Wednesday, May 27, 2020

American Adventure #2 Hollywood Ho! by Margaret Trent

In American Adventure #2, Hollywood Ho!, the Burkes, along with Mary, Bob, and Ted, have arrived in California.  Bob lands a temporary job with Western Union which leads to him getting a job as a stunt double, in a case of mistaken identity.  Jane also wants to break into the movies while Mary gets a job in a tearoom.  The Burkes make several short trips in California and experience a few harrowing adventures.

I have scanned the text of this public domain book.

Chapters 1-5
Chapters 6-10
Chapters 11-16

Sometimes Jane comes across as just plain dumb.  Jane and Mary hike up a mountain trail.  They soon realize that they are going in the wrong direction, but Jane spots a sign telling them not to descend by the trail that they are on.  The girls keep going up the mountain as a result of the sign.  They hike for miles and must be rescued.

On page 68, the Burkes watch the Yosemite firefall at Glacier Point.  I had never heard of the firefall and was rather appalled, thinking of how it could start a fire.  I looked up the event, and it actually did occur nightly until 1968, when it was discontinued.

These books remind me of the Beverly Gray series.  The Burkes encounter catastrophe at every turn.  In this book, the characters are in an earthquake, a hotel collapse, a forest fire, and a grandstand collapse.  The girls are chased by buffalo and attacked by a bear.  I must say that I really enjoy books with lots of crazy events.

The girls get sent to school on page 159, to Hollywood High School, of all places.

Bob matures a lot during this book.  It's interesting that the Burkes have taken Mary, Ted, and Bob into their own family unit, so to speak.

This is a very good book.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

eBay and Etsy Pandemic Update

On May 20, I wrote about how I had reactivated my Etsy listings and was in the process of getting my eBay listings back up one listing at a time.  The process was tedious and akin to torture, since I had to edit 191 listings individually.  Finally, I finished last night.

I could have done some of the editing through the bulk editor, but one task had to be done individually.  I wanted to clean up the extraneous HTML that was embedded within a majority of my eBay listing descriptions.  The extraneous HTML was an artifact of old listings copied and pasted over the years.  The embedded HTML sometimes caused problems, and I wanted to get all of it removed.

I copied each description into Wordpad on my computer to strip it of the HTML.  I deleted the HTML completely from the item description.  I then pasted my description back into the listing.  That got rid of the extra junk.

As I removed the junk HTML from each description, I also added the message seen below.

The issue with "best offer" is getting on my last nerve.  I do not have "best offer" activated in my eBay store.  That doesn't stop the buyers from trying.  They use the "contact seller" link to make a best offer.  Now all of my listings contain a statement mentioning that I do not accept offers.

I fully understand and accept that this will not stop the offers from rolling in.  I can only hope that slightly fewer prospective buyers will make offers.  I do not respond at all to most of the offers.  The only ones that I do address are the ones from people who get really pushy and start contacting me each day.  After two or three messages, I finally reply, declining the offer.

I had one person contact me several times, even going so far as to explain to me how I could edit the listing to lower the price for them.  Gosh, I never would have guessed that I could change the price on my own listing.  Wow!

The reason I don't accept offers is because my books tend to be priced at the bare minimum I will accept.  The biggest factor into how I price my books is what I paid for my books.  I tend to pay more than most people realize.  These neat old series books don't just fall out of trees.  I have to find them, both online and offline.  I have to pay good money for them.  I don't find that many bargains. 

In order for me to accept best offers, I would need to raise my prices.  I call it "doing it the JCPenney way."  Put a really high price on the merchandise, then place it on sale at varying amounts all the time.  If I had fake high prices on my books, then I could accept lots of offers.  But I don't like playing games like that.  I refuse to do it.  So I don't take best offers.

I fortunately receive far fewer offers on Etsy, although I have already received one request this weekend for a deal on a multiple book purchase.  Due to the friendliness of the request, I did respond and decline. 

The books for which a deal was requested are selling extremely fast, so much so that I believe that I set the prices too low.  I'm sticking with how I priced the books, since most of them have sold.  I am certainly not going to lower the prices of books just listed that are selling fast.  It's not logical to do so. 

I felt that I needed to address the media mail slowdown in my eBay listings.  My incoming media mail packages are taking around 10 to 14 days, so media mail is definitely running slow.  The slowdown had to be addressed because some buyers are very quick to accuse a seller of wrongdoing.  I had a buyer early this year get really upset over a delayed acceptance scan.  I have used red boxes to indicate the rather strong accusations made by the buyer.  Remember that you can click or tap on an image to see a larger version.

I didn't hear back from the buyer until the postal service finally did the acceptance scan, five days after the package was dropped off.  The buyer was livid, since the delayed acceptance scan clearly meant that I was a liar. 

I especially like my first paragraph seen in the upper right. 

The buyer didn't reply until the package arrived some days later.  The buyer was like a completely different person, thanking me for a great transaction.  She mentioned nothing about her previous accusations.  She left me very positive feedback.  I was baffled, to say the least.  My shrewd guess was that the package must have arrived in time for the birthday, which made everything right in the world.

That's why I feel I need to warn buyers about the media mail slowdown.  My outgoing packages will also be slightly slower than before since I am not always going to ship the next day.  By telling buyers that I ship on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, they will be aware that not all packages will go out the next business day.

Sometimes I will deviate from my usual shipping schedule, like this week because of Memorial Day.  Several people purchased books this weekend.  I will go to the post office on Tuesday this week, since I don't want the packages to be delayed until Wednesday.  Going on Tuesday will probably cause me to shift the other two days to Thursday and Saturday.  Next week I will resume the Monday-Wednesday-Friday schedule.

When I closed my eBay store and Etsy shop in March, I knew that I could suffer a temporary setback in visibility, especially on eBay.  I have had two eBay transactions for a total of two books sold since my items were reactivated, which isn't great but better than none at all.  I expect that eBay sales will begin to pick up now that all of my items are back up for sale.

Etsy sales tend to be quite sporadic for me with great sales for a time and then nothing.  Since I reopened my Etsy shop last week, sales have been outstanding.  I have had 16 transactions with a total of 64 books sold.  At times, Etsy runs nearly as good as Bonanza/Bonanzle did for me in 2009 through 2011.  Bonanza/Bonanzle was a fringe startup site that could have been the next big thing, but the site's management squandered their traction by making some major mistakes.  Those mistakes were what caused me to close up my booth and head to Etsy in 2016.

In the coming days, I will begin to create new listings for books that have not previously been available for sale.  Any boys' series books will be on eBay, since boys' books do not do well for me on Etsy.  I suspect that Etsy buyers are predominantly women, which causes the boys' books not to sell as well.

I will be more likely to list Trixie Belden and Dana Girls books on Etsy.  Nancy Drew books with dust jackets and Three Investigators books almost always go on Etsy so that I can avoid a certain difficult person who purchases those books on eBay to resell on eBay.

Any books from more obscure series will go on eBay, since eBay has a larger audience than Etsy.

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Pandemic Update: Risk Assessment and Changing Listing Practices

I mentioned the pandemic in three previous posts, linked below.  I find it helpful to read my previous thoughts so that I can tie them to my current thoughts.

In Book Prices, Increasing My Handling Time, and COVID-19, I revealed my concern about COVID-19.  I had wanted to publish this post for a few weeks, but I hesitated because of all the people who were bullying those who were concerned.  After I published the post, readers were supportive and mentioned their own concerns.

I mentioned how hospitals would likely be overwhelmed.  They weren't, but that's because almost all schools nationwide were closed for the rest of the school year, all sporting events were canceled, and many people stayed home for over two months.  Back in March, people said that if we succeeded in flattening the curve that naysayers would insist that we overreacted.  We did flatten the curve, and it appears that we overreacted.  However, it only appears that way because we were successful.

More people have died of COVID-19 in the United States in the last few months than have died of the flu during this entire flu season.  So yes, COVID-19 is worse than the flu, although a high number of deaths have been in nursing homes.

I also mentioned in my post that I was reducing my trips to the post office to just three days per week:  Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.

In Update on My Activities, I mentioned my fear about COVID-19 and how I was uninterested in listing books for sale.  I thought that school would end up being canceled for the rest of the year.  I was in mourning, since I had really good students this year.

The school year did end on March 13.  I went to the school yesterday to take care of a few things. 

Time stands still in my classroom... a school year left unfinished.  I never did take a grade on those assignments since most students never turned them in.

Around one week after I published the above post, I pulled down all of my listings on both eBay and Etsy.  I was too paranoid to go into the post office at all.  I realized that going in was probably pretty safe with precautions, but I was too freaked out to continue to do it.

In New Experiences During the Pandemic, I mentioned all the apps and services that I had used for the very first time during the previous month.  I am certainly going to continue to use Google Voice for future student and parent contact.  I also will continue using Walmart Grocery Pickup for heavy items once I start going back into stores again.  Why struggle to get a 40-pound box of cat litter into a shopping cart?  A Walmart employee can put the litter in my trunk.

So here I am.  I have been carefully monitoring the daily updates on COVID-19 here in Oklahoma and nationwide.  Significant COVID-19 outbreaks are underway in both the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles, but otherwise, Oklahoma looks to be trending down.

I am continuing to stay at home, out of stores and away from other people.  I became somewhat less paranoid after I read an enlightening blog post by Professor Erin Bromage.

The Risks - Know Them - Avoid Them

If you are feeling scared about being around other people, please read Professor Bromage's post.  It really helps you to assess what your risk will be in various situations and help you figure out which situations to avoid completely.

I must begin to rebuild my confidence about being around other people.  I freely admit that I have developed a phobia about being in public.  I must work on this since I will be forced to be around others in June when I have to go in for lab tests and an appointment.

I actually want to start selling books again.  I really miss it.  I originally planned to wait until June to reopen my eBay and Etsy stores, but I realized that selling books will help me segue back into society.  If I start selling books again, then I will resume dropping packages off at the post office.  Going into the post office three times per week will build up my courage and confidence in being around other people.

I do have some other concerns about selling again, because the USPS is struggling to meet demand during the pandemic.  I have made a few purchases, and media mail is quite slow right now.  Each of my incoming packages gets stalled at the Oklahoma City distribution center for three to six days.  I have heard that many USPS employees nationwide are out sick or are missing work due to fear of the virus.  Some USPS personnel have died of COVID-19.

International shipping is very problematic right now, due to the decrease in flights.  It also remains just as expensive as ever.  In High International Shipping Costs and Free Domestic Shipping, I explained that the United States subsidizes shipping rates for China, which is why our costs are so extremely high.  Buyers think I am lying about the high cost, and it doesn't help that USPS only offers international airmail and no surface mail.

In a strange twist, the pandemic has caused a lot of the outbound airmail to go surface by sea.  This means that international buyers are getting slow service for the very high cost of airmail.  This is just not a good time to purchase anything internationally.

Here are a few USPS bulletins about the situation.

International Service Impact – Alternate Transportation: Air to Sea Diversion in Effect 
International Service Impact – Alternate Transport: Second Air to Sea Diversion in Effect
International Service Impact – Alternate Transport: Third Air to Sea Diversion in Effect

I have been preparing to reopen my eBay and Etsy stores since yesterday.  Since this has been a complete break from selling that has lasted for two months, I have had time for reflection.  Some of my practices must change.  I already had decided to drop my one-day handling time in March, and I will continue with a two-day handling time.  I refuse to play eBay's games.  I figure that I have enough of a following that I can do okay selling books even if eBay suppresses me in the search results.

I must fix some issues.  Etsy now truncates descriptions so that buyers do not see important condition information.  I changed my listing style in late January and early February for new listings, but I was not motivated to change all of my older listings.  Since all old items were deactivated, I decided to start adding them back in one at a time, changing each description so as to avoid truncation.

This is what an older listing looks like.  Always click or tap on an image to see a larger version.

All of the important condition details are hidden.  I don't think most buyers open up that description area, which could then cause those buyers to be dissatisfied about the book's condition.

Here is what my updated listing description looks like.

By removing the general book information, which is already in the title of the listing, I can avoid truncation in most instances.

I have added a warning about media mail shipping time to the main page of my Etsy shop.  I have also created a "priority mail upgade" listing on Etsy for those who want to get their books faster.

This is going to take awhile to get my Etsy shop back up, but here is a link to what I have up so far. 

Jennifer's Series Books on Etsy

I want to add a message about media mail shipping time to each of my listings on eBay, so I will have to edit them individually just like I am doing on Etsy.  I also want to add a note about how I do not accept offers.  I receive lots of low ball offers on my listings via messages on eBay.  I typically do not respond unless the buyer begins harassing me.  I only respond to those buyers to shut them down.  Contacting me each day is not going to make me accept a low offer.

I realize that stating that I do not accept offers will not stop most people from trying.  I just hope that I might dissuade a few of them from trying.

Jennifer's Series Books on eBay

Right.  Nothing is visible on eBay, but it will be soon.  I took the store off of vacation mode, but I first ended all listings.  So the store continues to be empty.  I will begin adding the listings back in one at a time just like I am doing with Etsy.

By the way, my eBay store is a bit messed up since I have my store in the old format on purpose.  I'm not sure why eBay still allows sellers to use the old format when we supposedly weren't going to be allowed to continue using it.  While we can somehow continue to use the old format, we cannot edit it at all. 

If you look closely at the left side of my store,  you can probably figure out why I keep the old format, even though I cannot edit the old format.  I have an incorrect message about free shipping, but there's also something else there that isn't allowed in the new format store and isn't an option at all in the new format. 

This is such an odd situation.  While I can somehow keep the old format eBay store, I cannot edit it at all, so I cannot remove what is not allowed.  Ah, the mysteries of eBay.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Sweet Dreams #69 Call Me Beautiful and #70 Special Someone

Sweet Dreams #69 Call Me Beautiful, Shannon Blair, 1984

It's just a silly beauty pageant.  That's what Tina Steele tells herself when she's nominated as a candidate for Miss Spring Valley.  Of course she's flattered, but she knows there are more important things to think about.

As the pageant grows nearer, though, Tina finds herself worrying.  Is she pretty enough?  Talented enough?  Her boyfriend, Jeff, can't understand what all the fuss is about.  Every time Tina brings up the pageant, he starts talking about his debating team.

This makes Tina furious.  She's determined to prove to Jeff that the pageant is just as important as his big debate.  When she's crowned queen and every eye is on her, he'll have to admit that Miss Spring Valley is a pretty big deal.  Suddenly, winning the contest seems to be the most important thing in the world.

At first, I declined to read this book at all.  I'm not interested in beauty pageants.  A few days later, I tried skimming through the book.  I still wasn't interested, but at least I now know the ending.  I wouldn't have enjoyed the book if I had properly read it.

Sweet Dreams #70, Special Someone, Terri Fields, 1984

Katie's plans for a super summer are destroyed when her parents whisk her off to Arizona.  Katie doesn't know a single soul, and she's afraid it will be the most boring vacation of her life—until she meets Dave.

For Katie, Dave's a dream come true—handsome, charming, and an "older man," a college student taking summer courses at Arizona State.  Best of all, he seems to like Katie, too, and the difference in their ages doesn't bother him a bit.

But Katie's hopes for romance are shattered when she learns that Dave's plans are very different from her own.  Suddenly Katie's not so sure that Dave's her special someone.

I could see from the beginning that Dave isn't right for Katie.  Even though I didn't agree with how Katie feels about Dave, I stuck with the book because it is engaging.  As with many of these books, the second half of the story is better than the first.  This is a very good book.

Sunday, May 17, 2020

American Adventure #1 Crossed Trails

Introduction to the American Adventure Series

"It's—it's an animal, I'm sure!
It's coming this way!"
In American Adventure #1, Crossed Trails, Mary Lancaster finds a happy escape from an unpleasant stay with her domineering aunt.  Mary is invited by the Burkes, Jane and her parents, to travel with them across country.  Soon into the journey, Mary and the Burkes meet Ted, who is a waiter at a hotel.  Ted is worried about his brother, Bob, who recently took off for the west, hitchhiking first to New York City.  Both Bob and the Burkes have a series of misadventures on their separate journeys, and eventually, their paths cross.

This book is in the public domain, I have scanned it and the other two volumes since I feel strongly that this series is one of the really good A. L. Burt series.  The books are so scarce that most people will never be able to find them.

Chapters 1-7
Chapters 8-14
Chapters 15-22

This book had me on the very first page.  The introduction to the story is quite good.

I did think it a bit odd for Mary to be invited on a road trip in winter.  What about school?  On page 18, Aunt Sarah mentions how Mary will miss school.  Mary counters with a statement about how her mother feels that she can learn more on a trip than in school.

On page 90, Mary meets the author of the Clover Club Series, a woman named Mrs. Brent.  Mrs. Brent gives Mary advice, telling her to keep a diary of the trip so that she can turn it into a book.  On the final page of this story, Mary says that the title of her book will be Crossed Trails.

On page 189, Bob uses a kind of fake Spanish in order to communicate with a Mexican family.
"No coulda find," he said in what he considered an intelligible mixture of English and Spanish.  "Alla gone.  Sta muencho bueno," he ended proudly.  "Huh?  Not?"

"Sí!  Sí!" the fat mother of the family nodded, while a half-dozen grimy hands reached out to pat him affectionately.  "Sta muencho bueno!"
I get the idea that the Mexican family views Bob as a bit dim.

While this book contains statements that are racially or ethnically insensitive, I feel that the author tried to teach the reader about different types of people in a way that depicts them to be real and worthwhile people.  The text is certainly not up to today's standards, not by a long shot.  However, I feel that this author tried to be sensitive to minorities and tried to depict them in a good fashion.  Most old series authors wrote passages that were simply dreadful, outright making fun of minorities.  This author did nothing like that.

The above paragraph was written after I finished this book and before I began the other two books.  The third book contains more blatantly problematic racial stereotypes, but that does not change my opinion of this first book.

This book is a travelogue of sorts, but not of the boring type.  It is a travelogue similar to those of the Beverly Gray series.  This is the type of travelogue that I love.  The book has no historical facts in it, but the countryside is described in such a way that the reader does learn a bit about different parts of the country and a bit about history.

For instance, the Burkes stay at several Harvey House hotels in Arizona and New Mexico.  It was only when the family stays at the second Harvey House that I realized that this must be a chain of hotels and possibly a chain that actually existed in the past.  I had never heard of them, since they were before my time.

Harvey Hotels & Restaurants on Route 66

From the above link, I found photos of some of the hotels mentioned in this book.

The La Fonda Hotel in Santa Fe, New Mexico

The Alvarado Hotel in Albuquerque, New Mexico

El Garces Harvey House Hotel in Needles, California

It was interesting to learn about Harvey House.

On page 248, Mary and Jane wait to see if Bob will get well.  They "felt curiously as though they were living in a strange suspension between dream and reality."  That accurately describes how many of us are feeling during this pandemic.

This book is thoroughly engaging and excellent.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Sweet Dreams #67 I Believe in You and #68 Lovebirds

Sweet Dreams #67 I Believe in You, Barbara Conklin, 1984

For the first time in her life, Penny Snow isn't looking forward to her summer vacation in Oregon.  In the past, a visit to her grandfather's beautiful beach house meant lots of swimming, tennis, and carefree good times.  But this summer Penny's grandfather is moving to a rest home, so she has to help empty the house that holds so many memories.  And because of her recent accident, she's afraid to join in the fun the way she used to.

The only bright spot in Penny's summer is her friendship with Bill Davis, he grandfather's young helper.  He has faith in her and believes she can be active once again.  But is his love enough to overcome Penny's fears?

I did not find this book interesting, so I did not read it.

Sweet Dreams #68 Lovebirds, Janet Quin-Harkin, 1984

Tiffany hasn't seen her film-maker father in the two years since her parents' divorce.  So naturally she's uneasy when her mother suddenly announces she's remarrying and taking a long honeymoon, and Tiffany has to spend the time with her father.  For the next five weeks she'll be helping her dad shoot a wildlife film in the dusty Australian outback.  

Australia is the last place on earth Tiffany wants to be; she can't understand the way the people talk, she's brought all the wrong clothes, and her father keeps telling her that she's spoiled.  It looks as if the trip may turn out to be a disaster. 

Her one hope for fun is Bruce Dawson, the handsome guide for the trip.  But unless Tiffany can hold her own in the rugged outback, Bruce will never even notice her.  How can he prove herself and win his love, too?

I twice tried to read the book and wasn't interested either time.  Please understand that I will never get through this set if I make myself read every book.  If the book doesn't grab my attention fast, then I will go to the next book in the set.  That's my only hope.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Arden Blake #3 Missing at the Marshlands by Cleo Garis

In Missing at the Marshlands, Arden, Sim, and Terry stay with Terry’s mother in Oceanedge.  A Russian painter stays in a nearby houseboat, and he has several mysterious visitors.  When the man vanishes, the girls begin looking for him. Meanwhile, the girls also hope to help an underprivileged girl named Melissa who lives in the area.  Melissa is mistreated by her father, and the girls want to help her.

I found it interesting that the girls tan on the beach and use tanning oil.  I don't know that I have ever read a vintage series book from the 1930s where the girls actually tan on the beach.

From page 67:

"Looks to me as though we've dropped right into the middle of another mystery," Terry announced, nodding her read wisely.  "Maybe there are always mysteries, but only wise girls really discover them."

This is a good book.

A. L. Burt books can be bad due to little care in proofreading, but this series is a solid one.  It is better than many Burt series, although it is not one of the outstanding ones.

Monday, May 11, 2020

Sweet Dream #65 The Two of Us and #66 Love Times Two

Sweet Dreams #65 The Two of Us, Janet Quin-Harkin, 1984

It's only the first week of classes, but Stephanie's already blown it with the in crowd of her new school.  She knows she would win their approval if she could just have one more chance.

What better way than to pose as her own twin sister and pass herself off as a rock singer?  It's a crazy scheme, but she pulls it off.  Sophisticated Stormy's an instant hit, and soon nobody even remembers boring old Stephanie.

Nobody except Charles.  He really seemed to care about Stephanie.  But what does he matter?  Isn't the glamour of being Stormy enough?

The story is very engaging, but I did skim parts after Stephanie becomes Stormy.  It's a stupid Jessica stunt, and Jessica stunts are only fun when done by Jessica Wakefield.  This is overall a very good book, despite Stephanie's stupidity.

Sweet Dreams #66 Love Times Two, Stephanie Foster, 1984

Twin sisters Claudia and Cassie are looking forward to their family vacation on Green Lake.  A whole month of boating, swimming, and exploring.  They're sure it's going to be a terrific vacation until they discover they've both fallen for the same boy.  And try as they might, neither one can help wondering whom T.J. will prefer—friendly, athletic Cassie or quiet, sensitive Claudia.  The girls have always been as close as two sisters can be.  Will that change if one of them wins T.J.'s love?

The story seems okay, but I wasn't that interested.  I read a couple chapters and then quit.