To Type, Shoot Straight, and Speak the Truth…
A man of the cloth and the steel he wields
Smart analysis, and I agree, there seems to be a simultaneous rise in the premium/boutique price typewriter sellers out there. I think this brings up an interesting question about the typosphere itself. Within that group, such as it is, is selling or profiting from typewriters a motive or an interest? I would say yes for some people – Adwoa, for example. In her case, she’s making a go of selling typewriters as a business, so its only logical to align with or at least consider the prices of this premium market as the norm, balanced with her own sense of the value of the machines and whatever profit goals she has. If one is *not* selling typewriters as a business, however, I don’t think it’s particularly ethical to sell typewriters for vastly inflated prices to others just because one can– I think there is a real distinction here. I am sure that many people will disagree with me on that one, but that’s just where I stand. I wouldn’t use something like the typewriter to mislead people or profit from their ignorance just because I know they are not aware that they are paying too much for something. That’s not why I’m into typewriters. Money is money, so obviously everyone has a different view on it. I just think it’s tacky unless you’re going to style yourself as a business, and get real about it.
I imagine that Adwoa could make a pretty decent go of selling the machines she can get cheaply in Switzerland to buyers in the States – shipping is hella expensive, but if our recent example is any indication, it’s also pretty fast and dependable – and someone who really wants a European-keyboard machine that’s nearly impossible to find in the States likely isn’t going to qualm if half the price they pay is shipping.
Personally, I am terribad at selling things. I either want to keep it or just give it away because I have this idea in my head that if I don’t want a thing anymore, then nobody else could possibly want it, and charging money for it would be an insult. However, Tori has no such delusion, and already has an Etsy store. I could see picking out a half-dozen of the good-working-condition “Culls” from our collection and seeing if she could sell them for a reasonable price. Not hundreds, for sure, but a tested and cleaned workhorse SCM might oughta go for a Ulysses S. Grant plus shipping, no? A person could make platen-recovering money that way. :D
I did make a go of selling typewriters last year, and I still have a couple on my “for sale” list (space being at a premium here) but I would hasten to add that I don’t operate on the same level as these Etsy sellers. For one, the market simply isn’t here. You have all seen the typewriters I photograph regularly at the thrift stores and flea markets; there is nothing stopping anyone from buying directly there instead of from me – and the fact that they have a hard time selling confirms the lack of interest in typewriters, generally. I had a good streak in the beginning, but now the market is flat calm – which I don’t mind too much because I was never making a significant profit, although what I do mind is having to really think about getting a new acquisition, because it is not easy to offload the extras I don’t need/ have space for anymore (unless a Ted puts up his hand for shipping to the US). So there is no room for error; I really intend to use the typewriters I get, and the thought of selling them comes much later when I have found something else I like better.
Which is all to say that at the end of the day, I am much more of a collector than a seller, and I have been known to sell at a loss simply to make room around here. It may be a seller’s market in the U.S., with people ready to pay 10x the eBay rate for something nicely photographed on etsy, but it is far different here and even if I list for $10 (!!!) I am hard pressed to find a buyer. Anyone want an Olympia SF? :-)
I don’t see any ethical problem with selling expensive typewriters, as long as you don’t tell any lies. It’s up to the buyer to decide whether the machine is “worth it” and to do as much research as they want before buying. If, for instance, they buy a folding Corona from you for $500, they probably haven’t bothered to do some easy research (30 seconds on eBay) and find out that the typical price is 10% of that. OK — you as the seller have done nothing wrong. The buyer must be pretty affluent and would rather spend $500 than spend 30 seconds. You have no duty to tell your customers that they can get the product cheaper elsewhere. You have a duty to tell the truth, I say, and nothing but the truth — but not necessarily the whole truth!
yep, all great points. I have trouble charging SO much more than I paid, but with strangers I suspect it will be easier. Plus my own pricing would reflect my view that the shipping company should not make any more than I do on the deal.
I've decided to set up some ground rules for comments, because some people just don't get common courtesy. Here's a reminder:
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