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Count Every Penny

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I’ve been thinking about two unaccounted-for resources that I need to run my online shenanigans. One is time – just how much time it’s sucking up, and if it’s really worth it, because time is the most valuable resource, we don’t live forever, etc.  Two, all the little expenses that go into packaging & shipping, that I haven’t yet included in my revenue formulas.

Guess which is more fun to write about!

Dad recently upgraded to a no-nonsense Brother HL-2270DW after our old Samsung drove everyone batty with wireless issues. According to the ISO/IEC 19752 standard, a high-yield TN450 cartridge (OEM, of course) yields 2,600 pages for $44. Looking at the test page used for printing, it has approximately the same amount of ink the shipping labels use. $44/2600 = ~1.69¢ of toner per page. Including price variations, shipping charges, inflated specs, etc., we can round this up to 2¢ per page.

Paper comes in all weights and prices. I’ve seen reams from 1¢ to as much as 10-11¢ per sheet. Assuming Dad buys his wholesale and isn’t looking for top-notch paper, we can also assume this to be 2¢ per sheet.

Packaging tape has wildly varying prices. There are 4-packs going for cheaper than a single pack of tape, and prices range from 4.3¢ to as much as 40-45¢ per meter. I think it’s okay to put the price at 5¢…although Amazon has a monopoly on lowest prices (and could raise them at any time), between other sellers, coupons, etc, I should be fine. Amazingly, I estimate that I use 3/4 OF A METER for larger packages. I’ll try to cut down on that, of course, but for now I’m using around 3-4¢ of tape per package. In business, we always round up, so that’s four cents.

Why didn’t I include packaging prices? Because I ship out much less than I receive – and therefore have tons of padded envelopes and boxes lying around.

So a single-sheet printout (with postage & the invoice), plus tape, will cost $0.08 total. That may not seem like a lot, but it does add up quickly.

Panasonic Camera “Advanced Feature” manuals: a hack

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Panny has developed a reputation in the camera market for affordable yet capable devices, as well as beasts like the recently released GH4. Like some companies, however (looking at you, Sony), they aren’t that good at keeping orderly archives of their older products. Often it takes a trip to the search engine to find a model that the Panasonic.com search refuses to cough up.

On top of that, they’ve developed an annoying habit of having two manuals for each product: one “dummy” manual, and one with all the actually useful stuff, like menus and special functions. On many archived models, they only offer the basic manual.

Or do they?

Take the manual for the FX-78, for example: http://service.us.panasonic.com/OPERMANPDF/DMCFX78.PDF

Then go and add “_ADV” at the end, like so: http://service.us.panasonic.com/OPERMANPDF/DMCFX78_ADV.PDF

And voila – you have the advanced manual. (I was browsing cameras all weekend and happened to notice this. It makes sense, really, so the IT guys can keep everything methodically organized.)

eBay and PayPal revenue formulas

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Yeesh. I haven’t used the blog in what, years? I’ve changed the title and the header…and maybe I’ll change the theme too, I’m not sure yet. But the ch4na.wordpress.com domain will stay, as a reminder of this site’s origins. Or maybe because I’m too lazy to migrate to a new domain. Or maybe because I can’t think of a clever domain name. Whatevs.

Anyway. I’ve been selling on Amazon and eBay for some time now, to make some money and to get my feet wet in online selling. And it’s been a fun journey, with more than a few mistakes and a decent trickle of profits. However, to maintain an orderly revenue scheme, you have to get down and dirty into the math. I decided to tackle eBay first, since it’s easier. (Edit: <That is a lie.)

eBay charges 10% of the final selling price; PayPal charges 2.9% of the price plus a flat 30¢ fee per transaction. So initially, I thought the revenue formula simply went like this:

y = $0.30 + x + .029x + 0.1x       or       y = 0.3 +1.129x

where X is the profit you want to make and Y is the price you should sell at, A is acquisition costs and SH represents shipping charges. Easy enough, right?

Wrong.

    The formula was giving me the wrong figures, and it took a while to figure out why. You see, I calculated the fees based off X – the profit. In reality, eBay & PP calculate the fees based off of the selling price. If I sold something for, say, $6 to make a profit of $5, the fees are calculated from the $6 selling price So I needed something that would just give me a price to sell at.

   The TI-84 Plus SI has an built-in equation solver – but you have to set everything equal to “0” to make it work. So when the above formula wasn’t working, I plugged in this:

0 = (.3 + .129x + 5) -X

    since I wanted $5 of profit and was looking for X, the selling price. I got my answer and I got the right formula.

   But I was still not satisfied. I couldn’t understand why I had to work backwards to get the (quite simple) answer. This made me angry and quite a bit upset. I felt that I had cheated, somehow, by using the calculator. I wanted be able to figure this out the “honest” way, by thinking. Eventually I sat down with my original formula and swore I would get from there to the right one, even if it took me all night.

   Over and over again I tried every combo of Ys, .3s, .129s and Xs there was. Nothing was working. I looked at my work for the original formula. I tried thinking about what my objective was – to calculate fees based off the selling price.

   Selling price.

   It hit me like a bolt of lightning. Almost literally. SELLING PRICE! Of course! Y represents selling price…so what the hell am I doing, attaching the .129 fees to X, the profit?! I wrote out my victory, adding the other variables back in.

y = 0.3 +.129y + x + A + SH

0.871y = 0.3 + x + A + SH

y = (.3 + x + A + SH)/.871

   God, I haven’t been so happy since school let out.

   I used the TI-84 to calculate a curve based on postage fees per x ounces (up to the 13oz. max for First Class packages that everyone ships with on eBay because they’re cheap.)

y = -0.00103x³ + 0.02986x² – 0.10172x + 2.00566

It’s surprisingly accurate – off by a couple of cents, at worst. Plug all that into “A” in our master formula, and replace x with whatever your package weight is. A bit unwieldy, but handy, since I don’t need to keep a separate table of postage prices.

You can manipulate these formulas to show several details about your sales, like percentage of fees out of the total price. And it’s really easy to add in variables like taxes and other expenses.

That’s it for eBay. In an upcoming post, I’ll (try to) dissect (part of) Amazon’s maze of fees, and (try to) construct some hairy formulas for third-party and FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon) selling costs.

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Crying. By all means judge me; I am crying.

The World of Special Olympics

The following is a guest post in the form of an open letter from Special Olympics athlete and global messenger John Franklin Stephens to Ann Coulter after this tweet during last night’s Presidential debate.

Dear Ann Coulter,

Come on Ms. Coulter, you aren’t dumb and you aren’t shallow.  So why are you continually using a word like the R-word as an insult?

I’m a 30 year old man with Down syndrome who has struggled with the public’s perception that an intellectual disability means that I am dumb and shallow.  I am not either of those things, but I do process information more slowly than the rest of you.  In fact it has taken me all day to figure out how to respond to your use of the R-word last night.

I thought first of asking whether you meant to describe the President as someone who was bullied as a child…

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Happy Halloween

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Working on other articles is no excuse for not posting stuff. Happy Thursday.

Same title, new URL

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I shortened my URL to ch4na.worpress.com. No need for everyone to type out that huge name, eh?

A little dust-off

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It turns out they changed the password for the Wi-Fi at school now, so it’s back to slow computers and cellular plans. Oh well; at least they let you use electronics at all. (See update)

That aside, our merry topic of the day is: should I really keep this blog going?

I honestly don’t know. Right now ChuckNorrisForNarnia is a shell of its former self. I remember last year, when I had a new assignment every week and other personal content to boot. Now, with social networks eating up more of my time and content, there’s really not that much to post. I still have 15 followers, so that’s not too bad. (But Mrs. Hunt, how could you abandon my creation? I don’t see you in the subscription list anymore….)

And I still have that name, ChuckNorrisForNarnia. Senseless, completely un-normal, weird, actually; thought up on a random whim as I created my blog in the media center lab. It’s like that email address you create when you’re 8. Eventually you have to grow out of it.

But…I don’t have any better ideas right now. I saw what I said on our (my?) last blog prompt: “As long as I have something to say…ChuckNorrisForNarnia will stay alive.” Dang right I do, and dang right it will. And after all, the strange and mysterious is often easier to remember. I mean, ten years from now I doubt anyone will remember their old blog names. But if I ask about mine? “Oh yeah! You’re the guy that wrote CHUCKNORRISFORNARNIA!” Nah, I’ll keep it. But honestly, what else could I do? Roma’s Blog? The Average Blog? The Omniblog? Ghost Town Blog? Oh well.

This’ll be my personal website, then. I might not update it every day, but yeah, I’m keeping it. And my avatar.

Mike

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