Tuesday, January 20, 2015

50-cent corn dogs (or how I got trapped at Sonic)

Today is National Best Friends Day (NBFD), and, to celebrate, Sonic is offering 50-cent corn dogs.  Despite vowing never again to “participate” in a Sonic food promotion, I plan to buy two corn dogs for my best friend, Ella, because nothing says I love you more than $1 worth of batter-covered wieners on a stick.
Last year, the local Sonic was literally mobbed with rabid customers seeking the fried franks, with every little drive-up nook full, and the drive-through line stretched the length of the parking lot, and out onto the main roadway.   With no back-up dinner plans, I mustered up the courage to swing my truck into the line, and finally pulled into one of their ordering nooks. 
Big mistake.  I had no idea, at least on NBFD, that Sonic was like the Hotel California, you can check in, but you can never leave.  Or, at least it seemed that way after I got my bag of food, and couldn’t back the truck out due to the never-ending stream of drive-through corn dog hunters.
The longer I sat there, truck in reverse, trying to inch out, the more my buns got steamed.  Finally, my dogged efforts paid off, and I relished being able to free myself from the pack.
I hope today’s food run will be a little less dog eat dog.
By the way, in case you don’t have a local Sonic, tomorrow is Customer Appreciation Day at Dairy Queen, which means another foray into fast food hell.  After all, who can turn down a half-priced Blizzard, Peanut Buster Parfait, or chicken strip basket with gravy?

Monday, January 12, 2015

When did I buy that?

With cold and rain firmly entrenched in middle Georgia, Ella and I slept late on Saturday, ignoring the siren song of a few yard sales advertised on Craigslist.  Instead, I continued going through my backlog, and getting as much listed on Ebay and Amazon as possible.
As I opened box after box, though, all I could ask is, “when did I buy that?” or “why did I buy that?”
For example, I found a tote full of books on tape.  I don’t recall picking them up.  Maybe Ella did. 
Where did I find all those McDonald’s Happy Meal toys?
More KISS stuff? I thought I got rid of it all.
Why did I buy those stupid drum pedals? Or the compound bow that is missing pieces?
That teacher’s lot just won’t go away no matter how much I list.
Why is there a pair of cowboy boots in every corner?
Oh, that’s where those $100 books are.  Seriously, I found two $100+ books buried in the bottom of a box.
It’s nice to have stuff to list, but I really need to be more judicious with our money this year.  And I swear that once I get this mountain of inventory listed, I will NEVER let it back up so badly again.
The silver lining to all this listing, of course, is sales, and my phone cha-chinged quite a few times this weekend.
Late last year, we found a little thrift store in Macon, and Ella spied three Strat-O-Matic sports-related board games for $1 each.  I normally shy away from used games, but Ella was adamant, and it turns out her instincts were correct.  These are highly collectible games, and even with missing pieces, all three games sold for a best offer price of $80.
Ella gets all the credit for buying these games
At another sale, I picked up a box lot of Forgotten Realms books and box sets for $20.  The three box sets were worth $10 to $20, and were listed separately on Amazon.  The remaining individual books were mostly penny books, but listed as a lot sold for $90.
Combining books into a large lot can bring big bucks
I also listed a small lot of six Vampire Academy books.  On a $6 investment, the Vampire books rung up $28.
Small lots of books are worthwhile, too
In an effort to diversify beyond Amazon, Ebay, and the booths, we’ve also started selling on the local Facebook sites, as well as Craigslist and the local Bookoo.  On Sunday, I finally sold a large lot of Thomas the Train stuff to a buyer from the aforementioned Bookoo for $100.  I picked it up at a thrift store for $20.  We also sold a bicycle and a Robosapien, but no one seems to want our collection of Nerf guns.
Thomas the Train sold; our Nerf collection didn't
This week is tax week for me, with state sales taxes and my last installment of federal estimated taxes due for 2014. 
I hate paperwork, but c'est la vie.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Belated Happy New Year

As usual, I’m running behind on everything, and the new year just started. Between trying to get ahead on paperwork, keeping our booths fresh, listing, packing, and working my day job, I’m feeling a tad bit overwhelmed despite having a semi-relaxing Christmas break.
I say “semi-relaxing” because while I had 18 straight days off last month, I spent the majority of time getting ready for the holiday, as well as working our online endeavors and the aforementioned antique booths.
Because you know “it’s all about the booth, ’bout the booth, ’bout the booth, no trouble.”
Sorry, I still can’t get that song out of my head.  I even heard it on the way into work this morning.
But, I digress.  Nothing earth shattering happened last month, but I do have a few interesting stories to tell.  So, here goes.
During the run-up to Christmas, I was shopping in the local “damn it” store (as in, damn it, I forgot the milk, and now I have to drive to the high priced store near the house), and watched as a little old lady (excuse me, senior citizen), push her buggy laden with groceries out of the store.  By the time I got to my truck, she and her buggy were wandering around the parking lot.
Always the good Samaritan, I asked her if she needed any help.  She couldn’t find her truck.  I asked what it looked like, and after checking the parking lot, I couldn’t find it either.  She then casually mentioned that her husband was in the truck, and that he must have left her.  Sure enough, she fumbled through her giant purse, found her phone, and called him.  He had gone home, and left her there.  After she assured me that he was on his way, I left, hoping that he actually showed up.
On the Tuesday before New Year’s Day, Ella and I went to test drive Nissan’s NV200 cargo van. My truck gets paid off this year, and we are in the market for a vehicle that can haul a little bit more stuff, and it seemed to fit the bill.  It’s a nice little van and gets good gas mileage.  Unfortunately, I decided against purchasing the vehicle despite the dealership jumping through hoops to get one more vehicle sold before January 1. 
My goal, though, is to have enough money saved by August so Ella and I can purchase the van in time to visit her relatives in Ohio, and then follow Highway 127 back to Georgia during the World’s Longest Yard Sale, which covers 690 miles, and boasts “thousands of vendors” every year.
Sounds like fun, don’t you think?
November and Christmas sales in our antique booths were good, with $827 and $1034 worth of merchandise sold in November and December, respectively.  Rent is approximately $540 per month for all three booths, which leaves a “profit” of $781 for the holiday season.
I’m a little worried about this month, though. Since we pulled all the unsold Christmas crap .. uh … merchandise out of the booths, the shelves are looking threadbare at best, and too cartoony (leftover toys) at worst.  We need to fill all three booths, and quality yard/thrift/garage sales are hard to find right now.
Therefore, in an attempt to give our booths some street cred, we attended an auction on New Year’s Day that, according to the posted pictures, had a lot of vintage stuff, for lack of a better word.  The morning of, I looked at all the pictures, did my research, and made a list, complete with prices, of the items that I thought would be worthwhile on which to bid. 
Unfortunately, I watched with disgust as the large crowd bid up prices not only beyond a reasonable buying price, but also above what I considered a decent selling price in the booth.  After enduring the auction for as long as I could, we decided to leave early, only to find our truck blocked by several vehicles double and tripled parked.  Needless to say, Ella was not pleased that we had to wait until the auction was over to leave.
I too was irritated, but was more upset at an Amazon return that I got the next day.
I had approved a return from an Amazon customer after Christmas based on her description of a new in package $90 toy being “ripped.”  What I got in the mail was a crushed box, missing pieces, missing instructions, and the toy, which obviously had been played with on Christmas morning only to be broken. 
We are required to take returns on Amazon, so I fretted for a bit before calling Customer Support.  They said since the toy was returned in such a bad condition, I could charge a 50 percent restocking fee.  So, I refunded the buyer $45, and she actually thanked me.
Since the item only cost me $5, I still made $40 on the deal, so I am not too upset. I am waiting for the almost certain negative feedback, though.
Sales were brisk over the holidays, especially since I was able to list a bunch during my time off. In December, I sold 166 items on Amazon, Alibris, Biblio, and Half, with an average price of $16.21. 

January sales continue to be good, including this Gracie Combatives DVD set that I sold yesterday for $107.  I remember the yard sale last year at which I picked it up.  It was priced at $3, and when the owner didn’t have change for my $20 bill, she offered to give it to me.  Obviously, the point of this game is to buy low, and sell high, but I just couldn’t take advantage of her.  So, I offered her the only other bill that I had in my wallet, a lowly $1 bill, and she took it.  I felt guilty and happy at the same time as I left.
It’s cold in Georgia this week, so weekend sales are still missing in action.  It’s both a blessing and a curse because obviously I need fresh inventory, but the lull is giving me a chance to catch up on everything else.
Have a great weekend everyone.