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Friday, February 22, 2008

Money can't buy you happiness, but you can Buy it Now on eBay

Part One of a series entitled, If I Were a Rich Man.

Like most grown ups, who came of age during the Alex P. Keaton, Gordon Gecko, and Reaganomics fueled capitalism era known as the 80's, I had a desire to be rich. Of course, I had no ambition to do anything to get rich other than scratch a ticket or make nice with a well-to-do old person and then just wait it out. Unfortunately, life is not like an 80's movie, which I feel is such a bummer. Can you imagine? One day, you’re a minor league pitcher in Jersey, playing for the Hackensack Bulls, and the next one you inherit $30 million dollars in which you have to spend every dime in 30 days to inherit $300 million. The things you could do in 30 days only to realize you have 10 times that amount waiting at the end of the month.

We've all played that "what if" game when we were younger. Hell, I do it on a regular basis when I walk around my home looking at what needs to be done, what I can afford to get done, and what I'd love to really do if money was no object. In grade school we would gather around a sheet of paper and play MASH to decide our financial and marital fates. Those of us with Rain Man like mentality could figure out how to render the most desirable outcome hoping to change our fates and not wind up living in a shack, married to the smelly kid, towing around 5 kids in a Brown Ford, and working as a garbage collector.

See, I misspent my youth, not on sports or honing my studies, but on scheming to make it rich. First I decided I was going to become a stock broker, buying and selling my well to financial freedom. During my college years I had various entrepreneurial endeavors going at once. Several times throughout the year, poster vendors would set up shop in the lobby of the dorms our outside of the Student Union hawking their wares. For $12 or $20 you could have a classic black and white poster of Jim Belushi wearing a college sweater or the ever popular brightly colored poster of your favorite alcoholic drinks and their ingredients. Of course if you were the more pretentious of college student you had the Van Gogh Starry Night poster or The Mosaic Poster of Bob Marley smoking a fat one. I, too, dropped about $25 on both the "Briefcase Full of Blues" and the famous Reservoir Dogs "walk" scene posters to adorn my walls all the while they developed blue adhesive putty stains that would decrease their resale value when I needed cash. I personally felt the posters were a little overpriced and saw the opportunity to sell movie posters at a cheaper price while netting me %100 profits. I combed the local video stores getting free movie posters and stockpiled them in my dorm room. With a third grade art degree and a computer account, I created a snazzy little ad to post all over campus. I made probably somewhere in the realm of $40 which pretty much covered beer and pizza for a couple of weeks.

Top 10 Most Cliché College Dorm Posters of All Time

Next, I answered some ad in the school newspaper that promised huge amounts of cash by just passing out fliers. I paid $20 for the packet that gave piss poor photocopies of scams and pyramid scheme fliers. All I had to do was pass them out affixed with my phone number and when someone called me; I sent them out the scam program and kept a percentage of the cost. Again, because of my student computer account, the only investment I had to make was the initial buy in of $20. I could use the computer labs to reproduce the fliers and just wait for the phone to ring. Unfortunately, I developed a sense of conscience and began reading the crap that was contained on the fliers. I knew the programs were worthless and targeted towards people who had an overwhelming desire to get rich quick, people like me. I ate the $20 and tossed the packet.

During the summer months while I toiled away in an amusement park for minimum wage, I orchestrated a tee shirt sale for my department that consisted of over 100 people. I paid one of the park caricature artists to draw an amusing scene that depicted the trials and tribulations of our jobs. I took it to a local print shop that handled silk screen printings for local sport teams and finagled a heck of a volume discount based on pre sale numbers. Then I figured out a cheap price for the shirts with just enough mark up to cover my expenses and netted my a few dollars for my trouble. I figured out that the first year I ended up selling about $600 worth of shirts and the second year sales jumped to an even grand. Still, I didn't see a large profit because I didn't want to cheat my friends and coworkers out of their money.

Finally, I gave up the schemes and settled on my collegiate career in Theater Arts, because quite frankly, I really did not have any marketable skills besides acting. I tend to think I was pretty good, too. I had it all planned out. I would finish up college, work the summer stockpiling money, and then make my way across this great nation of ours to Los Angeles where I would instantly be discovered and given my own sitcom and blockbuster movie deal with sequels to keep me busy into my 40's. What I realized was that I really didn't like the politics and backdoor dealings of Hollywood and I didn't want to starve for my art becoming a waiter to pay the bills on my less than one bedroom apartment over a biker bar, tucked ever so snuggly between a pawn shop and a tattoo parlor. So, I never left for L.A. Instead, I opted for staying here in good old Southwestern Pennsyltuckey and just became part of the working of all things a waiter. Actually, I started out as a bartender.

After college graduation I worked on an assembly line assembling rear projection screen televisions. You could say I worked in television, putting the mirrors on the casings. Then I had a slick idea, I would start flipping bottles of spirits like Tom Cruise in Cocktail. So, I left the assembly line and began working my way through bartending school while I tended to paint balls and golf balls at a nearby recreational park. During the day, I would learn about parfaits and high balls while at night I worked for minimum wage (a slight downgrade from the television assembly line) getting run over by brats in go karts. After completing my grueling two week course at bartending school, I flipped through the job leads, and set out to make my fortune schlepping drinks. I foolishly put in my two weeks notice at the golf course and concentrated on looking for that job that promised Cocktails and Dreams. I ended learning a very valuable lesson that summer. No one was willing to hire a bartender right off the street with no experience, no matter how much they were trained. I didn't even get to flip any bottles. That was a separate course that cost a few hundred dollars and I already dropped $500 on the bartending school.

Luckily, I had the kind of parents that let me live with them post college and pre life long career. I finally got a job working as a bartender in the banquet department of a hotel. We made more than minimum wage and tips were under the table. Soon, I moved out of my parents' place and into one of my own. While, I didn't live high on the hog, I always had money for food and rent. Eventually, I went from being a bartender to being a banquet captain, which allowed me the opportunity to work morning shifts and gave me more money. Through the good fortune of dating the right people, I was able to leave the hotel for greener pastures. In three years I had gone from having no income to making almost $25k a year. In all those years of scheming to get rich, I turned up nothing but nickels and dimes. Yet, by having patience and doing a little work, I went from having no job, to $7.50 an hour as a banquet captain to $12.00 an hour as a customer service representative. It didn't stop there, either. In another 5 years I managed to get promoted three times. I now have a house, two cars, and some of the basic luxuries of home. I got them all just by working. Of course, I now have a daughter and it throws a huge wrench into the works.

Oh yes, expenses will mount up and I've been back to my wily ways of not so much getting rich, but making extra cash to cover expenditures. I've done it all from trying to sell pithy t-shirts and buttons adorned with this blog's logo. I tried to get in on the Tickle Me Elmo craze ywo years ago by buying a couple of them, hoping to turn around and throw them on eBay when supplies ran low around Christmas. I ended up getting stuck with two Elmos for over a year. Everyone had the same idea and instead of there being no supply and a huge demand in retail outlets, there was a huge supply and little demand on eBay. I ended up selling them with some creative auctions that told the story from my wife's point of view. She was extremely agitated by the fact that I spent money on these things and couldn't sell them. The anecdotal listings struck a chord with some folks who were willing to bail out a disgruntled housewife, but not a stupid husband the year before. I had got the idea from another eBay ad about worthless Pokemon cards that netted a few hundred dollars based on the listing being written from the point of view of a frazzled mom in the grocery store with her kids.

Let's see, there was also the idea about selling "Get Rich Quick" and "Money Making Home Business" eBooks on eBay for a dollar a piece with the ability to reproduce at no cost. No, of course, I didn't buy them. A simple search on Google revealed a treasure trove of inexperienced webmasters that left their index directories wide open for me to pilfer the .pdfs from and post up for auction. Hell, I've even resorted to selling nothing on eBay. That's right, nothing. I did some research on Mystery Auctions and found that people were willing to spend a dollar or two on "digital envelopes." The digital envelopes "happen" to contain a word describing a dollar amount and that gets paid to the buyer through their PayPal account. Different monetary amounts are scattered throughout hundreds of these "envelopes" ranging from fifty cents to five dollars.
Everyone who bought an "envelope" stood to make at least 30% of their investment back while some actually made 500%. Now, this was all designed so that the amount in the envelopes was always less than the total cost for all available envelopes and the concept of the "mystery envelope auction" was more about giving and receiving positive feedback while offering the chance to make back five times what you spent. While somewhat scam worthy, I never stole money from anyone. I always clearly worded the auctions so that everyone understood the concept while not violating eBay policies. Over the last few months eBay has cracked down on these auctions and I reaaly don't want to risk losing my account over the $20 I would make per auction. During my heyday with it, I ran quite a few auctions and was able to raise $100 to buy my PS3. Again, I didn't buy it for full price, I used a mehtod from what's called an "Incentived Freebie Website" to get it for 1/4 the cost. I detailed all this in my first entry and as you can see I have listed a few along the side of my blog.

So, there it is. I've spent my life looking for an easy route to fame and fortune when the only real wealth has been derived from having a family and doing honest work. Who knows, in another 5 years I could be the CEO of a fortune 500 company.....or I'd be willing to sell you information on how to become one for little to no money on eBay. Check my feedback!

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