I just read Nathan’s post about our trip to the Goodwill Bins of Last Gasps, and his telling was fraught with lies and slanders. Actually, judging by my opening sentence, this may be the problematic post. Sheesh, Chris. Slanders? You’re really taking that a bit far, ain’t ya?
To give a little background, I’ve made three trips to the bins prior to meeting Nathan out there. The first was years ago, the second was 12-10-20, and the third was 12-14-20. After seeing my first business related haul, Nathan felt that I might need a little schooling, and given that I averaged a little over two dollars an item. I agreed. The trip I took on 12-14-20 was more of a personal trip, because I did in fact buy a bunch of CDs that day too. That day I ignored many of the types of things I’d bought that first time that were the heavy-makers. I walked out averaging around 50 cents an item. The main problem was that a lot of what I bought were things Nathan doesn’t like putting on eBay, which we’ll talk about as I go on.
Nathan texted me to meet him Tuesday at noon, and I almost didn’t make it. My phone kept going off that morning, and although I have it on vibrate it kept waking me up. By the time my alarms went off, I clearly mistook them for more nonsense. Around 11:30 am, Nathan texted me that he would be there around 12:15 pm. Luckily, he was running late and I actually heard his text. He texted me when he got there, and I called him. I said, “Hey, I thought we were meeting at your house,” and immediately followed it up with, “Calm down! I’m kidding!” even though he was perfectly calm. I told him I was five minutes away, and he told me he was going in to pee and would see me then.
When I walked in, I was a little taken aback by the number of people who were there, but then I realized that they were all packed around one line of bins, and were going through them like getting a $400 Millennium Falcon depended on it. This was the first feeding frenzy I experienced out there. Nathan was grabbing a few things, as well. And the first thing he said to me was, “You see that guy over there? You see that Millennium Falcon?” Ok, maybe not the first thing, but close enough.
As Nathan said, we hadn’t seen each other in person for months. He had started to lose some weight the last couple of times I saw him, and while it wasn’t a major difference, he was skinnier than he was last time I saw him. He’s still stout, living up to his surname, but definitely a slimmer Nathan.
We spent a couple of hours there. He gave me some pointers and an idea of what kind of stuff he’s looking for. He told me something about people making piles sometimes when they’re about to check out and they’re deciding what they’re putting back. He said he was going to mention it in his blog post, and he didn’t; like I said, lies and slanders. We joked around some and delighted in some of the odd finds that were there; some of which we didn’t get, because while they were fun they weren’t good buys. The cocaine we used to bribe our way to the back to get first shot at the new bins.
Calm down! I’m kidding!
We actually snorted it.
I’m kidding!! Sheesh.
The thing is unless Nathan actually knew what that white powder was, as far as we know it actually could have been filled with cocaine. Luckily, he was wearing gloves. As long as we don’t do anything dumb like put photographic evidence on the internet, we should be good.
Nathan brought up the good bin where we found the stamps. That is something that I’ve noticed which is that there really do seem to be good and bad bins. You’ll go through some of them and there won’t be anything at all of value, and then you’ll find a bin where you’re moving everything out of the way so that you can scan every last square inch of it.
Nathan failed to tell the story of the dime. Lies! Slanders! When we were discussing getting back into eBay, I told him about this really shitty book called “The Secret,” which is just a terrible repackaging of The Law of Attraction, which sounds amazing and scientific but is a bunch of nonsense. I believe that when you focus your energies on something that you are more likely to notice opportunities, but I don’t believe that the universe magically makes things appear. When Nathan and I were scouring that one bin for all the stamps (because of course they spilled out everywhere) he looked in a couple of purses hoping to find cash or gift cards. He said that he would be mildly upset if he didn’t find at least one coin, because he’d found coins on his previous trips. He in fact said, “I don’t even need a quarter. I’ll take a dime.” It was about fifteen minutes later that he found the dime. I said, “I told you The Law of Attraction was bullshit.” And we laughed and lau- well, maybe just one laugh. It wasn’t that funny.
Now, I’d like to address the compact disc in the room. I mentioned before that there are some items that Nathan doesn’t like posting to eBay, and it’s entirely possible that he may be completely correct about it. He is (and I mean this, I’m not just blowing smoke up Nathan’s butt-load of CDs that I put in the basket) genuinely better at shopping for the higher ticket items.
I remember that we went to a garage sale back when we did the eBay business together the first time, and while I was looking for CDs by new wave bands, he scanned the wares and locked onto the most expensive item out there which was a lot of model train stuff. It was more of a starter collection, but it was a big purchase given that we had very little starting capital. He was a little reluctant to get it, but I said something like, “It’s in good shape, and you’re excited about it. I bet someone else will be.” We ended up getting our investment back with one piece from that lot, and did pretty good with the rest.
The problem is that it’s difficult to find high ticket items consistently, especially when your capital is low. The day I did the bins as more of a personal trip; there was hardly anything that I think would have interested Nathan. Maybe I overlooked something, but it was slim pickings that day.
I think part of the problem is that Nathan remembers the days of listing books on eBay while we were in the shop. We were convinced that they wouldn’t sell for very much, so we put them in lots and crossed our fingers. We had a couple of good sales, like a copy of “The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyl and Mr. Hyde,” that sold for over $20 for some reason, but mostly we got around two or three dollars a book. This was pretty good since I bought them for around 8 cents each. It was just tedious and the profit margin probably wasn’t worth the time spent. I think we may have underestimated how much we could have got for some of them though.
I feel that some of these CDs might fetch $20 with free shipping. Do I think they all will? No. A lot of what we picked up that day won’t. Do I feel it’s worth trying? Yep. We simply don’t know how rare every single CD is, or whether or not someone will flip out that they actually found something they haven’t been able to find. I don’t believe anyone will faint from finding Madonna, Better Than Ezra, or Wham!, but we did find these relatively nice classical composers CDs that are part of a collection. Can you imagine if you had the entire collection except for Handel, Bach, and Toxik (that last one might not be a classical composer) and you found it on eBay? You’d pay $20 with free shipping for a single CD. A group like The Manhattan Transfer weren’t exactly underground and rare, but they also don’t pollute the clearance racks the way that REM’s “Monster” does. It might be worth it to post it for $20.
I hope to move away from low cost, low profit margin buys as quickly as possible, but I think that starting out they will be a necessary evil. The worst case scenario is that we have to lower the price to right around break even, or that they end up being garage sale fodder when they don’t sell on eBay.
The final bit of the day was that as we were about to leave, there was another feeding frenzy to bookend our day. Everyone was lining up ready to dive in and Nathan was scanning the bins. It didn’t occur to me that no one was scavenging yet, and Nathan pointed out a black container with some sort of large plastic toy in it. I thought he was telling me to grab it for him, so I grabbed it. He turned to see me holding it, and was like, “Oh, put that back. You’re not allowed to grab anything until they wheel out the last bin.” Oops. Who knew?
Chris McGinty is a blogger and a hoarder. This means that going on thrift shop excursions for eBay selling and blogging about it is pretty neat.