Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What the Hell Am I Going to Do Now? ~ eBay, Part 4

As you might remember from Part 3, I now had a garage full of customer returns and closeouts from Via Trading that I had paid over $2000 for. Well, “paid” isn’t exactly right – it was all on a business credit card. I can’t really describe how this affected my husband. It wasn’t good. Not only was there graphic evidence of my loose spending habits stacked six-feet high onto pallets, the junk was in his man cave. We had plenty of visitors who stopped by for the tour, “Let me see the pallets!” I tried to discourage them but couldn’t stop the steady stream of lookie lous. OK, here are the pallets. Here are the broken toy helicopters and cracked spy devices. And in that room is my seething husband. You better keep your distance.

And it’s true that I wasted $1000 on broken electronic gadgets and toys. I tried to minimize the loss . . . I took apart a few things to see if I could sell the parts . . . and the answer was NO; no one was interested in buying the motor for an obscure remote control tank . . . even if it was amphibious. I did sell a few things on eBay . . . There were three “listening devices” that really worked. I know because I listened in on my neighbors, only one time for each device of course. Just to try them out. I also sold a snore stopper and a couple remote control planes. This is how I unintentionally ruined one little boy’s Christmas. I thought the plane worked – it didn’t – and his dad let me know in a dramatic complaint email that the boy would never again trust Santa’s workmanship. I gave the family a full refund, my apologies, and didn’t even ask them to send it back. I barely knew what it was in the first place.

I listed the rest of the tech gadgets on Craigslist. I had interested parties meet me at my neighborhood liquor store. This seemed to scare off most of the potential female customers. It must have seemed seedy, but the parking lot was really convenient and I refused to bring strangers to my house for the sake of my kids. I spent a lot of time in that parking lot – I bet the people working in the liquor store thought I was selling something a little more profitable than broken toys. I met a nice young man who was interested in the helicopters. It was his hobby and by our third meeting, he had tested about a dozen of them, most of which truly couldn’t be repaired despite his best efforts.

I also got to know a man who was some kind of preacher. He had long hair and piercing blue eyes, and he spoke with an Australian accent. He was always the first to reply to my anonymous ads. I was a little creeped out by him. He wanted to know if I was in trouble and invited himself over to my house. I stopped responding to his inquiries. I also met a man who drove up in a brand new convertible Mercedes. He reeked of money and haggled over the price of the watch winder to save a few bucks. Then, he told me his life story and described his financial portfolio in detail. I heard from him the next day because he wanted to return the winder. One of the most memorable Craigslist meetings was with a huge bear of a man who got out of a tiny car. He was interested in the hot dog cooker (you know, those steel things that rotate the hot dogs as they cook). He took one look at the hot dog cooker and went into a rage. It apparently wasn’t what he was looking for, but he really didn’t need to get so personal about it. I told him, sorry it didn’t work out. Maybe next time. I think he answered with a grunt as he walked back to his clown car.

The rest of the pallets had more promise. The mixed housewares pallet was OK. I sold out of the wall shelves immediately. A handful of pieces from a Christmas village collection also sold for a decent price. On the other hand, there were several religious plaques and posters that did not sell. Neither did the wrought iron wall pieces and frames in various stages of disrepair, which I thought would have been more popular. What I remember most about this pallet was the berry-scented red candlewax that had somehow melted over a good portion of the items, permanently staining everything it touched. It even got on the white backdrop that I used for taking pictures.

The lamp pallet was the cheapest of the four . . . I think it was $299. Getting a customer return pallet from a big chain is a good idea because sales associates might not investigate their returns. Some of the working lamps had notes attached that read, “Customer says it doesn’t work.” I also enjoyed the random bonus items, like a Rachel Ray grill pan in pristine condition. I became attached to something in there that never sold. There were about 10 metal-like lamps with rugged leather-like shades . . . the base of the lamps were in the form of a stag with a full set of antlers descending a rocky path. I say “metal like” because they were actually made of resin, which is a form of plastic, and painted in bronze. Each one was broken in a different place. Some were missing antlers, other were missing hooves, one was headless . . . it was my herd of special deer lamps. I gave the only one that seemed to be completely intact to my father-in-law for Christmas as a gag gift, although I’m not sure he got the joke. None of those deer lamps sold, not even later at a garage sale for $1, but someone certainly grabbed them up in seconds when left out for free in my front yard. Really should have kept a couple of those lovelies.

And last, but not least, there was the box of 100 pieces of lingerie. These were not customer returns, but grabbed from the clearance rack. In hindsight, this was the only thing I should have purchased from Via Trading. The pieces were of excellent quality in new condition. I knew the language of women’s intimates, the concerns women have around it, and the solutions various pieces provide. I will certainly get deeper into the lingerie part of my eBay adventure but for now, a couple last thoughts on the Via Trading goods.

Obviously, I had no business buying the tech pallet. The houseware and lamp pallets were OK but the downside was the lack of quality control. And the biggest issue with all of them was the time it took to create individual listings for the many one-of-a-kind items. With the exception of the tech pallet, which ended up costing something like $27 per item that wasn’t broken beyond recognition, the prices were seductive. The lamp and houseware pallets broke down to just under $10 per item, and the lingerie was around $5 each. I think pallets could be a good way for an eBay store to grow inventory at key times of the year, such as Christmas or Valentine’s, but otherwise are too random and time consuming. In hindsight, what I should have done was buy four boxes of the lingerie, which would have increased the number of duplicates and contributed to a decent looking eBay store. But I really didn’t know women’s intimates would see well on eBay . . . ignorantly, I was only thinking about female customers at the time.



  1. So do you think it was worth it? That sounds like such a lame question, but I mean with the time you put in and how much you spent vs. your profit. I'm not ever planning on doing something like this (I'm far too lazy) but I was just wondering if you were happy with how it worked out for your first attempt.

  2. NO, I definitely don't think it was worth my time on the first attempt. But, the problem was I spread myself too thin by going too big. If I had just started with one box of lingerie, I would have seen a profit - maybe a slim one but still. And after going through it once, the whole process can be streamlined and THEN yes, it could very well work.