Sunday, January 29, 2012


  ISLANDS 2012 Calendar
(This and subsequent images are Hawaiian Odysseus photos.)

Islands 2012 Calendar, Reverse Side

Ever since I've expanded my niche selection in my eBay business, shopping in downtown Walla Walla has become more appealing for me, previously a tried and true I'd rather be watching the NFL playoffs or Storage Wars kind of guy.

It's also another form of being out on a date with my lovely wife...even if I am looking around.

No, it's not what you might be thinking.

My focal point--call me addicted--is stuff I might just be able to sell on eBay.

It's one thing to sell used, sometimes vintage, items.  But every now and then, I see things I can pick up at retail and attempt to resell at a humble profit.

So my heart skipped a beat one evening when my wife and I were shopping for groceries--yep!  of all places, a grocery store!--and I saw these great-looking 2012 calendars.  My head started spinning as I quickly crunched numbers in my head.

Turning to the boss, I discussed my idea and let her know my intentions.

She gave me the proverbial look that wives universally give their enterprising know, that look of oh, boy, so you got another harebrained scheme up your sleeve, huh?

I get a bit excited when I see that look.  It's a prerequisite, you see, for my future success.  It challenges me, it teases me, it gives me just that right amount of come hither promise that is reminiscent of the early days (alright, years) of courting her.

Invariably, she gives me the okay.  But it's mostly due to the fact that I've proven to her that my ideas usually work.  They might take a while to germinate and then flourish, but with time and patience, they usually pan out.

So when my cat rudely awakened me this morning...and allow me to digress a bit and share with you that unpleasant experience:

I'm dead to the world, sound asleep, dead to the world, and undoubtedly snoring my head off because I've chosen to take a night off from using my CPAP apparatus, when I hear Kona clawing profusely on the side of the mattress near my feet.  

Kona has got to be part bobcat.  He seldom mews like normal cats to indicate he's wanting something.  Instead, he claws at objects around the house.  It makes enough of a noise to wake one of us up.

Like this at 4:45 AM!

I've sprinkled enough water at him to make him tear out of the area like a jet kicking into Mach 5, so I figured I'd fake him out with a sprinkling motion from my hands.  But he's too smart for my feint, and he keeps clawing.

Which means I gotta get up!

So I struggled sleepily out of bed, beckoned him to go downstairs with me--or maybe I've got that backwards.  In any event, I end up opening the back door for him so he can go out and do his thing.

Don't get me wrong.  I appreciate Kona knowing where his bathroom is.  I mean, I'll tolerate the clawing as a more desirable event than the alternative. (We went on a trip once, and the catsitter apparently forgot to let him out, and so my poor wife discovered quite the surprise in our bathtub.)

Anyway, where was I?

Oh, when my cat rudely awakened me this morning...I couldn't get back to sleep and decided to check my eBay site.

I was pleasantly surprised that a buyer from down under (G'day, Mate!) had purchased and paid for the above-displayed calendar.  As you can see from the second image, the sixteen monthly scenes are picturesque and very appealing.  

Bingo!  I hastened to tell my wife.  While the sale afforded us a humble profit,  it proved the point once again that with a little effort, ingenuity, resourcefulness, time, and patience, eBay affords anyone an opportunity to sell almost anything to anyone else clear across the globe.

On a personal level, it proved that the opportunistic notion I'd experienced in the grocery store had been worth following up on.

Which reminds me...I owe you a treat, Kona!


1926 Lincoln Logs Advertisment
(Hawaiian Odysseus Scanned Image)

I have much to be thankful for.  And that's an understatement.

Not too long ago, I made a sale for the above vintage ad quite by unintentional error and through virtually no effort on my part.

On my eBay message site, I received word from a gentleman inquiring if a listing I'd made had the Lincoln Logs image.  Apparently, what had happened was that I had posted the listing with the wrong image.

Red-faced and with the taste of crow in my mouth, I thanked the gentleman for bringing the error to my attention and made the necessary adjustment to the eBay listing.

Lo and behold!  A couple of days later, that same individual bought the ad.  After eBay and PayPal fees as well as postage (because I usually offer free shipping for my ads), I made $6.54.  (I just started the vintage ads niche of my eBay business about two months ago, and--admittedly--I have so much to learn about this fun venture.  So, always, I am especially appreciative of my customers, and I'll go out of my way any time to help them find what they're looking for.)

Having this eBay enterprise gives me even greater appreciation for the local, regional, national, and international small businesses and corporations I deal with each week.  When I experience great customer service, I make it a point to ask to speak with or at least email their shift supervisors to let them know about the fine job their staff is doing.  

Conversely, I never hesitate to assertively communicate with companies when I experience dreadful customer service.  Just yesterday, in fact, I spoke with a corporate employee in Spokane about the poor service I received at a local bank in Walla Walla.  My intention is never to unreasonably rail against a business enterprise.  Rather, my goal is always win-win.  If I speak up about things that can and need to be remedied, I help in part to improve that business.

Bringing this practice back to eBay interests, I make it a point to treat my customers well.  I offer good products, and--in the case of vintage ads that show their age--I honestly describe the less than mint items and answer any questions customers might have to the best of my ability.  This grass roots way of doing business hails in part from being reminded each time I excitedly find an old ad that this was the way our forefathers conducted their businesses...with old-fashioned but never outdated courtesy, integrity, and gratitude.

So, while it might seem trite to some, I quickly admitted my error and thanked the individual for pointing it out to me.

Who knows whether or not that civility contributed to the sale?  It doesn't really matter.  That's how I choose to conduct my business.

And it's growing.  Slowly yet steadily as she goes.

One Lincoln log at a time... 

Friday, January 6, 2012


Floral Print of an Original Oil Painting by Lola Ades
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

During a Christmas trip to Forest Grove, Oregon, my family and I had an opportunity to shop at a Goodwill Outlet Store in Hillsboro.  What was particularly interesting about this store was that people were dumpster diving.  I use that term with tongue firmly embedded in cheek because that's the best way I can think of presently to help you conjure up an image.

I watched for a while before taking the plunge and following suit.  The process involved circulating through this huge warehouse and diligently sorting through the hundreds of items in each of dozens of large rectangular carts.  (Research regarding thrift store shopping and reselling purchased items on eBay is abundant on YouTube.)

Surprisingly, I observed a lot of people--many of whom were Hispanics--with devices that looked like cell phones with semicircular tops, or attachments of some kind.  They held these high-tech gadgets up to chosen items.  One of two things would then happen--either a red light would be emitted, as with scanning devices, or the individual would type out something on his or her keyboard, and information would pop up on their screen.  I soon determined that they were accessing eBay, Amazon, or some other website to check on the value of their chosen items.

(Note to self:  I gotta get one of those gadgets!)

Books seemed to be the most popular item being scanned.  The value of toys, records, and collectible items also appeared to be of more than passing interest.  

I asked one Hispanic young man to explain the workings of his gizmo.  He politely nodded and smiled, and I politely backed off, quickly assessing that I'd either broken a boundary or that his understanding of English was limited. Being a former poker player, I'm opting for choice C--the one that said, Mind Your Own Business!  I quickly decided to store that inquiry for later.  Besides, if I'd learned anything in the last couple of years, it's this:

Doing my own research is more profitable in the long run.

While my wife and daughter were finding clothing and household items, I found two interesting tins, a book about sharks, a book about the history of aviation, and two art books that were splendidly filled with magnificent floral prints.

At some point, I figured I could sell the tins for $5 each.  But it was the books that were of greater interest to me.

You see, one of the things I've been trying to do lately is to sell actual prints gleaned from magazines.  I wanted to up the ante a bit and look for old books with which to do the same.  Again, it was on YouTube where I first got the idea, and because I'm gung ho for projects that are outside the box, this idea has great appeal for me.

My God, the God who's loved me through almost 60 years of falling on my face and getting back up again, is all about outside the box.  Who am I to second guess the beauty of thinking and doing above and beyond the norm?

 While the din of hundreds of people picking up and tossing items filled the enormous building, and with dozens of elbows, hips, and other body parts brushing up against me, I focused on finding books with lots of pictures.

And I found them.

My wife and I paid $2 for each of the two hardbound books.  The art books had soft covers, and we were charged magazine prices for those--25 cents each.

When we returned home, I wasted no time in carefully removing the floral prints from one book.  There were about 16 large pages, about 13-3/4" x 10-1/4" in size...roughly the size of the old Life magazine pages.  

Since some of the pages had prints on either side, I solicited the help of my wife in determining which side I should list on eBay.  I trust the woman's intuition when it comes to things of this nature.

Delightfully, eBay was offering its sellers free auction listings, including the Buy It Now feature, so I took full advantage of these freebies and posted my listings.

A week later, even though several items were being watched, I had only one live bid.  I'd calculated earlier, however, that even one sale would provide me with some kind of profit.  Remember, these floral prints had come from a book that had cost me only 25 cents.

The print sold.  I told my wife that I was thinking about emailing the customer, someone in Thailand, and reminding him or her that buying three items or more would mean free shipping anywhere in the world.

I dragged my feet on that idea, but I'm glad I actually followed through on it.  When I woke up this morning, the customer had bought two more prints.  

Here they are:

Yellow Roses in Black Teapot
Floral Print of an Oil Painting by Lola Ades
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

Sunbeam Roses
Floral Print of an Oil Painting by Lola Ades
(Hawaiian Odysseus Photo)

So, for those who are interested, here are the crunched numbers:

Total sales amount for the three items was:  $27.97.  

My overhead was $11.93.  Here's the breakdown:
  • Cost of book             $  .25
  • Listing fee                    .10 (free, initially, but I re-listed unsold items)
  • PayPal fee                  1.39
  • Final Value fees         2.80
  • Postage                       7.39
The postage was expensive because the customer, as I mentioned, was from Thailand.  Even so, my profit was $16.04.  Dividing that by the initial investment of $0.25--the cost of the book--the profit margin was 6,416%!

Okay, so maybe there are a few cynics out there who are saying,  "Bah, humbug!  All that work for $16.04!  Not worth it!"

I don't consider what I do as work .  I perceive it as a refreshing way of living.      I have the best earthly boss in the world--me.  I work for a very loving, devoted, and faithful Master.  What I'm doing--recycling old vintage items and presenting them to the world--is no different than what He's doing in my life.

Work?  Hardly.  You know who's really working hard?  The guy at the local Safeway parking lot, right there by the bus stop, who sits on the cold pavement in the dead of winter with his dog waiting for a handout from the passersby.  Now that's hard work!

I would love to teach him how to sell other people's throwaway items on eBay and other online venues.  As I can vouch from my own experience, he would definitely regain his God-given dignity.

You can find out more about the fabulous vintage print niche in the following articles:

Sunday, January 1, 2012


If You're Sailing to Kaua'i, May I Hitch a Ride?
Union Bay, Seattle, WA
(Hawaiian Odysseus photo)

Hauoli Makahiki Hou, Everyone!

Mayan prognosticators and bandwagonning rumormongers aside, we encourage you to have the very best new year of your life.  

Love more, complain less, and--above all--be thankful for every morning that you  are blessed with.

And, by all means, do yourself and your loved one(s) a huge favor--