Thursday, July 24, 2014

Bad Business: eBay, Craigslist, NYSAuction

Last week, I posted an article entitled “Home-Based Business Ideas for Single Dads: Buying & Selling” in which I touted the ideas and methods for on-line buying and selling that could provide an additional income stream, or perhaps even a living, for a stay-at-home single father. Like just about every business, however, there are risks unique to using the Internet to connect with buying and selling.

There are probably a million ways to scam on eBay; here a list of "Five eBay Scams To Be Aware Of." My worst eBay experience involved a car I listed. The buyer had built up a positive rating by buying inexpensive products, so he/she seemed legitimate. The buyer bid on and won the car, but gave every excuse possible for being unable to meet and delivery a cashier’s check. Rather, the auction winner insisted on getting bank account information for a transfer. I conducted two auctions, which ended with the same result before I finally sold the car using Craigslist.

Craigslist has its own set of concerns, which have been well documented. I’ve personally actually had not any problems buying or selling through Craigslist, although others’ negative experiences have been well documented. Extreme cases have involved not just financial scams, "7 Types of Common Craigslist Scams to Watch Out For," but also some unsuspecting victims have been murdered or sexually assaulted: "Upper Darby Man Charged With Rape Tied to Craigslist Ad."

My personal worst experience with buying and selling involved Haroff Auction & Realty, now NYSAuctions, and a tax foreclosed real estate auction.

I completed the NYSAuction’s internet bidder registration package for the 2012 Sullivan County Tax Foreclosure auction, which includes among other things a proof of identity, a credit card authorization for the deposit, and a contract that required notarization. I was interested in about five properties, each of which included at least ten acres of land. When bidding for one of those properties in which I was interested was light, I jumped in.

The ten acre property located near the Delaware River in Callicoon, New York, (yes, that’s really the name of the town), was assessed at $69,000. Bidders struggled to put the lot over $10,000. Seeing the slow bidding, I offered twice and at $12,500. On my computer screen, I saw the notification, “YOU ARE THE HIGH BIDDER.” No sooner than I saw the notification did I hear through the streaming audio on my computer, “Sold to bidder . . .  ,” only the number called wasn’t my number. The property had been awarded to another bidder for the same price.

I immediately called and sent an email to Ed Haroff, who was the owner of Haroff Auction & Realty, but I did not receive a response a call back. I was very disappointed by the loss of the auction, but I hoped to have the issue resolved when I talked to Ed.

There weren’t any other properties that met my criteria scheduled to come up for bid for a while, so I walked away from my computer. Since no one else was home, I left it turned on and connected to the auction. When I returned to the computer and turned the sound back up, I was just in time to hear the auctioneer announce, “Lot . . ., sold to bidder . . .” This time, the auctioneer did call my number.

Some problem with the system or the on-line bidding program awarded me a one-fifth of an acre lot in Liberty, New York. No one had bid on the property, on which the starting bid was $100. However, the auctioneer claimed that I’d bid three times the asking price of $300. With the closing fees and bidder’s premium, Haroff claimed that I owed them more than $1,500!

I called Ed Haroff again, but I didn’t receive a response until almost three weeks later. When he finally did return my call and I explained what had happened, Mr. Haroff insisted that his computer system couldn’t have made error. Any reasonable person would have understood that a bid of three times asking price on an unwanted lo made no sense, but Ed Haroff apparently wasn’t reasonable. He not only couldn’t help me with the property in Callicoon that I’d won but was awarded to another bidder, but he charged my credit card for the property I didn’t want.

I never closed on or took ownership of that lot in Liberty. Considering both the ten acre lot that I won but wasn't awarded and the property I was awarded but didn't want, I was out of luck in terms of more than $50,000 in equity and fees.

I’ve learned a lot about buying and selling on-line. Go to school on me and don’t make the same mistakes I made. Generally, I believe, eBay and Craigslist are assets to entrepreneur business people. As far as buying real estate auctions, at least in New York State, I’d steer clear of NYSAuction, though.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Home-Based Business Ideas for Single Dads: Buying & Selling

For sale on eBay: F/A 18 Hornet
Whether we’re talking about Walter’s Bagels or Walmart, the non-service economy, hard goods and consumables in a market economy, has always been based on buying low and selling high. Now, it’s never been easier to connect with potential buyers and sellers, which provides a relatively easy way for a stay-at-home single father to make a little, or a lot, of extra money.

Today, market makers like eBay, Craigslist, and Amazon among others help sellers find buyers, and vice versa, for everything from Pokemon cards to automobiles and more. While eBay, which is both an on-line auction and virtual storefront for sellers, and Amazon charge a commission or other fee to sell a product on line, Craigslist is essentially an on-line classified advertising service that has been free of charge since 1995.

What's included in purchase of New Zealand?
So, where might someone find inventory to sell? Well, there are a lot of ways. Perhaps, you have a friend or friends who are manufacturers or warehousers who have excess inventory. Large retailers often have floor models and scratch ‘n’ dents inventory that will either be thrown away or sold by the local store manager in lots. You may think there’s a secondary market for the stuff, well, you’re in business. Estate sales, flea markets, and even garage sales are sources for the occasional treasure, as well. You may not even have to look past your own frying pan.

Some of the more unusual items that have been listed on eBay include an F/A 18 Hornet jet fighter, Britney Spear’s hair, and the actual island of New Zealand. Heck, a grilled cheese sandwich which appeared to have an image of the Virgin Mary sold for a cool $28,000.

$28,000 worth of Virgin Mary grilled cheese.
If small items aren’t your bailiwick, perhaps automobiles, real estate, or even other items may be. A good friend of mine buys, reconditions, and sells printing presses that are sometimes as long as half the length of a football field. Regardless of the commodity, the basis for success to find bargains or stressed assets. If your stock is automobiles, check out an auction of cars seized by Drug Enforcement Agency operations. If it’s real estate you prefer, then visit your local county seat for a list tax-foreclosed properties. There are even auctioneers who have specialized in government tax foreclosures.

Of course, you can also make business cards and show up to local chambers of commerce and start networking with people who know people. Maybe one of them needs to get out from under a mortgage or needs a quick infusion of cash for which they’re willing to part with an asset at a good price.

Regardless if your product is baseball memorabilia or houses, when money changes hands on the Internet (or anywhere else), there is always the danger of hackers, scammers, and just plain incompetent people. I’ve had a few of my own negative experiences, which I’ll share in next week’s post.

In the meantime, familiarize yourself with the tools that these brokerage/market makers’ sites provide. Those sites just may provide you with a business that permits you to manage your finances while managing your family the way you want to: from home.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Brian Burgers: A Healthy Summer Grill Favorite

Thanks to single father Brian Austin for this healthy, summer grilling-season recipe:

Brian Burgers

2 pounds of ground turkey

1 apple, diced

1 onion, diced

1 egg

1 cup of bread crumbs

Montreal Steak Seasoning


Weber Grill Burger Sensations Seasoning

In a mixing bowl, combine ground turkey, diced apple, diced onion, egg, and bread crumbs. Add either Montreal Steak Seasoning or Weber Grill Burger Sensations Seasoning to taste. Mix until all ingredients are consistent throughout. Fashion mixture into eight, slightly-larger-than quarter pound patties. With medium heat, grill for about ten minutes on each side or until there is no pink in the middle of the burgers.

This recipe completely dot’s the i’s and crosses the t’s when it comes to The Single Father’s Guide recipes. Each patty is low in fat, very high in protein considering both the ground turkey and the egg, a good amount of dietary fiber, and a good source of vitamin C.

Hope you’re enjoying your summer. Check back at The Single Father’s Guide Blog regularly for great single father recipes and more!

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Everything I Needed to Know About Business Travel I Learned During 10 Years as a Stay-At-Home Single Dad

The Kids &; Me in June 2006

While living a fairytale with my beautiful wife Lori, who was five months pregnant, and two lovely daughters in a charming little village located about an hour’s drive outside of Manhattan, our lives changed suddenly when my wife was diagnosed with late-stage breast cancer. Our son was born healthy three months later, but within the year, Lori succumbed to the disease. She was 38.
I traded my pressed shirts and corporate ladder climbing for changing diapers, driving to playgroups, and the title of full-time stay-at-home single father for my two daughters, seven and four years old, respectively, and my son who was just seven months old.
Fast forward ten years; I've decided to return to Corporate America and, as a consequence, I’ve also returned to business travel. On my very first venture out, I realized that I hadn’t missed a beat when it came to regaining status as a road warrior. In fact, my ten years as a single father had more than prepared me for the rigors of business travel:
1) Go to the bathroom before you leave. If long car trips or plane rides when the fasten seat belt sign is illuminated are not enough to have taught parents one thing, it’s use the restroom before you leave and, frankly, whenever you can thereafter.
2) Leave early. One never knows when a jack-knifed tractor trailer on the Interstate or an extra-long line for TSA screening is waiting to sabotage your whole day.
3) Expect the unexpected. Just plan on your flight being delayed, the airline losing your luggage, or client who wants to have just one more, three or four more times, before signing on the dotted line.
4) Bring an extra shirt. An infant may not puke on you, but on the other hand, he might. You can bet, though, turbulence or a clumsy waitress may result in a dollop of coffee or tomato juice finding its way to your shirt. I find pressed, folded, and plastic-wrapped shirts with a cardboard stiffener travel best in my briefcase.
5) Someone will have a tantrum, so plan accordingly. This could be anyone from a road-raging motorist to an unhappy employee to a cranky fellow air traveler to perhaps even your boss; someone will have a meltdown. This reminds me of the adage, “Don’t wrestle with a pig; he’ll love it and you’ll get dirty.” Remain calm and positive. The results will always be better than the alternative.
6) Bring an activity. At the very least, bring your laptop or tablet so you can work when you’re at the hotel or during a layover. It’s all right to unwind a little with a novel or a crossword puzzle once in a while, too.
7) Be ready with a good story. Whether you’re addressing a group of coworkers, a client, or an over-tired toddler, er, I mean overnight hotel desk clerk who lost your reservation, a good story or joke is usually an effective way to put others at ease . . . and on your side.
8) Always say, “Please” and “Thank you.” Everybody wants attention. Everybody wants to be appreciated. Whether you’re entertaining a client, speaking with administrative staff at headquarters, interviewing someone for a job, always say, “Please” when you want something, and always say, “Thank you” when you get it.
Those really are magic words.