Sunday, June 22, 2014

How not to sell something

So, the other day I was working on the booth when the mall got a call from someone looking to sell some stuff.  This happens a lot.  Some folks don't realize that the mall is made up of individual vendors and think that the store is going to buy their stuff.  Others know the drill but figure they'll get more bang for the buck, since there are a lot of vendors that might buy their stuff.

The reality is that these calls get handed off to whoever is in the store working their booth at the time. If no one is there, then sometimes nothing happens.  Sometimes messages get taken and passed on, but  lot of times the call just ends there.  I've gotten a couple of messages, but if it's not stuff I'm particularly known for selling--like the religious stuff--I don't always look into it.

This caller was trying to sell some "old dishes."  Since I was there working (and was up by the register at the time of the call), the staff asked me if I was interested.  I said I might be, depending on what the dishes were.  I was told that it was a "very complete set" of "really old dishes" in "great shape" that were "really valuable" because they had been "looked up" online.  We'll come back to those terms in quotes in a minute.

When I indicated tat I might be interested, before I could qualify anything, the next immediate question was:  "HOW MUCH WILL YOU GIVE ME FOR THEM?'

So, I had to explain some of the basics of selling to this person, namely that I was not committing to a price on anything that I had not seen, handled, and checked out.  "Might be interested." is not the same thing as "I'm going to buy these dishes."  Honestly, no one is ever going to commit to buying something on the phone based solely on a seller's say so.

The caller told me they would be over that afternoon with their "five boxes" of dishes.  That kind of took me by surprise.  I figured they would lose interest when I would not commit to a price right away. I had already decided that I wasn't going to make an appointment for a visit with them to look at the stuff.  The course of the phone call to that point made it pretty clear to me that it probably would not be worth my time.

I went back to work on my booth and in about an hour or so, I got a page that they were here.  I went out to meet with them and got the whole story.

According to them, they had bought the entire contents of a woman's estate for one lump sum out of a family member's garage.  They said it was a lot of stuff that they bought without going through things and now they were trying to sort things out and make some money.  (Sounds to me like someone has been watching too much 'reality' TV.  They even used the term "picking" at one point.)

They also told me they had looked some things up "online" and saw big prices, but they don't have the "savvy" to "do eBay."  Total red flag for me right there.  First, eBay isn't that hard to do, in terms of the tech knowledge involved. Second, Kosh only knows what they were looking up and where they were looking and what they saw.  Third, eBay is a frikking global marketplace!  More on this in part two of this post.  (To come in a few days.)

So I go down to their car, get hit on the head, stuffed in the trunk, and ferried off to work in the salt mines in Utah dressed only in a loincloth and coconut bra for the rest of my life and was never seen again* and take a look at their stuff.  It's time to employ the Eddie's Real Life Junkometer Translator (™) to some of those phrases above.

Old Dishes:  I'll give them this one.  The dishes were vintage, but not necessarily really old.  Certainly not antique treasures, which was what they were implying on the phone.

Complete Set:  There were five boxes of dishes:  A bunch of plates from one set, along with some coffee cups and saucers.  A few bowls of another pattern from another set.  And a whole lot of odds and ends, including some decorative plates that would have hung on the wall.  Not anywhere near a "complete set" of dishes, which could run to over a hundred pieces!

Great Shape:  Of the first ten pieces I pulled out of the box, seven had major chips in them.  Major chips.  I pointed this out to them and was told:  "Well, they aren't all like that."  No, but if you remove these seven pieces from your already incomplete set, it becomes that much more incomplete.  And, do you really want me to keep digging for chipped pieces?

Really Valuable:  Do I really need to spell this one out at this point?

Looked Up:  See a couple of paragraphs up.

They kept pressing me at this point to name a price or else tell them how to sell their stuff (really?).  I suggested an eBay broker to them, if they really wanted to go the online route and did not think they could do it.  I also suggested waiting until they had the whole lot sorted out, the trash cleared away, and then make a plan.  I told them about all the different ways I knew of to get rid of a lot of stuff, including getting their own damn booth.  But I politely declined their offer to buy their chipped unmatched dishes.

So they showed me a bag of dolls and toys that were soaking wet (!) and asked if I wanted to buy them.  When I pointed out that the whole bag was wet, they seemed totally clueless about it.

In the end, I bought three decorative plates and a really cool vintage owl figurine from them.  I took their number to pass onto someone else, who declined it after I told him the whole story.

I did feel kind of sorry for them.  They'd clearly bitten off way more than they could chew.  They had sunk a lot of money into this buy and had no plan and no clue how to monetize it.  I'm sure it seemed like a good idea at the time, but it's not as easy as it looks.

*That would have been way more interesting and way less painful than what actually happened.  Plus, I look good in a coconut bra.  (No need to thank me for that enduring mental image.  It's on the house.)



We are: Clamco said...

Yes, those TV shows are creating a lot of problems for seasoned pickers. They make it look easy and wrap it all up in a half hour or an hour show, when in reality, turning a storage unit full of crap into cash is a lot of work and sometimes it's just impossible. And people who look at asking prices on ebay and think that's what their items are worth are living in la la land. Only completed/sold listings show the true value of items. I get really tired of explaining that to people over and over again.

Judy said...

Definitely sounds like they got caught up in one of those reality shows and now they're clueless as to what to do. People also think old = valuable when that sure isn't always the case. I laughed out loud at the picture of you in a loin cloth and coconut bra in the salt mines. Thanks for the laugh!

Linda @ A La Carte said...

The coconut bra image is making me smile. I have some items I am going to try to sell, but i'm well aware of the value and it isn't a lot. Poor folks who just don't get it and watch too much TV!

Maureen said...

The best part of your story for me was how kindly you treated them.

Sue (Vintage Rescue) said...

Everyone knows I sell vintage typewriters. A few years ago, I got a call from someone (the antique mall gave them my phone number … grrr) asking if I was interested in his typewriters. He'd been in my booth and seen mine, so thought I might want to buy his.

He described them, and they sounded great so I asks him how much he wanted. He said "$200 each." I told him that was far too high for me and that I was no longer interested. That's when he started to get pushy.

I finally just told him: "You were in my booth. You saw that every single typewriter in there had $79 or $89 on it. Why would I buy one of yours for $200 and sell it for $79???"

Roger Owen Green said...

Same thing happens when buying comics, that are "really old" and in "great condition" but are actually reprints of Action#1 with a big part of the cover missing.