The Great eBay Junk-it

The pandemic nesting phenomena was widely discussed and I agree that it was the perfect opportunity to do something about the overwhelming accumulation of things in our basement. You see, when two people don’t marry until well into their adulthood, each brings to their new shared home one or two (or three) of everything – and a single household surely doesn’t require four crock pots.

I decided to get serious about selling items on eBay. The conditions seemed right – a supply chain shortage was making products scarce and pushing prices up. I had also concluded that my days of throwing epic Halloween parties were over. That collection of oversized decorations could easily fill a storage unit. Plastic pumpkins and fake tombstones just don’t compact. It was time, and I liked the idea of finding new homes for these items. Surely, there’s a buyer for everything.

Given my inventory, the Halloween season was the perfect opportunity to test the waters, perhaps beginning with the larger items in the interest of freeing up space for further organization. I read up a bit on eBay selling strategies and there seemed to be two ways to go: the fire sale auction route, and the wait much longer for top dollar school of thought. If you’ve got the time the thinking goes, sit on an item and someone will eventually come along and “Buy It Now” for a higher price. Some people apparently just want things when they want them and don’t have the time or patience for auctions. We love those people!

I found a very large spider I had purchased years ago at Costco which seemed like a good candidate for purging. I believe it originally cost $40 and was still in very good condition with many spooky red eyes that lit up. I searched the product on eBay which promptly suggested I should price it at $400! That couldn’t be right, could it?! I decided upon a sell price of $120 to test the waters. Surely, if I got three times what I originally spent that would exceed all expectations? It sold in an hour.

A man in Columbus wrote to me almost immediately. You see, his family had this spider too. His name was “Frank” and although he was designed to be an indoor spider, Frank would be installed above their front door every Halloween and remain there for a couple of months through the holiday season. He was a real fixture in their neighborhood. After many years of winter weather, Frank was looking rather ragged. I agreed to meet the buyer at the Costco parking lot on my next trip to Columbus where the jubilant buyer regaled me with further details. It felt good to make someone, even a whole neighborhood so happy – and triple my investment!

I was hooked. But, it wasn’t all pleasantries. A woman sent me a forceful note explaining that the lamp shaped like Frankenstein’s head which I was selling she had also once purchased at Target for only $19.99. But, she would offer me double that, $40. – and that was a “fair price.” Someone had knocked her lamp over at her last Halloween party, shattering it. I had to be delicate – as I was, and am still rocking a 100% customer satisfaction score. A terse email explaining that she doesn’t understand how supply and demand works was out of the question. I was the only person selling this item at the moment so I let her down gently. And then sold it for $125 to someone else.

You can never predict what will happen. A woman bought a wreath made up of black ravens – in February – and explained to me in great detail where she was going to hang it in her home. One guy wanted to buy an unused costume simply because his friend was the costume model on the packaging cover. We sold our oversized wedding cake platter, which we ultimately decided would never be used again, to someone in Germany. They paid more for shipping than the item itself. But, whatever floats ihr boot.

Of course, some items are going to be too unwieldy to ship by conventional means. We had two couch sets clogging up the back room of our basement. Both were in good shape so I posted each online “for pickup only.” The first received inquiries from places as far away as Oklahoma and Florida but those folks weren’t thinking through the pickup part. As one of those conversations was wrapping up, one couch and matching chair sold to someone else in Chicago. He wrote to me, all paid up, and asked, “OK, so how do I get this?” 

Finally realizing what he had done, he enlisted his assistant to arrange for pickup. When the sole driver arrived in his truck from Illinois, I discovered – and I say this with empathy – that the driver literally didn’t have any hands. I was definitely going to need to help him load the truck. And with that he was off, all the way back to Chicago. 

The second couch was sold to two nearby college roommates where pickup logistics were easy. A few weeks later, I heard from one of them again. I feared something had gone wrong with the couch. However, it was something else entirely. He explained that he was taking an introductory photography course and the assignment was to photograph portraits of two people whom he didn’t know very well. Would Marc and I be up for it? It was hard to say no.

So, off we went to the nearby town square for a late afternoon session of handholding and staring into each other’s eyes as he tinkered with his new camera and the evening rush hour zoomed by around us. A few of Marc’s students walked by, amused by it all.

Truthfully, it hasn’t all been success – at least not yet. I stumbled upon a Hallmark store that was one day from closing and I speculatively purchased a number of holiday ornaments at more than 90% off. So far, that’s been a bit of a bust. Perhaps it’s that many others have received unwanted ornaments as gifts and have flooded the market? I’ll likely need to get through the next holiday season before I know for sure. 

Let’s hope there’s a good story or adventure in there somewhere.

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