So I participated in what is (hopefully) my last ever flea market. Not because it was a bad experience. But it was tedious, tiresome and absolutely dusty. And on top of that, I was into my 8th consecutive day of running a fever.
The flea market venue was at Level 6 of Lucky Plaza, with ForFleaSake as the organizer. Venue wise, it was in this old, rather unkempt warehouse-like area which was extremely dusty. All of us were wearing face masks and yet we were still sneezing our noses off. It was that bad. (Warning: face masks are a must should you ever do a flea at this place.) I don’t quite see how it justifies a booth rental of $100/table.
But venue aside, let’s talk about sales.
This time round, I went with a slightly different mentality. Formerly, I’d attend each flea market with the intention to maximize the amount of moolah I could earn per item. I had this mentality for the past 5 flea markets I took part in and eventually realized the hard way that I was simply spoiling the fun of flea markets both for the shoppers and myself.
For the shoppers, the thrill is in the hunt for good, cheap buys. And as a seller, most of us go with the intention of clearing our wardrobes of clothes which would otherwise be left sitting there for months or even years. People are offering you cash to get all these junk out of your rooms. LET THEM. For you, the thrill is going home with an empty suitcase.
The clientele of this particular flea market is 90% Filipinos and the remaining 10% comprising a mix of local youths and young adults. Normally, this makes for a rather cheapskate crowd with weak buying-power – but not if you shift your perspective a little.
Indeed, it is ridiculous how they’d bargain for an item to be $2 when you’re selling it at an already low price of $5. Or how they’d be bargaining for $1 when you’ve already dropped your price to $2 before. I still faced this today (some things never change), but I was trying to look past all that.
Instead, I chatted with some of them to learn more about them and discovered that hey, these people don’t necessarily bargain because they are trying to get cheap fashion buys for themselves or to resell elsewhere.
Like this lady whom I offered a mirror to, who rejected me gently, informing me that she was “choosing clothes to put in my box to send to my family back home”.
And this other young-looking Filipino who sheepishly told me that she liked my clothing because she has a young daughter who has the same style as me. She wanted to get some for her because “she would really like it.”
As soon as I heard their stories, I began slashing my prices like crazy just for them. There’s no greater satisfaction knowing that my things are going to people who will appreciate them. And that counts a lot more than an additional dollar’s earnings or two.
The latter Filipino also brought several of her friends (who eventually became customers) to my booth because “I was nice and she really liked me”.
These people are not cheapskates. Most of these Filipinos are maids on their off-day and here they are, spending their hard-earned money on things for their families back home. And it’s not like they earn a lot to begin with. (Three digit monthly salary, anyone?) These people are amazingly generous. And they bargain because they only have this amount of money, and they want to use this amount to send as many things back as possible.
Of course, I’m not speaking for the obviously rich people who flaunt their branded handbags and refuse to spend $2 more on your brand-new dress. (I didn’t manage to speak to them to learn about their stories – not that they’d even want to talk to me anyway. :P) But for them, they’re still in the thrill of a good bargain-chase. We can’t fault them (too much) for that I guess.
As for how I performed today, I went with a huge luggage full of clothes, shoes and bags and returned home with an empty suitcase and only around 75 buckeroos for my time and effort (after deducting the booth rental price, split among 3 friends and myself). Still, I’m amazingly happy.
But I’m so physically tired I don’t think I ever want to do this again.
Recently established my presence on Carousell – a mobile app for anyone to sell their stuff, kind of like a community-generated marketplace. Two weeks into using it, I’m beginning to find myself hooked.
Like many others, I started out selling my second-hand stuff on a Livejournal community called SGSellTrade since late-2005. What started out as a really vibrant community had soon fizzled out into nothing, and it was becoming increasingly harder to sell stuff online. (And flea markets are pretty tiring.) Thank goodness for Carousell.
Even then, selling online is not without its risks. Like lost mail, for example.
In my 8 years of selling online, I’ve had my mail lost 5 times. Thrice when I was selling, and twice when I was buying. The first time my mail was lost, it was gone into oblivion. My buyer never received her item, neither was the mail rerouted back to me. Needless to say, I had a very unhappy buyer on my hands. The second time round, the mail was sent back to my home – apparently, my buyer had provided the wrong address. But that ended well.
And the third time, unfortunately, is now.
When your mail goes missing (whether you’re a seller or a buyer), you’re pretty much helpless, especially when it is through normal mail which Singpost can’t do much about. Registered mail, though it costs $2.24 more, provides an ease of mind as the mail’s delivery path will be completely tracked. But since lost mail is pretty rare, most will just absorb the risk and not register their mail.
After consulting the counter staff at Singapore Post Centre this afternoon, I have a pretty clear idea on what happens behind the scenes when it comes to mail delay. Hopefully, this will enlighten the thousands of sellers out there.
Smaller Mail: Letters/Flat parcels
Delivering smaller mail is straightforward. The postman will simply drop it into your letterbox. If mail in this category do not arrive as expected, it’s due to:
1. The recipient’s address does not exist.
If that’s the case, the mail will be routed back to the sender if there’s a return address. This takes up to 10 working days.
2. The recipient’s address is wrong (leads to someone else instead).
Your mail will land in someone else’s hands, and chances of getting it back is very, very slim. Even if you’ve written a return address, most people won’t bother returning your mail.
3. The recipient’s address is correct, but the postman delivers it to the wrong address.
If the mail is delivered to the wrong letterbox in the same neighbourhood, you’ll still have a chance, although slim.
Large mail wouldn’t fit into the typical mailbox, so the postman will deliver it directly to the recipient’s doorstep. If no one is at home at the time of delivery, the mail will be routed to the nearest post office, with a delivery advice slipped under the recipient’s door.
Occasionally, the postman might have difficulty slipping the delivery advice under the door due to obstruction (eg. houses with animals might have additional metal grilles to keep the pets in). If this is the case, the delivery advice will be inserted into the recipient’s mailbox (immediate) or mailed to the recipients house (additional 2-3 working days’ delay).
When the mail reaches the post-office, the recipient has roughly 5 working days to collect it on-site (with their delivery advice).
If the mail is still not collected, the mail will be re-routed to Singapore Post Centre in Paya Lebar for subsequent handling. Once at Singapore Post Centre, uncollected mail with return addresses will be mailed back to the sender. (Time taken for processing and re-routing generally takes an additional 5 working days.) Those without return addresses will be stored at their lost mail department for an unspecified period of time before they are eventually disposed.
If your parcel has not arrived by the expected time:
1. Look out for a delivery advice.
This will be under your door or in your mailbox. If you have not received a delivery advice, wait out for an additional 3 working days.
2. If the seller has included a return address, just wait.
Chances of mail retrieval are higher is the seller has included a return address. Although it takes up to 15 working days for the above-mentioned mail routing to take place. Ask the seller to alert you if the mail is returned to his/her place.
2. All 3 possibilities listed for smaller mail apply.
Tips when sending out mail
1. Include a return address. (Can’t emphasize this enough.)
2. Write the recipient’s address and your return address in permanent black/blue ink. (If your mail gets soaked in the rain and your ink is not permanent, the address will no longer be legible!)
3. Seal your parcel tightly, this means masking tape over all the flaps and other areas that could possibly break open.
4. If you’re sending out a higher-valued item, take a photo of the parcel before you send it out. (It helps should you need to describe the parcel to that bewildered, confused-looking counter staff at Singpost.)
Have you encountered lost mail when selling/buying online? If so, how did you handle the situation?
‘Starting Now’ is written and sung by local songstress Tay Kewei. It’s the theme song of a current drama serial on entrepreneurship here in Singapore. Titled Start Up!《创!》, it looks into the trials and tribulations of entrepreneurship including betrayal. (No forms of betrayal going on in real life, thankfully. (;)
I did this cover on a whim one weekday – because I loved the melody and the lyrics struck so deep a chord I just wanted to sing it. Yes, that is my voice you’re listening to, and me strumming the ukulele in the background.
This is a tribute to you guys, and everyone out there breaking out of the conventional mould and chasing their dreams. Keep pushing on!
Tay Kewei (郑可为) – Starting Now
同样的悔过 同样的脆弱 共同的脉搏
不要再等候 不要再懦弱 命运自己掌握
开创新的以后 下定决心 就绝不退缩
勇闯未来的梦 相信自己 就放手一搏
Starting now 热血 带领我 冒险
同样的借口 同样的节奏 时间不停留
现在是时候 现在就行动 不向现实低头