Sunday, August 28, 2011

eBay (yes, that's how you spell it)

Weird huh? Little 'e', big 'B'; even at the beginning of a sentence. Pay no attention to your spellchecker, that's how it's done according to eBay's Trading Assistant Style Guide(the eBay Bible). That's not the only thing or two I know about eBay. Impressed? O.K., its not really that impressive, I know. Point is, this ain't rocket surgery.

Most of what I know about eBay and online auctions/sales is by experience, absorption and repetition.  I did once pop for an expensive "insider" ebook on the subject but honestly, it was huge and I was too bored with it to finish reading it.  I found the printout of it recently buried under my stack of bedside reading material and thought, "hmm, maybe there's something worthwhile still in there." So, I promise I will plow through it soon and let you know any tips that are of use if I haven't already covered them.  Most of it seems so obvious to me. "It's better if you add a picture to your auction." "It's better if your picture is good enough to actually see your item." "It's better if your dirty underwear are not showing in the background."

O.K., I just made those up. But, my point still remains. It's not hard. It's just using your common sense and moving forward despite your uncertainties.

That being said I will try to be sensitive to the fact that some people may be very new to the eBay experience.  So what is obvious to me (like don't show your hit counts on the actual listing) may not be at all obvious to you.  I have been an active member of eBay for 9 years (off and on). That's what you are called when you start your account; a "member".  You must have an account to buy or sell.  Usually, people buy first on eBay and that begins the learning process.  Completing a transaction from the buyer's point of view will give you an understanding that no advice really can. Also, it is a way to build up your feedback. On eBay your feedback is your reputation and universally your reputation is the core of your business.

This could easily turn into a step-by-step user guide as my mildly OCD nature kicks in.  But that isn't necessary.  eBay already has a getting started guide; even for buyers.  So go there like a good minion and the queen will not have to repeat definitions and basic how to's. I'll wait...

Good, you're back. In my last post I described this one as my "on-again, off-again, love/hate affair with eBay".  So here's a short (let's hope) explanation.  As I said, 9 years as a member.  That means that I've been around when eBay was a beloved  niche on the interwebs: imperfect, not universally known, but extremely useful and powerful when applied. It was my go-to place for finding my obsession of the moment.  Antiques, vintage clothing, collectables, that toy your parents never bought you when you were a poor kid and you knew that so you didn't even bother begging because you were so used to disappointment and...where was I?...oh yeah, eBay was a great single source for whatever pops up into your head. For the ADD crowd alone that is a tremendous service to provide.  Stuff pops into our heads at three times the speed of sound, I've clocked it.  That's why we interrupt you when you're talking...where was I?...oh yeah, eBay rawked!

Then came the,  "Hey, maybe I could sell stuff on here too." phase. I acted on that thought which was a good thing because it provided me the research time and small amount of selling experience that came in handy when I hit the next phase: the "I need money, NOW!" phase. 

Divorce happens. There is no motivation like an empty bank account, seriously behind mortgage payments, and unpaid utility bills with a special needs child in tow and no other way to earn income.  I had to become an expert, fast.

Around the same time, eBay was going through all kinds of management changes and the subsequent policy changes that led to their own divorce of sorts from many long-time sellers who were fed up with increasing fees and poor seller-eBay relations.  There are plenty of online blogging and forums that delve into the details so I won't expand on it here, but suffice it to say I was nervous. Yet had to do something so I continued to sell on eBay consistently for about a year during one of the most trying times of my life as that was my only source of income.

I came into selling in earnest and took the fee hits and other annoyances in stride as I didn't have the degree of experience selling in the previous version of eBay with which to compare.  I was pleased enough with the results to not dismiss eBay altogether despite the anti-eBay rhetoric still in my head from hours of discussion board absorption.  I still think "FeeBay" is funnay!

That being said I did withdraw from eBay for a while in search of alternative venues and other (non-retail) business opportunities.  The alternative auction site experience has been disappointing. They just do not yet have the traffic to bring people to your random garage sale type listings that eBay has. Some are better than others. I will save that for another post.

eBay continued making changes and continued ticking off the sellers, particularly the honest, small-time, mom and pop type sellers.  One of the recent changes that I will bother to complain about here is the new policy of charging the seller a percentage of the shipping charge in addition to the final value fee. This policy was obviously a result of the not so scrupulous sellers who would do auctions for a penny and jack up the shipping charges.  If eBay only got a percentage of the penny they would have gotten away with a serious reduction in their cost of selling on eBay. This was a miniscule percentage of sellers and it was generally frowned upon by the majority because the reputation of sellers on eBay is a touchy subject as your bad habits can harm the entire selling community.  (Hmm.. like life.)

But, eBay handled it poorly. Instead of implementing a way of curbing excessive shipping (and small auction prices) to recoup their losses they slapped a tax (of sorts) across the entire community.  Now we all have to pay a percentage of shipping.  The vast majority of sellers do not charge a handling fee and already have to take the loss of packaging, transporting and their time into account in the auction price.  eBay does not provide any service related to the cost or implementation of shipping. It is a service paid to and provided by USPS or UPS (or other services). They tried to market this change to sellers as a good thing for everyone, sort of like in my old computer programming days we would market a bug as a "feature".  Sellers aren't stupid.  This is a very very bad policy.

Another unsettling thing about eBay is that they own PayPal and only allow PayPal as a form of payment now. That is kind of creepy in and of itself, but it gets worse.  Many sellers have experienced mysterious account shut downs with PayPal and have had their funds held for months at a time while they desperately try to ascertain what is going on they have no access to their money and no way to sell; effectively putting them out of business. This happens to good sellers even those with great feedback that are truly attempting to keep within the rules (as they really need the income). No one is safe. This is a corporation, not your government. You have no rights, unless we are talking about lawsuits or the right to take your business elsewhere.

OTOH, since late April eBay has started to offer free listing and free "buy it now" upgrades for the first 50 auctions of the month (that includes relisting auctions that didn't sell during the allotted time and limit).  This is a good thing for small time operators in particular.  If you are at all serious about selling on eBay and you can't use up the 50 free listings, then you aren't at all serious about selling on eBay. 

So, my advice is to diversify. If you are in a niche market (which is probably the best way to sell online) then you can build a decent following on alternative auction and straight buy sites, on your own site, and with utilizing cross-marketing sites. eBay still remains the big dog for clearing out your house, selling off grandma's clutter, and to an extent reselling yard sale/thrift store finds.  But it's not the only dog and it's not as big as it used to be.  Also, work on diversifying your method of payment options.  PayPal does have competition (not on eBay) but competition none-the-less. Yes, you capitalize the second "p" in PayPal.  Impressed yet? No? Dern.

This was mostly an overview, more details and tips on the subject will follow in my subsequent posts.

"Hi folks!"


Sold this little 80's hand-puppet for $50 this week on eBay. Hope that he inspires you.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Multiple Streams of Cash Flow

I'm busy. Usually I'm juggling a basketful of tasks, chores, "must-dos" and a few"uh-oh's". Sometimes I even get to squeeze in a some"want to's"...leisure activities... mini-vacays if you will.  Like watching an episode of "Hoarders" online ( while eating breakfast.  Yeah, I have an iron stomach. Point is I'm usually actively doing, thinking, researching, cleaning, creating, planning, fixing, and playing.  I am never. ever. bored.

To the casual observer my life may seem like a shiftless cacophony, a frustratingly disorganized approach, or a series of random stabs at ethereal targets. To myself, this life is a wonderfully exciting tapestry of color, texture and unexpected forms culminating in beautiful picture to be revealed at a later and more enlightened time.  I am never. ever. bored.

I do have my reasons folks.  I don't always share them all with the class, but reasons exist nonetheless. Here's one of them: profit.  I have found that nearly every experience, talent, story, and creation is a valuable asset that can be leveraged. Sometimes even for money.

Yes, there are things far more valuable than money. In fact, money isn't even valuable when subjected to the light of reality. As in, eternity an all.  However, for now, we have to deal with filthy lucre if we want to eat, stay sheltered, and stay legal: taxes, licenses, permits, fees, tags, rent, utilities, insurance, and fines if you mess up. (This is starting to sound like a George Carlin routine.)  Anyhoo, we need money.  More directly, I need money.

So this year, I started a series of goals.  One of them was to increase my income by $100 each month. I was able to achieve that (so far) as of July I earned over $600. Oh yeah, that's how I roll. If I had it all in one's I could make it rain (if I didn't already spend it on food, gas and electricity).

How did I earn this ginormous sum? A small graphic design job, some online auctions, Craigslist and hocking some old jewelry at a pawn shop. Some of these things were one time only deals, but everything is an experience that may be pulled later from my mental catalog. I have other irons in the fire.  I have also placed some items at a local consignment shop, started this blog and am working some other neato keen ideas.

I am not another single mom with a below poverty level income who will forever be at the mercy of the system and  the ability of my ex to pay his child support. Well, yes I am that for now, but I do not intend to remain that and it won't change by wishing. In the meantime, I will share with the class how I am taking these steps and what is working and what isn't.

Another desired thread in my tapestry; the ability to be useful to others.

Next post: my on-again off-again love/hate affair with eBay.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

You Know What I Did Last Summer

Yes, I made quite a hullabaloo about this being a "New Year" and all. Yes, The Wubie ™ has officially been in school for one week (we started a week early this year.)  Yes, I am ratcheting up for new and kewl things (to be announced). However, we are still technically, that is to say according to the old calender on the wall desktop experiencing Summer. Now I know it's still summer because it took me over 2 hours to mow the lawn this morning. Note to self: Next time wear my gloves. Blisters hurt.  Also, technically, that is to say officially Autumn begins on September 23rd.

So...Summer 2011 here in the Stuff and Giggles household is going well. The Wubie ™ had a wonderful summer camp experience with the good folks at Camp Able which is run by the A.R.C.  They went on daily field trips including parks, beaches, horseback riding, sailing, bowling, movies and other fun activities.  They had an end of summer production and carnival.  About 100 parents were in attendance.  The Wubie ™ played drums to B-I-N-G-O and danced the Cha Cha Slide with the group. I found out that his camp nickname was "Hollywood" and he has quite a reputation with the ladies. He's a big flirt.

There was also swim lessons on Saturdays, Soccer on Friday nights, a couple of overnight visits at Gammy's house and a new friend from carpooling...Jaaaasmine. There was hugging. I took pictures.

As for mom, I restarted my online auction business using eBay and (more blogging on that later), made some decisions about other business and personal items  (more on that later as well), I am, Blogging. Really, blogging in earnest and not that namby pamby social media stuff. This is the real deal, people. I am a blogger. Woohoos! 

Here are some pics from our summer:  
The Garden...So Far
This is the first year we have successfully started with seeds and got actual flowers!

 Strawberry Shortcake with Vanilla in Batter for Extra Yumminess

Summer Dishes
All Retro Aqua and Pink Goodness
I am ready for any emergency involving ice cream.

I don't know who he gets it from...

Was it worth it?
Oh yeah...
Cool, so very "me" sign I picked up this summer.
It greets me as I come home and helps me adjust my 'tude.

What did you do this summer?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Happy New Year!

Welcome to the official launch of "Stuff and Giggles" dedicated to home and garden, thrifty finds, kid stuff, cool grownup interests, all sorts of crafts and musings from like-minded folks!  Why "Happy New Year"? Because every parent knows the new year starts now, in late August.  New clothes, new teacher, new calendar, new holiday plans all begin now. So we are gearing up for the year and ready for new things in the Stuff and Giggles household. 

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