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.