What Sells On eBay: Steven Schultz Guest Edition

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube

Steve had some unique sales this week, thanks for sharing. Check out vintage slide rules like the one Steve sold and how much they go for! Amazing.

We encourage you to post your own "what sold" video in the comments too.

Scavenger Life Episode 268: Can Struggling Artists Fund Their Art with an eBay Store?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

Ryanne's sister visited us this weekend from Boston, so we're enjoying our town like tourists again. Swimming at the lake, watching a movie at the theater, grilling, hanging out with friends. Instead of our normal "what happened this week", we're posting a recent conversation we had with Deric, who's a comedian and scavenger in upstate New York.

We've been trying to find someone who funds their art through their eBay store. Like an actor, filmmaker, dancer or writer. Instead of working for low pay in restaurant or temp jobs, we imagine that a struggling artist would make more money and have more flexibility scavenging and selling online. An actor could go on auditions anytime she wants and just work on his eBay store in her downtime.

Deric now has a wife and young daughter, so he's taken on a full-time job and just sells on eBay in his spare time. But he still does stand-up comedy and we imagine together what his life would have been like if he sold on eBay in his early days of comedy. He described how he does a lot of scavenging in between comedy gigs when traveling. We also talk about how he presently juggles everything while running his store. And instead of working with his wife on eBay, they both run their own separate stores since they each have different specialties.

You can find Deric at these fine spots. he says he'll answer any questions in the comments below.
We had a much better sales this week. We'll post our numbers in the comments. Hope things are good for you! Christmas is just five months away!

Scavenger Life Episode 267: Updates on Our Adventures in eBay Search

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

This week we wanted to clarify a bunch of ideas we introduced on the last podcast where we discussed how we were re-thinking our listing formats to better show up in eBay's search. It definitely sparked a lot of conversations, competing interpretations, and pointing out some things we got wrong. Cool.

Remember that we're just Trash Elves scavenging for items that people leave behind for junk. That's our strength. The world of SEO is foreign territory to us. All we know is that an eBay customer service rep sent us a detailed email outlining on ways we could improve our listings. We shared this info with you so each seller can make their own determination. Go ahead and listen to this episode to hear about some clarifications to our way of thinking. Let's keep evolving by sharing info backed up by fact.

Hope you had a good week!

Our Store Week July 10-16, 2016
  • Store #1
  • Total Items in Store: 3862
  • Items Sold: 16
  • Cost of Items Sold: $62
  • Total Sales: $740.43
  • Highest Price Sold: $149 (Bathroom Fixture)
  • Average Price Sold: $46.27
  • Returns: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $85
  • Number of items listed this week: 0

  • ----------
  • Amazon FBA Store
  • Number of items sold: 11
  • Amazon total sales: $639.22
  • Amazon FBA Fees: $157.15
  • COGS (shipment to FBA included): $50
  • Net profit after COGS: $432.07
  • Store #2
  • Total Items in Store: 1091
  • Items Sold: 6
  • Cost of Items Sold: $4
  • Total Sales: $219.95
  • Highest Price Sold: $70 (Vintage software manuals)
  • Average Price Sold: $36.65
  • Returns: 0
  • Number of items listed this week: 0

Mid-Week Conversation: Watch an eBay Engineer Explain How Their Search Engine Works

The above video has been brought up several times over the past year (Thanks Mike and Kristen). It shows a talk given by an eBay engineer where he explains how Cassini, the eBay search engine works. There's no magic bullet here, but does remove some of the mystery.

In this week's podcast, we wanted to do was present the information that the Customer Rep gave to us. It's been endlessly fascinating to read everyone's interpretations and opinions on how to best format an eBay listing to get the best search result. We also shared how we're updating our old listings to get them up to a single standard. Beyond this, we're going to continue to watch for guidance from eBay and just keep finding cool stuff and list.

Anyway, we're plugging along. If anyone has made a "what sold" video, feel free to post it in the comments. Give it a try!

MyCottage posted a link to the Spring 2016 Seller Update that clearly states that eBay will block any listing with javascript or plugins in 2017:
Remove active content for peak performance
The use of active content in listings, including JavaScript, Flash, plug-ins and form actions, inhibits purchases on mobile devices and can lead to abuse in the marketplace. Beginning with the Spring 2017 Seller Update, eBay will limit the use of active content in all new listings across all devices and it will not be rendered by default. By the Fall Seller Update 2017, we plan to remove or block listings with active content. We encourage you to limit your use of active content now. We will provide more information later this year about which functionality will be limited and provide the specific timing in early 2017. We also are working closely with our third-party partners in cases where they use active content on your item descriptions or stores.

Scavenger Life Episode 266: Maybe eBay Conspiracy Theorists Were Right All Along?!!

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

The past couple years we've had some long comment threads about eBay's search engine and how to make sure your listings are "fresh". The hypothesis is if you end listings and re-list as "sell similar", then you can fool eBay into thinking it's a new item and get to the top of the search. We've always asked for some data to see if this is true, but no one had any. Seemed like busy work. It's been a hypothesis and not a proven theory.

But this week we had a bit of proof from eBay itself. We called the new Customer Service line for sellers with Anchor Stores. The woman told us that many of our listings were "stagnant" because they were missing a lot of required data. Many of these listings were several years old before eBay started transitioning to "mobile friendly" formats. They said we needed to make sure every listing had 12 photos, item specifics, and NO html templates with photos in the description. They also said to end the listings and relist as "sell similar" so it had a new listing number. Below is the actual email they sent us after the call:
Thank you for contacting Merchant Support today about your concerns. As promised, here is your stagnant listing report. The spreadsheet that I've attached to this email will show you items that haven't sold it over 60 days or more. The attachment can only be opened through your personal email.

Stagnant listings are listing that you have on the site with very little visibility. Here is an overview of what we spoke about today:

1.    Title: Use all 80 characters, use keywords that are relevant to the product being sold, use keywords that describe the item as the buyer would look for it, don’t include special characters and include: brand, model, style, type, part #, and EAN/UPC codes.
2.    Item Specifics: Ensure required product identifiers for the categories your listing in are being used. Fill out all relevant options and recommendations within your syi form. Use custom specifics for setting clear buyer expectations: measurements, colors, material, etc.
3.    Images: Use all 12 photos (3+ will give your listings a boost in visibility), add high quality photos (800-1600 pixels), use a white background (your listings will look professional), use gallery to identify any flaws, stock photos are only ok for items listed as “new,” and please do not use logos. *If you have watermarks, please keep specs to 5% of the total size and 50% or less opacity. Please keep in mind that Google’s doesn’t allow images containing promotional elements, names or logos of merchants.
4.    Description: Keep it simple, clear and short business policies. With the increase of mobile purchases, you want to avoid using photos in the description. Also, please avoid using Java Script, Flash, plug-ins and form actions as it inhibits purchases on mobile devices.
5.    Looking into your competitors’ listings to figure out what they’re doing differently that’s allowing them to sale these types of items. Sometimes it could be the pricing on your listings isn’t competitive to theirs. If you are unable to change the pricing, what makes your listing stand out vs your competitors listing?

We recommend that you end your listings on the report and relist them using the “sell similar” option with new information based on the research you were able to do. Relisting the item will allow the items to jump back to the top of the search results, as when a listing doesn’t receive any sales on it and consistently is being renewed on the site.

Please keep in mind that we don’t want you to update your multiple quantity items that have had recent sales just because they are counted differently. The listing may have higher impressions, clicks and click through rates so they may have a higher ranking in search vs one of your older listings that have very little impressions and clicks.

Our goal is to help you to get more visibility to your listings. One last suggestion that I forgot about on our phone call was to consider putting your items on sale. Placing your items on a sale can add urgency to your listings and gain attraction by buyers. If you need any more ideas or strategies for listings, please feel free to contact us.
So there's the proof that listings can go stagnant. What's amazing is that we've been selling like this for the past several years and still making decent money. Strange that eBay didn;t just tell sellers the above info in a big announcement. Have we missed it somewhere? What will be interesting is to see if we actually sell more now that we're updating all our listings. That will be the real proof.

Here are the links we mentioned in this podcast:
--Kadie let us know that you can order "Tracking Labels" from USPS for free. This lets you mail items to buyers in envelopes and add antracking number so eBay is happy. Wow!
UPDATE: Though the USPS site doesn't say the tracking labels cannot be used for letters, multiple sellers have told us that you must pay the extra fee for letter tracking.
--David Hall created a website that reminds store owners when new quarterly coupons become available and where to find it: http://wheresthecoupon.com/. Double Awesome!

Sales were decent for us this week. Keep listing. Xmas is in only 6 months.

Scavenger Life Episode 265: Is eBay a Recession Proof Business?

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

We've seen some articles lately stating that another recession could be coming.  It could just be the result of nervousness around the upcoming Presidential elections that feels more and more out of control, but our American economic system has long history of ups and downs. A broken clock is right twice a day. I'm sure the economy will hit a rough patch one of these days.

So is eBay a recession proof business? When we started selling on eBay in 2008, the country was in the depths of the Mortgage Crisis. Selling old shoes online didn't seem like a bad idea as work was difficult to find and gas prices were almost $4/gal. We found that people needed to buy clothes and practical items even in bad times. People probably start looking for deals when money is tight. And remember that not everyone is doing poorly during bad times. A recession wasn't the zombie apocalypse. People were still buying collectibles and everything else we were selling. But every recession could be different.

Maybe a better question to ask is: how do we prepare for a recession? Because we've been self-employed for almost 12 years, we always assume the worst is around the corner. Here's what we do so we can sleep at night:

--First we make sure our expenses are as low as can be. We still feel like we're living a life of luxury because we own our time, but we have few "fancy things".  We don't borrow money for luxuries.
--We talk with each other about any purchase over $20. Our default is to NOT spend money.
--We cook almost all our own meals instead of eating out.
--We have enough savings to pay for at least two months of expenses. Some financial gurus say six months is the goal, but we feel good with two months of breathing room.
--We're cautiously investing in our rental business which diversifies our income (you can hear about these adventures at ShampooAndBooze.com). There is no guarantee any business will succeed, but it's important for us to take chances while we're young. We think you can't be too careful.

Anyway, there's no absolute safe space in this world. Our point is that eBay feels like a good place for us to invest our time and have come control over our own lives.

Oh, here's a photo from Dan and Lisa of NewVintageNY taken at their collector's event in Upstate NYC. You can also see one intrepid Scavenger, Derik, which you'll soon here from in an interview we're recording. Hope you had a good week!

Our Store Week June 26-July 2, 2016
  • Store #1
  • Total Items in Store: 3911
  • Items Sold: 31
  • Cost of Items Sold: $203
  • Total Sales: $1,464.14
  • Highest Price Sold: $130 (Perfume set)
  • Average Price Sold: $47.22
  • Returns: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $50
  • Number of items listed this week: 1

  • ----------
  • Amazon FBA Store
  • Number of items sold: 20
  • Amazon total sales: $693.04
  • Amazon FBA Fees: $255.51
  • COGS (shipment to FBA included): $30
  • Net profit after COGS: $407.53
  • Store #2
  • Total Items in Store: 1100
  • Items Sold: 16
  • Cost of Items Sold: $31.30
  • Total Sales: $519.55
  • Highest Price Sold: $65 (Wool Hat)
  • Average Price Sold: $32.47
  • Returns: 0
  • Number of items listed this week: 11

The Internet is a Miracle

Kennedy Peak on Massanutten, overlooking Page County

Our neighbor's house was struck by lightning this past weekend and blew out our internet connection for 5 days (5!!!), so we've been finding ways to be productive without being online. We were still able to print shipping labels through tethering our cell phones, but cellular bandwidth is expensive so we had to limit ourselves.

We took advantage of good weather and went hiking on a mountain just five minutes from our house. Saw two black bears and realized we didn't know the right way to pass them! We also went on a tour of the famous Luray Caverns in our town. It's was fun being a tourist.

But early this morning the repair man finally arrived and fixed our connection. Suddenly having all-you-can-eat internet again was like an incredible gift. We forget how this technology has enabled us to live the luxurious life we have. It's been great to read everyone's comments and good to see you guys can help each other out without us. 

Anyway, we've been having a great sales week. Everything comes in waves. Good to be back.

Scavenger Life Episode 264: The Key to Slow Months is Exploration and Experimentation

https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/ebay-scavengers/id638443029?mt=2 iTunes   YouTube   Download .mp3  Download .ogg

Hi all. It's been a slow week and there was a big lightning storm that knocked out our internet, so I'll keep this short. We are remembering that when things are slow, experiment because you have time to do it. So far it's paying off.

Links we mentioned:

Our Store Week June 19-25, 2016
  • Store #1
  • Total Items in Store: 3937
  • Items Sold: 14
  • Cost of Items Sold: $20
  • Total Sales: $446.34
  • Highest Price Sold: $60 (Riding stirrups)
  • Average Price Sold: $31.85
  • Returns: 0
  • Money Spent on New Inventory This Week: $120
  • Number of items listed this week: 106

  • ----------
  • Amazon FBA Store
  • Number of items sold: 10
  • Amazon total sales: $244.18
  • Amazon FBA Fees: $148.14
  • COGS (shipment to FBA included): $30
  • Net profit after COGS: $76.04

  • Bonanza:
  • Sold 3 items for $79
  • ----------

  • Store #2
  • Total Items in Store: 1105
  • Items Sold: 10
  • Cost of Items Sold: $12
  • Total Sales: $271.41
  • Highest Price Sold: $50 (Purse)
  • Average Price Sold: $27.14
  • Returns: 0
  • Number of items listed this week: 43

Mid Week Q &A: Our Friend Wrote a Book

It's summer and our eBay sales have been slow. This comes every year and it's never fun for sales to hit a wall. But these days what we do is use this slow time for sourcing, experimenting, listing, and relaxing. People will always start buying again so we are loading out store up.

But let's talk about the future. We interviewed our friend, JL Collins, a couple months ago about investing for retirement. As self-employed business owners with no safety net, it's always in the back of of mind about what our future will be like when we're older.

He actually just published a book called The Simple Path To Wealth where he clearly lays out all his years of experience and wisdom into an easy to read 'investment instruction manual' with some fun stories thrown in. We got to read an advanced copy and highly recommend it.

Our blog is about how to own your time. To do this, you need money so we looked around and saw that scavenging was a fun way to earn a living. What Jim provides is the next step. What happens when you actually have more money than you spend each month?

I'll give you the spoiler to the book. Jim’s single best recommendation is to put your money in Vanguard’s VTSAX is a total stock market index fund. That’s really it. Start now and let your money make money and keep making money. But Jim’s book is really so much more. It’s all about how to think about money, our time, our short existence on this earth, and how much time we want to think about money.

I love what Jim says in his introduction: “Here’s an important truth: Complex investments exist only to profit those who create and sell them. Further, not only are they more costly to the investor, they are less effective.”  This is the same approach we’ve had on Scavenger Life. Keep it simple. List it and Forget it. Wealth comes by taking things in tiny steps, day by day, and letting success build up over time.

It comes down to holding only a single Vanguard fund over your entire lifetime. This means betting on the entire US economy will be good over a long period of time. If you think the zombie apocalypse is coming, then definitely invest in guns, walls and food. But throughout the ups and down of this country, we are still a strong nation.  And as Jim says, “The market always recovers. Always. And, if someday it really doesn’t, no investment will be safe and none of this financial stuff will matter anyway.”

Blogs about financial independence and smart retirement has been bubbling up in small online communities for about ten years now. But now it's becoming mainstream. Just watch this segment from John Oliver's "Last Week Tonight" where he does a great job illustrating the advice that Jim's book lays out (Thanks Brian for the tip!). You can skip directly to minute 18:00 for the quick advice on how to invest:

So please check out The Simple Path to Wealth by JL Collins if you're freaking out about the future and need something to read this weekend.