Monday, May 12, 2014

Post Bicycle Swap Meet eBay Selling.

This is nobody's business but mine, but let me chirp about it anyway. On eBay I go by the handle "Good_Machine_Hunt_Bargain." I sell mostly bicycle parts.

I made fewer purchases than usual at the last swap meet. I focused on hot deals, and left the warm deals on the table. I had a limited budget, and I needed a quick return on investment.

I photographed 95% of the items the day after the swap meet. Within two days, I started to see my first sales. As a departure from past norms, most of my listings this time are Buy It Now with free shipping. This allows people to make impulse buys, while also not doing math. I think it's working.

All of my sales have been for a premium "hopeful" asking price. The first round of listings always starts with the highest prices. Interest in individual listings can be gauged by how many people are "watching" an item. When a listing ends with no sale, you will still know if your price is in the right ballpark. No watchers? Lower the price. There is one more factor to consider: some obscure items only have a small niche demand, and will take longer to sell. Don't slash the price. Just relist until somebody needs it. If you have the only one available, then you will get the sale... but it might be next year.

I spent just shy of my $1200 allotment. In the week following the sale, I've made back about $900 after fees. I've only sold a small portion of the haul, so things are looking great. After 90% of the sales are complete, I should have at least doubled my money. The percentage of money netted beyond 2x investment is a good measure of purchasing acumen.

Buying better quality in smaller quantity is saving me a huge amount of work. With Amazon selling to fill the space between swap meets, I didn't feel pressure to maximize profits at the cost of a lot of scroungy work. (Extensive fixing and cleaning of parts.)

Early sales report:
I have many examples of tripling my investment. A portion of the "bread and butter" are small items I buy for $1-$5 and sell for many times that. These deals are abundant and low-risk. Even when people know what the item is worth on the eBay marketplace, they don't want to go to the trouble of taking a photo, writing a description, and then shipping it out. I don't mind. I've made a big effort to streamline those tasks. So when I buy a pair of Campagnolo crank bolts for $1, and sell them for $24.95 - it doesn't take much effort. Items under 13oz can ship First Class, which is a bargain. Knowing these details means I can buy a Ritchey headset cable hanger for $2, and I know that when I sell it for $24.95, I will only have to pay $1.93 to ship. (And $0.28 for the packaging.)

Dura Ace downtube shifters? $5 makes $64.95. (This is a case where some people have no clue what the demand is.)

My best sale this round (so far) isn't a bicycle part. A guy was selling a jointer plane, new in the box. How much? $5. I sold it in under 24hrs for $99.95. Making the sale felt good, but it is becoming almost typical. This is America. Somebody bought a gun book from me for $99.95. I paid a dollar.

The goal now is to stay awake and keep hunting.

- Good Machine

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Hey... Remember Bicycles?

I moved out of Philadelphia before the spring 2013 became real. Since then, I've ridden a bicycle about twice. Less than two miles each time. I've done a fair amount of thinking about bicycles... but not much pedaling.

I couldn't put it off any longer. My bicycle begged me for new shifters and cables. I got some old Suntour XC Pro thumb shifters at the swap meet, and resale-value-be-damned, I put them on my own bicycle.

I added cables, shifters, Nitto northroad handlebars, and most importantly: a new-old-stock "tall cool" quill stem with the longer extension. The Hoopty "Tall Cool" Bicycle is ready again.

In order to ease myself back into mobility, I set a small loop of a few miles with rolling hills. Short and sweet. I rode the loop, and got back feeling like I'd been chased by a vampire.

Riding a bicycle again literally makes me want to puke. I've grown incredibly weak and slow, but my brain forgets. My brain yells "PUSH!," and I do. Minutes later, my stomach gets annoyed because it can't talk.

I rode the same loop today, and the first thing I noticed is that my buns hurt where they meet the saddle. Right. I have a thousands-of-miles broken-in Brooks saddle with springs - and my butt was a tad sore.

I intend to get back into reasonable shape. I don't need to be the Tarzan of bikes, but I'd like to stand up and assault some hills again some day. That's the goal here.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Money For A Goal; Aspirations All-Told.

What does it take to make a thousand bucks on Amazon? I get earnings deposited into my bank account every two weeks. As a fairly meaningless measure, I set a personal goal of making one of those payments include four digits before the decimal point.

I have a lot riding on my Amazon business. Selling with Amazon's FBA program (fulfillment by Amazon) is the best way I've found to make money while still being a smelly fuck. All I have to do is buy cheap books and sell them for more on Amazon. If I'm buying books faster than I'm selling them, then my inventory is growing. If I have a growing inventory of good books (I do), my payments will get bigger. If my payments are getting bigger, then at some point I'll see a thousand-dollar deposit. That's what I'm waiting for.

This is getting pretty close.

Nope. I won't be rich soon. This is a measure which fails to factor in many variables. It doesn't factor in what I paid for inventory. It doesn't factor in any expenses. But it's a number that's getting bigger, and pretty soon - if I don't lay down across the tracks - it's going to hit $1000.

Today is the 10th, and it happens to be a payday. My hopeful goal was $860 to reach a personal best. But I sold an owner's guide for the M1911 pistol for a hundred bucks, and the payout tally shot past $900. Only chance will determine if I reach the 4-digit payout. The sales period will soon end - some time tonight, or maybe early tomorrow. They'll wave the checkered flag. Then we will see.

What does this mean?

I'm trying to get out of some sneaky recent debt. When I come up for air, I'd like to see that I have a semblance of a job and a method of making money. Finding books that I can sell for a profit is fun. It's the easiest job I've ever had, but it's not a passion. I want to make enough money to invest in some of the ideas that have been keeping me awake for years. As I advance my situation incrementally, I feel that I am edging toward the opportunity to create something that I am proud of. A business; a product; a community.

I am proud of my erstwhile travel, and I am proud of this little house that I built. Both have helped me grow as a human, but both have wreaked murder on my solvency.

It's the daydreams of product ideas that I want to see light. I have begun to recognize that I am capable of pushing a new idea into existence, and it is this itch under my skin that makes me fill big heavy boxes full of books.

A thousand bucks is a number. I roll my eyes that my mileposts have dollar signs, but the freedom to create and travel keeps me filling up boxes and clicking refresh.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Sleeping in a 1993 Ford Festiva.

Bicycle swaps are one way I know how to make money. I buy a thousand or two dollars worth of parts, take them home, photograph them, and offer them to a much larger audience - eBay. The velodrome in Trexlertown Pennsylvania has a big swap meet twice per year. Usually, I take my van.

I haven't taken the van anywhere since fall 2013. The battery is dead, and I have it packed full of bullshit. It is acting as part of a team of storage sheds which serve my needs from every cranny I touch. The Festiva is my new buddy. It's been repaired in detail, and it is driving much better than it looks like it ought to be. By preference and default: this was my ride to the swap.

Time to get ready.

With no van to sleep in the back of, I decided to get to work on the Festiva. I wanted to remove the back seat anyway to get more storage, and the weather seemed sunny and permissive. So I began.

The seat comes out with four bolts. Easy. I tossed in a cutoff sheet of plywood to make a level surface. I pushed the passenger seat forward, and fit in a smaller piece of plywood. I screwed hinges into the smaller piece, which can now swing out of the way if I want to slide the passenger seat back. The hinged section of plywood is supported by a water jug behind the passenger seat. The system went together so well, I didn't even have to use a saw.

With carpet-over-plywood base. Handsome!

I cut some castaway memory foam to the approximate dimensions of the platform, and tossed a blanket over that. Done! It's bed-like.

I felt confident about this sleeping arrangement, because Ghost Dancer made it sound so fun and easy. He's not the only one. Another couple made living in a Festiva sound positively idyllic. I've slept in and around some pretty dumb stuff. I stuck my thumbs in my belt and grinned. It feels great to be up to something.

My tape measure told me I had 5'1" to stuff my 6'1" body into. My hands on the wheel told me that my mechanic is an ace. I cruised north with my thoughts ahead of me; to the reverse loaves n' fishes.

I arrived to a tranquil grassy lot, and chose my position. A calm night misted intermittent suggestions as I relaxed thoughtfully between the seats and the hatch.

Daydreamin' & Gettin' high.

I had some laughs and company when Shelly showed up, but soon enough it was time for bed.

I slept alright, and I would do it all again - but an extra twelve inches would let me don the crown with confidence. The morning arrived, the nerds began squawking, and I knew: it was time to rise and buy bicycle parts.

H.D.T., B!

"This Ford Festiva beats the dick off my clown-assed scummy pond." 
- Henry "David" Thoreau