Tuesday, July 28, 2009

A couple Shout Outs!

I'll admit it. I like to rant. I like to rail against the idiotic machine. But every once in a while you have to take a look around and notice whats right in the world if only to have something to contrast the idiots against.

So here goes... A couple websites I actually like:

1. www.goofbay.com
This site mines through eBay for misspelled, mis-categorized, or otherwise screwed up listings. I found this site when I was looking for a set of Sennheiser headphones. Now ordinarily I side with sellers, but honestly, if you have the damn thing in front of you and still can't spell it right you deserve to lose your shirt on it. I've also had a lot of luck with Tohatsu outboards and Scuba Regulators (You'd be amazed the spellings Americans can come up with.) Oh yeah, don't forget to click the US Flag, the default is eBay.uk and, beside not having any Euros in my pocket, I found the shipping to be bloody exorbitant.

2. www.backpage.com

This site is a blatant, unabashed rip-off of craigslist. They have taken everything CL does right(free local listings) and combined it with a little HTML and some paid advertising. There are several paid categories (Female "Escorts" , ehem) and also some categories CL bans, like pets. (Seriously Craig? Pets? You're such a freakin' tree-hugger you don't believe in the concept of pets? I can find a hooker on your site that will do god knows what for 125 "roses" but I can't find a kitten to keep me company in the dark, cold night. Seriously?... I digress) Not a lot of people are using backpage yet, but I think it has potential.

This site is awesome. I should qualify this by saying I am not a consumer electronics geek. I don't watch the trends or obsess over the newest MP3 player. That is probably why I like Retrevo so much. They are like Consumer Reports on steroids. They take every new gadget for a test spin and then throw them on a scatter chart with features on one axis and price on the other. The bargains stick out like sore thumbs. You mouse over the dot and a brief description of the item pops up. Click on the bubble and you are directed to a full description. From that page you can jump to a handful of e-commerce sites that sell the item. Digital Cameras, Laptops, GPS, MP3's, everything is on Retrevo.

4. www.shopjimmy.com

This site is pretty cool. As far as I can tell, these guys are ripping apart thousands of broken TV's and computers a day, inventorying every part, taking pictures and listing them. It has to be one of the most labor-intensive, slow-nickel operations on the planet, but at the same time it is brilliant. If you have a broken plasma TV, a burnt out DLP, or a fried LCD, pull the back off your TV, and look up shopjimmy. You can search by model number and see what the parts are supposed to look like. You don't even need to know what they are called. "Hmmm, this flat, green do-ma-ja-hinkus is all burned up. There's one just like it. I'll take it."

- In this consumer age of disposable electronics, Its nice to see someone pre-cycling.

5. www.monoprice.com
This company has specialized in the smallest of high-end home entertainment niches... cables. Remember good old out-of-business Circuit City and their asinine attempts to upcharge you cables and service warranties. Well if you ever fell for the Gold Monster Cable (guilty) you will kick yourself when you see this site. Is it straight from China? Probably. Is Monster Cable? Yup. But the prices on HDMI and Wall Mounts are a tenth what they cost in the store.

Obviously I wasn't going for an exhaustive list. I realize the last 3 are kinda tech-geek sites, but I like them because they help the un-techs like me. Let me know if you have more like these that I have missed.

Legal-ish disclaimer: I am not getting paid to endorse any of these sites and I am not affiliated with any of them. Please don't get pissed at me if they suck or if you get bilked out of thousands of dollars. I went to highschool with my attorney and we remain good friends so don't try to sue me godamnit!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Nibble Back

There is a book from the 80's by Chester Karrass called Effective Negotiating that everyone who sells on Craigslist should read. Old Chet describes a negotiating tactic called "the Nibble". Nibbling is that last-minute attempt to shave a little off the deal after you've agreed to a price. Sometimes it come in the form of asking you to deliver, but usually its the old "This is all the money I've got," followed by the turned out pocket.

Per Mr. Karrass, the best defense for a nibble is the reverse nibble. Here's how it works:

I was selling a boat once (Nice little Arima). The buyer was getting a great deal and we both knew it, but he came at me with a $600 nibble at the last minute. "This is all I can afford to give you."

So I cringed, then I grimaced, then I thought long and hard and said, "Tell ya what," I said. " I'll sell it to you at that price, but I keep the Yamaha kicker. That way I can sell the kicker separately and make up the difference."

His $600 nibble was about to cost him a $1200 motor. I had him by the stones. He had already driven 100 miles in his brother-in-law's truck. I knew he wanted the boat for fishing, so he needed a kicker. SURPRISE! He found $600 in his other pocket. He must have forgotten it was there.

Craigslisters love to nibble, so a prudent seller should always keep a reverse nibble loaded in the chamber. (Cringing, grimacing, and long contemplation are optional, but I think it helps sell the point.)

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Complaints.com - CodBag Feeding Ground

I found a great source of Codbags the other day. The site is brilliant. It is called, simply, www.complaints.com. It is an open forum for people to lodge complaints online. Great concept. Vendors have the opportunity to rebuff complaints, but it doesn’t appear that anyone gets notified when a complaint is lodged against them. I guess you just check in periodically to see if anyone is dragging your name through the mud.

I was working on a project and had to look up Lumber Liquidators anyway, so I searched them on the site. Low-and-behold some knucklehead had lobbed a grenade at them. Now before you read this you should know that the wood this guy bought, Brazilian Teak, runs about $12-$25 per square foot plus delivery in a typical retail store like Lowes or Home Depot.

His Gripe:

Company: Lumber Liquidators
"We purchased 682sq.ft of Brazilian Teak Select and spent almost $4,000." [for those of you without a calculator, that’s less than $6/sqft] "We have defective flooring. The wood has milling issues, some of it is shaped like a trapezoid and almost all of it has different widths, not noticeable to the eye. We also learned the wood has high moisture content, and now believe the wood may have not been dried completely during manufacturing. We contacted LL at the beginning of our installation about the small gaps; we didn’t quite understand that it was a milling issue, but that lines weren’t nice. We were told to use wood filler and that they wouldn't take it back because it was a nonstock item. After more complaining the man said they'd take back the unopened boxes for a 20% restocking fee. Twenty percent would be about $800.00." [Blah, Blah, Blah. He cries more about the quality and then it gets funny]. "I feel it’s completely unreasonable that I should have known their product well enough to determine it was defective. The installation instructions don’t require consumers to check the wood flooring for moisture content or the milling. In my opinion, by their logic those that purchase their product need to be experts and catch defects the manufacturer couldn’t, yet they market to Do-it-Yourselfers."

I couldn’t help myself. I signed up for an account on Complaints.com and posted a comment:

"What exactly do you think the word LIQUIDATOR means? Lumber Liquidators liquidate lumber. By their very name you should expect it to be secondary product... That's why you got such a great deal. People who pay full retail for defective product have a right to complain. People who pay liquidation prices should expect to make up the difference with sweat equity or creative installation techniques."

This guy’s final statement gets to the heart of the matter, “those that purchase their product need to be experts […] yet they market to Do-it-Yourselfers.” The problem is that this guy assumes that willingness to do it yourself makes you a “Do-it-Yourselfer.” With no apparent research, training, help or advice he hopped into a project he was woefully unprepared to do and now wants to blame the world for his screw-up. Well sir, I am afraid to say you are not a Do-it-Yourselfer. You are, in fact, a Codbag. Congratulations.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Are we the only people loosing money shipping e-bay items?

I've had it Ebay! I want to give people flat Rate shipping, but I get warning messages even when I use USPS Flat Rate boxes. - "We see that your shipping appears high compared to other items in this category."

I don't gouge customers on shipping, but I can't afford to leave money on the table when it comes to freight charges. I have a part-time employee, packaging and overhead to account for. Freightquote.com seems to give buyers a 30-45% discount off of the rates I am able to get from my carriers so I move backwards when I use them in my listings.

.... So, I fixed the glitch. It was surprisingly simple to do. And, while I am sure we are not the first ones to think of it, I thought it was worth sharing here.

The fix:
Inflate the weight. If you are shipping 150lbs, call it 200. 500? call it 750. The freight calculator will now reflect something closer to what your actual cost will be. Same is true of parcels. Rather than flat rate, we now use the calculated shipping and bump it by 10-20% of the actual weight. This helps cover our variable costs and doesn't anger the eBay gods.

Now I know what some people will say. "That's cheating." or "You're ripping off your buyers." To those Codbags, I say this: SHUT UP! Shipping is not a hidden cost. Anyone buying any item over the internet knows exactly what they are paying for shipping before they buy it. So, codbag, here is a little trick I learned in Mrs. Peel's 1st grade class. Its called addition. You take the cost of the item plus the cost of shipping and that is your actual price. If that is cheaper than what you would pay for it locally you got a good deal. If not, buy it locally. We don't care.

In conclusion, eBay wants you to loose money on shipping. In fact they would prefer everyone offer free shipping because they charge a percentage of the final sale price, not a percentage of shipping. 4% of a $10 item with free shipping nets ebay $0.40. The same item selling for $5 with $5 shipping only nets them 2 dimes.

Ebay is greedy and they have a monopoly on live auctions. We are simply optimizing their rules to mitigate the pain.