what this blog is all about...

Do you sell stuff on-line? Interested in it? Well, this blog might be for you. Don't expect lots of news stories or other stuff you can easily get. I want to give you the ugly side...the practical, the-stuff-they-don't-warn-you-about side of on-line retailing for the small seller.

I've been selling on-line for about 9 years. And I'm happy to share some of my experience and knowledge with anyone who has the patience to trudge their way through my random ramblings!

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Monday, March 15, 2010

Wowsers! I am REALLY behind on updates

According to my friends at Google, I haven't posted anything here in 115 days! That's like 2 years in dog time!

And there's so much I'd like to talk about (of course, what you'd care to read about is another matter):

1. bonanzle: I have officially given up on Bonanzle. Nothing against them at all. Sales were slow but they were still sales. But as I mentioned before, you need to have time to dedicate to building your business there...and right now, I have very little free time.

2. books: For some reason, Amazon has allowed 3p merchants who originally had non-media accounts to now...well...sell media! So basically, I can now sell books on one of THE biggest book sites in the world. I have already listed a few and made a few sales. So far, book sales won't get me that home on the Riviera, but I am impressed so far with the start.

3. xmas sales: Sales for the 2009 xmas season were flat compared to 2008. But that's not necessarily bad news. Sales for 2009 were fantastic and didn't taper off until about the second week of January! Of course, toys and games made up the majority of items sold. Thankfully, throughout the first half of 2009, as well as from the start of 2010, we...

4. built up inventory for 2010 xmas: I rhetorically asked my business partner "When do you start planning for next Christmas?" Well...this Christmas! And we have! We started bulking up on inventory the first week of January, a great time to do so, since most people are spent out and aren't in the mood to part with more money.

5. buying trends are clearer: Most xmas items we sold fell into one of the following categories: nostalgia, family or practical. Items that brought back fond memories (what middle-age man doesn't remember owning one of these), provided fun, safe family fun time (this game sold out literally in minutes whenever we got more in stock) or provided practical functionality (such as this throw) were the hottest items.

Well, that's enough for now. But I really do have to make sure I keep you posted on what I've been doing as just one of the many micropreneurs of Ohio.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

eBayers coming over to Amazon...sigh...

While going through the joyful process of getting some of my items listed in Amazon, I noticed that there were quite a few sellers with some of my items, and they were selling them for a really great price.

Now, in this case "really great" means really great for the buyer, but it means "almost no profit" for the seller.

Let me explain...

Some of these sellers are ebayers, who have either jumped ship and trying out "the river" or are selling on Amazon as well as ebay.

If you fall into this category, here are a few words of advice.

By the way, I don't care how many people sell on Amazon, or how many people sell the same things I do. If you want to sell what I sell and undercut my price every time, I welcome it. Because the more you do this, the more likely it will be that you'll go out of business!!!

1. Don't price your amazon items like you're selling on ebay. The fees will kill you. You were likely operating on a low profit margin on ebay in the first place, so you will be making even less on the river.

2. Quit using your stinking ebay-watermarked pics! You know what I'm talking about...the pics with the little camera watermark in the lower right corner. Amazon hates watermarks. Either photoshop them out or take new ones. BTW...I'm one of those jerks who'll report your pics. Remember...all's fair in love and war...and business.

3. Take quality pics. By "quality" I don't mean a pic taken with your good sofa as the background. Pics should have all white backgrounds. They should be in focus. They should focus on the product. And skip putting "God bless you all" text on the edge or side. Seriously.

4. Don't get caught up in a price war with other sellers. There are plenty of sellers out there who will willingly lower their prices because they know you'll do the same to get the coveted "buy box". They can take the temporary loss in profit. Can you? If so, get your war paint on, because this is one war that can go on for a long time. Word of advice: price fairly, don't always try to undercut the competition.

If you want to sell on Amazon and you were (or are) and ebay seller, Amazon can be a welcome change...or an absolute nightmare of rules, requirements, and warnings.

So do your research. Then do more. I did this for months before I listed my first item. And it saved me a lot of headaches.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Perennial question #1: paying taxes


If you ever go through the ebay message boards, there are usually a few questions people post that I like to call "The Perennial Tax Questions":

1. "Do I have to pay taxes on the stuff I sell?"
2. "Do I have to collect sales tax?"

What I'd like to do here is address the first question for now. I'll handle the other one eventually in another post.

PLEASE note, though, that I am not an accountant (nor do I play one on TV), but my accountant IS an accountant and also a former IRS agent. So the words I speak are true.

And here are your answers...

1. maybe.
2. maybe.

OK, maybe not so clear cut. But these are usually not simple answers.

A lot of people will bring up some piece of the IRS code about "hobbies". And you can do whatever research you want into this.

But I'll save you some time. If you answer yes to these questions, then you need to declare your ebay income (or whatever venue you use) on your taxes...

1. Do you sell regularly?
2. Do you buy stuff to resell in one form or another?

For example:

1. If you sell monthly, this ain't no hobby. You're a real seller. Have a collection of 80's New Wave LPs you want to sell? But not much else? OK, maybe you're not a real seller. The keys here are "volume" and "regularly".

2. If you hit the garage sales to find stuff to sell, then by gum you're a real seller. If you buy yarn to make and sell laptop cozies or beercan hats, then, again, you're a real seller. The key here is "resell".

So lets put the keys together, shall we? "volume", "regularly" and "resell".

Does that describe your sales activity? If so, then guess what? You'll get to become great friends with Schedule C.

Does this describe your activity? For example, a sporadic activity or a hobby does not qualify as a business. If so, then you're probably safe.

Now, you may be wondering "Hey, Rich. I sold a ton of stuff so far this year, so I am probably a real seller, but I hardly made anything. Shouldn't "profit" be part of what makes me a 'real seller'?"


And for 2 reasons:

1. Being a "real seller" doesn't automatically make you a "good seller". There are plenty of real sellers out there who end up netting only about 5% to 10% of their total sales.
2. Schedule C is for profit OR loss. If you cleared (for example) $100 on $2000 in sales, you still made a profit, and you are a real seller...just not a very good one. If you lost money in sales, you made a loss, which is beneficial for you at tax time anyway! BTW, either if these describe you, you may want to revisit your business model ;-)

Still confused? God, you shouldn't be. If you are wondering if you need to use Schedule C or not and reading this blog, then you probably do need to use it.

Hope this helped a little bit.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Hibidder: another casualty (maybe?)

So...it seems that the auction site hibidder.com is no longer with us.


It depends on who you listen to. Go to the site www.hibidder.com and you won't be able to get to the site. Usually a bad sign, right?

Well, there are two camps on what happened:

1. The owner/runner/whatever of the site had health problems (possibly a heart attack) and he had to take the site down so he could get better.

2. The guy was sued and ordered to shut the site down.

If you are truly interested in the drama as it unfolds, try this.

As of the last item count for this site (which was 6 days before this posting...an eternity in internet time) the site had about 29,000 listings.

Sites like this are often either a labor of love or some attempt to out-ebay ebay. And...they often fail or just barely survive.

But this is what I find most troubling about this site: one guy (possibly) had a heart attack, the site goes down, and nothing can be done about it until he gets better?


If hibidder really is gone, this is far from a great loss for anyone. If I have to depend on a single person to keep a site up and running (at least a site I'm trying to use to make an income), I really don't want to be involved with it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Plunderhere: maybe...not so dead

A while ago I "reported" (quotes only because I am FAR from being a news source!) that plunderhere was going down for the count.

There had been reports of outages and days without any access to the site by its users.

Well...it looks like plunderhere is back and in full swing.

OK, maybe not full swing. I am still unimpressed with their offerings and there listing count is still only about 60k. Lots of sellers doing a lot of talking, but not a lot of sales.

They also have a contest currently going. "Place a winning BID on any item over $5 and you are automatically entered to win $15! Contest Ends August 29th" Oh, did I mention I saw this on their site on September 2nd?

So, overall it's great that they are still around. I just can't tell who they are around for, or even why or how they've managed to stay on-line. If they stick around or not, I still don't think you're missing much.

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Twitter Effect...except for on-line auction sites!

I recently heard about how the so-called "Twitter Effect" basically killed the movie "Bruno" with almost immediate negative reviews posted and circulated like wildfire within hours of its opening.

So I wondered...how big is Twitter with the big auction sites and on-line stores like eBay and Amazon.

Well, let's look.

Here is a quick list of some of the bigger (and lesser-known) names in the field.

Company (twitterid) #followers
Amazon (amazon) 5,278
Amazon Gold Box (amazondeals) 14,452
Amazon mp3 (amazonmp3) 816,910
eBay (ebay) 1,685
eBid - no presence
ecrater (ecrater) 180
bonanzle (bonanzle) 561
CQout (CQout) 2
blujay (blujaydotcom) 51
OnlineAuction - no presence
Atomic Mall (atomicmall) 17

I only included twitter IDs that were the "official" ones, skipping the rest (such as fan sites and personal pick sites), and I also skipped some of the more technical IDs of these sites (such as Amazon's Kindle news and updates ID).

OK, now I have to admit that the # of followers for these sites may not be a great indication of their popularity, but I think it is rather telling about the demographics of Twitter and the demographics of the sites mentioned above.

For example, can I assume from these numbers that...

1. Amazon didn't just jump the bandwagon, they have the lead float in the parade. They obviously have embraced this technology and they know that younger people + mp3's + music downloads = a potentially profitable source of sales.

2. eBay has not quite fully embraced Twitter. Griff is on twitter as well (ID: ebayjimgriffith) with a not-to-impressive 281 followers.

3. Scrappy upstarts ecrater and bonanzle are getting their presence known, but slowly.

4. The rest? I think I can assume most of their sellers, if asked about twitter, would say don't need it/it's not for me/it won't help my sales/it's just a waste of time/etc.

Agree? Disagree? Think I'm nuts for spending any time at all on this?

Let me know what you think.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Selling On Amazon at Christmas: the "warning" letter

I want to give you a little heads-up if you want to sell on Amazon at Christmas, specifically toys and games.

About mid-year, AZ sends out a letter to their sellers to give them a bit of a warning about their cut-offs. In order to provide the best customer experience for xmas buyers, AZ limits sellers of toys and games during the season. We just got ours today.

What do they do exactly? Well, there are two things they do:

1. After mid-September, AZ won't accept any new sellers for toys and games. You can be a new seller and sell just about anything else...just nothing in the toys and games categories. Why? Well, if you're new, they have no idea if you are an honest seller or not. So...better to error on the side of safety. Remember, AZ is watching out for their own reputation.

2. As of mid-November on, the sellers who passed the above screening process can sell toys and games ONLY if their seller performance meets certain criteria. The criteria isn't difficult to match, but if you don't hit the numbers they want, they can effectively block out the toys and games you have for sale at any time.

The criteria? Low defect rate (which includes negative feedback, chargeback claims, and Amazon A-to-Z claims), low late shipping rate, low rate of orders cancelled by the seller.

Get just one of these numbers a bit high, and you can't sell your GI Joe action figures or your Monopoly games.

About 95% of our xmas sales were toys and games. It's basically all we bought and all we had listed, and we sold out of a lot of it before mid-December. And we were still getting plenty of orders up to December 21st.

The lesson? If you want to sell in these categories at Christmas, keep your sales going, keep the positive feedback high, don't cancel orders on customers, ship fast and don't misrepresent your products.

Now most of that was easy for us, since we use Fulfillment by Amazon. So if someone ordered something from us, that meant that it was in stock at the time of ordering (since AZ handles the inventory for us); shipments were made fast; items were well-packed, so less chance of returns.

So FBA definitely helped us make the cut and make sales during the season. Yes, it's an expensive program, but we could not have handled the 1000+ orders we got in that short 5-week period.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Bonanzle vs. ecrater: the battle continues

So...some fellow bonanzlers have already counted out ecrater as heir apparent to the coveted #3 spot right behind ebid and ebay.

Well, guess what happened?

As of this evening, ecrater has a rather firm hold on #3, with bonanzle falling behind. At one point Bonanzle was up about 50,000 listings over "the moon". Now they are about 14,000 listings behind.

Any lesson here?

Well, first, do NOT count out any competitor unless you can visually see them gasping for breath and they are just a very distant shadow behind you. 50k listings is nothing to gain or lose when you have 70-100,000 sellers on each site.

Second, why focus so much on ecrater in the first place? Don't worry about the guy right above you, you're aiming higher...right? "WE'RE NUMBER THREE" really doesn't sound good.

Basically, yeah it sucks that the ranch is #4 right now. Who cares. When/if the ranch comes close to chomping at the heels of the bay, then I'll REALLY start to get excited.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Onlineauction.com: sales growing - NOT a good sign

Usually, when you hear that a company's sales are growing, you think "Aw, nice. They are obviously doing well."

Then...there is the "other case".

The "other case" may also be known as the "Aw, man. They must be getting desperate."

Case in point: onlineauction.com.

This other ebay-wannabe has been around for a couple of years and perhaps had shown the greatest promise when it first materialized. But you can probably already figure out what happened and where it's headed. Poor customer support, no buzz, weird fee structure...it all added up quickly and now they are battling for the #7 spot with buyitsellit and UsiFF (two more not-big-names).

I figured they are at least holding on so they might be around for a bit. But I recently got an email from them that makes me think they might be in some serious trouble.

The email was sent to the email account I used to set up my account there...which I haven't used since probably mid-2008. I logged in and checked the message.

It was a wonderful letter stating how their sales have increased dramatically since 2008. In fact, their sales for 2009 alone have exceeded their TOTAL sales for 2008 (or something like that). And they showed an impressive pie chart to prove it. (side note: pie charts are horrible vehicles to show growth...ratios, yes...distributions, yes...not growth).

And then it hit me: this is what desperation looks like. I set up an account there and never listed an item, never bought an item, never even looked at many items. So it seems that they are digging away at the vast dead pool of former buyers and sellers and saying, "Hey, look at us. We're still around. And we're growing."

And that scares me. They obviously have done some right things to get their sales increase (or they have former Enron accountants "working" their sales figures) so perhaps the increase is legitimate. But blowing your own horn, saying in essence that you have gotten all the way to the upper middle isn't all that impressive. It's actually rather pitiful. In this case, "we're growing" to me at least equals "we haven't gone under yet."

What would make me sell on their site? How about hearing about the site from a friend, neighbor, the woman in front of you at the grocery store, hell...anyone other than them.

Sadly, I think they have further alienated themselves from some potential sellers. A recent thread on ebay has many people talking about receiving the same email I got (some called it outright spam) and saying how they were screwed over by support, never sold anything, had to jump through hoops to get their account cancelled, got their credit cards charged too much...blah, blah, blah. So this brainstorm of sending this email out pretty much did nothing more than bring back bad memories and more bitterness towards the site.

"OK....mister smarty pants, what would YOU have done?"

Well, yes, old former users are a potential gold mine. So of course I would have used this list. But I probably would have gone with a softer, more welcoming approach. More like a...

Dear _________

We miss you!

We notice you haven't looked at onlineauction.com since July, 2008.

Well, we want you back!

Wonder what we've been up to since you've gone? Well,

(list of functions, features added over the past year).

And...our sales have INCREASED xxx% since the last time you looked at us!

We want you to become part of the exciting growth our site has experienced.
Sell your items on onlineauction.com and pay ZERO monthly fees through
2009. So no fees to list, no fees to sell, no fees at all!

So please, take a few minutes, visit our site and blah blah blah.

The sales team at onlineauction

At least something like that.

In other words, don't tell me how successful YOU are, tell me how you're going to help make ME successful.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Santayana knew what he was talking about!

"Oh, yeah. I have their album Abraxas. I LOVE Oye Como Va."

No...not Santana...Santayana.

The guy who said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it."

THAT Santayana.

I recently posted a thread in the Bonanzle forums about how certain ebay-like sites are gone or going under.

Their response? Meh. Dumb thread. Who. Take your pick.

But in general, people didn't really care to hear about the failures.

So, why did I post it? See the above-mentioned quote.

People joined the failed/failing sites hoping to find a friendlier, less expensive and less restrictive place than ebay to sell there goods.

They found those places. And those places failed.

Now people are moving to Bonanzle from ebay to find (again) a friendlier, less expensive and less restrictive place than ebay to sell there goods.

They found Bonanzle. And Bonanzle may or may not succeed.

So far, Bonanzle is doing the right things: counting on their sellers for good items and good service, making it as cheap as possible (while still actually charging), and NOT spending a gazillion bucks on advertising. They are slowly creating buzz...incredibly effective and horribly cheap!

My point is that I don't want Bonanzle sellers (or Bonanzle) to think they are immune from the problems that plagued and brought down those before them. I want the sellers (and Bonanzle) to learn from those mistakes.

So hopefully in a couple of years, I will be reading about the incredible success Bonanzle has become.

And not reading their obits on google.

So Bonanzle...PLEASE learn from the mistakes of Wagglepop and all the others. Don't think you're immune.

My nominee for next "ebay wannabe" to die: WebStore


"webstore"? Is this the catchiest, most imaginative, cleverest name you could come up with for you, er, well...web store?

But that is far from the biggest reason why I think webstore (probably originally billed as "the next ebay") will likely be "the next wagglepop".


1. The name. Yeah, the name stinks. Google. Yahoo. These are cool to say. "webstore"? Boring. Besides, who doesn't already have a "webstore". "You sell on line? Cool. Where's you web store?" "Oh, it's on webstore." Wow. The originality makes me want to stick my head in the oven.

2. The numbers. 43,500 items. ebay probably has this many listings close without bids in like 5 minutes. Maybe 1 minute.

3. The fees. Webstore is "sponsor-paid". No seller fees at all. "Sponsors" provide the income for the site, usually via banners, flashy boxes, stuff like that. Ick. "ads by google" banners everywhere. Links to hosting sites everywhere. It's not a web store...it's a blog that OD'd on "pay-per-click" injections.

4. The look. In a nutshell, it looks like something out of a box labeled "My First Website" with a sticker on the bottom that says "recommended for ages 3 and up". Seriously. Get a designer.

5. The news. The liveliness of a site IMO can be measured in what info they provide about themselves. Outages, maintenance times, etc. are GOOD things in my book. It shows the site gives a crap about its users. Telling me bad news is better than me finding out the hard way. Webstore's latest post is about their set-up with ViaWest (perhaps "the poor man's Cable and Wireless") which provides operations hosting. "server array". Wow. "Redundant array of disks". Wow. Boring. Who cares. What the hell are you doing to get customers?!??!

And this ViaWest thing REALLY gets under my skin. So NOW you are worried about the reliability and uptime of the site? NOW 24/7 is important to you? This should be a non-issue; your site should have had all this hardware redundancy in the first place. The "news" is that you got away without it for this much time!

OK....deep breath...calm down...happy place time....OK, now I'm better.

Now, I do have to give them credit. They really do seem to be trying. RSS feeds, affiliate programs, new store categories.

But all that brings me back to my first question...


On-line detritus

Well, wagglepop is officially dead. But still available for sale for a staggering $40,000.

Anyone have $40k they don't want to throw down the garbage disposal but still want to permanently say good bye to, give the former wagglepop owner(s) a call. I'm sure they'll be glad to hear from you.

And it seems that there may be two other ebay wanna-be sites that are biting the dust, or at least scooting up to the table...

tazbar: This statement has so far brought up huge cries of "Who?" from people. Yes, tazbar, one of the great unknown ebay slayers looks like it's going down for the count. And what a count! About 44,000 items listed (compare that to ebay's 28 MILLION!). It's officially lights out on July 16th.

plunderhere: Again...another "Who?". And with good reason. About 50,000 items listed. Will not be missed.

What do these two have in common? Hmmm....well...

ZERO name recognition. Forget the big ad campaigns. They don't work. What does work is word of mouth, from both buyers AND sellers. None of either equals our "who?" response.

Support. OK, this should say "lack of support". Both got dinged by former sellers for their extreme lack of help and support for sellers. Funny, I heard the same thing about wagglepop.

The "not the chicken NOR the egg" syndrome. "OK, what the hell does that mean, Rich?" Simple: these kinds of sites always get the question: what makes the site successful, lots of items listed, or lots of sellers buying? The answer is simple. Neither. Or both. Both factors have to grow together, and in parallel increments for the site to make it. These sites had neither the listings nor the buyers. Hence, no word-of-mouth ad structure. Hence, no more site.

Money. Actually, none. No buyers and no sellers is the way these sites start, but eventually both sides of the equation have to build. Otherwise, no revenue. If you build a site like these, you either need to:

1. burn through money like bras in the 60s before you see a single cent of profit


2. LOOK like you're spending cash like you have a dozen VC's in your back pocket

...lest people start to suspect you aren't gonna make it.

They did neither. They always looked like amateurs.

So...again...I ask...who's next?

Check out my next post.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Shipping and handling: model 5 - profit center

Some sellers price their items at whatever they can to undercut the competition.

Some sellers just try to squeeze out any penny they can from their customers.

So, what to they do? Simple...charge higher shipping.

People will gladly pay $3 rather than $6 for a cable on ebay, even if shipping is $5 for the $3 cable and free for the $6 cable. Or, maybe they just don't understand that they need to add the shipping cost in.

And some people will gladly pay a high shipping amount for an item they either really REALLY want or the item is just hard to find and are willing to pay anything for it.

Hence..."shipping as profit center" was born.

If you don't already know where I stand on this, please...let me repeat: don't do it...find another way to sell...find another way to make money...don't make the rest of us look bad.

To me, making a profit off of shipping is like Best Buy charging you to walk through their doors, or your local grocery store charging a $1.50 to use their shopping carts. It's a service that you provide when you sell your product. Unless you are a professional packer or shipper, it should be as free as you can make it. Otherwise the customer will eventually feel that you ripped them off.

And they likely won't return. That hurts you.

And the likely will be turned off by the whole on-line buying experience.

And that hurts all of us.

Shipping and handling: model 4 - flat rate

What's flat rate?

In the days of catalog shopping (who remembers getting one from Speigel or Montgomery Ward?) flat rate shipping was the only way to go.

Buying $1 to $50 in merchandise? That will cost you $5 to ship. $50 to a $100? That'll be $9 for shipping, please.

Flat rate holds a lot of promise for sellers because you can get buyers to buy tons of your stuff but not get reamed on shipping. So your sales could be fantastic...but you may have to eat a bit of the postage.

You therefore have to be careful with this.

Use it only if the following is true: your profit margin on a multi-item order is great enough that you can eat the additional postage and still profit enough for you to justify using flat rate shipping. If you can't sleep at night knowing you lost money with flat-rate shipping, this model isn't for you.

But for some people (especially those in the small electronics or jewelry business) it's a godsend.

Shipping and handling: model 3 - S&H fee

This is a legitimate way to handle extra expenses incurred with shipping: charge the actual shipping costs plus a bit more for "handling".

This "extra" amount is usually only a buck or two. A fine and justifiable amount (for both buyers and sellers) for what I call "medium" items...items that could never go first class, but aren't oversize.

Handling fees should never equal or exceed the actual shipping cost. That's just plain freaking unfair for the most part. Unfortunately I've seen it a lot. People charging $80 to ship something that costs probably around $30-$40 to ship.

Notice I said "for the most part". There are a few (very few) cases where this is justifiable, but usually in cases where the item is fragile (as in a large ceramic vase), comes in multiple pieces (like a set of china), or requires specialize packaging (like perishable goods).

Do you fall under these cases? Then fine, you can charge the extra, since many buyers expect to pay extra for that anyway. But again, the amount MUST be reasonable.

Buyers will see right through you if you try to scam them on "handling charges", so use these charges freely, but with caution.

Shipping and handling: model 2 - actual shipping

The fairest model (from the customer's viewpoint) is the actual shipping model.

USPS charges you $12.85? Then you charge the customer $12.85. No bump-ups, no hidden fees...nothing but the actual price.

OK, you still need to cover supplies and so on, right?


These costs should be built in to your operating expenses and spread out over all the prices you charge for all your items, or at least built in to the price of the item you're selling.

Again, nickel-and-diming is NOT the way to go...unless you want to lose your customer base.

Shipping and handling: model 1 - free shipping

OK, yeah I know. There's no such thing as free shipping.

Most people do one of two things to offer "free shipping":
  • Bump up the price to help cover the costs, or
  • Eat it, which is more common than your think, especially with small light items that only cost a buck or so to mail.
If you decide to do the bump (the price, not the dance), then you really need to be reasonable on what the bump should be. In my opinion, the bump should never be more than the actual shipping amount - as in what the PO or UPS or Fedex will charge you. Don't nickel-and-dime your customers to death with built-in charges for gas, supplies, your time, etc. Be fair (to the customers), be reasonable (to the customers) and your sales will do fine. Overcharge, and I can guarantee they will find other places to spend their money.

Shipping and handling - the debate rages on

There was a thread recently on bonanzle about what someone should charge for shipping and handling.

Let me say right off the bat: if you tell your customer you charge x dollars to help cover your costs of boxes, bubble wrap, tape, labels, gas and your time...stop selling - get out of the business - find something less destructive to do. Because when you do that, all your are doing is (short-term) lining your pockets with a few extra coins and (long-term) making the on-line buying experience more painful for your customers.

So, seriously, go away.

I want my thingie I bought from you, and I will pay a reasonable charge for shipping. And I'm not so stupid that I think a 3 pound item will cost 12 bucks to mail, especially since I know I can go to the USPS website and figure out the cost myself.

So...in the name of fairness, I want to present to you the basic S&H models. Each takes some (in the words of Ricky Ricardo) 'splaining to do", but I think it will all be worth it.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Fine handmade jewelry on Bonanzle

One of the things I like about Bonanzle is the ability to showcase the items that you sell as well as items from other sellers.

I recently became aware of some wonderful handmade pieces of jewelry from Edi, a seller on Bonanzle. She makes wonderful boxchain bracelets and her crab agate piece really caught my eye. Take a look at what she has to offer.

Bonanzle: another basket for my eggs

Right now, there is a struggle between ecrater and bonanzle for the coveted #2 spot in the list of on-line sites, with ebay and ebid being #1 and #2 respectively.

I already mentioned about the folly of putting all your eggs in one basket, but I have come to the business decision of dedicating more of my time to bonanzle.


  • The people. The forums are more active, friendlier, more helpful, and I just get the feeling that the sellers are not all just a bunch of disgruntled former ebayers, but a group (dare I say "team") of people who want to succeed and who want bonanzle to succeed...almost a grass roots movement.
  • The site. It's clean, simple to navigate, and looks professional. The crater always had a kind of cheesy feeling to me, like its pages were just kind of thrown together. It just doesn't look cool.
  • The products. This I believe is why I think bonanzle is going to be the next big thing. Antiques, cool used stuff, new stuff...it has everything. And everything is easy to find. The dreaded "best match" search algorithm used by ebay isn't on bonanzle...and that's a good thing!
  • The press. I did a search of bonanzle references (trying to skip the "items for sale" links) and found plenty of great press out there for the site. So far, few disgruntled buyers.

So I am spending quite a bit more time with bonanzle. I have about 60 items listed, and I could easily get a couple of hundred out there. I will probably soon pull my ecrater listings and put them on "the ranch" instead.

The day Wagglepop died

Today, 6/30/2009, is the day that Wagglepop is scheduled to die.

It is a rather rare occasion that you can actually witness the death of a website. Usually websites die either from just being ignored by their owners or they just disappear without any notice. Oh, and of course the occasional site takedown by the site's host (usually not a good thing to have happen to you).

Wagglepop, though, has quite clearly stated their termination date. They're pulling the plug tonight and the machine that goes "ping" will cease to make a sound.

There was so much fanfare when this site started up. But despite all its promise, it never got any bigger than the other dozen or so sites out there aiming to become the next ebay.

But I don't want a "the next ebay". I want something better. And personally I am glad to see Wagglepop go. Too many bad stories, too much bravado from the owners, too much failure.

Any bets on who's next?

Monday, June 29, 2009

Wholesalers: how you can find them

Ask someone if they want to donate you a kidney, and you'd have better luck getting a "yes" out of them than you would if you asked them to tell you their wholesalers and suppliers.

Finding a reputable wholesaler can take a huge amount of time and research. And once you find one, you want to do all you can to keep it to yourself.

Now, having said that, please do not expect me to tell you mine.

But...I can tell you how I found them.

1. the web. I have heard so many sellers say that you just can't find wholesalers on the web, that legitimate wholesalers don't "do the web" and that you need to use business directories to find true ones.


It took me close to 3 weeks, but I managed to find about EIGHT wholesalers that I have or want to develop a business relationship with. What do they offer? The same (or similar) stuff I sell now...toys, home goods, garden items, etc.

You can find true, legitimate wholesalers on the web. Yes, it's true that a lot of them don't have (or want) a web presence, but there are plenty out there. Read on for hints on how to find them.

2. the products. One of the best ways I was able to find these wholesalers was by going directly to their web site. You'd be amazed at how many of them have links to let you create a wholesale log-in, which lets you see their wholesale prices. Sometimes you need approval, often an hour- or day-long process. But once you're in, the prices you can get from them is simply phenomenal. Like %50-75% off their retail price.

3. the box. I LOVE going to stores when they are unpacking stuff. Not so much that I can see the cool new stuff they have (I rarely buy anything new...auctions/used is my way of life) but rather to see where the stuff comes from. See some cool stuff? Look on the box it came out of...lo and behold...there it is in clear black print: the name of the manufacturer or distributor of the product. Now...go back to step 3 and see what else you can learn about them.

Now I need to warn you about something. There are lots of sites out there that call themselves wholesalers. There are two tests to verify that they are legitimate wholesalers and not a purely retail shop masquerading as wholesalers.

  • Real wholesalers will not automatically show your the wholesale price. If you find a site and they have a "wholesale" price displayed right off the bat, that price is either a marginally marked down amount of their retail price, or it's really just their normal retail price, often with one of those quantity matrices that say "1: $19.99 / 2-4 $17.99 / 5 or more: $16.99". That's not wholesale pricing...that's a sale.
  • Real wholesalers will ask you for your tax ID. Wholesalers sell to real resellers without charging sales tax, and they need proof that you are a legitimate reseller by asking you for your tax ID (or whatever your state calls it). If they don't ask for this before showing you their wholesale prices, they aren't a real wholesaler (or at least, not a legal one).

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Get Rich Quick!

Interested in making fast money on the internet?

Want to make tons of money in your PJ's?

Want to make great income and virtually let your products sell themselves?


I can give you TONS of places that make these promises.

And they are all worthless.

I just came across a couple of blogs that give you all sorts of advice on how to make money just by having people click on something, or read a book on how to market yourself.

Junk. Junk. Junk.

These sites are on par with those wonderful dropshippers who disguise themselves as companies that help you set up your own web site and sell great products to generate fantastic, vacation-every-year income.

Get rich quick? Go elsewhere. That message isn't here.

You want to get a business going, YOUR business? One that could get you real income, but you'll have to work for it?

Well...I'm here. At least to help.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

So...where do you get your stuff? The Classic Version

In our last show, we discussed the wonders wholesalers can bring to your bottom line, but I kind of left you on the edge regarding how to find them.

Well...stay on that edge. I'm gonna get to that eventually, but not now.

This "Classic Version" is a bit of help for those who want to find those wonderful (and valuable) antiques and collectibles that still bring in decent money on auction sites (usually eBay).

Now, by "collectible" I am not talking about those Franklin Mint thingies your granny has hanging up in her kitchen. If the item has the word "collectible" on the box, that probably means a lot of people collect them (or are gonna collect them because of that word on the box) and therefore are usually not of significant value.

"Collectible" for us can mean anything from Fenton glass pieces to monaural amps.

OK, now the fun part...sources.

1. Garage sales. At one point, these were my sole source for items. Then ebay started being used by garage sale holders to price their items...and garage sale finds (worth buying) nosedived. But they are coming back in line, especially in this economy when families are doing what they can to make a buck.

Hitting garage sales takes planning, and empty vehicle and a full tank of gas. Oh, and lots of singles and quarters. I personally don't try to barter prices; it takes too long and wastes valuable time hitting other sales.

2. House sales. These are the like garage sales, but usually have a lot more stuff...like entire households. These are usually listed separately from garage sales. Be warned, though: some people call their dinky garage sale a "house sale" to bring in the dealers (like you).

3. estate sales. Sometime called tag sales here in the Cleveland area. No difference really. These used to be fantastic ways to get items, albeit at somewhat higher prices (but also somewhat higher quality).

These have recently, though, become a bit of a scam. For example: I hold a tag sale and price the good stuff kind of high. I sell some (but not a lot) and then offer the people I'm holding the sale for some amount of money to take the rest of the stuff off their hands. I then turn around and sell it myself in some antique or resale shop I often do business with. Most people don't realize that crappy toybox in the attic is worth hundreds and their precious collection of fake Hummels (which they think are worth a fortune) is worth about a buck 25. So it's easy to fool them. Sad...but that's reality.

4. auctions. Ah...the gods smiled down with happiness when they created auctions. I have been to a couple of hundred auctions and never ONCE left without at least one thing that made the trip worthwhile. NEVER.

5. Personal ads. these are the "items for sale" listings in your paper. I have had about zero luck with these. They usually want to much and are selling stuff not worth much anyway. Or (usuallt the case) they bought something they can't return and want to try to get most or all of their money back. I don't recommend these unless you REALLY know what you are buying.

Maybe I'll get some time to concentrate on each individual one and give a few pointers on each.

Or maybe I'll just go to sleep. Eh....who knows.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

So...where do you get your stuff? The Next Generation

OK, so we covered getting items to re-sell via normal channels you go to everyday (big box stores, discount stores, etc.).

But you need more perhaps. You are tired of driving around these places almost every day to see what new stuff they got in.

You need a more consistent source.

You need...a wholesaler.

Wholesalers open up a HUGE world of opportunity to you. Plenty of supply, great prices, and there about a gazillion wholesalers out there.

Good luck finding them. Or at least, good luck finding one that will deal with you.

I'm gonna tell you right off the bat that if you are looking for a wholesaler who will sell you a bunch of iPhones or Wii game stations, you got yourself one heck of an uphill battle. Who wouldn't want to sell these?!?! Just about everyone wants one. And you can get them, too. You really only need a couple of things:
  • a significant business presence (think Toys 'R Us, rather than a bonanzle booth)
  • a significant amount of money/credit (think purchases by the truckload, rather than 2 or 3 units).
If you take anything from this blog, let it be this: don't try to repeat the success of others, find your own thing...PLEASE!!!)

OK...back to our story...

Now don't get too upset. There are actually a lot of wholesalers who will work with you, even though you aren't a Best Buy and you don't have a million-dollar line of credit.

They just don't sell Wii's. But they do sell toys, games, clothing, home goods, food, cooking supplies, sports equipment, craft supplies, big/small appliances, blah blah blah.

And this is where you can make some serious money. I'm talking serious serious money.

Where are they?

Sorry...that would be telling.

But I will give you a hint...soon...very soon.

So...where do you get your stuff?

There are several questions that always pop up in forums where sellers discuss their topics:
  • Do you declare your income on your taxes?
  • How much is this item worth?
  • Where do you get your stuff?
Well, asking this question is usually gonna result in a whole lot of flaming from other posters. Sources for goods to sell are hard to come by and usually closely guarded.

But...here are a few hints I can give you (without divulging any of my sources, of course).

FYI...this topic covers new goods, not antiques and collectibles. That's for another thread.

1. Look around you. I can tell you I have gone into local big-box retail stores, purchased items at their retail price and sold them for about 4 times what I paid.

Now don't go fill up a dozen shopping carts at your local wallyworld and expect to make a fortune. It takes research and just plain dumb luck to find these items. But they are out there. And it's not a one-time thing. I do this regularly with about 5 items I know I will sell for at least 150% profit.

2. Look around you part deux. You know those stores that have "the names you know, at discount prices"? Well, they are sometimes a fantastic source for good items to re-sell. Case in point: we came across about a dozen Dept. 56 halloween sets. Original price: $55. Their price: $15. What we sold them for: $65.

3. REAL discount stores. There are stores out that that specialize in close-outs, overstock items, returns, etc. About 95% of their stuff is, well, junk. I mean, it's fine stuff, nothing wrong with it. Just not worth trying to re-sell. But that remaining 5% can be pure gold. There is one store in particular that I can go to about every week and easily spend a few hundred bucks on stuff that I can easily turn around and gross about 2-3 times what I paid.

Basically, if you want good, new, sellable items, you need to stick with the locations that have these goods, do your research, do your research again, and keep on doing it until you find a source.

And if you find a source, don't stop looking for others. That one source you found may just be a flash-in-the-pan and never have decent stuff again. If it is or not, don't stop looking for more sources.

I got about 4 fantastic sources in my back pocket, and I have about 10 that I'm looking into right now.

Don't stop looking. Ever.

The joys of waking up and checking out your Amazon sales

I sell on Amazon and only via the FBA program. Expensive, yes. But also usually advantageous.

I mentioned a while ago about the motorized Banzai bumper boats. I sent them two and sold both in about 10 days (one just sold this morning...a great thing to see first thing when you get out of bed).

Paid $20. Cleared about $75.

Now, this is the icky part: I paid close to $30 in fees, including their selling fee and the fees with them packing and shipping the bumper boat for me.

So there are two ways of looking at it:

"Dang, I could have made more if I shipped it on my own."


"Excellent, I just cleared $75 and I didn't have to do squat!"

So...time? Or Money? Which is more important to you?

The Danger of the "all your eggs in one basket" mentality

Many a seller had hitched their wagon to ebay, thinking that it would be the only venue they'd need to become big-time on-line sellers (or at least sell enough to help pay the bills).


When ebay decided to alienate the smaller sellers and focus on the big box stores and manufacturers to become a venue for overstock goods, many of those smaller sellers felt like they were being pushed out.

And they had no place else to go.

They had fallen prey one of the biggest pitfalls of the small seller: dedication to a single venue for your sales.

Whether you sell on Amazon, ebay, bonanzle, ebid, ecrater or even your own site, it's important to realize that any one of these could fail, stumble, or in some way seriously hurt your business on it. Even having your own site doesn't make you immune. There are others out there looking at your site thinking "Yeah, I can sell that, too" and POOF - there goes whatever exclusivity you may have.

Lesson 1: if you want to sell and even think of being able to make a living at it, you need to look at all venues out there. You may not need to necessarily sell on them, but at least be aware of them and perhaps have a presence there, just in case your current venue decides to "ebay" you!

Lesson 2: be sure to have a contingency plan. Do you sell your hand-made items on ebay? Excellent! Have you looked into bonanzle? Or etsy? No? Then why not? Etsy is a fantastic site for artisans and crafters to sell their wares. If ebay starts to fail you, where will you go? Or is the market already dried up for your handmade toaster covers made from recycled Bud Lite cans? Ok...so what you gonna sell now?

Now, you may ask, "What about you? Did you have other venues in line?" Well, I started to ween myself from ebay long before they started to become closeout city. When I saw the disaster eBay Express turned into, I knew they didn't have any idea how to re-invent themselves...at least without hurting its then-present seller base.

So, yeah, I had contingency plans. I went from selling antiques and collectible to selling new goods. It took me like 3 1/2 weeks to convert, including suppliers, venue, and profit required to make it at least match what I was doing on ebay.

I'm not bragging. That's just the benefit of planning.

And so far, the plan is working pretty nicely.

In other words, if you need to change venues, product lines, or any serious portion of your business plan, PLEASE have a folder in your desk (or in your head) labeled "what if's" to fall back on just in case that great venue is still a shooting star, but no longer wants your wagon hitched to it.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

The challenges of on-line marketing

Yesterday afternoon we stopped in the antique store (the Eclectic Mixx in Lakewood, Ohio). The owner and his partner were there and I mentioned that I spent a good part of the morning working on my blogs and getting myself on Twitter.

They hate Twitter.

Now, don't get me wrong. If you think it's worthless, that's cool. I personally want to give it a try.

But they just opened the store and they are trying to get the word out about the store. Perhaps they don't realize that "viral marketing" (despite the fact that it's a very old term) is still alive and well.

My blog is only a week or so old, and I have 4 followers. OK...not a lot I know. Some people have dozens.

But it's a start. And if it leads to one sale for me or for someone following me (or someone I'm following) then it was all worth it. Because that's how the virus spreads!!!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Hmm...just opened my THIRD booth on Bonanzle

At first, I thought that one booth (funkybydesign) would be plenty for the stuff I have to sell.

Then I got into the Halloween stuff I have. And I have lots of it. Also, quite a bit of Christmas stuff. So, yeah...another booth was born (Holiday Finds Of Ohio).

So...I started getting into more stuff to list, and it became painfully obvious to me that I just have too much stuff. I have boxes and boxes of vintage and antique stuff that I want to sell.

But I didn't want to muddy the waters of my first booth (which is new stuff like toys, home decor and the like) or my second booth (retro wall hangings just don't fit alongside pumpkin carving kits).

Hence...my third Bonanzle booth: Vintage Finds Of Ohio.

Now I just have to work on cross-promotion, so if someone stumbles upon one of my booths, they can see I have others!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Wow...just joined twitter

Hmmm...I just signed up with twitter. I feel so...young.

Don't know why....the "I feel so young" part, I mean. I kind of assumed that twitter was for the skateboarding/young go-getter types.

Then I saw who's on it. Al Gore, Kevin Spacey, Weird Al Yankovic. Not exactly the youthful types I imagined I'd find.

So I have an account there. ID: richincleveland.

But...why did I do this?

One word: networking. Get my life out there, maybe get someone out there to look back. Maybe they'll see what I do, maybe contribute to my blogs, maybe learn something or correct me on something.

And maybe...take a look at what I have to sell.

We'll see.

Almost forgot - Pepsi / Mountain Dew Throwback

Rarely do I get excited about seeing something in the store.

Mountain Dew throwback.......yeah.........that got me happy.

I know I am probably one of the few who is just found out, here's the scoop.

Pepsi made a limited edition variety of Pepsi and Mountain Dew, but instead of corn syrup, they're made with good old sugar.

OK, it doesn't sound like a big deal right?

Just taste it. If you remember drinking pop from the 70s, the taste will bring you right back to when you wore knee-high tube socks and you rocked to the Bee-Gees.

The taste? Sweeter than the regular stuff. But a real sweet; I always held corn syrup in very low regard as a sweetener. And the sweet taste stays in your mouth for a while afterwards. And you can actually taste the other flavors in the pop because the sugar seems to let them come out, rather than being buried under that thick-as-pudding corn syrup.

It's all I drink now...at least when I drink pop (mostly drink Vitamin Water or iced tea).

So, why are they doing this? I checked the web and I found some feedback on the bottle design and artwork as well as the taste (ah, the youth who didn't experience real-sugar soft drinks as kids). Personally, I think it might be a way to jump on the "corn syrup is bad for you" bandwagon without admitting anything wrong with their regular Pepsi and MD.

I hate the idea that it's a limited ed. product. I would probably go back to drinking a lot more pop if they went back to it permanently. But sugar is dang pricy compared to corn syrup, so I doubt it'll be around much longer.

It's a shame, too. The stuff is really good. I literally have a hard time drinking corn-syrup-sweetened products anymore....it's like drinking, well, syrup.

Resources: stock images

Doing logos? Need an avatar? Need pics, drawings or images for your website?

Try Dreamstime.

I've been with them for about 2 years. They literally have millions of images, both high-quality photos and illustrations and they cost like $1.25 a piece.

The images are royalty-free, so you can use them as you need to (subject to their terms of usage) for as long as you want.

My bonanzle banners are all done with images from Dreamstime. I really haven't had any reason to look anywhere else.

Resources: packing materials

In my slowly-growing list of resource for you guys, I present: bubblefast.

I have found no seller of bubble wrap that's cheaper than bubblefast. They have great deals on envelopes, bubble mailers, packing tape, and so much more.

Uline is also a great site. But I'm committed to bubblefast. I really like them. Great service, too.

You want to sell stuff on line? Ok...what do you want to sell?

Selling on-line is cool. Fun. Rewarding. Boring. Monotonous. Frustrating. Profitable.

Plenty of positives...plenty of negatives.

What you can do to help get more positives in the experience?

Define what you want to sell.

I sell stuff I like to sell. I find no joy in selling offset printing presses, engine blocks, hdmi cables,...oh, lots of stuff.

I do enjoy selling 50's and retro items. Nice items for your home. Cool toys. Halloween stuff.

I like that stuff...so I educate myself about this stuff because I like it. So when I sell it, I can back it up with my spirit and reputation. When I buy it to re-sell, I know if I'm getting quality stuff at a good price.

In other words, I am connected to it. My heart is in it. My passion is in it.

If I didn't care about what I was selling, it would show.

There's a great book out there with a title that I remind myself of everyday: do what you love, the money will follow.

If you don't love selling 60's kitchen decor, don't sell it. Remember, you want to sell on-line to get away from a job you probably don't like anymore. Don't jump from one job like that to another.

Profit - it starts with your buying price

So many people think profit is determined by what you sell your item at.

I feel different. Profit is defined by what you buy your item at.

Your selling price has already been determined for you. You have little control over it. Take laptops for example. People spend easily close to $1500 for one. They also spend only $400 for one. Despite this, the general price range is there, and you have to work with it.

So...if you sell laptops, are you going to pay $1400 to sell one at $1500? Or would you rather buy it at $800?

OK, you may ask "what about antiques? Their prices aren't predetermined!" Well, for the most part they are. Otherwise, there would not be a gazillion books out there pretending to be price guides for antiques and collectibles. If you have an extremely rare piece, I would agree the predetermined part might not hold true. But can I see a show of hands out there of people who have such pieces and can't get any info at all on what it might be worth?

So...your profit is based on what you buy it at.

OK...so...what should your profit margin be? Patience, grasshopper. Don't jump the gun.

Profit...greatly discussed - seriously misunderstood

Profit should be basically mean the same to anyone in business.

Sadly...it's not the case.

So if I buy something for $5, sell it for $10...that's $5 profit right?

So many sellers think this way. What they sometimes fail to think about: cost of driving around to get the item, listing/selling fees, paypal fees, mailing supplies, and so on.

Do that item on ebay, and you're probably making closer to $3, especially if you get the extra bells and whistles on your listing.

Granted, that's more or less a newbie error and they usually find out later when they (hopefully) crunch some numbers to see how profitable they are.

But I can tell a lot of them don't. I see their listings, the prices, and wonder why they are happy to make a buck or two off of a single sale.

Do you know how profitable your business is? Do you know how profitable you want it to be?

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Ah...working in an antique store....how glamorous

I have a friend works in a local antique store. Working in a place like that can be quite a bit of fun: getting consignments, seeing all sorts of old oddities you never even knew existed, dealing with great buyers.

Ah...and dealing with their kids.

Just got a phone call from him. First two sentences:
  • "I'm really not having a good day."
  • "Some kid just threw up on me."
Of course, mommy apologized, then quickly bolted out of the store...yes, with child in tow.

Did she offer to help clean up the mess? Offer to pay to have his clothes cleaned?

Nope. Nothing.

And she didn't even buy anything.

So for those out there who were unaware of the unglamorous side of antique stores...I hope you enjoyed this.

Resources: FANTASTIC flash maker

Once in a while, I like to share some of the tools and sites that I found helpful in building my web presence.

Now we've all seen sites that have those neat flash movies in them. Sometimes you see them on the intro page, or the home page has a column of them showcasing products or new items.

I love Adobe, but their flash maker is a bit pricey.

I did find a fantastic alternative. It's called Firestarter from a neat little software company called coffee cup software. The program costs like $50 (as opposed to several hundred) and it will likely let you build just about any flash animation you want. It's easy to learn (I never once had to open any help files), lets you build pretty complicated flash animation, it even lets you put in multiple links. It's just fantastic.

I don't think I can say enough about this little piece of software, other than I love it.

Had another "A-Ha!" moment last night

Ever get the feeling that no matter what you do, or what you sell, or how much you try to make your customers happy...you still feel you aren't doing enough, or maybe it's just not worth it?

I get that way occasionally. Usually when I go a day or two without a sale, which happens more often than I want to admit.

But last night, I went out with friends for a few drinks, which of course usually leads to people complaining about their jobs/co-workers/"in-a-rut" lives.

I have plenty to say about those topics personally. But I do have something going on that they don't...selling on-line and making a few bucks.

I don't have a lot of co-workers I don't like (hard to when there's only two of you). If the business tanks, I can't blame anyone but myself. If it succeeds, I am the one who reaps the rewards.

In other words, I have control, I have freedom.

So when I saw I had no sales last night, I wasn't upset. Because I know I will have some sales coming in the next day (which turned out to be true!), and I'm doing something I love.

Sometimes you have to be reminded that even though it's a lot of work, running your own business can be liberating, rewarding and just plain fun.

And that's just cool.

And don't forget it. Try to remind yourself of that once in a while.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

A short list of things to NOT do first when opening your website

OK, I know it's the fun part...

"What should I name my store?"
"What colors will it use?"
"I have so many ideas for my logo."
"I love the flashing graphics I saw on one site and I want them on mine."
"I can't wait to list my stuff and start selling!"

Here's a piece of friendly advice....whoa. Hold on.

Yes, a name is important. Colors are important, too, as are your logos.

But wait...there are a few more important things to check on first.

  • Your host: Picking a host is seriously important. There are about a gazillion hosting sites out there. Maybe a tiny handful are worth serious consideration (and your time, trust and money).
  • your products: Some hosts are more suited for store-type products, others can handle almost anything. What will you be selling?
  • your payment methods: Not all hosting sites allow use of a merchant account to handle credit card payments, so you may need to use a gateway, take CC payments over the phone only, or just skip credit cards. Want to take checks? Some don't have that option at all!
  • your # of products: Monthly fees are sometimes based on the # of products you want to sell.
  • ability to redirect your site: If you want people to type www.mycoolthings.com to go to your site (rather than www.ecommercehost.com/mycoolthings), make sure your host allows this and that masking won't screw anything up.
  • ability to customize: Most hosting sites offer pre-set templates you can choose from. You can usually customize them once you select one, but the level of customization may not be to your liking. Or the degree of complexity to customize it may be a bit intimidating.
  • how much you want to pay: You can easily pay $100 a month for your web presence, and that doesn't include selling fees, merchant account fees, etc. You may have found the perfect host, but can you afford them?

OK...don't be all ticked off with me about bursting your bubble. That was not my intention.

I just want to give you a little heads-up on some of the issues you will inevitably have to face if you want to have your own web store.

Bonanzle....MAYBE an ebay alternative

In the past few weeks I've spent some time listing some things on Bonanzle.

OK...I can hear most of you ask..."what's bonanzle?"

Imagine ebay listings, but without all the clutter. Better search results. Great prices. Big selection of unique things. Easy navigation. Happy sellers. In other words, just about everything that made ebay what it was just seconds before it hit "the big time".

Getting the picture?

Don't consider Bonanzle as an ebay alternative yet. As of today, ebay has about 27 million listings. Bonanzle has a bit over 2 million. But then again, it's only been around since 2008.

But what Bonanzle lacks in listings, it makes up easily in the happy, positive, gung-ho attitude of its sellers (versus the depressing, "why can't they fix Best Match" 'tude at the bay).

Bonanzle may not replace ebay, but they are a serious contender for fixed price listings of lots of nice items, both new and old.

Give it a quick look. Just about all the sellers are great people and willing to help whenever they can.

One big Ecrater plus...free google feed...usually

I have a few items listed on ecrater under my funkybydesign id. Not a lot, just a few items to test the waters.

The biggest thing about ecrater is that they are free/free/free. As in:
  • no fees to join
  • no fees to list
  • no fees if you sell something.

You get a free domain (mine's funkybydesign.ecrater.com). You get a little bit of customization for your own "storefront", but it will still look like everyone else's there...except perhaps for your logo if you upload one.

One powerful tool they have is an automatic upload of your products to google. Google has pretty much become the place to find products. And they know it. That's why they usually have their shopping results at the top, that's why they have so much invested in ad research. That's why their search engine just plain rocks!

But there's a catch...actually more like do's and don'ts. I don't have an exhaustive list, but here are a couple of items I've read about that you may want to avoid.

  • Skip the "all caps" product titles. Some people have had their products not included in google's search just because they capitalize all the words in the title.
  • Don't include "free shipping" as part of the title or description. If you want it in your desc., put it WAY at the end.
  • Include as many importatnt descriptive words as possible in the title. Size? Color? Make? Model? Yep...good stuff. L@@K? NICE? NEW? fuggetaboutit.

If I come across any more little gems, I'll be sure to try to remember to remind myself that I have a blog. Then maybe I'll remember to list them here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Shopify...great product...but no thanks...

OK, so I really want to open up a "real" web store. you know...just my products, not a subset of a bigger set of items (e.g., an ebay store), where I can take credit cards, have control over the look and feel of the site, etc.

So I stumbled upon shopify (www.shopify.com), which seemed to fit ALL of my requirements. I don't have a merchant account (WAY too expensive for me right now) but I could accept CC payments via a PayPal gateway.

I spent about 3 days working on getting it to look right. It has a lot of functionality but I just couldn't get it to where I wanted it.

OK... I know...3 days is not much time to spend on setting up a web site. But I do have html experience, and web design is not all that foreign to me. I figured, though, that 3 days should be enough time for me to figure out even the basics, like getting my home page just right, determining my menu navigation, etc.

So I gave up.

For now.

But don't take this as a rip on shopify. I was quite impressed with what they had, and their pricing was fantastic (especially compared to zoovy and volusion).

Right now, I got about 5 irons in the fire. The "my own web site" thing is gonna take a lot of dedicated time for me to do the way I want; I DON'T want a cookie-cutter site that looks like everyone else's site who uses the host I ultimately choose.

Given all this, I do recommend it. It's just not for me...yet.

A note on Fulfillment By Amazon

As I mentioned in the prior post, I really like FBA. But if you are interested in it here is a little quirk about it (or pain, actually) you need to know.

I sell a lot of things, but I usually only get 5-10 of any one item. Some are big, some are small. Some are already on AZ, some not. Here's where it gets tricky.

  • And some are on AZ more than once...which itself causes me problems. If there are two or more listings for the exact same item, I can still use FBA but I also need to put a label over the item's bar code so AZ can process it. Other items, I usually don't need to do this. If they need a label, they can't be shipped with items that don't need a label...hence, they need to go in a different box when I ship them to AZ.
  • Some items are oversize (not USPS oversize, AZ's version of oversize). Oversize items need to go to a different warehouse...hence, they need to go in a different box when I ship them to AZ.
Starting to get the picture? When I pack things up to ship to Amazon, I may need to make up to 4 different "types" of shipments:

  1. not oversized, and don't need a label
  2. not oversized, but DO need a label
  3. oversized, and don't need a label
  4. oversized, but DO need a label.

How do you avoid this?

Well...you don't. Not unless you want to walk away from a good deal from some stuff that may need a bif of extra processing on your part to ship for FBA.

Yes, it can be a serious pain, but I get a lot of good stuff to sell, and it sells well and for a decent profit, so I guess I'll put up with the hassle.

Hmmm...........profit.............what a great topic for another discussion!!!!!

Just woke up...gotta pack some stuff to ship.

OK, so I really wanted to have this blog be about selling on-line. So here is at least one entry about that topic...finally.

I have about 30 things I need to pack up and ship off to Amazon. I use their Fulfillment program which is fantastic. I ship them the stuff and when it gets sold, they pack and ship it for me. Not a particularly cheap program, but it has a lot of good points:

  • it saves me a lot of time by not having to pack a lot of small orders
  • sales are strong since they get free shipping
  • I get the coveted "Buy Box" a lot more often
  • I can actually charge more than other sellers b/c of the free shipping and that Amazon ships it for them.
So even though it costs me extra to have AZ ship for me, I can charge more to easily cover the extra cost. Nice!!!

So today I have to ship some summer things off. I got motorized bumper boats for the pool which are pretty cool. They are selling on AZ for like $120 each. I got a few for $20 a pop.

I use UPS, which offers me really cheap shipping when I ship stuff to AZ. Like REAL cheap. Like a 40-pound box costs like $9 for shipping!

Monday, June 15, 2009

ebid, wagglepop, blah blah blah

So...who's in competition with ebay?

Well, nobody, really.


Well, there are sites out there that let you auction off your grandma's old knick-knacks, but they are all pretty bad. Bad as in not known, not a lot of listings, sometimes just plain ugly.

There's ebid, for example. Hate it. Sorry to be so blunt. Looks confusing. Not really a great selection. Horribly policed. Looked under collectible lamps and found 2 cheap new radios...both with no pics!!

There's wagglepop. Oh, wait. No there isn't. Wagglepop is going under on 6/30/09. Some would say good riddance. They came storming out of the gate with their "we're gonna beat ebay attitude" and prompty ticked off their new-found customer base with poor support and no advertising for the site.

There's CQout. Decent site, but the prices are all in pounds, even when I change to the US listings. Decent # of listings, but not much impressive stuff.

There's blujay, whose home page has a showcase of items hovering around $3 each. I did find some decent, impressive items, but not lots. Besides, they don't do auctions.

So in general there is no "next ebay" on the horizon.

But don't fret. There are some decent alternatives slowly rising.

So....seriously...is ebay going bye-bye?


ebay going under is like GM going.....no...ummm, like Chrysler going under....no....ummm.

Let's start again.

ebay going under ain't gonna happen for many moons. It's still making oodles of money on those really cheap hdmi cables I mentioned a while ago. It has like 20 MILLION listings and people are still selling on there.

But of those still selling, the ultra-mega-super sellers are making a fortune. The little guys aren't (for the most part).

Remember, though, that the auction model (I think at least as far as ebay thinks) is dead. People don't want to wait 7 days to win something, only to have someone snipe in the last 2 seconds (which by the way was THE MOST FUN you could have on ebay in the first place!).

Personally, I disagree. The auction format is alive and well (there are about 40 live local auctions going on this Saturday ALONE just within 30 miles of my house).

But it took ebay years to become known. Other sites will take even longer, since they have two battles:

1. Getting their name known/reputation established
2. Fighting the current "I hate getting stuff on ebay" mentality.

So...who's in the running?

See my next post.

So...seriously...what's up with ebay?

I love this topic!!!

You'll get so many answers on this, you'll end up not knowing what to think.

So please...allow me to add to the confusion.

In a nutshell:

ebay built its rep on the auction format, selling everything from Jesus toast to plain used household goods.

Then it got big...REAL big. It still sold used toasters, but now it's selling $800 vintage stereos, $500 lamps, and it became a kind of antique mall. All with auctions.

Then it wanted to get bigger. So it let sellers open stores. So all sorts of antique "stores" and new goods "stores" opened up.

Does anyone know about the standard curve EVERY business goes through? Infancy/growth/maturity/death...or something like that. ebay started to mature...not a bad thing...and it could have stayed a successful, mature company. Just not as much stellar growth.

Sorry...not good enough. Hence...ebay canada, ebay spain, ebay china, ebay togo, ebay everywhere. Too many ebays.

And...too many sellers. Too many people selling the same thing (look up "6 foot hdmi cable" to see what I mean).

So it got too big and too large to manage.

"hey, I got an idea. what if we got rid of the gazillion small sellers and get in a small handful of BIG sellers! We can have billions of listings with just a thousand or so sellers to worry about."

So it decided to not just change a bit, but overhaul itself in the eyes of the public...ebay was to become (cue horns that play when the king arrives): THE NEXT AMAZON.

Of course, their first try at this (ebay express) failed horribly.

But try again they did.

And it's not working either.

So...NOW...they want to be (cue them horns again): THE NEXT OVERSTOCK.

Yes..it's true. They wanted to be another AZ. Now they want to be the next OS. For real. Not kidding.

And all the little sellers can say is "Can we have the OLD ebay back?"

Yes, of course you can.

It just won't be called ebay.



Hey, just started this blog today, June 14th.

Yeah...I know. I'm a bit behind / everyone's already got a blog / blogs have been done to death / blogs are so yesterday / why aren't you on twitter instead...and so on.

OK, there's one reason for this blog: just to let people get a little insight into selling stuff on-line.

From time to time, I'll go in here and let you know about sites I've tried, products I've founds, success stories, failures (lots of those!!!), money issues...just about anything someone who might be interested in selling stuff on-line might like to know.

Stay tuned! Maybe I'll actually keep up on this!!!!

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