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?

Sorry for being on this page

Monday, July 2, 2012

Calling Johnny Carson ...

As I was rushing around a church sale this past Saturday, the reality finally hit me.  Two heads really are better than one, at least when it comes to thrifting and online selling.  Unfortunately, Ella is visiting relatives in Ohio for a while, so I am left on my own to source, purchase, list, sell, pack, ship, and, here’s the kicker, get all the packages to the post office, all while holding down a full-time job.  Since it is in excess of 100 degrees here, I can’t leave the packages in my car, so I have to leave work, rush home, then rush back to the post office before it closes.

No one who knows what they are talking about ever said this job was easy.

My thrifting weekend got off to an early start last Wednesday after a call from Rosita, my favorite estate sale planner.  She invited me to preview the merchandise at a sale that she was working, so I headed to the house after work.  Honestly, while the house was full, not much grabbed my attention, except for a few vintage fishing reels.  However, this jewel caught my eye:

It is an executive phone in a carved wooden box, and was labeled Johnny Carson’s desk phone.  At least, that was the deceased owner’s story. Obviously, there was no way to prove (or disprove) the tale, but it makes for an interesting conversation piece.  Plus, it’s a rotary dial phone, which is collectible on its own. I decided to auction the phone, instead of just placing it in my eBay store.  Hopefully, the novelty of it will generate some interest.

On Friday, after I dropped Ella off at the airport, I headed to a series of estate sales in and around Atlanta, as well as to a library book sale in the thriving metropolis of Jonesboro.

At a sale liquidating the estate of a former Coca-Cola executive, I found several neat items, including a Coca-Cola Monopoly game, and some Coca-Cola books, including these:

However, I think my homerun find of the sale is this new Cherry Coke jacket.   Apparently, original Cherry Coke merchandise is hard to find, and I picked this one up for $7.

The other estate sales weren’t that exciting, so I headed over to the Jonesboro book sale.  The sale information said the doors would open promptly at 1 p.m., and not a minute sooner.  Since I was 30 minutes early, I figured I could at least wait in the library, out of the heat.  To my surprise, and dismay, the sale had already started when I got there.   I scoped out the room when I entered, and was surprised to see no buyers with scanners in hand.  So, I spent the next hour checking every book that looked promising, and a few that didn’t, and came away with a rolling tote full of so-so, but sellable, titles.

In my admittedly short selling career, I’ve noticed that big book sales draw all the excitement, but smaller sales can be lucrative as well, without the pressure of competing with other dealers.

On Saturday, my first stop was the aforementioned church sale, where I really could have used another set of eyes and hands.  Still, I found some neat items, like these Austin Powers collectible action figures for $1 each.

The rest of the morning was uneventful, and very warm, with temperatures climbing to near 100 before noon.  I felt guilty for buying four Nerf guns and a Nerf target set from a kid for $10, but only for a few minutes, and then it passed.  I was tempted to buy an unworn wedding dress at a moving sale for $25, but decided it was too hot to fool with it (I know, probably a mistake).

My last stop was at a sale to benefit senior citizens, where everything was by donation (i.e., take what you want, and make a donation in the jar on the way out).  I picked up some items, including these:

By the time I got home, it was above 100 degrees, and finally topped out at 107 by mid-afternoon.  It was too hot to do much of anything but pack what had sold, and to list items on eBay.  So, I listed the rest of the day Saturday, and most of Sunday.

Before she left, Ella had set a goal for me to get caught up in my listing, and to clear out her Great Room, before she comes home. Even after two days of listing, I still have a long way to go.

How was your weekend?