Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Brief Thought on the Intelligence of Dogs

Sometimes I think it would be nice to have the intelligence of a dog, even though it would mean I'd be unable to get a long stick through a door. My problem solving abilities would be severely lacking, but on the other hand I'd attack whatever I perceived of as life's problems head on, with no thoughts of ramifications or consequences. If I couldn't figure out how to get the stick through the door I'd just drop it and go on to something else without any concerns.

I once read a science fiction novel which took place close to a million years in the future, and included a few paragraphs about a professor who had a dog, which, through a little genetic tweaking, gained the ability to speak in short sentences - maybe 3 words long. Through almost a millions years of dog evolution the intelligence level remained about the same as it always was, and the dog's major concern was how to get extra food.

Anyway. To me, dogs don't seem to worry about too much.

And that is my brief thought.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Waiting for Death

March 11th.

I have a first cousin who doesnt have much longer to live.  Most likely just a few days, if that.

Late summer or early fall he had an ear and sinus infection that he could not get rid of.  He finally ended up in a hospital over it, they got it under control and released him.  Not too long ago he was sick again, went to a doctor, who sent him to a hospital.  He had double pneumonia.  They were able to get that under control, but they took a chest xray as part of this diagnosis, and found a spot on one of his lungs.

It was very close to his heart, apparently, so close that the surgeon did not want to take a biopsy.  So they did the surgery, with the idea that they'd remove the tumor, or the whole lung if needed.  Turned out they didn't do either.  During the surgery they decided it was inoperable, and I guess untreatable. I was told the tumor was attached to his heart in some way, as well as his lung.

This all happened very rapidly, at least from my point of view, but of course lung cancer doesnt happen overnight.  He smoked, which is a risk, and he worked on strip mines, mining coal, another risk.

March 18th.

I started this post about a week ago, and my cousin died the next day.   I think his cancer was diagnosed less than a month before his death.  He was very sick, but also very aware.  He knew he had a very short time to live. 

He spent most of the last three weeks at his home.    He moved into a  hospice facility in Hazard, Kentucky literally a couple days before he died.  Once they found out it was terminal they managed his symptoms, but did nothing further to treat the disease.  He died late in the evening of March 12th.

I don't know what I'd do in that situation.  It seems he handled it about as well as anyone facing certain death can.  Well let me amend that a little.  We're all facing certain death, but most of us are not facing immanent death.  He was, and he knew it.   I don't know how I'd react.  How can anyone react.  If you are literally deathly ill, you aren't going to do a whole lot.  If I were able, I think I'd just sit out on the porch and feel the air and listen to the birds.

On television people with chronic or even terminal illnesses take yoga classes and play tennis, and seem to be healthier and more active than the rest of us.  Reality is a little different.

He had a lot of family and friends, and most, including me, attended the funeral. It was held in Hindman with bluegrass/gospel music and a sermon.  It was a very long procession to the cemetery.  He was buried in the family cemetery near his home, the graveside service coinciding with a very heavy downpour, soaking most people there.  He would have laughed, everybody knew it, and they all laughed about it.  He was buried next to his (and my) grandparents who raised him, and who he thought of as parents. 

Thursday, March 8, 2012

A Change in our Business

Once or twice a year eBay implements "Seller Updates" & I've noticed over the years that these changes directly or indirectly cost us money.  Frequently we (and just about every other eBay seller in existence) slowly but surely - some not so slowly - raise prices to cover the increased cost.  We've generally gone with the flow, eBay makes these changes to encourage certain behaviors in the sellers, in the belief this will increase buyer's confidence, which will in return increase the number of buyers who shop on the site.  Some sellers react with anger (just read the boards), but I have a feeling most, like me, just make adjustments.  I'm pretty sure eBay is the still the largest site of it's kind by far, and that translates into traffic & dollars for people like me.

In this latest seller update eBay announced a change that we will finally not be able to meet.  It's not something that would drive us out of business, in fact I suspect in the long run it would only make a minimal difference, and as usual we could probably raise prices just a bit to compensate.  But it spurred us to thinking about things, and to make a change which we hope in the long run will translate into an expansion of sort.

eBay, of course, rates it's sellers, and if sellers meet certain criteria, they are awarded with "Top Rated Seller" (TRS) status.  TRS status comes with a tangible financial incentive in the form of a 20% discount on their Final Value Fees, the amount eBay charges a seller when they sell an item.   It can add up.  TRS status also brings an advantage in eBay's default Best Match search results, but that is somewhat intangible since there is no way to measure if that leads to any sales or not.  And last but not least a seller with TRS status gets a badge displayed on their listings & next to their listings in search results, which is supposed to give a buyer a bit more confidence.  Again, intangible.  But the 20% discount is not intangible, that is easly measured every month.

They've added a requirement to achieve TRS status - in June, to obtain TSR status, sellers will be required to have delivery confirmation (or some other kind of tracking information) on 90% of the items they ship domestically, in addition to all the other requirements they have to meet.   We can't meet that 90% requirement the way we currently do buisness.  We've had TRS status for years and unless we do something radical, we're going to lose it because of this.

We ship almost all items domestically for free.  Our more expensive items and/or items which are rigid - most of our antique photos, for example - are shipped as a package.  Typically the photos are shipped with delivery confirmation, the postcards not necessarily.  It's economics.

In order to ship everything with delivery confirmation we'd have to raise prices on our postcards or start charging for shipping (same difference) to cover the increased cost.  This would not be a cost we could absorb, and competition is such that I don't think we could raise the prices on our postcards high enough to cover the increased cost of shipping. 

No matter, we don't want to raise our prices & we'd like to maintain our TRS so we decided on a different approach, and it's risky, as far as I'm concerned.  It is not worth doing solely to maintain TRS status.

We've had an Etsy shop for years, but had not used it in awhile.  We've decided to start moving postcards some photos & other items over to Etsy, and concentrate our antique photos on eBay.  If we ever got to the point that we were routinely selling the same amount of photos as we are postcards, we could potentially more than double our income.  So that's what we're going to try to do.  In theory, this will also enable us to keep our TRS status, but it may not.  It's a slow process, it'll be a long time before all our postcards etc are moved to the Etsy shop.   It is not worth doing this just to maintain TRS status.  But over time, we'll have a lot more antique photos in our eBay store, and a ton of postcards and other items in our Etsy shop.  Over time this should result in a notable increase the amount of $$ we pull in, and secondarily, should retain our TRS status on eBay.  At least that is the goal.

It's a risk.  Postcards are a major part of our monthly sales, usually more than half, and if they don't sell on Etsy, we will lose money. I don't know if any any eBay customers will follow us to Etsy.  We could potentially lose a lot more money than we would by simply not having TRS status.  So it is a risk, but that's what makes life interesting, at least in the corner of the little room I'm sitting in. 

It's not like we're risking the house or anything like that.  It's only money, after all.

I put a link to our Etsy shop on the left column of this blog - click on it take a look if you want.  Check back often, we'll be adding stuff pretty much daily. Feel free to buy something, anything, I'm not particular. 

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Our eBay Month - February 2012

Sometimes sales are just plodding along and you think it's going to be a struggle to even be an average month, then all of of sudden the flood gates open.  This is what happened the last few days of February.

When the dust settled, we had out sold January - which was a pretty good month.   Not by too much, but it counts.  And we blew away February of 2011; we had more than 25% higher sales than a year ago, which is pretty good. 

Never can tell when the sales will (or won't) come.

The number of postcards we sold were about average, but we received more for them than we usually did.  I'm not sure why - some of our postcards cost more than others, of course, and I guess those sold well. 

Our photograph sales were strong, and when we have a good month photograph wise, we generally have a good month period. 

We continue to have repeat customers & also customers who make multiple purchases, and I take that as a good sign.

Our international sales were also strong, which is a good sign.  We were forced to increase our international shipping charges for many of our items because of USPS increases, and I was worried this might cost us some international sales.  Apparently not - at least not yet.

However - and this will be another blog post in a day or so - we've made a major decision about how we are going to do business going forward, and it is a major change for us, and a bit of a risk.  My unstated, un-detailed & undefined goal (pipe dream?) is to roughly double the amount of gross income we generate in a average month.  The problem is doing that without doubling the workload, because I really don't want to double the amount of time I spend doing this.  However, this was not the reason for our change, I'm just sort of hoping it's a result.  More on all this in a day or so.

So put February 2012 in the "it was a good month" category, and move on.