More Stupid eBay Buyers

Proof (again) that many people who buy on eBay are idiots.

A few months back, I speculated that eBay was for suckers when I reported on the condition of a “mint” condition lens I’d bought at almost retail and an auction for another lens that I passed on when the bid went more than $100 higher than the selling price on Amazon.com.

What “Mint” Really Means

According to my Mac OS X Dictionary widget, mint, when used as an adjective, means “in pristine condition; as new.” If that’s the case, then why is the term “mint,” when used on eBay, always followed up with additional describing words and phrases like “It is in mint condition, no scratches, no dust and no marks”?

Hello? Mint means mint. Like new. New items don’t have scratches or dust.

Unless, of course, you’re dealing with an eBay item.

The lens I bought that was in “mint” condition looked as if it had been on a shelf for two years. Yes, some of the dust had been wiped off, but there was enough in the cracks and crevices to tell the tale. And there was the tiniest of scratches on the lens closest to the camera body. That’s not mint.

And my husband, who recently decided that the low profile wheels that came with his used AMG weren’t quite right for Wickenburg’s dirt roads, replaced them with “mint” condition stock wheels. In the seller’s world, “mint” is an adjective that can be applied to tire rims that have obviously been scraped along a curb. No amount of polishing will get those scratches out. My husband’s good deal wasn’t such a good deal after all.

I try to use words carefully. Because of that, I would never apply the word “mint” to any item that has been used in any way. Unfortunately, I’m one of the few people who take the meaning of words like “mint” seriously.

The Price Thing Still Cracks Me Up

The other day, I bought another lens from Amazon.com — but not before I started “watching” an auction for a “4-month old,” “mint” condition lens on eBay. The auction ended a little while ago and the lens sold for $454. Add $19.95 shipping and the final price was just $5 less than I paid Amazon for a brand new lens.

I don’t know about you, but I think it’s worth the extra $5 to get something brand new in a box, shipped by a reputable company than to get suckered in by yet another eBay seller offering “mint” merchandise that isn’t.

So the question is, don’t these eBay buyers do their homework? Don’t they realize that they can buy brand new items for less than they’re paying for [often] misrepresented used items?

Or does the excitement of the auction process get them to bid stupidly?

eBay: The Buyer from Hell

When pickiness goes too far.

Macworld Expo ProgramI recently put a bunch of Macworld Expo programs and guides up for auction on eBay. These items, which have been sitting in various boxes and drawers for over 10 years were in very good — or even mint — condition, perfect for a collector.

I got immediate interest from a Twitter user who wanted to buy the lot of them at a fixed price. I’d already listed a few of them on eBay and I thought I might do better at auction.

Apparently, he wasn’t interested in bidding on them. No one was. Except the buyer from hell.

The buyer from hell bought one program for 99¢ and another for $1.99. Although I’d listed each with Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope shipping at $6.95 (to cover shipping, handling, eBay listing, and PayPal costs), I figured I’d cut him a deal and send the two programs together in the same envelope. So I invoiced him a total of $8.95 for shipping — a savings of $4.95. I figured he’d be happy that I’d just saved him some money without him even asking.

What I got, however, was a long-winded request to package the two programs in a large box with a lot of padding around them. I was to ship this box by parcel post to save him even more money.

So here’s a guy who spent less than $3 on two items that he wants me to treat as if they’re worth thousands.

I tweeted about this on Twitter. I got a few responses that confirmed I wasn’t crazy to be thinking that this guy was asking too much.

I was not prepared to find an appropriately sized box and lightweight padding to ship $3 worth of paper. I reminded him that the auction specified Flat Rate Envelope as the shipping method. (I personally think this is the best way to ship a document like this as it holds it flat and it can’t shift around in the envelope.)

He wrote back with another long-winded, whining message to say that I could use a flat rate box. The post office provides them for free. I can then use newspaper to pad around the programs.

So now he was suggesting an extra trip to the post office — unless he supposed that I’d go to the post office with all my packing material and prepare the package there.

For $3 worth of paper.

Like I didn’t have better things to do with my time.

I ignored his message until after the holiday. He wrote again and copied the message to me. I wrote back to say that I wasn’t going to do any special packaging. That it would be either flat rate envelope as specified in the auction description or we’d cancel the sale. I also reminded him that he had not contacted me before the auction close to ask if I’d do special handling for these items. I told him we could have prevented this misunderstanding if he’d communicated with me in advance.

He wrote back, now indignantly, to say that he didn’t understand why I wouldn’t do this for him, that many other people have, and that he didn’t want the programs damaged in shipping. I didn’t say what I was thinking: that putting two programs in a box with a bunch of dirty newspaper was far more likely to destroy them than shipping them in a nice, tight cardboard envelope. Instead, I wrote what I was beginning to think:

Is this some kind of joke? Did someone put you up to this? I’ve spoken to several experienced eBay sellers and they all think you’re over the top with your shipping concerns. I’ve sold quite a few things on eBay — ALL of them more valuable than this — and NO ONE has ever bothered me about shipping like you have.

I am not completing this sale. I don’t want to deal with you any longer. You are wasting my time.

My advice is to forget this auction and get on with your life. That’s what I plan to do.

He wrote back with some more of the same whining crap, finishing up to say that he’d never bid on any of my auctions again. Well, that’s a relief.

I went online at eBay and reported the auction as unpaid because of a disagreement over terms.

If he gives me negative feedback, I’ll hit him with some of the same, marring his perfect record.

Maybe there are people out there who have nothing better to do than cater to the requests of cheap collectors. I have much better things to do with my time.

As for the programs — they all go back on ice for another 5 to 10 years.

Apple Collectibles Up for Auction

I start to liquidize my collection of Macworld Expo programs and vintage Apple and Macintosh t-shirts.

I’ve been saving them for years, storing them in plastic packaging to protect them from dust and dirt. Hiding them in dark closets to keep the sun off them.

Macworld Expo ProgramWhat am I talking about? Only 10 years worth of Macworld Expo souvenirs.

I’ve decided to put them on eBay, to make my collection part of someone else’s.

(Don’t laugh — I was recently paid $13 for a 1997 Apple Annual Report. I’d had it filed with my investment stuff and was about to throw it out when I thought of eBay.)

First up for grabs: my Macworld Expo Program and Buyer’s Guides. My collection appears to date back to 1993. Remember Aldus? Macromedia? ACI US? The Newton? They’re all here in listings and advertisements.

I’m especially impressed by my copy of the January 1994 program (shown here): It’s in absolute mint condition. And I’m listed in back as one of the speakers. (That’s probably why I kept it in the first place.)

Interested in taking a walk down Apple memory lane? Check out my auctions to see what’s available. You can find them at http://search.ebay.com/_W0QQsassZn630mlQQfrppZ50QQfsopZ1QQfsooZ1QQrdZ0

But don’t wait. Each item will only be listed for 7 days. Who knows what you’ll find next month.

More eBay Headaches

Is it worth it?

Two weeks ago, I put my old dual G5 computer, 20″ Sony monitor, and a bunch of other odds and ends on eBay. The idea was to get rid of them and make a few bucks in the process. As I whined in my post, “The High Cost of Writing Tech Books,” it’s costly for me to buy the up-to-date computer hardware and software I need to work. I was hoping to get some of that hard-earned money returned by selling some equipment that was still in good shape.

The headaches started almost as soon as the auctions ended:

  • The Sony monitor was listed with free pickup in Wickenburg (where I live) or Tempe (where my husband works) or $62.50 UPS Ground Shipping. Well, the moron who bought it, who lives in Indiana, didn’t read about the UPS ground shipping. He read “free shipping” and thought I was going to send a 50-pound monitor to Indiana for free. What a deal for only $20.50, which is what he paid. He won’t pay shipping and now he won’t answer my e-mails. So I’m stuck in the middle of a transaction with no end in immediate sight.
  • The dual G5 sold for a surprising $700. Retail on this used machine is around $1,000, but I would have taken half of that, so I’m very pleased. The problem here is that the buyer didn’t pay for it. He had someone else pay for it on PayPal with a check. Then he demanded immediate shipment. PayPal clearly instructed me not to ship anything until the check cleared. It’s been 5 days and the check has not cleared. I’m wondering how this transaction will go sour. I figure that either the check won’t clear at all or the buyer will get POed when I ship to the person who paid, which is the only way I can be protected by PayPal.
  • I sold a used 7-port Iogear hub. It has 4 USB 2.0 ports and 3 Firewire ports. I sold it because I wanted it to use with my iSight camera and the damn thing never worked right. I figured it was the camera, but since I never tried it with any other Firewire device, I didn’t know for sure. The USB hubs seemed to work fine. I summarized all this in the listing. I sold it for pretty darn close to the cost of a brand new identical hub. (See my post, “Is eBay for Suckers?“) The buyer paid, I shipped it out. Yesterday, I get an e-mail message from the buyer saying that the USB ports won’t run at 2.0 speeds and that the Firewire ports won’t work at all. Hello? Didn’t I say I was having problems with the Firewire ports? And how the hell am I supposed to know what speeds the USB ports actually run at? If the buyer wanted a brand new device with a warranty, he should have bought it from a computer dealer, not someone unloading junk on eBay. And here’s a word of advice to anyone reading this: Don’t buy anything made by Iogear. It’s crap.

So now I have a bunch of other items here I’d like to unload. But I’m starting to think that eBay is bigger hassle than the few dollars I get back for my efforts. (The computer being the exception; if that transaction doesn’t go bad, it will be worth the trouble.) The only ones making real money on this are eBay and PayPal. So I’m wondering if I should just throw out this stuff and be done with it.

Any experiences with ebay that you’d like to share? Use the comments link or form for this post to speak your mind.

Cleaning House with eBay

I put a few of my old toys up for auction.

I’m cleaning house these days, trying to get rid of items I no longer use or need.

Nikon 6006 CameraIt’s tragic, in a way. You spend hundreds or thousands of dollars on an item, use it for a few years (if that long) and find that it’s value had dropped to a fraction of what you paid for it. That’s not bad if you still use it. But if you’ve replaced it with a newer or better model, you’re stuck with something that has no value to you.

And that’s the key: no value. Once you realize that something is nearly worthless to you, it’s easy to put it on eBay to see what it’s worth to someone else.

eBay LogoThat’s what I’ve been doing this week: putting my old stuff on eBay.

As I write this, the following items are up to bid:

  • Dual G5 PowerMac computer
  • 20″ Sony Triniton monitor
  • 2 USB/Firewire Hubs
  • Olympus microrecorder
  • Nikon 6006 Camera body (see photo above)
  • 2 USB Bluetooth Adapters

My old stuff can be your new treasure. Stop by and see what’s currently up for grabs.

Is eBay for Suckers?

I think it’s for people too lazy to do their homework.

If you’ve been following this blog, you know I’ve been spending a lot of time with photographers lately in some of the most outstanding scenic areas of Arizona. I’ve had a lot of downtime on these trips, waiting for passengers, etc. I brought along my Nikon D80 camera with the 3 lenses I used to use on my old film cameras, a pair of Nikon 6006s. (I still have those camera bodies in excellent condition. They’re great for anyone interested in working with film. Make me an offer.)

Again, I’m not a great photographer, but I do get lucky once in a while. It’s hard to come away without any good photos when you’re in a beautiful place and have a camera capable of storing 300+ 10-megapixel images on a single card. Digital cameras give us the luxury of experimentation without cost. We can try different lenses and different aperture or shutter speed settings. We can shoot a dozen photos of the same thing at different times of the day. Something has to come out okay or even — dare I say it? — good.

Wide Angle ExampleA lot of the photographers I’ve been working with — Mike Reyfman and Jon Davison come to mind — do a lot of work with wide angle lenses. The photos look great, the curvature gives the images a certain character. And Jon even showed me how to remove the curvature when it isn’t wanted (although I admit I forgot how; I’ll have to research that again in Photoshop documentation).

Wide Angle ExampleAlthough lens collection includes a 28-85 mm zoom lens, I only recently discovered that a 28 mm lens for a film camera doesn’t give you a 28 mm focal length on a digital camera. There’s a conversion factor, which I looked up for my camera: 1.5. That means the focal length of my lens is 1.5 times whatever the lens is labeled. So, for example, a 28 mm lens is resulting in a 42 mm focal length. (Please, someone, correct me if I’m getting this wrong. This is my understanding and I’m not an optics expert.)

This explains why I’m not getting the curvature effect I was looking for with my “wide angle” lens.

Wide Angle ExampleSo I did some research and found that Nikon makes a 18-55 mm lens. I saw the retail price and decided to see if I could do better on eBay. I did. I bought a used lens in pretty good (but not “mint,” as advertised) condition on eBay for $81 including shipping. I got to play with it on Sunday when we were goofing off at the local airport. The photos you see with this post are examples. I didn’t have much to work with in the way of subject matter, so I took a few shots of my car (parked in front of my hangar) and a cool little airplane sitting out on the ramp.

But, as I expected, this curvature wasn’t enough. I wanted more. It looked like I’d have to go with a fisheye lens, which I’d already been researching and bidding on on eBay. I kept losing the auctions. The lenses were going for $700+ and one used one slipped out of my grasp for $620. My top bid was in the low $500s, and even that was more money than I wanted to spend.

Then there’s the condition of the lens that arrived on Saturday. The seller said it was used, but also said it was in “mint” condition. In my mind, “mint” condition means perfect. It doesn’t mean dusty, like it’s been sitting on a shelf for half a year. It doesn’t mean accompanied by a skylight filter that has dust on both sides. And it certainly doesn’t mean dust on either end of the lens. This was not mint. I couldn’t complain because I thought I’d gotten a good deal, but I wasn’t about to spend $700 on another lens and have it arrive in the same condition. For that kind of money, I wanted a brand new lens in a box.

I lost my most recent bid on a 10.5 mm lens on eBay. Just for the hell of it, I decided to check Amazon.com. And guess what? They had the same lens, brand new in a box from a camera dealer, for $589 with free shipping.

So what the hell was I doing on eBay?

I bought the lens on Amazon.com.

I also learned a few valuable lessons here:

  • eBay should be the discount seller of last resort when buying an expensive item.
  • Buy used only when condition is not vitally important. (To me, it’s vital that photographic equipment be in pristine condition.)
  • Do your homework on an item’s pricing in at least four other places before placing any eBay bids.
  • And of course, the rule we should all know: don’t get auction fever when bidding on eBay.

The good news of all this is that I still have about $300 left from some “found money.” (I unexpectedly sold some post-level advertising on this site, resulting in a little windfall of mad money.) And when the new lens arrives, I know it’ll really be in “mint” condition.

How to Handle Reciprocal Link Requests

Why you shouldn’t always say yes.

This morning, I got a feedback message from the owner of another Web site:

My name is [omitted] and I have recently visited your site and wondered
whether you might be interested in exchanging a reciprocal link with our site.

If interested, please respond with a reciprocal link to my website.
======= ======== ======== ======================
Here is our website information:
————————————
Home page URL: http://[omitted[
Website Title: [omitted] Directory
Description: A Wholesalers and Dropshippers directory for traders, ebayers and new businesses.
E-mail Address: [omitted]
Category: (wholesale, wholesalers, dropship, dropshippers, suppliers, trade, Business, Business Services)
Keywords: wholesale, wholesalers, dropship, dropshippers, suppliers, trade, wholesaler, wholesales, directory, list, goods, products, uk, usa, Wholesale Products, wholesale directory, jewelry, clothing, product, gift, t shirt, bead furniture, dvd, watches, apparel leather, food, shopping, USA, America, American, Canada

My, that’s quite an informative request for a reciprocal link. I wonder whether he expected me to set up a Web page for him on my site.

I deleted the request without even replying. Why? Let me tell you.

Reciprocal Link, Defined

To make sure we’re all on the same page (no pun intended), let me start by explaining what a reciprocal link is.

A reciprocal link is an arrangement where one Web site owner includes a link to another Web site owner’s site, with the understanding that that other Web site owner will include a link to his site. A links to B and B links back to A.

In general, it seems like a good deal. After all, you’re getting exposure for your site on another site, right? And all it’s costing is the time and effort and page real estate to add the other link — in other words, hardly anything at all.

But Is It a Good Match?

Consider the request I got this morning. The site owner operates a site that’s a directory of wholesalers and dropshippers. Okay. So what does that have to do with my site?

The answer is nothing. There’s no relationship between what I write about here and the information that’s available on his site.

As a result, only a small percentage of my site’s visitors would be remotely interested in the information on his site. And a small percentage of his site’s visitors would be remotely interested in the information on my site.

What’s the Real Cost?

So you might be wondering, what’s the harm of including a link to an unrelated site on your site? After all, it doesn’t really cost anything.

Well, here’s the way I see it. If you included a link to every single site that asked you for a link, you’d soon have a huge link list with little or no value to your site visitors. You’re using up page real estate to clutter up your site with pretty much useless information.

And on the other side of the reciprocating agreement are sites that are doing pretty much the same thing: building long lists of links to unrelated sites, just so they can get your link to theirs. Is anyone really going to find your link — provided they even bother to look — in that long list?

Is it worth degrading your site to get those links? I don’t think so.

And Are These Requests Real?

That brings up the question of whether the requests you receive are real. In other words, did the site owner who contacted you really visit your site and think it would make a good candidate for a reciprocal link?

In this day and age, spam is all too common. It’s possible that your e-mail address got into the hands of someone who is sending the same exact message to thousands of other Web site owners or bloggers.

The message I received is certainly generic enough to go out to anyone. But in my case, I didn’t get it directly by e-mail. Instead, I got it through the use of my Feedback form, which requires either a really smart spambot or a person to create and send the message. So there’s a good chance that this site owner actually did visit my site.

If so, however, what gave him the idea that I’d link to a dropshipper directory?

When to Say Yes

Of course, some reciprocal link requests will be beneficial for both you and the other site owner. But how can you tell? Here are some things to consider:

  • Is it a good match? As I mentioned before, there should be some relationship between the two sites. Would a link to the other site benefit your site’s visitors? If so, it’s worth considering.
  • What is the other site like? Is it a quality site, one you want to send you site’s visitors to? I’ve ignored many link requests to sites that just weren’t up to my standards due to content quality, design, or excessive advertising.
  • How many links are on the other site? Are they links to related sites? Remember, if the other site has hundreds of links to other sites, it’s not likely that anyone looking at the list will find yours.

Of course, once you decide to enter into a reciprocal link agreement with another site, you’ll need to keep tabs on the other site. Has your link to the other site been created as promised? Is it still there, week after week, month after month? This will increase your site management workload a bit. But if the reciprocal link is one worth having, it’s worth the extra effort to keep track of.

Conclusion

If you get a request from another Web site or blog owner for a reciprocal link, don’t just say yes. Do your homework to make sure you really want that link on your site.

A free link isn’t always free.