Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Book Prices, Increasing My Handling Time, and COVID-19

This post is only slightly on-topic for this blog, but I think important.  I also hope not to be ridiculed by the overwhelming number of people who continue to think that the unfolding global pandemic is a joke, something that will never affect them, or just a bunch of hype.  In fact, just close out of this post now if you think this is nothing.  You'll save both of us some time and aggravation.

I purchased this book over the weekend in a local store.

I paid more than $10 for it.  I specifically mention $10 because of a recent post on Facebook where someone saw a bunch of hardcover Three Investigators books in a store priced at $10 each.  They felt that the books are not worth that much.  I disagree.  Most all hardcover Three Investigators books, unless in very bad shape, sell for well above $10 each online.

The above book is not a book that I need.  I felt that the store's price, while not low, was at an amount where I could easily sell the book for more than what I paid.


For some time, I have considered dropping my top-rated seller status, because eBay's requirements are a bit much.  I must ship the next business day.  This is a problem because eBay goes by the Pacific time zone.  eBay doesn't care where I live.  I am in the Central time zone, so I must ship all items which are paid by 12:00 AM Pacific time, but that is 2:00 AM my time.  This means that I am actually having to ship the same day for items purchased between midnight and 2:00 AM my time.  At least Etsy has the cutoff time at midnight for my time zone, as it should.  Etsy is also less stringent and will not penalize me if I do not mail the package the next day.  eBay's requirements are stressful.

Then along comes COVID-19 (Coronavirus Disease 2019).  I have been following this event carefully since late January.  I am using Reddit for my information, backed by other sources.  The reason I ended up on Reddit was that the media were ignoring the story back in January.  Oh, they mentioned it here and there, but what little I heard told me that this was something that could escalate into something truly awful.  Reddit was the only place where I could actually find information that was not heavily censored.  In case you aren't aware, in January and in early February, social media sites were censoring coverage of the virus.

Reddit gave me the information I sought.  While true that Reddit is full of fear-mongering and some misinformation, it has a wealth of factual information, much of which cannot be found easily elsewhere.  All stories are aggregated into the Reddit subs by its users.  The result is amazing coverage of COVID-19.  I cannot emphasize enough how much information is shared in the subs on Reddit each day.  Even now, with greatly increased media coverage, I still would not know as much as I do if I were not reading the subs on Reddit.  I am distressed that most people just know a fraction of what I know about the situation.  That's why most people think the pandemic is a joke.

Coronavirus subs have been formed for different parts of the world, regions of the United States, and for each of the 50 states.  Here are the Coronavirus subs that I visit the most.

This sub is the most strictly moderated due to the very large membership.  It has been sanctioned by Reddit as the place to go for COVID-19 information.

This next sub has an unfortunate name, but it is equivalent to the above sub.  The moderation is just a little looser.

This sub focuses more on the scientific aspect of the disease.

This sub is for the United States.

At the current stage of this event, Redditors are very angry at the governments of most nations, which are not doing enough to stop the spread of the virus.  Some governments are doing nothing.

My obsession with this topic is not healthy, but I cannot tear myself away from it.  I actually have not read any books in about a month.  All of my reading is on Reddit.  The information changes hourly.  I have seen videos of and read about events that I never could have imagined happening in my lifetime.  The American media, while now covering the virus, are not mentioning most aspects of this pandemic.

I have read so many apocalyptic disaster novels that I see where this situation could go very wrong and be disastrous.  No, this is not the zombie apocalypse, and society probably will not collapse.  However, hospitals will almost certainly experience a surge in patients and will not have enough beds.  People will likely die due to lack of care.  This could get very bad.  Hopefully, this will not be an utter disaster, but we do need to plan ahead and consider what we will do should certain events transpire.

No doubt some of you are scoffing and thinking, "But this is just a cold."  Common colds affect me horribly.  It was just a cold that I had last May that caused me to be very ill and have close to 100% voice loss for most of two months.  Colds mess me up badly. 

More of you are probably thinking, "But this is just the flu."  No doubt this virus is like the flu, although it appears to be more lethal than the regular flu.  Even if I am wrong about that, common colds affect me horribly.  I haven't had the flu in close to 20 years, and my thyroid worked somewhat better back then.  What would any kind of flu do to me?

And last, there is the argument that the seasonal flu has killed far more people than COVID-19.  It certainly has.  The difference is that the flu has completely infiltrated our population and has been around forever.  Of course the flu has killed more people!

Using the high-end numbers from the CDC, influenza has killed up to 61,000 people in the United States each year out of up to 45,000,000 cases per year.  This is a 0.1% death rate.

So far, COVID-19 has a worldwide death rate of 3.4%.  This probably won't hold, but let's go with it for the United States.  This means that if 45,000,000 are infected with COVID-19 in the United States, then 1,530,000 people will die.  That's far more than 61,000 people dying of influenza.

We certainly do not know how this will play out, but the numbers I just gave should explain why many of us are very worried.

This event is quite unfortunately progressing exactly as I have expected since late January.  I want to be wrong, but everything is happening just as my fellow Redditors predicted.  We watched the outbreaks unfold in South Korea, Italy, and Iran.  We saw exactly how the numbers changed at first in those three countries.  The pace was slow as first, then a bit faster, and then it exploded.  We are in the second stage in the United States right now.  The pace is picking up.  I believe that spring break is the dividing point between normal and abnormal in most of the United States.  Many people leave the country for spring break.  What will they bring back with them?

I have been thinking through contingency plans for various scenarios.  I drop packages off at the post office up to six days per week.  I must limit my potential exposure to the virus when I can.  Therefore, I have changed my handling time on both eBay and Etsy to two business days.  I will only drop packages off on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.  If the situation should get bad enough in central Oklahoma, then I will quit selling online so that I don't have to go to the post office at all.

Etsy will not penalize me for two-day handling, but two-day handling violates eBay's top-rated seller standards.  I will lose my top-rated seller status within two months.  This mainly means that I will not get a 10% discount on fees.  The discount really isn't that much, and eBay can keep it.

I am concerned that I work in a school.  Schools are incubators for all viruses.  This is not good.  If the schools are not closed once the outbreak worsens, then I might start using my sick leave to avoid the virus.

I keep thinking at random moments that maybe I have spent too much time on Reddit.  Maybe the Redditors are all wrong.  Maybe this will just go away.  Maybe we will look back on early 2020 and think of what fools we were.

But maybe we are right.  It never hurts to be prepared, even if the worst does not come to pass.  I wish the best for all of you.

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