When a flat rate envelope is not a flat rate envelope

I sold a Mitchel & Ness NFL jersey on eBay the other day and decided the cheapest way to get it to the buyer was to ship it in a Priority Mail flat rate envelope. I ordered some of these envelopes on the USPS website a while back. This is what they look like:

When a flat rate envelope is not a flat rate envelope - Bent Corner

They say FLAT RATE ENVELOPE on the front and they’re made of a soft, bubble poly plastic.

When it came time to print a shipping label for the jersey, I selected the following:

When a flat rate envelope is not a flat rate envelope - Bent Corner

When I took the package to my local Post Office, problems ensued. The reason? Because I selected Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope when I printed the shipping label. You know, the very thing is said on the front of the envelope.

Not all flat rate envelopes are the same

Unbeknownst to me, I was supposed to keep scrolling down after seeing Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope from the options of services I was choosing and select Priority Mail Flat Rate Padded Envelope instead of Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelope.

My bad. Silly me.

If I had kept scrolling down and selected Priority Mail Flat Rate Padded Envelope, I would have paid $6.50 instead of the $5.95 I paid through eBay. Because of this error, I had to pay an extra $1.25 at my local Post Office.

The last time I checked, the difference between $5.95 and $6.50 is only 55 cents. Why then did I have to pony up another $1.25? Believe me, I didn’t ask, but I was told it was because I wasn’t getting my eBay discount. The difference between $7.20, the non-eBay cost of sending a Priority Mail Flat Rate Padded Envelope, and the $5.95 I already paid through eBay is $1.25.

When printing labels, always display the postage amount

Good thing I selected Display postage value on label when I printed the damn thing or I would’ve probably have been told to go home and try again.

When a flat rate envelope is not a flat rate envelope - Bent CornerThe problem was that I didn’t have any cash on me. I don’t carry cash or change. It’s 2017 and I try to live a cashless lifestyle. I use my Capital One Venture card for everything.

Cash is dirty. I have it on good authority people use cash to wipe their noses and snort cocaine. We get travel points with the Venture card. Not only do I not have to handle paper money laden with stranger’s spent mucus and cocaine residue, we get to go on vacations for free. We’ve already booked a free week in a condo at Myrtle Beach. The condo is right on the beach and our room overlooks the ocean.

Back to the Post Office. I had to pay $1.25 with my credit card. As much as I love using my credit card and racking up those sweet travel points, I don’t like using it for really small amounts. Because I didn’t want to feel like a jerk and pay $1.25 with my credit card, I also bought a pack of Forever stamps.

I walked out of the Post Office a better person. I left knowing there’s two types of Priority Mail Flat Rate Envelopes when printing an eBay label and I was the proud owner of some patriotic looking stamps that will never expire. Now, if I only had a reason to own stamps that never expire.

How to take better photos for eBay

I’ve learned a thing or two since I started selling my unwanted stuff on eBay. I thought I’d document some of the things I’ve learned, starting with how to take better photos for eBay.

I take photos with my iPhone 6s Plus. The pics I get from my iPhone are better than the pics I was getting from my Canon digital SLR. It’s one of the reasons I eventually sold it.

For clothing, I take photos in my garage against a fake backdrop I bought on Amazon. It makes it look like I have a brick wall from a 90’s comedy club. It’s made from vinyl, so it doesn’t easily rip. The first background I bought was paper and it easily tore.

The backdrop is hanging even with the garage overhead fluorescent lighting. I replaced the normal fluorescent bulbs with daylight bulbs. The advantage of daylight bulbs is that they produce light closer to what you’d get from natural sunlight. This is the only lighting I need.

Here’s a photo taken in my garage:

I took this photo with my iPhone 6s Plus against a fake backdrop I bought on Amazon. Its on a wire hanger hanging from a nail.

How to make a photo light box

An 18″ by 18″ by 16″ moving box from Home Depot, the foundation of my photo light box.

For small items, I built a photo light box similar to one I saw on YouTube. Instead of making a box out of foam board as the video suggested, I bought a medium-sized moving box from Home Depot. I closed and hot glued the flaps on one end and cut the flaps off on the opposite end. I cut squares out of the top and the sides and glued really thin picnic table cover material over the three sides with the openings. These allow light to enter the box, from the top and both sides, but the picnic table material helps defuse it.

The video I watched suggested to use tissue paper for the defusing material, the kind you put in a gift box. I tried that, but I couldn’t get it to work. It was far too delicate to work with. It ripped when I tried gluing it in place.

I reinforced the top and the sides with extra cardboard to make my light box more sturdy. I cut a piece of white poster board to the same width of the inside of the box and glued it inside, creating a slope between the back and the bottom, removing the horizon.

Not all light bulbs are the same

Two-Socket Adapter

The lights are cheap utility lights I bought at Walmart using daylight bulbs. The top light has an adapter I bought at Home Depot that allows me to use two light bulbs instead of a single bulb. The lights on the side help remove shadows.

This is the photo of the item I took in the photo at the top of this post, a collectible plastic figure from the old video game EverQuest:

Taken with my iPhone 6s Plus and a light box I made from a cardboard moving box.

It’s not bad. The lighting could be brighter. When taking photos for eBay, the goal is to show what people are buying, not to win any photography awards. That said, I think this looks pretty good.

If I wanted to improve the photos taken with my light box, I think I would try using it outside. Augment the daylight bulbs with the real thing. Also, use brighter bulbs.

Sprint vs. RockstarFlipper

Casey Parris, known on YouTube as RockstarFlipper, publishes videos about his eBay business. He buys clothing and other things at Goodwill, yard sales, pawn shops, etc. and then sells them on eBay for a profit. He appears to be good at selling things on eBay. He famously drives a BMW i8 sportscar, an automobile that costs around $150,000. According to his videos, he drives this high-performance, luxury vehicle to yard sales and Goodwill, in pursuit of his treasures to sell on eBay.Continue Reading

You can sell ‘disc only’ DVDs on eBay

As I go deeper and deeper into my version of minimalism, I’ve been selling stuff on eBay. When you start cleaning out drawers, cabinets, closets and other places extraneous things like to hide, you will become shocked at just how much stuff there is taking up space.

I’ve been throwing stuff out, donating some things to Goodwill, and posting other things to eBay. Since I’ve started this journey into minimalism, I sold 22 items on eBay for $457.35. Not too shabby for stuff I was never going to use again.

Looking for more things to post on eBay, I discovered there’s a market for used “disc only” DVDs. A buyer gets only the DVD and a sleeve for the DVD to reside in. No case, no printed material. It’s just the disc.

I have a lot of DVD and Blu-ray movies. All are sitting in a storage container. None of them have the plastic case they had when I bought them. These plastic storage cases take up way too much room. I would buy the case and put the disc in a special sleeve for storage and I would then file the movie alphabetically in a container.

I haven’t watched a movie on DVD or Blu-ray in years.
you can sell "disc only" DVDs on eBayI never thought I could sell these movies because they lacked the plastic case they had when I bought them. Learning about this “disc only” marketplace on eBay changed my mind. I went to the chest and just grabbed a movie from the front. I wanted to sell one as an experiment. It was the 2001 movie Thir13en Ghosts starring Tony Shalhoub.

It’s a good movie. At least that’s how I remember it.

I listed it as Buy it Now for $4.99 with free USPS First Class shipping. I did this because that’s what an overwhelming majority of “disc only” movies go for on eBay. It sold almost immediately. I realized purchasing the First Class shipping that I wouldn’t be making a profit on this sale. Altogether, this is how the financials broke down:

USPS First Class Shipping: $2.61
eBay: $.50
PayPal:  $.44
Envelope: $1.58
TOTAL: $5.13

All said and done, I lost fourteen cents on this sale. I didn’t attend the Wharton School of Business, but that doesn’t sound like a good business model.

I didn’t realize USPS First Class shipping was so expensive. I’m used to sending boxes USPS Priority where the buyer pays for the shipping. The boxes themselves are free from the Post Office. The envelope I used was a photo mailer I bought at Target. Going forward, if I go forward, I need to come up with a cheaper container for shipping.

I need to do more research. I don’t understand how other people sell “disc only” DVDs and Blu-rays on eBay and make any money.

I’ve become a snitch and I’m proud of it

I made a decision last night that when I see a fake NFL jersey on eBay, I will report it to eBay. That’s right, I’ve become a snitch.

I have an email alert set up with eBay so that when someone posts a Nike Elite NFL jersey in my size, I get an immediate email alerting me to this fact. I got one of these emails like night. I looked at it and immediately knew it was a counterfeit jersey. I have a real Nike Elite NFL jersey. I bought it from the NFL Shop. I know what a real Nike Elite NFL jersey looks like.

It wasn’t even a good counterfeit jersey. So I reported it.

I've become a snitch - Bent Corner

I use to have a negative view on snitching. I never wanted to be thought of as a snitch. The older I get, the more I just don’t care. I don’t care what people think of me, especially people who are not in my life in a meaningful way. I care what my wife thinks about me. I care what my brother and his wife think about me. I care what my wife’s family thinks about me.

That’s about it.

If you don’t want me to snitch on you, whether it’s on eBay or anywhere else, then don’t do bad shit in front of me. If you decide to do something immoral or unethical in my presence and you’re worried that I may tell someone what you did, it’s a valid concern to have. I will snitch on you.

You can count on it.

Turns out eBay is kind of a rip-off

I don’t sell a lot of stuff on eBay, but when I do, I’m fairly ignorant when it comes to how much I pay eBay and PayPal to facilitate the transaction. Normally I sell low to medium value stuff. They take their fees out of my PayPal balance and I’ve never really paid much attention to it.

Early last month, I sold 44 comic book issues of the The Walking Dead in a single lot. The auction ended at $554.65. That was by far the the most expensive thing I’ve sold in 16 years on eBay. Yesterday I received an email from eBay informing me that my August statement was available.

I owe eBay $57.18.

Of that, $55.47 represents a Final Value Fee for the actual item. That looks like a flat ten percent, rounded up. Then there’s $1.72 added on as another Final Value Fee for the shipping of $17.18. This too looks to be ten percent, rounded up.

I don’t understand why I have to pay a fee on the shipping when I created the auction so the seller pays the actual amount of the shipping. I had already boxed the comics up and weighed the box so that I could list it with the initial auction. The weight along with my zip code, would allow anyone bidding on it to know exactly what they were paying for shipping.

At least in theory.

For some reason, when I listed the auction, I must have selected UPS instead of the regular US Postal Service. I didn’t even know that eBay offered UPS shipping. The buyer was charged $17.18 for UPS shipping, but when I went to PayPal to pay for the shipping through UPS, I was charged a total of $37.11 for shipping the package from Maryland to California. It would seem that eBay’s shipping calculator is a little off when it comes to UPS. I, not eBay had to eat the difference.

Speaking of PayPal, they charged me $16.88 on the transaction of $571.83, the action’s final winning bid and the incorrect shipping price. That worked out to be 2.95 percent. Not bad, but it’s not great, especially when you figure that eBay owns PayPal and is basically forcing you to use their payment gateway.

So what did it cost me in total to sell my 44 The Walking Dead comics to a stranger in California? Here’s a breakdown and a total:

eBay: -$57.18
Shipping: -$19.93
PayPal: -$16.88
TOTAL: -93.99

That left me with $460.66 in profit. I see why people sell stuff on Craigslist or Facebook yard sale groups. Going that route, you have to actually meet up with the person to make the exchange. There’s a whole lot of reasons that is less than ideal.

I feel like eBay is charging too much money, mostly because they are.

I’m not really complaining. I had these comics in a box in the garage. I was never going to read them again. If I took them to the Hagerstown 2nd & Charles, some hipster covered with ironic tats and wearing a knitted beanie, would have probably only offered me $43 in store credit. Instead of dealing with that, I was able to take the money and spend it on a new iPad Air at Target. They had them on sale for $50 off shortly after the auction was complete. I already had an iPad, but it was the first generation model. I got it the first day they were available. It was slow and I couldn’t install any of the newer, current apps.

I’m glad I sold my comics, but I’ll think twice before selling something expensive again on eBay.