Monday, April 25, 2011

Early Morning Monday Rambles

Got hit with a rare bought of insomnia about an hour ago.  Watching an episode of Generator Rex, followed by another of Pawn Stars didn't help, so now I'm blogging.  Maybe I can get some stuff set up for this week.

Can't figure out why I can't sleep.  When I was working the old job, I used to have sleepless nights all the time, but I haven't really had more than a couple in the almost year since I got canned.  I don't have near the level of stress with the PTG as I did before, but this is a pretty hectic week  Most of my hours this session are in the evening, which really messes up my days.  We've got two weeks to go, and the last days are always mote demanding, but it's never kept me up before.  Oh well.

Thundery, stormy, rainy weather here for what seems like days on end.  So tired of rain  The Ohio is dangerously high.  Want to ride my bike and go to yard sales that actually happen  Is that too much to ask for?

Speaking of sales, we did find a "rain or shine" sale held in a garag on Saturday. They advertised comics, so I knew I had to be there  I can't keep comics in stock in my booth.  It doesn't seem to matter if it's old Bugs Bunny or 90's Image crap, it sells as soon as I put it out.  Turned out they didn't have that many comics, and the few they did have were practically in shreds, so I didn't get any of them.  But, I did get quite a few great graphic novels for 50 cents each, so it still worked out.

While we were there, I saw a really pretty mug sitting on a table.  It was kind of dark in the garage, so I picked it up and tilted it so I could get a better look at it.  All this coffee came spilling out of it!  For some reason, I decided that meant it must be some kind of trick cup or a gag cup or something.  So I decided the keep tilting it so I could figure out where the coffee was coming from.  (Well, it made sense at the time!)

So after I pour a bunch more coffee out of the damn cup, the seller comes over and says "Uhm..that's my coffee cup.."  I could have died!  File this one under "Stupid Junker Tricks."

Well, the booth has been rebounding the past couple of weeks.  Not really high sale days, but really solid ones that are pretty consistently in the range where I want them.  I could still hit my sales goal, or at least come close  It won't be an over 900 month, but it'll be better than it was looking earlier.  As long as trends hold up, that is  As long as being closed for Easter Sunday doesn't break the momentum.  Sundays are usually good days for me.  I'll really miss those sales.

Easter passing means I'll need to take my Easter display down when I go in.  I sold a lot of it this year  Last year, I waited too long to put Easter stuff out and ended up with a ton of eggs and stuff leftover.  I'll have a few items left, but not many.  I was actually kind of surprised that my vintage bunnies didn't sell.  Neither did most of the religious items I added.  Guess bunnies and Jesus don't mix after all.

Easter passing also means that the Reese's Peanut Butter Eggs will be fifty percent off when Walgreen's opens!  Stay out of my way!  They've been my favorite Easter candy ever since they first came out!  Woo hoo!  If I can find some marked down Easter toys and such, I'll probably pick up a few and store them until next year for the booth.

Since my display table is going to be empty, I've been pondering what to put there next.  I think I'm going to try something different.  I have a bin of what I call "household stuff": tools, a couple of telephones, and assorted odds and ends that have specific uses, rather than being just decorative.  A lot of it came from my mother's stuff.  It's not selling well mainly because it's in a bin under a table.  Whenever anyone goes through it, everything ends up in a mess.  I'm debating spreading the whole lot out on the table for a couple of weeks and seeing if any of it moves.  It's worth a shot.  I may mix in some dishes or older items, just to make it interesting.

Maybe I'd better try to get some sleep now.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Happy Birthday Keith!

Tomorrow is Keith's birthday, so I'll be taking the blog-day off.  I thought I'd give him some early presents here.  There's a wee bit of irony at play here, since he doesn't like it when I do video posts.  In fact, he usually ignores them.  Hopefully, there's something here that will get his attentnion.

First up, some older clips from one of his favorite singer/songwriters, John Prine.  I totally love seeing long-haired, shaggy John!  Of course, all of these videos are way pre-cancer surgery.  His voice sounds completely different these days.

This song is one of my favorites.  It pretty much sums up everything that makes Prine a true musical treasure.

And, this one is just fun!

To wrap the Prine section up, I thought this one would be appropriate.  Back when our beloved Basil was still with us, Keith used to pick her up and dance with her with this one would play.  He was the big old goofy man and she was the big, old goofy girl.   Still makes tear up thinking about it.  But, it kind of sums up everything I love about him.

This is Verlon Thompson doing a live take on one of his songs.  I don't think Keith has heard this song before, but I know he's going to love it.  Thompson may be better known to folks as Guy Clark's guitarist, but he's a fine songwriter in his own right.

Kris Kristofferson. 'Nuff said. Oh yeah, and Johnny Cash too. What more do you need?

Nanci Griffith doing Townes Van Zandt:

And finally, the one song this one sums up my feelings pretty well, performed by John Prine and Emmylou Harris.  (You knew I'd work her in here somehow, didn't you?)  It's their version of a Guy Clark classic.

The other night, Keith told me that he'd taken a liking to me.  After nearly twenty years, that's kind of nice to know.  Happy Birthday, Keith!  I've taken a liking to you too!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Booth Report: March 2011

This is the month that nearly killed me.  I've got to find a way to stop totally stressing over the sales reports.  I'm learning a lot about how unpredictable the retail business is--way up one day and way down the next.  I'm also learning that, maybe, just maybe, one or two bad days don't really matter that much.  Or maybe not.  Quite possibly, I obsess over things just a bit too much.

I'm making some plans for this year that involve kicking myself as a reseller into a whole new level by the end of the year.  I think I can do it.  I'm pretty sure I can do it, in fact.  But, I have to have the booth on consistent, solid footing before that can happen.  And, I just don't feel confident that it's there yet.  We're passing out of tax season, which is a boom time for re-sellers, into the summer, which is a slow time of the year for us.  There's too much competition from yard sales and such, plus vacations and nice weather and who wants to be cooped up in an old flea market when you can go to the lake?  This is the test time to see if I really can maintain the ground I've gained.

The good news about March is that it ended up being my best month EVER.  I set a new sales record and am thisclose to hitting four digit gross sales.  I'm getting a good balance of price points in and out these days, and that surely helps a lot.

But it wasn't without its struggles.  I'm going to break my own rules here and actually use some specific numbers for specific days.  It seems on the one hand kind of crass to do so, and on the other kind of un-business-like, but I can't tell the story without it.  And it's a story that I think is worth telling.  I go back and forth a lot on these booth posts all the time, anyway.  I'm never sure if I'm giving away business secrets that shouldn't be told.  For that matter, I'm never sure if there are secrets in this business.  So, if I'm makingan error, so be it.

Last weekend of the month was simply killer.  Saturday sales were 85 dollars and Sunday's were over 100.  Awesome!  I was going into the last week of the month knocking the door of 900 dollars in gross sales.  To say I was psyched was an understatement.  Then came Monday.  Now, I know Monday is a slow day and sales always drop on Monday but to $2.34????  So much for 900.  And then Tuesday was only $1.58!  I nearly had to be scraped off the floor after that.  With only two days left in the month, 900 was looking a bit doubtful.  I was honestly expecting .99 for Wednesday and .50 for Thursday.  Clearly, I had offended the re-selling gods with my hubris or something.

Fortunately, it dod bounce back for Wed and Thuirs and I did break 900, which was a great relief.  Man, there ain't nothing like the highs and lows in this business, let me tell you.

So, anyway, here's the charts:

Look at how low Fridays are!  Just as slow as Mondays for the whole month.  That really caught me off-guard.  Hasn't happened before.
Lots of over 25 days, for sure, but all the 10-20 days and especially those under 10 days drug everything down.  Worse yet, the under fives returned!  Aigh!  But, despite all this we set a record.  Go figure. Final average for the month was 30 bucks, which ain't too shabby.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Return of Monday Rambles

I lost a week or so in there somehow.  Please accept my apologies.  Life got a wee tad hectic for a bit.  It'll probably happen again. I'm willing to bet on that at least.

Anyway, April has been a difficult booth month, but it seems to be picking up a bit.  There's still some time left to turn things around, but, man, the start was dismal.  It didn't dawn on me until the middle of the first week of the month that it was Spring Break!  No wonder sales were in the toilet.  I actually had the aggravation of a 99 cent day, which is not as bad as a no-sale day, but not by much.  To make matters worse, there was an email snafu that night and no reports got mailed.  Which is worse:  not receiving the 99 cent sales day report or receiving it?  The re-sale philosophers will be arguing about that one for decades to come.

I'm actually concerned about not hitting my sales goals this month.  There's not much month left and there's too much ground to make up.  Sometimes it happens, I guess.  Not that there haven't been some good moments this month, just not enough of them.  Weekend before last, the Easter Bunny came to visit and brought lots of customers, despite severe thunderstorms.  The mall asked dealers to come to their booths to meet customers and make deals.  I managed to unload a couple of pieces that had overstayed their welcome.  (Although not as many as I hoped to.)  I also met a couple who are just starting to collect religious articles and they bought quite a bit from me.  The conversation with them was almost as much fin as the commerce.

We're also now in the midst of Derby Festival madness, which will undoubtedly drag on sales.  If you don't live here, it's a two-minute horse race.  If you do live here, it's a three and a half week party.  The kick off was the mega firework show downtown. Big noisy crowds of drunk people watching noisy explosions ain't my thing, so I've never been.  I was expecting a sales drag, because everyone (and I mean everyone) goes and spends the day down there.  Fortunately, it was rainy and cold, so people stayed in their own parts of town and shopped instead.

Our cable carrier switched digital music services again, so we have a decent Americana/Alt-Country channel again.  The last one was a little too tied to the Wide Open Country show on CMT, which meant we got lots of Alan Jackson slipped in, which did not make me too happy.  I spent more time listening to the alternative Latin rock channel instead.  I'm enjoying the new one quite a bit.  I like to flip over to the music when I'm doing stuff like cleaning or working on merchandise.

Speaking of merch, I've signed up for a free spot at a church sale that's coming in a couple of weeks.  I'm planning on using it to clear out more of my still too large backlog, and maybe a few booth duds as well.  I might ask a friend to join me so I'll have someone to talk to.  Ms Jackie seems to do well at these kinds of things, so maybe I will too.

March Booth Report is coming this week for sure!

Friday, April 08, 2011

Book Report: March 2011

Murder at the Masque by Amy Meyers:  A classic whodunnit in the style of Agatha Christie, which plays homage to the mysteries of the past, while remaining wholly original.  Larger than life characters caught up in an array of sub-plots and sly humor make this one highly recommended.  This was a new one to me, but I'll be looking for more of this series.

All Gone by David Seidman:  Pop culture study of toys, foods, fads, buildings, and many other things that outlived their usefulness and faded away.  This was written in the late nineties, so it doesn't quite have the wistful nostalgia that similar books published since the turn of the century have.  It also lacks the flash of contemporary graphics, which is not a bad thing.  However, it could use a few more (and larger) photographs.

The Tarot Murders by Mignon Warner:  I was with this one all the way up to the end and then it lost me.  It's an older mystery (printed in 1978) and just a little bit dated in places.  The heroine is mostly referred to as "Mrs. Charles" for example, instead of any sort of first name.  Personally, I think this gives the book a kind of quaint charm, but that's just me.  Still, the reveal of the killer came totally out of left field and, in looking back into the book, I still can't figure out how Mrs. Charles figures it out.  I don't mind being fooled by my mysteries, but I should be able to look back and see the signs I missed because my attention was directed elsewhere.  It doesn't happen here.  I call foul.

Make Music Go Bang! by Don Snowden:  This is a look back at the LA punk rock scene in the early 80's by those who were there.  Snowden has assembled a collection of essays from prominent fans, performers, journalists and others who were involved.  The caliber of the essays ranges from quirky, but not very informative to insightful and nostalgic.  What I enjoyed about the book was its scope.  The early LA punk scene was a lot more eclectic than people realize.  The Go-Go's and X both came out of it, for example.  It was also home to classic roots-rockers The Blasters (alt-country before it had a name) and Los Lobos.   I really liked that the book didn't gloss over this diversity, but celebrated it.  I do wish that there had been more than passing mentions given to The Go-Go's though.

An Old School Tie by Andrew Taylor:  Mystery the way I like it.  Hidden backstories.  Nothing as it seems.  And clues hidden in plain sight.  Perfect way to waste an afternoon.

Clerkenwell Tales by Peter Ackroyd:  I started this one the last week of the month, but wasn't sure if I would be able to finish it before March was over.  I ended up devouring  it.  Could not put it down.  Hands down, this is the best book I've read in ages.  Good historical fiction is so hard to find, and this is some of the best.  Ackroyd has a great knowledge of his setting and timeframe, London in 1399, and uses it to great effect.  Every piece of info and bit of dialogue rings true, but he avoids endlessly lecturing the reader.  He uses the  character types from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales to tell a mesmerizing tale of church, state, and common people all caught up in a game of plot and counterplot with each other.  Highly recommended.

Didn't read as much in March.  It was a busy month.  No graphic novels at all this time around.  Only two non-fiction books too.  I seem to get stuck in a genre fiction groove a lot and can't get out of it.  I'll have to try harder at that.  Still, nothing beats a good whodunnit for bus reading.  I just have to remember to actually read when I'm on the bus.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Monday Rambles on a Wednesday

I don't have any action from the Part-Time Gig (PTG) going on this week, so I'm trying really hard to get some posting done and end up with several set to go over the next few days.  I've gotten used to blogging several times a week now, so I really hate lapsing back into old habits.  I didn't even do an April Fool's post.  Sigh!

Of course, I'm posting this on Wednesday evening, even though it was all written and ready to go, except for the links, on Sunday night.  Guess you can see how well that plan worked.  Sigh!

The one wrinkle in this plan is that I'm also cat-sitting this week.  I've got spotty wifi access in that location, which may throw me off a bit.  I'm needing to stop by the house on several days, though, so maybe that will help me overcome those issues.  I have some things at home I'm needing to get done, including a large booth load (more on that in a minute), and I'm hoping if I come home and spend sometime with Kosh, he won't be quite so panicked while I'm gone.  I'll probably just end up confusing him even more when I leave.  Who knows what goes on in that furry little head?

Okay, now that I've kept my promise from last week, here's the weather report.  Lots of cold, cloudy days last week gave way to a nice weekend.  We're supposed to be in for some warmer, sunny days this week.  I'm looking forward to it.

Expect the March Booth Report and March Book Report by the end of the week.  Both are quite different from previous editions.  There was a lot of drama and suspense along the way, but I did set a sales record last month.  That's all I'll say for now.

Nasty rumors are going around that ABC is going to cancel All My Children and One Life to Live.  I do hope not.  I've never quite gotten into AMC--Susan Lucci's appeal as an actress eludes me--but I do like to catch OLTL when I can.  If it happens, that will leave just four daytime soaps on the air, and ABC will join NBC as a one soap network.  NBC still has Days of Our Lives and General Hospital would be ABC's sole offering.

The budget restraints NBC has placed on Days and really taking its toll on the show these days (sorry about that).  I'm watching less than ever.  I'd hate to see GH go the same way, even though it's pretty well down that path.  The loops they had to twist into the story in order to keep Tony Geary out of recent scenes where Luke Spencer's grandson was dying were enormous.  But, if he'd set foot in the hospital, it probably would have driven the day over budget, so we had endless scenes with Geary and one other person begging Luke to go to the hospital and him resisting.  (There was some good acting from Liz Herbst, Jonathon Jackson, Steve Burton, and Laura Wright, throughout that story though.)

That's the huge catch-22 that soaps are caught in right now.  Fans of all ages want to see the veteran actors and characters involved in major story, but the shows can't afford to play them.  I'm not blaming Geary or Lucci or OLTL's Erika Slezak, mind you.  They've done their time and are part an parcel of what has made their shows last over the years.  They certainly deserve everything they make.  The problem lies with network bean counters who are demanding that shows increase their rating revenue, but don't give them the tools they need to do so.  It's only going to keep getting worse at NBC and ABC until someone takes a look at CBS and realizes that Young and Restless plays its major veteran characters in scenes with more than one other character, involves them in constant major story and the world doesn't end.

This Saturday is another special event at the mall where I have my booth.  They'll have hot dogs and stuff for sale, and vendors are encouraged to be on hand to make deals with customers.  I did pretty well at the last one in December, so I'm on board for sure.  I'm planning to spend Friday at the booth getting ready.  I'm going to let everything ride this week in the hope that a lot of stuff will clear out, then I'll swoop in and restock, foof, move things around and add some signs to point out some stuff I really want to see go home with someone.

Hit one of my favorite church sales over the weekend.  Got an overstuffed box o' goodies for about fifteen bucks. You can see the pic here and read a little more about it.  It's pretty much a given that I'll end up with a box at a church sale.  The real question is what kind of check out person I'll have.  There are two types.

Type One:  The "I really don't want to unpack and repack that whole box of stuff, so I'm going to make an offer of 10 or so dollars" type. I really like these folks!

Type Two:  The "I have to do my duty to this sale and check every item and total it" type.  This is the one I got and I think she ended up regretting her approach about halfway through.  I can pack me a box, folks.  In fact, at this sale, I had to upgrade to a larger box two times!  Plus, I have smallsphasia, which means I'm driven to sell lots of small items in the booth.  That means I have to buy lots of them.

Then, there was the presence of another church sale volunteer type throughout my box:  The volunteer who never gets the memo that it's easier for the checkers to add if everything is priced in increments of .25.  So, this poor woman had to deal with my box stuffed with smalls, many marked at prices like .10, .05, or .35.  I did feel sorry for her.  Not enough to put anything back, mind you, but enough to try and help her out.

There's a story that explains why this is one of our favorite sales, by the way.  And it's got nothing to do with stuff or prices.  I'll get around to telling it some time.

And on that, I'll say:  "Goodbye until next time!"