Who Is the Hardest Working, Most Positive Online Seller I Know?

Posted on May 5, 2009. Filed under: Tips - for the eBay Seller | Tags: , , , , , , |

As an ecommerce business owner, I am often times up late at night and sometimes I turn on the TV for noise in the background.  That is when I hear those late-night commercials where the professor guy is offering to teach you how to sell on eBay for free and tells you how easy it is to sell on eBay.  It is hard not to laugh but, even funnier, is a guy on eBay pictured with his Mercedes and yacht telling you how he can make you rich just like him.

Being a successful online entrepreneur doesn’t happen over night and it’s definitely NOT easy.  Anybody who tries to tell you differently is just trying to sell you a lot of hot air.  And these self-proclaimed gurus are probably the same folks trying to sell a magical pill that will make you lose 20 pounds in a week with no dieting or exercise. 

Successful ecommerce sellers know that you have to work hard but even working hard will not ensure your success as an online seller.  You have to be efficient, working smarter not necessarily harder, and be willing to try new things and also learn from your mistakes.  Adapting to the environment around you is also critical.  And, finally, enjoying what you do is a great big plus since you will be working lots of hours.  There is no quick and easy way to get rich selling online but the good news is that there are some shortcuts. 

What am I suggesting?  Don’t go out there looking for the guy who is tooting his own horn the loudest, trying to sell information to you.  Instead, find someone you think is a successful hardworking online seller and study him or her.  Notice that I didn’t say copy them.  You won’t achieve success as a copycat.  But you can emulate someone you admire and respect rather than re-inventing the wheel from scratch.

If you want to be a successful online seller, then you should associate with other successful online sellers.  Study them and communicate with them.  It is very motivating to be around people who have a positive attitude (but not the overly sunny cheerleaders who tend to become irritating very quickly in my opinion).  Gathering together with unsucessful online sellers to moan and complain about things day in and day out won’t get you very far toward achieving your goals. 

So, just where can you find a successful online seller who has a positive attitude and who isn’t trying to selling you an eBook or CD set to help you get rich overnight?  Well, I know just the person and I want to tell you about him. 

Over the past year, I have visited many ecommerce blogs and followed many people on Twitter.  And, time and again, one name kept popping up everywhere I went.  Everywhere I visited online there was one person who was always supportive of other people, seemed to have fun selling his items, and was always learning and trying new things.  I would certainly say that he is, without a doubt, the hardest working online seller I know (who might just never actually sleep).   I always thought I was a hardcore night owl but this guy has got me beat by a mile.  So, who is this mystery man?  His name is Cliff Aliperti.

Cliff  has been involved with collectibles pretty much his entire life, preferring the vintage and rare.  He started out helping his uncle at baseball card shows and an auction he ran back in the mid-80’s.  Cliff then graduated to his own portion of table space and lot numbers over time.  He did card shows full time by himself back in the late-80’s-early-90’s before wising up and heading off to college for a few years.  In 2000, Cliff started selling online and launched his own web site in 2002.  He went full-time in 2004, and hasn’t stopped ever since.

Currently Cliff specializes in Vintage Movie Cards and Collectibles from the Silent Period through the Golden Age as well as General Magazine Back Issues from the 19th Century and up.

Some of the places where you can find Cliff include:

eBay Store: http://stores.ebay.com/Collecting-Old-Magazines

Bonanzle Booth: http://www.bonanzle.com/booths/thingsandotherstuff

Brand New (BISI) Store: http://www.moviecardsforsale.com/

Main blog: http://vintagemeld.com

Twitter: http://twitter.com/andotherstuff and for classic film buffs http://twitter.com/moviecollector

Cliff was kind enough to answer some of my questions and I know you will enjoy learning more about what he had to say to me.  After reading the interview below  I’m sure you will understand why I chose to introduce you to Cliff, someone who I greatly admire and respect.


Cliff, you are a multi-channel seller but your primary sales channel is eBay.  Did the many eBay changes in 2008 affect your business and, if so, how have you adapted?

It’s hard to tell.  The eBay end of things was growing throughout early 2008 actually peaking in August 2008 with what was one of my best months ever on eBay.  The progression of the growth led me to believe I’d finally hit my stride.  Then the major round of eBay changes came and September ’08 was my worse month in about a year and a half.  I’ve been working hard to get back to August’s levels, but I’m still not there as I write this.  Really Amazon saved the day for me in late ’08, but I’ve been pulling away from that venue since the New Year.

In retrospect it seems to have become more generally accepted that the overall US economy really started bottoming out around September ’08 as well.  So do I blame eBay, blame the economy, blame a little of both?  Truth be told, I’d rather not point a finger, but instead buckle down and both list and promote more so that when whatever the problems I ran into lift I’m positioned to pick up where August ’08 left off.

Bottom line answer to how I’ve adapted –> list more, sell more.  I’ve especially bulked up on lower priced items hoping to make up the difference in volume.  Previously I’d looked to raise my ASP, but the stats pointed me another way for the time being. 

As I’ve done more promoting I’ve also finally come to the somewhat obvious conclusion that my efforts should be pointing towards myself and not eBay.  So I have been working on a new site (on the BISI platform) which is where I hope to slowly retire a lot of those lower priced goods from eBay and pasture out to my regular customers who I hope to steer in that direction.

Your 100% eBay feedback with a rating greater than 9500 is quite impressive.  I noticed you have a unique return policy where you guarantee satisfaction and even offer to pay return shipping if the customer wants to return the item.  For the type of product you sell, the return policy you developed seems to make great sense.  However, I am curious to know if you have many returns.  And, would you recommend your generous return policy to eBay sellers who list items in other (ie different) categories?

I came close recently, but have yet to actually take a return in what’s now been 9 years of selling on eBay.  I have made refunds, but have been lucky enough not to have any complaints come in on higher priced goods, so a simple refund with an apology is more cost-effective than shipping the lower priced goods back and forth in the mail.  I try to describe my items as well as possible, beyond the photo and tend to grade them as harshly as can be.  I use a few terms in my grading scale, but for the sake of a more mainstream example will stick to the 1-10 scale here, with 10 being the highest–I’ve had people write asking will you take $X for this item, it’s priced too high for an item grading 4/10.  My response is quite honestly my 4/10 is going to look like a 6/10 to you and possibly even an 8/10 compared to other sellers.  I buy a lot on eBay, so I’m aware of the general expectations.

I’ve learned, especially through communication with other sellers on Twitter, that every category has it’s own nuances.  I think I’m very lucky to be where I am.  It’s my belief that my movie goods, which are generally pre-WWII, appeal to both older customers, and at the very lea st the detail-oriented type customer that I’m already used to from my earlier days as a baseball card dealer.  The magazines very often because of their content, historical or literary, appeal to an intellectual crowd.  So it’s a nice mistake, but generally most of my customers are very nice, polite, and reasonable if something unexpected occurs in the transaction.  Not to blow my horn, but it also helps that I generally know my stuff in my areas, so I’m able to answer questions succinctly and accurately.  On the rare occasion I do get a rude customer I try to “kill them with kindness” and often turn them by the end of the deal.

So if you’re in a category rife with trouble I’d say maybe my return policy isn’t for you.  Or if you’re dealing with something bulky to ship I can see wanting to cover yourself better.  But the only way you’re going to know for sure is to try it out.  I like to think the openness of my policy may help me get customers who would otherwise pass me by and I’m confident enough in the representation my listing gives of the actual item that it’s worth the risk to me.  “As is” seems ready to be killed off by eBay anyway with their most recent announcements, it might be a good time to give a more open-ended return policy a shot if you plan on staying with them as a venue.

All your auctions and websites are so professional in appearance and in content and you use current technology tools, such as us ing Viddler to create your collectible videos.  Do you do have anyone who helps you or are you just really great at time management?  And how do you manage to keep discovering new technologies and creating new business ideas to keep things so fresh all the time?  

Hah, I’m lousy at time management, it’s just that doing this full time I have more time than the casual seller.  I’m just fascinated by the idea that if there’s something you want to do today, anything, you can probably find a way to do it online.  And oftentimes you can do it with a free app!  How cool is that? 

Twitter has been huge in leading me to new toys to play with.  Previously I was isolated, none of my friends know anything about this stuff, so I’d have to find it and try it.  With Twitter we’ve got an opportunity to hear first hand stories and recommendations about the tools.  I chose Viddler over YouTube simply because our mutual friend John “ColderICE” Lawson was using Viddler and I figured if I got stumped I’d have a source to shoot questions off to.  It also helped that I drone on for over 10 minutes in most of my videos and I don’t believe you can run that long on YouTube.  As I’ve gotten more comfortable with recording myself though I am building up to making shorter YouTube videos just for their incredible exposure potential.  I met the designer of my VintageMeld blog, Scott Pooler of iBusinessLogic on Twitter too.  I had commented previously on Randy Smythe’s MyBlogUtopia! and fully credit Randy for getting me to try out Amazon’s FBA program–as well as introduce me to Twitter when he did a post on it.  I learned about Bonanzle through Henrietta of RedInkDiary through Twitter and the resulting phone calls.  We were discussing several eBay alternatives late last summer and it was probably because of how high Henrietta was on Bonanzle that I stuck with it through those earliest days.  I think I’d commented on your blog prior to our becoming friends on Twitter, but I think you’d agree we’ve gotten to know each other much better through that site.

Obviously, Twitter is big.

I follow you on Twitter and you seem to be working all the time which helps to explain how you manage to get so much accomplished on so many different venues.  When you are not working, what kind of things do you enjoy doing?

Well, obviously I like sitting down to watch my classic movies–the coolest thing about that is I’m really kind of working when I do that, but then again I’m not working at all.  I’m a big baseball fan.  I read a lot, but not as much as I used too and unfortunately the quality of title has decreased over the years too.  Wow, I sound terribly boring, but honestly I messed around way longer than I probably should have and have really been trying to buckle down the past few years.  Basically I want to make sure this thing (my business) is working well for me by the time I reach 40.  The trick is, I absolutely love just about every minute I’m at my desk (well, wouldn’t mind hiring somebody to do the packages soon, but otherwise it’s great!), so while it might look like I’m “always working” I’m really enjoying myself doing it.  When I do break away I hang around with my friends and family, shoot the breeze, have a few drinks, the usual things.  I’ve always been a bit of a homebody, so my pastimes are probably best summed up as running as my mouth and opening my ears, hopefully on an even keel.

Thanks so much!

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5 Responses to “Who Is the Hardest Working, Most Positive Online Seller I Know?”

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When I saw your tweet I thought ‘Cliff’, obviously great minds think alike!

Henrietta – yep, anyone who knows Cliff would surely agree.

Wow, Brews, I am just blown away, practically speechless (I did say practically) over the preamble to this. I was really just expecting a pretty cut and dry re-telling of my answers, but what came before, well, I’m almost embarrassed to read about myself–in fact, I was expecting you to throw me a curve and this be about someone else!

Thank you so much. If I’m working as hard as you say, well, reading something like this really makes it seem all the more worthwhile.

Thank you, Cliff

PS: Henrietta, I’m glad I popped to mind. Thank you too!

What a wonderful write-up!

Cliff is eCommerce excellence personified. Quiet & unassuming but definitely a role model for all of us with his knowledge & insights!

Marlene

Cliff, glad the intro was okay for you. I never have been a good curve-thrower, even in baseball! 🙂


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