Friday, June 24, 2011

Toy product recall : Not always a bad thing.

After reading the story about my Father's power saw, a loyal reader discussed how she scored on a product recall for a baby bassinet resulting in an impressive $150 profit! This brought to mind a similar product recall I had with a puppet stage that didn't quite hit that amount, but still turned into decent cash dollars for me.

A few years back, I bought a very cool puppet stage for my kids at a garage sale. It was a quality piece made by a company that sells those heavy durable wood play toys for school classrooms. The puppet stage cost me only five dollars and my kids had tons of fun with it putting on puppet shows with their friends. As the kids got older, they outgrew hosting puppet shows and the stage sat in the corner of our basement. Around this same time, I read something in the news about a product recall for puppet stages. I checked further and sure enough, my yard sale find was under recall. The company had established a 1-800 number for consumers to call. I got right on the horn and learned the stage was assembled in China was under recall due to some lead paint. (A frequent problem with toys made in China) The nice lady who was handling my call advised me to just throw the stage in the trash and they would send me a gift certificate for $100 dollars. The certificate was good for any purchase in their toy catalog! No questions asked, throw it in the trash and I was scoring a $100 dollar gift certificate? It was like I hit the puppet stage lottery!

Needless to say, I don't throw anything away unless it's food scraps from the dinner table. In fact, I dive into trash cans to retrieve other people's throw-aways! Was I going to trash a puppet stage because of a little lead paint? Please....I grew up in the Sixties. We played with lead painted toys all day and danced in the DDT fog sprayed by the mosquito man at night. I mean really....except for my hand tremors, uncontrollable facial ticks and brief moments of memory loss, I turned out just fine!

The gift certificate arrived shortly thereafter and I selected some toys from the company catalog that I knew would be no problem re-selling on Ebay. Namely a wood doll house furniture set....a sure fire eBay sale! I also ordered a bunch of pretend fruit used in play kitchens. The factory fresh box of wood furniture was shipped to my house with all the furniture neatly sealed and packed in a box. I didn't even break the cellophane wrapper! I used a picture and description I ripped off the company's web site and posted the set right away. Doll house collectors were drawn to my furniture set like moths to the flame. The final auction closing price was $52 dollars. I followed this with the sale of the pretend fruit for $25. So in all I made $77 dollars...all because of a product recall!

So be it a puppet stage, a circular saw or a baby bassinet, product recalls are not always a bad thing. Especially if you're an eBay seller!

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

My Father's saw.

Have you ever held onto a really impractical item just for emotional reasons? Like maybe a five foot high hulking piece of metal? I did for twenty years, storing an outdated Sears Craftsman circular saw in my garage. The reason? It was my Dad's. My father Tom used the saw to build the garage, porch, extra bedroom and and other home construction projects at our small house. (With me holding the wood steady as the sawdust blew in my face.) My father passed away twenty one years ago and his saw sat in his garage for about four years after that. I inherited the saw when my mother asked me if I wanted it? I couldn't say no, so I carted the big monster home with all those great memories of Dad using it for his home improvement projects. That was 17 years ago. Since then the saw has sat in my garage totally unused, unless you count it's use as a shelf for cases of soda or beer! But I walked by it everyday, admiring it as a reminder of the old man.

Fast forward to this Spring when I finally told myself it was time to break my emotional attachment with Dad's saw. I had to make room in the garage. So grudgingly, I took photos of the saw and posted it on Craigslist. Knowing these old albatrosses don't sell for much money, I listed it for only 25 dollars. But even at that low price, I had no takers.

Then something weird happened. I received an anonymous e-mail from a gentleman who told me the saw was under recall by the manufacturer. The unprotected saw blade was a safety hazard, so the company was offering $100 dollars for the motor! I was shocked since I was originally hoping to get just 25 dollars for the thing! The mystery e-mailer provided me with the name of the company website and told me to contact them. I did and a few days later the company sent me a box to ship the motor back to them. I disassembled Dad's saw and with a free shipping label they provided, sent the motor back via Federal Express. A few weeks later, I received a check for one hundred dollars in the mail!

I sent the anonymous e-mailer a thank you message for taking the time to contact me about the recall. I was really hoping to hear back from the gentleman but I never did. It made me wonder if maybe his name was Tom?

Anyway, Happy Father's Day to all the Dads out there.
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Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rescue me...

You just never know what treasures are inside a twenty five cent box. That's the "catch-all" box, wherein the seller throws in anything they think is pretty much worthless. Most of the time I give them just a quick glance, fully expecting to find cheap junk. My speed picking nature doesn't allow me the time to really root through most of those boxes. But this story shows that taking a good look is worth the time.

A few weeks back I found a garage sale which looked promising. The house was a small cottage and the husband/wife couple were into cottage shabby chic decorating. The sale had quite a few antiques, fabrics and old knicky-knacky things. Walking around, I spotted a huge box marked "25 cents" and started rooting around in it. I was flipping through stuff in a perfunctory way, not really "feeling it" with this box. There were lot's of cast-offs; playing card decks, ashtrays, cheap souvenirs and other junk. But as I dug further, I spotted what looked like a Barbie doll hidden in the bottom. I am no Barbie expert, but even I could tell this girl was old, she had a beehive hairdo and the more angular fifties style face. I nearly fell into the box as I leaned in to retrieve Barbie from the bottom! Looking at her more closely, I knew I had uncovered an awesome find! This Barbie was definitely from the late fifties to early Sixties era. I double checked the outside of the box to make sure of the price. In black magic marker it read, "25 cents - any item". I chuckled to myself, "OK, sounds good to me!"

I am always paranoid that sellers will change their price if they realize they threw a collectible item in a low-end 25 cent box. So I decided a quick hit and run tactic would be my best bet when paying for Barbie. As I was getting ready to pay, I held Barbie up to the husband but only fast enough that he could glance at her. Then I held her down by my side out of his view. I gave the husband a quick nonchalant, "Hey, this doll was in your quarter box. I am going to get change from my truck." He nodded and I quickly walked down the driveway to my truck and tossed Barbie inside. With my poker face still on, I handed the husband my quarter and casually said, "Here's for the doll".

This casual act is one of my buying tactics. It always good to play down your interest in an item in front of the seller. Unlike Mike and Frank on my favorite show American Pickers, I never freak out and gush in front of the seller over an item. With the Barbie I didn't say, "Here's a quarter for your woefully under-priced, vintage and highly collectible Barbie doll." Enthusiasm like that could cause the seller to jack up the price or change their mind in selling the item. (Which has happened to me) For my awesome Barbie find I simply said, "Here's for the doll." Low key means low price.

Once I returned home to the "Money in the Garage" corporate office, I researched my twenty five cent Barbie. Turns out she was a "Midge" doll dating back to the early Sixties. I took a few nice photos and posted her knowing I had another "sure-thing" sale coming my way. My plunge into the quarter box was well worth it....Midge sold for $34 dollars! A good day at the garage sales!

So jump into those quarter boxes...stick your head and hands way down to the very bottom. Barbie or some other great find could be down there waiting for you!
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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

The ubiquitous baby gate

You want the stuff at garage sales that are an easy re-sale on eBay or Craigslist. An item you can find, and without even having to do an eBay or Terapeak look-up, just know the thing will sell quickly for nice dollars. I recently came across another garage sale item that meets this criteria. It's similar to the strong market found with baby strollers discussed back in a previous blog. The item I am talking about can be had at many a garage sale and should be on your "buy" list. It's the common baby gate!

I've picked up a few baby gates recently and had excellent luck with re-selling them. The best ones for re-sale are the top quality plastic models. You'll do OK with some wooden ones too, but it's the plastic gates that are in most demand. The used baby gate market has several built-in clienteles. First and foremost are young parents who need to confine their toddlers. Once those little critters discover they can walk, look out..... it's off to the races! If you don't confine them, next thing you know lamps are being pulled off tables, curtains are being yanked's total toddler anarchy! Solving this problem requires lots of baby gates! Another potential buyer are the grandparents. With the economy in such awful shape, more grandparents are watching the grand kids. Lastly, there is the pet owner market. This market is nearly as strong as the others. Dog and cat owners need baby gates to keep little Fido or Mittens from tearing up the entire house! Many pet owners want to avoid paying retail for a brand new baby gate. Their frisky puppy will only end up chewing and scratching up a shiny new gate. Buying used gates is smart purchase for the pet owner. So taken all together, you have three groups of buyers looking for the hotly sought after baby can you lose?

Here are two gates I bought last Saturday at a garage sale. These are very durable plastic gates made by North Star Industries and retail for at over $80 together. When I inquired about the price, the seller asked me to make her an offer. I should have let her throw out a number first, but I was overly stimulated from my second cup of coffee. I blurted out an offer of ten bucks for both. She liked the price and told me they were mine! (Which made me think I should have laid off the coffee and just offered five!)

Since I knew these gates were going to be an easy sell, I avoided the hassle and greedy fees of eBay and went right to good, old, dependable Craigslist. I posted them on Sunday evening for $45 and over the subsequent twenty four hours received four inquiries about them. By Tuesday night I had sold the gates to a young couple for forty dollars. (I came down five in the spirit of compromise.) So I basically held these gates for only three days, flipping them for a profit $30 big ones. I'll take that any day of the week!

There are plenty more "baby" items like these gates that make for an easy re-sell on eBay and Craigslist. Tell us about your flips. We'll post it here!

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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Hey buyer can you return that to me?

If you follow my blog, you know I am a big fan of buying new stuff in the package at garage sales then reselling it on eBay. The great thing about re-selling new is your merchandise is sealed, untouched and obviously working. I've sold lot's of MIB (Mint in box) stuff including shirts, toys, even a cat door! You can sell this MIB stuff with confidence knowing your buyer can't complain with negative feedback, or ding you on the eBay infamous star ratings system. If it's brand new in the plastic what are they going to gripe about? The worst complaint you might hear from your buyer is the item was really, really hard to remove from the plastic!

But there is one way selling new stuff has come back to bite me in the backside...when I could have used the item myself! This happened to me over the weekend. With the hot weather now upon us, my central air conditioning was been running constantly and refused to turn off. Turns out my thermostat was broken and needed to be replaced. Unfortunately, a good "programmable" thermostat can run you anywhere from $30 to $80 at your local Home Depot. Naturally being the garage sale scourer that I am, I picked up a brand new programmable thermostat for only two dollars last Fall. It was a top-of-the-line "Lux" programmable thermostat and even had the Home Depot "sold" sticker still on it! It was exactly what I needed to fix my air conditioner but did I keep it? my ongoing, obsessive zeal to flip stuff and make money, I sold it on eBay for twenty bucks. It never crossed my mind that maybe, just maybe, I should keep it as a back-up in case my thermostat broke! So guess what I was forced to do the other day? Sadly, I went down to my local Home Depot and bought a similar model for the full-blown retail price of $30 dollars...Ouch!

So before you sell a garage sale find on eBay first ask yourself the question, "Could I use this?" If you're like me I know what you'll'll probably sell it anyway!
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