Wednesday, April 9, 2008

One Gal’s Trash…

I’m on a mission. Over the years, I’ve collected hundreds and hundreds of books and pieces of curriculum. I do not have room to put next year’s curriculum on the shelves. So I started sorting to sell.

I came up with several stacks of books that I no longer need. I used to sell books on Amazon—still do, occasionally—but got turned off by two things:

1. Amazon’s “cut” is rather large, IMO

2. A solitary fickle customer. The whole incident kinda creeped me out. I sold an out-of-print book that belongs to a popular homeschool curriculum. The book was clearly labeled as “adequate” condition (the lowest mark I could give it) and I meticulously listed all its flaws. I’ve always tended to err on the side of caution and make a book sound worse than it is. I don’t want people to be upset with the condition of their books.

So anyway, she bought it. I sent it. Then, out-of-the-blue, my husband gets a threatening phone call one Saturday morning when I’m gone. He couldn’t follow the story, but it had something to do with a book sale. I was to call back.

I called the number. The lady was very upset because the book was meant to replace one that her child had lost at school…and he was not allowed to use the school library until they replaced the book. But the one she’d received wasn’t in new condition. I explained the out-of-print status as well as the Amazon criteria and told her I was happy to refund her money. (She’d never even tried to do an Amazon refund.)

But the whole thing was creepy. She went to the trouble to find my phone number and act threatening on the phone for the price of a book???? Scary. Oh, and the book was returned in worse condition than I’d sent it in a box that was falling apart.

Anyway, in selling, here’s one tidbit…

Whenever possible, go straight to your customer. If there is a website or group or local sale that is specifically geared to whatever you’re selling, go there. You’ll find people who know what items are worth. You take out any middleman/commissions. And you can often put more money in your pocket and save your customer money at the same time.

For example, yesterday, I decided to sell books from the Five in a Row curriculum. I own a lot of the out-of-print books and wanted them to go to people who needed them. I checked Amazon to see what the books were currently listed for. I listed a couple and agreed to pay Amazon over 18% commission in the books sold. Ouch. Amazon would also collect $3.99/book for me to ship by Media Mail. I typically recycle packaging and can often ship by Media Mail for quite a bit less than $3.99, so I don’t need that much compensation from the buyer. If I go directly to my customer (and I can, at a site called FIARswap), I am able to offer my books for less than they’re offered on Amazon and charge less shipping. I still come out ahead (since I don't pay the commission) and my buyer definitely saves money. Within several hours of posting, I’d made two great sales.

Looking at my pile of books, I also considered what I’ve learned as a buyer:

1. Whenever possible, be SURE that it’s something you want before you order it on-line. In my pile were quite a few books that I’d bought because they sounded good or because they went with another book I was using (same author, same theme, etc…) Many times, I’d bought them on-line, sight (and content) unseen. When you’re considering an out-of-print book (as many of these are), you don’t have a lot of options. But sometimes I didn’t think long enough about how or when I was going to use the book. And sometimes I should have considered why I needed it in the first place. In several cases, I will lose money because I had to sell books for less than what I paid. However, it is nice to have that shelf space back! And profit on some books makes up for losses on others.

For myself, the lesson is…give yourself a few days before making a purchase. If you still want it after some time has passed, it might be worth it.

2. I am not a big buyer. But even I fall prey to advertising. And for me, it’s not usually the media that sells it. Not t.v., radio, or ads. Nope, it’s other families. Rave reviews from other moms. Thrilled looking kids. I remember going to a family reunion and being enchanted by how excitedly one boy played with his Thomas the Train engines. That’s how we started buying all those very expensive wooden trains …that later turned out to contain lead paint. We waited months for replacements. But I can’t say that my kids have ever played with the trains much. Certainly not enough to make them worth what we paid. As a side note, the most played-with toy in our house is a cheap, plastic basketball rim that perches on the edge of our coat closet. My boys play indoor basketball with it every single day!

Back to my books…

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