Easy Money on Ebay?

Ebay was only two years old when I discovered it.

A friend I worked with was also starting to sell on Ebay at about the same time, and we exchanged ideas and experiences constantly. Since we were already working together on our Ebay ventures, we decided to combine our resources into one company and grow it while we were still both working our regular job. We found our niche selling technical books and manuals as our little company began to grow and prosper. Our co-workers at the company we worked at during the day came to consider us the "Ebay Experts". We were answering questions about online auctions on a daily basis, but one coworker had the same comment every day.

"Hey, show me how to make easy money on Ebay!" he would ask. It became a standing joke between My partner and I that usually came up around two or three in the morning during a marathon packing or email answering session. One of us would look at the other and mutter in a disgusted tone "Yea, Easy money on Ebay.."

In January of 2002, we had more sales, and more auctions running than ever before. We were looking at 100 to 150 auctions a day closing, and enjoying a sell-through rate of close to 75%. Our shelves were piled high with books and manuals, the shipping area was well stocked with supplies, and we were ready for long hours of fulfilling our orders.

Then, as if fate stepped in to see just what we were made of, a huge ice storm hit our part of Oklahoma taking out large sections the electrical grid. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that online businesses can do without many things, but electricity is NOT on that list! On the third day of the blackout, we were able to learn from the radio (battery powered) that it wasn't just our area, but over HALF the state of Oklahoma. Worse yet, the damage was so extensive it was going to be at least TWO WEEKS before power was restored! A quick calculation and we almost panicked. We would have over two THOUSAND AUCTIONS END, and no way to contact the bidders! If we didn't keep up with the sales, payments, and shipping on a daily basis, we were in deep trouble... We couldn't imagine what a mess it would be in TWO WEEKS!

The fourth day into the blackout, I made an executive decision. I grabbed the company checkbook, and headed for our closest Lowe's Home Improvement center (about 70 miles away..). The little roadtrip turned into quite the adventure. Strange thing about a massive blackout is gas stations can't pump gas without electricity, and you are burning gas while you are driving around looking for a gas station that was open for business. I was running on luck and fumes before I finally found a station and filled up. With a full tank of gas, I made it to Lowe's and purchased a generator. We assembled the generator in record time, put oil in the engine and then realized... Uh Oh, we need gas for the generator. No local gas stations were open for business, and we didn't want to risk another road trip. Using an old trick I hadn't used since I was growing up on a farm, we were able to get enough gas out of my pickup truck to fuel up the generator.

The little generator fired up on the first pull, and with the help of a few extension cords and power strips, we had a computer network up and running at My partners house. It was then we made another interesting discovery. Cable internet connections do not work without electricity. I had a DSL internet connection at my house, so off we go with a partially charged battery in my laptop to test my internet connection. SUCCESS! DSL works off the phone line power so it was still functional. We made a quick drive back to My partners house to tear down the computer network and load the generator, then back to my house to set it all up again. At 4:30 the next morning We had the network online and a couple of lamps for light. We were self-contained, and open for business. Now we could get to work, and so we did, for the next straight 48 hours. We had a pickup truck load of packages ready for the post office when it hit us, "Is the post office open?". A quick phone call ( by the way, cell phones and cordless phones are useless during a blackout. The simplest plug-it-in-the-wall phones work great.) found us with another problem. Our local post office was closed (no electricity there either.) They did tell us the regional USPS hub had power, and was open 24/7. The bad news is, the regional hub was 75 miles away in Oklahoma City!

Meanwhile, back at the fuel issue... We were relieved to discover that two local gas stations had rented generators and were open for business. We gassed up and headed for Oklahoma City. With the load of packages on the way to customers and most of the other urgent tasks completed, we took a much needed break. We shut down the network and use the generator to power an electric griddle and make a hot meal. The little generator wouldn't power both at the same time without throwing it's breaker.

For the next two weeks, that poor little generator ran constantly keeping the computers running and the shipments going out, the questions answered, and our customers happy. Every other day I would make the 150 mile round trip to the USPS hub in Oklahoma City, stopping on the way back to fill the gas containers for the generator, and fuel up the truck for the next trip.

One evening we took a short break, and stepped outside for a breath of fresh air. We noticed something different.... THE STREET LIGHTS WERE ON! I ran inside and tried the lights... ELECTRICITY!

I went next door and asked my neighbor how long the power had been back on. "Oh, about four or five hours..". We had been so wrapped up working in our self-contained office, we hadn't realized the power had come back on! With our ordeal behind us, we couldn't resist the temptation to elebrate with a cold beer and a toast...

"Here's to "easy money" on Ebay!"

KL Bohn is an Industrial Engineer with a passion for technology and especially Ebay.

Ebay was only two years old when I discovered it quite by accident. 7 1/2 years, and over 85,000 transactions later I'm still hooked on Ebay as a seller, buyer, and shareholder.

In The News:

Cotton auction  The Hindu
Melbourne auction fever holds up despite lockdown  The Australian Financial Review

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