Monday, August 18, 2014

Bookseller down

I had several choices on Friday night, none of which involved the emergency room.  Unfortunately, life intervened while I was busy making plans, and I ended up sitting in a nearly empty room, every breath resulting in a sharp pain, waiting to be admitted at the local hospital.

An hour earlier, I had made the decision to clean the front porch.  Friday is usually my free night, no reason to pack or list.  I dutifully moved all the furniture off the porch except the deck bench, a large plastic box designed to hold seat cushions, etc.  Since we had been seeing snakes in the yard, I cautiously opened the box.  The rest is sort of a blur.  As I was opening the box, I noticed a wasp stinging my foot, which drew my attention away from the huge wasp nest inside the box.  When my attention finally returned to the wasps swarming out of the box, fight or flight kicked in, and I chose the latter.  Unfortunately, my feet must have gotten tangled up, and I fell off the porch, which is about three feet off the ground.

Normally, a three-foot drop wouldn’t have been a big deal; however, I landed squarely, chest first, on one of Ella’s garden statues.  I knew I was hurt, but had no idea how badly.  Ella came running up, offering to call an ambulance.  Trying to man up, I said no, then walked to the side porch step to sit down.  I gradually worked myself inside the house, then finally to bed.  Nothing I could do, however, would alleviate the pain in my chest.  I finally made the decision to have Ella drive me to the emergency room.

I was admitted, X-rayed, and diagnosed with three broken ribs, plus a small blood spot on a lung.  There was nothing they could do about the ribs, but the doctor was afraid the lung could collapse, so they admitted me for overnight observation, and dosed me liberally, I think, with morphine.  Well, long story short, I’m still breathing, painfully at times, and have several weeks of recuperation ahead of me.

On the bright side, I got out of cleaning the porch, and probably won’t be doing yard work for a bit.  On the not so bright side, I have to be careful about lifting inventory for a while, which I learned the hard way on Sunday.

Since I was incapacitated on Saturday, we missed a sale featuring western d├ęcor, something that sells pretty well in our booth.  Thankfully, the sale rolled to Sunday, and despite my soreness and pain, I decided that I could handle a drive to look at some inventory.   When we arrived at the address, it was in a downtown building on the third floor, with steps being the only access to the living area.  I walked slowly up the stairs, and into a beautiful lofted apartment, with vaulted ceilings, skylights, and lots of potential inventory for sale.

I was winded from the climb, but Ella and I found $100 worth of stuff, including Harley Davidson items, western decorations, and books.   I was not looking forward to going back down the steps, though, carrying all that stuff.  I carried one small bag down, and Ella stepped up to the plate, so to speak, and brought the rest of our purchases down, making several trips.

Today, I was sorely tempted, pun intended, to skip work to recover from the weekend, but decided that I could be miserable at work just as easy as at home, plus I don’t burn up my leave.

And how was your weekend?

Friday, August 15, 2014

Truth in advertising, or flea bitten at the flea market

Once every couple of months, Ella and I visit the local flea market right down the road.  It’s a ramshackle place, and if you don’t mind getting a little dusty, you usually can find something to buy.

Earlier this week, we ventured into the furniture section of the place, looking for possible display stands for our antique booth.  The section, which is actually in two different buildings, features lots and lots of home furnishing, mostly broken down chairs and lamps. During this particular visit, I also discovered that the building has fleas.

How ironic.

After being bitten on my legs, I decided that I didn’t need anything that place had to offer, except, of course, the antique fireplace blower, two high-dollar DVDs, and a rolling library cart that I already had picked up. I really hope that I left the fleas behind.

On Tuesday, we ventured out to see a garage full of carasels (sic) and barbies that had been advertised through a local Facebook group.  Well, the garage was full, but not with Barbies.  Sure, they had several totes with the carousels and the dolls, but I really couldn’t get a feel for what exactly they had.   After some discussion, I agreed to come back at a later date after they had an opportunity to display their wares in a more conducive to sell manner.  

As part of my usual lunch time ritual, I visit various thrift stores, and recently found myself at an establishment managed by a long-time acquaintance.  After some idle chit chat, during which I learned that the shop was facing lean economic times, I proceeded to pull a $50 book out of the stacks.  Obviously, the shop doesn’t subscribe to my “always check the books” theory of money making. 

Today is half price furniture day at the local hospice thrift store. The establishment, which has been in business for just over a year, is slowly growing to rival Goodwill, both in its appearance (clean and shiny), and in inventory selection.  One of the main differences between the two stores is that the hospice shop is volunteer run, and by volunteers, I mean true volunteers (mostly senior citizens), and not the community service misfits at Goodwill who are only there because they didn’t want to pick up trash beside the road.

Goodwill must be feeling the pinch in our community, though, not only due to the hospice store, but also because numerous other thrifts shops have sprung up, sapping donations that normally might have gone to them.  I am hearing more and more Goodwill radio commercials begging for donations.  I don’t normally wish ill upon any business, but when I see labeled dollar store picture frames selling for $1.01, I think having to close a store or two might put a little “thrift” back into the chain’s “upscale boutique” mentality.

Speaking of begging, I need to find out to whom to beg for a sale or two.  Ebay has been slow forever, it seems, and I’ve gone 0 for Amazon (zero sales) for two days now.  I can’t remember ever having a two-day period without selling something on the big river.

The only good thing about the sales slump is that it is giving me time to work both our antique booths.  With 15 shopping days left in the month, including three weekends, we are more than half way to meeting the combined rent, which is my goal for August.  It’s a sad goal, I know, but with more than double the rent and double the space, it’s the best I can expect as we work to merchandise Ella’s Eclectic Emporium.

Forecast for the weekend is sunny with a 100 percent chance of yard and estate sales.  Temperatures are expected to range from comfortable at 7 a.m. to “bloody hell, it’s hot” by noon.

Be productive everyone.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Rome wasn’t built in a day vs. the clock is running

Ella’s Eclectic Emporium got a shot in the arm on Sunday as we finally had time to move a couple of pieces into the booth, and I was able to put together a bookcase for some small items.  It no longer looks like the red-headed stepchild of the antique mall, but even after about six hours of work on Sunday, both pricing and merchandising, it still has a long way to go.

I tried to show both sides of the booth; yes, it needs more stuff
I know, Rome wasn’t built in a day.  On the other hand, the clock is running to get enough sales to make rent for both booths before the end of the month.   Stay tuned.  Our first month with both booths is proving to be interesting, to say the least.

Last week, Ella answered an advertisement regarding 350 DVDs for sale for $175.  We picked them up on Saturday morning after negotiating the price down to $150.  Unfortunately, upon getting them home, we realized that about half were either too scratched to sell, or were of the bootleg variety.   Of the remaining DVDs, most have the dreaded penny status on Amazon.  Thankfully, DVDs actually sell well in Barry’s Bonanza, our smaller booth, and with any luck, we’ll make a little money eventually.

While waiting to pick up the DVDs, I received this email from an Amazon customer:

Tracking info indicates that my order's estimated delivery date is August 11th. However, it also shows that it stayed in Georgia three days, and has been in a Memphis post office for two days. Not sure why it has to sit for so long in those post offices. I live in New York, and unless the package is moving along faster than the tracking info indicates, I will not receive it on Monday. That's disappointing, since I was hoping for a speedier delivery.

I am aware I didn't pay for faster delivery, but when ordering directly through Amazon, I usually receive things faster just using regular delivery. Maybe that's my problem (no extra money for fast shipping), but if something could be done in future to keep people's books from just sitting for days in two or more post offices, that would make for happier customers. Thanks for listening.

Yes, if only something could be done to keep people’s books from just sitting for days in post offices.  I’ll get right on it. 

Here is my reply.

I think every online seller would love to have a way to stop packages from sitting in post offices for days.  Unfortunately, it is beyond our control.  Even Priority Mail has a tendency to wander around the country, post office to post office, at times. 

If your package arrives too late, please just mark refused on the package, and drop it back in a mailbox.  I will refund your purchase when it makes it back to me.

Sorry I couldn't be more help.

And then her response:

Thank you for the timely response. It's okay. I know you can't control the U.S. Postal Service. I just wasn't sure how some packages seem to move along quickly and others don't. Truth be told, I'm an impatient person when it comes to waiting for things I've ordered :-) That's why I purchase locally, unless mail ordering is the only way for me to receive an item.

Also, I plan to keep the book even if it arrives later than Monday. That is, assuming it's not badly damaged, or anything. And who knows, maybe when I get some extra money, I will check out some of that "other neat stuff" that is a part of your business name. Have a great day.

All’s well, that ends well, provided the post office actually delivers the book.

On Saturday night, we went to the local auction, and picked up the game table and two chairs shown in the pictures above.  We moved them into the booth on Sunday.

After working in the booth, we went to the final hours of a large children’s consignment sale.  Many items were either half priced, or marked down to $1.  I found a couple of education books and pregnancy/fitness-related DVDs that will make the trip worthwhile.   Such sales frequently are overlooked by dealers, and if you can put up with wading through hordes of screaming kids, and getting your toes run over by baby strollers, you might just find some treasures.

Have a great week.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Smoke ‘em if you got ‘em … not

Sometime last year, I picked up a Brown & Williamson Commemorative Series wall hanging that features 10 packs of cigarettes.  According to my research, the wall hanging was a celebration of heritage and achievement from the giant tobacco company that had a huge manufacturing plant in Macon, and employed 3000 people before closing in 2003.

I hate cigarette smoke, but even a hater like me can realize the contributions
that this company made to the city of Macon
I’m not a smoker, but I knew enough about the company to realize that this collectible had to be worth more than the church’s asking price of $1.  On the other hand, I had my doubts about the legality of selling cigarettes online, and didn’t think Ebay would allow it.

Still, there were other such collectibles already listed, so I decided to take a chance on the item.  I listed it the next day, and, as expected, Ebay slapped me down, and removed the listing.  Then, something strange happened.

Ebay called me.  The customer service representative patiently explained Ebay’s rational for removing my listing, and told me that I could relist it provided that I used exact Ebay policy verbiage in my description, which the representative then provided via email.

So, I relisted it per Ebay’s instructions, and after almost a year, it finally sold yesterday.  Granted, it wasn’t for a lot of money, but it proves to me that while Ebay justifiably gets a lot of heat due to questionable policies and procedures, the retail giant genuinely does want sellers to succeed, and sometimes even lends a helping hand when needed.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Seeing red no longer

Under the watchful eye of both John Wayne and Hopalong Cassidy, Ella and her brother, Jimmy, painted the red wall of TBB, now formally known as Ella’s Eclectic Emporium (Triple E), on Sunday afternoon.  I had the difficult task of pouring paint, wiping paint, and taping and de-taping the trim areas since I can’t be trusted with a paint brush.

BEFORE: The antique mall owner thought the red wall was "unlucky,"
and suggested that we paint it
AFTER: John Wayne rode off into the sunset with a new owner after we painted
I know, it sounds about as much fun as, well, watching paint dry.  

This large metal sign is priced at $75
Still, by late afternoon, Triple E finally was ready for occupancy, and we responded by putting a sign on the wall.  Anti-climatic, to be sure, but it was a start of what I hope will be a prosperous endeavor as we head into the autumn antiquing season, as well as the dreaded ever expanding silly season known as Christmas.

Of course, we need to fill the booth, and keep Barry’s Bonanza stocked as well.  To do so, we’ve been attending auctions, as I’ve written about before, and Saturday night, we traveled up the road to a new to us auction after seeing pictures posted on  I didn’t win what I really wanted (the Wonder Woman Barbie), but we did come home with additional sellable knick knacks, for lack of a better term, and a vintage baby cradle that needs a little work.  We have lots of “smalls,” but we really need a few more furniture-type pieces.

Backtracking to Saturday morning, sales were plentiful, but we really didn’t find a whole lot. At a business liquidation sale, we pick up six western signs, and three western decorative pieces (from a closed bar).  The sale also had hundreds of CDs, with most bundled in packs of 10.  I really didn’t feel like scanning CDs, but did leave my number with the seller in case she wanted to sell all the CDs in bulk. 

I missed out on purchasing a vintage sewing machine because I asked the wrong person about the price.  A church youth group was having a sale, and the small Singer machine, with wooden cover, was sitting ignored on a table.  It was in rough shape, but still sellable.  Since everything was “make an offer,” I asked an adult about the price, and she suggested, after making a comment about looking it up on Ebay, that she would accept $30, which was a little high for me.  I then watched a man pick up the machine, and ask the teen cashier about the price.  She said “make an offer.” He said “$5.”  She said “sold,” and he walked out the door with it. 

I’m an idiot.

In the “I never thought I would resort to this” department, thanks to a coworker who delivers pizza, I’ve started keeping an eye out for trash piles on the side of the road.  The coworker spots roadside treasures on his pizza runs, and picks them up on the way back to the restaurant.  Once he accumulates enough good stuff (tables, chairs, etc.), he takes it to the local flea market on Saturday mornings. 

What’s next for me, dumpster diving?

Sales continue to be slow across all venues, including Ebay.  Of course, I have been neglecting Ebay in favor the booth recently so it shouldn’t surprise me.   While it’s easier to put items in the booth, I tend to price the items a bit lower to spur sales.  So, I am losing money for the luxury of not having to store it in my house, or to ship it once it sells.  Looking around my house, I think it’s a worthwhile trade.

The week ahead promises more work.  I have lots of stuff to list online, more stuff to put in the booths, and lots of grass that needs cutting.

As my friend, Joe, says, “every day’s a holiday, and every meal’s a feast.”