Sunday, September 5, 2021

Hidden Clues #9 Sharing Too Much Information

This is a cautionary tale of the possible consequences when too much information is shared in the collecting groups.  Members tend to regard the other members as close friends and share lots of information, as if they were talking to those people in private.  They forget that other people are in the group reading their posts and that what they share might not be in their best interest.

Sharing information that could cause books to be stolen

The Lookout Mystery Series by Christine Noble Govan and Emmy Govan West is extremely scarce in the original hardcover editions with dust jackets.  It is about impossible to find those books.  A member posted about some Lookout books from her church library.  She photographed them so that we could see them.  The books were hardcover with dust jacket.  She said that the church library operated on the honor system.  Anyone could walk into the church's library and remove books without checking them out.  She shared the name of the church and the city in which it was located.

I was horrified that the exact location was shared along with the information that anyone could remove the books without being held accountable.  There were multiple comments on the post about the value and scarcity of the books.  I warned the person who wrote the post, telling her that the group has many sellers in it, that some likely live near her, and that one of them could take advantage of the situation.  I told her to remove the city and church's name from the post.  She instead deleted the entire post.

She never should have shared specific information like that.  

Sharing information that hurts one's own interests

A large number of sellers join groups in order to obtain information.  The knowledge gleaned from the groups helps them to know which books to buy.  In turn, great books show up on sites like eBay because those sellers have learned about the books from the groups.  The downside is when members fail to consider the presence of those sellers and share information that hurts their own interests.  

Many people in the groups work in antique malls and bookstores.  I know this for a fact, since I approve members for some of the groups and see the information on their profiles.

Collectors are surprisingly very open about exactly where they purchase their bargains and for exactly what prices.  People who work in their local store might very well be in the group reading about their cheap find from that store.  If someone from the store does see the post, they might begin to price books higher.  We all know that stores that price higher tend to overprice the books.  We don't want that to happen.

Some collectors have mentioned that quite a few locations of a certain bookstore chain (name withheld for obvious reasons) have figured out that series books can be worth a lot more than $3 to $5.  Those stores are now pricing the books at steep prices, really too high for the local market.  Books that members were happily purchasing for $3 to $5 might be worth $10 to $15 online, but some stores now price them at $25 or more.  That causes the books not to sell and is not helpful to either the buyers or the stores. 

I believe that some employees of this bookstore chain are in the group and have seen the many posts about the cheap series books that are worth more than the prices paid.  Those employees now feel that series books are valuable and price them much higher than in the past.  It has been since the existence of the group and the many posts about cheap books that this chain has increased its prices.  Once too much information is shared, it cannot be taken back.

Books from prominent series like Nancy Drew are now priced a bit steeply in my local stores from this chain.  Ordinary tweed Nancy Drew books with dust jackets are now $20 each.  Tweed Nancy Drew books without dust jackets are now $10 each.  Those are online prices.  Local customers are unlikely to pay that much.  The books are going to take a long time to sell, and the books will likely go on clearance eventually at the prices that the store used to charge.  

I never give the location when I share book finds.  I seldom share the price.  I understand that revealing everything could cause local dealers to raise prices.  Sometimes other collectors will ask me where I purchased books.  Some of them really pressure me to tell them.  I either do not answer, or I give a vague answer, like "in Oklahoma."  

In most cases, the books I purchased were the only good series books in the store.  There would be no reason to share the location.  Also, if one of my local stores were suddenly to get a lot of phone calls about series books because I shared the name and location, then that store might decide to raise prices.  

Occasionally a collector will tell everyone that lots of bargains can be found on an obscure online site unknown to everyone else.  Well, not anymore after they tell everyone.  They just destroyed their own source for cheap books.

In another case, I was rather annoyed when a few people started sharing some very specific search techniques, mentioning one that I used a lot.  Of course they said how that particular search got some great bargains.  I never got anything good from that search ever again, and I bet the person who shared the information was also unsuccessful from that point on.

Sharing information that potentially hurts everyone's interests

On the posts where collectors have given the exact names and locations of stores where they have found cheap books, discussions have occurred about how these stores price books.  Comments are made about how the employees don't know series books and don't know that the high-numbered titles are often worth much more.  Specific examples are given.

Recently, I realized that these discussions could be causing many of the employees to check on the values of the high-numbered books.  This typically results in the books being priced as high as the unsold copies available online, which are likely priced too high.

If your objective is that you want books not to be cheap in stores so that stores will make a good profit, then telling stores how to price series books is a wise decision.  However, if you enjoy finding scarce books priced lower than they should be, then being so open about the mistakes made by stores is counterproductive.

Sharing information that harms one's own business

Some people who sell online make the mistake of being too open about how they acquire items to sell.  I have read multiple tales of woe from people who trusted a friend.  That friend would ask them about how they sourced their stuff.  They told the friend everything.  The friend immediately became their steepest competition by checking all the local stores and purchasing all the good stuff before the seller could.  The friend basically stole the seller's business.  

This has also happened on Etsy with the sellers who offer handmade items.  People try to get those sellers to share how they do it.  If the seller reveals too much information, then the recipient of that information sets up their own shop as a direct competitor.

Sharing information that affects an eBay auction

This one is a little different in that it doesn't hurt the person who shares the information.  It does potentially hurt the interests of other collectors, so it has always been a sore point with me.  Back in the 2000s and early 2010s, several copies of Nancy Drew Old Clock with the 1930A-1 jacket came up for auction on eBay.  At that time, I couldn't justify paying above a certain amount for the book, so I hoped for an auction to fly under the radar.  That never happened.  

Every time an Old Clock with the 1930A-1 jacket came up for auction, a certain collector who was never planning to bid would immediately make sure that absolutely everyone knew about the listing.  So of course, I had no real chance at the book.  

When that collector advertised the listings, they were unintentionally letting sellers with very deep pockets know about the auctions.  The Old Clock auctions usually were won by a certain dealer, who was a member of the group but not a series book collector.  The person who publicized all the auctions was unwittingly helping that dealer, not the other collectors.

I'm always very nervous when something extremely scarce that I really want is up for auction on eBay.  When the latest Old Clock 1930A-1 book and jacket was up for auction on eBay in early 2019, I was worried that someone would let everyone know about it.  I felt that it was the very first copy where I actually had a good chance of getting the book.  However, I still had no chance if anyone advertised the listing.  I was certain that many people knew about it, but not everyone checks eBay constantly.  I was fortunate that nobody mentioned the book and that I was able to win the auction.

I often see excellent items on eBay that I don't need.  I do not advertise them, because I feel that the eBay regulars who check eBay all the time should have first dibs on those items.  Those people are the ones doing the hard work of checking eBay often.  If they spot something great, then they should have a fair shot at it.  

Remember to consider your own personal interests when sharing information online.  Being open is fine, but make sure what is shared will not cause you future problems.


Stephen Schroth said...

This is a terrific post. I realize that prices are of some interest to those collecting books, but I find the constant discussion of prices to be dull to the extreme. I find the, "I found Danger Below! for $3!" to be borderline bragging, and the carping about having to spend $10 for a 60+ year old book to also be tiresome.

I have most of the series I want, and I never sell books, but I appreciated your counsel re the inadvisability of putting too much of one's business out in public. The only thing I would add is that, as a collector, it is also counterproductive to discuss a series one is currently collecting or upgrading, as the mere mention of it will cause some of our more competitive fellow collectors to also decide to pursue that avenue of collecting.

Jennifer White said...

I agree. Anytime I've decided to build a set, I keep quiet about it. I don't mention anything about what I'm doing until I'm done or until I write reviews of the books. I also don't share whatever my current top collecting goals are with anyone. Some of my goals might be guessable (like when I was still building my set of Nancy Drew #57-175 in hardcover), but I'm never going to state what my most important goals are.

Tai said...

Something similar happened to my aunt offline. She collects antiques and brought an out-of-town relative to her favorite antique store. The antique store was new in the area and had very reasonable prices. The out-of-town relative made comments all over the store about how affordable and nice everything was and that antiques were more expensive where she lived. The next time my aunt visited, the prices had gone up.