I'm a diehard thrifter and garage sale addict! I love the thrill of the hunt! And I love making CASH from trash so I also resell on eBay and Etsy. I share my successes to inspire you ... and my failures so you learn from my mistakes. Please join me on this wild and crazy ride of making cash from trash!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Odds and Ends Friday

In my last post, I shared with you the drama that we went through with our SmartCar this past June.  Well, July and August proved to be just as busy and in some cases just as challenging.  I figured I’d just summarize everything into one long post.  I promise to be brief and hopefully not too boring!

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1.  Solar Energy: We finally got our solar panels in!  I am so happy that now I don’t have to roast during those horrible heat waves.  Electricity here is SO expensive and running the A/C for more than a couple of hours a day during the summer was out of the question.  Our solar energy was up and running early July and it has made such a difference.  More and more of our neighbors are going solar and getting rid of their $700 monthly electric bills!

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2.  Babysitting:  My BFF’s daughter recently finished her nursing program and has been looking for FT work.  Although she has a regular sitter to watch her boys when she’s at her PT job, she asked if I would watch them on her days off so she could go job hunting.  I was happy to help and found that I became quite attached to these 2 little ones.  Forget eBay!  We were busy going to the park playground and doing other fun stuff.  They started kindergarten in August so I don’t watch them anymore.  Even though it was only for a few weeks, I sure do miss them and our fun times.

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3. My niece Diane:  A month ago today, my beautiful niece Diane lost her 10-year battle with cancer.  She was 56 and wanted to keep on living; but in the end, she faced death with courage and grace. My sister took it pretty hard but continues to heal with each day.  We had a beautiful memorial for Diane a couple weeks ago – there were so many friends and family celebrating her life.  Times like this make us remember how short life is and how important it is to keep in touch with those we love.

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4. Silverado Fire:  Last Friday, I left my home in the morning for a quick errand to the local Walgreens.  I may have been gone 30-45 minutes.  As I returned home, I saw this!  It was about 11:00 a.m. so the fire had just started.  That’s the Cleveland National Forest; and with everything so dry because of the severe drought, there was just no way of knowing which direction the fire would take and how fast it would travel.  It was just way too close for comfort!

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This is what it looked like from our house about 5 p.m. that Friday.  Fortunately, the fire headed away from us; but the poor folks in the Silverado Canyon had to be evacuated. The fire burned about 1,000 acres and was apparently ignited by the sun reflecting off metal sheeting put up by someone trying to keep rodents out of a vegetable garden.  The fire is expected to be fully contained by tomorrow. 

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5.  Triple-digit heat wave and power outage: As if a raging fire wasn’t enough this past weekend, how about adding triple-digit temperatures?  Temperatures hit a record-breaking high of 107-108 degrees from Saturday to this past Tuesday.  So very hot!  I thought I was so cool with my solar panels and A/C, right?  Wrong!!  Sunday afternoon all the power suddenly went off.  Well, solar panels don’t work without electricity so they were no good to me during this heat wave. 

Anyway, we were without power for 48 hours and spent two miserably hot and sticky sleepless nights.  There was no Internet and no TV, oh no!  I was glad to have my SmartPhone for Internet so I was able to answer any eBay messages.  Then I discovered that eBay also had an outage so I guess I didn’t have to worry too much. 

Now to put in a claim for all our food that spoiled.  Makes me realize I need to be better prepared in case of a major disaster.

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6.  My Mimi:  Worse than any car troubles and power outages is the loss of my precious Chihuahua, Mimi.  Sometime in the wee hours of Monday morning, during the power outage, my Mimi walked out the doggy door and never returned.  She usually sleeps with us, but it was so hot that I slept on the sofa.  DH and I each thought she was with other.  We got up about 5 a.m. and quickly realized that Mimi was not in the house.  We immediately went outside, which was pitch black since the street lights were out; and with our flashlights started looking for her.

It’s now been more than 4 days since she’s been gone.  We have canvassed the neighborhoods, posted flyers, contacted the shelters, and posted her picture on as many lost-and-found pet sites that I can find.  She has an ID tag and she also has a microchip, but still no leads.  We believe someone has her and is holding on to her.  It’s better to believe that than the alternative (we have a lot of coyotes in our area).  I keep praying each day that she just shows up or that someone contacts us about her.  My family is so very heart broken …

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7. Paris, the newest family member:  Life is just full of coincidences.  The day before Mimi disappeared, my BFF asked me if I was interested in adopting her granddaughter’s pet Chihuahua.  Her GD had started college and was busy with school work and other activities so was unable to keep Paris.  My BFF knew my precious Sweetpea had passed in 2012 and thought I might be ready for an addition. 

Well, I fell in love with Paris the minute I saw her and thought she would be a good playmate for Mimi.  We agreed that I would pick her up Monday evening.  In a cruel twist of fate, my Mimi ends up missing that Monday morning.  My gut reaction was to back out of adopting Paris; but I still have hope that Mimi will return and they will become good friends.


Temperatures are back to normal, and today we finally felt the first stirrings of fall with a cool breeze.  Except for the loss of my Mimi, things seem to be getting back to normal.  But it’s never a dull moment for long!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

I Bought a $2,000 Engine on eBay!

Holy moly, I can’t believe it’s been SO LONG since my last post!  Life has been crazy these past couple of months; and it’s been one thing after another.

Even though I have fallen behind in my posting, I have been reading your blogs.  I recently read this post from Grace @ Thrifting in the Buff about how scary it was venturing into the unknown and selling a vehicle on eBay for the first time.  This brought to mind my recent venture into the eBay unknown, and I thought I’d share my own nerve-racking experience.

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For the past year or so, I was sharing my vehicle with my two sons: DS#2 who works part-time for Disneyland and DS#1 who worked part-time while looking for FT employment.  Not ideal but we made it work.

DS#1 finally found a FT job in June, and we were very happy for him.  The downside is that the job is about an hour’s drive away and he needed his own car. 

What better way to save on gas than a small SmartCar for Two?  We bought the car in June from a used-car dealer.  Unfortunately, it was not certified and the darn thing started to overheat after two days.  More unfortunately, DS#1 drove the car until the engine blew-out and died.

(This post could also be titled “How Not To Buy a Used Car”; but we’ve already chastised ourselves enough over this and have decided to put this bad experience behind us.)

After finding a mechanic who specializes in SmartCars, it was determined that it’d be best to replace the engine.  We knew finding a used engine was going to be a challenge, but we were really surprised when our mechanic said he found a couple of engines on eBay!  He reassured us they had dealt with these businesses before and were very reputable. 

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Smart Madness, Long Beach, CA

The engine we selected was from a company in Maryland, so putting out $2,000 is a lot of money to pay someone you don’t know and for something you can’t inspect.  That was really scary, considering all the horror stories we hear.  I had to place my trust not only in my mechanic but also in eBay – that I would not be ripped off and that I would be protected.

Before paying, however, I contacted them with a few questions.  I found them to be very helpful and informative.  It was actually way too easy.  I paid on a Thursday; and by the following Monday, my engine was on it’s way.  I was able to track the shipment via their freight company.  My mechanic said it was one of the cleanest and most complete used engines they have seen.  Needless to say, I was very relieved.

So, while all this was going on, I was busy being “taxi mom”, which was very time-consuming and didn’t leave me time for too much else.  But we now have the SmartCar and it’s in great like-new condition.  And guess who drives it now?  Yes, me!  I’m just happy I no longer have to be “taxi mom”!


With me it’s either feast or famine.  Now that things have settled down (keeping my fingers crossed), I have more to share with you so you’ll be seeing more posts coming your way!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Cash for Trash: June Sales

Another month and another dollar earned!  Sales have been slow but seem to be picking up.  Except for my two best sales – the Maui Jim sunglasses and the CeCe Pet Carrier – most of my June sales were pretty routine.


Here are a few of my more interesting sales from last month.  Except as noted, these items were purchased from the outlet so the “paid” price is an average.

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The North Face Vintage Logo Baseball Cap Hat Black Unisex One Size Nylon – Paid $0.84 – Revenue $19.99 – Net Margin 69%

The North Face is one of those brands that you can’t go wrong with picking up.  It’s pretty much a guaranteed sale.  Finding one of their jackets would be a major score.  This cap sold for $19.99 to a buyer in New York.  


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BabyBjorn Active Carrier Blue Lumbar Support Model 0260 UPDATED – Paid $0.90 – Revenue $31.98 – Net Margin 58%

This was my first time picking up one of these Baby Bjorn carriers.  I read they were good sellers, but this one is an older model.  As I was researching this one, I discovered that some of the older Baby Bjorn carriers were recalled.  The good thing is that this one had been updated and was not on the recall list.  Something to keep in mind when sourcing baby products from thrifts and garage sales.  This sold to a buyer in Wisconsin.


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Vintage Disney's Nana Plush Dog From the Movie Peter Pan by Sears – Paid $0.86 – Revenue $39.99 – Net Margin 72%

I have a love/hate relationship with plushies.  On the one hand, they don’t break and are  easy to ship. On the other hand, they take up space and tend to be slow sellers.  I just don’t have much luck selling plush, but this Disney Nana didn’t take too long to sell – about 2-1/2 months – not too bad. I was pretty happy to see it go, and the best part was that it went to a buyer in California so shipping was only $5.20.


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Speedo Mens Boys Swim Briefs Bikini Bathing Floral Print M 32 – Paid $0.99 – Revenue $34.98 – Net Margin 79%

I picked up three of these brand new Speedo briefs during one trip to the outlet in February.  I quickly listed all three and one sold a month later.  The last two finally sold in June.  I paid about $2.98 for all three, and my total revenue for the lot was $99.94.  The best part is that shipping was less than $2 each. Ka-ching!


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Black Buffalo Leather Motorcycle Round Barrel Bag Bedroll Sissy Bar Tote Luggage – Paid $4.20 @ SA – Revenue $46.49 – Net Margin 33%

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Genuine Hewlett-Packard Black Toner 96A HP LaserJet 2100 2200 Cartridge C4096 – Paid $0.50 @ Garage Sale – Revenue $35.34 – Net Margin 61%

These 2 items had been in my store for about a year.  I tried everything to move them out.  Finally, I pulled them “off the market” for about a month.  When I relisted them, I took new pictures and wrote a new title and description.  And, boom!  They both sold within a week!  I read somewhere that totally re-doing a listing helps with ranking; and now I’m a believer.

The bag was not the big seller I hoped it would be; and I finally sold it for $14.99 to a buyer in Sweden who paid over $30 for shipping.  My net margin on this was only 33% but I was glad to see it go.


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Fisher Price Peek-A-Blocks Musical Shape Sorter and Lot 27 Blocks – Paid $1.42 – Sold $43.99 – Net Margin 2%

I collected this lot of little blocks from multiple trips to the outlet.  My joy at making this sale was short lived when I discovered that I had messed up on the shipping cost.  This was supposed to be listed with calculated shipping; but I forgot to change the template.  This was an international sale to Israel and the buyer paid $14 for 1st class shipping. Unfortunately, the package weighed over 4 lbs. and had to send it by Priority Mail.  It cost $37 to ship … bah hum bug!  My net margin was only 2% and I made a whopping $0.85.


These are my “money in the garage” sales.  I did a little spring cleaning and these items were actually in the closet.  I love shopping my house for items to re-sell!

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Vintage Christmas Glass Ornaments Bulbs – Three boxes – Revenue $71.15 – Net Margin 60%

I bought these a few years ago, probably to make something crafty like a Christmas wreath; but I knew I was never going to get around to it.  I listed them at auction, and the top 2 sold for $10 plus shipping.  The 3rd one sold for $30.55 plus shipping.  I may have gotten a little more had I waited a few months, but I was ready to see them go.

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Vintage 80 Applique Quilt Blocks 9-Inch Unfinished Birds Leaves Turkey Red – FREE – Sold $80 – Net Margin 81%

I bought these quilt blocks YEARS ago on eBay.  I was gung-ho on learning how to applique and was determined to make these into a quilt.  Yea, right!  Put them away and never touched them, so now they found a new home with a buyer from Michigan.


Here is a breakdown of my June sales:

# of Sales: 77

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): $114.60 (6% of revenue)

Average Price of COGS: $1.49 (does not include personal items sold)

Total Revenue: $2008.77 (includes revenue from shipping)

Net Margin: 56%

Avg. Sales Price: $26.09

Highest Sold Item: $110.00

Lowest Sold Item: $7.99

Number and Percent of Items Sold:

  • Jeans: 14 – 18%
  • Plush and Toys: 13 – 17%
  • Shirts: 7 – 9%
  • Everything Else: 43 – 56%

Five UPI Case – Closed and credited

Now that’s cash for trash!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Good News to Share …

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I finally reached the 5000 feedback score and now have a GREEN star!  It’s just like getting those little foil gold stars on my homework when I was a child.  I loved getting those. 

And, when I reach the 10,000 feedback score, I’ll get a SHOOTING star … wow!  Of course, it’ll probably take me another 15 years to reach; but if every buyer left feedback, it may take only 12 years LOL.  Then, again, who knows what the future holds for me and eBay …


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CeCe Kent Ralph Taos Dog Carrier Black Leather – Paid $1 – Sold $110

It sold!  Yes, the designer leather pet carrier I bought at the GWO sold within a day of listing it.  I listed it at $200 with a Best Offer and by the next morning had an offer for $110, which I quickly accepted.  Lorraine at We Are CLAMCO thought I could get the full $200 and I should have gone with that, first listing it without the BO.  But no regrets – the buyer got a great deal and I got a quick $110 in my pocket.  Not a bad return on my $1 investment!

Now that’s cash for trash

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Thrifty Treasures Thursday

It’s hard to believe that I haven’t been to any garage-estate-rummage sales this year – not a single, solitary one.  But I recently made my way to the GWO, which I hadn't been to since April.

When I got there, I was surprised – and happy – to see the parking lot was relatively empty.  I was also happy to know their price was still 69-cents a pound for non-clothing items.  But when I walked in, I was disappointed to see that most of their bins were filled with clothes. I didn't expect to find much; but by the time I walked up to the cashier, I had a full cart of goodies.


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There is so much crap junk in the bins that it’s sometimes easy to overlook the good stuff.  I don’t know why I picked up these sunglasses because I didn’t notice anything outstanding about them.  But once I saw it, I recognized the brand name – Maui Jim. I listed these right away and they sold within 2 days to a buyer in Tennessee.  They have already received their glasses and left positive FB!
 

 
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I really appreciate all the information that others share – not just on blogs but also on FB posts – and how generous everyone is to share.  I would never have picked up this wooden cassette rack if I hadn’t read about it.  I don’t always remember where I read the information, but good thing the information sticks in my mind.  This one is marked Napa Valley; I don’t know if all cassette racks are good sellers or just this brand.  Here is a link to one that recently sold for $50 plus shipping.
 

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I spotted this GI Joe missile launcher the moment it came rolling out in a bin.  I thought I would have a fight on my hands, but everyone else was interested in shoes and purses.  Unfortunately, the jeep that goes with it was in another bin that rolled out later, and someone else beat me to it.  I’ll be listing this for $45 plus shipping.


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This is an online picture of a CeCe Kent pet carrier that is just like one I picked up at the outlet.  When I first picked it up, I thought it was a purse.  Then I realized it was a pet carrier and thought I would keep it for Mimi, my little Chihuahua.  When I remembered how much she hates the carrier we already have, I put it back.  But it was a really nice quality suede bag and I thought it might be worth something.  Looked it up on my Smartphone and discovered these retail new for over $400!!  Holy cow, I almost tripped on my own 2 feet running back to grab it before it was gone.

Once I got home I researched it and found several online websites selling this very same bag for between $300-$500.  Are these prices real or ridiculously over-blown?  I only saw one used that sold on eBay for about $50 – blah!  My bag is very clean and looks to be unused but it’s obviously pre-owned.  I figure I paid about $1 for it, and I’m thinking I’ll list it for $200 with a Best Offer.


I found a few other things at the GWO:

  • 6 pairs of shoes
  • 3 jackets, including a vintage Levis Sherpa denim jacket
  • 2 vintage Disney/Pixar sheets
  • Some vintage dinnerware and few more odds-and-ends

I spent $82 and hope to turn that into $1100+ in revenue!  I love the outlets!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Cash for Trash: May Sales

As much as I lamented that sales were slow, I was doing the happy dance when there was a sudden surge in sales the end of May.  This was especially good since I had put my store on vacation for a couple of weeks and didn’t list one single item in May until the last week. I know these surges come and go; I just wish they lasted longer!


Here are a few more sales I made in May.  Except for the last item, all of these were purchased from the GWO so the “paid” price is an average.

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Hasbro NERF Tornado Strike Big Super Soaker Squirt Gun with Detachable Stock – Paid $0.71 – Sold $30.99 – Net Margin 59%

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Wham-O Aqua Force Crossbow Water Balloon Blaster – Paid $0.99 – Sold $25.26 – Net Margin 33%

These bigger water guns sell really well during the warmer months.  These have been listed since February,  and they sold within days of one another.  I was hoping the Wham-O blaster was worth more, but it retails new for $25.  So I listed it for $10.99 BIN, and someone paid $15 to have it shipped to NY.  Go figure!

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Large Grumpy Plush 28" Snow White Seven Dwarf Retired Jumbo – Paid $1.42 – Sold $35.99 – Net Margin 50%

I debated about getting this big guy along with his sidekick Dopey because of their large size and the hassle of shipping; but I just couldn’t leave them behind.  I stuck him in a 14” square box and shipped him to a buyer in Wisconsin for about $12.  My net profit – after costs and fees – was about $18, or 50% of the sales price. Not too bad; just glad to see him go!
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Mervyns California Mission San Buenaventura Ornament Midwest of Canon Falls 1998 – Paid $0.60 – Sold $24.95 – Net Margin 74%

I’ve mentioned these California Missions for Mervyn’s in previous posts (here and here).  They are porcelain replicas made by Midwest of Canon Falls and were sold in Mervyn’s stores from 1997-1998.  Both the village buildings and the ornaments – like the one above – are hard to find and very collectible as are the accessories.  If you ever run across one, be sure to grab it quickly and run!

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Porceval Figurine Girl in Blue Ribbon Dress and Veil Hand Painted Spain – Paid $0.71 – Sold $26.89 – Net Margin 63%

When I first saw this pretty figurine tossed in a bin, I didn’t pay her any attention.  She was in the midst of a bunch of cheap dollar-store figurines so I just walked on by.  I came upon her again when I made my second round and this time I picked her up.  Her bottom was marked “Porceval, Made in Spain”.  Okay, maybe she wasn’t some cheap trinket.  Thanks to my smartphone I realized she could be worth a few dollars so into the cart she went.  She sat in my store for about 3 months before she sold to a buyer here in California.

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Atari 2600 and Frogger Plug and Play TV Video Game Arcade Style Joystick – Paid $0.99 – Sold $30.81 – Net Margin 67%

I still remember playing the first video arcade games back in the 1970s.  The first one I ever played was Pong by Atari.  It was such a simple two-dimensional game, but I was terrible at it!  So when I saw these two joysticks, I threw them in my cart.  These are actually plug-and-play arcade TV joysticks.  They are not very old, but you can play some of the original arcade games from the 70s – including Pong!  We plugged them into our OLD TV to make sure they work and I had a fun time remembering old times.  And yes, I’m still terrible at playing Pong!  These also sold to a buyer in California.

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Noritake Versatone Bleufleur B319 Seven (7) Dinner and Dessert Plates – Paid $5.38 – Sold $98.52 – Net Margin 72%

I sold seven more pieces of this beautiful Noritake design.  I purchased these in February and sold the first 3 bowls within a few days of listing them.  So far, total sales of these pieces comes to just over $160. I still have two more dinner plates that should bring in another $35.  These were two listings and they went to the same buyer in Florida.

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Naked Nude Barbies Barbie Mixed Lot of 9 Blonde Brunette African Clean – Paid $1.38 – Sold $43.39 International Sale – Net Margin 22%

This little lot of naked Barbies was not a big seller.  This was my first try at selling this item and it will also be my last!  I picked them up because I’d seen the videos by GillDaddy and they always grab them to sell in lots.  However, this just didn’t work for me.  I picked these up over the course of several trips to the GWO and half the ones I did get were damaged.  I finally got around to listing them and getting them out the door.  What I DID find interesting was that I received quite a few inquiries, all from international buyers. Anyway, this lot went to a buyer in the United Kingdom, who paid over $33.00 for shipping.  What DO people do with these?


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Food Saver Mini Plus Vacuum Sealer Brand New in the Box – Paid $7.98 – Sold $60 – Net Margin 63%

Honestly, when I paid the $7.98 at the SA for this FoodSaver, I intended to keep it.  Otherwise, I don’t think I would have bought it to resell.  The box was sealed so I had no idea its condition.  But once at home, I saw that it was brand new in its original packaging.  Looked it up and realized I could sell it for about $60.  Oh, well, I didn’t really need it!  This sold the day after Memorial Day – within 2 days of listing it – to a buyer in California.

I know it takes money to make money; and one of the things I struggle with is not limiting what I pay for items.  I like to stay under $5 – WAY under – for what I pay per product.  Yet, I realize that I’m leaving behind many great items that could bring in more money. I see that other sellers pay much more for items that they know will bring in the $$.

Selling the FoodSaver made me realize that I need to expand my horizons and not limit myself and the items I sell.  Yes, it may take a little more upfront money – and, yes, you have more at risk – but you also have more to gain!


Here is a breakdown of my May Sales:

# of Sales: 70

Cost of Goods Sold (COGS): $103.64 (6% of revenue)

Average Price of COGS: $1.65 (does not include personal items sold)

Total Revenue: $1895.38 (includes revenue from shipping)

Avg. Sales Price: $27.08

Net Margin: 57%

Highest Sold Item: $109.71

Lowest Sold Item: $4.24

Number and Percent of Items Sold:

  • Jeans: 23 – 33%
  • Plush and Toys: 14 – 20%
  • Sewing Machines: 4 – 6%
  • Everything Else: 29 – 41%

One UPI Case – Closed and credited

Now that’s cash for trash!

Saturday, May 24, 2014

What’s Up with eBay and Google—and Slow Sales

First it was the new Cassini search engine, then eBay sprang the new Defect Rate (eDR) on us; and if that wasn’t enough, there was the recent security breach.  NOW I learn that Google has dropped eBay from it’s high-ranking searches. What’s up?!

A few days ago, I saw this article from eCommerce Bytes. Then yesterday, I read this post by The Thrift Store Reseller Blog.  The issue about eBay’s decreased search engine rankings really caught my attention.

I learned that on May 20 Google  introduced a new version of its Panda algorithm, which Google uses to rank websites in its search results.  It is designed to prevent sites with poor quality content from working their way into Google’s top search results. So, what happened to eBay?

Not too long ago, if you searched for any product that could be bought or sold, an eBay link was likely on the first page of results (Business Insider 05/22/14). Do a Google search today and you will not see one eBay link on the first page.  eBay has been sent to the “back of the line”.

One source says eBay lost 80% of its “best search listings” (organic rankings); other sources say 50%. No one really knows why, but there is much speculation.  “People started noticing this week that eBay was no longer showing up in search results on thousands of different queries, the thinking was that Panda was the cause.” (re/code 05/23/14)

This source, however, says eBay was penalized by Google—part of a so-called “manual action” that Google took against eBay—but the timing of Panda’s rollout made it look like eBay’s trouble was Panda-related.(Search Engine Land 05/23/14)

Most of the information I found was too techy and geeky for me.  But, what I do know is that my sales have been ridiculously slow.  eBay needs to get their act together and needs to do it quick.  Meinard @ The Thrift Store Reseller Blog has a great attitude about all this and has a lot of hope that eBay will recover.  I agree with him. eBay has to –- I need them to – because my sales depend on it!

In the meantime, I’ll not be doing any auction listings and will be listing everything in my store.  During this slow time, I will continue to list items in my Bonanza and Etsy stores, and I will do my best to weather the storm.

Sources:

Search Engine Land (05/21/14)

Business Insider (05/22/14)

re/code (05/23/14)

Search Engine Land (05/23/14)