Monday, May 05, 2008

A Morning At The Opera

Most mornings1, the first thing I do after making my coffee, is to go to my computer and check on what’s sold during the night. I've written about my selling on eBay before on this blog. At first it started out as a means to rid myself of things I had accumulated over time: books, CDs, DVDs, posters, knickknacks and gewgaws.

When I was enrolled for a series of courses at a local college last summer, one of my classmates starting talking about selling on Amazon (she has sold on many sites and she highly recommends Craig’s List2). She told me how it was better to use these other sources, dependent on what you were selling—and she was right. I added one Amazon account, then another, and I find that I sell more books, CDs and DVDs on Amazon than eBay. I also find it faster and cheaper to post things. eBay is still good as an auction source where you pray bidding wars erupt over the item. eBay has posting fees and you set the postage rates. Amazon has no listing fees and they pay your postage (though as a set rate it can fall short at times.) Things were exiting the house. I was being productive and making money.

One evening this winter I was online talking to my friend Laura, and she starting asking me about my profits. I had, at that time, only generalized ideas about profit. I knew I was making money selling these things, but I hadn’t really focused myself on exact amounts. My chief concern was getting rid of things.3 For whatever reason, my friend’s boredom, or my curiosity, she asked if she could make up some spreadsheets that night so we could see what was going on. “I’m Queen of the spreadsheet,” she said, and she wasn’t kidding. Those spreadsheet serpents sank their dollar sign fangs into my consciousness. I realized how well I was doing, or how much better I could be doing, so now the selling has turned into a much more consistent, day to day part of my life. Spreadsheet sales in the sunset.4

Awww...Yer Mudder Reads Woodrow Wilson's Love Lettahs

Yesterday morning, like most mornings, I was sitting here sipping my coffee, pollen blowing in from the open window, and me blowing my nose. I should explain that when I sell something online, I always send out email following a sale, letting the buyer know their stuff is on the way, but also with a request “if they desire to leave feedback for me, it would be appreciated. " I opened an email from someone who had purchased a DVD of the opera Aida, and I started giggling. Keep in mind, this is how your brain works when you have one eye partially open and your mind is on low flame:

Dear Cube:

The DVD of AIDA (La Scala 2006) arrived this morning. Thank you.

It is a present for a friend so it will be a while before I get feedback on the quality but I am pleased with the ease and speed of this purchase and receipt of the DVD. So, thank you.

Roman Pumblechook5 , M.STAT

I thought, “What the….??? MISTER!!!" I sold you a new, sealed DVD. You received a new, sealed DVD…and quickly. What do I have to do with the quality of the DVD? I didn’t manufacture it. I didn’t record it. I didn’t star in it. At this point, I took my crumpled tissue and held it to my chin and threw my arm out in declamation warbling, “Ayeeeeeeda….and I threw in a “I Pagliacci,” for the heck of it. I was laughing at the absurdity of it all.

Right when all of this was going on, my friend Drew6 signed on, and I started telling him the story. He said, “Perhaps they mean that they didn’t know what damage was inside….of course they could mean vocal damage.” Then he said, “Boy…those Three Stooges could SURE sing an opera!” I answered, “Who knew Larry was such a tenor?” Drew shot back, “Curly, sure, but Larry? I didn’t see it coming." Drew added, “You could invite opera singers over for cocktails and have them all sing to perfect pitch to shatter the DVD jewel case sealed in it’s plastic. Moe was known to do that with his falsetto. (translation: I ripped it, posted it on the internet, and now I want my money back.)”

I invariably get good feedback on my accounts. I ship very quickly (“faster even than Amazon,”) and I wrap carefully. I put a personalized note in thanking them for buying from me, and I’ve even had them comment on my penmanship. I was laughing when I replied to Drew, “I applaud her use of bubble wrap and brown wrapping paper. I also noted she uses high end shipping tape.” ….and if that don’t seal the deal, nyuk,nyuk, nyuk…7

~~Pennies from heaven~~

1Unfortunately, this goes on when I travel as well. I’ve shipped items to my vacation locale that I’m selling so that I can continue to mail them out as they sell. I’ve even gone to junk shops and yard sales when I travel and sold using my account. This past fall when I was on Cape Cod, one of my friends there said she had always wanted to learn eBay. She had some antique beaded handbags we used as learning tools on my account so I could show her how I photograph items and do my descriptive writing and layout. I know. What a way to spend vacation time.

2She was emptying out her house because she thought she would be moving (false alarm,) but a few weeks ago she told me she had done very well with her Craig’s List sales, but she stipulated to me, “When you use Craig’s List, make sure it is clear “cash only and no negotiations on the price.”’

3I’ve also followed the usual paths of disposing of items. Better items of clothing went to friends, some to consignment shops (although you never do very well with them as the profit percentage goes to the shop owner.) Boxes of books were shipped off to one friend who was then living in a small town in Western Massachusetts. She would speed read through them then donate the books to her local library. Greenfield Library should have a wing in my honor. Another friend received so many cookbooks she said “no more!” and meant it. There are times I want to cave and just hire a dumpster and do this the fast way, but the pragmatic me plugs along . I usually read library books now (and a lot of intralibrary loan,) and I’ve stuck to my rule of “If you do buy a book, one must leave.” There was a man in my neighborhood who was a known packrat. You could see things spilling out of his house. One day in the early evening I was driving somewhere and passed his house. There were police cars and dumpsters and people standing around on the sidewalk and into the street. The man stood there, (probably hyperventilating and feeling sick to his stomach, given his attachment to "stuff.") Some kindly neighbor had declared him a health hazard, and the authorities came in to empty his house. It took two days and seven dumpsters. Either that night, or the next, I drove by and saw that the man had put a ladder up against the side of one dumpster and was crawling down inside and hauling his things out again. I use him, (and others I’ve known like him,) as a cautionary reminder of that illness (and hoarding is an illness,) along with my own philosophy about materialism (which is: as each year passes: divest, divest, divest.) After that incident, the old man put up plastic siding on his side porch so no one could see in again. He died about two years ago, and his relatives did a hasty slapdash clean and repair to put the house on the market. It didn’t sell for the longest time and when it did, those owners didn’t stay long, then another set, then another set. I half wonder if the old man put his curse on the place.

4There’s a great You Tube recording of Al Bowlly singing “Red Sails in the Sunset,” and if you want to know more about Al Bowlly, well….there’s Wikipedia. I’m only a footnote, yanno?

5Not his real name, but close enough. The email and M STAT are his, so his name and title had me laughing, too.

6Drew has guest blogged on here before, including his infamous “boy lunch” with another friend Tony when they went to lunch and reported back from Hooters. I was talking to Drew while writing this, asking him what the sandwich is he always orders…Texas Steak or Pulled BBQ Pork. He said probably the BBQ, and I said, “You would order the pulled meat at Hooters.” He said, “Just like the restaurant, I don’t deserve my R Rating.” We did our homework. It was the Cuban sandwich.

7 While I was writing this, in my researches I learned that the first Stooge, Ted Healy, had been murdered in 1937, on the day his son was born.

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Blogger I-66 said...

You know, that one footnote is about as long as the blog post itself.

1:52 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

HA! I66 took the words right out of my fingers.

I wonder if the guy thinks you burned the DVD and printed the artwork for it. Then I suppose you would have to have a shrinkwrapping machine, though, if anyone in the metro area was to have one, I'd place all my bets on you.

I'd love to see your ebay feedback:

"Great seller, included a handstitched potholder as a thank you!"

2:37 PM  
Blogger Hammer said...

Yeah, and if anyone in this town was to use a shrinkwrapping machine "inappropriately," I'd place all my bets on Velvet.

(And with the easy zinger now out of the way, let me just say that you do have some mighty impressive penmanship, Miss Cube.)

5:46 PM  
Blogger d. chedwick said...

I'm with you on the whole...if something comes in then something must go.

My oldest sister and I grew up adoring the stooges--other sisters were not interested. (not to reveal too much but I once worked with the son of one of the stooges--he was, as you can imagine terrified of being teased, and was very quiet. We had to work closely, but it took him a long time to tell me--but I already knew because my blabber mouth boss had told me. )

It's amazing what you can buy on Amazon now. People in my circle tend to give amazon gift certs at Xmas.

I also love spreadsheets. and gah...I can't believe you even mentioned Al Bowlly-- what a voice!
I left a link for you on the previous post.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

66: And this is news? You are aware that I digress, aren't you? I've left blog length COMMENTS on people's blogs.

Velvet: Thanks for the idea about the potholder. I'm working on it.

Hammer: You made me laugh. That is our girl....and you have seen my handwriting, so you would know.

D. Ched.: Thank you for sharing. I love insightful comments, and I was totally bowled over that you also knew Al Bowlly...taken out by one of Hitler's bombs. I thought that reference was waaaay out there, even for me. I was listening to Al sing "The Very Thought Of You," on You Tube tonight. My friends have never understood my musical taste which goes way back and all over the place: in other words, me. I worked with Bette Midler's cousin one summer when he was an intern in our office. He was from Ohio (where she has relatives..she came out of Hawaii,) but the truly weird thing is...he looked EXACTLY like her, but with dark brown hair...I could not mistake the genes...the eyes, the smile, the nose..the works. Sweet boy, too. Intelligent, a little quiet, but fun.

11:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

can you recommend any books on selling online. Your neighbor sounds just a little too familiar to me. ~erika

12:09 AM  
Blogger Reya Mellicker said...

I salute you! In with the new, out with the old - ASAP!

That said, I'll admit it: Spreadsheets scare me silly. Maybe I shouldn't admit that publicly.

9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What production of Aida was it?
-- grince

9:50 AM  
Blogger Phil said...

Good comment, Velvet. It would be like Cube to enclose some sort of "hand-crafted" something along with the DVD.

A note something along the lines of "I'm sorry this took 2 days to get to you, but I was up all night trying to get your potholder/DVD cozy to look exactly like the DVD cover. My apologies."

12:23 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

What's amusing to me is that people in the past have consistently said, "She's such a mystery," and my contention was, "if you read the blog, all is revealed." From reading the comments today, I'd say my readers know me pretty well.

Erika: I can't recommend any one book about selling online. They do exist. I was at the public library yesterday and happened to pass a shelf of those type of books. I know they have eBay for dummies and Amazon for dummies type books. I went to Amazon and under "books" typed "Selling on Amazon" and a long list appeared. Rather than investing money in these things, I'd seek them out at the library. I think they are all going to tell you more or less the same thing. The main way you learn is like any other computer software: learning the steps to getting something up and listed. Setting the price is fairly easy. You study what others selling the exact or comparable item have listed as their price and try to best it. There's a lot more to it: condition of the item, rarity. If it's a collectible toy, for example, does it have it's original box, was it ever used in play? Is it "mint?" People sell their hand crafted items on eBay. The stipulation with Amazon selling is that "they must already have a similar item listed." In other words, if you want to sell a 1987 biography of Marie Antoinette in hard cover, you have to see if Amazon has that exact book showing, so you are posting it in the proper location. A few times I've had a cd/dvd/book pop up where Amazon doesn't have which case I cannot list it, or I can take it over to eBay and try my luck there. Also, Amazon has codes you can use: new, very good, good, etc...and another one called "collectible." Collectible lets you set a higher price, but I never use it as "new" or "like new" while not getting as much money will move it out of my house. Why pay $42-collectible for a cd where the exact same thing is going as "new" or "like new" for $24? Also on Amazon, it's a daily adjusting of the item's price to make sure it remains competititve. Sellers are changing their prices constantly in a cyber scream of "buy ME, not them."

Reya: I was never spreadsheet oriented in my home life, but it became addictive following numbers, pie charts and columns, I have to admit. It's a strong visual representation of what I'm doing with my idle hours.

Grince: It was the Jane Austen Aida. Mr. Darcy plays Radames, Elizabeth Bennett is Aida, and Zoser, while traditionally a male role, is taken on by Lady Catherine de Burgh.

Phil: Laughing at what you wrote, and I would apologize for a two-day delay since I ship either same day or next day, hence the feedback "better than Amazon."

1:19 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

This gives me new hope for the THINGS I keep accumulating. When you don't move, it just tends to pile up! I commend you for figuring out a lucrative way to get rid of all the extra stuff you no longer need. What percentage of the things you post actually sell?

Think anyone would like to buy a 1985 Volvo station wagon that runs perfectly well, including automatic door locks and AC? I admit the side trim is currently held on with duct tape! It was such a perfect car for kids learning to drive because it never moved too fast.

4:21 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Barbara: I lost an old Volvo last year. My friends would tease me about it. "It is SO not you," but I treated it lovingly and was quite fond of the old thing. Someone pulled out of a side street into oncoming traffic and it was totalled. R.I.P. Even with the whole front crushed to the windshield, no one was hurt. Those cars are steel heavy warriors, perfect for teens. One thing that saddened me. A former coworker had found this car for me. We went out one Sunday to check it out. He had owned sports cars in his past and even done time as a mechanic on Ferraris. He REALLY knew cars, so I trusted him. We went speeding down the road in it, curves, suddens stops and requisite tire kicking. Anyway. Tim died a few years ago. Out jogging in a park in L.A. and...gone. So that car was a piece of Tim, yanno? He always called me "Emma" after Emma Peel because of her ways on The Avengers and her XKE car. I lost being Emma when Tim died, too. I've blogged about Tim before. I sure do miss him.

4:31 PM  
Blogger Chedwick University said...

Al Bowlly : check out "The Shining" (Jack Nicholson version) A Bowlly record plays when Jack spends time in the hotel bar/ballroom

5:22 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

Laughing at Phil now - "DVD cozy." We need to trademark that tout suite!!!

You can have a link that says, "Visit my DVD Cozy Store!"

11:36 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

Oh. And clearly I forgot this comment:, and Hammer, and the shrinkwrapping machine...mmmm.

Cube? Can I borrow your shrinkwrapping machine?

11:37 PM  
Blogger d. chedwick said...

i have an al bowlly cd somewhere... and melanie--great beginnings for a mix tape, now i need Dale evans singing Happy trails... and some mungo jerry

8:30 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

D. Ched. I did NOT know about Al Bowlly in The Shining, and I know that movie so well I even know it's goofs. I'll be listening for it the next time I see it.

As for Happy Trails:

Velvet: Of course you may borrow the shrinkwrapping machine. Just remember to leave air holes and have a "safe" word.

10:13 AM  
Blogger Hammer said...

Cube, you are truly a riddle, shrink-wrapped in a mystery, inside a cozy.

oh, and as long as Velvet adheres to the policy of "Oh God it burns!" = "Stop!" then go ahead and loan her the machine.

(Now if ya'll will excuse me, I gotta see if my insurance covers "bizarre shrink-wrapping machine accidents.")

11:33 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

One thing I love about Velvet and her crew. The kinky sex finds it's way right over here, doesn't it? ;) Follows her like a lost puppy.

12:04 PM  
Blogger Velvet said...

I found the perfect e-card for the occasion.

4:50 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Porn fantasies; bubblewrap: Aida's forma divina indeed!
-- grince

1:33 PM  
Blogger Loralee said...

Velvet, Thanks for that link. I just sent that card out. Also a Mother's Day card.

Miss Cube, I've been so busy that I haven't had time to read your blogs, just as you've gotten very prolific again! For the record, now that I've moved to New Hampshire, the library here has gotten the benefit of your generosity and my speedreading. As always, I adore reading about your life, and miss talking with you terribly!


9:11 AM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

Velvet: I saw those cards over on your blog, too. Excellent.

Grince: Also that quirky French film called "Diva" where the obsessive young man plays La Wally over and over again. (I've always loved an opera named La Wally, because you want the cast to be Ward, June, La Wally, Le Beaver, Eddie and Whitey and Mr. Rutherford.)

Miss Thi: So THERE you are. Yes, folks, the recipient of book boxes speaks. AT LAST!

11:23 AM  
Blogger d. chedwick said...

La Cube de Washington,
If you ever feel like taking pics of perfumes bottles --, I would do a post around them.

9:00 PM  
Blogger WildbillthePirate said...

I'll have to try Amazon. I've been doing most of my buying on ebay.

Please don't shrinkwrap Velvet- no matter how much she begs you to!

10:16 PM  
Blogger Washington Cube said...

D.Ched. I do have some old perfume bottles, so if I get the time (when, I don't know) to photograph a few, I'll send them your way.

Wild Bill: I don't see Velvet in the submissive role here with her "safe word." Shrinkwrapping some guy? Yes.

1:13 PM  
Anonymous Carlo said...

Good Job! :)

8:56 AM  

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