How to stop receiving catalogs from mail order businesses: get off their catalog mailing list.

I don’t like getting catalogs, even if I like the business. I don’t really read them too often, though I used to. Here is a form email I use to request removal from their catalog mailing list.

Continue reading “How to stop receiving catalogs from mail order businesses: get off their catalog mailing list.”

The Cheapest Way to Get a Book Sent to You

The cheapest way to send a book in the United States is USPS Media Mail. Media mail is a special, low-cost postal rate, that was created to foster the exchange of information.

You can’t just ship anything by Media Mail. The USPS has a list of items, and it’s basically:

  • Regular, bound books
  • Prerecorded DVDs, CDs, tapes, but not video games.
  • Manuscripts, plays (meaning, basically, self-bound items or things bound at a copy shop)
  • Printed music.
  • Computer disks or tapes that containing prerecorded medial. (This is a gray area. I don’t think most disks are covered.)
  • 16mm or narrower film.
  • Printed objective test materials. This means the kinds of tests you took in school. It’s not blood tests or anything like that.
  • Printed educational reference charts.
  • Loose leaf medical information for medical students and hospitals.

The packages may not contain advertising. However, the few pages of ads in the back of paperbacks and in liner notes, are allowed.

The postal rate is simple. For 2020, it’s $2.75 for the first pound, and 52 cents for each additional pound.

A typical paperback book weighs less than one pound. A heavier paperback, or a hardcover, weighs between one pound and two pounds.

The real savings happen when you send boxes of books.

To get the best experience, you should buy the postage online, and print and pack at home. This way, you can bypass the lines at the post office!

You can buy postage online at USPS.com.

Buy a label and send it to the seller

Imagine the typical bookbuying scenario online. You buy a book, and pay the vendor, and they mail it to you. Simple.

With book giveaways, it can be a little different. Everyone likes free stuff, but, if you want to mail order free stuff, you have to send postage money.

However, suppose you don’t trust the sender with your money. One way around this is to buy the label yourself, and then send the label, via email, to the sender.

When the sender puts the package into the mail, it’ll get scanned, and you can track its delivery.

This also removes one transaction, and related transaction fees, from the deal. Normal PayPal fees are 30 cents plus 3%. That can be over 10% of the cost of postage.

If the package is never put in the mail, you can void the label, and in a few weeks, you’ll get a refund.

What about for non-free, book buying?

Well, it depends on how cheap the books are. If you’re buying dollar books, you might as well email labels. It saves the sender some time.

You can pay the book price via Venmo or other no-fee money transfer service.

When You Lose or Gain Weight, Sell Your Clothes, or Modify Them

I just sold all my pants for $40! It’s so exciting. I spent a lot more on them but since I lost 50 pounds, I’m really not going to fit in them anymore, unless I gain the weight back.

So, away they went. I posted the ad below to Craigslist and Facebook, and ended up reposting it at least three times before I got any interest:

I have lost some weight, and need to downsize my pants.
I would like to trade for similar, in black, dark blue, 
or dark brown,  or jeans, with a waist size of 38 or 36, 
and a length of 29 or 30. 

I would like to trade 1 used pair for 1 used pair, 
or 1 new pair for 3 used pairs.
I have:

NEW Docker Signature Khaki in Black, 40 x 29
NEW Docker Comfort Khaki in Black, 40 x 32
Basic Editions dark blue khakis, 40x30
Original Khaki Company tan khakis, 42x30
Rustler blue jeans, 40x30
Ralph Lauren Chaps white shorts, 42
Docker shorts white, 40
Lands End yellow swim trunks, 42
Brown cargo shorts (some bleach spots) 40
Basic Editions Black Pants 40
Dockers Black Pants 40

I think the key here is to list the sizes. Since they’re all the same size, and there are a couple new ones, the buyer doesn’t need to look through the inventory too much. Also, at $40 he breaks even on the first two pants.

Being “plus size” and short (5’7″ with 30in inseam), it’s hard to find this size, 40×30. you can go to the store and find only one pair of pants. It’s annoying.

Being able to buy a whole stack of pants for a low price is a real convenience for everyone.

The buyer even drove up from far away to get them. I could not be happier. I got back some money I had in the pants, cleared out some space – over 1 cubic foot – and didn’t need to drive anywhere to do it.

I was hoping to get 38×30 pants, but got no offers, so I ended up hitting up the Goodwill to replace pants. I pulled out around a dozen, and after inspecting them, bought six.

They were basic replacements.

The only highlight was a pair of gray corduroy pants. You can’t really find cords too easily nowadays.

If I could just pay $30 and get a stack of pants in the right size, I’d do it.

I wonder if I’ll need to do this if I make it to a 36 inch waist.

Adjusting Old Pants

I have one pair of shorts I really like, and decided to fix them up. These pants look like hell, but I just really like them.

The hack is to use elastic to tighten up the waistband.

With these shorts, I could use a 3″ strip of elastic, and have it pull 4″ of fabric, reducing the waist size. Using two of these, I turned 40s into 38s.

I also fixed up the long johns. For that, I used an entire loop of elastic, and sewed it into the underwear. I tacked them down in four spots, and it worked. More is probably better.

Ebay Price Offering Options to Sell Faster: Auction, Buy It Now, Best Offer

How to use different pricing tactics to sell items on Ebay, with a lean toward hoarded items.

Buy It Now with a Low Price

A way to move hoarded things is with Buy It Now (BIN) but set the price low. You have to think of these items as “about to go into the trash”, and though they don’t have a high price, they do have a huge profit margin of 100%.

I sold two things I found around the house this way: a DeCecco Pasta Tin, and a miter guide.

Example: The Damaged Vintage Tin

The tin was in the pantry (it’s just a cabinet) way in back. I pulled it out, and saw that it was scratched. Damaged items are great candidates for pricing at the bottom of the market. I looked at recent sold prices, and they were up above $8. I set my price at $5.

The title: Vintage De Cecco 12. Spaghetti Storage Tin w/Flaws

Note “w/Flaws” – you must disclose any flaws. Most used items have some flaws, but this had a big scratch on the front, so I put it into the title. Then, for the second photo, I showed the flaw, and I was pointing to it.

In the “condition” field: See photos. Scratch and dent in tin.

In the “description”, which most buyers do not read: Clean tin. Scratch and dent in tin. See images.

I could not find a box that fit, so I took a larger box, and cut it down into a smaller box. This takes a bit of time, but after making dozens of these, it’s become pretty easy.

You use scissors, a utility knife, and a ruler to cut and score corrugated cardboard. To create the box, use plain white glue (aka, school glue), and clothespins as clamps, and tape when it’s impossible to clamp pieces together. I use a lot of glue, usually a tablespoon or more per box.

Example: The Miter Guide

The miter guide was found in a box of “junk” that was too nice to toss.

Nothing else on Ebay was exactly like it. The more professional guides were pretty expensive, and the cheap new ones were also not cheap. This one was smaller, and clearly for a small table saw, perhaps a hobby table saw.

So I set the price at $7. I figured that sent a correct price signal: it’s not anything amazing.

The measurements appeared nonstandard, so I took careful measurements, and created a photo with the measurements. This took a lot of time:

That photo really “sells” the item. It also avoids returns. Exact measurements for parts really help buyers make purchasing decisions. (The same goes for clothes.)

I used Libre Draw to make the arrows and letters.

Auctions

Ebay auctions are simple: you set a starting price, and then hope for bids. The highest bid at the end of the auction period wins. What if you don’t care about the final price, but want to move things faster?

Auction with Buy It Now and Best Offer

Ebay auctions have a feature called “Buy it Now” (BIN), which shows the reader you’re willing to end the auction for a specific price. Most listings are made with “Buy it Now”, without an auction – this is basically the same as making a listing in an online store: people pay the BIN price and get the item.

Often, “Best Offer” (BO) is used with “Buy it Now”. This allows you, the seller, to set a price, but show you’re open to accepting a lower price. Sometimes, I’ll submit a “Best Offer” of 10% to 20% below the asking price, and often get the item at that price.

What most people don’t know about is using the “Best Offer” feature with auctions.

If you make a listing for an auction with “Best Offer”, it shows you’re willing to accept an opening offer that will end the auction.

Once live bidding begins, the best offer feature is turned off, and all offers are cancelled.

The rule is simple: the live auction supersedes the secret offers.

Example: Art Auction Catalog, Auction Listing with Best Offer

I listed an auction catalog of a Marc Newsom piece. I figured someone would pay between $20 and $100 for it. It’s a lot of money for a book, but, he’s a popular figure among people interested in design and luxury products. The item promoted in the book was sold for over $3 million.

So I opened the auction at $15. That was pretty high. Most auctions start at 99 cents. I just wasn’t willing to sell it for $0.99.

I could have put a “Buy it Now”, but chose “Best Offer” instead.

If I’d used BIN, I’d have put $100. I wouldn’t want to set the price too low, because it sends a signal that the item isn’t valuable. However, my goal was to move the time, not to get top dollar. So I used “Best Offer”.

Think about how this situation feels to the buyer. Their options are to participate in a public bidding war, which can be fun, or to accede to the seller and pay the $100. Once BIN is in effect, it’s almost like a ceiling on the auction, and that’s not fun.

BO is different. BO allows the buyer to exercise their wealth, and terminate the auction with an offer.

BO puts the seller in the position of accepting the high offer, or rejecting it and waiting for the first public bid. BO gives the buyer control of the situation.

Giving some control to the buyer is good.

My goals were simple: to sell the item for a price I found acceptable; to sell the item quickly.

My goal was not to “beat” the buyer, or to force buyers into competing with each other.

I forget the final price, but it was in the $40 to $75 range.

99 Cent Auctions

Dollar auctions are a tactic to increase sales volume.

When you have inventory that isn’t moving, and they’re all in one category, you can increase sales by having a bunch of dollar auctions. If sales within a category increase, Ebay will show your other listings in higher positions. The higher your listing shows, especially in the “Best Match” sorting, the more likely that you’ll sell it.

Additionally, you must be in the top 50 listings to even be shown on mobile phones.

To have dollar auctions, do the following:

  • Determine what you want to sell. I just pick old items that aren’t selling.
  • Set the shipping to Calculated Shipping, and make sure all the items are the correct weight. Box up bulky items and weigh, adding the dimensions, so you don’t undercharge for shipping.
  • If it’s possible, reclassify the item as a “Collectible”. If you buy an Ebay store, it reduces the listing price to nothing.
  • List the items as a 10-day auction, on Thursday evening. The auctions will end on a Sunday night, which is the best time to sell. If you miss Thursday night, you can use a 7-day auction and list on Sunday night.

Odds are, most of the items won’t sell. These are items that didn’t sell before, and they aren’t likely to sell now. You might luck out and sell a few things.

If you have items in the categories “Fashion” or “Collectibles”, you can buy a store membership that will let you create many listings for “free”. These two categories have “browsers” who just go onto Ebay and “window shop”, looking for great deals.

Simple To Do List

I use electronic to-do lists like Google Keep, but I also use simple paper ones, and these tend to work out better for day-to-day lists.

I have pads all over the place, and also use scraps from the mail, trash, and pulled out of my notebooks.

At the end of day, or start of day, I combine them. I stick them together with tape and glue.

By putting things on paper, I don’t need to hold onto them in my mind.

They’re easier to rearrange and reschedule.

Tool Lists

Make lists of tools needed to complete a task. This way, you don’t waste time pausing work, or end up buying extra tools.

Paperwork Lists

If I’m going to need some paperwork, or an ID, or a specific card, I sometimes need to write that down as well, just so I don’t forget.

Shopping Lists

These end up on scraps of paper, as well, but eventually end up in a master list that goes on the phone. I check these when I go shopping.

Calendar

I use Google Calendar, because it has alarms.

Time critical work gets on the calendar.

I generally try not to do more than three real work tasks per day.

Getting Rid of CRT TVs

Getting rid of these TVs is pretty hard, but it can be done.

The typical way is to put it on the curb, but that’s not likely to work anymore. I see TVs trashed and damaged, and guess who gets to clean up the broken glass?

The trick is to know the markets. There are very, very few:

  • Video gamers who want a small tv to play old games.
  • Photo and film productions that need an old TV to indicate “1990s”.
  • CRT TV enthusiasts, may want a large one.
  • People who want a free TV and will take anything.

The main advantage of giving it away or selling it, rather than placing it out, is that someone else will come by to help move the TV.

Here’s a TV that ended up being used for a photo shoot. I hope they resold it. It’s a nice TV.

Porch Pick Up: Razor Scooter

I sold this on Craigslist with this ad:

Small scooter. The platform is not much larger than my size 9.5 shoe.

Model A


My goal with the text was to establish the scale. Looking at the photo, you can’t tell if this is a kiddie scooter or a bigger scooter, or an adult-sized scooter.

I set the price at $4, which is what I paid for it. I figured that others were selling at $10, and a new one is $30, so those $10 scooters aren’t a good deal, at all. $4 is a good deal.

A buyer contacted me shortly, maybe a week in, and I told him the address, and instructions to just leave the money in the mailbox.

It was left exactly where it was photographed. It’s a little hidden from the street.

That’s how you can do a Porch Pickup.


You might be thinking: why not list it for free, and get rid of it faster?

I find that freebies attract too many people, sometimes. They cause too much email communications and too many flakes.

If you set a small price, you will get rid of the people looking for free things. It doesn’t really make sense, because it costs money to go somewhere to get a free item, but it works.

I had exactly one buyer, and they didn’t flake out, at all.

Decluttering Orphan Socks

Some people declutter lonely socks easily: they aren’t paired, so they are no longer “really socks.” I can’t do that. I keep wearing them, mismatched. Once they start to get holes, then, I’ll use them as rags.

Consequently, I have too many socks. Here’s a hack to be able to “toss” more of them.

Black dots indicate that a sock is an orphan and worn out, so they can be decluttered.
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