ISSUE 40: Dec. 28, 2007
Yard Salers: The Thing, More Media Mail, the Magna Carta - Dec. 28, 2007
Happy holidays to all. Did you get what you want for Christmas, if you celebrate Christmas? Or did you perhaps get a Thing...you know, the Thing, as in The Thing everybody thought they had to have this year, but in a few months they'll go deep into the bowels of closets everywhere? More on that in a later article.
I got a lot of great tips and interesting emails from you, my wonderful readers, about the media mail topic we talked about in the last issue. I'm running them in this issue. I also got a lot of contest entries, which I will share in an upcoming issue with first names only. I'm running the contest 'til the end of the year, Dec. 31 2007, so you have a few more days to get those entries in. Suffice to say I am learning a lot about what you all want to see next year in the newsletter, and how often. I am taking everyone's suggestions to heart, and I think it will result in a more effective newsletter focused on making us all more efficient and profitable in 2008, without, of course, forgetting to have fun along the way.
Winner receives both of my paperback books, and all of my ebooks of his or her choice. And, I'm toying with giving everyone who enters a free ebook as well.
I've wondered what it must be like to be someone like Bill Gates or the Google guys and be able to buy pretty much anything you want for Christmas. Does it take the fun out of it at all? "Hey, Marge, thanks for the cashmere sweater..I can go and buy fifty of these in every shade of the modern decorating palette anytime I want, with a higher fiber count, but it's cool, really, thanks."
Well, there are a few things in life that only a very select group of people own, and one of those things is an original copy of the Magna Carta, one of the documents that set the stage for other classics of democracy such as our own Constitution. (Magna Carta means "Great Paper" if translated literally from Latin).
Well, as it happens, recently, one of only 17 versions of the handwritten charter and only one of two copies that exist outside England was sold via Sotheby's auction house for $21.2 million to one David Rubenstein, the founder of a private equity form, according to an article on npr.com. (article is at http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=17371559&ft=1&f=1001/).
Lucky for us, Rubenstein says he's going to keep the copy on display at the National Archives in DC. I'd like to personally thank him. Can you believe I've lived in DC most of my life, and been into the Archives several times, but don't remember ever looking at the Magna Carta? I hope to change that this week as I drag..I mean, bring my son along to the building to see that document as well as the exhibit about U.S. Presidents as Boys: From the School House to the White House.
Unfortunately, having seen a cartoon sometime in my childhood depicting it as "The Magna Garter," now every time I think of it, I think of a garter. Go figure.
(While writing this I remembered the source: the very funny book "1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates." There is a very funny wikipedia entry about it and several copies floating around eBay for only about 10 bucks. Anyway.)
As the article says, "The agreement signed in 1215 between King John and rebellious English barons mentions things like the right to a trial and the idea that no one is above the law. It's considered one of the most important legal documents in the history of democracy." It's one of the documents my daughter studied in her civics class as having influenced our good ol' Constitution, as I mentioned.
Speaking of our Constitution, one of its signers was Benjamin Franklin, who is also our friend who insisted on giving us media mail as an inexpensive shipping option. (How do you like that for a transition?).
In this issue we uncover all your great and deep thoughts about that, and also pass on even more great shipping and stamping info and ideas from you, Yard Salers' fabulous readers.
One other thing about the Magna Carta I just had to mention. Some of you readers said you wanted to see more about great yard sale finds found for cheap and flipped for big bucks. How'd you like to buy a flea market painting for $4 and come out $7.4 million richer?
While I was researching the Magna Carta story, I came across this amazing anecdote in the New York Times:
[The Magna Carta was sold by] "David N. Redden, a Sothebyís vice chairman who sold a copy of the Declaration of Independence for a hammer price of $7.4 million in 2000. That copy had been tucked behind a $4 flea-market painting. The buyers were the television producer Norman Lear, who created shows like 'All in the Family' and 'Maude,' and the Internet entrepreneur David Hayden."
The auction was arranged quickly at Sotheby's and was hush-hush. One employee said, "ďAll they told me was: 'David Redden is selling this really important document, the most important document of all. Can you give up this room for us?' he recalled. 'And Iím like, 'Sure, but what is he selling, the Magna Carta?' " per the article
Without further ado, Happy New Year, look forward to seeing more of you in 2008 and...let's get to it!
In This Issue:
1) More on Media Mail: Reader Feedback and Tips
2) The Thing
3) Reader Mail
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1) More on Media Mail: Reader Feedback and Tips
I ran a bit in the last issue reminding people there was a cheap rate called "media mail" (otherwise known as "book rate"). I quoted from a letter to The Washington Post where the guy mentioned sending "periodicals" as well as books this way. (See the back issues if you want to read the whole bit). Several of you wrote to clarify that actually, anything with ads in it does not qualify for media mail..although there has been discussion about whether old magazines with defunct ads should be exempt.
I got a lot of helpful emails, and also some suggestions about other types of postage...thanks, everyone, for writing and sharing info. Read on:
Thanks for your newsletter - I enjoy it.
But one small thing - you mentioned Media Mail for magazines. That
has always been a controversial issue on message boards and such - but
I believe the final verdict from USPS is that they are not allowed
under MM, because they contain advertising (even if it is very old
Have a happy holiday..
After I read this:
"Finally, don't forget the media mail rate. For heavy books and magazines, I have been using media mail a lot lately, and people want it because Priority rates seem to be so high lately."
I had to send a note to inform you that magazines do not qualify for book rate and are not allowed to be sent at the reduced rate. Ask your postal clerk - I was then forced to use flat rate for the mags I wanted to ship.
Hi Julia -
You should tell your readers about DHL for larger heavier packages. They are very cheap and for a couple of dollars will pick up at your door. Some buyers are worried about high shipping when buying large or heavy items. Using DHL has cinched deals for me. I haven't used them for international yet and plan to check them out soon.
Thanks so much for writing and the tip. I have not yet used DHL but would like to check them out. So far I have not shipped too many large and heavy items, but in a couple cases it would have been nice to. In one case, I sold a guitar of my husband's, and wound up lugging it over to our local pack 'n' ship store and sending it via another parcel service. I think I also paid to have them box it as well. My question for you, which I forgot to ask you via email, is do you need to use special boxes or how do the labels and boxes work. Can you print forms out from online? I will look into this for my readers.
I like the idea of heavy item pickup at one's door. Thanks again!
I enjoy your newsletter every time it appears in my e-mail box. I DO use Media shipping or Book rate. You just have to remember to get enough in shipping / handling to cover the cost of mailing materials and 18 cents delivery. I always get the delivery confirmation too on Media ship confirmation. Watch for sales on the bubble wrap envelopes!
I sell a lot of estate found Vintage VHS and it comes in handy to offer along with Priority Mail. I use it often for books I sell, but the vintage VHS I only offer Priority as the unique item is not easily replaced. I only offer Priority so it can be better tracked and I get PO shipping boxes free.
Also, I have to offer that I accidentally found the ebay offered popular keywords used one day and I refer to it often when doing listings Here is the site: http://keyword-index.ebay.com/keyword-index.HTML
Now, for my question? .
I would also like to see more information on ebay STORES. I find the auction fees to be too much for me and too many are going for my starting price if I don't make a reserve price. Also the fixed price has not really worked for me. So, what should I be doing for the traffic I need. I am trying my best with search keywords and Custom pages, what else should I know?
Many thanks Julia,
Happy Holidays and see you in 2008!
PS: I do enjoy a paperback book as opposed to ebook as it is hard for me to sit at the computer and read for real long so thanks for your offer.
Great points..thanks so much for your feedback. Let's take them one by one.
Media mail postage...good idea. I usually use stamps.com for my media mail postage, which lets me print out the postage on a sheet of regular paper. Bubble wrap envelopes are great..I also find that, since media mail is so cheap, it's fine to use a cardboard box, as the extra weight won't add much to the price.
Very interesting that you offer vintage VHS tapes. I would love to hear more about which ones are popular, how you find them, which ones did not convey onto DVD, etc. Bearing in mind you can't reveal certain trade secrets. :)
eBay STORES...I will keep your emphasis. I feel your pain. I have written a lot about eBay stores here and also on my bidbits blog. You also hear a lot about Stores when you go to the ebay Live conventions...at least I do.
I see a disturbing trend that Stores are getting less and less visible in ebay search. In fact, I was reading a recent AuctionBytes article quoting an eBay exec saying he wanted eBay to feel less like a "flea market," more professional, blah blah blah...I take all this to mean they are going to play up the Buy-It-Nows and industrial type listings and further bury a lot of the Stores listings. (Which frankly I think would be getting eBay too much away from its roots and what makes it special..it is, after all, the world's biggest yard sale, and what's wrong with that?).
I don't know this for sure, but in playing with eBay's latest interface (which you can opt out of), which gives some pretty darn different-looking search results, in two columns, Auctions and Buy It Now, my first reaction was "Where the heck are the Stores listings??" After eyeballing the page a while, I finally saw a strange little sprinkling of links on the left: "Matching eBay Stores," which you can then expand into "See all matching Stores," but you really have to scroll and dig to see these things.
So what's the answer to your question? For now, all I can say is use your auctions as bait to get people into your stores. You can also play around with Google Adwords and maybe even eBay's admarketplace and driving people to your auctions that way..and/or to a standalone web site.
I really think eBay sellers should all think about having a basic standalone web site in addition to their eBay store, anyway, so as not to have all their eggs in one basket.
Some people use a high-value item with a low starting price as a "bait" to get people into their store...it may be a "loss leader"...you mention something about your store within the auction listing, within eBay's guidelines. Or they drive people to their About Me page where they can then use outside links to drive those people to their standalone web site. The About Me page is the only place on eBay you are allowed to use outside links.
I will, of course, write more about this in the coming year. But I am with you on Stores...without them, I don't think I'd bother having a lot of the stuff I have up on eBay that I do now.
OK, last but not least..paperbacks vs. ebooks..the age-old debate. Many readers have written me asking if and when I would have certain ebooks in paperback format.
Most of you know I do of course have two paperbacks, the eBay Price Guide and eBay Top 100 Simplified Tips & Tricks, which were done with traditional publishers.
The publishing biz is a funny game. Well, I suppose it's not funny if you're losing money. Right now, although I'm content with how my ebooks sell, they are niche products and I don't know if they would sell well enough to justify the investment I'd make in having them made into paperback products.
That does not mean that if one of them does well enough, I will not turn it into a paperback. I would like to.
But right now it doesn't seem to make sense. The best thing I can suggest is that any ebook of mine you want to read in paper format, you can print out in sections or completely on your printer at home.
I did make the offer to one reader to print out two of my bigger ebooks and mail them to him, but this turned out to be time-prohibitive for me, as well as blew through an entire black ink cartridge. So, print judiciously. :) I'll keep pondering the issue, though.
Thanks again for writing and best of luck...Happy 2008!
Just wanted to let you know how much I enjoy Yardsalers!
Also.....Magazines cannot be shipped by Media Mail if they have ANY advertising in them. You can check the USPS site or ask at your Post Office. Thought you might want to clarify this for your readers.
Sherry / DixieCat3313
I enjoy your newsletter! You probably know this, but Endicia allows you to print international postage with the customs form as part of the shipping label. They also let you use stealth mode for international which Stamps.com doesnít. I used Stamps.com for a couple of years but like Endicia soooo much better! No more waiting in lines at the post office!!
A question: you mention in your newsletter that you know that someone from Great Britain is watching one of your items. How do you determine that? Is
there some place in the eBay site that allows you to see where your watchers are located?
As a side note, my sales have been mostly international lately. The downside of this is that even countries that I donít list as ones that I sell to, have been buying items.
eBay is absolutely no help in this regard.
Thanks again, Julia, for your interesting newsletter!
Thanks so much for writing and your very informative letter. I've heard about Endicia at eBay Live and in other venues. It sounded great, but I have never been able to get around the fact that my post office clerks have always told me I need to physically bring in packages with customs forms (going international) to the post office. Are you able to get a carrier to pick up your packages, or do you go to the post office with the packages already labeled/stamped, and had them to a clerk? If so are you able to bypass the standard line?
Hoo boy. This brings me to....The Magic Door. The door..you know the door, the weird little Wizard of Oz door, where the top part swings open while the bottom part can stay shut?
That's supposed to be the door where you can ring the little bell in the hallway of my local post office, and then someone is supposed to show up pronto whereupon you hand your nicely stamped packages to the clerk, and go on your merry way, pitying the poor fools standing in line on your way out.
In actuality, I approach the door with trepidation, never sure if someone will come to the other side, and feeling like a bit of an idiot standing there for minutes in the hallway, ringing the little bell again and again at times. One feels as if one is ringing the doorbell for one's friend to come out and play, as one did in 1970.
I nosed around on the Endicia site, and it said this:
To meet security regulations, you can ship International packages weighing over 16oz through free Carrier Pickup, at your Post Office retail counter, or by special arrangement with your postmaster.
That last one sounds interesting. Do they mean my local postmaster? Or am I calling the postmaster general? (I know, I doubt it). Carrier pickup...do they mean the regular USPS carriers? I will explore this further and get back to everyone in the next newsletter.
Judie, you asked how I know people in other countries are watching my auctions. I use a tool called sellathon (sellathon.com) for $4.95 a month, that shows me how people get to my auctions, what keywords they use, where the people are located (if the domain name is known), and some other info. It's a very cool tool and I highly recommend it.
As to people in countries you do not list to buying items anyway, yes, I think this is one of the hazards of eBay. I feel like if I am going to list to one country I might as well list to all of them. But...I am curious as to why you would only list to certain countries..are there certain countries' postal regulations you are trying to avoid?
I will write more about Endicia in the next issue, as I notice they tell you which countries restrict which items and select the customs form for you. ("Did you know you can't send Saccharin to France or ground cocoa beans to Germany?")
Thanks again, Judie!
Finally, I'm going to include some info about Media Mail from our good friends at the US Postal Service, and from an eBay Reader Guide..this is stuff you can find online, but I thought you might want to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. (There's some kind of Pony Express joke in there somewhere, but I haven't had enough coffee to make it).
Media Mailģ service is a cost efficient way to mail books, sound recordings, recorded video tapes, printed music, and recorded computer-readable media (such as CDs, DVDs, and diskettes). Media Mail can not contain advertising except for incidental announcements of books. The maximum weight for Media Mail is 70 lbs.
There are presorted rates available for bulk quantities of Media Mail (minimum quantity is 300 pieces).
A barcode discount is available for Media Mail.
Rates are based on weight and size.
Formerly (and colloquially, still) known as "Book Rate", Media Mail is used to send books, printed materials, sound recordings, videotapes, CD-ROMs, diskettes, and similar, but cannot contain advertising. Maximum weight is 70 pounds (31.75 kg).
* Delivery standards are 5Ė9 business days
* Rates based on weight
* Much cheaper than Parcel Post, and roughly the same transit time
* Postage can be paid using any method except precanceled stamps
Same as Media Mail, but receives an additional discount and may be used only for books or recordings being sent to or from a public library, museum, or academic institution.
Bound Printed Matter
Same as Media Mail but it is used to mail permanently-bound sheets of advertising, promotional, directory or editorial material such as catalogs and phonebooks. It may be slightly cheaper than Media Mail rates. Observations:
* Package can weigh up to 15 lb.
* Sheets must be permanently-bound by secure fastenings such as staples, spiral binding, glue or stitching.
* At least 90% of the sheets must be imprinted by any process other than handwriting or typewriting.
* Mail must be marked "return service requested" to receive undeliverable back. Mail without this marking will be disposed of.
* Postage may be applied by PC postage, permit imprint, or stamps, but cannot be bought at a retail counter, effective May 14, 2007.
Info about Media Mail from an eBay user guide:
This guide is meant to help BUYERS of Records 33 rpm & 45 rpm's, cassette tapes, books & magazines who choose to use MEDIA MAIL rate during the Holiday Season (Thanksgiving thru News Years). This GUIDE is meant to help educate BUYERS on the PRO's & CON's of MEDIA MAIL during the HOLIDAY postal rush.
#1 - MEDIA MAIL is cheaper because it is GROUND transport, that right there is SLOW! But during the HOLIDAY rush (Thanksgiving thru New Years) more people send PARCELS, which takes up more room in the trucks that move GROUND transport.
#2 - MEDIA MAIL will ALWAYS take lower priority than ANY other service offered; i.e., EXPRESS, PRIORITY, PARCEL, even FIRST CLASS. This means MEDIA MAIL could sit until they can COMFORTABLY get to it, this is why it is CHEAPER!
#3 - Since the Holiday's are VERY busy with EXPRESS, PRIORITY, PARCEL & FIRST CLASS......Media Mail will sit until they can get to it - COMFORTABLY! PERIOD! It is last to go, another reason as to why it is CHEAPER.
#4 - It can take up to 6 WEEKS (30 to 40 days) of what should normally be NO more 7 days! I am not exaggerating! I've had BUYERS leave NEG feedback saying I've ripped them off, only to get a email apologizing because it finally arrived..........6 weeks later!
#5 - I have NO problem with ANY customer choosing MEDIA MAIL since it can save you a couple bucks $$$$ on shipping. Just be aware of the longer transit times and ROUGHER than NORMAL treatment if you chose MEDIA MAIL, especially during the HOLIDAY seasons. Just remember during the HOLIDAYS it is SLOWER than SLOW.
#6 - I have sold RECORDS on eBay for 5 Christmas Seasons now and I guarantee it WILL take longer to ship if MEDIA MAIL is chosen. PLEASE don't write the seller UPSET & BLAMING them that your purchase did not arrive before Christmas. If you are BUYING something that qualifies for MEDIA MAIL - Records, Books, Tapes, & Magazines and you want it BEFORE Christmas.....DO NOT chose MEDIA MAIL.
#7 - MEDIA MAIL is shipped GROUND with other HEAVY boxes; i.e., BOOKS, TAPES, etc., so your shipment gets VERY bounced around, another thing to consider.
OK, this is Julia talking now...six weeks?? Yikes! I can't say I've ever had anything take that long. If any of you out there have had anything take longer than 10 days, please write and let me know.
Below is an excerpt from "postalnews blog", which I found when I googled around looking for info about media mail. It pertains to our discussion about the old magazines with defunct ads:
Rules that donít make sense
Posted in media mail, postal, retail by brian on the May 6th, 2006
The Postal Service has a ton of rules, some of them painfully complicated yet necessary, some of them just a pain. A story in a Wisconsin newspaper, linked to on the Postcom web site illustrates one of the latter.
A man successfully unloaded a pile of old farming magazines from the 1940ís on eBay, estimating media mail shipping costs at $8.00. When he got to the post office, however, he was surprised to discover that because the magazines contained advertising, they couldnít be shipped media mail, and it was going to cost closer to $20 to mail them.
The advertising rule makes sense when applied to current periodicals, but itís hard to see why it should apply to what are obviously not active advertisements.
A mindless adherence to the letter of the regulation when it so clearly violates the intent isnít particularly smart. I realize that itís not in the postal serviceís financial interest to encourage the use of low revenue services like media mail. But as long as theyíre in the rate structure, they should be made available openly and reasonably.
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2) The Thing, or, Now is a Good Time to Check out Your Thrift Stores
This newsletter has really mushroomed, so I'm going to keep this one short and sweet. I was reading, as I am wont to do, our local rag, The Washington Post (no really, we all love it). And they ran a fun article about "the Thing": those things that everyone thinks they've got to have, but come Spring, they're populating thrift stores everywhere.
So why am I writing about them? Well, they might just be buying opportunities! We can pick them up cheap at thrift stores and resell them to other unsuspecting souls who think they just have to have The Thing.
Another thing to keep in mind about why it's good to go to thrift stores now: It's the end of the year, and people are scrambling to make donations before the end of the year so they can include the donations on their tax forms.
At any rate, here is an excerpt from the article, by Post writer Monica Hesse:
This year's Things include: The caramel apple dipper. The Wilton cookie press. The Laroma hot chocolate maker, piled in a 48-box pyramid in the home section of Macy's at Metro Center. Your Choice, the signs surrounding it say, as if you and the Laroma selected each other a long time ago, even if you don't remember doing so.
A couple of years ago, the Thing was the portable chocolate fountain. A "must-have for holiday parties," ad copy read. You'd seen the big ones at weddings, at bat mitzvahs, at nondenominational office winter gatherings. At last, you could bring that melty goodness home -- put it on a platter with marshmallows and poundcake and other dippables. It was good for a Christmas party or two, and good for those secret times afterward when the dippables were gone but, by God, your fingers were not.
And after that? Well, how much melted chocolate does a body really need, anyway?
To the cupboard it went, another ghost of your Christmas past.
Often the Things of years past are released in the general direction of Joyce Fitzgerald, who volunteers with the Opportunity Shop, a thrift store affiliated with St. Alban's Episcopal Church, and is known to other volunteers as "the object goddess." Things arrive in garbage bags, or sometimes in original packaging, at the shop's front door. "We get three or four fondue sets a month, especially after Christmas," she says. "Sometimes we get stuff and I don't even know what the stuff is."
Like the metal rack she figured must have been some sort of toast-holder. A colleague guessed it was for drying sponges.
The Opportunity Shop also accepts the Things of yesteryear -- the things that were once Things but are now due for Crate & Barrel upgrades: a parade of hand-cranked apple peelers, and garlic presses, and French press coffeemakers. "I think," volunteer Helen Eisenberg says, "people must be going back to percolating," but that's just because she hasn't seen the AeroPresses yet.
(You can read the whole article on the Washington Post's web site, but you'll need to register. It's free, though).
3) Reader Mail
I am interested in a couple of your ebooks but am a little confused by what is in your newsletter I subscribe to....
- Yard Salers: Issue 33! Making Money with Paper and What Sells
Near the bottom of the above issue you state:
>>eBooks by Julia L. Wilkinson:
[All my ebooks are offered at 1/2 price from their regular prices to the subscribers of this newsletter. If interested in any of them, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.]
The one, Dirty Little Pieces of Paper, lists the cost of $37.00. Unless I am mistaken, would that be $18.50 for me as a subscriber?
So, Selling Kids Clothes on eBay. I see it lists the price as $8.95....would I pay this amount or 1/2 this, if 1/2 this, how?
Thank you for your kind attention to this matter. I will wait to hear further from you.
Thanks so much for your interest. Sorry for the confusion. That one is actually not mine..it's by Avril Harper, and I'm selling it as one of her affiliates. So I can't give u a lower cost on it. However I can tell you I bought it myself and think it's well worth it. She has 40 yrs. experience selling post cards and she's great about explaining what makes them valuable or not.
Re: Selling Kids Clothes on eBay. Yes, that would only be $4.50. You can just paypal me $4.50 to email@example.com. I haven't gotten separate links set up for subscribers where they pay half price for everything yet, tho I need to. I did do that for the What sells ebook, but haven't yet for all the other ebooks. So I'll put that on the docket. :)
Thanks again for all your interest in my ebooks! I hope you find them interesting and valuable.