Archive for September, 2011

Very Minor Miracle

There are different kinds of miracles. There are the really big flashy miracles – these involve cures for diseases, or the parting of a sea. There are minor miracles, which apparently happened whenever I cleaned my bedroom when I was a teenager (according to my mother), and then there are the little, tiny run of the mill miracles that happen from day to day and are quickly forgotten in the shuffle of time. This story is about one of the last type.

My wife, The Megger, is 7 months pregnant. She tells me that among the pregnant set, people talk about “baby brain,” a condition that sometimes involves forgetfulness. For example, a pregnant person might not be able to remember where she put her keys, whether she ate breakfast, or the name of her 16-month old child. Luckily for my wife, she has had only a very limited experience with this type of fuzziness.

But, she ran into it the other day when she stopped after work to get gas. Her tank was almost empty (not entirely uncommon for her vehicle) so she pulled into the first available station, which happened to be self-serve. As a note, she does not usually use self-serve, perhaps because the smell of gas isn’t pleasant for someone in her state of pregnancy.

“I was running a bit late to pick up my son from daycare, so I was feeling rushed. I stood there watching the gauge on the gas pump with my mind racing in a bunch of different directions. When the tank was full, I put the nozzle back in place, screwed on the gas cap, shut the little door, and drove off. I hopped onto Route 2 and began to drive toward the daycare center. I might have been going a bit faster than normal because, again, I was late. I had gone a mile or two when it occurred to me that I had left my wallet on top of my car at the gas station (note, this is the Honda Element we call the Tangerine Toaster).

“Now I was going to be really late, but what could I do? I accelerated a bit, took the next exit and drove back to the gas station. I didn’t see the wallet on the road anywhere on my way back. When I got back to the station, there was a car in the spot where I had filled up, so I was walked over and tried to look under that car. The person pumping the gas saw this stressed out pregnant lady trying to bend over and look under his car, so he asked if he could help. I told him about the wallet, and soon both of us were scanning the parking lot, but there was no wallet to be found.

“Eventually, I walked in to ask at the register if anyone had turned in a wallet, but no dice. I walked back out into the parking lot and started to think about all of the cards I would need to cancel, and how I would need a new insurance card, and a new license. Not the type of running around I want to do in the last two months of this pregnancy. You could probably see the dark clouds forming above my head. Just then, another man approached me. ‘Excuse me, ma’am,’ he asked – I hate that I’m a ma’am now – ‘are you looking for a wallet?’ The skies above my head began to brighten, ‘Yes?’

“He pointed off to our left and asked, “‘Is that it on top of that Honda Element?’

“I looked over, and sure enough, there was my wallet, still resting on top of the Toaster. When I took it down I looked it over and there was no glue, no suction cups, nothing. That little leather wallet just held on to that roof through turns, stops, starts, and somewhat high speed. It saved me from hours of frustration and inconvenience.”

Sure, some people might call such a thing just an exercise in physics and friction. To my wife it was certainly a small miracle; something to talk about at the dinner table and smile about and then to forget. That is, until the story shows up in the newspaper.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 28 Sep 2011 No Comments

We Don’t Sell Crazy Here

For the past few years, I have been selling the occasional item on eBay. I’ve sold about 20 items in total, but I’m still not really comfortable with the entire process of being a seller. I’m always afraid that people will want to return what I sold, or think bad things about me because they are disappointed when what I sell actually gets to them (I apparently really care what anonymous internet people think). This fear has created a manic need to carefully package everything and describe every flaw and nick in what I’m selling, and as a result, I have managed to maintain a 100% positive feedback rating. But recently, I had a couple of experiences that confirmed my fears and caused me to take a step back from the whole selling process.

First, allow me to explain what I’m selling. Several years ago, I suffered from a bout of collection insanity and decided that I simply had to have as many Strat-O-Matic baseball card sets as possible. Strat-O-Matic baseball is a card and dice game that my brothers introduced to me many years ago. I stopped playing after high school and then picked it back up again about 7 years ago (Side note: I started again shortly after I was married. My wife hadn’t realized just how big of a nerd she had married, and had never even heard of Strat-O-Matic until then – a strategy she now refers to as “bait and switch”). Anyway, I decided that it was a good idea for me to start collecting older, out of print sets of the cards.

By the time I was done, I had every season since 1966, and a number of other special-release seasons. The price of the seasons ranged from about 20 dollars up into the hundreds of dollars range for some of the rarer seasons. This was money that I should have tossed into savings or spent on lavish gifts for my lovely bride – but once a person is caught up in the web of their own personal brand of insanity common sense is not the first consideration.

Once I had achieved ownership of these cards, they naturally sat, ignored, in my basement. Like any manic collector, the excitement for me was in the acquisition, not in the ownership. Instead of spending the money on a memorable and lavish vacation, I had 5 bins of dice baseball cards aging in my basement. Eventually, I came to my senses and decided to pull the cards out of my basement and sell them on the eBay. Of course, by the time I came to this decision, the economy had collapsed and the prices of these sets had fallen dramatically. Buy high, sell low. Good times.

My first 20 or so selling experiences were quite good. I generally got less for the cards than I would have wanted, but at least I got good feedback. For example:

“By far the best packaging ever, and prompt delivery! I highly recommend him!”

“A+++++ Items better than described.”

I mean, feedback like that just makes a person’s heart glow. Things were going smoothly as more and more cards made their way from my basement into the postal system. Then, earlier this year, I put a 1971 set of cards up for sale and included the following disclaimer:

“…a few cards are darker than most. These cards are generally fine, and can certainly be used, it just appears that the ink may have smudged a bit and the backgrounds just aren’t as white as the other cards.”

I then went on to specify which cards (not a large number compared to the overall set) had this problem. The cards sold for $89.00, which again was less than I had hoped, but I was happy to get them out of the basement. After a few days, I got this message from the buyer:

“…i just received the 71 set and i have a few issues with it. The “ink smudges” tht you are talking about are not ink smudges but just dirty and soiled cards from being handle a lot by someone with dirty hands. i’ll leave it up to you to decide how much off you’ll give me for the cards because they were definitely soiled and dirty not ink smudges at all.” (sic)

I was horrified. The darker cards hadn’t looked dirty to me, but this person seemed fairly assertive about the problem, so I believed him. I wanted to be fair, so I asked him how much he wanted back and he said $40. That seemed excessive (almost half of the purchase price), but I figured it was worth it to maintain my 100% positive rating, and I didn’t want to argue. I sent him the 40 bucks and he posted the following positive feedback:

“fair and honest ebayer. would buy from him again.”

I would have left him negative feedback, but eBay no longer allows sellers to leave negative feedback – you can leave positive feedback or no feedback at all. So, I left no feedback.

By the time this episode had ended, I already had another set out for sale. I decided that this would be the last set I would sell for a while, both due to the stress of the previous transaction and because my wife and I were trying to get the house ready to sell. This time the cards were from 1970. I went overboard in specifying every little thing that was wrong with the cards, in an attempt to avoid any problems, and was happy to see that a different user purchased these cards for $73 – until I looked at the shipping address.

The previous buyer had apparently created a new account and used that to buy my latest set. My stomach twisted into knots because I just knew there would be issues, but I carefully packed the cards and shipped them off. Sure enough, a few days later I got an email where the buyer asserted that some of the cards looked like reprints. I responded that as far as I knew they were genuine (and I still believe they are), and the buyer replied with:

“i figure down the road if ever i want to sell this set, i’ll be getting huge amounts of flake from prospective buyers whose attitude is gonna be “well we dont care where u got this from” regarding the genuineness of the cards. a 30 dollar refund would defray the cost of me “eating” those cards. let me know” (sic)

Ah yes. It worked for him once, why not try it again? I replied:

“Yeah, I don’t want to play the money-back game with you again. I posted the cards in good faith and to my knowledge they are legitimate. If you want to send all of the cards back, I will gladly provide a full refund.”

He didn’t want to do that – clearly he wanted to keep the cards but get some cash back on the deal. Since this was my last sale, I didn’t really care about my seller rating, so I stood firm – polite, but firm. When I didn’t give him what he wanted, he began to lash out, eventually sending me the below:

“…you think just because u came into these cards and are selling them that they are legit? Either you’re very naive or a good bull****er. if i may make an analogy. if you met a girl at a bar and she told you she was 18 then u had sex with her only to find out she was sixteen, guess what (in a rape case, ignorance of age is not a valid alibi) you will still go to jail.”

Um, what? At this point, I was fairly certain that this person was unhinged, and that any further communication from me would serve only to escalate the situation. I fully expected to see the cards arrive at my door before the money-back deadline, but they didn’t. Then, I fully expected to see negative feedback on my eBay account, but for a long time there was no feedback at all. Then, after about a month, he actually left me positive feedback with the following message:

“THANKS”

You, sir, are quite welcome, but please don’t ever shop here again.

The Day to Day Grind Tim 02 Sep 2011 No Comments