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July Month-End “Business” Update

July 31, 2011

As regular readers of this blog are already aware, July has been a tumultuous month when it comes to the “business” side of my hobby.

Upon my return from my Canada Day long-weekend vacation in Ottawa, I opened up my emails and discovered a less than positive notice from eBay in my Inbox.

To make a long story short, my eBay Store subscription level was lowered from Premium to Basic on the first of the month as a result of what eBay considers too many low Detailed Seller Ratings from my customers south of the border.

This demotion comes not as a result of any overall performance issues, but as a result of the opinions of just three buyers from the USA whose unfounded ideas about what it costs to ship across the border are held in higher regard by eBay than the feedback received from the overwhelming majority of my customers.

When you have been on eBay for over a decade and have never had a negative or neutral piece of feedback from 4,500 transactions, while also having DSRs with an average rating of no less than 4.84 in any category over the past 12 months the issue is that much more perplexing and frustrating.

Needless to say it was a rough start to the month.  I was staring down a monthly fee increase of nearly 300% and was not about to start losing significant amounts of money solely to keep the store open until such a time that my ratings were repaired.  I was also extremely frustrated and discouraged that so much hard work could be headed down the drain.

As a result, in the days that followed that email from eBay, a huge part of me was tempted to simply abandon ship on the entire idea of using eBay as a vehicle to pursue my goal of having a financially self-sufficient hobby.

I realized quickly that being annoyed and frustrated was not very productive when it comes to achieving my self-sufficiency goal and since I have no intention to give up on achieving it, I got to work on developing a new plan.

I took some time during one of my lunch hours early in the month to sit down and think things over.  I kept asking myself: So what’s the plan now?  As you have repeatedly said (on this very blog) is necessary when selling online, how are you going to adapt this time?

Interestingly enough, it only took that one lunch hour to figure out the basis of the plan moving forward and by the time I was done jotting out notes and playing with numbers I actually ended up feeling like things could actually end up being better for me over the long-term as a result of the changes being forced down my throat by eBay.

Here’s a few of the things I came up with that will guide my “business” moving forward:

1.  I rapidly need to make some changes to my eBay store in order to minimize the negative impact.

This was by far the most obvious element.  As a result of the fees I am now incurring, I have started instituting some significant changes to my eBay store.  Until such a time that I can return it to its former operation (which I hope will be within the next few months), I will maintain an inventory of roughly 1,000 items at all times as opposed to the many thousands I had offered in the past and had hoped to add to in the near future.

This allows me to maintain a somewhat significant presence on eBay, lower my expenses, and if all goes well, generate enough sales to continue turning a “profit” or at the very worst break-even over the coming months.

2.  I need to diversify how I operate my business.

Relying on eBay as my one and only source of income for my pursuit of a financially self-sufficient hobby was an absolutely fatal flaw in my approach.  My eBay Store should merely be a piece of the puzzle as opposed to forming the entire picture.

I am currently exploring other options for sales avenues, including online classifieds (i.e. Kijiji and Craigslist), sports collectibles websites (i.e. Blowout Cards Forums, Check Out My Cards, Sports Card Forum), and even setting up a stand-alone store on my website.

Broadening the scope of my “business” will allow me to avoid having a problem in a single sales avenue impact the overall “business” operation like this month’s problem had the potential to do.

Please feel free to send me your ideas on places you think I should try out, particularly those that are offered at a low operating price (i.e. free)!

3.  I need to pay closer attention to the specific details involved in the operation of my “business”.  For example, I should have better educated myself on the policies behind what caused all of this to happen, along with how to properly examine the numbers and statistics my sales generate.

The reality is that I should have recognized months ago that I was headed for trouble with my eBay store based on the policies and numbers I speak of.

I was admittedly unfamiliar with eBay’s geographic DSR and store subscription level policies until it was too late and did not take the time to look into what the numbers I was seeing would mean in the long run.  I just assumed everything was going well.

Had I better educated and prepared myself, I would have known well in advance that my average sales volumes (specifically those to customers based outside of Canada) were simply not going to allow me to generate the number of transactions necessary to offset the low DSRs in such a short amount of time.

As I diversify where I am selling my items, I need to continue to educate myself the ways that these new outlets operate so that I can better predict the future outcomes of my operation.

*****

As I said earlier, I truly believe that in the long run all of this annoyance and  may actually lead me to something bigger and better on the “business” side of things, which in turn could mean bigger and better things for my collection.  My buying may need to be reined in again for a while, but I am sure the Toronto Fall Expo will help ease that short-term pain.

As an extended benefit, the added time I have had as a result of the short-term reduction in sales has already paid dividends in terms of the organization of my collection and items for sale.

Just yesterday I finished up a week-long overhauling of my inventory of over 35,000 base set singles, all of which are available for sale and/or trade.  I also plan to use the time to finish my scanning project and then get a slew of items ready to be listed when my eBay Store gets back to normal operations.

As usual, I would love to hear from readers. Whether it’s another person’s DSR horror story like the one reader Tony e-mailed me about last week, some ideas on where else I can investigate selling my cards, or if you are also pursuing a financially self-sufficient hobby of any kind, feel free to get in touch!

Email me at bb_bros@hotmail.com, leave a comment in any of my blog posts, or connect on Twitter or Facebook.

Also, if you enjoy reading this blog and would like to receive automatic updates of my weekly Wednesday and Sunday posts, just click the “Sign Me Up!” button in the right column or subscribe via an RSS feed.

Until Wednesday, all the best in your collecting pursuits!

Ryan

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