Thursday, January 30, 2014

Snowmageddon avoided

Well, that was interesting.

Georgia had a rare winter storm on Tuesday that dumped 1 to 4 inches of snow across much of the state.  Thankfully, the middle Georgia area, unlike Atlanta, prepared by closing schools and businesses all day on Tuesday in anticipation of the storm’s snowy march. Everyone around here also stayed home on Wednesday, and the schools even remained closed today, Thursday. 

The humble home of Barry's Books adorned in white
I always joke about everything shutting down at the first hint of a snowflake, but after seeing the chaos in Atlanta, I have to give kudos to the local governments and school boards for their foresight in avoiding Snowmageddon 2014.

There was one casualty that I know about, though … my pride.  I braved the icy roads to take a tote full of packages to the post office around noon on Wednesday.  Yeah, you're right, either stupidity or dedication. Thankfully, the streets were in pretty good condition, and the post office was actually open for business. However, after I grabbed the packages out of the back seat, I promptly lost my footing, and felt like the world was moving in slow motion as I slid unavoidably toward the icy ground.  As I slid, I was worried about damaging my precious cargo, so I held onto the tote for dear life, sacrificing my posterior for the good of my customers.

I hope they appreciate it.

My bruised ego notwithstanding, the rest of the snow day was uneventful, and I took advantage of my time off work to clean up my office, and to list some items that I have ignored for various reasons. Case in point were nine used magneto-optical disks that had been sitting for a year or more.  These disks contained a software installation for a vintage telephone system, and I had tried unsuccessful to sell them previously.  I was debating just tossing them, but decided to try one last tactic.  I listed them as reusable disks for a cheap price just to get rid of them.  They sold right away.  D’uh, as Homer Simpson would say.

Vintage technology sells once again
I also finally listed some vintage Dungeons and Dragons magazines, as well as a collection of Magic the Gathering cards. The magazines and cards have good sell-through rates according to Terapeak, so I used auction format for a change.  To hedge my bet, though, I put a reserve on the cards; I don’t want them going for my starting price of $9.99.

It’s supposed to be warm this weekend, 60 degrees on Saturday and nearly 70 degrees on Sunday, which is hard to believe after the snow that we just suffered through. Hopefully, a few sales will pop up to take advantage of the nicer weather. 

Until next time, hammer down.  OK, that sounds better on Storage Wars than it looks in print.

Monday, January 27, 2014

Let it snow ... not

I first heard the whisperings at Kroger on Sunday morning.  Someone mentioned the dreaded “snow” word.  Surely, not, I thought.  However, when I got home and checked, the cold, wet stuff was in the forecast for Tuesday.

In the 60s today, and snow tomorrow.  Wild weather in Georgia
Today, though, it is going to be in the mid-60s.  How’s that for a weather swing?

Duc’s excited because he’s never seen snow, and at the potential of the school system shutting down before the first flake even falls.  However, I cautioned him that the weather around here is fickle, and just because snow is forecast doesn’t mean any will hit the ground.

On one hand, the kid in me is hoping that it snows.  However, the adult in me is hoping that it doesn’t, because no one in the South knows how to act, much less drive, when the white stuff starts sticking.

But that’s tomorrow, so on to the business at hand.

I had a surprise visitor yesterday afternoon.  I happened to be looking out my window on Sunday, and saw a young woman pull up, and get out of her car carrying a small box.  Turns out, it was an Amazon return that I had authorized several days ago, and she was delivering it in person since the post office supposedly quoted her $18 to ship it, which is probably not true, especially since she lives only about 10 miles away. 

On Sunday, I also watched the latest episode of Thrift Hunters.  It seems our favorite thrifting boys had made their way to Georgia, my home turf, to see what treasures they could find.  They bummed around the Atlanta area for a while, visiting several thrift stores, and one suspiciously uncrowded storage unit sale.  I may be wrong, but it looked like they were the only ones there, almost as if they had gained entrance before non-celebrity thrifters like you and me had a shot.   Let’s see … last week, they found good stuff at a not-open-to-the-public warehouse, and this week, they picked up good stuff at a sale where they got first dibs.   I do believe a pattern is emerging.  They are finding their best items only when they are getting preferential treatment.  Am I wrong?
This ugly guy was a
$29 sale

Backtracking to Saturday, Ella and I visited our first institutional sale of the year at a local high school.  We were late, since we had to drop Duc off at driving school, but there were still some bargains to be had.  I found several decent books to list, a vintage Casio MT-100 keyboard ($3), and other assorted odds and ends.  Unfortunately, the day went down hill from there.

On the sales side, Ebay has been dead to me for the past couple of days, with only several small orders.  Thankfully, Amazon picked up the slack a little, with 17 sales over the weekend, including a $29 troll.

As January is winding down with a whimper, I am not looking forward to February, which traditionally has been one of my slowest months.  I sound like a broken record, but clearly what I am doing now is not working, and I need to work harder, smarter, and faster or it’s going to be one cold month.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Piggly Wiggly

Last year, Lorraine over at blogged about discovering Piggly Wiggly, and how much she loved the store.  Folks around here would say that she was late to the party because we’ve always loved Piggly Wiggly, but, sadly, the store’s glory days have long since faded in these parts.

Still, it made me smile when I found this two-foot Piggly Wiggly plush at an estate sale over the weekend.  It was priced at $5, and I didn’t even bother haggling because it was just too cool, and I knew it had to be worth at least that, probably more, on Ebay, provided I can bring myself to part with it.

A quick check on Terapeak when I got home showed that smaller versions of the plush have sold for at least $19, so my super-sized piggy should bring home more bacon.

Otherwise, it was a listless, pun intended, Saturday morning that bordered on being too cold to thrift efficiently.  I’m sure I missed several good items because both my fingers and ears were numb from the frigid temperatures.

Speaking of thrifting, did anyone watch Thrift Hunters this weekend?  Jason T. Smith and Bryan Goodman from have a new show on Spike TV that features them traveling, thrifting, researching and selling their finds on eBay.  I read a lot leading up to the show’s premiere that it will do for thrifting what the “storage war” type shows have done to the auction business (i.e., greatly increase the competition, leading to higher prices and/or less merchandise available for seasoned pickers).

First, let me say that it was an interesting show, but it looks awfully familiar because they follow the same TV formula as the auction shows.  They thrift, have short interview segments, thrift again, then wrap up the episode by showing how much the thrifted items have sold for. 

Secondly, at least on this first episode, they were picking up things that I have picked up in the past (i.e., mugs, t-shirts, etc.), and will pick up again.   The power of the TV camera also allowed them to convince a thrift store manager to let them dig through the store’s private warehouse, despite her saying that it was closed to the public.  Obviously, this type of celebrity will give them a big advantage over other thrifters in their area.

It’s hard to judge a show after one episode, so I will certainly stay tuned in coming weeks.

Sales were pitiful over the weekend, with just 16 items sold on Amazon, and eight items sold on Ebay.  I’ve started listening to a podcast over at, and they have a daily Ebay goal of $300, and seem to reach it regularly; of course, they have much more merchandise in their store than I do, and actually work Ebay full time.  My goal of $100 per day, across all venues, is more modest, but so far this year, I am only averaging $87 per day.  It’s a familiar refrain, but I need to pick up the pace.

We are just about finished with our annual inventory. It was distressing to see how much inventory was sitting, gathering dust, that I thought was actually listed.  It also was distressing to see how much inventory is listed that we can’t find.  Thanks to Ella’s hard work, though, we are on the road to reconciling everything, and getting the various stores back in shape.

Have a great week everyone.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

If the guesthouse is a rockin’ …

Exactly one week after dodging a very cold bullet when a pipe froze in my guesthouse, I found myself wondering what else could go wrong when I discovered strange and certainly not good vibrations emanating from the attic, and shaking the very walls of the house.

I turned off the heat, and the vibrations ceased, so obviously something had gone wrong with the system’s blower unit.  There also was a slight smell in the house that I couldn’t identify.

The next morning, I called the AC repair guy, who discovered two dead mice that obviously thought the blower unit was a great place to stay warm.  To paraphrase one of the greatest Looney Tunes characters of all time, Yosemite Sam, mice is so stupid.
A bargain at $2,499 .... not
Speaking of Looney Tunes, I listed a new puzzle on Ebay over Christmas featuring Daffy Duck and Elmer Fudd, and expected it to sell rather quickly.  It didn’t, and I found out why yesterday.  While perusing my listings, I discovered that I had it priced at $2,499 instead of $24.99.

Scott is so stupid.

Even with normal prices, sales have continued to be fairly slow for me over the past week or so.  January is usually a little more brisk as people start using their gift cards. Over on Ebay, I’ve had a few good sales, including several pieces of obsolete and/or vintage technology.

I also sold a small collection of vintage game systems to a buyer with only two feedbacks.  I gave him a great deal, and, naturally, he repays me by not paying for his purchase, and forcing me to open a case.

Elsewhere in the land of Barry’s Books, Ella is slowly but surely inventorying our collection, and, in the process, is finding items that for some inexplicable reason aren’t listed. Case in point are six pre-owned VideoNow games that I have been trying to sell forever.  For some reason, Amazon keeps de-listing them.  So, when Ella stacked them neatly in my chair on Sunday, I promptly bundled them together on Ebay, and they sold this morning.  Good riddance.

This weekend is shaping up to be another dud, as far as sales go.  I don’t know about you, but I am getting jittery, like an addict who needs a fix, as these weekends pass without a good yard, garage, or estate sale.

Have a productive week everyone.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

And a little hairdryer shall lead them

When we had our house and separate guesthouse built, the contractor assured us that we wouldn’t have to worry about frozen pipes.  However, I don’t think he foresaw the 12 degree temperature that we had yesterday. 

Thankfully, our house weathered the cold without issue; our guesthouse that doubles as my climate-controlled inventory warehouse had a minor hiccup, though.

Yesterday, about 6 a.m., I entered the guesthouse to ensure that all was well.  The heat pump was pumping it’s little heart out, but could not quite reach the 72 degree mark set on the thermostat.  Still, at 70 degrees, it was warm enough, or so I thought, to forestall any problems that the chilly temperatures would bring.  To be sure, though, I turned on the kitchen faucet.  Nothing.

Oh, crap.

The bathroom and tub faucets brought the same result. Nada.  So, I checked all exposed under-sink pipes.  There was no sign of anything out of the ordinary, but I still had visions of a broken pipe flooding my inventory. 

I had a couple of options at that point.  I could call a plumber when the sun came up, or I could just wait it out, and hope whatever frozen pipe that I had would thaw by spring, or by the end of the week when the weather was projected to be in the 60s.  How insane is that, by the way, when the temperature one day can be 12 degrees, and four days later it can be 60 degrees?

But, I digress.  I decided on option two, and went to my day job.  Ella begrudgingly braved the cold and checked the house throughout the day, and I sat at work and worried, while looking up frozen pipe solutions on the Internet.

Not my house or Ella's hairdryer,
but a dramatic recreation of me
braving the cold and warming the pipe
By 4:30 when I got home, there was still no water, but I had an idea. I knew all the pipes in the house were protected from the cold.  The main waterline to the guesthouse was buried, so probably it was OK as well.  The one soft spot, so to speak, had to be where the waterline entered the home.  It, too, was underground, but came up in the wall to meet the outside faucet where the hose attaches.

Grabbing an extension cord and Ella’s hairdryer, I braved the 25 degree temperature, and proceeded to warm the faucet.    Much to my delight, water soon started trickling out of the kitchen faucet, and after a few more minutes, began flowing freely.

Crisis averted. 

As darkness fell, and I retrieved my last piece of sold inventory from the guesthouse, I decided to heed the weatherman’s advice, and leave the water dripping in the sink just to be on the safe side.

In between all the cold-related worry, I managed to have a fairly good sales day, including the sale of two pairs of thermal underwear to one buyer.  Better late than never, I guess.

I also sold approximately $130 worth of books and stuff on Amazon and 

Looking ahead, I learned today that the overpriced estate sale from Sunday is having an “everything must go … prices reduced” sale on Saturday.   I still think it will be overpriced, but we’ll probably take a second look. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Baby, it’s cold outside

Whatever happened to global warming?

The older I get, the less I like the cold, and according to the National Weather service, it’s going to be frigid in these parts over the next couple of days, with lows in the lower teens, and highs only in the 30s.  Now, I know those of you up north who suffer through real cold weather are probably scoffing at me, but 13 degrees in middle Georgia is just crazy.

On Saturday, the high was only 43 degrees, so we didn’t venture out even though there were several yard sales, and one estate sale that looked promising, at least on paper.  Sunday dawned warmer, so we braved the chill, and trekked up the road to Macon for what we hoped was the half-price day at the estate sale.  According to the proprietors as we walked in, it was “super sale” day, and they were willing to deal.  The house seemed too full for day three of an estate sale, and I soon found out why as I started looking at their prices.  I could be wrong, but it appeared that the proprietors looked up the more sellable items on Ebay, and then subtracted about 10 percent, and marked their items accordingly.  Even at half price, most the items were just too expensive for resellers, which was a shame because they had some nice items, including American Girl dolls ($150), homemade quilts ($75), and even a few books ($9 price on a book worth $8 on Amazon).

Still, Ella managed to snag a few items for herself, and after an exhaustive search, I finally found a needle in the proverbial haystack.  Naturally, I found it in the book section, which, as I’ve discussed before, often is ignored by the majority of resellers.  The book, Retired Dallas Police Chief, Jesse Curry Reveals His Personal JFK Assassination File, had an estate sale price of $4, and an Amazon price of $44.  It was a minor ka-ching, but made the trip worthwhile.

After the sale, since we were in the big city, we went to one of my favorite stomping grounds, Kmart, to check out their remaining Christmas merchandise that had been marked down to 70 percent off.  Kmart still had lots of stuff, and I anticipate a further reduction in the next week or so.  One item grabbed my attention, though, and after a little research, and witnessing a little boy point at them and say “magic wand,” I grabbed them all, including the light up display box, at $8.99 each.

These $30 “magic wands” control Christmas lights (or any other electrical device), both inside and out, allowing you to channel your inner wizard to impress your kids and, I guess, the easily impressible.  The only drawback is that I have to store them until next Christmas.  C’est la vie.

I also purchased two giant stuffed Bumbles from the Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer series for $10 each.  These $35 abominable snowmen will keep the magic wands company until the next holiday season.

Sales over the weekend were sluggish.  Among other items, I sold my first pair of men’s shorts from the lot that I bought in late October.  The shorts were bought for $.99 each, and listed for $27.99 plus free shipping.

Over on Amazon, including Alibris and Half, I sold 24 items over the weekend.  So far this year, I am averaging just over $71.00 per day in sales.

Ella and I also have started our annual inventory, and I will write about that in another post.  It’s my least favorite chore, but it’s something that obviously needs to be done.

Looking ahead, I have no idea.  Obviously, yard sales are practically non-existent, and the thrift stores, especially Goodwill, have been fairly barren of good stuff as well.  Luckily, I’m like the ant in the parable … I have things stored for the winter.

Keep warm, and have a good week.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Happy belated New Year!

OK, so I’m a day late, and a dollar short. It’s the thought that counts, right?

I’ve been on vacation from my day job since mid-December, and managed to accomplish relatively little, other than eating too much, and watching too many TV marathons (i.e., American Horror Story and Haven) with Ella.  I did list quite a bit on Amazon/Ebay, and, of course, I kept up with my packing/shipping.  I tried to scout some, but with the exception of one huge thrift store find, pickings were slim this holiday season, and even after-Christmas sales were less than inspiring. 

Needless to say, it’s time to get back to work. 

My first order of business is/was to get a new blog posted.  I hope everyone had an excellent holiday selling season; mine was OK; sales in December 2013 were down across my bookselling platforms (Amazon, Alibris, Half, and Biblio) by about 9 percent compared to last year.  Ebay, too, was down about 9 percent.  I’m not sure if lack of inventory or lack of effort on my part is to blame.  Either way, I have much work to do in the coming year to grow the business.

My one good find in December was at an out of town thrift store on the day after Christmas.  Everything in the store was half price that day, and I literally found a grocery store buggy (or “cart” for my northern readers) full of books that apparently had been donated by a Christian bookstore.  Multiple copies of high-dollar books made my season a little brighter.

In the spirit of the holiday, I also was the victim of feedback extortion, but in a weird way:

Buyer: If you want me to leave feedback, you need to leave feedback or I'm going to leave negative feedback! I paid you ASAP and still no feedback, I don't have time to remind each seller to leave positive feedback. Thank you.

Me: Thank you for the reminder, although it was unnecessary. Using an Ebay app, most sellers automatically leave feedback upon receipt of positive feedback from a buyer. Have a happy holiday.

Buyer: The sellers I have purchased from leave feedback as soon I as I pay for the item(s). Happy Holidays.

Needless to say, I went ahead and left positive feedback, and the buyer did the same.

Not all was gloom and doom online, though, and I did have a few good sales on Ebay, including these Doo Wop DVDs acquired for $3.

Ella really wanted to keep these DVDs!

I’ve mentioned before that I love obsolete technology.  Over the holidays, a VHS tape rewinder and several really old-school vacuum tubes sold.

Old-school technology continues to sell well
I also finally got rid of my Austin Powers collection.  I was disappointed that they didn’t sell for more, but I accepted a low best offer just to get them off my shelf.

"Yeah baby, yeah!"
Looking back, overall, 2013 wasn't bad. Looking ahead to 2014, I see areas that need improvement, and my resolution is to make it my best year yet.

On a parting note, I want to say how much fun it was to celebrate Christmas with Duc this year.  Vietnam doesn’t really celebrate Christmas, and Duc was thrilled to open his presents, which included a bottle of Vietnamese fish sauce (a staple like ketchup).  It seems the cheap American sauce from Publix just doesn’t stack up against the good stuff from the homeland.