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All the world’s a sale

Saturday, November 27th, 2010

At this particular moment in my life, I find myself with a surplus of objects which I need to sell.   I’ve taken a sabbatical with the goal of organizing my somewhat chaotic life into something a bit more manageable, and the primary element of chaos right now is the number of things that I have discovered that I own through the last few decades of my own acquisitive habits, or by the misfortune of sudden inheritance.  I’m selling things as fast as I can, but apparently that’s not fast enough, and I’m now starting to look for some sort of automation that will help me find people who for a faire price will give good homes to the stuff that I need to offload.

This type of selling comes naturally to me, as I’ve always wheeled and dealed through my whole life – buying, and selling comes naturally.  However, the scale of the project in front of me is now somewhat daunting.  I’ve always dealt with either: a large number of items, exactly alike, or a very small number of objects (often “1”) of particularly unique nature.

The things I find myself selling are the accumulation of the last 20 years of my own life (mostly computer and technology equipment, though there is a significant portion of “weird” items) and the contents of my parents life over the past ~65 years as I distribute and liquidate the portions of their estate that I don’t wish to transfer into my possession.  There are a LOT of items – hundreds, if not thousands, and I haven’t even looked at the collection that I need to sell of items that I’ve managed to accumulate myself.  My childhood bike (Schwinn Sting-Ray) lovingly painted flame red by hand and with seat covered in duct tape; an English wood and glass greenhouse, stored and moved several times between houses upon my mother’s insistence though never assembled; a huge variety of antique furniture pieces collected by my father – these are items that I can’t bring myself to throw into the digestive tract of an estate broker at a price based on per-pound, but neither do I wish to strap these various albatrosses around my own neck.

How to sell these items individually, but quickly, is a challenge.  Being a native user of Internet services, upon presentation of the problem I immediately started on a track of using the tools that were familiar to me: Craigslist and eBay, along with research on various art wholesale websites.  My results have been decent, but the process is long and the tools are miserable.  There are eBay selling tools, yes – but they’re not exactly designed for rapid creation of sales – they’re more for people who have “stores” where they’re selling a large number of identical items, not a large number of different items.  And I hate shipping things (furniture and big items are nearly impossible to ship at prices people are willing to pay) so eBay is not looking like a particularly good sales method since almost all the buyers are remote.  Craigslist is great for finding local buyers, and is fairly low friction, but is needlessly repetitive and no tools exist to manage posting items repeatedly after expiration (CL says that they do this, but the deletion of the pictures makes their function useless.)  I even went so far as to build a Craigslist posting tool for the iPhone two years ago (goCraigsy) but CL is actively antagonistic to their customer base and to any tools that might make life easier for users, so I gave up trying to keep my interface aligned with their shifting whims.  Don’t get me started on how antagonistic Craigslist is – they’re almost fanatically opposed to their user base finding things.  Plus, there is no connection between Craigslist items – each item stands alone, unless you put some crazy keyword into each posting and note in each sale “Hey, search for keyword myxlplyx to find my other Craigslist sales” – a strategy that doesn’t work well, if at all.

What I really need is just a tool that will allow me to take a LOT of pictures, and then create a web page for each item with a text description, pictures, and maybe videos embedded into the page.  Then, an index and a way for me to price and manage each object.  I’ve looked at various “shopping cart” tools but they’re preposterously heavyweight and complex for the simple task at hand, which is basically an annotated index and detail page for items, with ease of entry being the #1 concern.  I’ll then put short notices up on CL for individual items and link back to the site, but I would expect that most people will browse around and end up buying something that they didn’t come to the site for in the first place.

So I’ll post the question: does anyone know of any tools that exist which have the following criteria:

  • Painfully simple to install (PHP?)
  • Allow generation of a “main” inventory page with thumbnails and titles
  • Allow drill-down into each item, with high-res pictures of the item, or video, and text
  • Allow quick changes of price, description, and availability
  • Allow easy uploading of media via Web interface
  • Free or inexpensive