Thursday, November 19, 2009

An eBay dilemma, and glow in the dark stuff

Okay, so I had this brilliant idea that I should get some glow in the dark yarn. I had seen some on sale at Michael's last year, but by the time I got to the store they were all sold out. So I didn't get any last Halloween, but I didn't think that was my only chance at getting the stuff. I thought that either it was just a new product and I would see it later, or maybe it was a seasonal thing that they only sold at Halloween.

Turns out that I was wrong on both counts, and that Michael's probably got that yarn at a discount because Bernat was discontinuing the product. So there was no glow in the dark yarn for sale later in the year, and it did not re-appear on the shelves in October like I had thought. A few online places still had some, but I didn't have the money for all the yarn I wanted and the shipping.

While I was waiting for there to be more money available, the online place sold out of half the colors, mostly the half that I wanted to buy.

Then I found some on eBay. I didn't want to get in a big bidding war over a product I hadn't even tried yet, but I did get a little bit for a reasonable price, and then the shipping wasn't bad (though not as good as just being able to pick it up at the store and not pay shipping).

So I have nice things to say about the eBay merchant, but the yarn itself was a total disappointment. There was a reason the stuff was discontinued. It doesn't work. Or at least, it doesn't work very well. I bought yellow, and it was more like yellow with an off-white streak. Only the off-white streak glows, not the whole piece of yarn. And then it doesn't glow for very long, maybe about five minutes.

Of course, it says that it will glow five minutes right on the label, so maybe if I had bought it at a store I would have noticed that. And maybe if I had bought it at a store last year I would have taken the stuff back for a refund. As it is I am keeping the stuff, cause it isn't worth the postage to send it back if I could get a refund.

A few other companies sell glow in the dark yarn, but most of them sell to sports stores for stuff like catching fish, and I have heard that it doesn't smell wonderful. And there is one company that sells directly to clothing manufacturers, but unless someone has leftover stock to put on eBay, I don't see how I'm going to get any of that either.

So before I totally gave up on the idea of having glow in the dark yarn, I decided to try getting some glow in the dark paint from Michael's and trying to make my own glow in the dark yarn. Not that I was going to make a lot of it. Not like I was going to make a whole glow in the dark sweater or scarf, but I might want some glow in the dark letters or glow in the dark cat eyes or something like that.

Okay, so I can make tiny bits of glow in the dark yarn with paint from Michael's. Except that it is very stiff when I get done making it, so it isn't going to be easy to knit with. And it isn't especially pretty in the daylight. And it lasts longer than five minutes, though maybe not as long as I might have liked.

So, I tried ordering some glow in dark paint on eBay. This was supposed to be some great new stuff that would glow much longer than the stuff from Michael's. And it came in more colors, and I would really like blue, and Michael's didn't have blue. So, I bid on a few things.

Now, if you buy something on eBay (or from anyone else online or from a catalog) you have to pay shipping and handling. Now, this might just mean whatever the actual postage is. Or, more likely, this is the actual postage plus the cost of the box (or envelope) and the packing materials. And sometimes it means the actual postage plus the cost of the box and the packing materials, and something for the time of the person having to pack the stuff, cause they don't work for free.

Here's where it gets interesting (and really, really upsetting if you bid on something before you read everything). On eBay, eBay gets paid (by the seller) fees for listing the item and for having pictures of the item, etc...and maybe there's also a percentage of the final sell price. The listing fees are smaller for items with lower opening bids. So, there are items with opening bids of one cent or ninety-nine cents, and while the bidding usually goes higher, sometimes the items actually sell at the opening bid.

Okay, for the most part, sellers on eBay are not running charities. They don't want to pay thirty cents in listing fees so that you can buy something for a nickel. They don't want to sell stuff for a dollar and not make any profit. And they for sure don't want to lose money at the end of the day, even if you are a really nice person and just love whatever they are selling.

So, maybe, that silver ring that you won for a bid of fifty cents has a shipping fee of six dollars. That means that you just bought a silver ring for six dollars and fifty cents. A silver ring for six dollars and fifty cents doesn't sound too bad. If it sounds like a good deal to you, that's great. If that isn't what you wanted to pay, too bad, you should have read that stuff before you bid on the ring.

Of course, the actual postage for the ring was less than a dollar. The box and/or envelope and packaging materials were also less than a dollar. Maybe the seller actual paid a dollar or so for the ring. So if the seller's expenses were about three dollars, then the seller made a profit of three dollars and fifty cents from your winning bid of fifty cents.

I don't think that is so bad. I don't think the seller is evil. The seller is just trying to make some money, and that is probably not an unreasonable amount of money.

If the shipping was fifty dollars, that would have been an unreasonable amount of money. But you should have read what the shipping was before you bid on it. If you bid on things first and then try to negotiate less shipping afterward, it is probably you who is being unreasonable.

Sometimes a seller will do combined shipping. Maybe the first silver ring is shipped for six dollars, and up to three more rings could be shipped for an additional four dollars each. The seller is probably going to make an additional three dollars profit each on those. But that is the limit. The seller really wants that three dollars profit. You can't assume that the seller is going to get you a better deal than that, even if you buy more stuff.

And if you really think that the seller is going to put two dozen silver rings (especially silver rings that you had winning bids of about fifty cents) in a flat rate box that would only cost six dollars to ship and then only actually charge you that same six dollars for the shipping...are you really that dumb? Why would anyone send you a box of two dozen silver rings for eighteen dollars? Did you think someone really had a business set up to give away jewelry like that? Did the seller suddenly decide that silver rings were so unpleasant to have around that he would rather pay to have them sent away than to have them around anymore?

Several years ago I bought a lot of jewelry from this one seller. Opening bids were usually a penny or a nickel, and I usually stopped bidding between a dollar or two. Shipping was five dollars. They would combine shipping for up to three items at no extra cost. If I won something that I really wanted for two dollars or less, I would then put minimum bids on other things until I had won two more items, so then I usually got three items for six or seven dollars. So I usually got the items for an average of two dollars and twenty-five cents. Most of them I wanted, but once in a while I bought either something that I already had or a ring that didn't fit me. I figured that I could either sell it myself or give it to a friend. I got a lot of my Christmas shopping done early that way.

I was probably not that seller's favorite buyer, at an average of two twenty-five per item they were not making much money from me. But I usually got what I wanted and it was delivered in a reasonable amount of time and all of that. I left them positive feedback, and they did the same for me. Unfortunately, after years of mostly positive feedback from people who either had a brain and read the listings, or else didn't mind paying five dollars shipping, the seller got a lot of negative feedback and they don't sell on eBay anymore. I hope that they got a new name and tried again. I really liked them. Not that I need any jewelry at the moment, but it would be nice if they were around if I wanted something later.

Back to the glow in the dark stuff.

I had seen a few sellers on eBay with this glow in the dark paint that is supposed to be much better than the stuff I was buying from Michael's. I noticed one seller a while back, and I planned to buy stuff from them as soon as I got some money. Most of their stuff started with a ninety-nine cent opening bid, and they wanted six dollars shipping for the first item, and three dollars for each additional item, up to whatever you might buy for the next fourteen days.

By the time I actually bid on anything, the shipping had gone up a bit. Six ninety-five for the first item and three fifty-five for the additional items. Still, not too bad if the product actually does what I want it to do.

I started biding. I bid too much for the purple, but at the time, I really thought I wanted it. After that I would bid a bit more than the opening bid, and if I didn't get it, no big deal, there was something else to bid on tomorrow.

I didn't win something, but I got a second chance offer to buy it for just under three dollars. I probably didn't think about that too much before I agreed. Then I won three more. So I won five colors for about eleven or twelve dollars, and the shipping I had agreed to was like nineteen dollars, so I actually spent just over thirty-one dollars. The actually cost of postage is under three dollars, a bit more for the bubble-wrap envelope, and about fifteen dollars went into the seller's pocket. The seller is not really interested in my artistic efforts, the seller is trying to make some money.

So that was a bit more than I wanted to pay, but if the paint does what I want it to do, it would be worth that.

So the items came yesterday, and I am supposed to leave feedback. The seller has already left me positive feedback for prompt payment and so forth.

I am not sure what I am going to do.

The clear-day/green-night paint, which I bought as an afterthought due to the second chance offer, is excellent. It might actually glow all night as advertised. I meant to test it, but I forgot and turned on the bathroom light this morning, and now it is slightly recharged. Anyway, even if it doesn't glow fourteen hours as promised, it does glow quite a lot, and I think that it will work very well for me. I want more of this stuff.

The other colors aren't what I had hoped for.

Still in the tube, the other colors don't do much of anything. I am trying not to rush to judgement, and I have read that the colors glow better once they are actually painted on something rather than just in the tube, and that they glow better after the paint has dried for a few days, and that the paint is best over something white and doesn't work very well on something black, and that the painted item might need a thicker coat of paint or a second coat, and that if I want it to stay looking really good I should put a clear coat over it.

So I have done a test strip with the blue and the aqua. They do seem to glow better after they have dried, though they do not look as good as the test strips from the stuff I got from Michael's. They will probably need a second coat, which will mean that I will only have about half as much finished yarn to work with, or I will have to buy twice as much paint. And while the yarn isn't as stiff now as the other test strips, it will be stiffer after a second coat. As for putting a clear coat on top, that might make the yarn mostly unusable.

But my problems with painting yarn are my problems, not the seller's. The seller didn't tell me to try to paint yarn.

Anyway, I think that I'm going to have to test all of the paint, two coats each, and let them thoroughly dry for about a week before I can really see what I am getting. But here is what I can tell from the two test strips so far. The blue and the aqua do not glow blue and aqua. They glow that same greenish yellow that I got from the clear-day/green-night color, and it just looks like most every other glow in the dark thing that I have. So that is very disappointing, even if it does eventually glow for a long time as promised.

But they do look very blue and aqua under black light. But I wasn't really planning to carry a black light around with my knitting projects, and I doubt that the people I might give the finished projects to would carry a black light around with them either.

Okay, I am not returning the items. That is not even an option. If I had bought them in a store, I would probably take them all back except for the green and exchange them for more green. But I didn't buy them at a store, I bought them online, and if I asked for a refund I wouldn't get back the shipping, plus I would have to pay three dollars to have the items shipped back, plus I would probably be charged a restocking fee. So that would eat almost half of what I would get back anyway.

And I really think the green is pretty good, and I might want to buy more of it later. I don't want to leave really negative feedback, or they won't want to sell me anymore paint. And I'm not going to complain about the shipping, because I'm not an idiot, and I get that the shipping was really for the profit that they should have made from the paint itself. I just don't know what to put about the item being as described. One of the items does seem to be exactly as described, but I'm just not sure about the rest.


dmarks said...

Looking at the summary in the last paragraph, the "item as described" thing is not nearly as devastating to a seller as a neg. feedback is. Not by a long shot. It's just a buyer matter of clicking one of the 5 stars, and based on that, the summary-star they will show will change slightly. If they are a high volume seller, it won't change that much at all.

And since it is not all-or-nothing like positive-vs-negative feedback, you can leave them a "three star" which is a moderate rating. And that sounds kind of close to your satisfaction, anyway.

dmarks said...

Also, you can gently email the seller that the other paint isn't that good. They might have no idea themself (maybe being a seller who pushes a lot of paint through and doesn't test it) and might appreciate the knowledge.

And they might offer you a good deal on the good paint later.

You might get a friendly response, or you might get ignored. As an eBay seller, I always respond to stuff like that (and in fact, I sometimes just offer a full refund... cost of doing business that not every transaction goes perfectly).

laughingattheslut said...

From the few negative comments they have received in the past, I think that they do not answer email, much less do anything nice for the people who send them.

And they have to know already about the paint. This isn't something that they got a thrift store and then tried to resell. They have a website, and advice on how to use the products, etc....

And they have to have done some trick photography for their ads, which show glowing jars of paint, and the actual paint doesn't look like that at all.

The majority of their negative comments are not about the products, but about the postage and a few lost/and or damaged packages. And it looks like the people who did complain about the products might have purchased the colors red and orange, which only glows for a few minutes. Pink, yellow, and white are only said to glow for an hour or two, but again, if you read the whole listing you would find that out before you bid.

Blue and aqua were supposed to be nearly as good as the green, and so far they are not, so that was a major disappointment, as was the fact that the glow all seems to be the same and not the color I thought I was going to get.

Since most people seem to be happy with the products, I'm hoping that I will like mine better in a week or so after I've had time to test it more.

dmarks said...

They sound like a high-volume seller. And it sounds like they do some tricky things with the listings, and their customer response (communication) is poor.

The star feedback system is completely anonymous, so you can leave your opinions there without any fear of reprisal (like blocked bids in the future)

Ananda girl said...

I agree with dmarks. I'm not an ebay user, but what he says makes good sense.

Anonymous said...

It is rather interesting for me to read that blog. Thanx for it. I like such topics and everything that is connected to this matter. I would like to read more on that blog soon.

Tee aka The Diva's Thoughts said...

I had no idea there were glow in the dark yarn out there. Hmmmm....

laughingattheslut said...

It does get interesting. If you go to eBay, and do a search for glow in the dark yarn, you will probably see a picture of a certain knitted male undergarment.