Archive for November, 2008

Save Money on Food

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

This economy stinks. It's a good idea to cut down on anything you can, and make a few sacrifices. Even if you save the amount of money that your cable/internet bill costs in a month, hey that's something!

One thing to note is that I still want quality food even though I also want savings. Pre-packaged food, stuff made in factories, and microwave meals may be cheap. But you'll be sacrificing your health with all those chemicals and foods lacking nutrition. I've seen a few TV shows where people talk about how they packed on so much weight, and very often, it's because they were low on money and starting buying really cheap food and McDonalds.

It's not worth sacrificing your health. You'll pay for it in energy and mood, and you'll pay for it at the doctor's office or hospital. So be good to yourself!

Here are some of my money-saving ideas. I welcome yours in the comments section!

1) Coffee! Lots of us get coffee out on the road, and overpay for it. Every time I get a decaf soy cinnamon dolce at Starbucks, it runs me almost $5. My local health food store has DELICIOUS decaf french vanilla coffee for $7.99/lb, ground or beans. I found CoffeeMate's new cinnamon bun flavour. And hey, it's a good copy. Each cup probably costs me pennies. If you can cut say 3 Starbucks drinks out per week, you will save around $15 per week.

Another coffee idea is to look for the places that give deals… free coffee if you come in with their mug. Discounts if you come in with any mug. Brueggers Bagels has an offer right now. Pay $109-149 (depending on location) for a special mug and card, and get free unlimited coffee in it (they charge extra for flavoured syrups). So if you get a cup of coffee every workday, and you can stop here and use this mug, each cup of coffee may have cost you around 50 cents. Probably still cheaper to make your own and put it in your own damn mug, but if you like the "getting coffee outside my house" feeling, this should do it on a good budget.  

2) Meat on sale. My local supermarkets tend to put their meat on sale when it's closer to its "use by" date. The meat's still good. And it was packaged by the butcher, so hopefully it's better than some of the weird things I've seen factories do with packaged meats. I've seen good cuts of meat get sold for under $3/pound. You have to use it soon, but these are great places to save sometimes half or more off the regular price. Maybe you could save $10 per week.

3) Definitely cook more often. When I think about what a plate of pasta costs in a restaurant, I tend to lose my mind. :) I'm not even that fond of buying sauce in a jar as I think I can make something better and healthier. A pound of pasta is what, 89 cents? A dollar? I like spelt pasta as it's healthier and tastes great. That's $2.70 per box, so it does cost a bit more. Then what can you do? Make easy sauces with tomato or olive oil bases. Get a giant can of diced tomatoes. Get some fresh or frozen veg. Get some fresh garlic and onions. You can even get a jarred alfredo sauce if you want to add a little cheesiness. Or don't since that's just calories.

Pasta and sauce for your whole family? Maybe $10 or so! And healthy and homemade and EASY. You stick all the sauce things in a giant pan, covered, to sweat it out together. Fresh mushrooms can be great in there. Spinach. Maybe you got some chicken breasts on sale, and can cut in a few breasts for the family to share. Healthy, tasty, easy. Dinner out for 4 people after tax and tip? Easily $30 if not way more. Save $15-20 PER MEAL.

4) Freeze! I like to make a giant thing of pasta sauce, break it into smaller containers, freeze some and fridge some. Pasta may not freeze so well, but many things do. Look for books on freezer cooking as those will have recipes and the how-tos for freezing and unfreezing.

5) Kids don't have to eat crap. When I came home from high school, every day, I boiled water. Put in pasta. Threw Velveeta on it. Fried up some ground beef. Made my own beefy mac and cheese. No microwaves. Is that the healthiest meal known to man, no. But your kids don't HAVE to microwave everything. Not everything has to come from a factory. Not everything has to come from a drive through window. They CAN learn to cook. They can learn to cook things that have SOME nutritional value.

Those are some money-saving tips on food while not sacrificing your health. I hope to have more entries with money-saving tips in other life areas. :)


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Recipe for Awesome Turkey Salad!

Friday, November 28th, 2008

I made this last weekend, and I hope you guys will like it!

Take your turkey breast meat. Tear it nice and small, or get it in the food processor on low so it's not so damn dry and chunky.

Get that in a bowl. Add mayo until it's paste-y, and would stay on a sandwich all huddled together. Dry turkey? More mayo. :)

Now how this is spiced is the key! Here is what I added to mine:

  • Yellow curry powder. Zing!
  • Paprika
  • Lime pepper. It's pepper with some lime crystals. Zing!
  • Chipotle sauce. The best one is the B├║falo brand, which I'm lucky enough to have in my local supermarket here in Tucson, AZ. It's just chipotle sauce, nothing else in there. So it's smoky and a bit spicy, but not painful. Don't add too much. The dominant flavour will be the curry.

Best to let this sit overnight in the fridge, even though it's good right away. But the flavours will really combine over night, and it's a nice, moist turkey salad with an international zing!


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eBay Education Materials

Thursday, November 27th, 2008

I am still an eBay Education Specialist, and I got this email on 17 Nov 08:

Hello Instructors, We are excited to announce that the updated Basics of
Selling version 6 materials will be available in the next 6-8 weeks! As the
completion date gets closer, you will receive an e-mail that will provide you
with all of the details.

That broke my heart.

eBay has redeveloped materials NOW but we won't have them for 6-8 weeks. By then, there will be other things going on. New changes. Do any of us think that eBay won't announce more changes, new things they're testing, or new elements in Best Match in January or February?

So just as I'm getting these materials, chances are that they will be outdated. That breaks my heart for Education Specialists trying to teach classes. And it breaks my heart for people who want to learn eBay, but can't seem to get current info at the right time.

That's why we built http://community.rocketplace.com. Shhh, it's pre-launch, but you can join now. :) This will help people keep up with eBay changes. That's our goal.


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Get $200 Off Our Services!

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

With Microsoft offering the Live Cash Back promo, we are putting our design and consulting package as well as our consulting-only package on eBay. Get 25% off by walking through some steps. Also have a PayPal coupon from eBay? You can use that to to save even more!

Step 1: Go to www.live.com and search for "Business Strategy." Your search results might look like this:

Cashback1
See that first sponsored search results that says that you can buy Strategy on eBay and get 25% off? Click that.

You'll then get over 15,000 eBay items in search results for "strategy." Find ours towards the top because we listed it with Featured Plus. That should put it among the handful of items at the top.

Not there? Search for more words in the title, like "business selling strategy" without the quotes. Just those three words in an eBay search. You should then get all of our eBay items.

Find it! Buy it! Pay with PayPal! Get $200 back from Microsoft later on through the Cash Back programme.


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Will Your eBay Design Stop Working in 2009?

Wednesday, November 26th, 2008

Over the last 6 months, we've been watching something strange absolutely not unfolding. :)

Well first, we saw one "design" company use a computerised system to basically auto-generate cookie-cutter, just about the same for everybody eBay listing templates. You have to pay for the design, which seems weird to me since they all look the same to me, and then you have to pay monthly so that your listings continue to render with what they sold you. Quite the racket. :)

Then, we saw lots of companies start doing the same thing. We saw listings on websites where people wanted to find Asian programmers to build them a computerised system like the other company has. We even saw some of these "programmer wanted" listing coming from the STAFF of the other design company. I can only assume people don't like working there, and would like to do this on their own. :)

Then, eBay talked to us about their Active Content Strategy. The idea there is that there is some coding people are putting into listings that is or can be malicious. eBay's plan is to basically start blocking certain types of coding and scripting so that nothing malicious can go on the site.

That means automatically-generated templates wouldn't really work any more. If eBay is blocking the code, then you just can't do it. You could do it as some sort of Flash thing, but then none of your information would show up in title and description searches.

And this means that everything all these companies are auto-generating will stop working. You will have to replace those templates with regular old not-generated-on-the-fly templates. All of your items. That's a lot of work. And this company will probably charge you for the pleasure of fixing a mess we knew to not even get into. Hey, we could have built a system like that, but I don't have the cojones to sell you on something I know is going to be blocked in a few months.

eBay Stores are changing too. I am under the impression that these heavily scripted and so-called Advanced eBay Stores will also be killed. More on that when I know more, which should be in a few weeks.

But that means that you paid a company probably over $1000 for something that's just going to stop working. You'll have to pay them again to get something that's compliant as I doubt they'll give it to all their customers for free.

So may I suggest hiring us. :) We don't put out clients into trouble like that. We know what's coming. We are always compliant. Because we go further than just design, we have an incredible track record. No other company can show the results we get with eBay sellers. Plus we give $500 off to anybody dumping another company's paid design to get one from us. So it's win-win-win. :)


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Get the Message to eBay

Tuesday, November 25th, 2008

My last few posts have been about how I think Best Match is really hurting good sellers. eBay claims Best Match works, but compared to what? We have NO idea if some other way might work better because they're not testing another way as far as I know. So compared to nothing else, it's a success. :)

eBay also thinks Best Match is working because shoppers don't re-sort search results very often. If eBay is going to just go by numbers, we have to give them numbers. In all of my shopping on eBay lately, I have re-sorted search results by Price + shipping: lowest first. That undoes Best Match, and let's me start seeng who has what for what price.

Re-sort your search results. If you're reading this, you probably don't just sell on eBay. You probably buy on eBay. Or you shop. Or you shop just to see what competitors are doing. Re-sort your results. And then buy something. :) Unless you love Best Match and want to show eBay that it works and leads to sales!


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Is Best Match a Non-Performing Seller?

Monday, November 24th, 2008

Let's start with eBay's standards for being a great seller. 98% positive feedback. No DSR under 4.6. And to turn 4.6 into a percentage (out of 100%), it becomes 92%. Any one rating under a 30-day average of 4.6, you are heading for being disadvantaged for being a bad seller. At eBay, a test score under 92 starts to be a failing grade.

Best Match. At eBay's webinar 2 weeks ago, I asked what percentage of shoppers re-sort their search results so that they are NOT using Best Match. I was told that I can publicly say that "most" shoppers use Best Match. OK, I can do that. The exact percentage of shopper who re-sort search results is confidential, and I will publicly say most shoppers are staying with Best Match and not re-sorting. Because of that, you have to slant your eBay strategy for Best Match because that is by far the dominant behaviour of shoppers.

But "most" could be anything over 50%. It could be 95%. Who can say without eBay being open about the exact figure.

How many people have to stay with Best Match for it to be considered "performing"? 98% like feedback? 92% like the DSR threshhold? Even four out of five dentists is 80%, and Trident has been using that as a major selling point for what feels like decades. If 1 out of 5 shoppers re-sorted to get away from Best Match, would we still say it's working? 1 out of 7 shoppers? 1 out of 10 shoppers?

Jeez, we've all been so trained to see anything but near perfection in an eBay SELLER as a fatal flaw. When's the last time you bought from someone with feedback as "awful" as 95% positive? How about DSRs around 4.4 or 4.5? We've been taught that if your DSRs are there, you are a potential loser who maybe shouldn't be allowed to sell on eBay. Then I'd like to hold eBay features up to the same standards for failure and performance.

If 1 out of 7 people shopping on eBay are looking for a different experience that what eBay serves them by default, then is what they're being served working? If 1 out of 7 of your buyers wanted something different than the experience you're giving them, would you feel that that were enough people that you'd have to take a look at what you're doing and possibly change? If 1 out of 7 people told you the doctor you go to is bad at what he does, would that be enough to make you think there are a lot of people thinking your doctor stinks?

If eBay is calling Best Match a success now, I'd like to know when they call it a failure… especially when it doesn't seem to be tested against anything else. So hey, compared to pretty much nothing else, Best Match is a success. Well, I think if it's not what shoppers want, and sales are down and/or people are re-sorting to have another experience, then it's not working. Something COULD work better. Are we testing that something? Is there a department at eBay in charge of finding what's better than Best Match? Can we get Disruptive Innovation involved? :)

I am one of the last people I know still passionate about the eBay platform and where eBay could be going, but I am so concerned. I hope that someone at eBay will think about this, and if anything is not really working, please change it. Please be open to testing other ideas.


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eBay’s Best Match

Monday, November 24th, 2008

eBay's Best Match is designed to show eBay shoppers the best items from the best people. It hasn't changed my shopping habits on eBay. It seems to mostly make things really hard for good sellers who are trying to do the right thing. I'm hearing reports that growth on eBay is slower than that of other shopping sites. So is Best Match working? eBay will say of course it is, but to what are they comparing it? :)

Best Match uses a secret algorithm that seems to change from time to time. Your item is placed in search results based on things like (in no particular order):

  • Your DSRs.
  • Whether you've been suspended lately.
  • How many disputes you have.
  • If you're using a 30-day fixed price format with multiple quantity.
  • If you're using free shipping.
  • Number of watchers.
  • If your multiple quantity listing has sold any quantity recently. How recent? Can't say as it's a moving window of an unknown number of days.
  • Pricing of the item.
  • Geographic location (ie: searches on eBay Canada are supposed to feature Canadian sellers since Canadians buying from Canadians can often be faster and easier)
  • Number of pictures (really?)

And those are just the ones we KNOW about. And those are just the ones that are true as I'm writing this. Who can say what'll be true in weeks or months.

But one thing we've noticed based on calls with clients is that you could have all but one of those PERFECT, and the one you DON'T have perfect will dump you on page 3 of search results. Buh-bye. You could have great DSRs, no disputes, not have been suspended, listing FP30 with free shipping, have watchers, and have a good price. You could be the BEST seller eBay has of this type of item. And you could be buried in search results because you didn't list a multiple quantity in your FP30 listing.

The result of Best Match will be to limit what shoppers can get to. If good sellers are being hidden in search, and seeing sales drop because of lack of visibility, it's hard to get out of that downward spiral. That seller may have to stop selling on eBay, and go where the sales can be made. This will leave eBay with fewer sellers and fewer items. Newer sellers will have no CLUE what's going on, and won't be able to even get out of the eBay gate without working with a company like us. Good for us! But scary for those who want to be eBay sellers.

I have an idea on how to send that message to eBay. Read tomorrow. :)


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The Automobile Industry

Saturday, November 22nd, 2008

I've been thinking about the automobile industry, especially since my father-in-law visited from Ireland a few weeks ago. I was telling him how AWESOME it was that my 2007 Toyota 4Runner SR5 (V6) gets 24 miles to the gallon, even around town. He looked at me like I had 6 heads. Evidently, in Ireland, few cars get UNDER 40 mpg. Here in the US? Nearly zero roadworthy vehicles get 40 mpg or over.

And before that, I had watched "Who Killed The Electric Car," which will make a tree-hugger want to burn a Ford plant down.

Guess what.

  • If I resist innovation,
  • If I try to stay the same,
  • If I try to force my clients to just keep buying the same thing,
  • If I resist my clients' desires to expand,
  • If my greatest innovation over the last 10 years seems to be that my car plays MP3 CDs,
  • If I squish new technologies,

I should NOT be surprised when my business starts failing. Stagnation and refusal to innovate or evolve basically NEVER works.

Even Coca-Cola doesn't rest on their popularity and sales. They are always coming out with new drinks they hope you will drink. Wendy's comes out with new things you could be eating. Your cable company has products and services they didn't have 2 years ago.

So what to do with the auto industry? I like what Seth Godin said in his blog post. Basically, I'm not for spending that money bailing out private companies who made bad business decisions and didn't innovate. Since the 1970s, when oil prices became the type of thing everyday Americans thought about, we have needed better cars… more efficient, alternative fuel sources, smaller and lighter cars that are very safe. What did we get? Smaller cars for a few minutes, but not known for their safety. Then SUVs and bigger and bigger things… like pick from three models of Hummer for your 3-mile trip to Walgreens.

Some people need an SUV or pickup truck for work or moving things around. I'm not going to take that away from you. But I think families should have a second car that is aimed at fuel efficiency. So instead of going out to dinner in your Ford F350, surely there is something out there that'll get you to and from dinner requiring less gas and causing less pollution. The person who drives to work or the train station, and the car stays there all day? That could be a Toyota Yaris. It could be something small with good gas mileage. It could be a bicycle. :)

I guess I feel Darwinian about the auto makers. They have been doing the wrong thing for decades. Just watch "Who Killed The Electric Car," and you will not want a bailout for them. I'm not for the jobs that will be lost, but I believe that forward-thinking companies will create new jobs in 2009. No matter which candidate you wanted to win, change has to come next year. New jobs have to be created.


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eBay Traffic Drop – Why?

Friday, November 21st, 2008

AuctionBytes posted something today about eBay's traffic dropping this year.

http://blog.auctionbytes.com/cgi-bin/blog/blog.pl?/pl/2008/11/1227276923.html

The first couple of people who commented offered one possibility: sellers aren't searching the site as much as they used to, so that traffic has decreased. The economy making people do less shopping is another good reason.

I'd like to offer some of my ideas on why eBay may see fewer page views.

  • What if Best Match is working? If eBay shoppers are viewing fewer items before deciding to bid or buy, then that would lead to fewer page views.
  • More API-based shopping tools. From eBay desktop to shopping with your mobile phone, I am wondering if those new technologies are decreasing page views. You CAN shop eBay without hitting much of the site. Do the page views include WAP browsing? I don't know! I'd imagine they don't include usage of tools like eBay Desktop or nabit.
  • More third-party tools being used for eBay research. You used to see how items did by searching on the site. Now, you use Terapeak, HammerTap, or Vendio Research for your info.
  • eBay advertising is down from previous years. I remember years when you could barely watch a few hours of TV without seeing some eBay ads. Right now, I can't watch 15 minutes of TV without 3 Wal-Mart ads. So maybe this year, with Wal-Mart ads up, and people concerned about the economy, people are not thinking eBay as much as we'd like them to think about it!
  • Many sellers I know are also eBay buyers. If the sellers are frustrated with eBay and leaving, or got suspended, then they are unlikely to also be shopping and buying.
  • As my commenters below reminded me, eBay also dropped out of a lot of Google search results. You used to get HEAPS of eBay choices when doing searches. Now, eBay is not getting the same placement in Google. I can only guess that Google tweaked their Best Match, and eBay got pushed to page 3. :)

Lower page views in a vacuum don't sound THAT awful, especially when eBay is trying to find ways to make shopping faster and easier. The sales figures and the problems sellers are facing… those concern me more!


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