Thursday, June 19, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

With the 2014 Memphis Film Festival behind us now, I’ve had time to think about the good, the bad, and the ugly, to coin a western phrase, of our latest money-making endeavor.

The Good

Travel time.  The festival started on Thursday, but vendors were allowed to set up on Wednesday.  Instead of rushing to the festival on Wednesday, arriving late, then trying to set up our tables, we arrived Tuesday, a day early.  It cost us an extra $39, but was well worth it.

Pricing.  Our merchandise, for the most part, sold at sticker price.  Not wanting to gouge the festival attendees, I priced our items based on Amazon and/or Ebay prices.

We purchased a cash register prior to the festival, with the idea of being able to lock the cash drawer so we could leave the table for whatever reason. We never got the chance to fully learn to use it, and decided to just use a fanny pack as a money belt.  As it turns out, the register would have been overkill.

Ella had the foresight to purchase enough sheets at various yard sales to cover our tables.

Ella had the great idea to use a western sheet/blanket on the floor underneath our table to display our stuffed horses, bags, etc.

I decided not to use our scent machine.  The apple pie cartridge really didn’t smell like I wanted it to, and given the proximity of other vendors, I thought it was best to just leave the machine in our room.

The Bad

We brought too much stuff, or had too few tables, depending your point of view.  It was difficult to see everything on the tables, plus we had merchandise in totes that never saw the light of day.

It never occurred to me that festival attendees already would have most of the DVDs that we brought.  In hindsight, it’s obvious.

Much of our inventory, other than the DVDs, was Old West related, not necessarily TV western related, if that makes sense.  For example, photos of western TV stars sold, while the few pieces of western home d├ęcor did not.  Our Gunsmoke trading cards sold, while our Old West trading cards did not.

John Wayne is popular only up to a point.  Most of our “Duke” inventory remained unsold.

Not everyone loves horses as much as Ella does.  We had lots of horse-related stuff, including watches and hand-make purses (purchased cheap at a church sale).  Obviously, there is a link between horses and the Old West, and even TV/movie westerns, but apparently not enough to warrant the investment we made during the year on equine merchandise.  I am surprised, though, that our hop-along stick horses, including a rare Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, not only didn’t sell, but didn’t even warrant a glance from any would-be buyers. One toy horse that we did sell was a horse on a remote tether that walked and whinnied.  It languished until a customer took it out and played with it.  That customer didn’t buy it, but the next one did, and credited the demonstration for her purchase decision.  Not that we had a whole lot of items that actually could be demonstrated, but the idea is worth considering if we decide to sell at next year’s festival.

The photo kiosk was a good idea, but had poor marketing on my part.  The few festival goers who took advantage of the kiosk loved it, but I didn’t make enough of an effort to educate attendees, through signage, cards, word of mouth, etc.  Granted, the printer is limited to 5X7s, while the stars were signing 8X10s, but with the nearest photo lab nearly 30 minutes away, it could have been more of a moneymaker.

On a related note, many attendees were using their Iphones or Android phones, which do not have the requisite memory cards for the printer, to take their pictures.  Again, in hindsight, this issue should have been obvious.  A Bluetooth adapter is available for the printer, and I should have had enough foresight to purchase one.

Again, on the same issue, Ella had suggested “volunteering” to take photos using our digital camera with the understanding that they would print the photo on our printer.  I considered this, but thought the logistics would be unworkable, giving that Ella would be doing festival stuff, leaving me running the table, and unable to stand in line to take the photos.  As it turns out, I did volunteer to take several photos, and they did print them out on our printer.  Ella’s idea was sound, and I was silly for not giving it more consideration.

The Ugly

I refused to haggle on a necklace on the first day of the sale, thinking that it would sell later. It didn’t.

I watched a gentleman tear apart his phone, looking for the memory card, only to discover it wouldn’t fit in the printer.  He then had trouble putting it back together.

Having a drink behind the table, and watching it spill on the carpet, almost soaking a bag of merchandise that we had sold.

Back to the grind

We are still unpacking and sorting our western stuff, but we did manage to take a small load to our antique mall booth last night.  We replaced most of our regular DVDs with western DVDs, and replaced some unsold knick-knacks with some cowboy items.  Our goal is to have a cohesive “western” display, but we didn’t have time last night, so we just unloaded it on the shelves.

Speaking of our booth, I received a box of beautifully crafted Steampunk merchandise yesterday from Lorraine and Chris at  My idea is to not only make some money from reselling the items, obviously, but also to push some customers to Chris’ Ebay store, Back Flame Creations.  It seems like a win-win scenario to me.

Both Amazon and Ebay are still slow, probably because I took a three-week vacation from listing.  I am trying to get back in the groove, so to speak, to get some more money coming in.

For the weekend, unless something special pops up, we will not be going to yard sales.  I’ve been spending too much time sourcing; it’s time to list, and then list some more.

Have a great and profitable weekend.


  1. Thanks for the mention and also for helping Chris get some business! He's been busy booking cons and hotel rooms for the next 6 months. I'm glad everything we sent arrived okay. I hope it all sells. That would be fantastic!
    Your experience at the film festival reminded me of when Chris did his first con. He sold all his Nerf guns in the first half hour. The next year he went with tons of guns and most people were interested in goggles. It's hard to predict what will sell, but I think you made some pretty good observations that will help you for next time. If you were at a star trek convention, I doubt you'd sell many star trek DVD's. Like you said, it's pretty obvious the attendees probably already own them.

  2. It sounds like you guys learned a lot and will be prepared for even more success next time. Thanks for taking us readers along for the journey :) FYI, after reading that the ebay scavengers were forced to change their name, I decided not to wait around for eBay to send me a letter. I'm no longer Cray Cray for eBay. My new name is Garage Sale Heaven and the url is If you could update your blogroll to help spread the word, I would really appreciate it.