Thursday, July 11, 2013

Why I love my Kindle - even though I said I'd never buy an eReader!

I'm a hypocrite.  Three years ago I said I'd never buy an eReader.  I made five points about why that would never happen.  Guess what - I now have a Kindle!  I received it as a gift and I love it.  It hasn't replaced books, though...

Real books make up the majority of my reading at home.  This is mostly because my grandmother lends them to me by the stack!  The Kindle is perfect for travel.  It's smaller than even a single book; I often read multiple books per trip.  It's also great for borrowing library books.  More on that, below!

Here are my updated thoughts on those five anti-eReader points I made three years ago:

  1. Money, Money, Money - My Kindle was a gift.  It came with a USB/wall charger and I bought a cover with a reading light.  It's been $0 to maintain it since then.
  2. Technology Turnover - A number of new, updated devices have been released since I got my Kindle.  (Kindle Fire, anyone?)  However, my Kindle works just fine for reading.  I prefer the black and white text on the screen.  I'm sometimes envious of people who can view magazines in color, but if I wanted to do that, I have my iPad.  (And I haven't even done it on there.)  I'm hoping my Kindle will continue to be compatible for years to come!
  3. Single Use - This is still true, and a con for the Kindle, especially when traveling.  Yes, my husband and I play Scrabble on it, but that's about it.  Despite being a single use device it is still easier for me to carry on the plane than a stack of books!  I read a lot and one book will usually not be enough to get me through a whole trip.
  4. Reading as Therapy -I said that turning pages and seeing your progress is therapeutic.  I still think this is true and often crave a real book.  The Kindle does, however, show me the percentage of the book I have completed.
  5. eReader Lending?  This point is still true for me.  90% of the books that I read are ones I borrow from my grandmother.  But eReader technology has come a long way since I wrote the original post back in 2010.  I can now borrow Kindle books from my library!  It's awesome - I browse for and reserve titles online, and then add them to my Kindle via Amazon.  It doesn't get much easier.  I'm currently reading Lean In (I was on a waiting list for two weeks) at no cost and with no trip to the library to pick up a physical copy.
So yes, I love my Kindle, but it hasn't replaced books yet.  I'm not making any predictions about that for the future!  I guess I'll have to check back in another three years to see what happens...

Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Few More Quick eBay Tips

I've written about selling on eBay before (here and here).  Last month my mom asked me to help her get started on eBay and I thought I'd share my advice for her on the blog.  

Be Very Descriptive with the Title
"Vintage wedding photo 002" is too generic.  Check out titles of similar products for ideas. Do a little research to find out what buyers will call the item.  That helps it come up in search.

Photos Sell the Item!
More pictures.  eBay gives you a maximum of 12 for free - use them!  Photograph from all angles and include close-ups of details.

Format the Text for Readability
Put no more than one or two sentences on each line or use bullet points.  Nobody wants to read huge blocks of text.  Highlight the important features!

Consider adding something personal about why the item is special, like, "I found this picture in a box of my parents' things.  It's probably one of their friends or relatives from Adams, MA.  They had a large Polish family."  People will be more likely to buy specific subjects that interest them.

Price for You, First, Then Price to Sell
Do an experiment.  First offer at the price you'd like to sell the item at (ideally, the average selling price of similar items).  If that doesn't work, lower the price when you relist.

Another experiment - play with shipping!  Sometimes people will snap up an item if you offer free shipping - even if you increase the starting bid.  A couple of ways to try:
  1. With your lowest price and shipping cost to be paid by the buyer.  
  2. With a higher price but free shipping.  
People tend to prefer free shipping.  There is a setting in the listing where you can exclude bidders from other countries, FPO, AK, HI, etc.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Cyber Monday Shopping Experiences

I realize that many of my recent posts have covered shopping and selling, but 'tis the season. The majority of my holiday shopping was completed well in advance of Thanksgiving but I couldn't help purchasing a few things for myself on Cyber Monday.

Ah, Cyber Monday. It was the day with the most spending in 2010. I can totally see why. There are sales galore anywhere without free shipping is laughable. But are online stores equipped to handle huge increases in traffic? said that Cyber Monday 2012 was the heaviest online shopping day - ever - with nearly $1.5 billion in sales.

My experience was mixed...

J.Crew Factory

When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, 50% off everything plus free shipping this year! I absolutely couldn't pass up this offer from J.Crew, even if it is the factory store, because my husband will never notice the difference when he receives the $9.99 t-shirts as gifts. (Never mind my small pile of jewelry and apparel.)

I filled my cart, only mildly disappointed that a pair of crystal earrings was sold out, and hit submit. It took a few seconds - okay, this is a busy day. Then the page kept defaulting to a 404 error. Not to worry - I can do it the old-fashioned way and call! After a reasonable hold period a sales person took my order. Slowly. And then the system crashed. "Would you like to start over?" he asked? No... I'm at work and can't be at this all day! Fortunately the website became responsive again and I placed my order.

As of the Saturday after Cyber Monday I have not yet received my order.  Scores a B.

Macy's was offering boots at buy 1 get 1 free and I just happened to need a pair (or two).  After scouring the selection and carefully reading the reviews I ordered two pairs - heeled-yet-rugged booties and black riding boots.

The positive side is the riding boots arrived within three days.  The negative side is that despite being Nine West and leather they are cheaply made and the heel is hard as a rock and uncomfortable.  The reviews said they run large; I found them too small.  Back they will go.

The super-negative side is that the other pair was sold out, despite my successful order, and will not be shipped.  Boo.

The really-super-negative side is that a customer service rep told me that it will take three days to email a return authorization slip (none was included in the package).  What???  This seems a little bit ridiculous to me... scores a C on this one.

Bluefly is one of those sites that I want to love.  Whenever I shop, though, I can't find a thing.  I had a $35 merchandise credit kicking around that I wanted to use up so I placed an order for two tops and a necklace.  Despite advertising an 80% off sale none of the items I selected were marked down to that extent.  One was final sale; no returns (and I hate that).

I also dislike Bluefly's practice of displaying all of the items that they are sold out of.  If I can't have it, I don't want to see it!

As of Saturday my order has not yet arrived.  Scores a B.

40% off my husband's favorite jeans plus free shipping?  Sold!  This was an easy transaction to round out my Cyber Monday shopping.  They still haven't been delivered, but they score an A- for being easy-peasy.

Final Thoughts

Yes, I only shopped clothing for Cyber Monday, but the deals were worth the hassle in the end, I suppose.  
  • Too many places advertised unimpressive sales.  I also disliked Amazon's quick-decision model with deals expiring every few minutes.  I don't want to play games - I want to purchase what I need (or maybe want) at the best price.  That's it.
  • Few places listed the best deals - at least for clothing.  I tweeted and emailed my favorites to share with friends.
  • I enjoyed the fact that J.Crew applied the discounts right on the web and I didn't have to search for a coupon code.
  • Shopping via mobile device has really upped the opportunities for days like Cyber Monday.  I like that I could've taken advantage if that if I needed to.

Until next year...

Monday, November 19, 2012

3 More Tips for Selling Effectively on eBay

If you have a lot of stuff to get rid of, why not try eBay?  It's easy and you can reach a much larger pool of potential buyers than in your neighborhood yard sale.

Before you dive into this blog entry I recommend that you read my 4 Effective eBay Strategies.

Don't Bite off More than You Can Chew

It might seem like a good idea to list everything at once.  Voila!  Your clutter will be gone in a week!  Think about when it comes time to ship all of that.  Do you really want to bring dozens of packages to the Post Office and stand in line with them?  Not so much...

Listing 5-10 items per week seems safe.  If there's a larger item make it a lighter week.  If things are smaller, like clothing, it's okay to it's more items.  Remember that eBay allows you to list 50 items for free each month.  (You still pay seller fees but not the listing fee.)  Ten items per month fits nicely with this plan.

Another time saver is to box items up for shipping as you list them.  This way you have accurate measurements and weight of the package so the buyer can pay actual shipping charges.  There will be no delays in shipping the item after it's purchased because there are no excuses for waiting around to get it ready to go.  I recommend using post-it notes to label the boxes so you know what's inside.  That way, if the item doesn't sell this week, you won't forget what it is and have to rip it open!

Cross-Promote so More Eyes See Your Item

Do some research to see if there is another website where you can list your items for sale., for example, is a website that's exclusively for model horse sales.  There is an option to link up eBay auctions to the listing so people can see what you've got for sale but know they must go to eBay to bid.

Consider Selling on Other Sites, Instead

  • Craigslist - Craigslist is great for large items or anything that would be difficult or expensive to ship.  For example, I sold a toddler bed (not mine!) and a Pilates machine via Craigslist.  Pros - there are no fees and you can just make the listing and forget about it for awhile.  Cons - people are unreliable and you've absolutely got to meet in a public place to avoid bad things happening!
  • Amazon - I prefer to sell my books here.  Old textbooks are just bestsellers - you can get rid of anything.  Be sure to price competitively - within a few dollars of the lowest price will ensure you sell your item.  Pro - large audience.  Con - prices are sometimes too low.
  • Etsy - This is a site I've just begun using and I will certainly be blogging about it more in the future.  Pros - reach people looking for your items, easy to use, and lots of tools built in.  Cons - lots of fees (although they are not overly expensive) and there's no "ending" time so orders could come at any time.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Effective eBay Strategies

I've been an eBay user since 1997.  Back then I was seeking out rare model horses that I could snag for a steal.  Today I'm mostly a seller, culling model horses that I no longer want or selling "stuff" that's sitting around our house and would otherwise be donated or trashed.

This year I've offloaded a VCR, media player, lots of clothes, Christmas ornaments, miscellaneous electronics (mostly outdated), and some other stuff.  My tally so far is $800 so I must be doing something right!

eBay is easy to use and there are lots of sites out there that teach you how to get the most out of it.  Here are my tips:

Know what you have and whether or not others want it.
  1. Search for the item you want to sell on eBay.  On the right, scroll down, and there's a toggle called 

  2.  Completed Listings.  This enables you to see not how many are on the market right now, but what people actually paid for those items.  Setting a realistic price will ensure that your item sells.
  3. If your item didn't come up in search, consider why.  Is it super-rare?  If so, good for you!  Maybe, though, it's out of season or just not popular right now.  Example:  I don't bother trying to sell model horses online during July or August because so many collectors are visiting BreyerFest. 
  4. Maybe there's a better venue to sell your item.  I sold an unopened Pilates machine via Craigslist because I didn't want to deal with shipping.  I could've used the local pickup option on eBay, but I thought Craigslist would reach a larger local audience.  It worked - and I avoided fees!
Use the listing form to its full advantage.
  1. Use every character that's available to you in the title field.  Rather than springing a few cents for a  ub-header, pack a punch with the free title field.  For example, instead of saying "Blue Gap Sweater", blow it out with "GAP Ladies Light Blue/Teal/White Argyle Sweater Size Small".  The more descriptors you add, the more likely your item is to come up in search.
  2. It's in the photograph!  eBay allows lots of free pictures for many categories.  Add as many as possible - full length front and back, close ups of patterns or details, bottom view, whatever.  If the pictures are not free try to add at least two of different angles.  eBay allows users to zoom in on the photos so make sure they are high-resolution so that the viewer can see details.
  3. Be descriptive.  Describe that item as best as possible.  Measure EVERYTHING.  Let eBay do the work for you in some cases, like electronics.  I sold a VCR and when I typed in the brand and model number into search, eBay offered to add dozens of specs to the listing.  Do this!  Users can search by specification and if you aren't including them then you're already out of the race.  Just make sure that everything eBay enters is accurate. Remember to test your item and be sure that it works.  If it doesn't, be honest about that in the listing.
Price to sell and ship cost-effectively.
  1. Way back up in #1 of the first section I told you how to price your item.  If you don't need to sell it right away, price it at or a little above what you think it will sell for.  If you just want to get rid of it, try $5-10 below the regular auction price.
  2. Shipping is tricky.  Apart from re-using packaging and offering the cheapest option (usually Parcel Post) there's not much you can do to cut costs and bidders shy away from high shipping costs.  Be mindful of your packaging because it can increase costs.  I put clothing into plastic bags and then ship it in manila envelopes because they weigh considerably less than cardboard boxes.  Using newspaper as padding is a great way to recycle but it also adds weight.  Consider re-using the inflated air pockets you receive in other shipments - no matter how satisfying it is to pop them.
  3. I've had more success since I've started using "buyer pays actual shipping costs".  This feature inserts a little calculator into the listing and the actual price is determined based on where the bidder lives.  When you list the item, just enter the measurements of the package and the weight and boom, you're done!  Bonus:  your item is boxed up and ready to go!
Communicate and keep your promises.
  1. Bidder has a question?  Answer it ASAP and consider posting the answer for all to see on the listing to avoid repetition.
  2. If you said you'd ship next-day, do it!  It's just a matter of getting to the Post Office if you've got things packaged up according to #3 in the previous section.  If you can't keep your promise, let the buyer know and give him/her the opportunity to back out.  Hey, they might need that Joker Halloween costume for a party this weekend!
  3. Follow-up by promptly marking items as shipped and leaving feedback.
Those are my tips for eBay success!  I've got lots more including don't bite off more than you can chew, cross-promotion, and selling on other sites like Craigslist, Amazon, and Etsy that I'll share in a future entry.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

iPhone vs. Android and Social Media

When I last wrote about the iPhone coming to Verizon and its links to an increase in social media activity almost two years ago, I was on the right track!  Social media via smartphone is increasingly popular.  Most platforms (Android and iOS) now build social media right into the phone.

For example, on the iPhone 5 (yes, I went over to the dark side, and I'll tell you why in another blog entry), a set-up option includes logging into your Facebook account and having all of the information integrate with your contacts.  My Android also did this, but as the technology has improved it's even more seamless this time around.

It's no secret that mobile phone use is increasing.  Just check out this graph from

While social media isn't one of the largest use areas, keep in mind that this chart covers all mobile phones, so it makes sense that texting would score higher.  (Some phones don't have the ability to access social media.)

Despite Apple opening up to more carriers, Android still has the largest share of the market, according to this chart from

Apple continues to grow.  Whether or not a user ultimately goes with iOS or Android depends on a number of factors.  I'll give you a sneak peak into why I made the switch:  usability.  I don't care so much about customization; consistent performance is more important to me.  As more people from the older generation begin using smartphones they will likely be interested in finding a device that's easy to use and does what they ask of it.

Back to the original question of how smartphones have changed social media.  Just look at your Facebook timeline.  About half of the posts by my friends come from some sort of mobile device.  What about yours?

Friday, November 9, 2012

Catching Up

It's crazy to see that my last post was almost two years ago!  It's been a busy two years:

Finished my master's degree:

Attended my husband's college graduation:

Had surgery

Got married:

3-week honeymoon to southern Europe:

Traveled to Los Angeles (Blog World), North Carolina, the Caribbean, Lake Placid, Florida (Lean Institute training), Niagara Falls, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New York City several times:

Attended the Belmont race for the first time!

Lost a beagle and gained an English Setter puppy:

Started an online business:


It makes me tired just to look at that list!  Next blog entry I'll pick up where I left off (Verizon as a carrier for the iPhone) because a lot has happened since then, including the release of the iPhone 5.