Monday, June 25, 2012

Proud and jealous

For the past four years, my younger brother, Joey, who lives in Roswell, GA, has been listening to me brag, for lack of a better word, about my yard sale finds.  At times, I would encourage him to seek out his own Amazon/eBay treasures.  He resisted for a while, but finally bit the bullet, so to speak, over the last year or so, and gradually has become a faithful early weekend riser to look for sellable items.

On Saturday morning about 8:30 a.m., I received a text from Joey saying that he finally ran into another seller, but was proud that he had beat that seller to the punch by at least 30 minutes, and had all the goodies that the sale had to offer.  He didn’t elaborate, but if you can judge a person’s mood from a text, he sounded excited.  I learned later that this is what he picked up:

I was both proud and jealous.

Besides the obvious, here is what was really interesting about his find. 

Joey wrote that “A lot of the new DVDs were sealed with Big Lots price stickers on them of $2 - $3, including that one.”

I knew Big Lots was a good place for inventory, but never thought to look at their cheap DVDs … until now.

In my neck of the woods, Ella and I spent a good chunk of time at a sale to benefit animal rescue and spay and neuter programs.  We got to the sale early, and had first dibs on the books and DVDs.  In fact, we had first dibs on most of what I consider sellable items, and quickly amassed two overflowing boxes full of good stuff, including this remote-controlled Robosapien (priced at $2):

Each item was individually priced, and by my count, we had at least $50 worth of items in our boxes. Now, I know this sale was for a charity that is near and dear to my heart, but I never let that get in the way of getting a good price.  So, I asked the person in charge if she would make a deal for the whole lot, as opposed to counting each and every item.  She suggested $10, and I quickly accepted her offer.

Bundling items together is a useful tactic at a big sale.  Workers usually do not have an emotional interest in the individual items, usually just want the money, and really don’t want to deal with any leftovers after the sale.  I always let them name the price, though.  If they name a price that is too high, I can always negotiate down.  If I name a price that is too high, and they accept, well, I’ll never know if I could have gotten it cheaper.

Otherwise, Saturday was full of hit and miss stops along our route.  We wanted to go back to the animal rescue sale at 1 p.m. (charities tend to almost give their stuff away at the end of the sale), so we were hurried, and didn’t get to go everywhere we wanted to go.

Our last stop was at an estate sale, but it was nearly noon, and I really didn’t expect to find much. Everything by that time was half price, though, so I was determined to walk away with something.  I managed to snag a few CDs, a vintage erector set, and this vintage 1968 calendar:

Originally priced at $30, it was half priced for $15, which is still a little out of my comfort zone for what I call a speculative buy.  Take a closer look at the woman on the front, and you can get an idea of what kind of pictures are included.  I figured it was just quirky enough to appeal to the prurient interest of some small segment of the eBay buying population.

We made it back in time for the closing of the animal rescue sale, and managed to snag a few more items cheap, including most of the remaining books, CDs, and books on tape, which they just gave away to avoid having to move them.  Unfortunately, most are headed to Goodwill.  As most of you know, I usually don’t donate to Goodwill, but I figured dumping a bunch of old and/or water-damaged books would be a sort of poetic justice, at least for me.

How was your weekend?

Monday, June 18, 2012

A tale of two Goodwills

When I first started selling online, Goodwill was the nirvana of sources for me.  I had their patterns down, I knew when they put out fresh books, and, for the most part, I was the only dealer who frequented the multiple stores in the area on a regular basis.

One day, two years ago, the bookshelves at area Goodwills started drying up.  After talking to a few managers, I learned that Goodwill corporate had directed that all donated books be sent out of town to a Goodwill bookstore, which would, in turn, send books back to the local stores as needed.  Shelves in local stores never returned to normal, and what books they do get now are mostly old fiction, old textbooks, and multiple copies of the Left Behind series.

I was upset, and I think I wrote/called everyone but my Congressman to complain about the unfairness of taking donations out of my community, and sending them up the road to the big city.  However, I adapted.  Goodwill became a source of toys, some electronics, and various odds and ends.  I rarely ever look at the books now because it’s a waste of time.

Several weeks ago, a brand spankin’ new Goodwill store opened across town; I had heard about it, but hadn’t made the short trip.  On Saturday, after a fairly decent morning of visiting garage/yard sales, Ella and I decided to ride over there, just for fun.  The new store is impressive; it looks like a department store - well lit, with plenty of merchandise, including books.  Wait a minute … what?

Yes, the store had books, three long bookshelves, full of books, front and back, plus books on the end caps. Luckily, I had brought my scanner, and we walked out of there with about 40 good-money books.

I was happy for the finds, but irritated that other Goodwill stores, including the up to then largest one in the community (my favorite), weren’t getting the same treatment as this new one.  I also learned that Goodwill had shut down another store in a smaller city nearby when this new one opened.

The way I figure it, the new Goodwill is pulling the old bait and switch routine.  Stock the store well to attract customers, then cut back on the inventory, and hope the customers keep coming back.

Now, I know you’re wondering why, if I dislike Goodwill so much, do I keep shopping there. That’s a fair question, and it reminds me an episode of Hazel, a TV show from the early 1960s.  In a nutshell, Hazel bought a lottery ticket for her boss, but later learns that the boss believes lotteries, like all gambling, is bad.  After much hilarity (OK, maybe only a little), Hazel and her boss give the lottery ticket to the preacher of the local church.  The ticket wins, and the church benefits.  When asked about the morality of taking lottery money, the preacher responds that he would take money from the Devil to do God’s work.

I may not like Goodwill, but as long as I can make money from the store to put food on my table, it’s a necessary evil.


How was your Saturday?

Aside from the Goodwill trip, Saturday, as usual, was profitable, but nothing extraordinary, seeing as how it was Father’s Day weekend.

My best find of the day was a tub full of Nerf guns, both pistols and rifles.  I think there were nine in all, and I paid a princely sum of $5 for the lot; at another sale, I paid $.50 for a Nerf target set, including two more guns, vests, and the cool looking safety glasses.

Oh, I almost forgot about the new in shrink-wrap copy of Windows 3.1.  Vintage software sells fairly well on eBay, and you usually can get it cheap when available.  I paid $.50, and I expect to sell it for close to $100.

Have a great week listing and selling!

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

When good sellers go bad

Whenever I buy something from either Amazon or eBay, I always check a prospective seller’s feedback. While I realize that no one is perfect, anything more than a random Negative or Neutral rating sends me to the next seller.  Obviously, this is the purpose of feedback, and it tends to work quite well, despite an occasional undeserved rating from a disgruntled buyer who can’t be pleased.

I’m not that kind of buyer, though.  As a seller, I realize how hard this business actually is, especially for those who have full-time jobs, families, etc.  So, I tend to be more forgiving of small lapses from sellers, and rarely give Negative ratings, preferring to just not leave feedback as my way of protesting any real or imagined slights.

Yet, there comes a time when my patience finally wears out, and I resort to leaving Negative feedback as a way to get a seller’s attention.  Of course, I reserve the right to remove the feedback should the situation warrant it.

Case in point, on May 24th, I purchased some poly mailers from a seller who apparently specialized in packing materials.  The seller had close to 100 percent feedback, 616 total ratings, with only one Neutral rating within the past year. Shipping was free, and delivery was estimated between May 31st and June 13th.   I also purchased some other packing supplies from different sellers during the same shopping spree.

Within a week, all my supplies had arrived, except for the poly mailers, which still had no shipping notification.  I gave the seller the benefit of the doubt, thinking that maybe he/she forgot to mark it as shipped.

On June 7th, I emailed the seller, but received no response.  I wasn’t concerned, because it wasn’t a lot of money, and I knew eBay had that buyer protection.  Still, I was getting a bit irritated, but decided to wait the full delivery time frame before pursuing that option.

Yesterday, though, on June 11th, I left Negative feedback for the seller.  It was his/her first Negative, and I hoped it would jar him/her into action.

Here’s the kicker, though.  Within a couple of hours after I left my feedback, three more buyers left negative feedback, each with a comment similar to my own.

How does a buyer go from close to sterling feedback to four Negatives in a row?  Computer problems? Health issues? Alien abduction?

EBay says I can pursue the buyer protection option on June 15th, and I will.  In the mean time, I hope that the seller gets his/her act together, emails me, and ships my product. 

I’ll even remove the feedback … maybe.

Monday, June 11, 2012


I consider myself well read, but I had never heard of that word until I started reading all the eBay blogs. It seems like such a fancy word for what it is, sort of putting your fig above my persimmon, if you will,  but a lot of people apparently collect “old paper,” though, and I mentally filed it away for future reference. 

On Saturday, however, it was the first word that popped into my mind when Ella mentioned a bunch of old postcards in another room while I was scanning some books at a moving sale.  Finishing up with the books, I followed Ella into the next room.  I was expecting a box of postcards, but was surprised when she showed me this:

The 3-foot tall plastic chest of drawers was full of postcards from everywhere, and, as can be seen in the picture, they wanted $5 per drawer, plus $5 for the extra box.  Some were newer, some were vintage, some were clean, and some had been written on and postmarked.  It had been a slow morning, and I was looking for something to redeem the day, and we were running out of sales.  So, I made the decision to take a chance on this ephemera.

For $20, I walked out with all the postcards, and they even threw in the little chest of drawers, which I figured would be useful even if the postcards didn’t pan out.

Since it was Ella’s “Birthday Weekend,” I didn’t a chance to spend a lot of time on the postcards, but did manage to go through the extra box and one drawer.  The post cards were sorted by location and/or subject, and I found postcards from all over the world, as well as special interest cards (i.e., military, Civil War, etc.).

I also found about 10+ vintage souvenir postcard folders, and was able to list a couple of them on Sunday.

This ephemera probably will be slow dime, as opposed to fast nickel sales, but that’s OK.  It’s going to take me forever to get it all listed anyway.

How was your weekend?

Monday, June 4, 2012

I finally saw the light … bulbs

Ella and I went to an estate sale two weeks ago. It was being held at the home of a former executive of the Georgia Power Co., and was chock full of stuff, both in the house and out. I picked out a few items, but left more, due to the prices, which were fairly high for my taste.

I was most interested in the belt buckles.  They were Georgia Power safety award buckles, were new in plastic, and, in my opinion, had to be worth something.  Unfortunately, they were priced at $10 each, and I couldn’t find anything about them via my Droid.  Since I had already spent a lot of money that morning, I wasn’t ready to speculate at $10 a pop.

So, I was particularly excited when I saw that they were having a second sale this past weekend, thinking that everything would be discounted.  It was, but the buckles were gone.


Disheartened, but determined to find something, I wandered around the house, and found myself looking in a hallway closet at some bulbs, both light bulbs and projector bulbs.  I remember seeing them during my first visit, but I was in the dark, both literally (the closet had no light) and figuratively (I had no idea of their worth, if any), and ignored them.

The longer I stared at the bulbs, though, the more enlightened I became. From my experience at work, I knew projector bulbs weren’t cheap.  These were vintage bulbs, still new in box. Whipping out my trusty Droid, I did a quick search, and discovered that the bulbs were worth at least $10 each.  So, I grabbed the whole box for $11.

The rest of Saturday was fairly uneventful.  I picked up a bunch of Charlaine Harris’ Sookie Stackhouse novels.  Individually, each isn’t worth much.  As a set, they’ll fetch enough to pay for the day’s gas.

I bought a new in package Star Wars toy worth about $10 from a couple of kids at their parents’ yard sale.  They sold it for a quarter.  I almost felt guilty until they tried to sell me a Nerf rifle that didn’t work.

At a neighborhood yard sale, with a grand total of two houses participating, both families were giving away a couch.  I thought that was kind of a weird coincidence.

In my weekend’s “what was I thinking?” moment, I purchased a tray of 45 rpm records.  I usually skip records, but these were box sets with multiple 45s per box.  I only paid $11 for the lot, including the sturdy plastic tray holding them. In hindsight, though, and without actually checking them yet, I bet that I should have left them alone.

Have a great week thrifting, listing, and, of course, selling.

Friday, June 1, 2012

It’s nice to have friends

All day yesterday, I had planned to come home from work, finish cutting the grass, pack a few items, list a few items (time permitting), play with the dogs, spend some quality time with Ella, and then go to bed. 

But all that changed with a simple phone call.

My phone rang as I was walking in my front door, but my hands were full, so I let it go to voice mail.  After changing into my grass cutting clothes, I listened to the message.  It was Rosita; she runs estate sales in the area.  I immediately forgot about the yard work.

I met Rosita several years ago at an estate sale, of course, and struck up a conversation with her, after I heard her tell a companion that she could “smell a dealer from a mile away.”  She seemed very stern, but I lightened the mood as I bought a few items, and told her that I hoped that my dealer smell didn’t offend her.  We talked for a few moments, and I explained that I bought and sold mainly books.  We exchanged phone numbers, and I promptly lost hers, figuring I’d never really need to call her.

A month or so later, she called me.  She was working a sale, and did I want to come look at the books early.  Of course I did, and made plans, at her convenience, for me to drop by.  I picked up some great books, and had a great conversation with Rosita. 

Some time later, she called me about some books that her husband was selling, and did I want to come look at them.  So, I visited her house, met her husband, and bought a few books, even though most, if not all, weren’t sellable.  There was just no way that I was going to walk out of that house without buying something.

I also run into her from time to time at estate sales that she is working.  And while she never lets me in early, at least in front of everyone else, she does tell me where the good stuff is.

It’s a good match.  She’s selling, and she knows that I am buying.

Back to last night.  She was working a sale for her son, Robert, who had many books, several hundred DVDs, and assorted other items.  The sale started today (Friday), but I was welcome to drive over that night for a preview.  I arrived promptly at 7 p.m., with Ella in tow.  Unfortunately, the books weren’t that exciting (i.e., sellable), but I did find a few items.  Ella found a stack of semi-collectible Time Life Western books for $1 each, and we haggled over a box of Twilight Zone DVDs (36 DVDs), and settled on $50, mainly because Ella wanted them, not necessarily because there were sellable.  I also found several collectible action figures.

We were coming dangerously close to the $100 mark, which was what I had in my pocket.  Ella and I must have been debating the money aspects a little loud when Robert told us that Rosita had promised that “our check would be good,” should we not have enough cash.

So, Ella wrote a check, and we walked out the door, with our $100 still intact for Saturday’s sales.  We were happy, Robert was happy, and, most importantly, I’m sure Rosita will be happy, which means she will call me again.

It’s nice to have friends in this business.