Dealing with Pests When Buying Antiques and Collectibles
Once you start running ads to buy antiques and collectibles, you will start to get nuisance calls. These are people who call for reasons other than to offer you something.
I get a lot of these nuisance calls and they always go up just before Christmas. Last year it was worse because I was featured in a few newspaper articles just before Christmas. Toy trains and Christmas go together so it's easy to talk reporters into doing stories about my trains.
I always tell the reporters to include my telephone number in the article so people with questions can reach me without bothering the reporter. It's a great way to find willing sellers. But, there is a trade off.
I deal with the calls from people looking to buy trains, or wanting information about how to get their trains set up for Christmas, or wanting to tell me about the train set they had as a kid, or wanting to know what the trains set in the basement back in Wisconsin is worth quickly and politely.
In exchange for my time with these people, a small percentage of the callers offer me items I want.
Over the years, I have learned how to deal with these people fast and yet politely.
For example, people who want to buy trains are told to call the local store that refers me sellers.
Because it is not worth my time to discuss anything that is not immediately available, I quickly get anyone who has called to wax nostalgically about a train he used to have off the phone by telling them I am busy and thanking them for their call.
About ten percent of my calls in the winter months are from snowbirds who live here part of the year. Snowbirds have homes in other parts of the country and don't bring their trains to Arizona. People with trains out of state are told to have them shipped to AZ. I will be glad to talk with them once the trains are available for me to examine.
Remember, these calls need to be handled politely. I have had people call me for advice about their trains and then call back a few months later to sell them.
Being polite and helpful is a great way to stand out from the other dealers.
But, every now and then I get a real pest. The worst pest I ever encountered was an elderly woman who was looking for a train clock as a gift. I told her to look on eBay.
A few days later she called back and said she hadn't been able to find one. These clocks are always on eBay. I wasn't doing anything so I sat down at my computer and found one on eBay for her. I gave her the eBay item number and told her how to search by item number.
Twenty minutes later she called back and said she couldn't find eBay. This caused a sinking feeling in my gut. I gave her instructions for getting to eBay, and then repeated the instructions for finding an auction by the item number.
I did a good deed. I helped this elderly woman find a gift for her son. Sure it took a few minutes of my time, but it all comes back in the end.
Like me, you probably think the story is over at this point.
Nooo! A few days later she was on the phone again.
You see, the woman was outbid on the clock I had located for her.
Now she wanted me to drop what I was doing and find her another one. I told her I was too busy to look up another clock for her, and suggested she contact the seller on eBay and ask if he has another clock.
Since then the woman has called me over 15 times. She has even called the reporter who wrote the newspaper story she found my phone number in to complain about me not helping her find a clock.
This woman is a worse case example. She can't do it for herself and thinks I owe her my time.
Let me bring up another kind of pest. I frequently get calls from people who want more for their trains than I am willing to pay.
For example, I got a call recently from a man who wants to sell his collection. He bought most of his trains in the early 1990s when prices were quite higher than they are now. (The prices for common toy trains have declined in the past decade.)
I cannot pay him more than 60 percent of what I will sell the trains for. To make it worse, the trains are worth about half of what he paid for them. This means he might get 30 percent of what he paid for the trains.
He is not willing to sell for what I can pay, so he has decided to wait until the trains increase in value. (Not going to happen in the next 20 years.)
With this in mind he calls every few months to see if I will increase my offer. I know he is also calling other local dealers.
In this situation, I want to keep the lines of communication open with him because one of these days he might take my offer. I am always polite with him on the phone, but don't spend a lot of time with him.
One other type of pest to mention. The "emailer."
I frequently get calls from people who want my email address so they can send me a list of their trains. Looking back, I cannot remember a single purchase that resulted from getting an email with an attached list.
I asked one of the other local dealers if he ever buys from people who email lists. He told me he's sure he has, but cannot remember any specific purchases.
As I write this I think the reason is I've been going at them backwards. I've been trying to buy from them. I think in the future I might do better by making them sell me.
That might not be clear so I'll explain.
Normally I make an offer, and then negotiate from there to make the purchase. This is me trying to overcome their objections. With the list writers, I'll try reversing this so they have to tell me what they want, and then overcome my objections. If this works I'll let you know in a future article.
Remember, I run ads to find trains and toys for my collection and to resell. The ads are worth doing. I really enjoy buying items from people and it's like a treasure hunt.
Rather than concentrating on the pests, I concentrate on the items I purchase.
Don't think all callers are pests. Most callers just want to clean out their unwanted trains and quick to make a deal with me. Dealing with a few pests is certainly worth my time.
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PS. Here's a report on negotiating when buying antiques and collectibles.
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