Trash Panda!

Last week I read this article where someone on Twitter called mainland Chinese “the biggest trash pandas.” I don’t know much about its origin or if it’s a slur or what, but I love it. I think I identify as “trash panda.” You know that saying about one man’s trash being someone else’s treasure? You can guess which side of that equation I’m usually on.

So, these are the things that this trash panda found at the Goodwill and Salvation Army yesterday.

A vintage Pyrex Cinderella Butterprint 4 quart mixing bowl. Which I’ll probably keep for storing soup from my baby soup machine.

A vintage Pyrex Cinderella Gooseberry 2.5 quart mixing bowl. I’ll probably sell this one. Or maybe keep it until I’ve found the entire set, then sell.

And a pair of hair shoes. Yes, that’s real hair. (Okay, fur). Bizarre and amazing. I can’t find any information about them. Even the sizing is nonstandard (not US and not EU). I can’t walk in heels though, so these will be for events so special I don’t expect to walk more than a few dozen steps, total.

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But, does it scale?

I’m back to report good news on the $5 Challenge: I sold the two Bodum glass containers for $40 each for a total of $80. After $18.32 in fees and an initial cost of $3.98, that’s a net profit of $57.70!

The next question you and everyone will ask is “Yes, but does it scale?” The answer is, of course, no — but it doesn’t matter. The thing about retail arbitrage is that while you may be able to get deals that you can buy more of than just 1 or 2, most of the time, those deals don’t even scale up a single degree of magnitude. When there are good deals on eBay, most are limited to 2-5 per purchaser. There are mystery buying limits at Best Buy, Staples, Saks, Macy’s and many other retailers. Even if there weren’t, you would soon hit other limits: credit limits, limits on how much time and space you have to repackage and send your inventory to FBA or customers, etc.

To be truly scalable, we would have to find items of ever increasing values with the same margins and that sell as frequently as our current items sell. After iPads at around $500, can you think of much else that consumers buy regularly? Anything that’s even 1 order of magnitude more expensive? No, not really.

When starting out, I wouldn’t worry about whether things scale or not. If you’re able to find items that will net you $50 of profit every time you step foot in a Goodwill, and you like going to Goodwill, don’t let the issue of non-scalability bother you. On the other hand, once you find a better place with more consistent (or bigger) profits, you will naturally prefer to do your sourcing there. But you have to start somewhere, so don’t be discouraged that whatever you’re doing doesn’t scale. Just keep your eyes open for other opportunities as well when you’re scouring those estate sales and Salvation Armys.

Sears collects tax on tax-exempt 3rd party purchases

Some background: when I started reselling a few months back, I did an iPad deal that I saw on Oren’s Money Saver. I purchased 3 iPads and my total came up to $1419.19 with tax. Imagine my surprise when I received the iPads and the invoice from the 3rd party seller for $1305: my total with no sales tax added. That makes sense: the seller is based in NY and doesn’t collect sales tax in my state. So why did Sears charge me tax?

July 29: After several emails back and forth, Sears agreed to refund the difference of $114.19 in the form of a mailed gift card, which would take 7-14 business days to arrive.

August 20: No gift card yet, so I emailed Sears again asking for an update. They respond that the gift card is “pending” and they’ll investigate and get back to me within 24-48 hours.

August 24: No followup, so I emailed Sears again asking for an update.

August 31: The supervisor of the email team responds,

First off let me say that you were given misinformation about the taxes on this order. Which I’m sorry that it happened to you.Tax are never refunded unless a person or a company are tax exempt and have the certificate, or they live in a tax free state.

This was never the issue: tax was not supposed to be charged in the first place, as the seller does not collect sales tax in my state. However, she did conclude the email with

I have forwarded the request to our gift card department to issue the gift card of $114.19 that you were promised. It will arrive at your mailbox in 7 to 14 business days.

October 19: The promised gift card has STILL not made its appearance, so it’s pretty clear that Sears is giving me the runaround and hoping that I will just go away. I emailed them one more time, requesting a check instead of a gift card because I am no longer interested in being a Sears customer. We’ll see how that goes.

I am not holding my breath on this one, but in case you were getting into reselling, these are my experiences with Sears. Dealing with their customer service might not be worth your time.