Sunday, September 25, 2011

Craigslist buyers won't commit to me !

Craigslist is a great alternative platform to eBay when selling stuff. You avoid all those annoying fees that come with listing on eBay. From the initial listing fee to the final value fee, eBay can take some of the fun out of selling on-line. And isn't it a great feeling when you're handed cash by a buyer knowing you actually get to keep every penny of it? But there is one big annoying drawback...Craigslist buyers can't commit! Trying to get one of these prospective buyers to commit is a little like wrestling with a greased's frustrating!

If you sell on Craigslist, I bet you know exactly what I mean. Part of the problem is that unlike eBay, a Craigslist buyer isn't locked in after they've committed to buying. With eBay, once you win an auction you pretty much have to pay or you'll face big trouble. An eBay buyer who backs out of a deal is subject to a string of automated e-mails from eBay and the threat of possible removal. But not so on Craigslist. It's a frustrating commitment-free zone where anything goes. Buyers can send you e-mails for days and weeks running you around. Bottom line is that you never know until the buyer pulls up to your house if you're getting paid.

Take for example these ceramic tiles I recently sold on Craigslist. They were left over from a home improvement project in my house. I listed all seventy tiles for $50 bucks-less then half what I paid for them at Home Depot. I received a huge amount of inquiries, many assuring me they would be right over to pick them up. But I was like the proverbial bride left at the one ever showed! Having no sale, I started to think I would be stuck using them to tile the dog house! Finally, after about five no-shows, a husband and wife showed up at my house and paid me my asking price. This isn't uncommon with a Craigslist sale.

Knowing Craigslist buyers can be illusive, I've developed a few strategies to try to reel them in. It starts with the inevitable e-mail that asks, "Do you still have them for sale? (I think this is a dumb question. I have them on Craigslist right? Well then, they're still for sale!) When I get the initial inquiry, I respond with a quick, " Yes, when do you want to pick them up?" This is a variation of the old salesman trick when they ask, "How many can I put you down for?" By asking them this, I am trying to cause them to commit right away. Sometimes this question scares them off. But if it does, they probably weren't going to buy anyway.

Making it convenient and easy to pick up is another good tactic. I'll inform the buyer that I'll meet them at a location close to their home. Occasionally when trying to land a really big dollar sale, I'll even offer to deliver the item right to their home. This can really grease the deal since the seller doesn't have to lift a finger. (Other then pulling the bills from his wallet!) I once sold an Apple computer to a private music teacher and drove the computer to his studio. While he was in another room giving a music lesson, I set the computer up for him like a tech support geek! After finishing his lesson, the teacher came out to the reception area and was tickled pink when he saw the computer up and running! Transporting the computer right to the teacher's place of business sealed the deal for me.

Lastly, I'll utilize a little psychological warfare on some prospective Craigslist buyers. When responding to e-mail inquiries, I 'll sometimes bluff and say that someone else may be coming over to buy it. I then tell the indecisive buyer that I'll sell it to whoever shows up first. Sort of the old "first come/first serve" rule, only there's no one else actually coming over. But by suggesting an imaginary competitor, I am trying to create a sense of urgency in the mind of the buyer. Hopefully this will motivate the indecisive buyer to jump on the deal.

What kind of strategies do you employ to get Craigslist buyers to follow through on a deal? They are a frustrating bunch, so if you have a trick I sure would like to hear it. E-mail me or send in a comment below! You should do it right now because it's y'know....first come-first serve! ; )
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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Left behind

I talked earlier about the benefits of going to estate sales over the average garage sale. At estate sales you're more likely to find antiques, old furniture and other great old collectibles. But there's another sale I've come across where you can do nearly as well. It's what I call the "left behind" garage sale. You won't find this type of yard sale every Saturday, but when you do it can be an awesome buying opportunity. The left behind sale is where a new homeowner is selling stuff that was left in the house by the previous owner. The previous owner may have passed away and no one cleaned out the house, or the seller left in a hurry, abandoning his stuff. Personally, I can't understand why people would just leave stuff behind in a property. But for whatever reason that people do, new owners are stuck dealing with the stuff. Fortunately, some people wisely get rid of the junk with a garage sale. And when they do-they usually sell cheap! They're not looking to get rich, they just want it sold and gone! So you have old stuff at cheap prices, a double dose of good garage sale kharma!

About a month ago, I happened upon a "left behind" garage sale. This sale wasn't posted on Craigslist, so it was a complete surprise when I stumbled on it. (Making it more attractive...No advertising means less buyers) Walking up to the sale, the new homeowner had stuff all along the driveway which lead up to a detached garage. Since it looked like an estate sale, I asked the lady who's stuff it was? In an almost a defeated tone, she told me she and her husband had purchased the home and all the stuff in the driveway was found inside. Looking around at all the junk, I could tell immediately the previous owners were seniors. There were lots and lots of old things in dusty leaf bags and boxes....the search was on!

After combing through the driveway junk, I asked the new owner if I could look inside the old detached garage. She was fine with this and I began wandering through the old stick and frame building. Looking high and low, there were tools, auto parts, garden gadgets and other garage paraphernalia everywhere. Like some wide-eyed kid, I asked the new owner in breathless tones, "Wow, they actually left all this stuff when they sold the house?" Being that the new owner was stuck dealing with the mess, she was not nearly as impressed with the garage as I was. She reiterated what she had already told me earlier, "Yep, just left it here." The seller then went back outside to deal with buyers, while I toured the garage as if it were the famous Sistine chapel! Then my heart really started pumping when I overheard her price some things for buyers...she was a "quarter" lady! Almost everything she priced was just twenty five cents and nothing was over a dollar. Hearing this, I went into full buying mode!

After a careful search I found some cool stuff, most of which was priced at a quarter a pop! Some of my finds included; an old wood peach crate, a vintage tin thermometer I pried off the wall, a 1961 Scout jamboree bandanna and a set of old Coca Cola soda machines cups. I also found a Massachusetts state police cap and a 1980 John Deere riding mower manual. It was one of those sales where you keep walking around, combing through old bags and boxes hoping to find more. That's the sign of a great garage sale!

Turns out this sale made me some nice coin! Believe it or not, John Deere lawn tractor manuals sell very well on eBay. John Deere is the "Cadillac" of riding lawn mowers. As the advertising says, "Nothing runs like a Deere." So when an owner buys a used John Deere tractor, naturally they're "Jones" for the original manual too. Knowing that, I posted this manual on eBay and made a quick ten bucks! Then there was the Massachusetts State Police cap I found in a leaf bag. This old cap appeals to the law enforcement collectors out there. It screamed "vintage" right down to the gold oak leaves on the brim. This quarter find sold for $15 on eBay. Lastly, I sold the 1961 Boy Scouts Jamboree scarf for $23 dollars. The tally on these three sales came to a righteous $48 dollars. Just think, all that jingle for just three quarters!

So if you happen to come across a "left behind" garage sale, don't you be left behind. Get up that driveway and help that new owner clean house!
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Tuesday, September 13, 2011

On Batteries and postage costs

There is an overlooked fringe benefit to working in the garage sale industry. You may never have thought about this, but when you buy toys and electronics, a hidden bonus is inside just for you...batteries! Free batteries come with the territory and save you money over the long run. Of course, sometimes you'll buy a toy and the batteries are dead or corroded with acid. That's never a good thing. However, more often then not when I buy a toy the batteries are usually still good. The reason for this? Probably little Johnny hardly played with the toy, so the batteries stayed fresh. Prior to selling it, I always pop out and check toy batteries with a tester. If the batteries are good, I don't put them back in the toy, I store them away for future use in my TV remotes, garage door opener and other stuff.

Check out this picture of a Leapfrog Educational toy I recently bought for one dollar. When I opened up the battery compartment, I found not one...not two...not three....but four fresh AA batteries! While it may not seem like a big deal, let's do some math. I paid one dollar for a toy which contained four AA batteries. Think about what a four pack of AA batteries costs you at your local big box store. I'd say around $3.00 dollars right? So in reality, the dollar I spent for the toy comes right back to me because I am saving on the cost of batteries. Or look at it another way; I paid one dollar for a pack of (4) AA batteries and got a free toy with the deal! A little round-about logic but still true!

Another important issue with batteries is this....always take the the things out of a toy prior to shipping. While you may think you're providing a nice extra for the buyer, I say the following...... HORSE FEATHERS! Never, ever send batteries as part of the purchase! Does Mattel, Hasbro or any other toy company include batteries in their toys at time of purchase? Heck no and you shouldn't either! Why? Because they are dead weight! Without a doubt, the extra weight of the batteries in the toy will push your postage costs higher. You want to do everything you can to keep the weight of that package down. Who wants to pay more for postage? You could try to charge more to cover postage costs, but that's a big turn-off for buyers. And Ebay grabs a parentage of your shipping fee, while at the same time nagging sellers to keep postage fees down. You're in a "no-win" situation! So don't make the mistake of including batteries in a toy you sold. It will only make it harder on you financially. (Incidentally, I've found most buyers don't expect batteries to come with their toy)

So just consider free batteries a fringe benefit to the job. Have you found some other garage sale fringe benefits like free batteries? If so, give me a shout and I'll pass it along!
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Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Toxic toys? Not in my neighborhood!

We talked a few weeks ago about the benefits of toy recalls. One of the more newsworthy recalls was the Thomas the Tank Engine lead paint fiasco. In that notorious screw-up, some wooden Thomas the Tank Engine toy trains were found to contain lead based paint. Primarily it involved Thomas wood train pieces made in China that were painted red. The recall program has been in place for a couple years and has been a buying opportunity for folks like you and me. Many of these toys can be had at garage sales for a dollar or less per train.

Best of all, you're not just buying toxic trains to make some quick bucks. Heck no, you're like a comic book super hero coming to the rescue of little kids! When you buy these dangerous lead based toys, you're helping to get this toxic junk out of the hands of innocent children. Did you ever think you could do a "good deed" at a garage sale while making money at the same time? You absolutely go out and do lots and lots of good deeds!

Take a look at the brand spanking new trains seen above. These little gems were sent to me from the toy company RC2, the producer of wood Thomas trains. They were all replacements for lead based trains I bought at a recent yard sale. I only paid fifty cents for each train. While not all the Thomas trains have paint problems, it was easy to find out which ones fell under the recall. The company provided a consumer service hotline number and website. The website had photos of all the toxic trains. I clicked on each toy to create an inventory list of trains eligible for return. A few weeks later, I received a confirmation letter and a pre-printed postage label to return the trains. I wrapped each toy up and sent them to the manufacturer with the attached inventory list. About four weeks later, brand new replacement trains were in my mailbox! Not only did they replace each toy, but they gave me an additional brand new Thomas the Tank Engine toy in the package! I now have about a dozen of these replacement trains which I am stockpiling for Christmas auctions. The Holidays are the best time to sell Thomas Trains, they make great stocking stuffers or can be added to an existing set as a gift. During the holidays each train piece can sell in the range of $8 to $20 dollars. If I don't sell every train, I can always sell them in larger lots or with a train platform. (Discussed a few months ago in a previous blog)

As a cautionary note, I am not certain how much longer this program will be in place. I've learned that Tomy Corporation, a huge Japanese toy conglomerate just took over RC2. Now when you attempt to go to the RC2 company website, it immediately reroutes you to But until the Tomy corporation shuts down the recall program you can be the "Toxic Avenger" super hero, removing dangerous toys off the street while making money at the same time!

Do you know any other toys recalls we all should be looking for? If so, let me know in the comments section or send me your story for the website. Happy Hunting!
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