in line to pay.  I then realized that I hadn’t been in the electronics room.  So, I paid, and went back to the room, and came away with two Microsoft Office products for the Mac ($1 each), and several old fishing reels ($.25 each).

The next church (No. 4), which was close by, was a bust, so we headed to our fifth church (No. 5).  I found a few items, including a hunter’s GPS unit for $10, which is a little more than I usually like to pay, but it was worth close to $100, so still a tidy profit to be had.

Still another church (No. 6) beckoned, and downtown we went.  Lorraine over at We Are: Clamco (http://clamco.blogspot.com) mentioned in her latest blog about her husband selling modified Nerf guns at a flea market.  So, what caught my eye at this sale? Yep, Nerf guns, two rifles and a handgun, not modified, but working, for $1 each.  I figured someone would want to modify these in the popular Steampunk style. Don’t know what Steampunk is?  As Lorraine told me, look it up.

Ella also found a nice leather motorcycle type jacket at the church’s fill a bag of clothes for $5 section.  It barely fit in the bag.  Ella did manage, though, to shove in a couple of tops for herself.  She’s resourceful when she wants to be.

Because it was getting late in the morning, we skipped the neighborhood sales, hit a multi-family sale, where I snagged a box of Star Wars/Star Trek collectibles, and a box of McDonald’s Barbie toys, then headed home to unload the car before heading to the last church (No. 7) on our list.

Since it was so late, the church was fairly picked over, but we did snag a wicked witch cake pan, as well as a full set of Power Rangers sheets for a couple of bucks.

From there, we went to the book sale.  With only a couple of hours to go before the sale closed, the crowd was winding down, but there were still plenty of books. I took my time, and found a few gems that the horde of locusts (i.e., book dealers like me) had missed.

We walked out of the sale shortly after 3 p.m., exhausted, dragging our rolling crates behind us.

Upon returning home, I had to unload the car again, and realized that I had no more room to put stuff.  Every nook, cranny, corner, and free floor spot that could be used for storage was full.

It was at this point that I looked over the disaster that is my house, and wondered if this little hobby of mine had gone too far.

But, at that moment, the immortal words of Ferris Bueller snapped me out of my depression:

“You can never go too far.”

Friday, May 4, 2012

Anatomy of a Book Sale

As can be deduced by my blog name, books have been the core of my business model for as long as I’ve been selling.  Oh, I’ve started working my eBay store fairly consistently, but every two weeks, when the money is deposited into my account, Amazon is King.

Therefore, I have to take advantage of every opportunity for inventory, and yesterday was no exception at the annual Houston County Friends of the Library book sale at the fairgrounds. It’s one of the largest sales in the state, and draws book dealers like flies to a picnic.

Dealers, including me and Ella, started lining up before 8 a.m. for a number and a hand stamp (Amigo) that would get us in the door at 10 a.m.  We were numbers 33 and 34 this year.  After getting our numbers, we retreated to the car, and went to breakfast, then to scout a local Goodwill, while we were waiting. I literally had to drag Ella out of Goodwill, which had everything in the store half price, to make it back in time for the start of the sale.

By the time we got back, about 9:45, there were approximately 150 people in line, most with some sort of rolling container and PDA/scanner combination in hand or on belt. We looked like the remnants of a rag-tag geek army poised for some digital battle.

The crowd was getting restless as the clock approach 10 a.m. The gentleman in the tan shirt with sunglasses (middle, left) glaring at me is one of my main competitors in this area, and was none too pleased with me taking his picture, or maybe it was because I was ahead of him.

As I waited and watched/listened to the crowd talk, I had time to reflect on the massive undertaking that a large book sale entails, since I’ve seen behind the curtain as a volunteer in past years.  Throughout the year, at least twice a week, the dedicated Friends of the Library volunteers sort and price donated books in preparation for the sale. Two days before the sale, borrowed and rented trucks are loaded with boxes.  The day before the sale, these trucks, along with trucks manned and loaded by prison labor, make their way to the fairgrounds.  By 10 a.m. the morning of the sale, break areas for the volunteers have been created; cashier stands have been established; and the equivalent of a small library has been organized and prepped for sale.  It’s no easy feat.

When the door opened at 10 a.m., the crowed swept in like a hoard of locusts.  I figured being No. 33 got me in about 45 seconds behind No. 1, and probably about a minute or so ahead of No. 150. It did allow me to stake my claim in the religion section, while Ella went to the media tables. As I scanned books, I could hear the shuffle of feet moving about, then an eerie quiet settled over the room, interrupted by only the occasional electronic beep, as the dealers concentrated on their task.

As usual for me, pickings seemed to be slim at first, and I had to fight back major performance anxiety as I saw other dealers throwing books in their boxes while my box was basically empty. However, I took a deep breath, relaxed, and got back to work. I started working the unboxed books on the floor to great success, and started typing in ISBNs on books that didn’t have barcodes, finding good books that the other dealers didn’t take time to pursue.

Three hours and two rolling totes plus two boxes later, Ella and I were finally ready to leave.  However, the media section was near the checkout line, and I got sidetracked looking over the VHS, CDs, and DVDs.  Again, I took my time, and found items that the other dealers, including Ella, had missed in their haste, including an unusual DVD that had no UPC code. Experience told me, though, that it had to be worth more than $2, and it was, to the tune of $150.

I also looked over the record albums, something I normally don’t do.  However, Ella found several square dance albums (yes, we can square dance), and I picked up several albums from a school library that featured schoolyard exercise/dance routines. I’m not sure of their actual value, but they made me nostalgic for grade school P.E. class, and nostalgia usually sells.

Checkout, as usual, was fast, despite the long line.  A mother and pre-teen daughter worked as a team to tally our purchases, and I was impressed by the daughter’s ability to fit our books back in the boxes in an efficient manner.  I remarked that the girl must be good at the video game Tetris, which just drew a blank stare (obviously before her time).  Her mother explained that she had been volunteering at the book sale for three years, and had it down to an art form.

We left book rich, but money poor, with aching feet from standing on the concrete for 3.5 hours. As much as I enjoy the big book sales, I’m always glad when they are over.

Now, if I can only find the time to list all the books.

As a side note, I learned that the Friends of the Library took in approximately $24,500 in one day from us dealers.  Not too shabby, and it means more books for the library.  Good deal.