Friday, February 25, 2011

An eBay Seller Divulges Her Biggest Secret

As most of you know, I sell on eBay. I'm going to let you in on a little secret here. Come closer so I don't have to say it so loud.

Promise me you won't tell anyone?

Pinky swear?


I buy them at thrift stores.

That's right, I do. I don't go to fabulous houses of elegant ladies and clean out their closets. I don't buy them from estate sales. And they were almost never personally owned by me.

I go to thrift stores. (Wow, I said it loud that time.)

Salvation Army, Goodwill, little thrift boutiques, and more. I am on a first name basis with some of the clerks and they know all about The Man, the kids and my business. I know which of them has a son in Nebraska who she visits with on holidays via web-cam and which of them is fighting ovarian cancer and which of them has gone back to school at 42 years old to be an ultrasound technician.

When I first started doing this, Bug was barely one year old. I was newly pregnant with Munchkin and I got laid off. It was one of the biggest shocks of my life. Honestly, my arms still get a tingly feeling in them when I think about it.

I worked as a Marketing Coordinator for a B2B software sales company. I was the bottom rung of the Marketing ladder, a job I fell into by landing a job as their receptionist two years earlier. A month before I was laid off, they had asked me if I would consider moving to Atlanta to work in the main office and I told them I wouldn't. That was probably one of the biggest mistakes I made, career-wise. But at 24, I knew nothing of corporate restructuring and I foolishly believed that if I worked hard I'd have job security. And I loved that job.

At first I tried to jump right back into the job market. I applied for similar positions, made a fantastic web portfolio featuring all the ads I'd created for my previous employer and some I just had in my head, sent my resume all over the place, and even went on several interviews.

I'd never had a problem getting a job before, but things were different now. A mom of one with one on the way? Employers weren't lining up to grab me.

So I followed a friend's lead. She knew fashion and she showed me the ropes. She and I shopped together a lot, splitting the stores in half and digging. Sometimes she'd find things I had missed and vice versa. And back then eBay was a goldmine waiting to be tapped.... everything I listed sold and with numerous bids. The nights when my auctions ended were spent with me sitting at the computer refreshing the screen and watching the dollar amounts go up with each second. It was exhilarating.

These days it's not so easy. eBay is full of people doing the exact same thing I do and the competition is stiff. There have been so many changes that I've had to bite my lip about that there have been times I've been ready to just close up shop and walk away.

But in the end, it's still a great way for me to be home for my kids and help support my family. And in the process I support all kinds of charities with my shopping. One of the stores I frequent donates 100% of its profit to helping abused women start their lives over. Another helps to finance a soup kitchen for the homeless in our area and gives homes and life skills to homeless families with children. Another funds a highly successful 9 month faith based drug and alcohol recovery program that has kept an immeasurable amount of men and women out of jail and homelessness. And, of course, there's Goodwill, the Salvation Army, AMVET, and VVA stores.

Admittedly, I started this business as a way to support my own family and barely gave a thought to the fact that my dollars were going to fund these programs, but now I am so proud that my business directly supports these charities.

Ironically enough, I've had people sneer when I tell them what I'm doing with all the clothes in my basket. A common misconception is that thrift stores exist to provide clothing and goods for people who cannot afford to buy new for themselves. And though that sometimes is the case, the store exists to fund it's charity and the employees and managers are typically elated to see me walking through the door. And honestly, the needy isn't typically shopping for Chanel, Missoni, and Valentino (all of which I've found in my hunt for treasure).

But remember... it's a secret. So keep quiet, okay?