The Modern Guy Has Moved!

In order to better manage this blog and provide some additional functions the Just a Modern Guy blog has moved!

Effective today you can visit us at http://www.justamodernguy.com.

We have migrated all of the posts and comments from this location to our new site. I am leaving this active for now so that links to content and posts here by others will remain valid.

The ability to comment here has been disabled – if you wish to leave a comment to a post please visit on our new site.

I look forward to seeing you at our new home – http://www.justamodernguy.com!

The Great Wall of China – Homer Laughlin China Company: West Virginia’s Gift to the World
West Virginia Cultural Center

While it is a bit of a challenge getting around the Capitol Complex this time of year while the circus is in town it’s worth the effort if you can stop by the Cultural Center and see The Great Wall of China. This fitting celebration of the Homer Laughlin China Comapany’s long tradition of producing fine dinnerware is something every West Virginian can take pride in – and since the Cultural Center hasn’t been instilling much pride in recent weeks this display is quite refreshing.

On display on the first floor of the Cultual Center this exhibit does not displace any archive or library space. But get there quick to see this before The Commish and Madame Secretary start using these plates in a new Cafe.

The House Government Organization Committee will take under consideration HB-4126 relating to the West Virginia Division of Culture and History and requiring the Commissioner to make specific use of the archives library and prohibiting the sale of food and drink in the Cultural Center.

I had a previous post about this legislation when it was introduced in the Senate – the provisions of HB-4126 are the same as those in the SB-328.

There are differing views on this proposed legislation depending on your perspective – with some in the art community not being pleased with the provision of the bill which would use the exhibit room next to the archives reading room to expand the archives microfilm room. Folks with a history and archives focus may be all for this section of the legislation and many in both camps are likely pleased with other provisions, especially the impact this would have on any future plans for a cafe.

The Committee will take the bill up for consideration in Room 215E at 2:00 P.M. on Thursday, February 21st. You can view the full agenda here and, if you plan to go, be on time and then prepared to wait – timetables at the statehouse are rather fluid this time of year.

The bill has only been referred to Government Organization and will, if passed from this committee, move to the full House of Delegates for a floor vote in the next few days.

It is also West Virginia History Day at the legislature – could prove to be very interesting indeed as my friend wvstate also suggests here.

As I wrote in An Open Letter to eBay last week I have grave concerns regarding the recent announcement by eBay to significantly change the fee and feedback policies for the online marketplace. This post proved to touch a nerve with many sellers (and buyers) and I have received hundreds of comments and emails from them discussing their specific difficulties with the new policies and, more generally, their experiences on eBay.

I’ve heard from big sellers and small sellers from all around the country and the vast majority – nearly all – feel these moves by eBay are a threat to their livelihoods, businesses and, most of all, to the eBay community at large.

I’ve also heard from many buyers who are equally concerned because they have grown to rely on eBay sellers as a source to find those special additions to their collections. They fear a loss of sellers, especially small to mid-sized sellers, will eliminate the availability of the very collectibles they are seeking.

In addition to the people who have contacted me I’ve been on the eBay chat boards, online seller sites, and have followed the news coverage regarding these issues. Virtually everywhere I have gone I have encountered sellers who are frightened, frustrated and feel as though eBay, that place which has become extremely important to them, is leaving us all behind.

Almost immediately after the announcement by eBay some began calling for a boycott. While this has happened before, with little or no results, this time seemed different. Never in my numerous years of experience with eBay have I seen this large an amount of sustained outrage from eBay users. Many have already closed their eBay stores or removed listings. Some have closed their accounts completely and still others are organizing for an eBay boycott beginning February 18th. Virtually all are combing the web in search of other options and venues to utilize as sales platforms for their wares.

After much analysis, thinking, discussion and examination we have decided to join the eBay strike beginning Monday February 18th. We will be removing all of our listings and closing our eBay store as of that date.

We do not take this step lightly. Our relationship with eBay, particularly with the buyers and sellers, was the beginning of our business. Selling on eBay is an important part of our overall business plan and has been a vital component of our growth. However, the changes which eBay is planning to implement will dramatically change the marketplace in ways which will make it too costly and risky for us to continue as we have.

Over the coming week, I will be discussing each of the eBay policy changes in depth and the implications they have on sellers and buyers.

To our eBay customers who are currently involved in a transaction with us at that time – rest assured you will receive the same excellent service you have come to expect. We will be handling all open transactions in the same professional manner as we always have.

We urge our eBay customers to join us in this effort to protect the eBay marketplace by refraining from buying on eBay from February 18th to at least February 25th. By boycotting eBay during this period you can assist in keeping eBay a fair and competitive market for unique, vintage collectibles.

To the many sellers I have communicated with over the past week – stand together and make your voices heard. Remember the words of Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small, group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

We are the citizens of eBay – the ones who searched for the items to sell and risked our own money to stock the “shelves”. We have spent late nights answering emails and packing our goods to ship. Through our efforts eBay became the giant it is today.

But the giant is turning on us and we have only one choice –


Illustration from The Magic Porridge Pot – Andy Warhol
Best in Children’s Books – Nelson Doubleday, Inc. – 1958

During the 1950’s Andy Warhol worked as a commercial artist in New York and illustrated a number of children’s stories for Nelson Doubleday Inc. – publisher of the Best in Children’s Books series.

The illustrations shown here are from The Magic Porridge Pot in Volume 21.

Playful and fun, these drawings give us a glimpse of the most influential American artist of the 20th Century early in his career.

Illustration from The Magic Porridge Pot – Andy Warhol
Best in Children’s Books – Nelson Doubleday, Inc. – 1958

Illustration from The Magic Porridge Pot – Andy Warhol
Best in Children’s Books – Nelson Doubleday, Inc. – 1958

Warhol also provided art for several other stories in this series including Card Games Are Fun (Volume 27 – 1958), The Little Red Hen (Volume 15 – 1958) and Homemade Orchestra (Volume 7 – 1958).

These books are getting harder and harder to find as Warhol collectors are snatching them up. I found a copy last week, with cover intact, and was just overjoyed.

Illustration from The Magic Porridge Pot – Andy Warhol
Best in Children’s Books – Nelson Doubleday, Inc. – 1958

Illustration from The Magic Porridge Pot – Andy Warhol
Best in Children’s Books – Nelson Doubleday, Inc. – 1958

I especially like Warhol’s cats – they are just so happy and carefree.

Illustration from The Magic Porridge Pot – Andy Warhol
Best in Children’s Books – Nelson Doubleday, Inc. – 1958

Watching Through the Bottle – C. Hamsher – February 2, 2008

Our cat is named Io (eye-oh) who has recently been spotted peering from behind this large glass bottle that is in our hallway.

An Open Letter to ebay

Dear ebay,

I first began using ebay as collector and greatly enjoyed the ebay experience. In purchase after purchase I was constantly amazed with the ease and simplicity of the system which allowed me to acquire items from people throughout the world to add to my collection. I recall the first feedback I received and the first feedback that I left.

I then began selling an item here and there. It was fun, it helped me streamline my own collection and provided a stream of funds to acquire other items to add to it. After getting the basics down I dove in with both feet. I spent every spare moment seeking items to sell, listing my items and managing the flow. I had a vision of building a business around my passion for 20th Century design with ebay being a core component of my overall business plan.

I worked hard, and smart, and built a business that stretched out past my little corner of ebay into the real world with a bricks and mortar shop. Utilizing ebay helped me realize this and helped me maintain my new business venture.

It was a great world and I shared ebay’s values.

Remember those values? Perhaps not, so allow me to refresh your memory.

– We believe people are basically good.
– We believe everyone has something to contribute.
– We believe that an honest, open environment can bring out the best in people.
– We recognize and respect everyone as a unique individual.
– We encourage you to treat others the way you want to be treated.

I ask if you remember these values after reviewing the new fees and policies for ebay sellers. These new policies demonstrate the ebay management is abandoning these values by implementing policies which I feel are seriously misguided. As a member of the ebay community I wanted to express my concerns in the context of ebay’s longstanding community values.

The core of ebay’s success has not been because of its slick programming and advertising campaigns but rather has come as a direct result of the honesty, trust, friendliness and commitment to excellence shown by the users of ebay – buyers and sellers alike. At the root of this has always been ebay’s feedback system which, while sometimes not perfect, has allowed the community to police itself and alert both buyers and sellers to users who are not living up to the basic standards of fair conduct in their ebay transactions.

This system has served us well over the years for several reasons. First, it was a mutual rating system and recognized the fact that there are two sides to each transaction. Secondly, the system was transparent and details regarding the history of each person were readily available to place context to the feedback. Third, each buyer and seller was associated with the feedback they left which prevented anonymous statements and false claims from being made through the feedback system.

The first reversal of this standard occurred last year with the beginning of the Detailed Seller Ratings (DSR) system. This allowed buyers to leave unsubstantiated and anonymous ratings for sellers. While the intent of the system (to hold sellers to a higher standard of customer service) is correct, by allowing DSRs to be made anonymously with no recourse by the seller the DSRs have created an uneven playing field.

My experience has been that some buyers are using the DSR system to express buyer’s remorse and, in some cases, leverage lower prices or make unreasonable demands upon sellers. An example of this was something I experienced when my DSR rating fell after a buyer left very low ratings because I would not lie on the Postal Service International shipping forms regarding the true cost of the item. Because this buyer wanted me to conspire with them in evading tariffs and I refused they were able to take their frustration out through the DSR system. I have no ability to respond, dispute or correct this under the DSR system.

In addition, the DSR allows for rating on factors which are, at least partially, completely out of the control of the seller – shipping time and cost specifically. I disclose the shipping cost on each listing using the ebay shipping calculator based on actual weight and dimensions and offer a variety of shipping methods. This allows buyers to know before bidding exactly what the shipping costs are and that they are fair. In times where the calculator has overestimated the cost I have routinely refunded the difference to my buyers. In spite of these efforts my DSR rating for shipping cost is 4.6 – the lowest DSR I have. I have seen this same thing with other reputable sellers. It seems buyers don’t believe that it costs what is costs to ship an item and the seller takes the brunt of their criticism.

I also almost always ship within 48 hours of receiving payment – usually faster. However, my shipping to DSR is 4.7 due to a “perceived” slowness from buyers who do not consider that I have no control over the time of delivery once an item leaves my door.

The new fee structure directly ties the amount of ebay fees a seller will pay to the DSR system which is flawed due to its anonymity and its reliance on factors outside the control of the seller. The sellers fees might just as well be tied to the direction of the wind. The DSR system was the beginning of the chiseling away of the ebay values.

This problem is made worse by the new policy of only allowing positive feedback for buyers. This changes our community values from “all people are basically good” to “all buyers are good and some sellers are good.” The feedback system has worked because it was mutual. The system is worthless without being mutual. If there were abuses, as ebay claims, with sellers leaving unwarranted negative feedback then other policies, already in place, could have ben utilized to resolve this. To make the feedback system entirely one sided destroys its basic premise and is contrary to ebay’s community values.

I say all of these things as a good member of the ebay community. I am proud of my 99.9 percent feedback rating. The two negatives I have gotten were both years ago from International buyers who did not pay – prior to the policy which prohibited non-paying bidders from leaving negative feedback. I have a great number of return customers and take great pride in providing excellent customer service. Sellers like me have been the foundation of ebay.

I will be thoroughly reviewing these new policies over the coming weeks to re-examine my future plans as they relate to ebay. Although ebay has been an important part of my business model these new policies are a dramatic change to the ebay terms of service. More importantly, they are an even greater reversal of the ebay values. It was those values which brought me to ebay – and their loss will likely result in my exiting.

I hope ebay reconsiders these misguided and ill-conceived policies which will primarily benefit large-scale, high-volume sellers of drop shipped items. To those like us, who as buyers and as sellers have used ebay to trade unique and collectible items, these policies are damaging. I urge you to remember how ebay began, the buyers and sellers who built it, and those values we shared as a community.


The Modern Guy


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