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!

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.  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.


Thursday, May 22, 2014

eBay’s Cassini Search Engine: What I Learned

Sometime during the last quarter of 2013, my sales took a downward spiral.  I couldn’t understand why, but then I read a FB comment that explained it in one word:  Cassini. eBay had quietly rolled out its new search engine in June.

Cassini Who?!  What?! I’d read the announcements and postings about the new search engine and listened to some of it.  I improved my photos, filled in the Item Specifics, completed the Condition Description box, and even refreshed my stale store listings.  But I was oblivious to the impact of other important factors and how it all would affect my sales.  I decided it was time to really look into this new Cassini.  Here is what I learned and did not previously understand.

Cassini is about the buyer, not the seller.  It is designed to provide consumers with a more targeted shopping experience and is based on personalization.  In essence, it is the buyers who influence the order of search results.

Cassini bases its search results on the 4 core values: trust, value, relevance and convenience. This means the listing title is no longer the master because other aspects of the listing and selling process also play a key role in rankings. 

Cassini uses algorithms that match a buyer's search term with the following:
  • your product details
  • the price
  • the age of your listing
  • the quality of your item
  • shipping cost
  • shipping time
  • your feedback rating
  • the number of viable items you have listed
  • your sell through ratio
  • your return policy
  • your compliance with eBay's regulations
  • and many more mundane points.
Whatever product has the highest score based upon these factors goes on top and is seen and often purchased first.

What?!  I didn’t realize that my ranking in search results was also based upon my return policy, my sell-through ratio, etc.  Cassini has definitely changed the way our listings show up in searches. It is now more important than ever to show that your items are in demand, that you can make the sale, and that you can provide great customer service which results in happy buyers that come back. 

What significant changes has Cassini made that affect listings the most?  What does Cassini like – and more importantly, does  not like? And what can I do to ensure my listings get top ranking?

1) Fewer search results. Rather than returning all potential matches, Cassini displays only a subset of listings in search results that are unique to each buyer.  This results in fewer—but more relevant—search results for the buyer.

2)  Free listings. eBay would be hard-pressed to continue charging sellers listing fees when only a few hundred—albeit relevant—listings show up in results.  I believe this is their way of making up for  the significant cut back in listings in search results

3) Text mining. Cassini goes beyond pure keyword matching in a title.  Cassini also mines the text in item descriptions to capture additional information that will result in more relevant searches.

4) Feedback. Cassini mines the text of feedback comments looking for patterns—both positive and negative—to get a more accurate picture of the level of customer service each seller is providing.  Why?  Because some buyers who are unhappy with a transaction may be loathe to leave negative feedback.  They will instead leave a positive feedback but will hint or complain in the feedback comments.

5) Sell-through rates.  Cassini loves activity.  It looks at how fast you turn things over.  It makes it counterproductive to post many more items than you expect to be able to sell.  So while in the past it may not have mattered if you had 1000+ active listings with only a small percentage of them selling regularly, these days those stale listings can adversely affect your ranking in search results. 

6) Seller performance and Defect Rate (eDR).    This is about your business practices as they relate to the four core values. Cassini tends to reward sellers with good-faith business practices.  It looks at your seller ratings, overall feedback, dispute resolution history, customer service history, past buyer protection cases, shipping and return policies, plus buyer communication history as well as your seller compliance rating.

Your Seller Performance is measured by your Defect Rate. A poor Defect Rate not only affects your seller status and discounts, but it also affects your ranking in search results. The better your eDR, the more you will be “search advantaged”.

Suggested recommendations:

1) Listing Title – Use relevant and popular keyword combinations.  Write titles for a buyer, not a search engine.  It’s no longer advisable to cram the title with keywords and fill in all the spaces. Irrelevant words like L@@K confuse Cassini and it will bypass your listing. It’s more important that the title include words that are relevant to the buyer and in the order a buyer would.  This is very important because a poorly written or irrelevant title can result in a lower impressions-to-transactions ratio, pushing you downward in rankings. 

2) Catalog and Item Specifics – Whenever available use the eBay catalog and fill out the item specifics as completely as you can.  Add your own item specifics whenever possible to better inform buyers and more completely describe your products.  This data is no longer there just to help shoppers make buying decisions.  It plays a significant role in search rankings.

3) Complete Item Descriptions – Add clear and precise information, including details about the condition as well as any facts the seller should know.  The idea is to keep the buyer engaged as long as possible and to eventually get them to buy an item. Cassini measures each view to see how well and how long it can keep a buyer’s attention and how often that view becomes a sale.

4) Item Performance over Time – Cassini compares how many times your listings have been seen to the number of sales they generate.  So it really pays to have fewer listings do more. Your ranking will decrease the more your listings are viewed without a buy-through. It may be better to list stock gradually as you actually expect to sell it and review your prices so that your are price-competitive.

Cassini does not like stale listings. New, reasonably priced listings from a reputable seller with high ratings will automatically be placed near the top of the Best Match category for the first day or two.  I like to review and refresh my fixed-price listings every 30-90 days.  Sometimes I will relist an old store listing as an auction.  Other suggestions include re-doing the entire listing with  new description and new photos. 

5) Photos – Photos need to not only be big and clear, they also have to be appealing.  With Cassini, every click and purchase counts, so you can’t afford to be passed over or ignored by buyers because of poor pictures.

Please do not include your doggy or your ugly feet in the picture, no matter how cute you think they are.  (Surprisingly, the Dumbo plush elephant actually sold.)

6) Feedback and Open Resolution Cases – Buyers don’t like sellers with negative feedback (even when it’s a “positive”)—and neither does Cassini.  Poor feedback and open resolution cases significantly lower your listings in searches.    Cassini will be quick to lower your placement in searches as soon as a case is opened.  So you have to be just as quick to find a solution that results in a happy buyer (and positive FB) and close that case fast.  Your listings will not recover until you resolve the issue.

7) Free Shipping – We all know there is no such thing as “free shipping”, but buyers perceive Free Shipping as a wonderful thing. Cassini does too and will move your listings into a higher level in Best Match.  A buyer is also more likely to leave positive FB when they receive free shipping.

8) Hassle-Free Returns – I am not suggesting that you opt-in to eBay’s return process, but sellers with a great return policy that includes a longer return period will rank higher in Best Match.  Remember, you don’t have to accept returns; but if you do, you are required to accept returns for ANY reason (per eBay policy). 

10) HTML – Remove any extraneous HTML code from your description area.  Listing templates, banners, widgets, maps, and info copied from the internet that carries code with it can muck up this area.  Cassini can’t read it and listings with too much HTML will be pushed to the bottom.

I didn’t realize that cutting-and-pasting info in my descriptions would affect my ranking in searches.  The best way to strip the code from copied info is to drop it into MS Word and then save it as a plain text file (.txt extension).  Open this .txt file, fix the formatting and then cut-and-paste this info into your item description.

11) RSS Feeds – Refreshing your RSS feeds forces Cassini to re-index your first 100 listings and will temporarily move them higher in Best Match.  It is recommended that you do this once a week if you want to get a good temporary boost.

Bottom line: Sell good-quality items that buyers want at a price they want to pay; and keep them happy so they come back.  You do this and eBay will reward you by placing your listings at the top level of Best Match.

I am sorry for the lengthy post, but I think it’s important to understand how Cassini affects our sales.  Basically eBay is now evaluating every single thing that you do as a seller and making it part of the Cassini Search ranking process. So, it's more important than ever to do those things that will likely result in better search placement over time. 

While I have added my own two-cents, please note that I am not the original author of much of the information.  It was culled from the sources listed below; and I want to credit and give them a big thanks.

And if there is anything here that you think may be  inaccurate or you have additional suggestions, please post a comment.  Inquiring minds want to know!

AppEagle (11/1/12)
eCommerce Bytes Blog (01/14/13)
TameBay (03/28/13)
Terapeak Social (06/11/13)
eCommerce Bytes Blog (06/21/13)
Wired (06/25/13)
eCommerce Bytes Blog (06/25/13)
Ecommerce & Auction Site News (07/04/13)
eCommerce Bytes Blog (09/19/13)
Examiner.com (11/25/13)
About.com (eBay)
eCommerce Bytes Blog (01/05/14)
eBay Selling Coach (04/14/14)

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Selling on eBay: Vacation Settings and Sales

IMG_0129It had been several years since I’d last seen my daughter and grandkids, who now live in Texas.  I was blessed to be with her this past weekend when she graduated with an AA degree.  It took her 15 years, but with hard work and determination, she did it!

She has already been accepted to the University of Houston, where she will continue her education and follow her dream of being a teacher.  She will do this while still caring for her family.  It is with their love and support that she will be able to reach her goal.  I am so proud of her and them!

While I was gone, I put my store on vacation mode and made sure to hide my listings and block any purchases.  With the new Defect Rating, I just did not want to worry about or deal with eBay while spending time with my daughter. 

I read here that sales can be slow after turning off the vacation setting so I was expecting (and looking forward) to a little downtime upon my return.  I turned my vacation setting off Thursday evening, so I was surprised – and happy – to see four new sales within 24 hours, totaling $153!  By this morning, I had another two sales and added $118+ to the total.  Ka-ching!

cassiniOne eBay-related thing I did do during my vacation was to read more about eBay’s new search engine, known as Cassini.  I’d already been implementing some of the recommendations to optimize my listings.  However, the one major recommendation I had avoided was to offer 30-day returns; and Thursday evening, I finally changed all my listings from 14-day returns to 30-day.  Did this really have anything to do with my recent sales?  I don’t know, but it certainly did not seem to hurt.

Here are my best sellers so far this month.  Click on the picture to see the complete listing:

7935 (1)

Singer 503A Sewing Machine Slant-O-Matic Rocketeer Foot Pedal Case Attachments – Sold $75 Plus Shipping – Net Margin 54%

7901 (1)

Vintage 1953 Heavy Duty Singer 15-91 Sewing Machine w/ Manual & Bentwood Case – Sold $100 – Local Pickup – Net Margin 85%

Sold two more sewing machines from my personal collection.  The Singer 503A was the first sale I made after I turned off my vacation settings.  I dropped the price on this one because it was damaged and would cost about $60 to repair. As it turns out, the buyer is a “former Singer person” and knows how to fix it.

The second 1953 Singer machine has a wooden dome case and I dreaded having to pack and ship it.  Luckily, the buyer lived about 1/2 hour away and picked it up.  She was able to test the machine and was thrilled with her purchase. 

7941 (1)

Wilcox Willcox & Gibbs Sewing Machine Parts Feet Guides – Sold $82.99 – Net Margin 73%

These sewing machine parts are another sewing-related listing from my collection.  These were inside an old sewing machine cabinet that I no longer have.  I don’t know why I kept them but decided to finally get rid of sell them.  I started the listing at $5.00 plus $6.99 shipping and would have been happy with that, just to see them gone.  So I was absolutely thrilled these sold for over $80 to a buyer in Canada.

7960 (1)

Scrabble Deluxe Edition with Turntable Rotating Board Complete 1999 – Paid $0.86 – Sold $45 – Net Margin 64%

Purchased this at the GW outlet for about 86 cents.  It sold within a week.  Secured the game pieces, wrapped the box using brown paper bags, and off it went to a buyer in California.

7948 (1)

Disney Characters Mickey Mouse Dumbo Pinocchio Birthday Cloth Tablecloth Vintage – Paid $1.29 – Sold $81.50 – Net Margin 74%

I found this great Disney tablecloth at the GW outlet and paid about $1.29 for it.  I knew it would be a good seller but never expected it to sell for as much as it did.  It had definitely been used, but the colors in the characters were in great condition so I started the auction at $9.99.  This went to a buyer in Pennsylvania.

7531 (2)

Music Reuge Antique Vintage Swiss Made Plush Musical Cow Bull Doll Toy AS-IS – Paid $0.71 – Sold $45

I hope not to offend anyone, but this is really one of the ugliest looking cows I have ever seen.  The only reason I bought it was because I knew it was vintage and it only cost about 71-cents from the GW outlet. 

I searched not just eBay but also the Internet for any information on this item and found only one other Reuge plush on eBay here listed for $99.  I discovered that the Reuge company makes musical boxes and clocks, some of their items selling well into the thousand dollars.  This particular plush toy has a musical mechanism inside and it seems that the tail is used to wind it.  Unfortunately, it is broken so I am very happy with the sale.

Now that’s cash for trash!

One more thing I’d like to share with you before ending this post.  Remember this post about the recalled Easy Bake oven?

7679 (1)

I did a bit of thrifting with my daughter while in Texas, and she took me to a good size community thrift store.  One of the first things I spotted was this Easy Bake oven; paid $2 for it.  DD gave me a funny look when I grabbed it but was thrilled when I told her about the $35 Hasbro gift card.  With four kids, she can definitely use it!  They are still out there, so keep your eyes open.

Monday, May 5, 2014

Cash for Trash: April Sales

Another month and another dollar earned!  Sales have picked up a bit, although I haven’t been listing much.  Most of the items I listed were personal items, like my collection of vintage sewing machines.  I still have a ton of items from the GW outlet that I still need to list.  I probably won’t get to them until after I return from visiting DD in Texas next week.  Really looking forward to seeing her and my grandkids!

Here are my top sales for April:

5724 (1)

Starbucks 2002 GERMANY City Mug Collector Series Berlin Wall Made by Rastal Rare – Paid $1.50 – Sold $24.99 F/S – Net Margin 60%

This Starbuck Germany mug was part of a lot of 16 Starbucks mugs I bought at a garage sale last year (see my previous post here).  This is the last one and I had to reduce the price a couple times.  It still took over a year to sell so I was glad to see it go. 

The buyer was from Texas, and he contacted me 2 days after I mailed the mug in a panic because tracking showed it had made its way to PA.  He was upset because the mug had not yet been delivered to him.  What?!

I couldn’t get any additional info from USPS, but I contacted the buyer anyway to let him know I had made the effort and asked him to give it a couple more days.  I also assured him I would continue to follow up and would keep in contact with him, which seemed to satisfy him.  The mug finally arrived in TX, even with a detour to PA.  In the end, I had a happy buyer who left positive FB.

My point of this little story is that it doesn’t take much to appease a nervous buyer.  Obviously, I have no control over a package once the carrier has it.  I could have replied with a snarky message, but I believe it’s always best to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.  He needed reassurance and I was there to help him.  That’s what customer service is about.

7847 (1)

BSA Official Boy Scouts Adult Medium Switchback Zip Off Uniform Pants Plus BELT – Paid $1 – Sold $34.99 F/S – Net Margin 69%

I always pick up scouting uniforms when I run across them, particularly Boy Scouts.  Found this one at the GW outlet and it went to a buyer in Georgia.  Be sure these are on your BOLO list.

Dr. Scholl's Leather Slip-On Velcro Casual Walking Shoes Women's Size 8.5 – Paid $2.70 each – Sold $29.99 F/S Each – Net Margin 60%

I’m not a big shoe seller but I picked these up at the outlet for about $2.70 each pair.  They were in really nice condition and I thought Dr. Scholl’s would be a good seller.  These two pairs sold pretty quickly for $29.99 F/S each.  I was able to ship them in padded flat rate envelopes so that was a nice savings. 

7475 (1)

NERF Vortex Nitron Blaster with 20 Round Ammo Clip and Batteries – Paid $0.75 – Sold $35.08 – Net Margin 53%

This was a sale I made on Bonanza.  These NERF guns are really popular and I can always count on picking up one or two at the GW outlet.

I’ve actually had several sales on Bonanza this year, which is a nice surprise.  Last year, I think I had all of 3 sales.  You can now auto-synch your listings from eBay so you don’t run the risk of selling something that is no longer available.  The basic Bonanza plan doesn’t cost anything to list so I keep an active store there.  Even the occasional sale is better than nothing. 

7834 (2)

Yves Saint Laurent YSL Brown Leather Strappy T-Strap Platform Gladiator Heels 8 – Paid $2.70 – Sold $53.11 – Net Margin 71%

This pair of heels was another nice score from the GW outlet.  I bought them on the same day I bought the Dr. Scholl’s shoes.  That was a good day for shoes! 

7938 (1)

Singer Ultralock 14U34B Serger 3/4 with Operator's Guide MIJ

Here’s one of the sewing machines I sold on eBay.  It’s actually a serger that I purchased about 15 years ago.  I think I used it a handful of times and then put it away.  I’m not even sure why I purchased it in the first place.  I finally pulled it out of the closet and cleaned the cobwebs off it. Sold it to a buyer in South Dakota for $100 plus S/H.  It was a pain to pack, but I just hope it arrived safe and sound.

I sold another vintage sewing machine with a wooden dome case.  Had to ship this one out in two boxes.  At least it was a non-working machine but it was still a pain to pack.  I’m selling off my collection of vintage sewing machines so I still have a few more to sell, but I’ll be listing those on Craigslist!

Spring weather is here, which is great for garage sales.  Hopefully, you all have been finding some great stuff and your sales have been rockin’!  Until next time …

… that’s cash for trash!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Thrifty Treasures: Hasbro 2005 Pink Easy Bake Oven Only - Recall

7679 (1)

I will usually pick up these Easy Bake Ovens when I see them at garage sales, especially if they come with their original box and accessories.  So when I spotted this pink-and-purple 2005 version at the GW Outlet a couple months ago, I was quick to grab it. 

This older model was a new one for me so I did a quick search on eBay.  I knew it was not going to be a big seller, and I also discovered it was missing a part that goes on top.  By now I’m thinking I should have just left it behind.  But being an older model, I hoped it was “collectible” and maybe someone would like to add it to their collection.  I’d only paid 99-cents for it, so I wasn’t out much if it didn’t sell.  I listed it for $10 plus shipping.

A few days after I listed it, I received this message from another seller:

Dear goodwill_haunting,
Hi! This item has been recalled. If you fill out the form below, Hasbro will send you a box to ship it to them and then they will send you a voucher for $35. Filled it out myself yesterday. Better than the $10 you're asking

Hmmm, really?  I thanked the sender for the info and quickly ended the listing.  I also filled out the form online, and a few days later I received a return box in the mail. The next day I shipped the oven off to Hasbro. 

It took a few weeks but one day I got this in the mail.  I’d forgotten all about it!


The voucher is for $32 and it’s good through the end of the year.  I may just hang onto it until Christmas.  Not bad for an item I paid about 99-cents, and the best part is no listing or final value fees! 

Has anyone else had a similar experience?  If you have, please do tell!