Just 2 posts in 2010?! Well Here’s #2 for 2011 Explaining My Absence

So I dusted off The Collectors Site this week to plug eCom Connections, the new ecommerce podcast from my friends Karen Locker and Kat Simpson and I was shocked to see I posted a whopping two times here in 2010. Twice. What the hell am I paying hosting fees for, jeeze.

The Collectors Site is intended to be my place to post about e-commerce and in its most recent incarnation anything that pleases me. Apparently I haven’t had much to say.

I’m actually more humored than bothered by my disappearance as it at least followed naturally from my New Year’s mantra of a year ago to shut the hell up and sell. Now I haven’t been entirely quiet as I continue to post regularly on Immortal Ephemera, my Classic Movie Star and Collectibles site, and even once or twice monthly on Warren-William.com, my fan site in tribute to 1930s and 40s film star (insert drumroll) Warren William, but I’ve got to make a living and in response to tough times I figured shutting the hell up about selling and actually proceeding to sell was my best bet.

A key factor in keeping my mouth shut has been in circling my wagons and selling where things actually sell. Sorry folks, that’d be eBay. I closed up shop everywhere else (I do still have some non-vintage items on Amazon, only because they’re more or less held hostage by FBA) and stopped experimenting. That’s a little lie, I did try out Ruby Lane again for a couple of months in 2010 after caving into fond memories of monies made there in 2005 and ’06. It just took two months to remember why I left, if you’re familiar with the site I’ll just say that the exclusivity rules are a bummer. But also in 2010 I finally, no FINALLY, found the right off-eBay platform for me, and believe it or not I actually found two and spent several months deciding on which one I’d use. The winner was Ecwid, which is now heavily ingrained across the Immortal Ephemera site, but Highwire, formerly BISI, came in a very close second. I’d recommend either to sellers such as myself who have thousands of lower-priced unique items, total bang for your buck in either case.

I’ve got to step back another year though to fully explain my absence from The Collectors Site and writing about e-commerce in general. Throughout a good part of 2009 I was writing a regular Classic Movie column for the Examiner.com and decided by the end of the year to apply for a second topic, E-commerce. I kept it up for two weeks, maybe even a little less, then totally abandoned it (since I’ve completely abandoned Examiner.com which has turned into a site I can’t even read without crashing my computer anymore, a hellhole of ads of all kinds, big thumbs down!). I stopped because I decided to shut the hell up and sell instead.

I actually scrapped this entire site for a few days. That’s why it has the plain jane default WordPress theme now, at the last second I just said what the hell and put it all back up. In between I killed all of my feeds losing the few subscribers I did have and so I write this as though I’m writing to myself and for all I know I may be. Over the years these posts have moved around on many sites, but they always seem to wind up back here and since this URL has some age to it I may as well keep ‘er up.

I figured I’d continue to write about e-commerce as I liked to write about, little usable tid bits of info that I felt might help smaller sellers such as myself. Again I did that twice last year. I also fell out of the loop of reading ecommerce blogs somewhat as some of my favorites went away and others had gaps in between reportage. I think those gaps were likely caused by the same thing that caused my own e-commerce outage, the stabilization of eBay. Oh I hear the catcalls now, but I’m talking about eBay news, not eBay problems. We can all bitch about DSRs til the cows come home (huh?), but it’s just the same exact bitching we’ve been doing for a few years now. Most of the changes we didn’t like have either long ago killed your business or more optimistically have been adapted and adjusted to by those who continue to sell on the site, either way, there’s no new take on it after all this time.

So I probably should have checked in sometime in 2010 to tell you about Ecwid, but otherwise I don’t think I missed too much. I’m not going to make any kind of meaningful pledge to post here going forward, but I will say that this is still going to be my spot for posting about non Classic Movie related things, especially those little a-ha moments I have when working on something online, moments I think might help other little guys like me.

Talk to you soon?

Posted in Cliff Says | 1 Comment

Introducing eCom Connections

So I laid low over the holidays barely even taking a peek at Twitter and Facebook, but one of the first items of interest I spot upon logging back into Twitter on January 2nd was a tweet from my friend Karen Locker about favoriting a YouTube video for something called eCom Connections. Upon playing the video I was delighted to discover that Karen and Kat Simpson, another social media buddy of mine, are going to be co-hosting a brand new ecommerce podcast!

Here’s the skinny, straight from the eCom Connections press release:

eCom Connections: New Podcast Creates Connections for eCommerce Success

Debuting Monday, January 10, 2011, at 12:00 noon Central Standard Time, the eCom Connections podcast will bring together ecommerce experts to assist listeners in achieving ecommerce success.

Kat Simpson and Karen Locker will host this weekly podcast, which will feature leading authorities in the many areas relating to ecommerce for the edification of listeners. From bookkeeping to taxes, social media to marketing, eCom Connections will cover it all.

ECom Connections will be a general ecommerce podcast benefiting both the budding entrepreneur and the seasoned online seller. It will keep sellers up to date on the ever-changing landscape of ecommerce, such as what venue to try next or how best to use social media to market an ecommerce business. ECom Connections will connect ecommerce sellers with the knowledge and experience of experts in their fields to help listeners make sound business decisions.

Guests for the month of January include Cliff Ennico (small-business lawyer and bestselling author of The eBay Seller’s Tax and Legal Answer Book); Marsha Collier (technology whiz and bestselling author of the eBay for Dummies series); Cathi Aiello of Allegro Accounting; and Randy Smythe of buy.com. The podcast is scheduled to run from 12:00pm to 1pm CST every Monday.

Co-hosts Kat Simpson and Karen Locker can be found on twitter as @theKATsimpson and @karenlocker. ECom Connections is on Facebook @ http://facebook.com/ecomconnections. The eCom Connections blog is located at http://ecomconnections.com. For a direct link to the podcast on Talkshoe, go to http://eccradio.com.

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eBay Collectors Blog Blowing Mainstream Opportunity to Attract Collectors

Well, I’d all but killed this particular site, but in the end decided to leave it open just so I’d have a space to go off-topic. I host images on this domain anyway, no harm in having a blog attached for the occasional spouting off. So tonight I made my way through my Google Reader and came upon a new post from the eBay Collectors blog which found me composing such a lengthy note to Share that I decided it’d just be better as a post. And so here we are.

I want to like the eBay Collectors blog. Shoot, I want to love it. I came upon it about a month ago when Richard Brewer-Hay of eBay Ink tweeted about it and am sad to say I had immediate misgivings. My problems then are the same I’ll expand upon in a moment. But first, why do I want to love this blog?

As a vintage collectibles dealer who makes much of their living through eBay I love anything that potentially breathes life into the Collectibles categories. These spaces are still the best game in town for the vintage collectibles dealer to connect with the largest base of potential buyers but those of us who sell there often tremble with each new eBay Announcement fearing that we’ll be further marginalized at the sake of more commodity items all the while being commoditized ourselves. So in my mind the eBay Collectors blog was a major step and I commend eBay and it’s author, Ivanka, for putting it together.

Now don’t get me wrong, there are some good posts over there, though those aren’t the ones that set me off–seemingly common sense to us eBay vets, recent posts like “Save My Search” and “How to Find Events in Your Area” are valuable, especially coming from a collectors slant (Ivanka even links out to CollectorsWeekly.com in the latter! Oh wait, that link goes to a 404 page. Here’s some CollectorsWeekly link-love to make up for eBay Collectors lost link.).

Ivanka’s latest post is Marilyn Monroe’s $57k Dress and Other Top Sold Items – June 2010. Okay, never mind that we’re now in August, here’s my gripe: I’ve been doing this my whole life and I ain’t never laying out $57k for anything. You have a spare $57k? If you do, great, but I’m betting you’re in the minority. Am I saying eBay shouldn’t report on the sale of Marilyn’s $57k dress or the other Top Sellers from June (including items such as a rare Beatles EP at $99k all the way down to a 52 Topps Mantle at a paltry $15,500). No, there’s a place for that, it is newsworthy, but that place, I believe, is as a smaller part of an overall more populated blog.

Here’s what I was going to share on Google before I pulled back to create this post:

I don’t like the way this eBay Collectors blog is going. Most eBayer’s can’t afford the type of stuff being covered and the ones who can are much better informed than this space can attempt to do. The high dollar items chosen for coverage also perpetuate the get-rich quick mindset of casual, or shall I say, non, collectors, ie: those looking for an attic score. Bring it down some, cover the $100 to $2,000 items and the site would be a hit, assuming that is that the coverage comes with some knowledge backing it. This doesn’t contribute anything, it’s more “blow our own horn” PR type stuff about eBay being the venue which sold these treasures.

…And I was going to keep going. My point is that this type of post on the eBay Collectors blog is not for collectors, it’s for eBay. Share the most expensive and record-breaking type deals consummated on the site for collectibles, yes, but limiting the focus to them alone just makes this another eBay PR station with no true value for the collector.

Since it’s April launch the post count on the eBay Collectors blog has been 3 (April), 2 (May and June), and 5 (July). Good to see it on the rise and I’m really not one to talk since I haven’t posted to this vagabond space since May (and yeah, that was just an import from another site I’ve since killed), but what I’d like to propose is to grow the eBay Collectors blog with meaningful posts about collectibles that are affordable to the larger mass of collectors bidding and buying on the site. Go through some of the excellent guides contributed to the site by other dealers and collectors, point to them. Check out some of the items capturing the most bids which aren’t necessarily the items selling for the most dollars.

Note: This early post, given an URL with the word “test” in it was a step in the right direction I believe – eBay’s Comic Book Superhero Themed Auction. More of that please.

Just please don’t make it a freak show. And that’s what these items are, freaks, or better put, winning lottery tickets among the 99.99% of other vintage collectible and antique items that actually support the site. As I mentioned in the cribbed section above, people who have the bank account to support these purchases have much better information pointing them towards the sale. Once more, I don’t resent these type posts so much because they’re there, but because of their prominence owing to the lack of the other type of posts.

Here’s another idea–I honestly don’t know how much experience Ivanka has in the collectibles arena, and I don’t mean to be insulting when I say this, but why not put out a call for guest posts from experienced collectors/dealers? You provide the space, they provide the content and in return you give your customers a boost with a link out to their eBay Store/ID/Sales Page. Shoot, give me a link to my eBay Store and I’ll submit the first article!

In summary, love the idea, not a fan of the execution. Love still being on eBay’s map, hate not being able to relate to the posts. Want more, but want better. Vintage fans, collectors, dealers, what do you think of the eBay Collectors blog (be nice!).

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1 day of working with new Amazon Webstore (Vitamin C)

I dislike selling on Amazon, I really do.  Their pricing is filled with little nasty surprises and the platform comes with the Catch-22 of either committing to listing heavily or suffering even higher fees.  Currently I only sell used Media product (much of it from my own collections) through Amazon’s FBA program.

I’ve tried building Webstore’s with Amazon’s early incarnation but perhaps purely due to the weight of Amazon itself my excitement was renewed this morning when I spotted Scot Wingo’s post about Vitamin C on his Amazon Strategies blog.

With a 30-day Free Trial all retailers have to lose is time (eh, of course in this game time is often far more valuable than money) so with a light day scheduled ahead of me I figured what the heck, I’d give it a shot.

Basically I spent the better part of the day suffering through the agony and the ecstasy of figuring out their CSV file for bulk item imports.  Yes, I ended on a high note (hint to solving the mysterious cipher–You have to list one item in the workflow to open your Webstore.  Export a sample CSV file including this product and you’ll be able to figure out which fields are what from the resulting file).

After my Eureka! moment with the CSV my head swum with the realization that this just might work out!  I debated much of the day over whether I should choose the Amazon branded checkout or use my own which basically includes all of the elements of Amazon Checkout but with your own branding.  I finally chose my own.

After you select which form of Checkout you’re going to use (and you’re warned that this aspect of your Webstore can never be changed) you’re finally able to preview your store.  This led to the day’s final point of disillusion.

The preview itself didn’t reveal much.  In fact I waited a full minute or more assuming that all of the elements of the page had yet to load.  Not so.  I went in to the Store Design tab and found the section for putting together the actual pages of your Webstore.  A project awaits:

(Clicking this image will enlarge it)

That stopped me in my tracks for the day.  I’m really not sure I want to commit the time to all of this.  It actually reminds me of the earlier version of Webstore and building that was a royal pain.

So now my head fills with reasons to close my account.  First, in order to gain the benefits of Amazon’s built-in legions of shoppers you have to opt for the middle plan which involves my once again paying the monthly ProSeller fee.  Paying that fee comes with a commitment to list and turns my trial serious.  If I did choose to subscribe to this next level I’d also have to pay higher fees on items that sold on Amazon.com itself versus those same items selling from inside my Amazon Webstore–and all pricing and shipping options must be the same.

Two, I’ve never had any success with my line of vintage collectibles on Amazon in the past.  Granted I last tried in late 2008, so that very possibly is calling to be tested again.

Three, if I followed through with this the Amazon Webstore would replace my Highwire (formerly BISI) shop where I offer several choices of payment: PayPal, Google Checkout, Amazon Payments, plus Visa/MasterCard/Discover/Amex through my merchant account.  I’d lose the PayPal and Google Checkout options with an Amazon Webstore, and while saying bye to Google Checkout doesn’t bother me losing PayPal as an option does worry me.

So Day #2 of my Amazon Webstore free trial will be free of labor on the site itself and spent running options through my head.

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eBay's Flat Rate International Shipping Broken for Me, How about You?

December 5, 2009:
Mine is, is yours? No? Better check then because I’d be shocked if it’s just me.

I started noticing this in the past 4-5 days when international buyers would buy and then request the shipping amount–I include international shipping on all of my listings so this seemed strange. At first I thought the problem was being caused by my listing tool (Inkfrog), but tonight I can confirm that it’s not–it’s all eBay.

When a buyer would request the shipping amount I’d go in afterwards and do a bulk edit on eBay to correct all similar items that I’d listed at the same time, assuming that I was adding the proper international shipping amounts back in through eBay’s bulk edit, but now I’m not too sure if I was actually doing anything.

That doubt arose tonight when a batch of Wizard of Oz movie cards ended after their 30 days listed and I relisted them–I noticed that there was no International Shipping quoted. More of the same I thought until I realized that the Wizard of Oz cards were one of the batches I had already corrected earlier this week.

Here’s the kicker, when I went in to bulk edit these Wizard of Oz cards tonight, to add the International Shipping fees to them through eBay’s own bulk lister, I found it wasn’t possible to do so. Here’s what happened all four times I tried:

The bulk edit screen on eBay’s back end–I’m choosing to edit just the Flat Rate International Shipping:
The bulk edit screen on eBay's back end--I'm choosing to edit just the Flat Rate International Shipping

Here you can see I’ve input all of my International Shipping rates for both Store Items and Fixed Price:
Here you can see I've input all of my International Shipping rates for both Store Items and Fixed Price

Every time I did this just ONE of the 29 selected items showed the proper edits on the verification page–the other 28 look like this, the shipping edits aren’t even shown on this page despite being selected on the previous page:
Everytime I did this just ONE of the 29 selected items showed the proper edits on the verification page--the other 28 look like this, the shipping edits aren't even shown on this page despite being selected on the previous page.

The eBay Confirmation Page claims all edits have been done, but–
The eBay Confirmation Page claims all edits have been done, but--

–but as you can see here on the edited item page the ONLY shipping option showing up is for the United States:
--but as you can see here on the edited item page the ONLY shipping option showing up is for the United States.

So the only option I see right now is to edit the items one by one–not bad for these 29 items, but what about my other 4,000?

Much to my surprise international sales have been pretty good this week, but still, this can’t be good, right? Again, for me, this has only hit the International Rates on Fixed Price items.

How ’bout you, seeing anything strange on your end?

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eBay Stores Down This Afternoon

Fun, fun:

ebay-stores-down

At least the main site is up, as are apparently individual item pages:

ebay-stores-down-2

Images taken from the awesomely helpful Down for everyone or just me? site.

Search is another story, that is unless there’s nothing featuring Valentino for sale on eBay right now, which there must be since I have 5 items for sale myself.

Actually, eBay is on top of the search problem, as they posted on the System Announcements board about an hour ago:

We are experiencing some issues with a delay in search being displayed. We apologize for any inconvenience this may be causing. We are working to get this resolved as quickly as possible.

From here it appears to be more than a delay, it is in fact no working at all (insert Best Match joke here).

Oh well, just posting this because, 1) without access to my store I can’t do what I was going to do, so I’ve got nothing better to do; 2) if your sales are dead today perhaps this post will help explain why.

Happy selling …

Posted in Cliff Says | 2 Comments

The One Feature BuyItSellIt Must Add

I’m still pressing forward with my BuyItSellIt (BISI) store having recently added my 1,000th item to the shop and spent a weekend figuring out how to customize my theme.

There’s been some downtime this week, but it appears all was back to normal tonight as I was inside working for 45 minutes or so on adding a few more items. While I was working I noticed a new tab in my workflow–and if you’ve yet to try BISI it’s the easy workflow which really sold me in the end–”Discount Rules”.

As a seller of unique goods, “Discount Rules” actually falls under the does not apply heading for me, but I’m always happy to see my chosen platform adding features. Problem is, if I wanted to use “Discount Rules,” if it did apply, I really would have a hard time implementing it and would most likely have to backtrack to update all of my items individually.

BISI needs bulk editing features. Technically they’re there, you just export a CSV file, make your changes and import the new file back in. I’ve tried this a couple of times and encountered the same problems both times: 1) My images don’t export; 2) My updated file doesn’t overwrite the old items thus there are duplicate listings until you get around to deleting the earlier items.

Frankly I’d like to change all of my shipping rates. To do this with 1k+ items even with the method mentioned above would take quite a bit of time. The alternative is editing each individual item listing, which isn’t very realistic. So what have I done? Nothing. In fact, to keep my rates consistent I’m still importing new items at the higher rates that I want to eventually abolish working under the hopes that bulk editing comes soon.

Obviously bulk editing would help in other areas as well. Despite BISI being the closest thing to a perfect e-commerce solution for my set-up I have to admit it’s somewhat ludicrous that it lacks this one very basic function. Anyway, until I have bulk update any other new features, no matter how exciting they are to read about, are rendered useless to me as I have no way to implement them across my entire stock on the platform.

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Confirmed: New eBay Resolution Process Tilts Hard Towards Buyers

You know, I’m not sure if I’ve ever left another seller a negative feedback on eBay. I’ve been taken a few times as a buyer, but in the couple of incidents which standout the sellers were operating larger scans which led to them being NARU’ed before I had any chance to neg them.

Generally I’m pretty happy if I get what I thought I was getting in close to the described condition (always assuming an item is a little worse than described), with a pretty liberal interpretation of what’s a good delivery time–just get it to me.

I won a couple of lots at auction from a UK seller that I paid for back on June 27. Never came. Now this was a high feedback seller (around 10,000 FB) with a pretty outstanding overall record, and so deep down I’m pretty sure that they tried to do the right thing. But today’s September 28, pretty much exactly 3 months later and the items still aren’t here.

As a seller with similar stats myself this kind of puts me in a quandary as a buyer. I note buyer expectations this way: I paid for it, give me my stuff. As someone who knows what it takes to get your stuff to you, I know it’s often not this simple.

But at the same time, as a pretty small business here I can’t really afford to light a match to a $50 bill, which is about all that was involved here. So I guess my attitude would be best described as: I paid, I’ll wait, I’ll tap my toes some and whistle a little, just be sure you send it out so I get it eventually.

But, nope, still not here.

Now again, this item was shipping from the UK to the US, so I was willing to be more patient than usual. I wrote the seller after about a month and was politely asked for patience as such orders could sometimes take up to three months for delivery. Now this is pretty much BS, as I probably received about a dozen packages from the UK ordered after this one since that time, but I understand the game. It’s my own first move, an apology and a plea for patience, because the USPS generally gets it there. Lately I’ve been experiencing approximately 5-day delivery on items ordered from the UK. It’s pretty quick. These aren’t messages in a bottle anymore.

But I waited another month before writing back, in fact a few days over a month because I noticed the transactions had disappeared from my feedback area by this time and I had a feeling that I was pretty well screwed at this point. My guess is that the seller noticed it too as I didn’t receive a reply this time.

I waited a few more days, and honestly I was probably just going to let the whole thing drop, but then I had one of those days where the BS tasks were mounting: I was dealing with one difficult customer whose package had come back to me because they had the wrong address on file with eBay; another who had politely requested a return; and I received something not as described myself that I had to put in a refund request on. Lots of emails flying back and forth on this day, with me doing my best to be polite and reasonable to everyone, regardless of tone from the other side (and really only 1 of those 3 was a bad apple anyway).

So since a good portion of my day was pretty well shot, and the paperwork for the old undelivered UK transaction was attached to these other problem reports, I decided I may as well give one last shot at recooping my funds. I headed over to eBay’s Resolution Center, entered in one of the item numbers, and ooh, a form I hadn’t seen before popped up. I decided it was worth a few minutes to fill out.

Here are all of the questions on the new Resolution Request form:

Did you not receive the item or is there a problem with it?

Do you have the package tracking number?

Have you tried contacting the seller?

How did you contact the seller?

Did the seller respond?

Is the seller willing to resolve the issue or did they give you options? (enter details in next question)

Tell us what happened in your communication with the seller. Please be as detailed as possible since we will use this information to resolve your case.

How can eBay help you?

After submitting I was informed that they’d copy the seller on the request and work with me to get me my item or my money back.

eBay sent 2 follow-up emails asking how it was going. The second such email had a couple of big buttons asking whether or not things had been worked out. I clicked no, and was sent to a page showing this:

ebay-dispute-phone

What the hell I figured, I called and was connected pretty quickly (under 5 minutes) to a very polite and well-spoken gentleman who asked for my eBay ID, the transaction number and some personal information. He asked if I’d paid through PayPal, which I did. He asked for my story, and I gave him the nuts and bolts of the above, to which he replied, “Oh, you’ve waited more than enough time, you should have your item,” and then something to the effect of “let’s get to work on getting your money back.”

Explaining the situation in further detail I told him that I still preferred the item to the refund and noting the seller’s high feedback number I explained that I really didn’t think he’d set out to rip me off, I just hadn’t received anything for my money yet. The customer service rep repeated that I’d waited long enough and asked for some info on my PayPal account.

We got right to the point of the refund when I interrupted: “Just a second. Again, I think this is a good seller on the whole, I’ve just had a bad experience. My doing this isn’t going to get him kicked off eBay or anything, is it?” The rep told me probably not. I explained that I was a seller myself and so I had some empathy in this situation. So I pushed a little more and asked, “It takes more than one of these to get you tossed off the site, doesn’t it?” He hemmed and hawed some giving me the general impression that while he either didn’t know for sure or wasn’t at liberty to say chances were that it’d take more than one of these black marks to ban the seller.

I had more questions, but honestly I felt A) I wasn’t going to receive this item and B) the seller dropped the ball not replying to my later email request, so rather than press forward with more and somehow talk myself out of this refund I gave permission for the rep to proceed. He told me it would take something like 5-7 business days for payment to arrive, but actually the money was in my PayPal account by the next morning.

Bright side, this was about a week ago and the seller is still active, so I don’t think I caused him any major trouble. My impression of this policy is that sellers are going to be buried a little with each such complaint before eventually being removed from the site.

But I’d like to know:
1. Who footed the bill for my refund? Did the seller pay or was this one of those cases eBay eluded to paying out themselves?
2. I said above, I don’t think I caused him any trouble, but did I? And just why is this particular policy, perhaps eBay’s most important policy, so loosely defined? I like to think it’s because they go on a case by case, buyer by buyer, seller by seller basis when sitting in judgment, but I didn’t get that feeling unless this CS rep had a magic button in front of him spitting out a bunch of stats I wasn’t privy too, which I doubt. It just felt too simple.
3. And so, is every buyer treated the same or if this ID had a history of contacting eBay with complaints would the process have gone differently?
4. While in this case I completely agree with the rep’s assessment that I had waited long enough, just what exactly is long enough?

For an excellent look at the new eBay Resolution process through the eyes of a buyer please see the blog post, E-Bay and Customer Service!, which was tweeted out earlier today by @SkipMcGrath and Re-Tweeted by @AuctionBytes. It presents the reaction that I presume eBay was looking for when implementing the new process. A very happy eBayer who congratulates the company on its treatment of him. It’s the correct assessment from the eyes of an honest buyer and I think we as seller’s need to understand that stories such as this are good for all of us.

But as a seller I just can’t help having a nagging feeling that I got my money back all too easily.

Update: This topic from yet another angle is covered by my friend Dan of magisterrex, who I recently interviewed about retro gaming on the VintageMeld, in his brand spankin’ new post How would you like to lose $770.10 on eBay? Check it out!

Posted in Cliff Says | 3 Comments

More eBay Best Offer – Conversation Starter

I love eBay’s Best Offer, but that’s no secret. Even so, I’ve recently come to believe that I haven’t been using it to its fullest effect, though now, hopefully, that’s a problem I’ve corrected. Of course, you’re going to have to read through a little prologue to get to the meat of this post, but I think it’s pretty good backstory and it pats a back well worth patting.

A lot of credit for the change(s) I’ve made have to go to Vince at Green Spot Antiques, who also blogs about ecommerce here and tweets about it (and other things) here. In the grand scheme Vince is but a recent acquaintance, but as a fellow vintage dealer we clicked pretty quick. Besides dealing in antiques and collectibles online Vince operates a brick and mortar business in Ontario. Now I’ve never had such a set-up myself, but what my experience in those old baseball card show days I like to refer back to does have in common with the much more traditional world of the antiques shop is a wheeling-and-dealing spirit. How do I know? Well, I’ve been in my share of antiques shops and I’ve never paid retail.

Vince made one bold suggestion to me, which when he first mentioned it I waved him off and never expected I’d end up following his advice–eliminate my auction format listings on eBay. But I’ve been running those since 2000. Cut ‘em off altogether? Crazy!

A few months ago though I was way behind on work and probably spent a little more time writing and blogging than I should have and suddenly my broken routine led to 3 or 4 days without any new auctions going up (I typically listed 5 nights per week). At that point I decided why not go a few more days. Sales grew and I quickly came to realize that it was much better to sell an item at Fixed Price $20 in a day or two than it was to wait a week to get one $9.99 bid on an auction. I decided that this Vince knew his stuff.

Now the second idea I got from Vince wasn’t as wild as the first one, in fact I’m not even sure he knows it made an impact, and so I’m rather certain he’s reading this with some interest right now. Hi Vince.

I’d mentioned before how lowball offers can really piss me off. If I’ve got an item listed for $10 and an offer of $1 floats in my first reaction used to be to hit the decline button with enough force that I’d hope the “buyer” feels impact. Several times I bit my bottom lip and restrained myself from commenting “would you like me to include some cash with that as well.”

Now I force the buyer to decline.

What changed? I did a guest post about eBay’s Best Offer on John Lawson’s ColderICE blog back in July and Vince left a comment there. The game changer for me came in the last sentence of Vince’s initial comment on the post:

And we would never turn the LOW end offers declined to OFF, we had a case just yesterday where a $5 offer came in for a $37 item, we settled at $28.

Whoa, this is the same buyer I’d be cursing under my breath and be referring to here today as “buyer” or perhaps the more subtle buyer if Vince’s words hadn’t sunk in.

It’s true, a lot of times that $1 offer is just a conversation starter. My mistake is I believed the buyer’s were attempting negotiation from that $1 starting point. I wasn’t going to take my time to wrangle them up to $2. But lo and behold, Vince was absolutely right, many times I’ve gotten the $7 or $8 I really wanted on an item marked $10 when the first offer came in super low.

Think of all of the sales I missed as recently as July by pouncing on the decline button at offers less than 50% of marked price.

No, $1 offer is not an insult, it’s a conversation starter. Bringing it back to the card show it’s like the customer stopping long enough at your table to know they’ll be back later in the day even if they didn’t take the time to even say hi the first time through. It’s more of a greeting, or even a question, than an actual offer.

And so tonight I’ve added Best Offer to everything in my eBay Store (2 exceptions: 1) items on sale with Markdown Manager; 2) a few dozen items already marked as low as I can go). Even if it’s a $3 card, if the buyer has nerve enough to offer me $1, why shouldn’t I have nerve enough to ask for $2.50 if that’s what I really want.

Thanks, Vince, game changing stuff!

Posted in Cliff Says | 5 Comments

Interview with Hillary DePiano of The Whine Seller

I recently talked to The Whine Seller e-commerce blogger Hillary DePiano on my collectibles site, the VintageMeld, about her own specific vintage selling niche, My Little Ponies. Today she continues her blog tour stopping by The Collectors Site to talk more specifically about e-commerce.

Hillary DePiano at the My Little Pony Fair

Hillary DePiano at the My Little Pony Fair

By way of introduction here’s what I’d written about Hillary in the earlier VintageMeld post:

I came to know Hillary through Twitter a little more than a year ago as one of my “e-commerce buddies,” and she blogs regularly and candidly about e-commerce on her blog, The Whine Seller, but over time I’ve been most impressed by the variety of her interests and accomplishments, including published and award-winning fiction. To learn more about Hillary DePiano see her personal website at HillaryDePiano.com.

Q: I’ve often heard you say that despite your youth you’re an old-timer on eBay. When did you start and what’s the biggest difference of that eBay to today’s eBay?

Hillary: It feels very weird to call myself an old timer but I started on eBay in March of 1997 when the site was still pretty new. Sometimes I have to pull rank on people when they start giving me the “I’ve been selling longer than you” nonsense. But I was, ready for it, all of 17 years old at that time. I was registered with my father’s name and credit card because I wasn’t technically old enough to sign the user agreement as pathetic as that is. (I’ll save the curious the math, I turn 30 this October.) Sometimes I like to play with the whole “old timer” element because I am disproportionally young compared to some people doing this.

In many ways, though, I grew up with the marketplace. As I learned what I was doing, so did they. My business grew with the site advancements they added. It was a pretty exciting time. For a while there it seemed like you only needed to think, “Man, I wish they would offer this” and before you’d know it they’d announce that they were, in fact, going to start offering that.

I know some people talk about the recent changes on eBay as ruining the marketplace. I have to say that no matter how it changes, they have still come so very far since the early days, they have a long way to go before they really ruin it, in my mind.

On a side note, to this day, the first thing every new Trading Assistant who hires me says upon meeting me in person is, “But you’re so young!” I think the day they stop saying that might make me a little sad.

Q: The tone of your posts indicates that, like me, you still see the eBay Marketplace largely in a positive light. If you could demand one change would you restore an old rule or implement something totally new?

Hillary: One thing I’m a really bitter about is the digital downloads rule. If you’d never used it, it allowed preapproved sellers to sell electronic files. I think it was originally created for the purpose of the sale of digital music but you could use if for software and eBooks. What was really slick about this was that right in the listing template you could automate the order based on when the buyer paid. So I could set it up to automatically reveal the download link for the item only when the buyer’s payment cleared. Thus I could make money on electronic items without having to do any work whatsoever because the shipping was totally automatic on eBay’s end.

I don’t know if everyone even really know that program existed but I used it a lot for selling my own eBooks and also we used to offer a variation on the Trading Assistant service where we would sell people’s eBooks for them which was a big money maker. Not everyone was an approved digital seller so it was worth it for people to pay us to list for them since we had the reputation and the store traffic.

But sadly, when the DSR program was introduced, there was this outcry that people would use the digital download feature to scam feedback so eBay got rid of it. Now you can only list a download item as a Classified Ad which is both much more expensive and not as automated as the old system. I really want to find those foil hatters who started that paranoia about downloads and smack them.

I wish eBay would institute some policy where I can sign some agreement whereas I promise not to bitch and moan about any feedback resulting from a digital sale and in exchange I would get the ability to sell them back. That is the one thing where eBay caved to seller pressure in the stupidest possible way. I am still annoyed about that.

Q: Do you or have you ever sold on any other online marketplaces? Do you have a favorite eBay alternative venue?

Hillary: My favorite other venues are both gone: Amazon and Yahoo Auctions. That said, I sell through Amazon Advantage and Marketplace. I have been trying to sell on Bonanzle with not much success and I gave Overstock the old college try for a full year before giving it up. I mostly use Amazon for books and other media but I almost always double list items on both eBay and Amazon so whichever place sells first gets the sale. I think I am signed up on just about every eBay clone around but nothing can come close to the real thing for us.

I also like the print-on-demand marketplaces like Cafepress, Lulu, CreateSpace, etc. You have to be good at what you do to make money through sites like that because the production costs are higher but it can be really handy to not have to store inventory or pay for goods upfront.

I am also really watching Etsy with interest. I don’t sell on there now but my mother is retiring at the end of this year and she and I are planning to launch a new part of many company that is craft related so I am hoping to use the Etsy platform for that. So while I haven’t used it yet, I am always eagerly keeping tabs on how it is doing.

Note: After I’d submitted my questions to Hillary and prior to publication her tour stopped at TameBay where she went into much greater detail in answering this question as the focus of her post. Check it out!

Q: Blogs often first appear as an attempt to express one’s self towards a specific problem. If that’s the case of The Whine Seller what would that issue have been?

Hillary: My problem was actually that my personal blog was starting to become more about writing and my career as a writer and the readership I was building over there was somewhat unrelated to the occasional rants I wanted to do about eBay and e-commerce. I decided to segregate the e-commerce posts to another address. At first, I didn’t think I would have more than a few posts a year but I discovered that once I got started it was pretty much a daily thing.

The other big thing I wanted The Whine Seller to be a place for me to explain how to do some things that I might know, but that others were trying to figure out. When I finally figured out how to do something I’ve been trying to figure out forever, my first inclination is to explain how I did it on the blog so that the next guy could just read my solution instead of starting from zero.

I am actually trying a somewhat crazy idea on The Whine Seller in the next few weeks called Free Online eBooks. A lot of people give away the eBook version of their books to try to sell the printed version but I wanted to try a different tact. I have a lot of really great non-fiction content that is either from projects I never finished or was cut out of finished books. I wanted to post that material, in its entirety on the site. People could read it online, totally for free, the only catch being that there will be ads on it. If they want to read it without ads or just “make a donation” as a thanks for the content, I’ll have an ad free PDF version available for a few cents that they can purchase and print.

My idea behind this is that people will come to the site for the free content but might stick around to become a regular reader of the blog or they may purchase my other stuff. Hopefully, the upswing in traffic will make it worth it to just give the content away but, with any experiment, you have to just be willing to see how things go.

Q: I know you’re deeply involved with publishing. We both deal in vintage goods but our niches are quite far apart. There’s so much to collect and so much information to share–would you like to see more vintage sellers self-publish guides to their niche?

Hillary: I would rather that niche collectors published their books through Priced Nostalgia Press!

I think that just because someone is an expert on a certain collectible doesn’t mean they are an expert on layout, design or even writing. I think even the most authoritative collector, if they want to put their best product forward, needs to acknowledge their own limitations. If they are confident that it is worth it to sink the money into a good editor, layout person, designer, etc., then that is fine. But having knowledge of a product doesn’t mean you’ll be able to great a good book.

I have seen a lot of self-published guides that were pretty horrible. Microsoft Word may be OK for laying out text but when people are trying to layout a whole book with color photos and prices, the result is a mess. You want to give your content the best possible chance. Even if what you have to say is fantastic, if you’ve presented it poorly, you are costing everyone in the long run.

That was one of the biggest things we set out to do with Priced Nostalgia Press. Our philosophy is, basically, there is no niche too small. As a result, we end up picking up a lot of collectibles and price guides that a bigger publisher may turn their noses up at because they want something that will become a bestseller. Our goal is more to get the information to collectors.

Priced Nostalgia is always seeking new authors so if anyone reading this has a collectible that they are interesting in writing a guide for, please email us! We’d be happy to put our know how to work for you. :-) You have the information about your collectible, we have the marketing power, design and layout tools you need to give your book the best possible chance.

Thanks so much Hillary for stopping by not just The Collectors Site, but allowing me to quiz you twice and have you on the VintageMeld as well. It’s truly fascinating to see how many of us transcend eBay seller to involve ourselves with so many other interesting projects.

Posted in Cliff Says | 2 Comments