Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Attempting to get rich on eBay

My husband sold stuff on eBay until just recently, and before that he sold used books on amazon. And I was never sure we were actually making any money. I can see he made money on individual items, but I'm not sure we made money over all. He does the taxes, and there's usually profit of a few thousand dollars, but I just have to believe that he's put in the right numbers. Sometime, I don't think he did.

One year he did the taxes, and he came up with a profit of only five hundred dollars or so, when it had been like five thousand the year before. So I said he should stop if he did all that work and invested all that money for a five hundred dollar profit. So he went back and looked at the thing again, decided he hadn't filled out the forms right, and came back with a three thousand dollar profit. Sometimes I think he lied to me and paid taxes on a profit he didn't make rather than admit it wasn't going to work out and give up the business. And even if he didn't do that deliberately, I still think that he didn't count every little thing and that he'didn't really make all that money like he thought he did. I don't think he has any way of figuring in the gas, and I don't think he has figured out how much time it takes him to do all that or if the profit is enough compensation for that amount of work.

Some people have suggested that I sell scarves on eBay. It's not really a good idea if I'm trying to make money. I'd need to charge too much money for the ones I'm doing now. I need more than two skeins of yarn at 2.29 each, so to be on the safe side I get four. I could do two scarves with six skeins of yarn, so let's say that it takes six dollars of yarn for one scarf. It takes about two hours for me to knit a stripe, and there's fifteen stripes, and then I have to do the fringe. So for more than thirty hours work I'd want like three hundred dollars per scarf. Obviously, I wouldn't get that much for them. I donated one to an auction with a couple of dollars worth of candy and some nice wrapping stuff, and the winning bid was $43. So, that would work out to about a dollar an hour. I'm going to eventually try a machine scarf, but I haven't done it yet so I don't know if that will work out either.

But, let's say that I could come up with something that took me an hour or so to make, and that with the cost of supplies and everything I made a few things that I sold to friends for twenty dollars and thought that was adequate compensation. If I start trying to sell the same item on eBay for the same $20, I'm not going to have the same profit margin, if I make a profit at all. Now, if I've spent about six dollars in supplies and sold the thing for $20, I'd have $14 left. But now if I put the thing on eBay, I have to pay all sorts of fees. Now there are different fees depending on what you want to do, but my husband usually spent about a dollar to list each item. There are fees depending on how many pictures you have of the item and other things that you do to make your listing look nice. There are different fees depending on how much the starting bid is. If you have a low starting bid, you have a lower fee for that, but then someone might actually have a winning bid that is lower than what you wanted to sell the item for. There's a reserve bid thing, but I don't really know how that works and there's probably a fee for that too. So you'd probably start off with an opening bid of $20 (or $19.99 is probably going to save you some money on the fee). Maybe there's another fee depending on the winning bid, but I don't remember. So now maybe the week has gone by and you didn't get any bids, so you lost your dollar or so in fees. Or maybe you got one bid, but the buyer changed his mind, and you're still out the fees. Or maybe you sold the thing for $19.99, and the buyer pays, and you are happy. Or maybe the thing sold for more than the opening bid, and then you are really happy.

But let's say that it sold for $20 and you spent $6 on supplies and $1 on fees. Now you have to ship the thing. You should have already figured out how much that was going to be and had a way to add that to the bill. If, for some reason, you added a shipping amount that was too low, you are stuck with it anyway. You can explain to the buyer that you need more money, but he's really not obligated to send it to you. If you agreed to sell for $20 plus $5 shipping and the postage is $7, then you're out the extra $2. There are probably some exceptions, like if you only listed domestic postage and the buyer lives somewhere else, but probably you'll just mutually agree to cancel the sale rather than pay international shipping, and again you are out $1 in eBay fees for an item that did not sell.

There is also such a thing as an eBay store, but I do not know what is involved with that or what kind of fees that would require. But if you have a store you don't necessarily have to have things that people bid on and the items can be for sell for as long as you want rather than be on auction for a week.

Then there are the other costs of shipping not included in the actual postage, and if you didn't raise the shipping fee yourself to include that, again, you're not going to get paid for it. For instance, you need a box to send the thing in. If you deal exclusively in priority mail, that comes with a free box, but it may not come in a size that you like. Also, there are a couple of priority boxes that have a set price for the box, and you need to be aware of those. So you might have to spend some money on a box if maybe your item is really big or an odd shape. But other than that, you can get a couple of different size boxes and ship the items in those, but you will still have to buy packing tape and perhaps buy plastic bags or bubble wrap or tissue paper, and those you will have to provide yourself. Then, there is the time and gas money that you spent going to get the packing tape and bubble wrap and such, and the time you spent actually packing the item.

There is also the time spent at the post office. We always went to the post office, but you can make arrangements to have packages picked up. We would have needed to buy special equipment to do that, so we never tried it that way. If you are only selling a few specific items, and you know exactly how much each thing weighs after it has been packaged, that shouldn't be as much of a problem. You could make a trip to the post office once a year or so to make sure what the postage is for one of item A to be sent to different regions, and then what is the postage for two of item A, and what is the postage for one of item A and one of item B, etc....And then you'd only have to make special trips to the post office when there's a change in postage rates or an unusual order or when you've agreed to international shipping.

Now, assuming that you already have a computer and a printer, you are going to have more wear and tear on the machines, and need extra paper and ink to print labels and receipts and such.

Now, I have no idea how much all of that would really add to the cost of the item, but let's say you now want $25 for the item that you used to sell for $20. So now maybe it doesn't seem like such a good deal to the buyers, and they stop buying. And now maybe you are stuck with a lot of packing tape and such that you'll never use and you're out some fees before you gave up on the idea. I think you have to decide ahead of time what is a reasonable amount of money and time to risk and then be willing to just throw that away if it doesn't work out. If you don't decide that first, you'll always be trying to do it a little bit longer and maybe it would still work out but maybe not. You'd just never know when to quit if you didn't decide that sort of thing a head of time.

There is also the eBay rating system to deal with. Everyone who buys something from you is supposed to rate you as positive, neutral, or negative, and you are supposed to do the same for all of your buyers. You would think that neutral would be okay, but somehow when the numbers are added up, neutral is bad, and negative is doubly bad. If you do not get straight positive feedback, your rating will not be good, and without a good rating the smart customers will not buy from you. And there are a lot of people out there that will buy once or twice but don't use eBay enough to know this, and you could get a bad rating through no fault of your own.

But, all of that being said, if I could make something in an hour with $6 of materials that I think I could get $20 to $25 for on eBay, I'm probably still going to try it. But I won't waste too much time trying to make it work, and I have the added benefit of already having someone who knows all this stuff and could initially do some of the work for me.

I don't know if any of that helped, especially since I wasn't the one actually doing all of this stuff and I don't specially know what any of the fees are. But a friend asked about it, and I thought I should post it here as well just in case it could help someone else.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Bad News

Today I got some bad news. I'm pretending that it doesn't mean what it probably means. I shouldn't have to deal with this just before Christmas. I shouldn't have to deal with this at all. But right now it especially sucks.

I won't have a clue what I'm supposed to do about this until next week. And even then, I probably still won't know.

I was starting to feel better about things just before Thanksgiving. Now I think the next three months or so are going to be really depressing. And I'm probably not even going to have a nice Christmas to look back on.

Not to worry. It's not as bad as it could be. Nobody is dying or anything like that.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Ongoing discussions about the Halloween Party

A few of my friends got together Saturday, and the conversation eventually turned to the Halloween party.

Now this isn't as strange as it sounds, even though it is now December. We were just now getting to look at some pictures of the party that one of my friends just had developed. So the conversation started out nice enough, but they very quickly got around to complaining about it.

So one of my friends is just really unhappy that everything at the club is being turned into a fundraiser, and most of those funds end up going toward the Halloween party. The thing that got him started on that was the club gift exchange, or maybe I should say, the official gift exchange, since some of us will be exchanging more gifts afterwards. So, on the 16th, those of us who want to participate will bring a wrapped gift that costs between $10-$20, with exceptions being made to accept baked goods from a few people who have real talent in that area. So we place the gift on the appropriate table, and then we draw numbers. The person with the smallest number picks a gift, opens it in front of everyone, then sets down and the person with the next smallest number picks up a gift and opens it. Or if someone before you got something that you really like, you can "steal" it, and that person can go and open another gift. There are some rules about how many times a certain gift and change hands and how many times a person can have a gift "stolen", but I forget the exact rules for that.

The thing that has my friend upset, is that now there is a fundraiser associated with the gift exchange. Once you have a gift that you want to keep, you can purchase "theft insurance" for one dollar, and then you get to keep that gift even if someone else wants to take it.

But that fundraiser wasn't even for the Halloween Party. That money went to a needy family that we were trying to cheer up because one of them had cancer. And it's just costs a dollar. It's no big deal. And the needy family got an extra twenty-five dollars or so towards whatever else they might have wanted. It's not the same thing at all as a Halloween party fundraiser.

And as for the other fundraisers, I think that they're fun. But to be truthful, I've never had the winning bid on anything, and I've only recently started donating things. I haven't participated in them near as much as my friend, and I can see that after all of this time he might be tired of the whole thing.

But really, if that's the way you feel about it, just don't bid on anything, and don't contribute anything. If others feel the same those particular fundraisers will go away entirely. If not, they will continue on just fine without your help, and you can either watch other people have fun or find something else to do that day.

So my other friend has a whole different set of problems with the Halloween party.

She also has a problem with the fundraisers. Not so much that we have fund raisers, but that we still have to buy tickets after we've had all these fundraisers. She thinks that we should either have a free party or at least really cheap tickets so that more people will come. And this year, in addition to having all these fundraisers, our friend who doesn't like the fundraisers did the music himself and we didn't spend waste money on a DJ. So we had fundraisers and we didn't have a DJ, so why were the tickets so expensive? It just doesn't seem to register that the club could still do something else with that money, or that maybe the tickets will cost less next year because we've got money left over from this year. Besides, I think some other problem has come up, and the club is going to be spending about an extra six hundred dollars next year, and we need to hold on to some of this money just in case.

I think her main concern is that she doesn't think it was a good party unless there were a lot of people dancing. She remembers fifteen years ago or whenever the first party was, and everyone came to dance and they only bought the food so that they'd have enough energy to keep dancing. And that's what she wants it to be now, a party with a bunch of people dancing in elaborate costumes. And this year there just weren't many people dancing, or the year before, and probably the year before that.

To be honest, I don't much remember a lot of people dancing since 9-11. Since the party is at a government building, 9-11 did kind of put a damper on things. But I still don't think she should get all upset about people not dancing.

To begin with, this is not the same exact group from years ago. I think the guy who started the party has died. I certainly have not seen him in many years, and he was never in good health even back then. So a lot of the people who really liked to dance have either moved away or just have other things that keep them busy. Or maybe they like dancing so much that they spend more of their time doing just that, and they don't have time for the club anymore.

I personally do not dance much. I dance a couple of times at this party and a bit at the New Year's party, and that is all. Dancing wasn't allowed at all when I was younger, and I found I didn't have much use for it in college either. To tell the truth, dancing in public is a bit of a headache. Other people like to dance with music that is much louder than I enjoy. So even during that brief time in my life that I wanted to go out and dance, I just couldn't do it much because of the noise level. So, I do not go to party to dance. In fact, I am one of those people who buys a ticket not to use the dance floor, but to eat. My friend just hates that.

So the party now has a different group of people, and some of them just don't like to dance. And the other thing is, even though there are still a lot of people from the original group, it's fifteen years later, and maybe dancing just isn't their thing anymore. And, some of them do go to eat, and some of them go to enter the costume contest or the weird food contest or some other contest. And some of them just go to talk to their friends and watch other people and don't dance and don't even enter a contest. Some of them don't wear great costumes. Some of them don't wear any costumes.

Personally, I don't know why a person would want to go to this particular party if they don't wear a costume, but there's not a rule against it.

So my friend hates that no one was dancing, and I said why weren't you dancing more, and she said she didn't want to be the only one out there. So if you don't like dancing enough that you won't do it without a bunch of other people dancing too, and you are the main one complaining about people not dancing, maybe there just shouldn't be dancing. Get over it.

The other thing that had her upset this time was that no one was mingling. People got some food and sat down at a table with some friends and didn't mingle. It's a party and they're supposed to be mingling. She thinks this happened because there wasn't a DJ, and her solution to the problem is to turn up the volume and point the speakers right at the tables, so people can't hear themselves talk at the tables and they'll have to get up and walk around a bit. And, while they're standing up, they might want to go dance. She thinks it's a party and people shouldn't just sit at a table and talk to their friends.

But it's their party too. If they want to sit at a table and eat and talk to their friends and not participate in any of the contests, they can do that. Get over it already. It's the Halloween Party, not the Halloween Dance.

No more stress about my in-laws

Yesterday was good except for getting a little irritated at my husband for his absolute refusal to be an active participant in the whole Christmas season bit. I wanted him to go into Bath & Body Works with me as sort of a guinea pig. Try this on. If you were a guy, which you are, would you like this? Or do guys totally have to have unscented things? If you like cucumber-melon soap, does that also mean that you would like cucumber-melon lotion? Do you think my brother-in-law would like this? Would your brother like any of this? And while we're here, is there anything here that you especially like? I've already got you something, but I might be persuaded to get you something extra.

But no, he won't get out of the car. Now that we've already gone to the bookstore, and I've already gone with him to some camera place that I could care less about, and we have twenty minutes or so to kill before dinner so we might as well find something to do, he can't go with me to a store to do some actual Christmas shopping. He has to stay in the car and listen to a football game, which was not of any real importance to him when we were in the camera store.

The whole football thing has been mildly annoying. When we were dating he told me that he didn't even like football. Not the biggest lie he told me back then, but still a lie that influenced by decision to be with him. But usually, he doesn't really insist on watching it unless it's the Superbowl or something, and just having it on in the background while I'm reading or something else isn't that bad. But this year he has been more annoying than usual with the whole football thing, and seriously, you can't watch the game from with the car radio anyway.

The good news is that after seventeen years of marriage and stressing about the whole what do I get his family for Christmas, I don't have to worry about that anymore. There's this whole story about how that started, but I'll write that some other time. Let's just say that not only does he usually refuse to help me do the actual Christmas shopping, he's not even much help trying to figure out what anyone in his family might want for Christmas, and he can't be bothered to call and find out what their holiday plans are. So we often get invited to things at the last minute, that I am in no way prepared for.

This year he has decided that except for me and one brother, he doesn't have a family. They are dead to him, they don't exist, and we will not be doing any holiday stuff with them ever again. So except for that one brother, I no longer have to do any Christmas shopping for them, or wonder if I should make an extra dessert in case we go to someone's house, or even keep an evening open for them. I'm done with that. No more stressing about the in-laws.

I kind of thought this was coming last year, since after his mother died I thought he might take the opportunity to quit pretending to care about the rest of them. Which he more or less did, but he didn't actually come out an make an announcement. He just figured they'd get the hint and not get him anything for Christmas. But, having heard of no chance in plans, most of us went through this rather odd gift exchange through the one brother he actually does care about.

This year, I won't even have to do that. Which is great, and it leaves me more energy to think about what I'm getting my friends.