Monday, October 27, 2014

Well, that didn’t last long

The plan was to sleep late on Saturday morning, and spend the day listing, doing chores, and maybe cooking food instead of eating out.  You know, normal people stuff.
But no ….
I cracked first, by going to the book sale on my lunch hour on Friday.  I’m glad I did, because even though the sale had started the night before, apparently it went dealer free until I got there.  It was difficult lugging a big box of books through the mall while trying to keep my large Chick-fil-A sweet tea from spilling, but I managed to get to my truck with dropping either one.
Saturday morning, I did get to sleep late, staying in bed until around 7 instead of my usual 4:30 wakeup time.  Ella got up soon after, and as we both sat at our respective computers, perusing Craigslist, I could feel our resolve slowly melting.  By 8:30, we were out the door, determined to hit only a few sales, and to come back home. 
We were late getting to the church sale, but managed to find some good booth material, including two huge framed and signed Macon Cherry Blossom Festival prints for $1 each.  The Cherry Blossom Festival is Macon’s big spring party.  The rest of the sales were hit and miss, yielding only assorted items, including some Disney comic books and a hand-made Mickey Mouse quilt that will go in our booth next month.
By noon, we were at the book sale again to take advantage of the “fill a box for $5” sale.  I started out with two banana boxes, but as they got filled up, Ella paid $5 for another box, which also quickly got filled.  My idea was to fill the boxes to overflowing, but the nice sale lady sternly pointed out that I needed another box for the books falling out of my first three boxes.  So, I meekly handed over another $5.  Still, we got four huge boxes of books for $20, some of which will go online, and most of which, including many, many cookbooks, will find their way to our booths.
Seven hours later, after eating lunch, and ensuring the 25% off sale signs were in place at both Barry’s Bonanza and Ella’s Eclectic Emporium, we made it home. Best laid plans aside, it was a semi-lucrative day. Obviously, though, nothing got listed.  Later Saturday evening, we went to the local auction.  With only three bidders, it didn’t last very long.
On Sunday, I again was up at 7, and promptly began working.  I listed both Ebay and Amazon items until just after noon.  Ella and I then had to go straighten our storage unit to make room for other stuff, and to bring Christmas items toward the front for easy access.  I found a case of small blue M&M ornaments/toppers that I purchased at a church sale early in the spring for $10.  There are at least 200 of these little guys, which sell for at least $5 each online.   Have I ever mentioned that I love M&Ms?
The rest of Sunday was spent listing, and finding room for all the books purchased on Saturday.
So, the weekend wasn’t a total loss, although the listing on Sunday barely put a dent into all that I need to get online.  Whether I could make a living doing it, I don’t know, but I do know that I literally could make a full time job out of thrifting.
My most noteworthy sale of the weekend was a small lot of Veronica Mars DVD box sets.  It didn’t sell for much, only $25, but it did generate a weird query from a potential buyer.  He wanted to know if the discs buffered during playback.  I wasn’t quite sure what he meant, but I assured him that they were factory DVDs, and should play fine on a standard DVD player.  He again questioned if the any of the discs buffered.  By now, I was getting a bad feeling about this buyer, thinking that no matter how perfect the discs were, he would find some fault.  So, I blocked him.  Thankfully, another buyer picked them up soon after.
Too many questions led me to block a potential buyer
This weekend marks the last major sale that I have on my calendar, and while other sales may pop up, with the weather turning colder, it should slow down enough that I can spend some quality time listing, and not getting jittery about missing out on the good stuff.
Stay busy and productive, and make sure you have plenty of candy on hand for the little beggars on Friday.

Friday, October 24, 2014

61 days and counting

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas
Ev'rywhere you go;
Take a look in the five-and-ten, glistening once again
With candy canes and silver lanes aglow
As both an online and pseudo brick and mortar merchant, I already can feel the pressure that the silly season brings, and my internal Christmas clock tells me that my window for listing is diminishing rapidly even though it’s not even Halloween yet.
Walking through local stores doesn’t help, either, because many of them already have decked the halls thanks to the power of full-time employees, while in the multiverse of Barry’s Books (Amazon, Ebay, and two antique mall booths), it’s just me and Ella, and I’m only part-time.  I’m used to the pressure of listing on deadline, but this year we not only have to merchandise the two booths, but also decorate them as well. None of it is hard work, but the sheer volume leaves me feeling a bit overwhelmed.
Thankfully, Ella has a plan, at least for the booths.  The goal is to move much of the everyday merchandise out on or around November 1 (after a week-long 25 percent off sale), and to move the Christmas decorations, toys, and our Disney stuff in.  As for online, I’m trying to squeeze in quality listing time between doing everything else. 
Speaking of Christmas, the U.S. Postal Service has published its "mail-by" dates. To ensure that holiday mail and packages are delivered in time for Christmas, the post office recommends the following mailing/shipping deadlines:

Dec. 2: First-Class Mail International
Dec. 2: Priority Mail International
Dec. 10: Priority Mail Express International
Dec. 15: Standard Post
Dec. 17: Global Express Guaranteed
Dec. 20: First-Class Mail
Dec. 20: Priority Mail
Dec. 23: Priority Mail Express
Notice that the first deadline is just over one month away.
Sales lately have been lackluster, although Amazon picked up a bit after I listed a bunch of books several weekends ago.  Ebay has been slow, as usual, which I attribute to not having the time to list enough items.  One sale that I did have, though, was interesting, at least to me.  I sold my last box of Silicone Pad Scar Treatment that I purchased on clearance from Kmart (sniff, sniff … I miss Kmart already) to a buyer from Spain through Ebay’s Global Shipping Program.  The buyer paid $14.99 for the item, and then paid an additional $17.94 to have it shipped overseas.  She really must need that treatment.

I hope this product actually works for the buyer ... she paid a bunch to get it
This weekend, Ella and I decided to concentrate on what we have instead of going out looking for more. Of course, this left me with the jitters as I skipped a small book sale last night.  I might have to cheat, and scan some books during my lunch break today.
Have a lucrative weekend, everyone.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Bye, Bye Blue Light Special

Earlier in the summer, Kmart announced that it planned to close our local store.  This decision didn’t surprise me, but did cause me great anguish, seeing as how not only was the store a honey hole of inventory at times, but also it was my go-to place during my lunch break (walking laps around the huge store was quicker and better than going to a gym); a Thanksgiving location for cheap 2-liter Pepsi bottles; and a post-Christmas stop for half-price wrapping paper and decorations.

Kmart tried to get rid of everything on Sunday
Sunday marked the store’s final day, and Ella and I spent four hours (yes, four hours) finding bargains that only got better as the day progressed.  Women’s and children’s apparel was already at 90 percent off, and Ella spent much of the time in the dressing room trying on $.50 to $1.00 outfits.  I walked around the store, picking up odds and ends, and watching the jewelry department, which was at 80 percent off, a real bargain that was going to get better.  I also tried to talk myself into buying two gallons of Little Caesars Crazy Bread Sauce ($27.00) from the closed location inside the store, but I couldn’t figure out what to do with that much sauce by the December expiration date.
Around 1 p.m., Kmart announced that the ladies in the jewelry department wanted to go home, and that all jewelry was at 95 percent off.  I made a beeline for the counter, along with most everyone else in the store.  When the overwhelmed clerk finally got to me, I looked through the display case, saw the leftover gemstone necklace and earring sets (regular price $99, sale price $4.95) and the remaining body piercing sets (regular prices $19.99 to $24.99, sale prices $.39 to $1.25), and told the clerk that I wanted all of them.  In the meantime, Ella had picked out several pairs of earrings and an earring/necklace set (regularly prices $399+, sale prices roughly $15 each).

My cost for 68 pieces of jewelry was $199.63.  Total savings, as can be seen on the receipt, was a crazy $3557.75.
The rest of the items in our cart, consisting mostly of Ella’s clothes, rang up at 95 percent off as well.  It was both amazing and sad at the same time.
Before leaving, we also purchased a rotating, lockable jewelry display case ($55) for our antique booth to go along with our rolling shelf system ($100) that we had picked up on Saturday.
Speaking of Saturday, Ella and I rushed to a local mega-church’s adoption fundraiser sale before 7 a.m., only to find a fellow thrifter already on site working the tables.  A few minutes later, our main competition for media showed up.  For a while, we were all stumbling over each other looking for bargains.  Finally, though, Ella and I were the last ones there, and we found a few overlooked treasures, and some great items for our booth.
The rest of the morning was hit and miss, mostly miss, but we did find enough to make the time worthwhile.
Later in the day, we worked our two antique booths, watched “A Million Ways to Die in the West” on DVD (don’t waste your money), then paid too much to walk through a local haunted trail.  The trail was well done and spooky, but the organizers needed a bigger cast of monsters.
As for today, I hope everyone is having a good Columbus Day, and remember that the post office is closed in commemoration of Christopher's arrival in the Americas.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Fair’ly exciting

I left work early yesterday so Ella and I could attend the Georgia National Fair, which was celebrating its 25th anniversary. 

The fair is a lavish event, with rides, exhibits, livestock shows, and, of course, the wonderful fair food that usually smells a lot better than it tastes. As we walked around, however, I had a feeling of déjà vu, and realized that everything is and was the same from the previous year, and the year before that, and probably the year before that. The local magician occupied his usual spot; the climbing wall hadn’t moved; the RVs and portable buildings were back to back; and the exact same food vendors were in the exact same spots. Bacon was big on the menus this year, which made me wonder if the losers from the racing pigs exhibit, also in the same spot, ever leave the fair alive.
Bored juggler didn't bother
dressing well for his performance
Oh, some of the shows had changed. Free shows included a juggler, who looked bored, and couldn’t ring the make-shift KFC bucket with his rubber chicken canon no matter how hard he tried. The Wild West Show had morphed into the SwashChucklers! Comedy Pirate Show, but I could tell it was the same actors on the same set, only painted in a pirate theme.

Also, the Fifth Dimension played on the center stage to a large crowd, but if anyone was expecting Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr., the original stars of the group, they were disappointed. Only one original member graced the stage, but they did a decent version of “Up, Up, and Away.”

Paid concerts featured Lady Antebellum and Jennifer Nettles. Sales for Nettles’ Saturday concert have been so poor that they gave away pairs of tickets to military personnel.

Don’t get me wrong, fair organizers do a bang up job, but there was no sense of excitement like I used to get when I attended the Georgia State Fair as a child in Macon.

Now, that was a fair. It was THE fair in the state, and had been since the late 1800s. Yes, that’s right … it moved to Macon’s Central City Park after the Civil War. According to legend, the kazoo was developed in Macon, and was introduced at the Georgia State Fair. Local school children even got a holiday on the first day of the fair.

I can still remember the thrill of crossing the 2nd Street Bridge on the way to the fair, and seeing the Ferris Wheel in the distance. Dad worked in the dispatch room for the Macon Police Department, and ensured local traffic officers paved the way for the 18-wheelers carrying the fair’s signature rides to enter the park. For his efforts, he was usually awarded a Golden Pass, which functioned like an all-you-can-ride armband. He would just show the pass to the ride operators, and my brothers and I rode for free.

Sadly, though, the creation of the state-sponsored Georgia National Fair, held in October as well, forced hard times onto the privately run Georgia State Fair, which moved to spring to avoid the competition. Central City Park also got a reputation for being unsafe, another nail in the fair’s coffin, and finally the fair folded its Macon tent for the last time, and moved to the Atlanta area, where it just concluded its yearly run on Sunday.

I know my perceptions as a child are different than my perceptions as an adult, and I know that the Georgia National Fair is a superior fair to the Georgia State Fair. Still, it would be wonderful to walk the sawdust midway again; to be scared to ride the Bullet, and settle on riding the Avalanche instead; to win a stretched Coca-Cola bottle; and to feel the excitement in the air as only a child can.

Because I was out chasing memories and eating overpriced fair food last night, I didn’t get to pack my day’s sales, which stressed me out a little when I got home late. However, watching Ella enjoy her $5 ice cream cone while “pirates” made corny jokes, and thinking how much Mom would have enjoyed hearing “Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In” by the Fifth Dimension, made it worthwhile.

Hopefully, though, I won’t have to explain it to my customers.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Best laid plans ...

It was a simple plan.  Church Sale A opened at 7 a.m., or so we thought, and every other sale, including Historic Macon’s annual flea market and Church Sale B (just a half mile away), opened at 8.  The goal was to sweep into the 7 a.m. sale, be out by 7:30; beat a path to the flea market just in time to avoid standing in line and walk right in; and then backtrack to Church Sale B. 

Of course, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry, and this plan went downhill fast since the advertisements were wrong, and Church Sale A actually didn’t open until 8.  So, after standing in line (yes, there was already a line at 6:50 a.m.) past the presumed 7 a.m. opening, we found out the discrepancy, did a quick mental travel time calculation, and decided to head over to the flea market, about 20 minutes away.

Naturally, there was a line to get in, and we were at the back, with Ella shivering in the 45 degree weather.  When the doors finally opened, the crowd slowly filtered in, and after wandering around in disappointment for about 20 minutes, finding only a few things, we headed to Church Sale B.  I made a beeline to the media section first, and found a series of eight Dungeon & Dragon type novels priced at $5 each.  Three of the books scanned for in excess of $50, and the remainder scanned for less than $10. So, I only grabbed the three pricey ones.  Just out of curiosity, I asked the person in charge, a sweet looking little old lady (sorry, senior citizen) if the $5 tag was the actual price, and she said yes, since the books were practically new, and sold for more than $20 online.  She then said she would make me a deal if I wanted all eight. I like deals, and asked her how much for all eight. After some dithering, she finally settled on $16.50 for all eight.  Ka-ching! Then, she made me feel guilty by hugging me and thanking me for coming to the sale.

Finally, we made it back to Church Sale A, and while there were still shoppers, the place had been pretty much cleaned out.  Again, I made a beeline to the media room, which looked pretty much untouched.  Obviously, any other early pickers didn’t subscribe to my “always check the books” motto.  I found several $100+ books on electrical engineering, and a few CDs and DVDs.

Finally, back on track, our next stop was a sale promising collectibles and comics.  It was around 10:30 a.m. by this time, and as we walked up, I saw a plethora of comic books and various action figures.  Of course, everything had non-picker friendly price tags, and after chitchatting with the seller, I found out that he was an Ebay dealer.  Swell, I thought.  I then saw a box of classical CDs, and scanned a few, figuring they were all penny CDs.  To my surprise, several came up worth decent money, and the seller offered the whole box for $30.  I countered with $20 (the price of one of the scanned CDs), and we finally settled on $25, including the Tinkerbell toy that Ella had picked up.

Figuring we were running out of time, we bypassed several smaller sales, and headed 20 miles up the road to Church Sale C just in time for everything going to half price.  They still had lots of books, and I managed to snag a few sellable ones.  We thoroughly scoured the sale, and wound up spending about $30 for the books and various other knick-knacks that Ella and I picked up, including a bucket of antique drill bits to match my antique drill that I picked up on Friday night.

We stopped at a few sales on the way home, but the law of diminishing returns (i.e., the later it gets, the fewer bargains to be had) was in full effect.  Both me and my wallet were tired anyway. 

We had decided to skip the local auction that night, but after reading its ad on, we had to go.  Last week, in an attempt to lure some buyers, the auctioneer offered free coffee.  Ella told them that if they wanted to entice her, they had to offer free Pepsi.  Of course, they were offering free Pepsi this week, so we felt obliged to go. We were determined to sit on our hands the whole night, but managed to spend about $20 anyway.

On Sunday, I listed the five boxes of books purchased last week; total selling price for all the books was more than $2400. I then listed the classical CDs, and later we took a few items to our booth. By 7 p.m., I was packing the weekend’s sales, and by 8 p.m., I was collapsed on the couch.

Looking forward, there is at least one good sale each week for the next month.  After that, it goes downhill until spring.  Hopefully, like the proverbial ant and grasshopper story, we have accumulated enough stuff to have a good Christmas season, and to last the winter.

Chat with you next week, same Bat time, same Bat channel (and if you understand that reference, you are as old as I am).

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Why didn’t you write a blog today?

Ella asked me this on Monday, and my reply was that I didn’t have anything to write about. Oh, I can write about almost anything, but I have a hard time putting pen to paper, figuratively, when I don’t think it’s germane to the spirit of this column and/or at least moderately interesting to all three of my loyal readers.

To help alleviate my writer’s block, so to speak, Ella suggested a couple of interesting weekend topics that might make good reading, so here goes.

We attended a book sale/flea market on Saturday, and I got five boxes of good sellable books.  While I perused the stacks of books, Ella swept into the flea market area looking for quality stuff.  An annoying volunteer was keeping up a running narration on a loud speaker, and mentioned that several of the Star Wars items from the flea market had already been snatched up.  I figured it had to be Ella in possession of the Force-related items, and I was right.  Good girl.

After that sale, we attended another fall-festival type event, and I had my first ever professional massage that lasted a whole seven minutes.  A massage therapist, complete with chair and table, was among the vendors, and was offering her services for $1 per minute.  Since my fall in August, I have been suffering from self-diagnosed sciatica (a royal pain in my butt that extends down my left leg to my ankle), and I was already hurting from bending and stooping at the book sale.

Somehow, though, she convinced me to hop up on the table, and she proceeded to perform a compression massage on my back and leg.  Despite believing that her healing hands would put me in the hospital, and being somewhat embarrassed that she was working me over in full view of everyone else at the festival, some of whom made comments as they walked by, it didn’t hurt (much), and actually felt pretty good.  When I finally stood up, the pain in my leg was gone.  I gladly paid her the $7, complimented her on her technique, and walked around, without limping, for the rest of the festival.

Unfortunately, when I got back in the truck, and sat on an apparent pressure point, the pain returned.  Oh, well, back to popping Ibuprofen.

The other topic that Ella suggested was mentioning our brushes with wildlife after the auction on Saturday night.  On the way home, we saw a fox cross the street onto our land.  We’ve seen deer, squirrels, turtles, chipmunks, and snakes, but this was the first fox.   We left the boxes acquired at the auction in the truck until yesterday, when Ella decided to unload them.  Late in the morning, I received a frantic call from her regarding a small rodent in one of the boxes.   She wasn’t going to touch any more of the boxes until I came home and eliminated the pest.  So, on my lunch hour, I went home only to find no mouse in the box.  I suppose the little guy is now snake food in our woods.

Since it’s Wednesday, I guess it’s time to start thinking about the weekend.  Two large sales are on the calendar for Saturday, with one starting at 7 a.m., and one starting at 8 a.m.  I figure we can spend 30 minutes at the first sale, which will give us just enough time to drive to the other one.  The 8 a.m. sale has a preview party, with barbecue dinner, on Friday night, but I have a hard time paying $25 each for the privilege of shopping early, even with the lure of pulled pork.

I would talk about sales, but I don’t like talking about non-existent things.

I will throw out one BOLO, though.  I sold a book, Magnificent Marriage: 10 Beacons Show the Way to Marriage Happiness, for $41 in August.  I just received a message from the customer asking for another copy.  There are only two copies on Amazon right now, and both are selling for $600.  Over on Alibris, the cheapest copy is $95.  Ebay has it for $99.  So, if you see it, grab it.

Have a great rest of the week, and a productive weekend.