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Reselling Textbooks Can't be Fastlane! (Oh really...)

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ZF Lee

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Phew...been a long time since I posted a thread of my own.

But DAMN am I exuberant!

Damn, money came into my hands this morning! I can use it to do a Google AdWords test, get some samples plus a little inventory from AliBaba, pay for a Fastlane meetup (if you like to), get a nice pizza dinner....

Stop f*cking around, ZF Lee

Oh, whoops...!
Let's get to the meat of things.

One of the most touted ways on raising capital without the perils of investors to run our Fastlane businesses is to resell stuff. I remember there is a thread around here on some clever guy who bought off cheap stuff from Walmart and resold it online, sparking up harsh criticism from the general community.

From the comments section, they said things like:

'This can't be done.'

'This is cheating!'

'This business model will crack when others start copying it.'


Ah, cracking. Let's talk about it.

Probably one of the hardest stuff to resell are textbooks. The perfect standard of a commodity. No matter what you do, everyone wants them cheap. They'll cuff you until you drop the price so low you'd wonder whether you had a negative return of investment on those books.

Or else they'll ignore you, and you leave those dusty books to collect cobwebs in a dismal corner of defeat.

We can't have that, can we?

My pre-university studies ended a week or two ago. Time to sell my books to juniors.
I obtained the services of a middle person to send my offers to Whatsapp groups of juniors who would soon take my place and may need my books.

The guy didn't ask for commission. If he did, I'm wondering what additional stuff would he do to help me sell my books.

Let's compare scenerios of how I posted on Whatsapp groups as opposed to your typical resell dealer:

Typical post
Chemistry textbook for (dead low price). No marks on it, still clean.

The end



Whut??? That's all you can give to your seller? Good grief.
Let's boost the value skew, shall we?

My Post
Chemistry Textbook (plus picture of textbook cover, with snapshots of inside pages)
Selling at X price. (I had a range of prices offered by present sellers. I put prices in the middle range so that I had room to jack prices up or down)

Knowing that the course is difficult and will eat study time ravenously, allow me to help you reduce your study time to only one hour per topic.

- The textbook has certain sections highlighted and marked as they have evergreen questions that come out commonly in exam.
-I lost 10 marks for an explanation question. I will show you the very pages that I failed to read on the textbook so that you don't need to lose those marks like I did.

(adds snapshots of some of the pages)

A few days later, my whatsapp beeped. The book was sold.
Did you know that...
The chemistry textbook was NOT required by the college classes.
 

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ZF Lee

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Did I cheat the buyer? Nope.

Wait, that's not the question to ask.
The question is:

'Is this Fastlane?'

While this is no business to be Fastlaning, remember that the very premise of the Fastlane is to provide f*cking value, as well as communicate it.

In fact, communicating value is like enlightening the masses of the truth that their sins can be forgiven and their pains be relieved. You are delivering deliverance to them lol.

Hallelujah!



I looked at the CENTS commandments, and decided that Control and Need were central. Entry comes with Control. Time and Scale weren't able to be used, but that was a blessing in disguise.

Commandment of Need
While the textbook I sold was not compulsory, it still contained more detailed explanations on certain core chapters on industrial processes and organic materials. The main textbook was at best, bland.

I knew there were exam questions that would need step-by-step explanations, and if you forgot one point, you lose marks.

A student's BIGGEST phobia is that he or she loses marks. Think angry parents and botched job opportunities lol.

Call me exploiting, call me manipulative. But I am simply going over the average buyers' fears, and the route I will take to provide a solution and communicate it.

I communicated that the book would provide more support for her studies, and declared its specific capabilities (aka lost/gain marks in exams and more thorough explanations).

I provided evidence for its specs. I put up snapshots of the EXACT pages which I didn't read.

Here, the NEED was not:

'He wants a cheaper textbook.'
This need, although legitimate, lacked substance. It didn't really tell me much about its poignance or desperateness.

A better NEED might be:

'He wants to score higher marks.'

'He needs good quality support resources for his studies.'

'He needs to score well to get good grades and jobs.'
(Slowlanish ahaha...but well, that's what they want, who am I to judge?)


I sold a book not required by the college.

I sold a book required by the needs of the person.

I communicated it more detailed and deeper and precise than other sellers.

On copywriting, this case needed me to write more as opposed to less.
When you are laying out the value array, don't skim on the words.
Let the abundance of your product's value pour out!

 

ZF Lee

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Commandment of Control
Once in a while, you need a product change when the market voice comes about. And with that, you need to control your product offerings.

Don't be the guy on the left.
Be the guy on the right, the one with the steering.


I put up a bunch of economics books for sale. Two study guides, a past years exercise book and some notes.

I bundled the two study guides in one price. People like paying one price for two.

I put up a higher price for the past years book by an additional $20. I communicated on the whatsapp group that 70% of my cohort didn't have this, and they failed to score well. I further explained that although questions don't repeat across years, you can cut down study time by 50% just by reading through their answer scripts. I did it myself, so I could rightfully proclaim that. I received no bickering for that notion from my buyers.

A buyer did request me to drop the price of the econs notes by $5.

Although it's a low price drop, I decided against accepting it.

So I said:

"If you need more study resources, I have extra notes, some I obtained from a top 'A' student who scored 90+ ATAR (it's like a CGPA, max is 100). I bought it for a hundred, but now I am selling it to you for 20% of the price. The notes are comprehensive, wholesome and draws information from the textbook and at least 3 other blogs and study books.

Without these notes, 70% of the entire cohort got C or lower, which mean a fail. I was part of the top 30% that scored with flying colours.

Before that, I was a mediocre C student. I bounced up to a B. These notes which I will sell to you, gave me an unfair advantage."

I threw up snapshots to proof I was not shamming her.

The buyer decided not to demand any more price drops. Value was game.

I could have used this opportunity to raise prices, given the value WAS better, but I decided against it. There were other books I could apply the similar concept to.

But one thing was clear. I had control over my product offerings. I could adapt and adjust.

The beauty of Control!
 

ZF Lee

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How much did you pay for it and how much did you sell it for?
Let's see....
I will use the ringgit malaysia, the currency of my country.

They were Australian books since I am doing their Australian matriculation. That kind of helped with price control as of course, oversea academic books are short in supply.

My course is less marketed as A-levels or foundation studies, where I am, so the books are a novelty. But note that price is not the only weapon in the arsenal.
There has to be other things in the vale array.

An average book would be like RM180-ish at most. I had a range of seller's prices. Some offered as high as RM160 while others dropped till RM99.
I simple priced in between. RM115 is one price...for math books. I wanted some room for price adjustments.

And the buyers would not have the means to complain, 'You prices are too high.' :)

The Chemistry textbook that I mentioned earlier was bought at first for about RM110-ish. I simply priced it at RM99.

The challenge was not to let people force me to drop prices. I must keep my stance, regardless of the price level.
 

ZF Lee

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On general prices, I tried to maintain the book prices at the three-figure mark. Sure, numbers change due to depreciation as this is reselling. But well, three-figures is better than two-figures.

I will be testing a value-add trick on selling a psychology book. The book goes for a few hundred ringgit.
I didn't write much notes for my psychology studies, but I was the top scorer there.

So I'll write up an e-book or article on top tips and tricks to score in Psychology and put it along with the book.

I have some exercises along with it, but for copyright issues, I don't think I am allowed to sell those stuff.
 

KLaw

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You made no profit. How is that fastlane? I understand you saved a ton of money by essentially only buying the books at a fraction (after reselling). Nice hustle though.
 

ZF Lee

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You made no profit. How is that fastlane? I understand you saved a ton of money by essentially only buying the books at a fraction (after reselling). Nice hustle though.
I cannot price them higher than the original distributors. Otherwise, of course they will go to the original distributors then lol. And depreciation comes in the picture.

So price drops from the original price were kind of hereditary. But there is some kind of invisible price level which marks the border between high and low. Marketmind voice lol.

On average, it might be RM110-160-ish...just a guess.

If I let the buyers force me to drop prices anymore, that would be a bigger loss, won't be?

And besides, I had no need for the books anymore. Might as well convert to cash rather than let them sit around.
 

KLaw

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Totally agree. But, that's not fastlane. Maybe if you lowball others that are reselling and resell at higher price. Its potental to be fastlane. Great hustle and experience though.
 

ZF Lee

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Totally agree. But, that's not fastlane. Maybe if you lowball others that are reselling and resell at higher price. Its potental to be fastlane. Great hustle and experience though.
Yup, it's not Fastlane. In fact, I highly recommend that selling textbooks be not your Fastlane unless you are a top-notched professor with tons of experience lol.

On your strategy, I might end up doing a Biophase 'hard way' Amazon route lol.

But I did take some hints from Fastlane to do what other sellers didn't.

And I sold FASTER than them.

I asked my other peers, 'Anyone sold anything yet?'

I got crickets....

On Scale and Time, it was a blessing in disguise to break them.
I met with the buyers personally as opposed to online delivery and faceless contact.
The best transactions are done face-to-face.

I gave the buyers some tips on how to score better in their internal quizzes, as well as core topics to look for. I even offered a free-of-charge consultation session via whatsapp should they fall into mahogany in their studies.

They left with smiles. I stand a better chance of having them spread the word to other juniors to buy my stuff lol.


I'm thinking of throwing in an additional e-book with the offering of a psychology textbook priced at a a hundred and ten bucks.
Psychology, as some of your know, is a whole mess of theoretical crap and agony.

But since I had the leverage of a top scorer in the subject, I could put together my top insights and help people fare better than I did.

I will be throwing up a preview later for the whatsapp group....

It might be 10 pages or so.

BTW, I know I am not making a profit or big bank.
But reselling textbooks or other stuff could be as best as free money as you can ever get, as opposed to a regular job.

I took just a few minutes to throw up prices and whatsapp offers. And a few minutes more just to meet buyers.

It's not time consuming to get money. It really isn't.
 

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I have a friend who works for a dude that pulls in well over 300k a year profit from reselling textbooks. Been doing it for at least 10 years. He sends my buddy out to universities to knock on professors' doors and buy books from them directly. He also does big buybacks on campus at the end of the semester. He gives the students a couple bucks more than the book stores and they love it.

He also has connections with publishers where he sends a good chunk of the books back to them. It keeps the old books out of circulation to drive up demand for the new editions.

Not fastlane per se, but you can make boatloads of cash doing it.
 

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Arun Siva

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Is there a push for e-books now? I mean are college textbooks phased out due to costs and are e-books going to become the norm? I know at clemson there is staunch push for it but traditionalists despise the use of iPads and tablets laptops etc for book viewing.... will be interesting to see how this pans out; am sure price will be harder to achieve profit as it is digitised and less costs for printing publishing etc as opposed to PDFs etc
 

ZF Lee

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Is there a push for e-books now? I mean are college textbooks phased out due to costs and are e-books going to become the norm? I know at clemson there is staunch push for it but traditionalists despise the use of iPads and tablets laptops etc for book viewing.... will be interesting to see how this pans out; am sure price will be harder to achieve profit as it is digitised and less costs for printing publishing etc as opposed to PDFs etc
Nope. Might not happen anytime soon.
Maybe we can see this digital revolution in private schools, but the kids here are from wealthy families with more cash to pay out.

Regular schools will have more kids that aren't that well-imbued financially to pay for the tech-boosted education. E-books aside, you might need to mandate for same kind of laptop or computers for uniformity. That accounts for big cost there.

So good old physical books will have to suffice as the more affordable option.

And of course, good old physical books have the barrier of entry of intellectual property, unlike e-books which can be copied and pirated mercilessly.

The authorities do spot checks in my college to see if you use scanned books. To use scanned books is like theft to the author. E-books theft is harder to track and monitor directly.

Things can change....keep your thumbs crossed. But it's no overnight phenomenon.

In my colllege, we did share documents and exercises on schoology. Free platform for teachers and kids. But when it came to checking answers in class, we had to print stuff out.

At best, e books and paper books will come together.

And on profits, as long as there's demand, it shouldn't be a problem.

I have a friend who works for a dude that pulls in well over 300k a year profit from reselling textbooks. Been doing it for at least 10 years. He sends my buddy out to universities to knock on professors' doors and buy books from them directly. He also does big buybacks on campus at the end of the semester. He gives the students a couple bucks more than the book stores and they love it.

He also has connections with publishers where he sends a good chunk of the books back to them. It keeps the old books out of circulation to drive up demand for the new editions.

Not fastlane per se, but you can make boatloads of cash doing it.
I like it!
I think the more widely marketed routes like A levels or STPM ( the local tertiary pre-uni matriculation course) might work out.

I'm not sure about the university scene though. It seems some courses have variations of topics to use the same books at all.

At best, this might be good as a seasonal gig to have a nice tidy capital bump.

EDIT: added some more stuff
 
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I like your reselling strategy, but I'd pick another product and here's why.
I do a similar thing you do, except I buy tickets for festivals (early) of which I know for certain they are going to be sold out later.
This is interesting, because contrary to the book, which will depreciate in value every year, as more recent versions get published, the tickets will actually appreciate in value almost guaranteed.





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ZF Lee

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I like your reselling strategy, but I'd pick another product and here's why.
I do a similar thing you do, except I buy tickets for festivals (early) of which I know for certain they are going to be sold out later.
This is interesting, because contrary to the book, which will depreciate in value every year, as more recent versions get published, the tickets will actually appreciate in value almost guaranteed.





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Yes, I have heard of this route.
Reminds me of Schecuan sauce selling on eBay for thousands lol. (and a very obnoxious event that was!)

How early do the festivals allow you to buy tickets in advance? Few months? Some events in my country don't allow booking until it is a few weeks or a month beforehand...not really enough to make a headstart to get early tickets.
 

Shortypants

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Yes, I have heard of this route.
Reminds me of Schecuan sauce selling on eBay for thousands lol. (and a very obnoxious event that was!)

How early do the festivals allow you to buy tickets in advance? Few months? Some events in my country don't allow booking until it is a few weeks or a month beforehand...not really enough to make a headstart to get early tickets.
It's different for each festival, but if you want to get the 'early bird' tickets, I suggest checking 6 months before the event.




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ZF Lee

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It's different for each festival, but if you want to get the 'early bird' tickets, I suggest checking 6 months before the event.




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Sports events might work out too. They used to have big international tournaments with badminton and squash.
We have an F1 racing track here, but reports of dwindling sales are disturbing.
But football's a total mayhem. Even early birds are snapped up like crazy. You might see something like this there:

Apparently in European countries, sport event ticket prices are charged higher, so you get a high class of folks with more cash coming in.
Where I come from, the tickets are economy-class rather than premium, so to speak. I'm wondering how much I can net up to, considering the lower margins, to consider this a route to go to.

On the textbooks selling, I think I might have to wait till the next batch of students. I'm selling to an early intake 'conditioning' batch rather than a full official batch. I found I might have overexpected too much from the crowd.

My college is a community one, pricing on the more affordable edge. Naturally, kids who go there are the ones who scrimp on money and don't see the price for value, since they are hardcore cheapsters. I'm harsh, but that's most people. People need us to tell them what value they need to look for. That was why I had to do some copywriting work and talk a bit more. But even that might reach a barrier when the kids start looking at their budgets....

The tickets route can work better as I would be facing working people with more cash available.

Ah, well. Different customers, different expectations.
 

ZF Lee

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I may have a slot for next year on reselling textbooks. My present pool of customers to rope in from are an August intake that took the course just to adapt early to its standards which are different from the high school system.

The January intake has more kids. My batch had a hundred plus kids rushing in, not including the August batch, and there weren't enough resell books to go around from the old seniors to everyone, so the vendors selling the NEW books had some business.

Not only will I have more customers to rope in, but also when the scarcity kicks in, I can jack up prices. I only have like two books to dispose off lol.
I can go online to sell, but the only channels available are local or Australian, since my course is Australian Matriculation.

Not many buyers go online to buy, given the lack of competition. No competition might be a bad sign. I could sell on Facebook groups too, but it might also be a risk-no return game. I spotted facebook offers that priced books as bad as $1. Horrible. That's pretty dismal.

To sell the books to the local native Australians in their homeland would be a better idea, through Gumtree, but they do not seem to encourage delivery. A face-to-face handover transaction is laughable, given that its merely selling textbooks and not official business. But well, the Gumtree people want to ensure their users aren't going to be scammed, that's all.

I guess I need to be patient, and carry on with my other stuff....
 

ZF Lee

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Well....looks like I need not wait for the kids to come by to buy stuff.
In my cohort's Whatsapp group, someone threw down a contact.
I dropped everything and called her up. I was busy doing freelance copy, but I knew that if I let this lead get away, it might get harder to sell off the books.

She ordered the last of my books...the psychology textbook and chemistry textbook.

I used to hear lots of excuses on selling off old books. Some came from the organ between my two ears, others from my peers.
'I'm not bothered!'

'I'll just wait for next time!'

'Someone else will come by and buy my stuff!'


If someone needs you, needs your stuff, pick up the f*cking phone!
Customer Service - Own a Business? Answer Your Damn Phone

I wonder if I should enable her to get the free ebook I offered, but I think they will get the same lecturer as I did in college. She's not from the middle man group I posted the offer to. I had a kickass psychology lecturer in college, so my services may not be needed lol. Besides, I took a look at my draft, and the entire business was going to end up becoming a 50-page book instead of 10 pages.

Given that you want to talk about the process of mastering stuff, including psychology, you tend to attempt to be as detailed and even froceful at certain times to reinforce certain points. I might be in danger of becoming a guru, upon production of that ebook lol. Also, since it's a freebie, the possible risks of copyright infringement look disturbing. Too many issues to consider...so the cost of the value-add of a freebie was too high. But thank goodness I didn't need it to make the sale lol.

She is requesting a delivery from me, so I have to get the costs of shipping from the post office soon. Good thing she was fine with paying for the shipping too. Should be RM20-30, or even less...I don't think the books are that heavy...

Different Routes, Different Decisions?
Something to think about, concerning the Commandment of Control...

Again, this ain't Fastlane, but if you want better control and success, Fastlane doctrines serve you well on a silver platter.
But before that, the outstation girl (let's call her Ling), had her issues. She wasn't going to be in town, so a face-to-face meeting was a no-no.

My options were
- Quit and find another buyer (f*cking kidding me?)
This could have resulted in loss of time and energy and maybe money (because you don't sell)?

- Do delivery via post and have her pay the shipping (she agreed to it, and this is the route I'm taking now)
At least I don't have more losses on the shipping, and she actually suggested it. So terms were favourable on both sides :smile2:

- Have a contact of my dad's send the books over and be a middle man. I wanted to come that personally, so that she know that she can trust me and that she isn't scammed. But then my dad started talking on losses and costs of transportation (petrol, time and all), but in the first place my books were depreciating stuff lol.

And I have never met my dad's friend before, never even worked with the guy. Why should I trust him with the cash and the exchange? Who is he working for actually....me or my dad????:playful: After all, it was my dad who suggested this route, and said he would link up with his friend.:eek::happy:

No wonder I didn't like the latter route.

The latter option sparked some thoughts in me.

As customer-centrism is the standard norm for Fastlaners (of course you must have your stance and limits, as with my choice of route for delivery), it's probably one thing that we can never outsource wholly. But of course we might be able to write up guidelines to help employees focus on some core issues, or else scalability is kind of limited. Probably in the future I need to work on this area...on creating customer service systems. Good tiny reminder lol.
 

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Back to report....

Sure, this work ain't Fastlane. But some principles such as customer service, obeying certain vital commandments of CENTS and picking up the damn phone apply.

So remember that girl who had me arrange a postal service?

Turns out I didn't need it at all.

But NOT in a good way.

'Huh? But you got paid right?'

'Yeah, I did. A couple of a hundred bucks. But I wish shit went smoother.'

'How is shit smooth?'

'Well, there's a big difference between this:...'


'...and this...'


Enough shit, here's how it went...

I went for lunch with my mum and brother.

I looked at my phone. Today, the buyer would be contacting me any moment to transact the cash, so that I could send the books to the post office.

My food came. I take my first bite...

Out of the blue, a lady taps me on my shoulder....

She asks me, 'Are you ZF Lee?'
My eyebrows perk up like a seal when fishes are flying. 'Uhuh.' I mumble rather awkwardly.
Me thinks: 'Who is she?'

Turns out she's the sister of the buyer, and she has come by to pay up. She was just nearby and just decided to make shit faster.
I received no calls, no message, whatever on this change of events or plans.

Now this is sudden. And infuriating as well.

I voiced up my utter displeasure at interruption. I might have done it a little too loudly because more crap happened next.
As I considered the next steps to take, which included postponing the meeting to a later time to get the books for her and so on, a stupid thing happened.

My brother leapt forward with his handphone and offered to take her contact for further communication.

I did what any sensible seller would do:

I told him in no uncertain terms to f*ck off and get away because his advice wasn't needed, didn't ask for it, and he had no part in my transactions.

I must have spoke things too loudly because the other contact began to apologise rather profusely....

I took the seller's sister's number for further contact, apologised for the misunderstanding and whatever mishaps, and promised to call back later once I got a perfect time to fix.

Later I got on the phone with the REAL seller and expressed my displeasure at changing arrangements without a peep, and not thinking about the expectations of other parties.
Not every corner can be cut. Not every shortcut can be made.

Sure, she could have spotted me, got me to give the stuff, pay me and get along with life in a jiffy. But you got to remember that not everyone's time is as flexible as yours. People have hours. Even Elon Musk has some time off for food and family.

But instead of further flaming the seller, I decided to say, 'Well, it's a blessing in disguise! At least we can get things faster! And you don't have to pay for the postage!' (although I hope not to repeat that again)

I transferred over the last of my college books later at 5pm. Done! And we parted in good terms.

LESSONS LEARNED
1. Some buyers can be flawed. Yes, the buyer didn't contact me well and just busted in. But it could be worse. And anyway, the buyer was actually polite. Even as I ranted a little on her sudden unplanned changes, I did not insult her, but merely pointed out how I felt as honestly as I could.

I am not an employee. I am a seller, which both parties agree to an exchange. So we need agreed terms. And honesty is a must.

2. I should implement better systems for such hustles. I could use some online resell platforms that offer free shipping, but in this case, the buyer chose to intervene in an uncomely manner and the online strategy is better with more inventory and a longer-term view.

3. I am never going to do business with family members around, regardless of their opinion or skill. Besides, family run empires have members who are already trained in their business philosophy. Some of the members might even have their own networks or resources. In this case, my brother has none of those.

That is not to say I totally denounce them. I will pick them if needed, on my terms, but if they want to barge in, thinking that my business or hustle is as good as a family outing on a sunny beach on Hawaii to join in, they better think twice. I was NOT pleased to be disturbed in a crucial decision making moment.

4. Don't piss in people's conflakes.
Although not everything in business goes well, just don't leave them pissed off. I could have fired the buyer and walked away, but I stayed through. I understood that she needed the books, or else she could get a worse deal by some other sellers or suffer the higher costs of newer books. We left in good graces.
 

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