Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2019 Issue

“Breaking Up is Hard to Do” Part II: Rant of the soon to be ex eBay Power Seller

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Breaking up is hard to do.

Back in April I used this space to rant about eBay and my 20 years of selling on their platform. I complained the introduction of a new “Good til Cancelled” (GTC) policy gave sellers even less control over their inventory and exposure and as far as I was concerned, it was the last straw in a long series of changes that made eBay an ever more complicated and less appealing venue.

 

Said I, “Sayonara.”

 

Well, just like breaking up with an old boyfriend who you positively absolutely will never take back is never easy, it turns out that splitting up with eBay is harder than anticipated. Here’s my report on what I learned in 60 days of trying.

 

As promised, I did write to every member of the board and to the entire management team from the CEO on down. I also contacted about twenty members of the e-commerce press and got two interested replies, but no resulting stories.

 

Much to my surprise toward the end of April I received long and detailed email from the office of Devin Wenig - eBay CEO. It was headed: Your letter to Devin Wenig SR# 1-208325851507, and I quote it here in full.

 

“Hello Susan,

 

Thank you for writing the office of Devin Wenig. He asked that I review your letter and respond on his behalf. I’m sorry to hear you wish to no longer trade on eBay. We value your participation in the eBay community and we'd be sorry to see you go. After reviewing your letter, I see there are some misunderstandings that led to your decision. I am happy to provide some clarification.

 

Please know that any changes made on eBay are not made lightly. A lot of research and testing is done prior to a change. In this case, we have seen that “Good until cancelled” (GTC) listings offer more sales opportunities than any other fixed price duration. The longer items are listed, they keep and grow watchers, sales history, and search engine optimization (SEO) authority as they maintain the same item ID and URL for the life of the listing. This is important for search engines.

 

Although some buyers come directly to eBay to search for an item, many of them find your eBay listings via search engines, advertisements on other websites, partnerships with sites like Mashable, links to listings in editorial features, and through the eBay affiliate program, the eBay Partner Network. All these other methods rely on each listing having a fixed URL (website address). This means that any listings which were using a shorter duration of 3, 5, 7, 10, or 30 days were, in many cases, not receiving this extra visibility.

 

GTC listings count toward your monthly allotment of zero insertion fee listings both at the time of listing and upon each 30-day renewal. Thus, sellers are getting a double benefit of this change, less insertion fees and better visibility.

 

We’ve also made it easy for sellers to identify GTC listings that are about to renew should they wish to not have the listing renewed. To see which of your GTC listings is about to renew, go to Seller Hub > Listings > Active. On the table, click Time Left to either sort by listings which are ending soonest, or which have the longest time remaining. Additionally, if you would like to review your listings and make tweaks to optimize them, there is a Performance tab under your Seller Hub that allows you to identify listings which are not often sold or not sold. In the Growth tab you can see how many products of this listing are sold. You can also download a report of the selling in this Tab. We do not recommend ending listings but to optimize them while they are live; otherwise, your performance and sales history are lost, which can have a negative impact on your search rankings with other search engines.

 

I trust you will find this information helpful in clarifying this recent change and the benefits it brings to sellers. However, I respect your right to do what you feel is best for you and your business. We have certainly appreciated having you as a member for over 20 years and would hate to see you leave. Whichever you decide, I wish you all the best in your endeavors.

 

Kind Regards,

Derek Ward

eBay”

 

That was certainly a courteous and nicely written letter and food for thought. So I thought.

 

I thought about my inventory and how at this point most of what I have left to sell are things I’ve had for quite a while which fall into the two extremes, ephemeral items under $25 and really specialized inventory over $250. What it needs, I thought, was not to be endlessly recycled, maybe all of it should rest, completely rest, for a while.

 

So in April I let all of my several hundred items run out and did not repost.

 

The first thing I noticed was a dramatic drop in income, because even though eBay has never been my main livelihood, the cash flow it provided every month was always welcome and at times a windfall. When those “sold” notices were no longer arriving in my mailbox I could tell the difference right away.

 

I took another look at sites like Bonanza, Pinterest, and Etsy. I’m told it’s an easy task to transfer all your listing over to those platforms, but the fit didn’t seem right on any of them for my mainly vintage and antiquarian stock, and even after watching some tutorials I still couldn’t quite figure out how to transfer from one platform to the other.

 

What about Facebook I wondered? Here in Hawaii I have a pretty decent Facebook page and though - just like my bookselling business it’s not huge - I do have some local friends and I keep up with quite a few dealers on the Mainland.

 

The truth is I’d never posted anything for sale on Facebook, but what the heck, how hard could it be, especially on those items with low price points and distinct local appeal? I started to put a few up daily and to my surprise they began to sell right away. It was easy, there was no commission, and there was also no shipping fee. Some of the things that sold did not go to my FB friends, but to friends of my friends who saw the listing and sent it on to someone else, who met me for coffee, paid in cash and picked it up within 48 hours. Each one seemed genuinely pleased with their purchase and took the time to say “thanks.” That was an eye opener.

 

What about something more expensive? I put up a series of early 20th century Pacific maps and they were out the door in 48 hours. Better yet, the buyer, an Oahu attorney, was interested to see what else I had in a similar vein. When he came to town we met and it was fun, personal, and best of all the things he likes best have 000 at the end of the price tag. It occurred to me I never would have found him without this flap about “Good until Cancelled.”

 

And he was not alone. I posted a lovely but fairly expensive antique Japanese print. Who bought it? One of my real estate clients who now lives on the Mainland saw it on my page, messaged me to hold it and sent me a check. I don’t think I’ve sold something paid for with a check in a decade.

 

But that still left all this low end inventory sitting dead, so even though in the past I’d seldom used the auction function I decided to boycott GTC and put every one of those suckers up for auction. Busy-busy- busy.

 

The next week the results came in and they were mixed. Most of the items got only a few hits and failed to sell. But there were a few items that I listed at what I thought were absurdly low prices that sparked interest, got multiple bids and sold for substantially more than I had asked or anticipated. What a pleasant surprise.

 

But I still wasn’t convinced, and thought I’d give the eBay phone help a call (Tel: 866-540-3229) and see if I could get some clarification on just how this GTC worked and also how to bail out of the platform entirely if all else failed.

 

The help guy was really pretty helpful. What was most helpful was he explained how to use the “formats” tab at the top of the listing page, and also explained how and where the days counted down were shown on each listing, so that if I wanted to I could call up just the items that were formatted GTC and then could end them in bulk with a few clicks, not at all the hardship I had anticipated, just until he explained it I didn’t know how to do it.

 

He also explained in more detail just what the benefits of my “store” were - which were actually quite a bit more than I had previously known about. As for my final question, he explained how to quit completely if I was really and truly “finished” with eBay (no more live listings, all accounts paid, all paid for items shipped, no cases pending).

 

So you guessed it, just like those old romantic flames that never quite go out, around the middle of May I put up my first batch of “Good til Cancelled” and we’ll see about the middle of June how that works out.

 

In the meantime, if any of you younger hipper tech savvy folks want to start a site that specializes in one-of-a kind vintage and antiquarian materials and also includes toys, fashion, oddball jewelry and small easy-to ship odd ball curiosities, I (and I think millions of other eBay power sellers) would dearly like to sign up.

 

I’d love to be on a platform that specializes in my kind of small but interesting older items. I’d love a site that helped me (and sellers like me) develop a niche market rather than makes our lives difficult and pushes us out to make more room for ever more high volume vendors who sell massive numbers of knock-off widgets from China.

 

If you know of any sites like this that already exist drop me a line. I’d rather switch than fight.


Posted On: 2019-06-01 02:51
User Name: canadense

Susan was active on one of the other booksellers' forum at least twenty years ago and I never forgot the vim and vigour she brought to bear on all tasks confronting her trade. This present piece has proved as valuable (to me) as many of her older shared stories of triumphs and tragedies. So good to read you again, dear lady!
David G Anderson - Canada


Posted On: 2019-06-01 08:45
User Name: hartmann

Peter Thomas created a now defunct website called CollectorsBookMarket. It would have been just what you, and many of us, need -- but, alas, the wonderful small seller sites never seem to last. The only currently operating marketplace I could recommend is eCrater.com


Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Nebel, Carl. The War Between the United States and Mexico. New York, 1851. $270,000 - $300,000 MXN / USD $15,000 - $16,666
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Bolaños, Joaquín. La Portentosa Vida de la Muerte... (“The Portentous Life of Death”) México, 1792. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Tratado de Paz… entre la República Mexicana y los Estados Unidos. (“Treaty of Peace… Between the Mexican Republic and the United States”) 1848. $80,000 - $90,000 MXN / USD $4,444 - $5,000
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Fabregat, Josep Joaquín. Vista de la Plaza de México… (“View of the Square of Mexico”) México, 1797. $60,000 - $100,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $5,555
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Hidalgo y Costilla, Miguel. Invitación al Coronel Narciso de la Canal… (“Invitation to Coronel Narciso de la Canal…”) 1810. $170,000 - $200,000 MXN / USD $9,444 - $11,111
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Gálvez, Joseph de. Real Cédula de Erección de la Compañía de Filipinas. (“Royal Notice of the Creation of the Company of the Philippines”) 1785. $40,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Colección de Constituciones de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos (“Collection of Constitutions of the United Mexican States”) México, 1828. $50,000 - $60,000 MXN / USD $2,777 - $3,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Ruelas, Julio. Poemario Manuscrito Ilustrado, Dedicado a Lorencita Braniff (“Collection of Illustrated Poem Manuscripts, Dedicated to Lorencita Braniff”). 1903. $60,000 - $70,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $3,888
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Espinosa de los Monteros, Juan J. Aviso de la Junta Soberana al Público (“Notice of the Sovereign Meeting to the Public”) 1821. $60,000 - $80,000 MXN / USD $3,333 - $4,444
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Constitución Federal de los Estados Unidos Mexicanos... (“Federal Constitution of the United Mexican States”) México, 1824. $140,000 - $150,000 MXN / USD $7,777 - $8,333
    <b>Morton Subastas, Feb 25:</b> Alcaraz, Ramón. Apuntes para la Historia de la Guerra entre México y los EU (“Notes on the History of the War between Mexico and the United States”). 1848. $40,000 - $50,000 MXN / USD $2,222 - $2,777
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €
  • <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest Hemingway's Typewriter Used to Write "A Moveable Feast", Impeccable Provenance From His Biographer A. E. Hotchner. $50,000 to $100,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Samuel Colt, "The Gun that Won the West": 3 Signed Patent Items for "Revolving Cylinder Guns". $40,000 to $50,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Jack Kerouac's Own Typewriter From His Estate Used to Write His Very Last Book. $18,000 to $20,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Rare Force Engraving of the Declaration of Independence Printed in 1848. $15,000 to $18,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Superb Tchaikovsky ALS to Napravnik, 4pp on "Mazeppa". $12,000 to $15,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Wounded Knee Massacre Same Day Eyewitness Account by Participant, "the 7th needn't be ashamed of today's record". $10,000 to $12,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> F. Scott Fitzgerald Signed Gordon Bryant Portrait -- Finest Known. $8,000 to $9,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Neil Armstrong ALS on NASA Letterhead Regarding His X-15 Flights. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> M. Gandhi Letter: "the life span of human beings is preordained..." -- Fantastic Spiritual Content. $7,000 to $8,000.
    <center><b>University Archives<br>Autographs, Books & Relics Including Kerouac Estate<br>& Hemingway<br>February 26, 2020</b>
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> "Damn the torpedoes!" Riveting 24pp ALS of Admiral Farragut's Steward Describing the "Battle of Mobile Bay”. $6,000 to $7,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Abraham Lincoln Signed Order to Suspend Execution. $5,000 to $6,000.
    <b>University Archives, Feb. 26:</b> Napoleon DS Featuring Imperial Eagle and Enormous Great Seal Appointing Norman Politician Baron of the Empire. $4,000 to $5,000.

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