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Turning on a Dime
Great Rationale for Our Current Economy
Turning on a Dime
In the business of hunting for treasures to re-sell on eBay, I've learned that you don't have to travel far from home to unearth something of value.
My wife and I had just negotiated the stop sign at the north end of our block when we noticed a bunch of cars at a friend's home. Shirley had recently lost her husband to the dreaded and mysterious Lou Gehrig's Disease, and she was thus in the process of downsizing her possessions.
We found a little dirt and pebble area to park our car on the crowded little street. As I approached the home, I saw another Walla Walla Valley eBay seller, Mike, hard at it. We have a congenial relationship, but there's also an unspoken territorial imperative that we respectfully establish with each other. I give him space, and he reciprocates the gesture. A bit of honor among gypsy pickers, you might say.
Another friend, Dan, approached me and began inquiring if I would be interested at some point in selling some of his stuff on eBay. I'm always open to the idea of earning money through consignment, so I listened to what he had to say. At the same time, however, my antennae was up as I visually scanned the items on the various tables.
This was my favorite kind of yard sale, the kind where the hostess is genuinely interested in getting her superfluous items sold. A lot of cool things were selling for fifty cents or less, and I was dying to explore the or less thingamajigs.
Dan droned on, and I improved as the seconds ticked by in my ability to time my Mm-hmm! and You don't say! and Oh! responses with just the right variations in pitch and nuance to make it appear like I was listening. 31 years of conversations with my wife have taught me well, even if she has busted me dead to rights half the time.
And then I spied it. The Starbucks mug. The (cha-ching!) Golden Chalice of the coffee shop kingdom. Smiling quickly at Dan and then glancing at my wife, a social cue that I was calling for a pause in the one-way conversation, I called out to my better half, "Honey, grab that Starbucks mug!"
She looked at me quizically. "What Starbucks mug?"
I wanted to tell her in sotto voce, "Shh! Not so loud! Don't arouse the sharks!" Instead, I pointed at the mug in front of her. "There, right in front of you!" Sometimes, a man has to gesticulate and articulate to his wife the map he already sees in his head and mistakenly assumes she is capable of seeing.
"You mean this one?" I silently cheered as she picked up the large mug with huge embossed letters and a desert scene on it.
"Yeah, that's it!" By this time, I'd forgotten all about Dan. At yard sales, there's no doubt in my mind that friends and neighbors quickly diagnose my attention deficit disorder.
"This isn't Starbucks!" my wife said, graciously omitting the "you idiot!" adjoiner that her tone drippingly insinuated.
"Oh, you don't say. Mm-hmm." Okay, what was I supposed to have said?
Shucks! It sure looked like a Starbucks city mug to me.
Disappointed, I approached the table of mugs to get a closer look anyway. Sure enough, my wife wasn't an eBay newbie anymore. It really wasn't a Starbie find!
That's when I noticed the price. What? Only a dime? Hey, what am I, stupid? I'll take it! It's still a great-looking mug. Who knows what might happen? I certainly won't if I walk away from it. There's just something about this mug!
What's a Dime Worth Today?
When I was a kid, a dime bought me one or two candy bars. Today, it is nearly impossible to buy anything for a measly ten cents.
What an effective eBay seller worth his or her salt does, then, is to leverage that dime into something with much greater buying power that matches today's ridiculously inflated economy.
This is best accomplished by restoring a product and infusing it with perceived value through the use of compelling language and images. Every now and then, the eBay seller will come across an item that is so aesthetically pleasing that it virtually sells itself.
Case in point: This gorgeous mug that cost me only a dime.
The oversized mug with the beautiful southeastern desert scene and raised letters that spelled out the name of the Arizona city, SEDONA, turned out to be an Americaware product. At first glance, mugs distributed by this corporation are reminiscent of any one of the popular Starbucks city mugs. Large letters and picturesque backdrops are very appealing to a lot of consumers, which explains my excitement when I saw this item from clear across a crowded lawn.
I washed the mug carefully and dried it. I then took several photos of it from different angles including a couple of closeups. eBay enables sellers to have up to a dozen free photos per listing, so it behooves one to take good advantage of this service. The way I see it, an eBay seller is a long distance salesman. He or she thus has to diligently and efficiently present a used product in its best possible light. Both the quantity and the quality of the photos taken to complement the written description are vital to the online entrepreneur's success. This is especially true when dealing with international customers who are not familiar with the English language and thus solely rely on captivating digital images.
When selling mugs, I take the following camera shots:
- Mug with handle at right
- Mug with handle on far side
- Mug with handle to left
- Mug with handle on near side
- Inside of mug
- Bottom of mug
With the Sedona mug, I also photographed closeups of the letters to feature their raised relief effect.
What's a dime worth today? Finding the answer to that question is what drives me to work harder and smarter at my eBay business every single day.
Come along to see how this one ended.
Putting the Dime to Work
I proceeded to draft my listing. Here's what I came up with:
- 2009 Americaware Sedona Arizona Mug
- Featuring a panoramic view of the beautiful Sedona Desert skyline
- Sedona written in embossed, raised relief letters
- Arizona written along the handle
- Multi-colored images with black lettering on a white mug
- Made in Thailand
- Fabulous aesthetic southeastern appeal
- Hard to find item--at the time of this listing, there was no other mug like this on eBay
- Strong, durable mug
- Microwave and dishwasher safe
- Holds about 18 fl oz to the brim
- Mug measures approximately 4-1/8" tall by 5-1/2" wide (including handle)
- Diameter of mug is about 3-7/8"
- Mug alone weighs 20.7 ounces
- Very good condition--pre-owned; gently used; well maintained; hairline scuff marks above the "o" in Sedona (see second photo)
- A perfect holiday, birthday, or all-occasion gift for that someone special
- A wonderful complement to your home or office decor
- A great novelty item for the mug collector or desert art enthusiast
- Sure to be a topic of lively discussion among family and friends
- PayPal is the preferred method of payment
- Shipped via USPS Priority Mail to either USA or international destinations
It's very important to mention any flaws in the description. Customers appreciate the honesty, and seller integrity may even be the deciding factor in making the sale. Upon careful inspection of the mug, I noticed a hairline scuff mark above the o in Sedona. I included the details of this in my listing.
I priced the item at $19.99, with shipping to be calculated later, based upon the geographical location of the buyer.
The item was listed on June 10, 2013. Less than three weeks later, it was purchased from someone who, ironically, lives in Arizona.
Cast Your Dime Upon the (eBay) Waters
Okay, so let's crunch the numbers and see what we come up with.
- The customer paid $19.99 plus $8.75 for USPS Priority Mail shipping for a total of $28.74.
- The mug cost me $0.10.
- PayPal charged me a fee of 2.9% of the total revenue plus $0.30, or $1.13.
- eBay charged me a Final Value Fee of 9% of the total revenue, or $2.59.
- My shipping cost was $7.15.
- Net costs came to $10.97.
- $28.74 minus $10.97 equals a net profit of $17.77
I'll gladly invest a dime if I stand a good chance to get 177 dimes in return.
~ Hawaiian Odysseus