Hurry Up and Lose Money

I re-learned a valuable lesson the other day: Never judge a book by its cover. Always look inside.

Especially when you're buying that book to resell.


 At a local yard sale, a stack of nursing textbooks caught my eye. They were not priced. I quickly (and discreetly) checked prices on Amazon, and found one textbook -- "Ethics of Health Care" -- selling for $34.99 and up in used condition.  This book was clean, the cover and binding looked fantastic. Edges of the text pages looked very clean (always a good sign) and as I did a fast flip through the pages, everything looked clean, unmarked, good to go. But I hurried too fast, and it cost me money.

I took the textbook to the seller.

"What do you want for this?" I asked.

"What will you give me?"

I was kind of surprised.

"What do you want?" I answered.


She seemed squeamish. Like I had asked to buy a family heirloom. Or one of her children. She seemed pained. The price tag on the book -- $61.30 -- probably stung as she pleaded: "Two dollars?"

I generally like to buy books as cheap as possible, usually no more than $1. But this one had good potential.  Remember, my rule of thumb is that I want to follow my "15X Rule" -- sell a book for 15 times what I paid for it.  A 50 cent book needs to sell for at least $7.50. A $1 book needs to sell for at least $15.00. And a $2 book, like she was asking me to spend, needs to sell for at least $30.

The numbers worked out. I handed her $2. She accepted. I tucked the textbook under my arm, and started counting my profits.

The next day I got around to listing this textbook for sale. I was pleasantly surprised to find this book was ranked at about 31,000 on Amazon, so I figured it would sell fast.

Then, and only then, did I do a complete Quality Control check of the book.

Ouch!


This time, starting at the front of the book, I flipped from page to page of underlined sentences, margin notes, color pencil scrawlings on multiple pages.

My hopes sank.

Re-checking pricing from other Third Party Sellers on Amazon who had listed this book on the Marketplace, I noticed that most copies at the low end of the scale were for good condition copies.

I took a breath, figured I could post this at 'Acceptable' level of condition, and explain my decision in the Condition Notes. I priced the book at $20, a low-ball offer to the current low price leader at $34.99.

It worked!

The book sold within 6 hours. I had noted in my description the text scribblings. After the book had sold and I prepped the book for mailing, I noticed that the previous owner had stopped writing in the text book after Chapter 3 -- the rest of the book was pristine.  That latter part of the book was what I had originally checked and judged the book a 'Good Buy' without looking through the complete book.

My mistake. Rushing through the inspection before buying the textbook made me stray from my buying rules; I probably would have offered at most a $1 bill for the book. The seller would have likely kept the book; such a loss may have been far too much to bear.

In the end, after Amazon deducted its fees, I wound up with about $18. It will cost about $5 to pack and ship the book via USPS Media Mail. Deduct that amount, plus the $2 I paid for the book, and my net profit will be $11.

Smaller profit than I'd hoped for. But, more important than that, a reminder to never judge a used book by its cover. Always scan the first few chapters because that's where college students tend to mark up textbooks... and where better buying decisions are made.