For ebayer eyes only: the logistics

Part 3 in a series chronicling the One Sorry Blog Baseball Card Sell-Off
By Paul Rivas

Editor’s note: One Sorry Blog founder Paul Rivas is selling off his baseball cards on ebay with seller name onesorryblog, keeping only a precious and worthless few. He intends to sell every last card that will bring money at auction and donate the remaining 30,000 for no tax break. Realizing that his last hurrah in the hobby is upon him, Rivas is recording and reflecting on the experience at One Sorry Blog, the thinking collector’s blog.

If you don’t intend to ever use ebay to buy or sell cards, you can skip this one. Still, I hope that you continue reading. I got some encouragement from my cousin-in-law (who has actually appeared on a real football card, which is probably more than any of us can say) today who said he found Part 1 interesting. I said that I hoped it would be interesting for anyone who had ever picked up a baseball card. I was finding it interesting, and I hadn’t seen a baseball card in ten years. And that, I guess, is why I’m writing all this. I’ve definitely been feeling some urgency to get it all down now, while it’s happening, because it could be that I don’t have enough good cards for this epic sale to last even a week.

My first mistake was to offer optional insurance for $1. As it turns out, insurance costs $1.65 and up. I now charge $2 for optional insurance. I didn’t used to offer discounts for combined shipping to winners of multiple auctions (which happens! – see previous post), and no one seemed to mind, but now buyers pay the full shipping price once and add $1 for each additional card. I’ve also implemented what I think is the best shipping for sports cards on ebay. There are two options: the card in a semi-rigid top-loader, wrapped and taped snugly in a regular piece of paper and sent in a regular old envelope for $1.50, OR, the card in a semi-rigid top-loader chucked in a bubble mailer for $3. I make a few cents on both of these options, as with insurance, but not enough to pay for gas to and from the post office. It’s occurred to me to charge a ton in shipping and take less for the cards, because ebay takes a percentage of the final auction price and not of the total auction plus shipping charges, and quite a few sellers apparently do this, but, well, actually I can’t think of a good reason why I don’t do this. I guess I’m striving for total transparency whenever possible, and it’s important to me for potential buyers to know that I offer fair and reasonable shipping rates, even if it costs me a little in the long run.

I’m listed on ebay as preferring PayPal, which I do, because payment is instant, despite never actually asking what percentage of my sales they take, but I also accept money orders and cashier’s checks, in an effort to not discriminate against the Internet shopper with bad credit, or perhaps the Latin American shopper, who doesn’t trust that his credit card information is safe online. But what I didn’t do until today, and what took me a good 20 minutes to figure out how to do, was include a payment address. A payment address is not my registration address or my shipping address, but an address where low-tech buyers should mail their homeless-style payments. This resulted in one buyer probably having to go use the Internet at his local branch library and write me asking for my mailing address for payments which, incidentally, is different from my registration address.

I mentioned that posting a new item for sale takes about five (5) minutes, but I neglected to mention that this was only possible after a 15-minute tutorial on scanning with Dr. Mary Nisbet and a frantic call to my mom asking her how to get the scanner working. Apparently, the thing to do is click scan, then click the little box asking if you want to use the “scanner drivers”, which allow you to perform fancier maneuvers with the thing rather than settle for the more basic options available if you don’t click there. So use the scanner drivers. Then “preview” it. Then something that looks an awful lot like scanning, and which the layman is likely to confuse for scanning, will happen. But it isn’t scanning, it’s just previewing. Then you draw a rectangle around the card and click “scan”, and then it scans for real. Posting similar cards consecutively helps speed things up. Going by sport and year seems to work best, so all the 95-96 basketball cards, then the 96-97s, and when the basketball cards are gone, switch sports. This is so you don’t have to change categories as often, which takes time. Oh yeah, all this scanning came after Craig told me someone told him that scanning works better than photos. I’d been wondering why my photos of my cards were coming out so bad compared to everyone else’s, then I learned it’s because everyone else’s were scans and not photos. Then my scans were no good, and that’s where Dr. Mary Nisbet set me straight.

Now, having 115 things for sale on ebay is an awesome prospect when the first 11 items brought in $408, but what happens when I have 25 auctions ending per day, and 25 payments arriving via Paypal and the mails? I don’t know – talk to me in three days. But what I think will happen is that I’ll no longer feel the need to check up on my auctions every two minutes. It’s also important to remember that I’ve largely been posting the best items first. I expect that eventually, when the popcorn kernels are only popping every few seconds and my cards cease to bring in even the modest $0.99 that I’m asking, I’ll cease to bother with posting 25 things a day. The saving grace is that ebay keeps track of five steps in an idiot-proof manner: buying, paying, shipping, seller leaving feedback, buyer leaving feedback and the item being returned (if necessary), so that it’s hard to lose track of where you are in the process. I leave positive feedback for buyers the minute I hear of them paying. Some sellers like to wait until the buyer leaves positive feedback after receiving the card, but I don’t have the time or attention to detail to get into mind games with buyers and remember who I’m withholding feedback for and why. I have a few things for sale now that I’m not sure will bring 99 cents plus $1.50 shipping, but I’ll know for sure in six days.

In the meantime, these are the things I’ll be thinking about and trying to improve as the big bucks start a-rollin’ in.

What do you folks think about bidding $50 for a card and paying $3 shipping vs. paying $33 for a card and paying $20 shipping? Would you be inclined to opt for one or the other?

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