Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Art of the Deal

While it has been a largely score-less summer, I have had a couple of decent buys.  At one church sale, I got a stack of 16 DVD's for 8 dollars, or 50 cents each.  I like to sell DVD's but I use them as a draw to get people into the booth, kind of like a loss leader, except that I don't actually lose money on them.  I can't afford to do that, so I sell my DVD's at the bargain bottom price of .99 each.  This acts as a draw to encourage people to look around and shop more in my booth.  It also serves as a way to help people remember my booth and shop with me again.

While I don't have any real data to support this conclusion, I do think it works.  It seems like on days when I sell several DVD's, I also sell lots of other items.  Of course, I don't have anyway to know who is buying what, but my gut tells me I'm on the right path.

Since I refuse to actually sell anything at a loss, I have to get my DVD's at the right price in order to sell them this cheaply.  For me, that means 50 cents or less.  I know that seems like a tall order, but it happens more than you'd think.  These are yard sales after all.  I've seen them for as low as a dime or a quarter before.  And when they aren't that low, then sometimes I can bargain to get them down.

Take the batch of sixteen mentioned above.  The original price on them was 3 for five bucks, which is not a bad deal at all, but wouldn't work for me.  It was a good batch of movies, too.  Lots of Oscar winners and other accolades.  I decided to take a chance and see if I could get the price down.

First, I counted them out at their original price.  16 movies at 3 for 5 bucks = 5 batches of 3 movies and one left over = 25 bucks and maybe the last one thrown in for free.  Then I did it at my desired price of .50 each.  !6 movies at .50 each = 8 dollars.  Quite a drop.  Over two-thirds, in fact.  In other words, my chances to get them at that price looked pretty slim.  Still, I decided to go for it.  Nothing ventured; nothing gained, after all.

The next step was to devise a strategy.  I figured I wouldn't get anywhere by offering .50 each.  That has worked for me in the past, but the DVD's have to already be a buck each.  Then, an innocent "If I buy all your DVD's, can I get them for fifty cents each?" will usually work.  I thought these were a little too much for the direct approach, so I decided to go another route.

I figured that if I asked the seller what kind of deal they would make me for all the DVD's, then we'd have a new platform from which to work.  After all, they were naming the price, which would leave me free to make a counter-offer.  I was thinking they would either say 12 bucks, which would be half-off, or 10, which would be the best case scenario.  It's no problem to counter a 10 dollar offer with 8 and get what you're going for.  12 is a little iffier, but it can be done.  Of course, there's always the chance I'm guessing wrong and they'll say 20, but that's the chance I'm taking.

So, I ask, and they say 12, which is better than 20, but not as good as 10.  It's not always easy to get from 12 to 8.  They can counter with 10, which would lead me to counter at 9, which, while acceptable, is not as good a deal for me.  So, I offer my 8, and they accept.  I pay and collect my DVD's.  They got money.  I got DVD's.  We all won.

A little later on that same day, we were at another sale, where I saw two adorable child-sized chairs with the cutest paint job on them.  They were marked four each, which is a little steep for me. It was getting late in the day, so I offered four for both.  The seller had announced that she was taking offers when I walked up, and she was making deals for other people, so I decided to give it a shot.  And got shot down.  I was rather brusquely informed that she had "paid more than that" for the chairs.  I resisted the urge to remind her that this was a yard sale and she had "paid more than that" for everything in her yard! 

I could have countered with six and probably gotten the chairs, but the way she responded to my first inquiry really put me off.  I decided I didn't want to deal with her any more and left.  She didn't get money. I didn't get chairs.  We both lost.

So, what made the difference in the two deals?  I think that with the first one, the combination of the right approach and the right seller attitude made the deal happen.  In the second case, I misread the seller and the situation.  If I had started with a six-dollar offer, I probably would have gotten the chairs, but I tried instead to maximize my bargain based on the lateness of the hour and the perceived willingness of the seller to bargain.  She wasn't as willing as she seemed to be, so I struck out. 

On the other hand, the way she responded to me threw up a wall that I wasn't willing to try and climb.  If she had countered with a five or six dollar offer, I would have jumped on it.  Instead, I moved on.  She effectively shut down the negotiation and I decided to head on down the street.  After all, it's easier for me to find more stuff than it is for her to find another buyer.  Bad approach plus bad seller attitude means no deal.

I've been yard saling for years, way before I ever had a booth.  So, I've been bargaining and dealing for a long time.  At first it was to get a good price and stretch my spending power.  Now, it's to maximize my potential profit.  Regardless of the reason, here are some of the things I have learned over the years.

Timing is everything.  If you come into a sale making offers right after it opens, you're more likely to get shot down than if you try later in the day.  I tend not to try and bargain until at least after 9.

Bulk buys get you better bargains.  Offering to buy all of a certain item, say books or movies, will often get you a better price.  Buying many different items also work, especially if you're not trying to get a discount on everything.  I started the DVD negotiation as I was paying for several other items that I paid the asking price for.  This gave the seller a better impression of me and made them more willing to deal.

Don't ask for a discount on everything you pick up.  You'll only get on the seller's nerves and appear greedy and obnoxious.  Pick and choose your requests.  If something is already a good deal, buy it without haggling.

Be reasonable in your offer.  Offering a dollar or two on something marked ten dollars is only going to irritate the seller.  Sometimes, even a half price offer, like mine on the chairs, will have the same effect.  Bargaining is one thing.  Tacky lowballing is something else.

Be polite.  Ask.  Don't demand.  Don't tell them what you're going to give them.  If they turn down your offer, don't get rude.  It's not going to change their mind.  Last Friday, I saw a man tell a seller that he "really didn't want the item anyway" after the seller made a sensible counter to his ridiculous low-ball offer.  In the meantime, I got a dollar off something at the same seller just by being polite and reasonable.

Be prepared.  You may get a counter-offer.  Be ready for it. Know how high you are willing to go.  Remember, this is a negotiation, not an ultimatum.  If you need to do any math, do it before you make your first offer.  I nearly lost a deal on a bunch of vintage travel guides one time when I started to count them out to see if the offer a guy made me was a deal or not.  It was embarrassing.

Let them make the first step.  Asking what they're willing to take for something opens the door and gives the seller a little more control in the negotiations.  This is sometimes helpful when you are dealing with big ticket items.  It also helps you get a feel for the seller's willingness to barter. 

Know when to move on. I've heard horror stories of sellers being hounded by persistent buyers to the point that it ruined the whole selling experience for them.  If it's obviously not going to work, head on to your next stop.  Remember, there's stuff everywhere.  For everyone who won't deal with you, there are several who will. Why waste your time and energy generating bad yard sale karma?

Expect to fail sometimes.  It's always worth a shot, but you won't always succeed.  Don't take it personally, even if the seller gets rude.  It's not worth getting into arguments with strangers over their stuff.  I had a blow up with a seller who got smart with me one time over the price of a comic book.  I thought he was high, given the condition, so I put it back.  He then informed that I ought to know that was a good price, so I informed him he should have noticed it looked like an elephant gored it, ate it, then coughed it up.  It didn't help things and really didn't win either of us any points.

Remember, the goal is not ultimate victory.  It's to come to a result that both sides are happy with.  You have to be willing to give a little sometimes to get what you want.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Truth in Advertising

I've already mentioned that this has been a rough year for yard saling.  Too many sales are not living up to their hype.  Too many sales with only a couple of things (maybe) worth buying.  Even sure fire hits like neighborhood sales and church sales are not panning out.  It's really sad.

So, in an effort to laugh through the pain, I present to you the following.  Trust me when I say that it is wisdom born of experience.  Bitter wisdom from even more bitter experience.


What they say:  Yard Sale at 1313 Main Street!
What they mean:  We're selling baby clothes at 1313 Main Street!

What they say:  Huge Yard Sale!
What they mean:  We've got LOTS of baby clothes!

What they say:  Awesome Yard Sale!
What they mean:  You won't believe there can be this many baby clothes in one spot!

What they say:  Multi-Family Yard Sale!
What they mean:  My sister and I are selling our baby clothes!

What they say:  Something For Everyone!
What they mean:  We've got baby boy and baby girl clothes!

What they say:  Vintage Items!
What they mean:  We're selling our five year old's clothes from when he was a baby!

What they say:  Antiques!
What they mean:  We're selling our sixteen year old's clothes from when she was a baby!

What they say:  Many Unique Items!
What they mean:  You won't find stains like these any where else!

What they say:  Furniture!
What they mean:  We've got a crib, a changing table, a high chair and a bouncy chair too!

What they say:  Much Miscellaneous!
What they mean:  Also, bottles and a diaper bag!

What they say:  Too Much To List!
What they mean:  How many more times do we have to say we have baby clothes?

Hope your saling days have been better than mine!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Picking, Grinning and Bearing It

A few weeks ago, it was junk set out in our neighborhood.  In Louisville, residents can set out large items twice a year, and Solid Waste will pick them up and haul them off for free.  They used to do it once a quarter, but that got cut back due to budget deficits.  I miss the quarterly schedule because I never can seem to get it together for the twice-yearly set outs.  If I had two more chances a year, maybe I could hit one of them.

Anyway, different parts of town have different set out schedules.  You can start setting out the weekend before your pick up week and have to have everything out by Monday.  Some time during the next week, the trucks will be by to haul off your stuff.

Of course, with the setting out of junk, out come the pickers and the scrappers, looking for junk to sell and scrap to take to the recycling center.  They start roaming the 'hoods in their pick up trucks start during the weekend set out and, by Tuesday, they'll have everything picked clean.  All that's left will be disheveled piles of busted furniture and the scattered contents of opened boxes and ripped bags, which will sit in moldering heaps until Solid Waste comes through.

I usally try to get out at least once during the set out period to hunt for stuff.  People will set out some really great stuff, sometimes in new condition, to be hauled away.  It blows my mind when they could be selling some of the stuff in a yard sale or Craigslist, or at least donating it somewhere.

These are my finds for this go around. It's a small batch, because I just stayed in my immediate area and prowled around on foot.  Space is getting kind of tight in my house, so I wanted to keep from getting too greedy.  Sorry for the lack of pics, but I mislaid my camera and many of these items have gone through the booth on to new homes.

One good-sized box of Happy Meal and other small toys.  (I sell these in bagged sets, concentrating on the most recognizable characters and toys.  I culled out about half the box to donate on to Goodwill and kept what will be the best sellers for me.

An enameled stew pot, with the words "Soups and Stews" painted on it,  surrounded by small images of assorted meats and veggies.  It even had the lid.  It cleaned up really nice and sold the week I out it out.

An old pic of a ship, which sold quicker than I thought it would.

A stash of old cans and bottles, many with labels and lids.  Nothing super, super old, but everything was glass and pre-bar code.  The coolest was a glass Windex bottle.

A stack of vintage women's magazines.

An old religious magazine.

Some old health pamphlets.

A paddle for a canoe. It was weathered and chippy, so I thought it would make a good wall hanging for the right person, who apparently was out looking for one, because it sold already.

The top to a trophy.  It's solid metal and really heavy.  Very cool.

Like I said, a small haul. but it was enough to slake my junk-thirst, yet keep me from getting into trouble at home.

The bottles and cans and magazines were all at one house.  There was a huge pile of stuff at the curb.  It looked like a basement that had not been touched in decades had been cleaned out and dumped in a pile.  Apparently, the person saved everything, because I took two bags of cans and bottles, but only scratched the surface of what was there.  (I debated going back the next day, but it started raining, which pretty much spells the end of junking.  You don't want stuff once it gets wet.)

I ended up having to make two trips to this particular pile, because I reached the limit as to what I could carry.  I had to run home, grab another bag and go back.  When I got back, there was an old man, who had not been there before, sitting on the porch of the house next door.  When I walked over to the pile, he started yelling at me.

Old Man:  "There ain't nothing there for you."

Me:  You never know.  I like old stuff.

Old Man:  "I said there ain't nothing there for you."

Me:  (To myself, having decided that discretion was the better part of valor):  "Crazy coot."

Old Man:  "Get out of there.  I don't want you spreading that mess out all over the place.  Stupid people looking for shit."

At this point, I just decided to ignore him.  It wasn't his stuff and it wasn't in front of his house.  There really wasn't anything he could do, other than sit and cuss, which he continued to do.  He did have a point about the mess, but I pride myself on picking neatly.  I never leave the place in a mess and return everything I move to as close to its proper place as possible.  Just because you're trying to make living off someone else's junk that doesn't mean you have an excuse to be a slob.

Actually, it's the way that so many pickers and scrappers go about collecting that causes so many people to resent them.  I've got some guidelines I follow to try and set a new example.  Maybe they can help some newby pickers.

1.  Be neat.  See above.  Other people have to live and, especially, park on that street until the junk gets picked up.  Have a modicum of consideration for the residents.

2.  Be polite.  It does no good to get into arguments with people who live there, which is why I chose not to engage the old dude.  If he had chosen to get off the porch and get in my face, I probably would have backed down and moved on.  It's not worth the risk of escalation for a bunch of junk. There's always more on the next corner.  Besides, you can come back later.

3.  Be discreet.  Don't pick in the middle of the night and make a bunch of noise.  Don't pick when the home owners are sitting on the porch staring at you.  That's a personal preference of mine, but I think it feels really tacky to do that when they're watching you.  Maybe I just need to get over it.

4.  Don't get greedy.  There's more than enough to go around.  You don't have to have it all, especially if it makes you grabby around other pickers.  Really, how much are you going to make on all this stuff anyway?

5.  Know the law.  Yes, it seems like everybody curb-picks, but in some cities, it might be against the law.  Know the risks you might be running.  This is another argument for being neat and polite.  People tend to complain and call for penalties when they perceive a nuisance.  If there's no nuisance, they've got no grounds to complain.

6.  Be decent.  Don't pick when it's pretty obvious someone has been set out or evicted.  It's one thing to deal with items people are declaring they don't want.  It's another to rifle through and take someone's worldly possessions.  Remember, an eviction means that a person has forfeited the right to reside in a particular dwelling.  It doesn't mean they've forfeited the right to their stuff.

7.  Be careful.  Watch where you stick your hands or step.  Anything can hide in a junk pile.  Go in pairs if possible.

That's my take on things, at least.  Your mileage, of course, may vary.  I just think that there are better ways to do this picking thing than I've seen some others do.  Maybe if we all try a little harder to be more conscientious, it'll make a difference.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Return of the Ramble!

In which your Eddie-tor explains where he's been for the past month and a half.

I started a cat-sitting gig at the end of April and it ended up lasting most of May.  One of the people I sit for has had some family medical emergencies to deal with, so she's been gone for extended periods of time, often with little to no notice.  I spent most of the month at her house with her kitties, where my connectivity is pretty limited.  After a couple of days, I stopped trying to fight with it and entertained myself in other ways.

And, of course, once I got out of the habit, it's been hard to get back in.  Things have been pretty busy on other fronts as well, so I just haven't had the kind of time I normally do for stuff like blogging and planning and writing posts and such.  Hopefully, that's easing up a little.  We'll see.

I managed to make it through my first Mother's Day without a mother and the first anniversary of Mom's death okay.  My brother's birthday fell on Mother's Day this year, so I had something happier to concentrate on and that helped some.  I'm starting to get into my shed and deal with some of Mom's things, so my emotions are pretty wobbly sometimes.  So many memories.

I went to the big flea market alone over Memorial Day weekend and realized how much I miss her at times like that.  We used to do the flea market together at least once a year.  It was kind of weird not to stop at vendors she would shop from.  It was even weirder not being able to snark on stuff like we used to do.  She and I were forever finding something to carry on about or make fun of.  I had to do it all in my head this time.

Yard saling has been really lame for weeks now.  Lots of traveling and sweating for little hauls.  I made an awesome score this past weekend when I got a metric ton of Peanuts memorabilia for about twenty bucks, but it was the first rave-worthy score in ages and ages.  Even many of the annual sales I love to hit have been mediocre at best.  Not nearly as many opportunities to score a box of swag for five bucks.

Booth sales have been off too.  I owe you all reports for April and May, which I will get on soon.  I'll elaborate things in more detail at that time.  I also owe a couple of book reports too.  They'll also be forthcoming.

I even tried setting up at a community sale at a local church to pick up some extra bucks and clear out some booth duds.  Turn out was lousy for some unknown reason, so I only made about fifty bucks.  Did get rid of some stuff, though.  The organizers were making plans to have leftovers donated, so I left several items there, rather than drag them all home again.  I'd like to try the whole experience again, only with more buyers and better sales.

We've been having August in June for most of the month.  Hotter than normal.  More humid than normal.  I so miss regular seasons.

I got a smart phone the other day, so I may start tweeting again.  The "p" on my old phone only worked intermittently, which is why I stopped before.  Apparently, most of the words I like to use have "p's" in them.

My latte tastes funny.

Chiquito had a little growth spurt a while back.  Sometimes cats will have one last little burst of growth at around three, which he is.  It's made him very hungry all the time.  He's taken to trying to wake us in the middle of the night for a feeding.  I've started to put out a little extra food for my growing baby.

Kosh on the other hand is pretty much the same.  He wasn't well for my extended stay away from the house in May, but seems to have gotten over it.  Little does he know I have three nights of cat-sitting this week.  He's pretty clever in that he's learned the signs for when I'm prepping to leave for a few days.  So he starts getting freaky and extra lovey whenever I start packing up or carrying things out.  The problem is, he can't distinguish between my packing to leave and getting a booth run ready.  I'm messing with booth stuff all the time and it frequently involves packing a box or taking one out, which starts him to worrying needlessly.  Haven't figured out a way to explain things to him.

I also haven't figured out a way to end my Rambles posts, other than just stopping.  Posts on particular topics can wind themselves to a good conclusion, but just sitting down and rambling on and on is harder to wrap up.  The only way I really know to do it for sure is to shut up.

So I will.