It all started ordinarily enough. . .

I got an email yesterday from a prospective Trading Assistant. It was very short, just a few sentences and said he had a garage full of mint in box toys that he is looking to sell. I was very excited. This sounded like an ideal situation. It combined many of the things I like most in a Trading Assistant client. Namely:

  • Mint in box items (easier to list, nothing to research)
  • Toys (the sort of toys he had were the same sort of things friends of mine collect so I was interested in the items. I love listing items I’m interested in anyway, makes it more fun!)
  • Lots of stuff (meaning this could be months of work and therefore lots of money)

So I email him right back and ask him for more info. I really thought, at this point, there was nothing this guy could say to deter me from this contract. Then it got interesting..
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Survivor: Trading Assistant Edition

We get a reply from him that is also only a few sentences long. It just gives a little more info about the type of items that he is looking to sell but contained this interesting sentence:

I have over $10K worth of inventory. I have contacted a few Ebay Trading Assistants in the local area, and would like to try listing $500 worth of items initially. I will then continie to hand out $1K lots to the best Trading Assistants.

Now, once we translate that from client to English, we know that his items are probably not worth anywhere near 10K since every owner thinks their items are worth more than they are. But what’s that second part? He wants to contract with several TAs at once and make them complete, handing out additional items only to the “best” of them? Do the sellers that don’t meet with his standards get voted off the island?

Either way, I reply to the rest of his email about selling his items, etc but then say at the end:

I must confess, if you want to do it competition style pitting TAs against each other as it were, we will respectfully bow out. If you want to hire us to sell the items, we’d be more than happy to help you out but we are not interested in doing this service competition style.

I thought that was a fair statement. If you want to hire us and just us, we are interested. But we are not interesting in going all reality show about it. His items would be competing against themselves as they were all being sold by other sellers and it would be a stressful contract because he would constantly be pitting me against the other TAs. No thanks.

So I “respectfully bowed out” and was “not interested in doing this service.” So I said no, albeit conditionally. My answer could still be a yes if he wanted to hire us and only us but if he wanted to go with multiple sellers, we were not interested.

We figured he would either say, OK, I’ll go with only you or say, OK, no problem, have a nice life. Instead…
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Sane Email Writing: You’re doing it wrong

He sends me back a very long email (easily 2 to 3 pages). The gist of this email is roughly about how great an eBay seller he is and how experienced he is and how he would sell these items himself but he is an artiste (photographer) and cannot lower himself to waste his time with selling on eBay. But then he got into his rules:

  • I had to sell his items in lots (even though any collectibles seller knows his sort of items does better one at a time)
  • I was only permitted to take a single picture per item (What the hell does he care how many pictures I take?)
  • I have to only start the auctions on one of his pre-approved days or times (micromanage much?)
  • He will box the items and number each lot because that is his system and I have to use it. (Which would be anal but OK except) And I have to ship everything in a flat rate Priority Mail box. (Which would be like twice as expensive as mailing it using the non-flat shipping methods I normally use, imagine the DSR damage!)

At this point, my spidey sense is tingling. It is telling me, no matter how good this sounded at the start, to walk away. This guy is VERY OCD and is already trying to tell me how to do my job and we haven’t even started. He’s going to be a huge pain to work with and will insist on my doing things basically that are contrary to what I know from running my business all these years.

But here’s the kicker: He mentions that he has been through many TAs but that he has to keep finding new ones because “they get burned out and take breaks.”

Now the spidey sense is going nuts. I have lots of clients with tons of items. It’s not uncommon for me to have a client with lots of items for years as we work to sell off all their items. I have no problem keeping a client for a very long time. The only time I drop a client before all their items are sold is if they are a huge pain in the ass. Well, coupled with the list of “rules” above, I realize that all these other TAs got “burnt out” rather than work with this nightmare of a guy.

So I’m going to walk away. I write back:

I know I’m the seller you are looking for with your items because I have a lot of experience with exactly these items you describe but I have to confess that your admission that you “burn out” TAs coupled with your “directions” below has raised some red flags for me. Do you think your TAs get burned out because you are micromanaging them? After this email, I know my gut reaction is to walk away. I don’t think any Trading Assistant wants to be told to list things the way the client likes them, especially when (in the examples you gave below) they amount to the wrong way. I don’t mind long term clients, I have had clients whose items took years before all their items were all finally sold, I really prefer contracts like that myself, but I will walk away from anyone who is more drama than they are worth which sounds suspiciously what you are describing.

And as I re-read that, it was a little bitchy. I didn’t mean it to be. I was trying to turn the guy down but also gently explain to him why he’s having so much trouble keeping a Trading Assistant. But no matter what I was shooting for, it came off as a pretty solid “No, thanks” with a bit of an insult in there. You’d think the guy would be like, “OK, have a nice life!”

So I send that email and immediately start second guessing myself. He did have a lot of items. Sure, he was a pain but maybe it would have been worth it to deal with him anyway for the money. My husband agrees but my spidey sense insists I did the right thing. There was something about that guy that was just… “off.” But still, I wondered if it was the right thing to walk away.
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Mr. Spock, please switch us from “off” to “Crazy Warp”

I have now told this guy “No, I will not sell your items” twice already. In the last email, though I wasn’t trying to be, I was kind of an ass about it. You think he is deterred? No way! He sends me even a longer email detailing in even more OCD detail his rules for listing. He passive aggressively says I don’t have to follow his rules if I don’t want to but that they are the best and my way must not be as good. He includes the following sentence (which is never a good sign), “I really don’t want to scare you off”

He goes into a detailed description of the day of an average Hot Wheels collector to tell me exactly what time I should list the listings. Because, you know, there aren’t time zones or anything. It is just the same rules as his past email but much, much more detailed and, well, insane.

But 99% of the email is him begging me to take my items, he promises to be the “easiest customer you’ve ever had” and that I will make lots of money. But his pleas are coming too late.

I like money. You’d think that the first rule of business is to never turn down money. But that isn’t true. An insane person taking years off my life with stress is not worth any amount of money he could make me. That is the most important thing you learn in business, when to say no.

So this guy has wasted most of my day with his very long emails and I have already told him “no” twice but, what the heck, three time’s the charm.

I write (and this is the full content of my email):

We have a large number of clients right now and would probably not be able to give you the individual attention your items would need. We will pass on your items at this time.

Now, this is not a lie. We actually have 10 active TA clients right now and several others that have contacted us recently so we are very busy and a client would have to show up with some pretty awesome stuff to tempt me to take them on when I’m this busy. So while I thought the guy was a crazy person, I was honest and polite in my reply.

But, of course, I was still second guessing myself. My husband insisted I should have just taken at least a single batch of his stuff to see if it was worth it but my spidey sense wasn’t buying it. Luckily, the guy decided to let me know I’d made the right decision.
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You can’t fire me! I quit!

So I’ve told this guy, a full three times now, that I don’t want to sell his items. I have had to endure all his very long emails to my very short replies all day and he has been a colossal waste of my time. But my reply (and my third assertion that I would not be taking him as a client) was polite.

This is what he replied:

You have less than 200 auctions listed right now and you are too busy?
You got burned out before you even started… I can see from your emails that you would not work out.

You are wasting my time.

He could see from the emails where I told him (three times!!) that I would not be selling his items for him, that I would not be a good fit to sell his items for him. The man’s power of observations are astounding.

I can only suppose the time of his I wasted was by forcing him to write out very long psychotic emails begging me to sell his items after I said no and writing out his insane rules. Of course, none of my time was wasted, I was enriched by the experience of his correspondence, especially as he kept writing me long emails after I freaking said “no” already.

And yes, I do have only about 200 auctions going right now. On one of my accounts. And, not for anything, but does he have any idea how much work 200 auctions at once is, especially while you are prepping hundreds more? I forgot what a huge eBay expert he is, I’m sorry. But does backseat driving other people as they do eBay really count as eBay experience?

But he was right about one thing. He did manage to burn me out before I even started with him. I feel so bad for those other Trading Assistants that actually took him on as a client. The man is exhausting.

The point of this very long story? Trust your seller spidey sense. Even if the facts on the page look great, if you have a vibe about something, don’t be afraid to say no. Your stress level is more important than any commission and sometimes turning down a detrimental job can leave you open for something better. Sometimes there are very nice people who would be lovely to work with
but their items just aren’t worth it so I turn them away because I could be using the time I’d spend on their items doing something more worthwhile. You need to evaluate every job and see whether its worth it in your given situation.

Full disclosure: I was going to write this post up after the second email because I knew at that moment that I was walking away. The man degenerating with increasing insanity was just a bonus. But even when he was still being polite and writing normal length emails, I got the vibe that something was off. The fact that he turned out to be totally insane just made me feel like I was right to say no.