Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Things I've Noticed About Movies & TV Shows

In movies, especially, whenever anyone comes home from grocery shopping they're always carrying a paper bag with a loaf of French Bread sticking out of it. 

Almost no one goes to the bathroom.  Occasionally they do for comedic or shock value, but it's not a normal everyday thing like it is for everybody else.  One exception was Pulp Fiction, where John Travolta's visits to the toilet seemed to be part of the story.  But as a rule, movie people are a non-excremental species.

In movies people can take all kinds of falls without getting hurt.  I've got some news - skidding on concrete hurts.

Ever watch 24?  The whole series is supposed to be about a 24 hr period.  But no one seemed to get tired, hungry, or have the above mentioned need to go to the bathroom. 

In most movies no one ever just stops or starts a car.  They burn rubber, slam on breaks, you can't start or stop in a movie without squealing tires.

-- an aside.  I watched a lot of The Soprano's and I noticed that whenever Christopher showed up at your door unannounced, nothing good was going to happen to you.  Didnt matter if he was smiling. 

In the movies a person can be gravely wounded and shake it off, but as soon as someone tries to bandage the wound, it suddenly hurts.

The movie world is a very violent place, and no one seems to run out of ammunition, no matter how much they shoot without reloading.

Monday, May 23, 2011

New Blog

I started a new blog - Postcards & Photos.  Guess what it's about?   There's also a link on the side bar.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Sunday Thoughts - dog walks, dreams, twitter and cherries.

Supposedly it's only 79 degrees (at not quite noon), but Pickles and I are here to tell you that it was very warm on our walk this morning.  The air is thick, heavy, with very little if any breeze & both our tongues were hanging out by the time we were done.  Well, that's life in the eastern United States.

On our walk I noticed swarms of very tiny gnat like things flying around.  I avoided them.  Again, life in the eastern United States.

One thing I didn't avoid though was shady spots.  It makes a difference.

For two weeks in a row now, I've forgotten about Wednesday.

I'm wondering about dreams.  For the most part I know I dream, but I can't remember them.  Sometimes I remember flashes of them, and sometimes I remember what I think is the whole thing.  But it's quite rare that I have any recollection of the details of a dream - I just remember I had it.  What I can remember tho is that my dreams all seem to have a thread of tension in them.   I have to be somewhere I can't get to, or I'm lost, or I've not been doing something I've needed to get done, and on and on.  They seem odd to me, but I doubt they are anything special. 

I found I like twitter better than facebook.  I'm not sure why that is, but I'm much more likely to throw a weird blurb out to the ether on twitter than I am on facebook.  In fact I only check in on fb occasionally.

I'm thinking of starting a postcard blog, where I'd post pictures of postcards I like, which may or may not be for sale.  Maybe I'll include photos too.

Patti bought a bunch of sour cherries at the farmer's market Friday.  She wasn't sure what to do with them, so I suggested this.  Pour them in a bowl, add a cup of milk, a couple cups of sugar, some butter, an egg or two, a couple tablespoons of Hershey's Cocoa, a little bit of baking soda, mix it all up, add some flour until it's thick, maybe 1/4 teaspoon of vanilla extract, pour it into a 9 x 12 inch pan, cook at 325 degrees for 20-25 mins or so, then let it cool and cut into bars.  Spit out any stems and pits you may encounter while eating.   It appears she had other ideas tho.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Can't take a picture of a smell

This is from a large lilac bush (so I'm told - to me it's just a bush with white flowery things) at a corner of our property.  A few days ago Patti cut a few pieces off and stuck them in a jar with water, and now the whole house is filled with it's odor fragrance. (I need an emoticon here so everybody knows I'm smiling).  It has assumed it's place with assorted other plants we have. 

I'm partial to succulents myself, there's something about them that makes me wonder. But I digress.

It's actually pretty nice.  It has a strong fragrance and I can see how something like this could trigger allergies in people who are sensitive to such things.  But we're not, so it's nice, sort of like nature's air freshener.  It's been on the table for 3 days & it won't last much longer.  But on the other hand, there's plenty more where that came from.

I really know nothing about lilacs.   

It is impossible to take a picture of a smell, so I can't do it justice.  So just imagine. 

Monday, May 9, 2011

More Free Shipping

We've decided to put free shipping on just about everything we sell (domestically) in our eBay store.  For over a year we've offered free shipping on postcards, but charged for large postcard lots, cabinet photos, cdvs and so on.  We've made the decision to offer free shipping on all the other items we sell and ship domestically.  International sales will still have a shipping charge.

At this point we're not charging shipping on any new items we list.  Some of the older items still have a shipping charge, but those are slowly but surely being removed.  In a month or two, pretty much nothing will have a shipping charge.  On the older items we're not (for the most part) raising the price - so in effect by removing the shipping charge we're reducing prices on the vast majority of our inventory.

In order for free shipping to work, you have to know how much it costs to ship your item, and figure that into the listing price, if possible.  You have to ship things safely, but you also have to be efficient about it.  It takes experience to get the hang of it all. 

In the best of all possible worlds, free shipping leads to increased sales.  Free shipping worked well for us with the postcards - there was a noticable increase in sales.  It remains to be seen if it will work with the photos.  Photos are different - they're more delicate, they require more packing to ship safely, and because of all that they cost more to ship. Also the people who collect photos are generally not the same as the people who collect postcards, and we just don't know how this is going to work.   It's a bit of a risk we're taking, we'll have to see how it goes.

It doesn't help that the post office recently increased shipping rates on many services.

For quite awhile now eBay has encouraged seller's to offer free shipping.  eBay recently announced a change which will take effect in July (unless they move it back) that removes one of the biggest incentives for sellers NOT to offer free shipping.   In July, eBay is going to charge a Final Value Fee (FVF) - the fee they charge sellers when an item sells - on the entire selling price.  Right now they do not charge an FVF on the shipping charge.

Right now if a seller sells an item at a fixed price of $10.00 with a $2.00 s&h charge eBay charges a $1.20 FVF.  If another seller sells the same item for $12.00 with no s&h charge, eBay charges $1.44 FVF.  There is quite an incentive to charge a lower price for the item with a reasonable s&h charge. 

After July they're going to lower the FVF by 1% (BFD if you catch my drift), but also include the s&h charge in the FVF calculation.  Under this scenario both sellers would pay a FVF of $1.32.   This removes the advantage a seller has by charging shipping & handling.

eBay also offers a "free shipping" search filter, enabling a buyer to search only for those items with free shipping.  I have no idea how many people make use of that, but it's only reasonable to assume some do.  So this new policy does a bit more than level the playing field - it actually gives a bit of an advantage to people who offer free shipping.

One thing I learned long before I started with eBay is that nothing ever remains the same.  If you can't drive the change, you have to adjust.  eBay is something I have no control over, so I adjust.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Instant Agony

It was Thursday morning when Pickles the Dog was happily greeting me, I bent down to pet her and was subjected instantly to massive amounts of lower back pain.  File this away in the tenuousness of life department.

Stuff like this has been going on with me for the last 15 years or so.  Every now and then I hurt my back doing a simple task I've done a hundred times - like petting the dog.  Or getting out of bed.  Weird.  I suspect, though I don't want to admit, that somethings going on back there in the old spinal column.

Thursday morning, Pickles and I were able to complete our normal 2 mile walk, but I felt pain with every step.  Friday morning, I could not do the walk - we didn't walk much further than the end of our driveway.  This morning, we made it around the block, about a mile, still pain with every step.  Tomorrow I'll try to complete a normal walk with her.  It's good for both of us. 

Still feeling pain, but not as badly.

What bugs me about all this is how quickly things can change.  You're just going on minding your own business and suddenly you're in almost constant pain.  Just can't take anything for granted.

If this behaves the way things have in the past, eventually the pain will go away and things will be back to normal. 

For some people the pain doesn't go away, and it's hard to imagine how they cope with it.  Chronic pain is not something I normally deal with, so I guess I'll continue to count my blessings.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Our eBay Month - April 2011

April was the worst month for us so far in 2011.   I realize there's only been 4 full months this year, but we'd have to go back to October of last year to find a month where we ended up with less money than April.  Now, April wasn't the worst month this year by much - we took in literally only a few dollars less than in February, but February was a shorter month, and included a holiday. 

A quick word about how I measure things.  eBay and I disagree on when an actual sale occurs.  For eBay, when a buyer commits to buy an item, that's a sale and they charge the final value fee.  But the buyer may not pay immediately - a few times in the past year they didn't pay at all.  So I don't count it as a sale until I actually receive payment, and I don't track it on my spreadsheet until I ship it. 

What this means is that in reality I track money and expenses on things we ship, on the day we ship them, as opposed to the day they sell, or even the day we receive the money.  We ship items every day the post office is open - Monday thru Saturday.  April had 26 shipping days, February had only had 23. 

April 2011 was significantly lower than March 2011, literally within dollars of the February totals, but much higher than April 2010.  In fact 2011 has been MUCH better than 2010 up to this point. 

I compared the April spreadsheet with February's.  The gross was almost the same and eBay listing and Final Value Fees were within 25 cents of each other.  What made the difference was our business expenses (packaging material, printer ink etc) and postage costs were each a few dollars more in April.  That was the difference.  Otherwise it was February all over again.

We made a change in how we do business in April, un-announced and un-advertised.  In May of 2010 we started offering free shipping domestically for postcards.   We still charged shipping for the photos, because they are more expensive to ship.  Well last month we begin offering free shipping on just about everything.  We've kept the shipping charge (for now) on any old listings, but new listings of antique photos, cdvs and such will be listed with no shipping charge.  I'll be writing a whole other post about this later on.

If possible I want to know why things happen as they do.  We expanded our free shipping, and coincidentally, the post office increased it's postage for many things.  It makes a difference.  At first glance that could appear to be the culprit, and perhaps it did play a role, but I want to know for sure.    So I looked a little closer, tried to figure things out and what I found leads me to believe that free shipping wasn't responsible for this little April income dip.

I know how many items we shipped, and how many "shipping days" there were in April.  So I determined the average number of items shipped per day for April, and found that on average we shipped  .9 items less per day in April than in March.  I also know what the average price we received for an item sold, so I multiplied the avg price by .9, then multiplied that result by 26 (the number of shipping days in April) and came out with HOLY CRAP it makes a difference.  It wasn't free shipping at all - it was the fact that we shipped (and by extension sold) almost one item a day less in April than in March.  It makes the difference between a good month and an average month.

The bigger question, which I can't really answer, it why sales were down in April.  That's something I'll have to think about and keep an eye on.