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Location: Texas, United States

Thalia Miller is an eBay enthusiast, author, artist, mother, wife, and entrepreneur with strong Christian values. She lives in the middle of nowhere, just north of Dallas, Texas. For more info visit: http://www.bohemiattic.com/album.htm



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Winners Circle

Friday, February 25, 2005
  Need a smile? Try this eBay site...

Who would buy that?

You just might be surprised...

:) Have a great weekend!


Thursday, February 24, 2005
  eBay Stores vs Website Sales

No one will dispute the intense marketing power of partnering with the eBay platform for fast results. However, there has been some major debate over the usefulness of the eBay store feature since the recent rise in pricing for this selling option. Let's take a look at the major factors argued against the eBay store feature.

An interesting and free2005 eBay Stores Report comes from an excellent source, Retailing Experiments, points out that the three powersellers reviewed performed higher sales ratios through their eBay store channels converting 201% over their websites on average. Unfortunately, the study was just a snapshot and is not conclusive evidence that the store feature is better for everyone.

For instance, only three stores were sampled, and for a short 30-day window of time. The only factors taken into consideration as far as the report concedes, were conversion rates, revenue generated per page load, and traffic in general. Design was also briefly mentioned, stating that websites appeared to be better designed than their corresponding eBay stores. Yet, the eBay stores did better overall, despite this.

In its defense, the report was intended to offer a cross-section study for the given time period it covers and it provides the insight it set out to capture. It would have been nice though to have seen deeper coverage, such as: a larger slice of power-sellers tested, the length of time they've been in business and on eBay, and probably most importantly, what methods each seller used to promote their eBay stores as opposed to their web presence, because the greatest draw for the eBay platform is the exposure a seller receives using it. So, the real question remains: Is it beneficial to have an eBay store in addition to regular listing on eBay without a store, if you already have a website?

Glitz N Glamour, the second store listed out of three on eBay's "2004 Best In Stores Winners" didn't seem to think so. The link shows that their eBay store no longer exists. As you may know, I closed my eBay store earlier this week. The main reason for this is that I have been very focused on other things including the promotion of the new book, and the development of our website. At this point, I'm questioning whether to reopen at a later time or build entirely on the web brand.

On the other hand, there are a lot of powersellers who have chosen to opt for an eBay store presence. More compelling is the evidence from the Nortica Bay site, which lists top eBay sellers based on positive feedback received. Of the top 20 fastest growing businesses on eBay (as of February 1, 2005), 100% have eBay stores. Of the top 20 highest rated sites for the same time period (measured previous 30 days), only four did not have eBay stores. Since the sellers listed are rated based on positive feedback, we can't know how sales were effected by the operation of an eBay store, but we can assume that sales were high in relative proportion to numbers of feedback. Looks like the majority of powersellers choose to use the eBay store feature.

Perhaps, the best way to decide if an eBay store is for your business or not, is to try it. I definetly think that if you don't have a website at all, you should sign up for the free trial of eBay stores here. If you're looking for a cost effective website solution though, you should look into 1&1 hosting solutions.

Let me know your thoughts on the matter.


Thalia Miller for bohemiattic

Wednesday, February 23, 2005
  Business Ethics: It's never too late to do the right thing!

10 ethical, easy-to-implement strategies for boosting consumer confidence, reducing marketing costs, and increasing profitability
By Shel Horowitz, author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First

In this age of business scandals, it's crucial to remember that businesses based on ethics and quality actually work better. With that in mind, here are ten easy resolutions to inspire your business to achieve a very profitable 2005.

1) I will base every aspect of my business on honesty, integrity, and quality.

2) I will make sure every employee, from janitor to CEO, is trained to view every interaction with a customer as a key step in the marketing process, and to always give the customer respect and attention.

3) I will train and empower every employee to let the customer go away feeling good about the entire interaction.

4) I will stand behind my products and services. It is better to refund the money and create a positive buzz.

5) Understanding that it costs an average of five times more to bring in a new customer as to keep an existing one, I will see that theentire organization exceeds customer expectations.

6) Recognizing that my competitors can be my strongest allies, I will initiate at least one joint venture (after all, if FedEx and the Postal Service, Apple and IBM, and General Motors and Toyota can cooperate, surely I can too).

7) If my company is not the best answer to prospect's needs, I will refer that prospect to the company that can best serve.

8) I will devote business resources to make the world a better place.

9) I will volunteer on a community project, and set up incentives for my employees to volunteer on the projects of their choice.

10) I will base decisions on the Abundance Principle that there is enough to go around, and not on market share.

Marketing consultant/copywriter
Shel Horowitz is author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First http://www.principledprofits.com, Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World http://www.frugalmarketing.com, and four other books.

Can 25,000 ethical business leaders prevent future Enrons? Only time will tell but
we've signed the Ethics Pledge. Will you? Click to learn more.


Sunday, February 06, 2005
  eBay News: Letter from the President, Bill Cobb

A Message from Bill Cobb

Since becoming the President of eBay North America in December, I've spent a lot of time listening to you, our Community. There's a lot on your minds right now. I've been taking it all in and thinking hard about how we can make sure eBay remains a fun, safe place to trade, and a prosperous home for our many dedicated sellers.

One of the issues I've heard a lot about is our recent fee increases, particularly the increase in Store Inventory Format final value fees. I've also heard concerns about customer support, the amount of change we make to the site on a regular basis, and trust and safety. We're listening to everything you have to say.

eBay has become a hugely successful marketplace as a result of the innovation, enthusiasm and hard work of our Community. The site has also become more complex as it has grown to meet many of your needs. So our challenge is to keep pace with the Community's changing requirements, while preserving the things that make eBay so special. With that in mind, I'd like to give you a preview of some upcoming changes for the United States and Canada.

eBay has a fantastic Customer Support team, but Meg and I agree we haven't invested enough in giving our CS reps the flexibility and tools they need to really take care of you. So, to start, within the next 90 days, we'll shut down most of our automated email responses. Our users will get a "real" e-mail response to their questions - you'll hear from a human being who will try to help you with your problem or question right off the bat. We will only use auto responses to acknowledge receipt of spam or policy violation reports.

We also think the time has come to expand phone support. Currently phone support is available only to Silver, Gold, Platinum and Titanium PowerSellers. Starting April 1, all eBay Stores owners also will have access to phone support. We'll provide details on the benefits of phone support to Stores owners soon.

We know pricing is a critical issue for our sellers. While we stand behind our decision to increase final value fees on Store Inventory Format listings - because they make sense for items that list with insertion fees of two cents - I know this increase has been difficult for some of our sellers. To reward our eBay Stores sellers, we'll be crediting $15.95 - a month's Basic Stores subscription - in May to all sellers who operated an eBay Store for the month of April. Stores owners will receive more details on this soon.

We also want to do something for the rest of our sellers. I'm happy to announce that effective at midnight tonight, eBay.com and eBay.ca will reduce minimum insertion fees for Auction-Style listings, Fixed Price, Motors Non-Vehicle and B&I non-Capital Equipment Categories from 30 cents to 25 cents (CA$0.35 to CA$0.30). eBay Germany has always used this pricing, and users there have benefited from higher conversion rates on items with lower starting bids.

One of the great things about eBay is the candor and passion of our Community. Your input keeps this company focused on what's right and important. Later this month, I'll be hosting an online meeting to hear more from you. You'll see more details on the Announcement Board soon. And I'll periodically post notes like this one to talk about issues of importance to all of us.

eBay has never stopped listening to our users and we never will. I know many of you already have Meg's e-mail address and frequently send her messages about things you care about. I hope you will do the same with me. My e-mail address is billcobb@ebay.com. I promise I'll read every e-mail. And most of all, I'll listen.

Sincerely, Bill Cobb
President eBay North America

Friday, February 04, 2005
  Business Joke for Fun Friday

Realizing that I'm due for a break in my day, I'm reminded of one of my all-time favorite business jokes which I'd like to share here and now with you. Hope you like it...

Reasons to embrace change:

Start with a cage containing five monkeys. Inside the cage, hang a banana on a string and place a set of stairs under it. Before long, a monkey will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray the other four monkeys with cold water.

After a while, another monkey makes an attempt with the same result - all the other monkeys are sprayed with cold water. Pretty soon, when another monkey tries to climb the stairs, the other monkeys will try to prevent it.

Now, put away the cold water. Remove one monkey from the cage and replace it with a new one. The new monkey sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his surprise and horror, all of the other monkeys attack him.

After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five monkeys and replace it with a new one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm! Likewise, replace a third original monkey with a new one, then a fourth, then the fifth. Every time the newest monkey takes to the stairs, he is attacked.

Most of the monkeys that are beating him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs or why they are participating in the beating of the newest monkey.

After replacing all the original monkeys, none of the remaining monkeys have ever been sprayed with cold water. Nevertheless, no monkey ever again approaches the stairs to try for the banana. Why not?

Because as far as they know that's the way it's always been done around here.


Thursday, February 03, 2005
  eBay Does it Again!

New email received today reveals further confusion on eBay's part:

To Our Basic Stores Subscribers -
As you know, on February 18 the Basic subscription for Stores will change from $9.95 to $15.95 per month. In January, as part of our Frequently Asked Questions for the eBay.com / eBay Motors Fee Change announcement, we told you that your February invoices would be billed with the old subscription fee and that we would pro-rate the fee increase for February 18 to February 28 and add it to your March invoice.
You'll notice on your February invoice that the fee increase amount is being pre-billed in February, not in March. This was a mistake on our part. The amount you have been billed is accurate, but we billed you early. We apologize for this mistake.
To Clarify: On February invoices, you will be invoiced for $9.95 for the current Basic subscription plus a pro-rated fee increase to cover the period of February 18 to February 28, during which the increased monthly subscription applies. For example, those Basic Store sellers who receive their invoices on February 1st will see a charge of $12.31, reflecting the 17 days of the current pricing ($9.95) and 11 days of the new pricing ($15.95).
Basic Store owners billed on the 16th will receive an invoice that reflects 2 days of current pricing ($9.95) and 26 days of new pricing ($15.95) for a total of $15.52. Of course, any Store owners who elect to discontinue their subscription before the end of February will receive a pro-rated credit, as is our standard practice.
Thanks for your understanding.
Regards, eBay Stores Team

Phew! Glad that's all clear!

Sorry, I know the saga continues, but does anyone else feel worn out from this mess? I had already decided to close my store on eBay, opting for a full internet presence of my own making. Of course, my plan includes using eBay as a marketing tool, but honestly, there's little need to have an eBay store UNLESS you don't have a website yet. Then I think in that case, eBay is a good outlet for your home business.

Anywho, just thought I'd share the joy,

  Update to eBay Seller's Fees

Received this eBay response via email last night.

Dear eBay Seller,
Recently, we announced fee changes taking effect on February 18th and affecting certain optional listing upgrades on eBay.com, the subscription fee for a Basic eBay Store, and Final Value Fees on Store Inventory Format listings. Based on Community input, we understand our original communication was a bit unclear.
To clarify, no changes are being made to the Final Value Fees on Auction-style, Auction with Buy It Now option, and Fixed Priced listings (with the exception of certain Business & Industrial capital equipment categories). Final Value Fee changes apply only to Store Inventory Format listings, a listing format only available to Store sellers and with durations of 30, 60, 90, and 120 days and Good 'Til Cancelled.
The Final Value Fees for Auction-style listings, Auction with Buy It Now option, and Fixed Price listings have remained unchanged since 2002.
You can view the full details of the pricing announcement
Regards, eBay

We already knew from the first eBay email and the buzz on the forums that the increase was directed mostly at eBay store sellers. So, this is not a huge shock. It seems that the eBay store feature, which wasn't very beneficial to begin with, has further devalued. I believe that this is because eBay would rather push quick sales such as 3-5-7 day auctions. This is apparent in the premium they charge for 10 day listings and now with store listings (which span much longer periods) going up. I don't think that eBay receives much value from the stores feature either.

It's better though that eBay is clarifying the announcement and putting emphasis where it should have been since the beginning. eBay was pretty thoughtless with their first communication to sellers and may be irreparably damaged by it, regardless of the back paddling you see in their communication above. But there will always be buyers and sellers on eBay it seems and this could present opportunity for the sellers who stick it out. Mike Enos wrote a great entry to his blog at platinum powerseller which looks into this opportunity. Stop by if you get a chance.

Bye for now,

Wednesday, February 02, 2005
  The Downside of UPS

It's Wednesday, and I feel like a good ranting. Just to be fair I'd like to start off with some positives for using UPS. For one, they are generally more cost-effective on larger items--- when the packaging is yours. They insure items for up to $100 for no additional charge. If you use the mailbox services through their store locations, it is treated as an address not as a post office box (though you will pay a premium for this service), and you can call during business hours to check for arrivals. They provide carrier pick-ups at your location. They have a few supplies to offer free of charge, such as labels and protective pockets. They have also teamed up with eBay to allow access directly through your paypal account from which to pay for shipping and printing of your labels.

Unfortunately, UPS does not always provide the best shipping option, not only in terms of cost but more often in terms of service (or the lack of it). When I first began selling on eBay I tried using UPS for all my shipping needs because the store location was very convenient for me, much more so than the post office. Once I began to sell and ship many items at once, it quickly became clear to me that UPS was over-charging. I would enter the store with several packages, and the clerk would offer shipping options, always fast to mention that UPS was the least expensive option in most cases. The clerk would quote figures for me and the post office totals never matched my preliminary sums gathered online and incidentally were often more costly than UPS too. I guess I naively thought that UPS would charge the actual post office shipping since I used them for so many other shipments and services. The clerks would never tell me the real calculation for the surcharge but I thought if UPS were going to add any surcharge at all it would be very minimal. Not so. Often the charges came to 15% or more. I was already giving a slice of the pie to eBay and paypal. Now UPS was cutting in on my profit and BIG time!

I complained to UPS via an email. I received a confused reponse as if the complaint were not clear. Finally, after another email, I received a more coherent reply stating that UPS corporate has little to no control over how UPS stores choose to run their businesses because they are basically franchised. This tells me that the stores can get away with anything, including drag the corporate UPS down with them, and UPS will not intervene.

Well, corporate UPS did intervene, and this is really funny. I happened to be a secret shopper at the time that this incident occurred. The company I shopped for gave me an assignment to visit my specific UPS shortly after I registered the complaint. I was forthright about the job, but was told to continue. Only one problem, the assignment which is very detailed and specific did not address the complaint whatsoever. The shop was designed to test UPS to see if they overcharged, but spoke directly to UPS ground shipping and with my own packaging. So, UPS did a great job with it, because there was nothing to mess up. The assignment was idiot-proof and the dillemma persisted.

My solution was to pay and print my own post office labels, adhere them to my packaging and drop them off with the clerk as I made my other UPS purchases. However, I was soon asked to stop bringing in prepaid packages and told that most retail locations no longer accept outgoing prepaid post office packages for drop off. They stated that the mailman will no longer pick them up there, even though he'll be picking up the ones which were paid for at the UPS store, surcharge and all. When I asked a UPS representative about this at the eBay LIVE! show, she very nonchalantly stated that though she had not previously been made aware of this, it was no concern of hers anyway. That it was between the retail location and the post office, because, once again, the UPS stores were only affiliated with UPS corporate.

These memories have all been refreshed though by a new incident which happened today. I went to the UPS store as I have a thousand times before and asked what the charge for packing and boxing my $26 item would cost me? I figured I would find out about the shipping cost next, but we never got to next because I was laid out from the initial whopping $25 just to pack and box the item!!! So, picking myself up off the floor and regaining my composure, I calmly asked, "How bout just the box?" because it's been very hard for me to find a good box this size. Well, that would only be $12. We're talking normal mid-size box here(basically 30X30X12), and though I'm considerably stunned, I ask for the box anyway. The clerk proceeds to bring me 2 boxes of average size. Quizically, I ask about this. Oh, she was going to build a box with these 2. Well, if it's all the same to you (hell-o!) I could do this with boxes I already have and for free! So, thank you, but no thank you. Are there seriously people out there who would pay $25 for this and in this circumstance? UPS has got to be out of its mind!

Am I saying that the shopkeeper of the little UPS store on the corner has no right to make money on extra third party jobs, or slightly irregular boxes? No. I'm saying that if that little UPS store would impose smaller more reasonable surcharges to post office packages instead of the exaggerated fees they currently charge (or God-forbid charge actual shipping!) they might stand to build a stronger, broader base of satisfied customers. As for the cost of packaging, perhaps they could also ease up on those wildly inflated prices as well.

Am I saying that I'll never use the "services" of UPS again? Isn't that like saying I'll never use eBay again because their fees keep rising? I never said I'd stop using eBay and I probably will keep using UPS too, especially if the price is right. But I will say, if there were a petion against rising UPS fees, today I'd sign it. I will also admit, that the more problems I encounter with UPS, seems the less I need them.


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