Articles Featuring the Thrifting 'Boys'
Published November 2013
Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith discuss the mystique of their business. By Brad and Debra Schepp- Nov 11, 2013
If you ever had a teacher in school who really motivated you, who was so captivating you almost didn't realize you were learning, then you'll appreciate Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith. Together, they're the team behind the thriving continue reading
Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith discuss how to thrift for profit. By Brad and Debra Schepp- Nov 22, 2013 Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith (aka Thrifting with the Boys) are smart and entertaining. That's always a great combination, but it's all too rare among educators. That's why we're all ears when they talk. continue reading
Published December 2013
Bryan Goodman and Jason Smith discuss listing tips and the benefits of networking. By Brad and Debra Schepp- Dec 6, 2013 In Parts 1 and 2 of our series with the "Thrifting with the Boys" guys, Bryan Goodman and Jason T. Smith, we learned why thrift stores are great places for sourcing products, got some tips for how to thrift, and learned what items are selling well. In this installment, we'll learn much more about their continue reading
Small-business owners concerned about potential effect of sales tax on Web purchases
By LAURA CARROLL
LAS VEGAS REVIEW-JOURNAL
Jason Smith, owner of Tiki Pug Music, is concerned that a new law could put him out of business.
Smith primarily sells his wares — miscellaneous items including T-shirts, CDs and lingerie — on eBay and Amazon. He started selling online 17 years ago, “back when eBay was so small I actually looked at everything that was being sold online.”
For years, Smith made extra money that way off and on. Eventually, he quit his “real job” at a Las Vegas hot tub store where he delivered tubs to customers, pursuing his online entrepreneurship instead.
Now, he operates two online stores via eBay and Amazon and runs his recently opened storefront at the Sin City Antique Mall.
Smith, with a business partner, also runs Thrifting with the Boys, a Facebook group that teaches people to shop in thrift stores and make money selling their finds online. The group has about 4,000 followers, including a contingent of retirees. Because of its success, eBay has hired the duo to speak at conferences; and Smith occasionally writes how-to articles for websites.
On any given day, he has 1,100 items listed on eBay and 700 CDs for sale on Amazon. Smith sells between 200 and 400 items each month from his upstairs bedroom, where he works in his gym shorts.
“It’s definitely an at-home business,” Smith said.
The Marketplace Fairness Act, if enacted into law, could prevent him from growing his business, contributing to his local economy and competing with large retailers, he said.
The proposed legislation grants states the authority to compel online and catalog retailers, no matter their location, to collect sales tax at the time of a transaction. The act passed the Senate earlier this year and goes before the House this session.
“It would be really crushing,” Smith said.
He said retirees who supplement their income selling online will be completely wiped out if the Internet sales tax bill goes through.
“It’s a daunting task to all of a sudden have to pay attention to almost 10,000 taxing jurisdictions,” he said.
The United States has 9,600 sales tax jurisdictions, because cities and counties also impose sales taxes.
Smith’s Tiki Pug Music, too, may cease to exist if the law’s enacted. “It would eat into my bottom line so much, who knows if I would survive,” he said.
Not everyone shares Smith’s view.
Brian Harge is president and CFO of Sports Entertainment Gear, a local company that sells light-up game-day shirts online. He also is general manager of Passion Parties International, through which he has dealt with collecting sales taxes in most jurisdictions.
“It is a very complicated and tedious system to navigate. The Marketplace Fairness Act is much-needed legislation to ensure that all businesses are operating on the same playing field in regards to collecting sales and use taxes,” Harge said.
As for the new law affecting his startup, Sports Entertainment Gear, Harge said the company has had the legislation on its radar, and doesn’t think it will have a huge effect on business.
The International Council of Shopping Centers is among those lobbying for the legislation to pass, as it represents the $2.4 trillion shopping center industry. In 2012, shopping center sales accounted for $137.6 billion in sales tax.
After the legislation passed the Senate, the International Council of Shopping Centers released this statement through its president and CEO, Michael Kercheval: “We applaud this common sense development; the Senate’s vote marks a big step forward for landlords and retailers, and for fairness in general. Now ICSC will turn our attention to the House of Representatives to ensure that all retailers, online and physical, are operating by the same rules.”
Centers and shops are not the only ones who stand to benefit should the bill become law, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. States could gain some $24 billion that currently goes uncollected, according to some estimates.
Devin Wenig, president of eBay Marketplaces, has said it’s inevitable that an online sales tax bill will eventually become law, but that it won’t stop his company from fighting to make it fair for small businesses.
EBay, for example, is fighting for as big a sales tax exemption as possible. The company also operates a microsite, eBaymainstreet.com, set up to assist and inform small businesses about what’s going on.
However, Amazon favors the legislation and has said it levels the playing field for all sellers while addressing the states’ needs without federal spending.
“I think people who are in support of it are just dazzled by the dollar signs. They’re not thinking about the small seller online,” Smith said.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at email@example.com or 702-380-4588
John L. Smith
Internet sales tax would challenge online mom-and-pop shops
Posted: May 9, 2012 | 1:59 a.m.
This isn't your typical rags-to-riches story. It's the kind of tale you might read if Horatio Alger had been a clever couch potato.
Armchair entrepreneur Jason Smith has crafted the sort of successful career that is possible through the online looking glass. The Las Vegan is an eBay sales mogul, an eagle-eyed thrift-store shopper extraordinaire whose business has grown substantially since he began hawking items online 13 years ago.
He's also a critic of plans in Congress to compel him to collect taxes from his out-of-state buyers. I'll get to that, but first a little background about his intriguing business model.
At 41, thrifting is in Smith's blood. He grew up hitting weekend garage sales with his mother and grandmother and learned the value of other people's castoffs. After a job-related injury left him rehabbing at home, he decided to put his knowledge to work on the Internet. And Thrifting With the Boys was born.
Smith now spends much of his day scouring secondhand stores for first-rate bargains. From clothes to tiki mugs, purses to board games, he sniffs out the undervalued items and displays them on eBay.
Sound like a nice little hobby?
It's more than that. These days Smith employs assistants and ships 300 to 500 packages a month, up to 700 during the Christmas holidays.
"I make enough that my wife has never bugged me to get a 9-to-5 job," he says.
That much, huh?
What's more, he's also become a spokesman for the online sales phenomenon. He helps others break into the great eBay garage sale and makes speaking appearances to offer his tips to the growing legion of resale entrepreneurs.
"Some people make extra money," Smith says. "Some make ends meet with what we've taught them."
His greatest challenge these days isn't finding a designer blouse for a buck or a signed first edition for 50 cents. It's avoiding getting steamrolled by the growing momentum in Congress to start taxing Internet sales.
That issue led Mr. Smith to Washington recently as part of eBay's citizen lobbying contingent. States facing gaping, recession-related shortfalls are looking to alternative sources of revenue generation. Multiple ideas are making their way through Congress, at least one enjoying heavy support from corporate big-box stores, and are being met with varying degrees of interest.
Count Smith and scores of other small-business operators like him as critics of changes that could take the fun and profit out of their diminutive empires. Their greatest challenge: Calculating sales taxes across state lines. There are only about 9,000 of those jurisdictions in the United States, an eBay representative says.
In Nevada, Gov. Brian Sandoval recently crafted an agreement with online giant Amazon to collect taxes on its in-state sales. For his trouble, Sandoval is being hit by the state's tax-paranoid conservatives.
As for Smith's personal business model, he reminds me that someone already paid taxes on his merchandise when it was new. He paid taxes on it when he plucked it from secondhand-store obscurity. He also believes forcing small and essentially unsophisticated mom-and-pop sellers to adhere to a complicated sales tax scenario will put them out of business almost before they get started.
Paying an in-state sales tax is one thing, eBay government relations manager Caitlin Brosseau notes, but expecting the Jason Smiths of the marketplace to become accounting and tax law experts is wholly unfair.
"There should be protections for small businesses," she argues.
After returning from Washington, Smith went back to working the local thrift-store circuit for bargains. Clothes are his biggest sellers, followed by record albums, ceramics, purses, toys and games.
The tax games being played in Congress are out of his price range.
John L. Smith's column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.
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Succeeding in Your Business
by Cliff Ennico
The Real American Pickers
You do realize, don't you, that so-called reality shows are not real?
While the actors picked for these shows aren't what we might call Hollywood-attractive, and therefore look more like real people than actors, they're still actors, aren't they? And let's face it — reality is just plain boring most of the time, so the producers have to spice things up a bit to keep up their Nielsen ratings.
We all love treasure-hunt/buried-treasure stories, so the hot new reality show is "Pawn Stars," which is about a real-life Las Vegas pawn shop. On a recent episode, a guy walks into the shop with a first-edition Ernest Hemingway novel, signed by the author. If you had something like that, would you ever bring it to a pawn shop?
Remember the PBS series "Antiques Roadshow"? A poor schlep walks into the room with a beat-up old pocket watch to see how much it's worth. The dealer rolls his eyes, jumps out of his chair, and says "Omigod! See those initials 'G.W.' on the reverse? This is George Washington's pocket watch — the one he lost at Valley Forge! The Smithsonian has been looking for this for decades! It's worth millions!"
That sort of thing happens every day at your local antiques shop, I'm sure.
Think of "Pawn Stars" as "Antiques Roadshow" for a downsized economy. "American Pickers" is right behind: two guys in a rusty pickup truck rummaging through people's garbage and coming up with — gasp! — buried treasure.
The thing that bugs me about all these shows is that the "treasure hunters" don't give you any real advice for finding real buried treasure in your neighborhood.
Time to really get real, folks. At a recent eBay sellers' convention, I bumped into Jason Smith and Bryan Goodman, two eBay PowerSellers who have started Thrifting With the Boys (thrifting-with-the-boys.com). With offices in Las Vegas (actually, right down the road from the "Pawn Star" shop) and Boston, the TWTB crew travels the country speaking at seminars, hosting thrifting excursions and teaching people how to find bargains and treasures at their local thrift shops.
When these guys walk into a thrift shop, people notice. Think of a ZZ Top tribute band without the guitars. Jason is 6-foot-5 with a shaved head, hillbilly beard, a build like an NFL linebacker, a booming bass voice — and painted toenails. You call him "sir" if you know what's good for you.
Bryan is beardless, has a bit more hair, and lacks a few inches in height. Clearly the "good cop" — the guy who suggests you reduce the tag price on that red-white-and-blue Bicentennial bowling ball so his partner Jason doesn't get excited, if you catch my drift.
Seriously, these are two of the sweetest guys I know in the eBay community, and they're quite a show. But they are deadly serious about turning other people's tax-deductible donations into their customers' treasures.
"There's really no drama in what we do, and we are not going to create it artificially," Jason says. "Like in that 'Pawn Star' episode where the guy drops and breaks something, and they have to deal with the customer who's standing right there. I mean, come on — that just happened when the cameras were rolling?"
The Boys show their customers — primarily eBay sellers and others looking for bargains they can then resell online at full market value — the ropes of dealing with thrift shop owners; getting the best deals (yes, you can negotiate, even though the prices are often at rock bottom); how to time your trips so you arrive when the trucks are being unloaded (before your competitors show up); and learning to spot the good stuff in a disorganized pile of — ahem — merchandise.
"Sometimes the best stuff isn't what you would think, like the collectibles from 20 years ago or the vintage clothing," Bryan says. "It's the everyday stuff that people bought but never really used and that can still be used today."
Here are some tips for eBay sellers from the Boys:
- Buy Hard Rock Cafe and Harley Davidson shirts — they must be authentic with original labels, but they do well on eBay.
- Use a mobile phone application to scan books and other items at thrift stores to see approximate value. (Why pay $2 for a book that sells for a penny on Amazon?)
- If you are buying to resell online, consider your time in packing the item. Big things can be costly to ship safely, so start with easy to ship items like clothing.
If you're in Boston or Las Vegas or at any eBay sellers' conference (for a schedule, see eBayOnLocation.com), sign up for one of the Boys' thrift shop tours. If you're not, keep your eyes open on YouTube and other online video venues for their thrift shopping tips.
The Boys are talking about a reality TV show, and I really hope that happens — watching these guys in action certainly beats watching Snooki do her nails.
Cliff Ennico (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a syndicated columnist, author and former host of the PBS television series "Money Hunt." This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.
COPYRIGHT 2011 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO
DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS.COM
eBay Success Stories Learn to buy, sell and profit just like these top eBay entrepreneursby Emma Johnson
Sure, anyone can sign up on eBay to sell a hot roller set or get rid of that weed trimmer they never use. But that doesn’t mean the next step is a six-figure income from the comfort of their basement rec room. We asked three eBay superstars how they built their retail trade into a successful full-time job.
Hometown: Henderson, Nevada
eBay store: TikiPugMusic
Launch date: 1999
Went full time: 2000
Store sells: Music, clothes and tiki collectibles
I’ve been a music collector for most of my life. In 2000, I lost my dream job as the computer nerd for a CD store chain. To support myself, I started selling CDs I’d collected over the years on eBay.
It grew from a hobby to a side job. By then, I had found a new day job delivering hot tubs. I decided that I’d had enough working for someone else. I was doing this very taxing, physical job in the Vegas sun and decided that as soon as I was making as much on eBay as the day job, I would go full time on eBay. A year later, I did.
My product offerings have evolved. Digital downloads crushed the CD business, so I started to capitalize on my collection of all things Hawaiian—especially tiki mugs. I’ve positioned myself as a tiki-mug expert. I tell my followers to e-mail me pics of mugs they find at garage sales, and I e-mail them right back with the value. One time, I sold a mug for $600.
One day while scouring thrift stores for merchandise, I came across a really nice men’s Tommy Bahama shirt for $5, and I knew I could sell it for a lot more. So I slowly started adding men’s and then women’s clothing. Whatever I sell, it has to be unique or high quality. I won’t sell some generic gray Champion sweatshirt, but in addition to the big scores, I do have my meat-and-potato stuff that fills the store. But you have to know your stuff and know what things are worth so you can price appropriately.
I got the “top-rated seller” status by giving great customer service and accurate listings. I also put a lot of energy into creating high-quality pictures. I have a good camera, and I invested in several mannequins for men and women and different body types. Also, I ship every single day. I’m amazed at how other retailers ship stuff willy-nilly. I’m on a first-name basis with my postman. Bob takes good care of me.
I recently partnered with a friend for a venture called Thrifting With the Boys. We do public speaking and have an e-book offering tips on buying items for resale at thrift stores, as well as offer information through our website. This drives traffic to my eBay store.
Sometimes my friends are like, “You don’t work that hard.” But I work a lot more hours than most of my friends who have nine-to-five jobs. It’s easy in that anybody can do it. But you have to learn your craft, fine-tune your skills and keep up in changes in technology and the marketplace.