Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman

Michael can make around $1,000 a week trawling through used book and thrift stores and library sales with his trusty Dell PDA. He scans the barcode, looks up the price on Amazon, and if he sees that he can sell it online for more than he can buy it in the store, he purchases it. It’s an intense, lonely grind, and it makes him feel a little bit sleazy.

Confessions of a Used-Book Salesman [Slate]


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  1. GMFish says:

    makes him feel a little bit sleazy

    When did we stop being a capitalist country? Buying low and selling high is about as American as you can get.

    The guy is buying used books from businesses that are in the used book business, at prices they themselves have set. So they have no basis to complain.

    He’s reselling those books to people at prices they are willing to pay.

    What is there to feel sleazy about?

    • nova3930 says:

      Exactly, he’s making his money by filling a niche that they original sellers could but won’t.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Library sales are usually socialistic, pricing all books the same in the interest of community and culture. In fact capitalism exists nowhere, and most retailers will refuse sales to dealers.

      • GMFish says:

        Library sales are usually socialistic, pricing all books the same in the interest of community and culture.

        Wow, combine that with a unicorn, a rainbow, and five cents and you’ll be able to buy a nickel. If anyone doesn’t want anyone to profit off of what they are selling. Don’t sell it.

        In fact capitalism exists nowhere…

        Well, the story contradicts your assertion. I could probably think of a few more examples.

        most retailers will refuse sales to dealers

        It sounds to me like those retailers don’t understand how to properly set their prices.

        They also don’t understand how business works. If they sell all their books, at the prices they set, to consumers, or they sell all their books, at the prices they set, to dealers… they have earned the exact same amount of money. These book sellers are idiots.

        • DanRydell says:

          You’re the idiot if you can’t figure out why a book dealer would benefit more from selling the books to someone other than another dealer. You’re the idiot if you think that the price of the book is all the seller gets out of the transaction.

        • evnmorlo says:

          I must have missed Adam Smith chapter on how capitalism begins with donated products.

          I will agree that greed is how things work, and that there is nothing to be done when technology allows it full leverage except to end library book sales as they currently operate.

      • A.Mercer says:

        There are tons of people who do this exact same thing with all kinds of collectables. Nothing sleazy about it at all. All that is happening is this guy is doing some homework the original sellers did not bother to do.

        It would be sleazy if he was lying to them to get them to sell the books at a lower price. A great example of this is Johnny Depp’s character in The Ninth Gate where he told a family their collection was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to get them to drop their guard and allow him to cherry pick the collection’s best pieces for just a few thousand. In reality, the bulk of the books were worthless and the few that he walked out with were the only ones worth anything. That would be an example of a sleezy guy buying books to resale at a profit.

      • sonneillon says:

        What are you talking about? Most retailers will sell to anyone who walks in the door with money. A dealer is pretty stupid to pay a %25-%40 markup on items when the can order from a supplier at a significant discount.

        • evnmorlo says:

          Libraries are not selling at MSRP, but at a huge “sale price” or “loss leader” when you consider the labor being put in could be used to replace a paid clerk. Every retail establishment will at least try to prevent resellers from buying out its sale items.

          • Back to waiting, but I did get a cute dragon ear cuff says:

            No, Every retailer (particularly in the used businesses) will gladly sell what they have in stock for the regular retail price. If it is a loss leader, they put limits on quantities.

            I sell used office furniture. If another dealer comes in and wants to buy all the Herman Miller Aeron chairs that I have in stock for what I am asking for from a retail customer, great, back the truck up, I will help you load. Hopefully he will make money on them and want to buy more from me. I do not begrudge him at all that he can (hopefully) sell them for more than I can. Hey, he did the leg work in finding a lazy buyer who did not do the leg work to find us, so he should profit from his labors.

            • MrEvil says:

              I agree with you. The guy buying all those chairs may be using a marketplace you’ve tried and you yourself felt it wasn’t worth the headaches or the extra labor. But the guy buying those chairs to resell thinks it is.

            • RvLeshrac says:

              Which is why retail store ads never have small print on many items, especially electronics and PC components, saying “NO DEALER PURCHASES,” right?

          • sonneillon says:

            No, sale items are put on sale to bring people in or get rid of old merch. If a company wants to buy a bunch of things that the retailer couldn’t sell I have never in a year of retail work and 3 years of whole sale work scene a retailer ever care that a reseller was in the store. In fact I have personally sold some to someone who told me he was going to resell them. “Can I preorder a playstation 2, I plan on selling it on ebay for 800 bucks?” “One pre order per customer it should arrive within 3 weeks”

            Libraries sell things to clear their shelves and generally because they are city funded they do not care about resellers and the like, and really have you ever seen a library (or retailer) asking about a persons tax ID or their occupation? but used books don’t sell for much anyways. Generally it cost me more to have the book shipped to me than the book is actually worth.

      • Mr_Human says:

        Huh? You expect libraries to determine the sale value of each freaking book? Resources? It’s a matter of efficiency. New releases by publishers themselves are priced in the same area also. “Capitalism exists nowhere.” Please. Dumbest post of the month by someone with an axe to grind.

        • evnmorlo says:

          If one guy is able to efficiently price all their books within a few hours, obviously the library has the resources.

          • bee8boo8bop8 says:

            Scanners usually focus on a niche area of books, and do not price the entire inventory.

            I volunteer for our local Friends of the Library. We have tried scanning and online selling in the past. A couple reasons we still don’t:

            1. Our workforce is all volunteer and drifts in and out, sorting books when they have free time. It would be very hard to train everyone to use the equipment and ensure every book gets scanned. And it would be risky to leave the equipment out in an unlocked room for everyone to use.

            2. We have no storage space, so we can’t carry inventory.

            3. The odd valuable book we find, we pull and do Ebay or put on Amazon, but it’s only the most valuable. It’s not worth it otherwise for us. Some bigger libraries do more online selling.

            It’s not worth our while, and it’s not worthwhile for a lot of small libraries. Not everyone has the resources to run that kind of operation.

        • delicatedisarray says:

          Ding, ding, ding!

          I work in a large library (we have more than 4 million books in our system). We are asked everyday if we hold book sales, we do not (which saddens many of us). We do not have the time, man power, or ability to pay the workers to host sells. It really does all come down to efficiency.

    • longdvsn says:

      I agree…the salesman should be proud of his business. Everyone Benefits:
      -The used-book store benefits (getting the price they’re asking)
      -end-user customers benefit by not having to drive around to a bunch of stores just to see if they’re selling the book you want for less. And a slight markup for the convenience should be expected.
      -the salesman benefits by reaping a small profit on every book (but also takes a risk that the book may not sell)

      He’s not going around buying up all of a limited supply of a product to sell at a ridiculous price or otherwise trying to force people to buy through him (ie, ticketmaster, people who buy an entire store’s sale inventory the moment the sale begins then resell on ebay, etc.). These are used books that might have been on the shelf for days/months/longer before he got there.

      it’s capitalism at it’s most ideal…nobody is getting screwed over and all benefit from the free market.

    • Clyde Barrow says:

      I don’t know that answer either. What this guy is doing is what made this country in the first place; innovative and creative thinking to make a living. I think a lot of people have forgotten this because life is too easy these days.

    • Griking says:

      Personally I always look down on people that exploit thrift stores as a source for their resale operations as scumbags. People generally donate to thrift stores to help the less fortunate; those who can’t afford to purchase their clothes, housewares or books new. Dealers that raid these stores for their own profit cause two things to happen;

      1) They prevent these items from getting into the hands of the less fortunate; the people that most donors assumed would end up with them.
      2) Once these stores catch on (which they always do) they generally always raise their prices to the dealer level which defeats the purpose. It’s common now to see an eBay print out on items in the display cases in my local thrift stores to show me what the item sells for to let us know what a savings we’re getting. Of course these items are now prices 5x what they used to sell for in these thrift stores.

      • erinpac says:

        From thrift stores?
        The thrift stores near me all pay you for your items and then charge a % more for them – and they really do little for the disadvantaged. They’re like perma-garage-sales.

        Now, Goodwill is different. Of course, they mostly help by donating out of profit – not by selling to the poor/homeless. So, trolling there isn’t really hurting the poor either – it’s making Goodwill money, which makes them donations.

        If you want your goods to be charity, just give them to charity – not thrift stores.

    • kujospam says:

      I thought being American was about doing hard work for good money. I guess I was wrong.

  2. RandomHookup says:

    The ability to look up ISBNs on Amazon is the huge game changer. Trying to guess if a book is valuable by looking at it is absolutely a waste of time.

  3. dreamfish says:

    Is it really so sleazy? The key point seems to be that technology has made it possible for him to instantly assess the re-sale market for a particular book. It may not be cheating the book store unless you think the store may get a reputation for thinking less of casual book buyers, who might lose out if this is widespread (though I’d want to see evidence of that)

    • Nigerian prince looking for business partner says:

      I think it’s only sleazy if the library sales have specific policies against selling to dealers.

  4. LightningUsagi says:

    My mom has been doing this for years minus the PDA. I used to get calls all day long from her to look up stuff on Amazon. She’s pretty much got it down to an art now, and I rarely get ‘look up this ISBN’ calls anymore.

    • goodfellow_puck says:

      Yep. My little sister did this using bulk ebay sales and reselling them on (before it was part of ebay). She bought and sold mostly expensive textbooks that kids were trying to get rid of at the end of a semester. She did it…while in high school.

  5. DaveBoy says:

    Nothing sleazy about this. Just a hard working business man

    • bwcbwc says:

      Well the mildly sleazy part of this is taking advantage of the sellers’ ignorance, but that’s as American as capitalism anyway.

      • Azzizzi says:

        The seller may actually know what he’s doing, too. His business model might be based on moving his inventory faster than he would if he sold it for what it was worth on the Internet.

        The guy in the article said pretty much the same thing. For all he knows, when he buys a book, then sells it online (sometimes for less than a dollar profit), he might even be selling it back to someone who could be putting it in a book store.

  6. Miss Dev (The Beer Sherpa) says:

    This is no more sleazy than going to a garage sale, looking up a particular item on eBay, and buying it with the intention of re-selling it. If the person running the garage sale (or store in this case) wanted to make more money, they would have done the research themselves.

    Smart does not equal sleazy.

    • Spaceman Bill Leah says:

      I had two people come to my recent yard sale doing this. One for books, one for CDs. The CD lady was awesome, she put everything back neatly, the way we had it arranged by genre, and came back the next day and spent $150 on my husbands ridiculous CD collection. The book guy was an a-hole. Left the books stacked in piles randomly around, not back on the shelves where we had them arranged by genre and author AND he didn’t buy anything. He can go DIAF.

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      this is true. i’m with a charity that does a fundraiser yard sale twice a year with donated items. we take the time to look things up and last spring. most of the hardbacks were $1 each but the limited edition book compilation of picasso prints went for $35. to a book dealer who bought dozen other books and resold the picasso book for $45. he was back this fall so obviously he wasn’t upset that we knew the value of the merchandise

  7. jason in boston says:

    Michael is a great businessman. The grind must suck, but good for him.

  8. cardigan says:

    I don’t see how this is at all sleazy. Art is a commodity, just like food or gas. For someone to turn a profit buying and selling art … well, that’s capitalism!

  9. u1itn0w2day says:

    I don’t know are we supposed to look at this like ticket scalping. If these people legally bought low and sold high the problem is…

    If they go into a store a wipeout their entire inventory of particular books perhaps that might be somekind of hoarding or market manipulation by regulating supply? Then gouging the paying customer. But no one instructed the end customer to buy a voluntary item like a book.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Ticket scalping is more associated with buying up large amounts of tickets solely for the purposes of reselling. By buying up large amounts, then opening a secondary market, the ticket scalpers create a monopoly once the primary, authorized market has sold out.

      There is a legitimate secondary market that has, IMO, somewhat cut the power of the ticket scalpers. StubHub, for instance, is a legitimate secondary market – more often it’s individual sellers or a smaller market of sellers. Some sports leagues, like the NHL, have league-sanctioned secondary markets for season ticket holders who have to sell some of their tickets.

  10. pecan 3.14159265 says:

    I can see how the guy might feel sleazy about it, but he buys the book at the price it’s being offered – unless he’s stealing them, I don’t see how he should feel sleazy. I have done something similar – when I’m looking on Craigslist, and someone is adamant about selling two end tables and a coffee table, but I only want the coffee table, I weigh the risk and reward of buying the entire set and then selling the pieces I don’t want, and whether I could make a profit.

    Library book sales are designed to make money for the library. I have no problem going to a library and buying books, even if I know I’ll sell them later (I do read them though). Lord knows library systems need the money – they’re often the least funded programs in county or city government, and one of the first programs whose budgets are cut when times get tough. When I’m done with the books, I can donate them back to the library (for another sale) or I can sell them myself through Amazon.

    • evnmorlo says:

      Sounds like you sell what you can and donate the trash…and feel good about yourself

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        I have no idea what you mean by that. I donate books because I don’t have enough room to keep all the books I read. They’re all good books. I only buy what I’m interested in reading. Sometimes there are books I buy to keep because I like building collections of my favorite authors (some 50s and 60s sci-fi authors had variant covers of their books, for instance). But sometimes the books I buy have to be donated or sold because I don’t have room to keep them all.

      • bee8boo8bop8 says:

        You’re not making the distinction between “trash” and “low resale value.” A lot of pop fiction and non fiction, and pretty much anything on the bestseller list, has negligible resale value after a few years. But there are still tons of people who want to read those books–often books with low resale value are among the first too go at a booksale, because they are popular titles with a ton of copies in print that a ton of people want to read. It’s not worth my while to resell, say, Shanghai Girls, by Lisa See, but there are tons of people who still want the book and will be happy to get their hands on a copy.

        I’ve tried donating higher value books to the library and often, on the last day of the sale, when everything is free, I cart them back home. Their value comes from them being so niche, and noone else wants them locally.

    • GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

      As a collector of Zippos/Razors/other things, I can see how he might feel sleazy, but you are correct when you say he buys the book for the price being offered. Many times on the sites I frequent for my hobbies, the question comes up on “do you educate or not” when it comes to stuff you find.

      My personal feeling is that if I go up to a table, and someone has a Zippo 195(solid gold) and they want $60 for it, that’s what I will pay. I won’t haggle them. I’ll ask what they want, and if that is the price, I’ll pay it. That is the value of that item to that person, and it’s what makes them happy. Sadly, I don;t resell, so it’s not about resale price for me, but if I want it/how much it will net my children when I pass away.

  11. chefboyardee says:

    Why does the source link link to page 2?

  12. Sajanas says:

    What I don’t understand is why the librarians don’t put a person aside to do exactly the same thing. Sure, the scanners are helping the library make money, but if they had someone putting these things on the used market, the library would make significantly more money, and it could be done a bit at a time.

    I see no reason to feel too bad about it otherwise, though these guys do make it harder for normal people to get use out of the sales, since they take anything new and shiny, and leave a whole ton of Da Vinci Codes behind.

    • bee8boo8bop8 says:

      I volunteer for our local Friends of the Library. We have tried it in the past. A couple reasons we still don’t:

      1. Our workforce is all volunteer and drifts in and out, sorting books when they have free time. It would be very hard to train everyone to use the equipment and ensure every book gets scanned. And it would be risky to leave the equipment out in an unlocked room for everyone to use.

      2. We have no storage space, so we can’t carry inventory.

      3. The odd valuable book we find, we pull and do Ebay or put on Amazon, but it’s only the most valuable. It’s not worth it otherwise for us. Some bigger libraries do more online selling.

      • pecan 3.14159265 says:

        Thanks for reminding me to re-register for my local Friends of the Library branch!

      • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

        yep, i know there’s a library where my friend is a librarian that is constantly selling donated old books for recycling that aren’t going into the library collection because the money they get for the paper is worth more than the cost of an employee to sort them and the space and time to sell them.
        a lot of them are really old college textbooks because it’s a college town. but he pulls a few of the good ones to bring home when he can sneak them out. not to sell, to read. but it makes both of us feel a little sick to think of all those books being destroyed.

  13. bee8boo8bop8 says:

    I buy used books, sell used books and sort and sell books for the local Friends of the Library. I like dealers.

    1. As a buyer, they make books available to me that I will never find at my local book sale, because I have niche tastes. And the prices are usually very low too.

    2. As a seller, it helps subsidize my own used book habit.

    3. As a volunteer, the scanners are reliable, early customers who come for the beginning of the sale and then clear out quickly with minimal hassle. They spend a lot, and spend it quickly and reliably. Before the advent of big used book resellers, we used to throw out old books that were removed from circulation. This is much better.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      I never make it to the library sales before all the good stuff is picked over. That ticks me off because they have it clear across town and it’s a pain in the butt to drive down and not find anything. I could just look on Amazon but I like supporting the local library.

      At least if this guy or someone like him gets a book I might want, I can still find it online.

      • bee8boo8bop8 says:

        Policies vary by library, but many allow volunteers who sort books for the sale to set aside any books they want before the sale starts and pay for them. If you can spare an evening or two to sort in the weeks leading up to the sale, they may let you have first dibs. The libraries I’ve worked with have always been ok with that–I walked out of the last one with $100 in books, selected during a couple of weeks of volunteering and paid for before the sale started.

  14. ophmarketing says:

    My local library hosts an annual used book sale, and I can’t tell you how pissed off everyone gets at the people who show up with their little handheld scanners, literally grabbing entire boxes of books out from under people (even kids) who are browsing through them, so that they can go sit in the corner and scan them for resale value.

    We’re looking at ways to ban re-sellers, because people like this are ruining the event for everyone else.

    • obits3 says:

      One way to stop this would be to ban taking whole boxes off the tables or maybe limit book sales to 10 books per transaction (to slow the re-sellers down).

    • mrscoach says:

      I’d probably be bad enough to grab the box back and say “I was looking at this”, or go grab the box BACK from them once they got settled. If they can take it from you, you can take it from them.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      One of my local libraries hosts a monthly kitten adoption – I think I’d be beside myself if someone grabbed a kitten and scanned it to gauge its value. I’ve never seen people at the library book sales scan boxes full of books, but I couldn’t help but think about the kittehs. :P

    • bee8boo8bop8 says:

      You might not be able to ban resellers, and it might not be worth your headache. I proposed at our library that we have an evening sale on the Friday night before the sale opened. Let anyone who was a member of the Friends of the Library in for two hours on Friday night to buy whatever they want, at normal book sale prices, and then let the general public, resellers included, in on Saturday morning. It is a nice bonus for the people who are really committed to financially supporting the library and minimal extra work for the volunteers. If you are feeling fancy, put out some punch and cookies for the customers.

  15. Hoss says:

    This is a tricky area. The really pricing books are pricey because they weren’t mass produced, right? That often means lack of consumer interest and the used book can remain on Amazon for a year or more, or never sell. And used booksellers these days already price checked, and may be selling on Amazon too. Also for the quick turnover used books, you need to keep in mind the selling fees, the Paypal fees, the postage costs, and other costs like envelopes and the cost of dealing with the public (lost mail, condition complains, buyer regrets, etc.)

    Textbooks though, can often be a goldmine!

    • RandomHookup says:

      Or they can be a huge waste of time. I do a little selling on the side and some textbooks hold their values…others become worthless right away.

    • Mihai says:

      Michael said that he gets to work up to 80 hours/week and also keeps an inventory of 1,000 books. Effort and capital involved = bussiness.

  16. lockdog says:

    There are thrift stores out there that are already doing this. Scanning barcodes or entering ISBNs as donations come in, and tossing the books into three bins. There’s 1) Sell on Amazon 2) put on the shelves and 3) save for big once a year book sale and pray someone will buy this POC.

  17. Mom says:

    Throughout history, people have made their living buying and reselling stuff that was underpriced. Michael’s doing a technology based version of the horse trading that my grandfather did. Except that grandpa was trading actual horses. I guess I don’t see why that would be sleazy. It sounds like a lot of fairly uninteresting work, but sleazy? Not really.

  18. Nick says:

    “makes him feel a little bit sleazy”. Really? Imagine how realtors and used car dealers must (should) feel.

  19. catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

    i’m really glad he and potentially other book resellers like him leave the unbarcoded books and pulp paperbacks alone.
    it means i get to find things like rare out of print 1950’s sci fi paperbacks for under $50. i read them, but i wouldn’t have been able to complete my e.e. smith collection buying at marked up collectible values instead of $1-2 each.
    and there was that one time i found a first edition charles dickens in a library bookstore where they were selling uncatalogued boxes of donated books. sure it was missing part of the spine but it was otherwise all there and my best friend was really happy with his birthday present and thought it was cool that i only spent 50 cents on it

  20. Beave says:

    It feels slimy because he makes his living on the difference between what people think is the value of something they’re selling and the fair market value. Reading between the lines, if he’s making $1000/wk selling 30 books a day, he’s averaging $5-6 profit per book minus postage and fees to Amazon. So most likely he’s buying books at thrift stores and yard sales for a a buck or two and selling for close to $10/ea.

    It’s not an illegal way to make a living, but I totally see why it doesn’t feel good at the end of the day. My wife’s aunt owned an antique store for many years, and she felt the same way. She made some money selling other people’s stuff on consignment or buying items brought into the store, but the big profits were made buying things at yard, garage, and estate sales. It works for antiques just like the bookseller described… At the start of a sale there are a bunch of pros lined up at the door, there’s a mad dash for items of potential value, haggling, etc. If you’ve ever wondered about the people who get to garage sales the minute they open, they’re probably pros who resell. Looking to pay pennies for some old lamp that will sell for hundreds. And while it’s fair and legal, it should feel a bit slimy buying something for a few bucks that you know is worth $100’s or even $1000’s. If the shoe were on the other foot most of us would want someone to say, “Hey, that thing you’re selling is worth a lot more than you’re asking, you should get it professionally appraised.”

    • Azzizzi says:

      That reminds me of the lady on Antique Roadshow who was just certain she’d gotten a super deal on a Shirley Temple doll she got off of a little old lady for what she thought was a bargain. She came to find out that the lady had ripped her off and charged her too much for a remake of the doll, claiming it was from the 30s.

  21. DA says:

    If I was a bookseller or library that had a problem with this behavior, there is a simple solution:

    If you know a “scanner person” is in your store, let him do his thing. When he comes to the counter to buy the books, refuse to sell them to him. He has done your job for you. Take the books he wanted to buy, and increase the price and offer for sale online. Done. Money made — minimal extra work.

    I certainly think “scanner people” have the right to do it and there is nothing sleazy about it. They provide a service: getting more desirable books to the hands of the people that desire them.

    • Chaosium says:

      That’s a delightful solution. Point out the sales can be refused sign, make a ton of money for the charity/cause/store.

  22. Kid U says:

    In Baltimore there is a non-profit called “The Book Thing” that is open on the weekends which is essentially a used book store where everything is free.

    Don’t let this man near it.

    (The Book Thing is pretty awesome, I go 2-3 times a year and usually pick up 100+ books each time)

    • catastrophegirl chooses not to fly says:

      glad to hear book thing is still around. i know a while back they needed donations to help move locations.
      we’ve got two used bookstores here that have free or nearly free books as part of their offerings. one has a shelf of free books and the other has two shelves outside the store [24 hour availability] with a drop box asking for donations to NPR – 25 cents for the left side and 10 cents for books on the right.
      many’s the time i’ve been by very late when i worked nights and wanted to stop by for something to read and seen people who appeared very down on their luck getting something to read. makes me happy to see it

  23. Awesome McAwesomeness says:

    Why would he feel sleezy? Profit is all about selling for profit. If people wanted to go around to thrift stores and look for a book to buy more cheaply, they would. They wouldn’t order it off Amazon. He is providing a service by doing the leg work. I think it’s great!

  24. daveinva says:

    As others have correctly noted, nothing sleazy about this. The library is presented with a choice of how to use its resources: sell the books to anyone, including dealers, at a price they feel is fair, *or* do the same research themselves and sell the books at a higher price.

    These stores choose not to do the research, either because they are not inclined or unable to dedicate their time & effort to do so. The dealer, however, is– and thus perfectly entitled to make a profit for his investment.

  25. AngryK9 says:

    Any successful business person is a bit sleazy. It’s a prerequisite to making money.

  26. econobiker says:

    I grabbed up a trash bag of Buffy Vampire Slayer books and other wytchy books from the dumpster of the apartment complex I lived at. Took it to used bookstore and got $62 in trade in bucks. Saved the environment from non-recycled paper and made money for books I wanted to boot…

  27. haggis for the soul says:

    The only problem I have with these booksellers is when they push you out of the way at the library book sales. No need to be rude about it.

    • samann1121 says:

      Push ’em back!

      The fact is, if resellers are getting away with grabbing whole boxes of books out from under people or shoving people out of the way, it’s because people let them. They are taking advantage of a societal tendency to be too polite, and they’re making money off it. If you don’t like it, don’t let them do it!

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        It’s hard not to ‘let them’ when you’re busy picking yourself up off the floor after they’ve shoved you over and checking to see if your glasses broke or not while they’re scampering away with your books. And yes, this has happened to me; the jerk in question made it through the building and checkout point before I was able to alert a booksale employee.

  28. samann1121 says:

    He shouldn’t feel in the least sleazy. I ran a church-wide garage sale earlier this summer, and a guy came early, with his phone, and bought a large stack of obviously nicer, higher-end books. I said, “Oh, do you sell on” just as a bit of chit-chat — I sell books I find dumpster diving at the end of the university school year on there and have made a good bit of money. He looked ashamed and reluctantly said, “Um…yeah.”

    There’s no shame in it! If I had had the time/energy/will to look the books up myself, I would have done it! But in that situation, I just wanted them all gone for a dollar apiece. Anyone willing to take the time to look through them all is welcome to make a profit. It’s a win-win!

  29. energynotsaved says:

    It isn’t illegal, immoral or fattening.Good grief!

    Hard work, YES! Sleazy? No way.

  30. Oranges w/ Cheese says:

    That’s actually a really good idea O_O

  31. masterage says:

    I’ve got a friend that does this. It’s not the only business venture he has, either…

    Though he only concentrates on college textbooks.

    It’s scary how well it works.

  32. Bodger says:

    More power to him. He should kept his trap shut though — he just improved the efficiency of his competitors, many of whom wouldn’t have been clever enough to think of the method on their own.

  33. AlfredaCosta says:

    Perhaps the soon-to-be unemployed lawyer in the other thread should consider this to pass the time while paying back his student loans.

  34. econobiker says:

    We don’t do Amazon sales but there is a very good 2nd hand book store which we sell to in our metro area for credit. Get books from where ever free and flip them.

    When that book store had first opened up, we cleared a church sale of books and vcr tapes at the end of their sale day for $20 (about 7 boxes) We made about $75 cash and $150+ credit from that deal alone.

  35. JulesNoctambule says:

    I have to admit, I hate those greedy bastards at book sales and thrift stores who elbow everyone out of their way to shovel entire tables of books into piles and sit there with their little scanner thingy, glaring at anyone who comes near while casting aside the ‘unworthy’ books and guarding the rest, looking for all the world like Gollum with his precious.

    Of course, the bulk of my book collection is pre-barcode; you have to have actual knowledge to sort the wheat from the chaff with those.

    • HogwartsProfessor says:

      Agree. There’s no reason to be rude to other shoppers.

    • The_IT_Crone says:

      There seems to be this idea that because they are doing it for a living, that it means they have more of a “right” to the items. I wish I could remember the quote, but I’ve been told I’m ‘taking food out of a child’s mouth’ or something to that effect.

      That’s right, literacy causes famine!

      • JulesNoctambule says:

        I get the same feeling — that making a profit means they’re more entitled to it. Well, I’m saving money by collecting cheaply! Thing is, I’m a dealer of sorts myself — vintage sewing patterns — and one of my personal rules is never to buy everything unless the person doing the selling wants to get rid of it all at once. I’ve left things one day only to find something even better the next too often not to wonder about it!

        No scanning devices for those or for the vintage clothing I buy, either; I just have to know my stuff. Having a mental Rolodex of logo variations, clothing brand labels, union tags and labelling laws in my head may not be trendy, but it gets the job done.

  36. jedifarfy says:

    I don’t find it sleazy. Anyone can do this, and he does this in a quantity that allows him to make a profit. It seems like quite a lot of work that may or may not pay off, but if it works, good for you. :)

  37. The_IT_Crone says:

    I’ll get these people with scanners in at every sale. The real reason they hide what they do is because they want to pretend that they don’t know what the items are actually worth. Playing that game usually gets them lower prices elsewhere, because 1) they assume you have not done the research and 2) if they pretend they are oblivious to the value, they think they can lowball you. They will stand there and try to argue that a $50 item is only worth $5, and they assume you don’t know better- yet you can catch a glimpse of their handheld device still stating it’s worth $50! They also attempt to change price tags and try to argue/cheat you in other ways (“you told me all games were $5!”).

    I have no problem whatsoever of them looking up prices, there is no shame in that. Heck it gets me more sales, great, and I actually view it as a service (they are helping people who REALLY want a book to find it so I just view myself as a middleman with them). However there IS shame in the associated behaviors of these people. I’ve not met any yet that didn’t try to pull one over on me. Power to this guy if he isn’t one of them, but if he’s trying to hide the scanner I’m betting he is.

    • JulesNoctambule says:

      When I do yard sales, I always price items I know are valuable with what I call dealer prices — low enough that a collector would be happy, but high enough that the nutjobs hanging out in my front yard before dawn and trying to muscle into the porch while I’m setting up won’t be able to make a decent profit on it. The result is that I regularly get a LOT of very happy, polite, easy-to-deal-with collectors whenever I have a sale, as well as a handful of dealers who know how to mind their manners. Show a little factual know-how about the field you’re selling in instead of pushiness and a blinky e-device, and I’m more inclined to deal.

  38. RandomHookup says:

    Just watched the movie “Please Give”. They felt mega-sleazy because their business was buying antiques from families when mom/dad died off. They knew they were “taking advantage” of people who didn’t have the time to research it or get a second offer. It’s really tough for the average person to know when they have something rare or valuable.

    In the movie, they wouldn’t reveal that they got the furniture from estates, assuming the customers would assume they were ghouls.

  39. GuyGuidoEyesSteveDaveâ„¢ says:

    He’s not sleazy, though I can understand why he feels that way sometimes.

    As I frequent a lot of markets, I can usually tell when a seller is sleazy. I have come across an item that one seller had the day before on another sellers table for a markup. Depending on the markup, it will tell you if they are sleazy or not. I usually allow a 25-50% markup after $3-4(before then 100% is OK. I personally sell most lighters I buy for $5 for $10 because I also factor in my time and gas), but some go way over that.

  40. infohound10 says:

    Okay, as a librarian let me put my two cents in:

    1) Many libraries, including the one I work for, do go through the books you donate. A staffer has the job to look for books of value and sell those for a fair price.

    2) Libraries hardly ever make any money off the booksale. It is more of a way to get the books into the hands of fellow booklovers, with the side benifit of a few extra dollars toward the latest James Patterson.

    3) We use donations year round for our ongoing booksale corner.

    4) Lastly, we actually have a very interprising person who came to us offering their services to take all the books we have left over from the sale and do the work to sell them online. I think they keep a percentage and we get the majority of the proceeds. This person quadrupled our earnings. And they bring the books back that don’t sell online to be sold in the booksale.

    Lastly, banning dealers from the sale cuts out at least $500 from the already measly sale earnings. We already know we probably missed a few, someone will find something that is worth more but honestly most of the books in the sale are leaving the library for a reason — they are no longer useful. The library is essentially giving the books away at the prices we charge and if you want the best selection come early and duke it out. In all practicality we cannot keep everything and we are not in it for the money.

    • bee8boo8bop8 says:

      Interesting–your library runs the sale themselves, it’s not the Friends? Here the librarians only give us the community room attached to the library and leave us to do all the work and fundraising. They get all the proceeds, and dibs on any books they need for the collection (the last three books sales, every. single. copy. of The Help has been nabbed by the library director and put into circulation). All the labor for the Friends is volunteer, and the Friends decide how the money is spent (usually on whatever the library says they need).

  41. CamilleR says:

    I help at a library sale every year. It’s a small town so we only get a few resellers. Most are very nice, but we have had problems with one lady for the past three years. She shows up first thing, hordes books all day, then waits to check out until the last hour when everything is half price. This year we forced her to check out earlier. She suddenly claimed poverty, only had enough cash for a small amount of her books, then asked to pay with a post-dated check. The kicker is she left and then came back for the last hour in a different outfit with money for more books. Did she really think we wouldn’t recognize her?
    We like the resellers. We make a decent amount of money from them that we wouldn’t make otherwise. It takes a lot time and effort to check every book that gets donated to see if it is worth more online, and scarce library resources are better devoted to other things.

  42. The Marionette says:

    Not sure how it’s sleazy. If he’s buying the book at the store for their asking price, the store gets their money. Then if he sells it online for a higher price he’s getting his money back, plus some. If that’s considered sleazy then there’s a lot of it going on since it’s common practice to buy low sell high. (he must not know about the stock market).

  43. Vielle84 says:

    I used to do this all the time at my university. At the end of the school year, many professors had piles upon piles of books outside their doors, labeled “Free Books.” I’d take a handful, hawk ’em on Amazon, and make nice lil’ bit of cash. I’ve even listed books that sold for as little as $5-$10; shipping them is cheap, and I often make a little extra on the sale by shipping USPS media mail.

    No need to feel sleazy when you’ve no ill-gotten gains.

  44. Vroom_Socko says:

    I do the same thing, only I focus on Dungeons and Dragons products-It’s a nice little hobby, and I only look to break even or swap for stuff I collect.
    I have some ads up on Kijiji from time to time-buying collections off people.
    Nothing wrong with it at all.
    Vinyl junkies do the same thing.

  45. dragonpancakes says:

    Imagine looking for a rare book you’ve been dying to read all over and finding it at a used store, and right before you grab that treasure someone else grabs it. D: But no worries he offers to sell you that book for only $25 more than what you could’ve just bought it for. Gee don’t you feel happy!

  46. kromelizard says:

    Every good arbitrager knows that what they do is fundamentally worthless.

  47. BytheSea says:

    I like this. It’s like some post apocalyptic steampunk world where the grungy dregs of society use their mech to supply the minds of the elite.

  48. Theslapshotkid says:

    Anyone know of a scanner that actually works? I’ve been having problems finding one. And really, this is the american way. Buy low, sell high. I really see nothing wrong with this.

  49. Chaosium says:

    These guys are pretty much loathed at any warehouse sale.

  50. PortlandBeavers says:

    His biggest mistake is feeling sleazy about it. Not only is capitalism not bad, but even from an environmental perspective, he’s in the recycling business. If he and his ilk didn’t comb these sources for books, a lot of in-demand titles will get thrown out, and new ones will need to be printed.

    His second-biggest mistake is describing what he does in an article. In the current economic climate, even self-starting go-getters are underemployed. People will read the article, try it out, and get good at it. It doesn’t sound like brain surgery.

    I used to do something like this at used CD stores. It was just a hobby. The money I made was just peanuts, as I only bought extra CDs of the kinds of music I liked. I knew the rare ones by heart and didn’t have a scanner. The guy’s comment about the “virginity” of a pile of inventory really rang true to me. A really good store might have been good for a second visit, for something I missed the first time. But the second visit was never as good as the first, and the third visit was almost pointless. Used CD stores were already closing left & right even when I was doing this, and I moved on to other things. But it was fun to watch them on Ebay and see one or two really take off.