Thursday, December 12, 2013

Funny, offensive, or both?

If you keep up with the news, you know that the top story of the day is the “fake” sign language interpreter who worked Nelson Mandela’s memorial.  While I don’t know sign language, I do know funny, and that, my friends, is funny.

It’s so funny, it ought to be a plot for a TV sitcom.  Oh, wait a minute, it is.  Remember Spin City?  It was a comedy back in the late 1990s that starred Michael J. Fox.  In one episode, titled “Deaf Becomes Her,” an office temp's attempt at sign language during a press conference offends the deaf community, and a leading advocate for deaf rights threatens to demonstrate at City Hall.

Office temp "interprets" the mayor's remarks
Trust me, the clip is hilarious, and you can find it on YouTube.  It’s ironic that life imitates art so many times.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you want to see an exemplary use of sign language that even hearing people can relate to, look up allyballybabe on YouTube.  She interprets contemporary music, including many Taylor Swift songs, and shows how a skilled interpreter can translate not only the words of the song, but also the emotions as well.

Speaking of being offended, I was offended yesterday at my distressing lack of sales.  I was 0 for Amazon (my term for not selling anything on the big river) until last evening, and Ebay was no better, with only a couple of sales. Granted, we are closing in on the mailing deadlines, but that was ridiculous.  Here’s hoping today is better.

Happy sales everyone.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Probably scammed

On December 2, I sold a pair of Bates Men's 6" DuraShocks Steel Toe Boots to a buyer in South Carolina.  The boots were new, with tags, and still in their original box.

On Saturday, December 7, I received this email:

Uh..... The boots are falling apart. BAD I am going to be taking action on this issue.

Me: “Sorry but they were new in the box. Please return them and I will refund your money plus shipping.”

They MUST be counterfeit because I've had the same model for almost 3 years. And 2.5 years before that.

Me: “They are not counterfeit and were purchased at a real store.”  (OK, so I fibbed a little on this response. They were purchased at a yard sale.)

And now I have to drive home to put my old boots on!? Wasting my time, on my job, time is money!

There's no way... As I said, I've used nothing but 2 pairs of these same boots for almost 7 years. For BOTH of the boots to have the bottoms falling off after not even ONE day of use. Not to mention, they didn't feel right, the tongue was thinner. Counterfeit boots. I am in no way going to send back boots and crossing my fingers about getting a refund. I will send you pictures of these boots if you want me to, but I will be going through eBay and PayPal to get my money back if you don't just do it. As you can see by my feedback, I am honest and don't screw anyone over. I don't mind paying for things, but when I get obvious fakes, I will take action on it if I don't get refunded. I have the pictures ready now to send, if you want to give me your email. I don't think my request is AT ALL undeserved.

Me: “There are no doubts that you are an honest buyer.  If you check my feedback, you will see that I an honest seller and would not jeopardize my reputation by selling counterfeit items.  To put this matter to rest though, I will provide a refund when i return to my office this evening.”

ok… I appreciate that.. because I really need to get myself some boots so I can work monday. I'm off tomorrow, fortunately. thank you very much, I will send you pictures if you wish.

Here’s the kicker, though.  He left positive feedback before starting his email refund demand.

So, as I am trading emails at the local Chinese restaurant during dinner, I am doing the math in my head in between bites of sesame chicken.  Since he had already left feedback, he couldn’t hurt my DSRs if I refused a refund, or tried to make him return the item.  On the other hand, he had opened a case, and if he screamed counterfeit loud enough, Ebay might just sit up, take notice, and take some kind of action against me, no matter if the seller was telling the truth or not.

I decided that the loss of the boots and the $70 refund was worth making this guy go away, so I refunded his money, and blocked him from buying from me in the future.  I also noticed this morning that he had removed his positive feedback.

Was I scammed? Probably. Do I care?  Yes, but it’s time to forget it, and move on. 

Elsewhere on Saturday, we visited a going out of business/clearance/just take it sale at a local stationery type store.  The proprietor was offering insane deals just to clear out the building, which was scheduled to be demolished soon. I wish that I had a real thrift store because I could have filled the shelves with gift bags, party items, paper goods, etc.  Ella purchased some gift bags, and knick knacks (fill the box for $2), while I wandered around trying to figure out how to make a profit on what I was seeing.
A great business deal!
Finally, I saw a box of new Swiftach guns, which attach sale tags to clothing, and several boxes of the barbs that the gun uses.  A quick smartphone search revealed that the guns sell for roughly $20 each, and a box of barbs ranges from $10 to $20.  After a quick negotiation with the seller, I got 33 guns for $2 each, plus two cases (20 boxes) of the barbs for $10 each.  Just to get rid of them, the seller also included three more cases of the barbs.
I priced a gun and a box of barbs at $24.99, although I’m not sure if they will be a big Christmas seller.  More likely, they will sell in the new year as store shelves transition from winter to spring clothes.

As far as sales go, the first full weekend of December was steady, but not the record breaker like last weekend.  On Amazon, I had 25 orders over the three day period (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday), and on Ebay, I only had five.  My favorite sale was gift pack of fishing accessories called Luscious Lures.  After all, nothing says Christmas like a box of fishing lures featuring half-naked women.

Are fish really fooled by lures featuring mermaids?
In closing, just a reminder that mailing deadlines for the holidays are fast approaching.  From the USPS website:

Standard Post Service                Dec. 14
First-Class Mail Service             Dec. 20
Priority Mail Service                   Dec. 21
Priority Mail Express Service     Dec. 23

Have a productive week everyone.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


I can think of no better word to describe my sales over the five-day, Thanksgiving to Cyber Monday, shopping weekend.  Sales may be dead the rest of the month, but for one brief shining moment, it actually felt like I was running a successful online business.

Of course, the drawback was that I spent most of my free time in front of the computer, either listing items, or packing the day’s sales.  On Thursday, I managed to sneak away for a Thanksgiving brunch with the family at Golden Corral, before hopping back in the saddle, so to speak.   I packed sales on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, and Ella made a post office run on Friday morning, and Duc and I went to the main post office on Sunday afternoon.  On Monday morning, I mailed another large tote of packages, and Ella rolled my five larger packages into the post office via hand truck later in the day.  Tuesday was much the same, with me mailing a large tote full of small packages, and Ella braving the rain with several larger packages.
I wish I had more!

My biggest seller was a Star Wars LeapFrog Explorer Learning Game.  A church rummage sale back in October had a whole slew of the LeapFrog games, but had them priced at $9 each.  After meticulously scanning all of them, I found that only the Star Wars edition was worth any real money.  Still, $9 was more than I usually pay for resell items.  So, I crossed my fingers that they would still be there on half price day.  They were, so I walked out with six of them.  All six sold this past weekend on Amazon for $45 each.

I also sold five vintage Notre Dame Christmas ornaments, four of them to the same buyer.   The five ornaments, which had their own gift boxes, were taped together, and cost $5.  I hesitated to pick them up, but convinced myself that they had to be worth more than the asking price.  I couldn’t find a comparable item on Terapeak, so I put one up for $24 with free shipping.  It sold within hours.
My Notre Dame Christmas ornaments sold like hotcakes!
The next day, I listed the remaining four for $29.99 each, with no free shipping.   All four again sold within hours.  I probably should have listed them for more, but a profit of approximately $135 on a $5 purchase is still pretty good.

Have I mentioned before that I love finding obsolete technology?  I found six rolls of Kodak movie film for $6 at an estate sale, and flipped them over the weekend for $40 with free shipping.
Always pick up obsolete technology!
And last, but certainly not least, on a cold Saturday morning two weeks ago, I found a box of Playmobil figures and accessories with a “Make An Offer” sticker on it.  Five dollars later, they were on their way home with me.  The box sold for $60.
The little people didn't last long in my inventory
Cyber Monday proved to be a late bloomer, with most of my sales coming in the afternoon and throughout the evening. 

In fact, the only early sale that I had was a box of Bakugan Battle Brawlers and cards that I picked up for $1 at the same sale that I found the Notre Dame Christmas ornaments.  The brawlers sold for $9.99 plus shipping.  Not a big sale, but every little bit helps. 

I also had pulled five Foxfire books off my bookshelf and listed them over the weekend.  They weren’t in the best condition, but they sold for $30 with free shipping.

As the afternoon and evening progressed, though, sales started to trickle in, including a Harry Potter Clue game that sold for $125.

Also, Ella thought I was crazy when I paid two bucks for two boxes of Count Chocula cereal after Halloween.  I got the last laugh, though, when they sold!

Me and the Count are laughing all the way to the bank
All told, we sent out 89 packages, large and small, and grossed more than $1700 across all venues for the period; Amazon accounted for the lion’s share of the sales. Net income was roughly $1300.  Not too shabby, if I do say so myself.

Now that I’ve bragged a bit, how were your sales?

Monday, December 2, 2013

Turkey trouble ... again

OK, I am officially done with cooking turkeys.  I don’t care what holiday it is, be it Thanksgiving or Christmas. I know that I’ve said it before, but this time, I mean it.

I’ll have leftover Chinese food before I prepare another foul fowl.

This Thanksgiving was going to be different; I had a fool-proof plan of attack:

  • Turkey thawing in the refrigerator on Monday:  Check.
  • Purchased turkey cooking bag and throwaway baking pan.  Check.
  • Purchased new meat thermometer to check doneness.  Check.
  • Simple recipe; no brining, stuffing, etc.  Check.

On Friday morning, I went to get the turkey out of the guesthouse refrigerator, only to discover that the bottom of the refrigerator was covered with turkey juice.  Not a good start, but easily cleanable, or so I thought.  The juices had flowed under the plastic bins, and I couldn’t remove the bins because the door was in the way.   I would have to remove the refrigerator door.   

I really should have just thrown the bird in the trash at that point.

The rest of the turkey prep went smoothly, thankfully, and I popped it in the oven.  Three hours later, when my thermometer beeped, I pulled the bird out of the oven, and opened the bag.  It looked done, the little gizmo had popped out, and my thermometer said 180 degrees.  Just to make sure, I poked the bird in various places with the thermometer, and every indication showed that it was fully cooked. 

So, I let it rest, got all the other food ready, then proceeded to carve.  Unfortunately, the closer I got to the bone, the pinker it got.  

I managed to slice enough for dinner, while avoiding any semblance of pink, all the while cursing under my breath.  Dinner went smoothly; no one complained, and no one got sick … until Sunday.

Ella had eaten the turkey on Friday, then a turkey sandwich on Saturday night.  She woke up with a stomach ache on Sunday morning, and was sick most of the day.  She blamed my turkey dinner.

Honestly, I don’t believe the turkey was the culprit because no one else got ill. However, it was the final nail in the coffin.  Turkeys are persona non grata in my house now.

Other than dealing with a semi-raw bird and a sick wife, I listed and packed, packed and listed.  It was a record breaking four day weekend, at least for me, and I will share the details tomorrow after I see the sales tally from Cyber Monday.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Thanksgiving eve

On holidays, I really miss my mom’s cooking.  Even though it’s been two years since she passed away, and more than 40 years since her heyday as the matron of the family, spending hours and hours preparing Thanksgiving dinner, I can still remember the sights, sounds, and tastes of her busy kitchen.

She would start a day early, cooking cornbread and toast for her homemade dressing (or stuffing, for you Yankees).  The bread would be combined with onions, celery, chicken broth and a variety of spices into a soupy mess that would firm up and taste delectable once cooked in the oven, not in the bird.

Not that we had a bird, anyway.  Dad was not a fan of turkey or chicken, so we would have ham on Thanksgiving and Christmas.

My grandmother would fix a mess of fresh pole beans with potatoes.  Pole beans are basically fat green beans, and my grandmother and I would fill the plastic bags full of the fresh beans at the grocery store, and she would snap them on the days leading up to the holiday.  She also would bake mincemeat pies, something that Ella’s mom started doing for me before she died.

My favorite dish, though, was the potato salad.  Mom had this huge metal bowl in which she would mix all the ingredients, and after spooning the salad into the serving bowl, I would get to lick the bowl, so to speak.  Usually, she left a little in the bottom for me to sample.  It’s no wonder that I was a little fat kid.

It seemed like an all-day job to fix that meal, and it’s funny that I remember helping to fix the food better than I remember actually sitting down to eat it.

These days, I am the designated cook in our household, but due to turkey troubles in the past, which I wrote about last year, my plan on Thursday morning (yes, morning … it will be packed by afternoon) is to take Ella and the bottomless pit that is Duc’s stomach to Golden Corral for their all you can eat Thanksgiving buffet. 

No fuss, no muss, but, unfortunately, no leftovers.  So, I’m going to be bold and daring, and try not to undercook or overcook a big bird on Friday.  My motivation is that I need a picture of Duc holding a drumstick.  He’s never participated in the ritualistic gluttony of an at-home, rip the meat off a turkey carcass holiday dinner.  Plus, hopefully, it will help feed him over the weekend.

In between big meals, I plan to get as much listed as I can since I have a four day weekend.  Lately, in the evenings, it has taken all my free time just to get everything packed and ready to mail.  I have had steady sales over the past week, and I really hope that the weekend brings plenty more “cha chings” to my phone.

I got a positive feedback on Ebay yesterday for a box of books that I sent to the little town of Belton, TX, back on November 14 via Media Mail.  I realize that Media Mail is slow, but I think these books took the scenic route.  According to tracking, the books went from Warner Robins, GA, to Jacksonville, FL, to Atlanta, GA, to Dallas, TX, back to Atlanta, GA, then to Memphis, TN, then back to Dallas, TX, before finally reaching their destination. 

I’m fortunate the buyer didn’t ding my shipping DSR.

So far, there is only a spattering of ignorable yard sales on Saturday, which really isn’t surprising, and means I get to sleep a little later.  The local auction house, though, has promised a big night, and despite temperatures predicted to be in the lower 40s after sundown (the auction is held outside), I may venture forth and freeze my assets off just to find a deal.

Speaking of deals, I am taking Ella to Wal-Mart on Thanksgiving night for their annual “let’s see how many people we can pack into one store” brouhaha.  It’s my concession to her since I absolutely refuse to get up before the crack of dawn on Friday to participate in the Black Friday madness.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving, full of family and friends, and, of course, turkey.  We’ll talk again next week.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Being thankful

It’s a cliché, but many blogs this time of year sport “what I’m thankful for” themes. Today, in the spirit of the holiday, I am doing the opposite.

What I am NOT thankful for, both in this silly season, and throughout the year, in no particular order:
  • Cold weather.  Either I’m getting older with thinner skin, or it seems to be getting colder each year.  Whatever happened to global warming?
  • “Huge” and “mega” yard sales that are no more than one or two tables full of junk.  Why do they even bother?
  • Non-paying buyers. 
  • Constant rule changes on Amazon and Ebay.
  • Holiday traffic.  
  • Crowds at Wal-mart that make buying a simple tube of toothpaste an hour-long event.
  • Endless Christmas music on every radio station.
  • Salvation Army bell ringers who ring their bells incessantly. 
  • Too many dealers, not enough good books at sales.
  • Sellers who think their Holiday Barbies are actually worth big money.
  • Yard sales that advertise “no early birds,” then open early.
  • Yard sales that close early, or just before you get there.
  • Tiny yard sale signs on street corners that are impossible to read.
  • Yard sale advertisements without actual addresses.
  • Telemarketers who won’t take no for an answer, and keep calling and calling and calling.
  • Salespersons who think they are smarter than you.
  • Endless road construction.
  • Endless snipping between political parties and members thereof.
  • Every church in town seemingly deciding to hold a sale on same Saturday.
  • Gas station sushi.
  • Not having a good box to mail an item.
In all seriousness, though, since it is Thanksgiving, I do feel the need to say that I am thankful for Ella, Duc, and the rest of my family and friends, and for all my wonderful readers who for some inexplicable reason continue to peruse my drivel that I have painstakingly disguised as a blog.

I am also thankful for Amazon and Ebay, without which I probably would be asking, “do you want fries with that?” on a nightly basis.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

I hate it when that happens

Last week, in an attempt to remove some deadwood from my Ebay store inventory, I transitioned several “Buy It Now” items to a three-day auction format, including a box of medical books. 

It worked, and the books sold for a whopping $9.99 plus shipping.  My delight quickly turned to apprehension, though, when I couldn’t locate the box in my Ebay storage area.  After a long day, I’m prone to overlook things, so I asked Ella to take a look.  She, too, came up empty handed.


A meticulous search of both my Ebay and Amazon inventory areas ensued, with the same result.  The box somehow had disappeared.  More likely, though, it had gotten mixed up with my piles of unlisted inventory, and was buried somewhere.

I blamed Ella since she shelves all my inventory.  Ella blamed me for not labeling the box properly.  I wanted to blame Duc and the dogs.

Obviously, though, the buck stops with me.  My fault, my error, my complete lack of inventory control.

Since it was rapidly approach my bedtime (yes, I have a bedtime), and I had other items to pack, I abandoned the search, refunded the buyer’s money, begged forgiveness, and hoped that he/she wouldn’t leave negative feedback.

I’m a perfectionist, at least when it comes to my online business, so this lapse really bothers me.  However, given that I am real good about giving advice to other sellers, I need to follow my own sage words of wisdom:

Forget it.  Move on.  Make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I’m still looking for a way to blame the dogs, though.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Christmas music already?

On Saturday morning, as we pulled out for our yard sale run, I  switched on the local Top 40 radio station, and was surprised to hear “O Holy Night.”   Duc, who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, was instantly hooked, though, and wanted to hear Christmas music all morning.  He even started listening to it on YouTube as he did his work on Saturday night.

I guess the station, the first in the area to switch to all Christmas music all the time, is doing its part to get everyone in the early holiday shopping mood.

I didn’t buy much on Saturday, though, so the music clearly didn’t have its desired effect on me, but I was more than pleased to hear my phone “cha ching” several times throughout the morning.  A customer bought five of my copy-paper sized boxes of children’s books.  Since the books were on clearance, so to speak, it wasn’t a large sale (only $135), but the boxes weighed 168 pounds total (21 to 34 pounds each), and it wasn’t fun to manhandle the heavy boxes to get them ready to go.  Even with Media Mail, the customer paid close to $70 in shipping.

Books are heavy, especially five large boxes of them
Ella usually takes my large boxes to the post office, but I think I’ll help her with this load today.

We went to the auction again on Saturday night, and finally got the answer to what would happen if you held an auction and no one showed up.  Actually, about 12 people, including me and Ella, were there.  However, since the main seller was hawking food items (tomatoes, cucumbers, boxes of crackers), it didn’t take long for the auction to close up shop for night since no one was bidding. 

Ella did buy a large plastic storage bench for our porch, not thinking about how we would get it home.  Thankfully, it fit in the back of the pickup truck, but I had to leave the tailgate down, and the glass door up. Oh, did I mention that I had to ride in the back, holding on to the bench, and for dear life, for the high-speed trip home?  My last words to Ella before she got behind the wheel were to drive slowly.  I don’t think she heard me.

Sunday morning dawned much too early, and we were up and gone by 8 a.m. to the 50 percent off sale at a local charity consignment event.  I found some interesting items, including a bag of black and white film for $2. Expired film is near the top of my list of defunct technology that still sells surprisingly well on EBay.

The rest of Sunday was spent packing my weekend sales, including the aforementioned heavy boxes of kids books. I also sold and packed two Cabbage Patch Kids mini dolls, which makes four for the week.  I bought a whole bunch of them at Kmart last year for $.49 each, and they have sat gathering dust until now.  I don’t know what goosed customers’ interest in these ugly little dolls, but they make great stocking stuffers if you want one.

Cabbage Patch Kid, anyone?
I also sold and packed several of the military patches and stickers that I picked up at the estate sale last weekend.  One in particular, the Fightin' Fifty-Fifth patch, sold within minutes of listing it for $9.99 with free shipping.  As Homer Simpson would say, “D’oh!”   Me thinks I listed it way too low.  Still, I made a profit on it, which is all that matters.

Apparently, I underestimated the demand for this patch
Looking ahead, it sounds counterproductive, but I hope there aren’t any worthwhile sales this weekend.  With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday, and all points in between barreling down upon us, I need to spend some quality time with my computer and inventory.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Leftovers before Thanksgiving

We are a little more than two weeks away from Thanksgiving, and already I got to enjoy some leftovers that certainly weren’t turkey.

Just past 9 a.m. on Sunday, Ella and I attended day three (half price day) of a local estate sale that had been heavily advertised. Even that early, the sale was crowded with bargain shoppers, and the house pretty much had been stripped of all apparent value by the time we got there. I say “apparent value” because while all the pretty stuff had been grabbed, more mundane, yet still valuable, items lay untouched in several rooms.
Of course, I am talking about books. On a wraparound shelf in a back bedroom, I found a lot of U.S. Air Force memorabilia, apparent souvenirs of the former owner’s military career. Included on the shelf were two copies of this book:

Listed on Amazon for close to $75
Obviously, I grabbed both.
I also found bags of Air Force patches, lapel pins, and stickers, which I am still sorting.
In the living room, I found this coffee table book:

Listed on Amazon for an amazing $382
I usually ignore coffee table books, but I scanned it just on a whim, and was glad that I did.
On Saturday, we visited a local church that was having a fall festival that included yard, book, and bake sales. In the book room, I found a bunch of train books that I thought were worth more than they actually turned out to be. So, I listed them as a lot, and hope an enthusiast will find them irresistible.

At $36.99, I hope these books roll off the shelf

I also found six vintage Foxfire books for $5. I have them listed fairly high because the books have a good sell through rate, and with Christmas right around the corner, they will make an excellent gift.  Tip of the day: Always pick up the Foxfire books.

I'm setting the bar high ($75.00) for these books since we are close to Christmas

Also in the book room, I showed my ignorance by scanning a box of CDs, finding some good ones, and then noticing that all the cases were empty. Upon inquiring, I was embarrassed when they showed me the sign, “Empty Cases, 1 cent each,” which was right in front of me. Red faced, but undaunted, I decided that a box of empty CD cases would come in handy, and splurged 58 cents on the box.
On the yard sale side of the festival, it was pretty slim until I saw a box of three new hard-plastic pistol cases. Excited, I grabbed the box, and didn’t check prices online and gladly paid $5 each. Unfortunately, they really aren’t worth all that much, and I will be lucky to make any money on them. Oh, well, you win some, you lose some.

As for sales, Amazon has been fairly steady, but Ebay has been slow, other than the thermal underwear.  I'm still kicking myself for not buying all of it.

Xena finally sold, much to my dismay

Callisto -
Centerfold material
I did finally sell my Xena Princess Warrior magazine that has been in my inventory forever. I sort of hated to see it go because the centerfold of the magazine featured Callisto, the best part of the Xena/Hercules series, in my humble opinion.

Looking ahead, obviously my focus needs to be on getting items listed. After all, Christmas is only a little over six weeks away.

Have a productive week, everyone.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A little light reading

I know we are all busy as we ramp up for the upcoming silly season, but I ran across two interesting articles that shed some light both on Amazon and UPS. 

Confessions of an Amazon warehouse worker

This multi-part article, and others like it, reveal the behind-the-scenes activities at an Amazon distribution warehouse.

5 Reasons Packages Get Destroyed (Learned Working at UPS) is a comedy site, so the article tries to be humorous, and includes some coarse language. However, it does provide some worthwhile information to keep in mind as you ship your packages.

Uh-oh! Guess what day it is?? Guess what day it is!


Sorry, couldn’t resist.  I actually like that commercial.

Oh, and it’s also Free Pie Wednesday at O’Charley’s restaurants.  Ella and I have a lunch date, and she chose O’Charley’s just for the gratis pastry.  We always take the pie home, though, and Ella usually eats both her slice and mine.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Halloween clearance

Are you taking advantage of Halloween clearance items?  Most places have everything Halloweeny at 50% off right now; at Kmart, it’s 60%.  Most stores surely will increase their discount as we move away from all things ghostly, and move toward that other major holiday (I forget what it is).

BOLO for Count Chocula!
Case in point, I found two boxes of Count Chocula cereal on sale for $1.25 per box at Kmart.  It’s selling right now on Ebay for $6 to $10 per box.  As it grows more scarce, I’m sure the prices will increase.

Costumes are another great buy, provided you have room to store them until next year.  Oh, and don’t forget the candy to satisfy your sweet tooth.  I grabbed six bags of M&Ms for my work candy dispenser. Also, I don't think anyone will notice that you have Halloween Snickers and Almond Joys in your Christmas candy bowl, do you?

Elsewhere in thrifting land, Ella and I had a good weekend, which surprised me.  I figured we would do well at the book sale, but an "unadvertised and just happened to find" church sale yielded some fun finds, including six new in shrink-wrap puzzles.  I’ve had good luck with puzzles; they have a good sell-through rate, make great Christmas presents, and are easy to ship.  The church also provided a personal shopping assistant to carry my stuff while perusing their wares.

I also grabbed 20 new in package needlecraft kits for $2.00.  They are not big money, but at $.10 each, they were a steal.

I hope these miniatures will bring
full-sized prices!
At an estate sale, our last stop of the day, I found a box of new in package miniature accessories for dollhouses that was priced at $20.  While Ella picked out some items for her garden, I studied over the accessories, checked them on my phone, and generally fretted about whether it was a good deal or not.  Ultimately, I decided that $20 was too much, but thought that $10 would be reasonable.  When Ella and the seller settled on $30 for her items, I did my best American Pickers imitation, and attempted to bundle the dollhouse accessories with Ella’s purchase for a combined total of $40.  After some discussion, the seller agreed.  As a general rule, sellers are much more inclined to accept low offers toward the end of the day, but you knew that already, right?

On the opposite end of the spectrum, sales over the weekend were sluggish.  The thermal underwear continues to sell, as well as assorted odds and ends, including this set of guitar strings.  I found a box full of such strings at a church sale last year, and took them home for a whopping $2.  They are the gift that keeps on giving.

Looking forward to this weekend, I know there is at least one church sale/book sale/fall festival. I’m sure, though, Ella will find us somewhere else to spend our money.

Have a productive week.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Retail arbitrage - Kmart style

Most days during my lunch hour, I find myself roaming the aisles of the local Kmart, getting a little exercise, and, of course, looking for bargains on their clearance racks.  Last year, I found a mother lode of marked-down toys ($.99 and $4.99 each); earlier this year, it was thermal underwear ($.99 each) and insulated character lunch bags ($.99 each). 

Today, it was men’s Wrangler shorts.

Lately, the store has been putting racks of clearance spring and summer clothing outside the front doors, but it has been mostly Kmart brand women’s clothes at a 50 percent discount.  Yesterday, I noticed that the clothes had dropped to $.99 each, but it was still all women’s styles.  As I walked past the racks today, the name “Wrangler” jumped out at me, and upon closer examination, I noticed that they were men’s shorts, so I grabbed a couple of pairs to price inside to make sure they were actually $.99 as advertised on the sign.

I walked inside the store, set off the shoplifting alarm, and headed to the nearest price scanner.  Both pairs scanned at $.99, and after a quick, but really unnecessary check of Ebay completed listings, I grabbed a buggy (or a shopping cart for all my non-Southern readers) and headed back outside.

I "wrangled" some shorts today
Having learned my lesson about buying everything once you find a bargain, I loaded the buggy with all the shorts, losing count along the way.  I wheeled the buggy back inside, again setting off and ignoring the shoplifting alarm, and headed toward the nearest check-out line, ignoring the bemused glances from other shoppers.  The sales associate was very nice, albeit a bit chit chatty, while checking me out, but I did learn that more items were scheduled to be marked down.   I guess I’ll be spending my lunch hour at Kmart again tomorrow.

All told, I purchased 42 pairs of shorts, and spent a whopping $44.99.  According to the receipt, I saved $652.70, which I hope will be my actual profit from this spur of the moment shopping trip.
Of course, now I have to make time to list all the shorts, and find room to store them.  I keep harping on finding time to list stuff, and while it actually does stress me out to have so much inventory just sitting around, it beats the alternative of having nothing.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Paddle the Bad Ish

There is a dealer in my area named Ish who specializes in video games.  I’m not sure where he gets his inventory, but apparently it is quite extensive.  He routinely advertises on Craigslist, and occasionally sets up shop at local events. Unfortunately, his prices are way too high for me to take advantage of, even though he advertises volume discounts.

On Saturday, he apparently decided to try something different during a Multi-vendor/Family Yard Sale at the local Farmer's Market.  As part of his Craigslist ad, he wrote this:

Will also be trying something new.

"Paddle the Bad Ish"

$00.50 buys ONE swat with one of our Frat Paddles.
$05.00 buys Twenty Swats with one of our Frat Paddles.
You can pay $5 and get a Chance to Administer Two Swats in an Attempt to "Make Ish Cry", if one of us Cries, you get a Free Game, if we don't, you Still get a free Movie for playing.

Weird, right?  Maybe a little perverted?  In any event, I decided to swing by the sale to see if anyone was taking Ish up on his unusual offer.  Unfortunately for Ish, he was all alone.  No customers at all.  In fact, he was the only seller at this “Multi-vendor/Family Yard Sale.” 

Needless to say, I didn’t stop the truck.

Otherwise, Saturday was a fairly slow day, with only one church to anchor our scenic tour of local yard/garage sales.  I can’t really complain, though, because I have such a backlog of stuff to list, plus it was the coldest morning of the year so far.  Sometimes I don’t know who’s sillier … the person who holds a sale when it’s freezing, or the person who attends a sale when it’s freezing.

I wanted to say that I countered the cold air with hot sales, but that would be misleading.  In fact, weekend sales were only lukewarm.  I am proud to say, though, that I finally sold the Jell-O Pudding.

After Christmas last year, I bought eight boxes of Gingerbread flavored Jell-O Pudding from Kmart for $.10 per box. It sold over the weekend for $19.99 plus shipping.

Bill Cosby would be proud.

I also continue to sell the thermal underwear that I bought at Kmart back in January.  Each piece was clearance priced at $.99, and I bought 50 of them.  I should have purchased them all.  Now, Kmart has the same underwear priced at $11.99.

Looking ahead to Saturday, we have to drop Duc off at the local college to take the SAT test, and then we are going to a small church book sale, plus any other sales that we can find before picking up a mentally exhausted teenager. 

Obviously, with the weather cooling off, fewer people are dragging their stuff outside to sale.  For the rest of November, I know of only one additional major sale, and then I think yard sale season is pretty much done for the year as people start concentrating on Thanksgiving and that other big holiday.

Have a productive week, and get that inventory listed!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

He really wants this book

I received an email from a buyer this morning:
I have just bought this book from you through Barnes & Noble. Please confirm that order. Also, you'll need to delete the listing from here on Alibris.
Such emails are common; I get them all the time.  I use to keep track of my inventory, and usually don’t have to worry about duplicate orders.  So, I deleted the email.

I then noticed another email, this time from Amazon, from the same buyer.
I have just bought this book from you through Barnes & Noble. Please confirm that order.  Also, you'll need to delete the listing from here on Amazon.
Huh? Why would he email me on Amazon for an order on Alibris?  Confused, I saw yet another email from the same buyer.
I have just bought this book from you through Barnes & Noble. Please confirm that order.  Also, you'll need to delete the listing from here on eBay.
And another …
I have just bought this book from you through Barnes & Noble. Please confirm that order. Also, you'll need to delete the listing from here on Biblio.
Buyer really likes Hawkman
I guess he really, really wanted the book, and didn’t want me to sell it to anyone else.

Bits and pieces:

Speaking of orders, I received a negative feedback recently on Amazon for a DVD set.
Bad movies, not interest on this DVD, scumbag and really sucker movie …
Thankfully, it was a product review, and not a statement about me or my customer service.  Amazon agreed, and removed it for me.   Miracles do happen.

Thermal underwear is flying off the shelf
I can tell the weather is getting cooler, because my thermal underwear is finally selling. Back in the spring, I bought 50 pairs of men’s thermal underwear from the clearance rack at Kmart for $.99 each.  Last month, I listed them for $12.99 each, with free shipping.  In the last two weeks, eight pairs have sold.

Do you have all your Christmas items listed?
I purchased several of these Fisher Price Little People Night Before Christmas Play Sets during Wal-Mart’s after Christmas sale (50 percent off) in January, and listed them right away on Amazon.  After nine months, one finally sold.  With the holiday buying season soon to begin in earnest, I hope the others find new homes real soon as well.  I need the shelf space.

I hope the buyer doesn't think these are actual games
I sold another set of backer cards that I purchased from a Blockbuster that was going out of business.  I’ve had problems in the past where buyers don’t read the description, and think they are getting actual games or movies when they purchase these mini-posters.  As usual, I sent the invoice and a note encouraging the buyer to read the description again, and to understand that these are not the actual games.  Since the buyer is new, with zero feedback, I’m keeping my fingers crossed.

It’s scary, but there are only 63 days until Christmas.  I still have much work to do.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Out of tragedy comes hope

In the wee hours of last Thursday morning, someone broke into the local All About Animals no-kill animal shelter, and released 20 to 30 dogs. Police suspect dog fighting as a motive, but whatever the reason, the break-in resulted in four pit bulls or bulldogs missing (later found); three dogs (Butler, Jack, and Flapjack) dead; and more than a dozen dogs injured.

The shelter, like most private rescue organizations, runs on a shoestring budget, and had no security system or surveillance. To help make ends meet, the shelter runs monthly yard sales at their facility, and relies on donations to meet expenses. Ella and I regularly attend their sales, spending a little money, and visiting with the pups who just want a home.

Thankfully, crimes against defenseless animals tend to unite the public, and donations (money, food, medical supplies, and toys) began pouring in over the weekend for the shelter. In addition, two security companies offered free security systems, and two donors offered to pay the cost for security for one year each. A candlelight vigil also was held on Sunday evening.

While I am sure the shelter and all its volunteers are still in shock over the turn of events, at least they can look forward to a little bit brighter future for their animals.

In other news, it was an interesting weekend, thriftwise. On Friday, Ella and I visited Granny’s Attic, the annual flea market sponsored by the local Catholic church. Last year at the sale, I was verbally abused by a little old lady. This year, the same little old lady complimented me on my rolling cart.  Either she mellowed out, or her short term memory is shot.

I did find some bargains at Granny’s Attic, but, as usual, haven’t had time to sort them. On Sunday, we went back to the sale’s half-price day, and walked away with still more good stuff. I really need more time to list.

First thing Saturday morning, we were in line for Historic Macon’s annual flea market. Again, more good sellable items were found, but they are also sitting with the stuff from Granny’s. Did I mention that I need more time to list?

Just part of a large Elvis collection
At one of our last stops, I found a huge collection of Elvis merchandise, including posters, dolls, jewelry, and lots of those tacky collectible plates that everyone seems to have, but no one actually wants. The memorabilia belonged to the seller’s mother, and the seller really just wanted the stuff gone. After cherry picking the collection, buying some toys and the pictured jewelry, I asked the seller what her plans were for the rest of the collection. After some chit chat, I gave her my name and number, and she promised to call me if it didn’t sell. Since it was toward the end of the morning, I felt confident that I would hear from her.

When I got home, I promptly started researching those tacky plates, and was not really surprised that they were basically worthless ($5 to $10 each). Since the seller was asking $5 each, I hoped that I wouldn’t hear from her. Thankfully, I didn’t.

Sales were steady last week, nothing to complain about, and only a little brag about, including this Nike Air Jordan coat that sold with Best Offer for $90. I paid $15 for it at Goodwill, and had hoped to get a little more. However, it had been sitting in my closet for a while, and I was glad to get rid of it.

Perhaps a taste of cold weather prompted this sale
It sounds counterproductive, but I hope this weekend is slow because I really need some quality time to list my extensive backlog of items. Having inventory is great, but it doesn’t do me much good sitting in boxes.

Have a great week, everyone.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Never again ... A Haunted Story

Duc, our exchange student from Vietnam, told us earlier in the month that he had never been in a “haunted house,” since Vietnam doesn’t celebrate Halloween.  Of course, Ella and I, being caring host parents, took that as a challenge, and we dragged Duc to the local “Haunted Barn” on Friday night, intent on scaring the dickens out of him.

Throughout the “tour” of the ghoul-infested structure, Duc was alternately fascinated and startled, really loving the scary clowns, as well as the “acting” of the performers.  He did refuse, though, to go first into a pitch black hallway, and he even got separated from me and Ella at one point, and we had to double back to find him.  I knew though that we had succeeded in our goal of frightening the young lad when he told me “never again” after being chased out of the barn by the creepy guy with the chainsaw.

Friday’s foray into typical American scary fun was just the beginning, though, as we have several other haunted attractions lined up despite Duc’s protests.  We even plan to take Duc through the local corn maze.  Of course, we will make him watch the movie, “The Children of the Corn,” first.
Duc and Ella watch sword swallower
drive nail into his head

On Saturday, we continued our quest to introduce Duc to the quintessential American life by taking him to the Georgia National Fair.  His art teacher had entered several of his paintings and drawings into the art competition, and while he didn’t win, he was excited/proud that they were on exhibit.  He also got to see several shows, pet the smelly animals, and eat fair food.  In addition, we paid an extra $3 each to see the freak show, which, as you might expect, was totally hokey, but the sword swallower drove a spike into his head through his nose, which was kind of cool.

Before the fair, we went thrifting at a local church sale, and came away with five boxes of loot, including books, DVDs, flasks (including a new belt buckle flask), pewter belt buckles, and collectible toys.  I’m still sorting everything, but it was a nice haul.

We also stopped at an estate sale of a prominent local businessman who had passed away.  While I found a few things, Duc enjoyed wandering through the large house, admiring the architecture, and the huge selection of artwork that adorned the walls.

I had several good sales throughout the week, including this one, which makes me think some people have more money than sense:

It's a handheld game that sold for $160.  I can play for free on my computer.

This weekend promises to be busy as well, with two major thrifting events, one on Friday and one on Saturday.  Both have been lucrative for me in past years, and I hope this year is no exception.

Oh, and in case you haven’t been paying attention to the influx of Christmas decorations at your local retailer, there are only 72 days until Christmas, so you better get listing.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

No slicky boyz

I saw this recently on Craigslist:

“I got a whole bunch (30-40) of those jewel-cut, ready for mounting, precious stones. You can buy them as a "lot" or in groups or individually. Bought 'em off that HSN or one of those jewelry selling TV stations for far more than they were probably worth . . . I don't really know. Anyway, If I wanna stay here in this house, I gots ta dump 'em. So I'm looking for someone who could give me a fair price exchange for these gems. I have Rubys and green ones and blue and yellow/orange, some pink and even some purple; Tanzanite I think it's called. So I'm a gonna put some good rez pics up in here and see if I can find a fair person that truly wants them and won't flenaggel me into paying him to take 'em off my hands for me. Seriously friends, please buy a beautiful gem for one of, or all of your loved ones at a premium price. Get creative with a tiara, a ring, a pin, tie clasp, belt buckle or piercing. All the proceeds will go to a noble cause. Trust me, there's something here you'll like. Pictures will be posted soon. Please no dealers or wheeler-dealers or slicky boyz.”

So funny that I had to share. 

Flenaggelers or slicky boyz need not comment.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mad dash for cash

Saturday was a wall-to-wall full day, which started with a petty argument with Ella at 6 a.m. concerning our itinerary for the day, and ended with a seller at the auction refusing to put something I really wanted up for bids.

The petty argument resolved itself fairly quickly as Ella, Duc and I hit the road by 6:30 a.m., determined to visit a few sales before heading toward Milledgeville, about 45 minutes away, for the city’s annual library fair, which started promptly at 9 a.m. However, we didn’t have much luck; it seems some people actually mean 8 a.m. when they advertise 8 a.m.

So, off to Milledgeville we went, which would sound humorous if you knew the history of the city (mental institutions and state prisons). We made it to the library fair, which hosts a huge book sale in the parking lot, an inside flea market, and various other activities, with about 20 minutes to spare, and got in line. Since I had attended the sale in previous years, I knew the line actually was to buy empty boxes ($15 per box; 5 boxes for $60) in which to put the books. I also knew that book dealers were actually smart enough NOT to wait in line, since you could buy the books individually ($.50 for paperbacks, $1 for hardbacks). So, close to 9 a.m., we left the line and took up residence along the edge of the sale, with the rest of the dealers, waiting for the starting gun, so to speak.

When the word was given over the loudspeaker, chaos, as Duc would say, ensued, as dealers made their figurative mad dash for cash.

We divided and conquered, with Ella heading inside to check out the flea market, and Duc sticking with me.

I walked quickly to the first table, where I had spied this book:

Apparently, another dealer had spied it as well, and all but tried to push me out of the way to grab it.

“Mine!” I said, as I grabbed it to scan. It wasn’t worth that much, but I grinned widely after scanning, and dropped it in my tote, hoping to psych out the other dealer. Apparently, it worked, because he left quickly for another table. Too bad, because had he stuck to his guns, he might have grabbed this one:

It sold soon after I listed it on Sunday for $96.

Though Ella didn’t find anything inside to resell, she quickly grabbed some comic books/graphic novels that were worth some money, especially one worth $100.00 that, fortunately for us, had been overlooked.

After filling two rolling totes, and picking out several stacks of book, which I had Duc guard with his life, Ella tallied our haul, which came to approximately $118. Since Ella actually is the smart one in our marriage, she suggested buying the five boxes for $60. I did, and all the books fit, with some room to spare. So, we just started grabbing other books just to fill the boxes to get our money’s worth. Duc even found a couple of SAT books to study.

It was a good day at the library fair.

On the way home, we stopped at the historic Hay House in Macon for a free tour, thanks to a special Smithsonian Museum promotion.

Ella and Duc pose on the steps of the Hay House. 
Duc, who wants to be an architect, enjoyed looking at the antebellum houses
along Georgia Avenue in Macon
From the Hay House website:

“One of Georgia’s most distinguished structures, the Johnston-Felton-Hay House in Macon was declared a National Historic Landmark in 1974. It was built from 1855 to 1859 in the Italian Renaissance Revival style, a marked contrast to the more restrained Greek Revival architecture of the antebellum period.”

Ever the thrifter, I found a book, Macon: An Architectural and Historical Guide, that was selling for $1 in the gift shop.  After a quick Amazon check, I bought all four since they are selling for close to $9 online.

To cap off an already busy day, Ella and I attended the local auction; Duc says it gives him a headache, so he stayed home. After surveying what was to be auctioned, I zeroed in on a small box of vintage paperwork and photos, including the creepiest photo of Santa Claus, signed no less, that I had ever seen. The seller, however, decided not to offer the collection up for bids. Bummer!

On Sunday, while listing the books from the library fair, I came across a copy of Eating Disorders for Dummies. It wasn’t worth much, but what made it interesting was that there were the remnants of tape and wrapping paper on it. I couldn’t tell if it was birthday or Christmas paper, but, either way, is there ever a special occasion where you give a book about eating disorders?

For the bulimic who has everything, I guess.

Later in the day, we went to a local scaled-down version of Comic Con, where I met 17-year-old Mackenzie Lintz, who plays Norrie on Under the Dome, the Stephen King adaptation on CBS.  She politely refused to tell me if the dome comes down next season (you’ll just have to watch, she said), but she did share how they make touching the dome look so real. Sometimes, the producers use large sheets of Plexiglass; other times, the actors just touch small pieces of glass. She also admitted that sometimes they just fake it, like a mime would do.

Mackenzie Lintz as Norrie Calvert-Hill and Colin Ford as Joe McAlister
in CBS’ Under the Dome
The next couple of weekends promise to be busy, with several large thrifting events (Granny’s Attic and Historic Macon’s annual flea market), as well as one more small book sale. Thankfully, they are not all on the same day. With the weather finally cooling off, yard sales should pick up a bit as well. Several good fall hauls are just what I need to ensure a busy Christmas season.

Have a great week everyone.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

An Acme delivery

I get many compliments on my fast shipping, but sometimes I amaze even myself.

For example, I sold a pair of new in box Chevrolet Racing shoes yesterday, boxed them up last night, and had them in my truck this morning, waiting to be dropped off at the post office.

These shoes apparently raced to their buyer
Before that could happen, though, I got this positive feedback from the buyer:

Got here super fast in great condition!

I was so confused that I went out to my truck to make sure they had not been picked up and subsequently delivered by Acme, the super fast company from the Road Runner/Coyote cartoons.

The shoes were still in the truck, so obviously the buyer had me confused with another seller.  At least now, though, I don’t have to worry about negative feedback should the shoes not fit.

Another buyer made me work to understand his feedback when he left me this:

Exactamente lo que esperaba , muchas gracias.

For my non-Spanish speaking readers, that translates to:

“Exactly what I expected, thank you very much.”

Google Translate is a wonderful tool.

Elsewhere in my little online world, this past weekend pretty much was a bust.  Even Duc, who has been thrifting for only a month, has learned enough to recognize junk when he sees it, and is not afraid to tell me, discretely, after surveying a sellers’ wares.

Speaking of junk, there also was nothing but junk at the auction on Saturday night, despite having a new seller with enough stuff to fill several tables.  I was hopeful upon first glance, but upon closer examination, I noticed yellow Wal-Mart “defective/returned” stickers still attached to many of the items.    To paraphrase Dana Carvey, who impersonated President George H.W. Bush on Saturday Night Live, “not gonna buy it … wouldn’t be prudent.”

We did buy a small case (four bottles) of Softsoap, though, for $2, figuring it was a decent deal.    Wrong again. As it turns out, the Softsoap was actually the replacement base (no pump) for the upscale Ensembles line, which has a larger pump than normal Softsoap.  Did I mention that the Ensembles line has been discontinued?   Obviously, the soap won’t go to waste, since I can just pour it into another bottle.  However, it just shows that you have to be careful when buying even insignificant things at an auction.

On a totally unrelated subject, I’m proud to say that I have surpassed the 1500 positive feedback milestone on Ebay.  I know, that’s a drop in the bucket for many of you, but I’m late to the ’bay, having concentrated most of my efforts on Amazon for the majority of my selling career.  Over on the big river, though, more than 2400 customers have left me feedback (99% positive).
While gathering my feedback numbers, I decided to delve further into my selling statistics.  According to The Art of Books, my online inventory management system, I have sold close to 15,000 media items and toys since 2007, not counting sales from Amazon’s FBA program or Ebay.  To ship everything, including Ebay, I have purchased more than $51,000 worth of postage through Endicia.

Pretty amazing, at least to me, and makes me tired just thinking about it.

As for this coming weekend, nothing has caught my eye so far, sales-wise.  It might be a good day to stay home, and list, list, list.

Friday, September 6, 2013

September already?

I can’t believe it’s September already.  Of course, I’m ready for some cooler weather, and the prospect of not having to cut the grass as often.  Even Duc, our exchange student from Vietnam, is eyeing the colder months ahead when he doesn’t have to get all “itchy” from doing a little yard work.  I guess you can take the boy out of the city (Hanoi), but you can’t take the city out of the boy.

Speaking of Duc, I asked him this morning what he wanted to do on Saturday, and he said he wanted to go to yard sales.  He’s barely been here a month, and he already has the thrifting bug.  We are so proud.

A week or so ago, we went to a local mom and pop thrift store that was closing, and everything was half price.  I immediately headed toward the small book section.  I was able to pull more than $200 worth of books off their shelf for a miserly $10.

While we are on the subject, I also sold my $525 book that I picked up at a recent estate sale.  It was a niche book about duck decoys in Louisiana, and was in acceptable condition (missing dust jacket, and a few other minor flaws), yet it sold within a week.

I can’t say it enough. ALWAYS LOOK AT THE BOOKS.

Don’t skip the DVDs, either, especially if you can get a lot buy.  My $900 purchase of more than a 1000 DVDs has netted me around $1089 since July, with plenty left to sell.   Since they are sitting on Amazon, they cost me nothing while they wait for just the right buyer.

In an interesting turn of events, I sold two boxes of contact lens solution.  Normally, this would a “nothing to see here, move along” sale, because, after all, people use this stuff every day.  What piqued my curiosity, though, was the fact that I had listed both boxes on Amazon last September, and then they both sell on the same day, one year later, to customers on opposite sides of the country.


Maybe, but it does lend credence to the idea of “cycling” or intermittent surfacing of inventory on online marketplaces.  Conspiracy theorists believe that Amazon cycles your inventory online and offline, and/or makes your inventory visible to different parts of the country at different times.

It’s never been proven, and, of course, Amazon and Ebay won’t admit to it, but may sellers firmly believe it occurs.  I’ve never given it much thought, but it’s hard not to believe it when you have two items that have been listed since September 2012 that suddenly sell within hours of each other.  You might expect such a thing with textbooks, but not contact lens solution.

This weekend is shaping up to be fairly busy, with several larger sales, including two church sales, a neighborhood sale, and a warehouse sale, plus lots of little sales in between.  To jump start the weekend, I went to a VFW sale at lunch today, and happened to find this jewel.

I know, it doesn’t look like much, but I had read somewhere that vintage/retro digital flip clocks are hot right now on Ebay.  So, I splurged, and paid a whole dollar to acquire this little bit of timepiece history.  A quick search on Terapeak shows a low sell-through rate,  but when like items do sell, they go for anywhere between $18 and $39.  Not a bad return on investment if I do say so myself.

I also found this new in package uniform insignia for U.S. Special Forces.  It should bring around $10 on a six bit ($.75) expenditure.

Hopefully, the full slate of sales this weekend is a harbinger of the weeks ahead as the weather starts to cool off.  As I mentioned in a previous blog, it’s been a horrendous yard sale season, and with Christmas literally just around the corner, I need all the inventory that I can get.

Have a productive weekend everyone.

P.S. Ella and I are celebrating our 21st wedding anniversary today.   I don't know how she has put up with me all these years.

Monday, August 19, 2013

The Rovin’ Collector

If it’s Saturday, it must be raining in Georgia.  Yes, it rained again on Saturday, ruining most yard/garage sales in the process.  Thankfully, there was an estate sale relatively close to my house, so the three intrepid thrifters (me, Ella, and newcomer, Duc) dodged the raindrops, and paid a visit to the Rovin’ Collector.

I found his business card in one of the books

I’ve mentioned before that estate sales tend to make me sad because you are pawing through the remnants of another person’s life.  This particular sale was a “living” estate sale, which meant that the Rovin’ Collector is still alive, and since it was at his house, and the sale was in his basement and garage, I could only imagine him watching out the window as his prized collectibles were sold off piece by piece.

Obviously, the Rovin’ Collector was a dealer, and I heard snatches of conversation about how he traveled extensively buying and selling.  His collection spanned almost every conceivable category, from Coca-Cola memorabilia to railroad artifacts to boxes and boxes of vintage campaign buttons.  He had Avon bottles; Civil War uniforms and bullets; signed and framed autographed photos; Scouting stuff; cigar boxes; old tools; and baseball cards.

It was awe-inspiring, and an Ebayer’s paradise.

None of the items were yard-sale cheap, though, except for the books.  I’m not talking about his collectible books, which were numerous. I’m talking about his books about collectibles, which were priced anywhere from $2 to $5 each, and no one in this Ebayer’s land of milk and honey was paying any attention to the money that was staring them in the face.  Almost no one, that is.

After casting wistful glances at much of the inventory, I settled in front of his five-shelf bookcase.  Many of the books did not have ISBN numbers, which made my PDA scanner useless, and my scouting painfully slow as I went book by book, shelf by shelf, many times having to look up books on my smartphone.  Duc finally then joined me, guarding my nice pile of “gems,” and watching me intently, obviously trying to learn more about our “family business.”

I left with approximately 20 books, and Ella had found a collector’s western magazine, which is destined for our booth at the film festival next year.  She wanted a signed John Wayne photo, but the $75 price tag gave me pause.  Now, an original autograph from The Duke can bring close to $200, but I had no idea if it was an original, or a reprint.  Reprints only bring $10 to $20.

While in line, I learned that Sunday would be half-price day, so we decided to come back the next day.

On Sunday, the sale was even more crowded, so I headed back to the books.  I picked up about six more books that I had missed.  Ella grabbed a couple of vintage Avon aftershave bottles with a western theme.  Unfortunately, the John Wayne photo was gone.

When all was said and done, I had picked up 26 books, which I have listed for more than $1300.  Granted, they are niche books, but with Amazon, they just sit until they sell at no cost to me, unlike Ebay’s monthly per item fee.

A few books can certainly add up
The moral of this story is that even if you are surrounded by top quality, sellable merchandise, always look at the books. Oh, and don’t let a little rain scare you away.

Monday, August 12, 2013

First day of school

Ella and I survived our first weekend with our new exchange student, Duc (pronounced Duke) from Vietnam, and we watched him board the school bus this morning for his first day of high school in America.

They grow up so fast.

Of course, not everything was smooth sailing, especially late yesterday afternoon when we realized that Duc didn’t have the appropriate clothes for school. The school system has a dress code of khaki-type pants and solid color Polo-style shirts, and Duc, who had studied the school’s website before coming to the U.S., assured us that he would be in compliance.

On Sunday, though, he mentioned to Ella that he would be wearing jeans to school. Uh oh! So, I spoke with Duc, asking him to show me his outfit for Monday morning. He had picked out jeans and a striped button down shirt. In fact, all he had were jeans, with not a khaki in sight, and upon further conversation, we learned that he had no idea what “solid color” meant.

We obviously had to rectify this situation, so we did what every good thrifter does. We went to the local Goodwill, which has a nice selection of clothes. Duc was able to pick out three new looking shirts, but because he is so slim, we couldn’t find any pants. So, we went to the mall, where he found several pairs of appropriate khakis.

Our first parenting crisis averted.

Earlier on Sunday, Duc helped me cut the grass, which seems like no big deal, except that he had never pushed a lawn mower in his life. After several starts, he managed to get the hang of it, but I don’t think that he liked getting “itchy.”

Duc helped me beat back the jungle on Sunday; it was his first time cutting grass
On Saturday, Duc went to yard sales with us, then we attended the Battle of Byron (a local community event), and ended the day at the local auction, where I think Duc enjoyed listening to the auctioneer, but ultimately was bored.

Unfortunately, I didn’t get to work too much on my online business this weekend, other than the few yard sales that we attended on Saturday. Duc did help me pack my sold items, though, and I think he enjoyed that a lot more than cutting the grass.

Ella and I don’t have children, so it’s odd to have someone in the house now. We’ve had to make a few adjustments, not the least of which is providing three square meals a day to a hungry teen. Speaking of food, Duc was not impressed with our microwaved “boil in the bag” rice. I guess we will have to drag the rice cooker out, and learn to use it.

Over the next year, I hope we can introduce Duc to the joys of living in small town America, something that he has never experienced, and something that we sometimes forget. For example, waiting for the bus in the dark this morning, Duc noticed that he could actually see the stars in the sky, something that he couldn’t do in Hanoi.

As I pointed out a few constellations to him, I realized that such moments are the real reason that he is here.

It’s going to be a good year.