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.

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