Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Holiday, Car Boot Fairs and Selling on eBay

We're just back from a holiday in Devon and I've got a lot of catching up to do!  I had intended doing a little work while we were away and had taken laptop and dongle.  However, when it came to it, I couldn't get a signal at the place where we were staying.  So one day I took the laptop out with me and sat on the top of Dartmoor doing some work, surrounded by beautiful moorland and sheep.  Which was glorious.  But eventually the battery got low and I decided I'd rather get on with the holiday and . . . well, you get the picture.  I recharged the laptop but, for the rest of the holiday, it stayed in a cupboard.  Hence the catching up.

One of the things I love to do (not just on holiday) is go to car boot fairs.  I'm never sure if this is a purely British institution so, in case it is, I'll explain that a car boot fair is exactly what it sounds like.  It's an open space (field, car park or whatever) where people congregate to sell stuff out of their car boots (trunks).  Usually they pile their bits and pieces onto folding tables or onto groundsheets and you get an amazing mixture of stuff . . . antiques, kids' toys, second hand clothes, books, cds and dvds, electrical equipment, jewellery, bric-a-brac . . . you name it, you can probably find something.  I've not been to many fairs this year because the weather's been so bad - loads of wet Sundays - but, even so, I've had some good finds ranging from some limited edition teddy bears to an out-of-print and very sought-after tarot deck . . . and all for just a few pounds.

So when we go away, I like to know where the local boot fairs are and, for that, I buy a magazine called, appropriately enough, Car Boot & Fairs Calendar.  The reason I'm mentioning it is because, in the July/August edition there was an interesting little article.  It reported that on eBay US (and likely to be introduced on eBay worldwide) there is now a demand that all "top rated sellers" offer a one working day handling time for postage - something that, as the writer pointed out, is just not a sustainable option.  "Weather, transport, strikes.  Power failures, illness . . . however many miles round trip to the post office to mail just one low value sale in time . . . differences in public holidays from country to country."   And, asks the writer, if you're selling to a different time zone, which working day is the start point?

Finally he notes that, for parcels over 2kg going overseas from the UK it's cheapest to use FedEx or DHL but both of these usually need two days' notice for collection so if you're sending somehing that weighs 2.65 kg, you might have to charge the customer an extra £40 for postage, just to keep within the new rules.

As he says, it hasn't been thought through properly.  But my feeling is that it may not last very long.  I remember another rule that was brought in a couple of years back which certainly hadn't been thought through properly.   It was decided that anyone selling books on eBay had to offer them postage free as their standard rate.  The "thinking" (for want of a better word!) behind this was that people buy books on impulse and if they don't have to pay for postage they're more likely to buy.  (Really?  I've never been aware that paying postage puts people off from buying on Amazon.)  It was at this point that I stopped selling books on eBay.  Because the only options were either to distort the price of the book by including the postage cost, or else to lose money.  A hefty paperback may cost two or three pounds to post, so you can't start the bidding at 99p.  Similarly a set of hardback books may cost twenty or thirty pounds to post, particularly if you need to include insurance.  So the whole thing was ridiculous.  I think a lot of booksellers must have agreed with me and stopped using eBay to sell because, when I looked recently, I noticed that all the books on sale are quoting postage costs once more.  At least eBay seems to learn from its mistakes . . . well, some of them!

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