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Sunday, March 30, 2014

Amazon and eBay BUYERS Can Drive You CrAzY!!


At least be honest folks. Don't make the Seller look like it was their fault.
I already mentioned the buyer who said she never got the package although UPS (or was it FedEX?) showed that it was "delivered on porch." Yes, I gave her the benefit of the doubt and refunded her in full. I had to, it is Amazon policy.

Then I had a buyer who marked a return as "Not as described" meaning the product I sent him was not the same as what was described in the advertisement listing. However, the comment included in the same "return request" was:

"Buyer Comment: My husband and I realized that we just can't afford this coffee brew at this time and hope to get it in the future. How do I go about returning this item? Do I pay? Do you pay? Thank you!"

Not only does it make it look to Amazon like I'm shipping products that don't match the description but it also means that, thanks to someone's impulse buying, I now have to pay return shipping for an item that was EXACTLY as described (to the tune of about $38). I'm currently in negotiations with this buyer.

I'm sharing this not to complain, although I am complaining ;-) , but mostly to let you know that if you are going to sell stuff on the internet...you are going to have to deal with problematic customers. Let me go do a quick tally...ok, done. I'm up to 176 orders either pending or processed.

I have received two official complaints (negative feedback) which I've already discussed.  Neither of which deserved to be negative feedback. But that's the nature of the beast. It's like surfing comments on YouTube and being shocked that people make absurdly rude comments. 99% of your buyers will not care one iota about how much hassle or money they cost you. The lady that left me the negative feedback that couldn't figure out how to reverse it (or so she says) ...contacted me eight more times asking me how to find a serial number on her new coffee maker so that she could answer a question someone else posted on someone else's advertisement for the same coffee maker.

At the moment, I'm dealing with a guy in Conneticut whom has decided he does not want the vacuum cleaner that he bought from me. He'll return it once I send him the return shipping label, which will cost me $56 for a large object. After a little finesse, he has agreed to return it to his local Walmart. You see, as I mentioned before, sometimes you run out of stock and still get one straggler sale that you couldn't prevent as it was stuck in Amazon's "pending" queue. Being the nice guy I am (smirk), rather than just canceling his order (which would have dinged my Seller's account as not having inventory), I went to Walmart.com and bought one for him and had it shipped to his house. I thought it was a win-win situation...until he decided he didn't want it after all.

Luckily, after a quick call to Walmart "site to store" service, they instructed me on how to access my order online and  generate a return receipt complete with barcode. I saved this file and emailed to Mr. Don'tWantItAnymore with instructions to present said receipt to the Customer Service counter at this local Wallymart. Once I see the credit hit MY account, I'll refund HIS account.

Sheesh.

That being said, this concept is still producing income and I am getting better at it. Although I've had SEVERAL setbacks in the month of March, I am still ahead for the month. I'll know exactly how much after the dust settles.

What is becoming more and more clear is the need to create my own product. This has always been in the back of my mind. It has been a long standing joke for someone to say "I'm in the import/export business" but that is what eCommerce truly is...buying from someone and selling it to someone else. If you an figure out how to do that, and make a profit, you are succeeding in one of the oldest trades on the planet.

Remember this guy?
But what is better than "buying low" and "selling high" is creating a product yourself. Something with your own two hands. One of my back-burner projects is to become proficient at ammunition reloading. (Thanks to a good friend, I have a good head start on books) Ammo has been around for centuries and will continue for many more (hopefully). We all saw the gun and ammo scare in the recent couple of years that made everything all the way down to .22 LR ammo harder to find than a Tickle Me Elmo in 1996 (I sold on eBay back then, fun times!)

If I had stocked up on ammo reloading supplies before the Obama years, I couldn't have not only SAVED myself a lot of money (by not purchasing practice ammo at high prices) but could have MADE money selling my reloads.  SurvivalBlog has a terrific archive of time tested home based businesses. (Psst, blogging is one possibility).

In my other universe,  I blog and sell reloads, Wifey sews clothing and other tangible goods, Sis crochets hats, scarves and gloves while entertaining on her piano in local restaurants, Macky blogs about book reviews and publishes her own best selling books, and we all create enough income to live happily ever after on our own little farm....with chickens and goats and stuff...

~OJD

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How to Sell on Amazon and eBay - Part One

It's easier to offer free shipping when you drop ship
I think the best preface for this topic is to say that, like any business, selling products online from home is not all "rainbows and butterflies" like my girls would say. There is actual work involved. The type of work, however, in my opinion, is much more tolerable than...say...working in a tiny cubicle all day for some schmuck who doesn't even know your name.

In my last post I said I made $1200 in one week by selling stuff on Amazon. That part is true. As Paul Harvey would say: "Now, for the REST of the story." I am still having to deal with those sales weeks later. I've had items that were shipped out from a warehouse and mysteriously recalled back to the warehouse for no reason. I found out when the Buyer (the person buying the item FROM me on Amazon) emailed me a polite little "WTF" email. I had an item delivered and it stated so on the UPS website yet the customer swears she never got it and demanded a full refund immediately. And a slew of other issues to deal with long after the item had been sold.

So don't think that you can simply sell something, ship it, collect the money and walk away. Because it (usually) ain't that easy and that is what I am learning...and passing along to you. My goal, however, is to take all that I've learned and hopefully create the aforementioned utopia where I advertise an item, sell it, ship it and be done. The best part is, I'll be able to leapfrog YOU closer to that utopia by teaching you what NOT to do via the mistakes I've made.

So let's get to it!

The Tom Clancy plane from Doba did okay on eBay
For now, I'm not going to explain how to set up an Amazon account to sell with, a PayPal account to accept payment through or how to use an email program to automate the selling process but I will...eventually. It is important that you know these things but I'm betting most of you are interested in where to find things to sell and how to sell them effectively.

Que the dreamy music...

It was the second week of February and I was sitting at the kitchen table surfing the internet on my laptop. One of my favorite sites to visit is a website that posts about things being on sale and therefore, saving money if you catch the item on said sale. The site is called SlickDeals.net and has thousands of members (including me) who proudly attempt to be the first person to post a smoking hot deal on just about any item on the internet. Members gets points and "thumbs" up or down on the deals they post and it can become an honor badge to be a top poster. If your item does extremely well, your "deal" gets promoted to the Front Page where only the slickest of the slick deals get posted (hence the name.) I'll discuss this more in a tips section later but another cool tip is to read the responses (comments) on these deals because the SlickDealers post additional ways to save even more money in the comments like using Cash Back credit cards to make the purchase or coupon codes to lower the price, etc. I typically only look at Front Page deals for reselling purposes.

The Sous Vide oven thingy
On this particular day, I noticed a Sous Vide Supreme Water Oven on sale for $199. What is that? Doesn't matter, just keep reading. It was posted that this item usually sells for $300. Knowing what I know about buying and selling, finding something $100 below retail cost can be a great opportunity to make some money...and that's exactly what popped into my mind. Here's the post so you can see it for yourself. It now says the deal is expired...because like any sale, it eventually ends but it will give you a good idea of what I'm talking about.

Having sold on many platforms, I have learned that you can just about count on the place you are selling your item to take a HUGE chunk of your profit. That's just the nature of the beast. I used to complain when eBay took 10% of my profit. Amazon is MUCH worse. I'll show you numbers in a bit. So seeing an item $100 under retail told me that even if Amazon kept $50 in fees, I could pocket the other $50 which is well above my threshhold.

Now, there's a comfort threshhold which you have to decide on for yourself. This is the margin of profit that you feel makes the whole thing worth your time. 12 years ago (-ish) I used to go to the local Target and buy a bunch of their clearance items when they would mark them down to 75% off. I'd fill a shopping cart, buy it and take it home...then list it all on ebay. A $100 widget, at 75% off, cost me $25 but anyone on the street buying it NOT on sale would  expect a retail price of $100. I would sell it for $50 on eBay, pocket $20-ish (10% fees were $5.00) and the buyer was happy to get it at $50. Everything that didn't sell within 28 days went back to Target for a full refund with my receipt and I'd start all over. But lots of people started catching on so...competition rose.

During this process, I learned that the $5 widgets that only made me a buck or two were NOT worth the hassle. Neither were $10 items. For me, if I didn't make at least $20 in my pocket, it wasn't worth messing with. Everyone will have a different comfort level. I'm sure there are people that will say every penny earned is another penny I didn't have before. But you have to weigh that small profit against the chance that your customer who bought the item may turn against you. If they are unhappy and leave you negative feedback, that affects your online reputation at places like Amazon and eBay. At least on eBay you can leave feedback on buyers too. On Amazon, no luck.

They can wreck your reputation with no repercussions. I had one lady leave me the worst rating she could leave because she figured out I made a profit on the item she bought. The company that shipped the item to her (BestBuy) offers a "gift" option where the package is only supposed to include a "gift receipt." Gift receipts do not show any prices but have a barcode which allow the customer to return the item if unwanted but they will never see what you paid. On this particular occasion, BestBuy sent the regular receipt to my customer which showed that I paid $49.99 for an item that she paid me $84.99 for. Her feedback literally reads: "Seller charged me a total of $85 for this item which he purchased for $49.99. He told me that is how he makses money!!!"

I have no recourse for this lady who clearly needs a basic Economics 101 class and, so, I left that response to her feedback. For every negative feedback you get, it takes scores in the positive to make up ground. Unfortunately, maybe 1 out of 50 leave feedback. What moron thinks that the people selling her widgets AREN'T making money doing it???

But back to the art of picking products. So, seeing this Sous Vide thing, I go to CamelCamelCamel and plug in the name of the product. CCC keeps a database of item prices going back about three years. With their data, you can see highest price, lowest price and average price of any given item. They make money if you click on the item link from their website which takes you to Amazon. If you buy something, they get a percentage for referring you to Amazon.

The Camel chart shows Lowest Price since Dec 2012 is around $259
The top red arrow shows that usually this thing hovers around $329. Only twice has it dipped way down to $259 and that was for a very short period of time. I can get in on this deal for $199 for a few days. Note: sales vary and you have to pay attention to ending dates of the sale.

So I hopped over to Amazon, the mother of all shopping stores, and plugged in the same item name to check out the competition. I find out that Amazon is selling this item for $299.95 with free shipping.

My competition is asking $300 on Amazon for an item I can get for $199.

One of the useful things about selling on Amazon is that you can post up a mock item for sale and once you've plugged in your asking price and shipping options, Amazon will tell you exactly how much of the money they will be sending you (total paid by customer - Amazon fees). We'll deal with shipping fees later.

Now you might be saying to yourself "I don't have the money to buy this stuff up front and then sell it." If this is the case, sell only on eBay. When a customer pays you using PayPal, the cash they paid is instantly available to you. You can then use your PayPal account to go buy the product you sold and not use a penny of your own money. Amazon, on the other hand, should only take a week to get your money to your bank. Sometimes it can take much longer. You have to have your own "business capital" or money-in-hand to sell on Amazon. I used a credit card and could pay off the balance before fees accrued when Amazon transferred the money to me in a timely manner.

 I listed the Sous Vide for sale at an attractive enough discount from the Amazon price that I got immediate attention. Some people only buy what they see in front of them which is usually an item being sold straight from the Mighty Amazon. However, if you look off to the right side of the page, you'll see that this exact same item is sold by more people/companies than just Amazon..and usually much cheaper. So the smart shoppers immediately check this list and see who has the lowest price. Amazon arranges this chart of sellers according to lowest price on top. If I undercut everyone selling this item, I'm the first seller the buyer sees, hence getting first swing at the sale.

I marked this oven at $259 which was a substantial savings to the customer. Amazon, in most circumstances, automatically adds a shipping fee to your item based on weight, size, etc. On this oven, Amazon automatically added $11.49 in shipping fees. I can not change this. Adding it up, this meant I was charging $270.49 for the oven that Amazon (and just about everyone else) was selling for $300. I'm still, with shipping fees, $30 cheaper.

In the first day I sold two. I quickly went to SlickDeals and followed the links to the product. Bought two ovens separately and in the "Ship To" fields, I put the customer's information. This was my first item to sell and also where I discovered the excitement of using the Gift Receipt to hide my purchase price.

Since the oven site was offering free shipping, I paid $199 out the door for what the customer paid me $270.49, hence:

$270.49 paid by the customer
-$40.00 kept by Amazon for fees (ouch!)
------------
$230.49 paid to me by Amazon
-$199.00 my cost for buying oven
-------------
$31.49 profit in my pocket.

It took me maybe five minutes to post the item for sale on Amazon. About the same to buy the item and ship it out. Another couple of minutes here and there to send an "Item being processed" email and a "Here's your tracking number" email to the buyer. All from the comfort of my own home.

Now there's an art to picking items to list for sale. I just gave you some of the criteria.

  1. There has to be a large enough margin of profit to make it worth your time. Find this by checking your purchase price versus Camel AND see what the current asking price is on Amazon.
  2. Unlike eBay, on Amazon if you list and item and it doesn't sell...there is NO fee to you. On eBay, they charge you to list the item for sale AND a percentage of the sales price IF someone buys it from you. So, it doesn't hurt to try out an item and list it on Amazon.
  3. See how many people are offering the item for sale in the section on the right side of the page that we talked about. Are two people offering this item? Maybe not a hot selling item. Are 200 people selling it? There's a reason for that (hint: hot item).
  4. Only pick items that come with free shipping for you. Most items are a good $20+ for shipping. If you find a smoking deal and the site only charges, say, a Flat Fee of $5...just add that into your cost and see if it makes sense.
  5. Most important, it must come with a gift receipt. Take a few minutes and walk through the mock purchase of the item and see if you can find somewhere to tick mark the item as a gift. If you don't find that option, you can call the company like you are making an order over the phone and simply ask them if there is a gift option. I was very disappointed to find that Rakuten does not offer gift receipts. I was routinely finding hot item after hot item super cheap over there but if you can't hide the purchase price, it's not worth it in my book.
  6. When I found a site with prices I couldn't pass up but they only offered an area to "leave instructions" instead of a gift receipt...I found the cheapest item they sold and bought it myself. I had it shipped to my house to see what was in the box if I left instructions to "Only include gift receipt please." To my surprise, it worked. I shipped over 30 items from that place.
Catching things on sale can be tricky and sometimes (weeks) there just isn't anything good on sale. So now that I had the sales bug, I didn't want to stop selling. I began looking for a wholesaler who dropshipped. Dropshipping means you have an account with a company that will ship out products for you and every item is gift receipted (or you send the dropshipper a template receipt with your name on it and they include it in the package for you.)

There are tons of dropshipping companies out there and none are free that I know of. I mixed in dropshipping after I had made the $1200 and use around $300 of that on an annual membership to a reputable dropshipper named Doba (Doba.com).  I now had literally thousands of products to choose from that were reportedly at wholesale prices. Some quick checking using the above methods disclosed to me that not all products were wholesale (some were cheaper on eBay) but there was still a good amount I could use.

While I worked with Doba (and I'll tell you all about it later), I began to search for the next level up the resell ladder which I believed to be a Certified (aka Authorized) Reseller of a particular brand. There were several reasons for this move.

  1. While selling Hoover vacuums on Amazon, I received an email from Hoover's legal team asking if I had a Reseller's license for their product and if not to Cease and Desist. 
  2. I noticed that even though I could find some really great prices on items, there was, on occasion, one or two people offering that same product for much less than my sales price. There could be only a few reasons they could do this: either they were selling counterfeits, selling used or refurbished items as new items, or they were buying their items directly from the manufacturer and as Certified Resellers of that brand could attain those products cheaper than anybody else.
  3. Being able to post the Certified Reseller logo on your auctions gave comfort to buyers and increases sales. 
  4. As a Certified Reseller, you are often times allowed to offer better warranties to customers than people who are not authorized to resell the products. 
After about a month looking at brands and doing some homework, I landed a Certified Reseller's account with a watch company that I really admire. I'm not ready to disclose it because I haven't begun selling it yet but let's just say it's akin to Rolex. I can now buy Rolex watches cheaper than anybody in the retail world and sell them on Amazon, eBay, or my own website and make a profit.

So there are several ways to find products to sell. We'll also discuss the method of reverse engineering this process. If I discover that a widget is a hot seller on Amazon, I use similar methods to google search that widget and see if I can find it cheaper on the internet. This same process is used when you sell an item that was on sale when you posted it but either sold out of stock or went off sale right before you got the SOLD notice.

Plug the item name into a typical Google search and hit enter.

Use the Google Shopping search for your item in question
 The click on the shopping tab at the top. This will bring up a list of people selling this item. At the top of this list is usually states the item's name and how many people/stores are selling the item:

This shows that 10+ stores are selling this item
Click the link to that item (in blue, where is says "SousVide Supreme Demi Water Oven - Red") and this will take you to the next page.

Now you can sort the cost

 Click on the "Compare prices" link and go to the next page.

Cost order is random unless you click "Your Price" to sort
Click on the "Your Price" link and the sellers will be sorted from cheapest to the most expensive. Use this method to see if you can find a seller who has a price low enough for YOU to buy from and ship out. I sold out of a vacuum that I received a sale on . I googled it found it cheap enough to still make a profit so I bought it and had it shipped to my buyer. I asked for a gift receipt and all was well.

It doesn't always turn out this way. I have taken losses of $5-$10 in order to save the deal and prevent the chance for negative feedback. I have also told customers that we simply ran out of stock and refunded the money they paid. I've never had a customer complain about doing that but Amazon keeps track and it is part of your "Seller Score" so don't do it too often. I'd rather take a $5 hit than a ding from Amazon.

I routinely browse BonTon, Kohl's, JCPenneys and Sears for items I'm selling. By using RetailMeNot and searching for your store, you can usually find coupon codes for your items and it knocks the price down to a profitable level. I sold dozens of vacuum cleaners from BonTon during their recent sale becuase:

  1. The item was on sale
  2. There was a 25% off coupon code, like their recent Goodwill sale
  3. There is always a free shipping code
  4. With Kohls, you also earn Kohl's cash for your purchase, which you can turn around (in a few weeks) and use to lower your purhase price even lower.

I'll stop there for now. It's after midnight and I have to be at work in the morning. Leave comments and questions about things you don't understand or want to hear more about. I apologize for the lack of structure in the way I'm laying this out. It's more of a brain dump at this point before I forget the details but I can always go back later and clean it up into a nice little "how to " series.

~OJD

Friday, March 21, 2014

Making $1200 in One Week on Amazon - My Way

 How to Have a Profitable Home Based Business - Part One

I'm sure I'm not the only person who wants to make money from home and build a successful home-based business. I've attempted several times to craft my own business model with mixed results.

This Keurig has been a very big seller
In February of this year, I started selling items on Amazon.  In a little over one week, I was able to PROFIT over $1000 but not without taking some lumps. Here's some of what I learned:

  1. Amazon has "velocity limits" that, until I reached them, are not posted anywhere that I knew about. When a seller reaches a velocity limit, their account is suspended until Amazon has the time to investigate if you are delivering your sold products or just pocketing the money. There are ways to avoid the velocity limit and continue selling without getting temporarily suspended.
  2. After selling 20 or so of the same item, I was contacted by a legal team for said company and asked to either prove I was a certified reseller of their product or cease and desist. Turns out I was acting legally and I can show you how I covered myself.
  3. Out of 157 items sold in a very short period of time, one (ONE!) buyer contacted me to say they never received their item EVEN THOUGH the UPS tracking number shows it was not only delivered ON TIME but left on their porch and the Buyer confirmed the delivery addres on the UPS tracking receipt. Amazon does not consider this as "Proof of Delivery" and will not back me up as the seller. I had to refund the buyer in full but can tell you how to make this most unpleasant scandal as easy to handle as possible. In short, they took advantage of the system but we all know there are people like that out there. You'll need to plan for them if you attempt this type of home business.
  4. Amazon suspended my account for investigation but let 34 orders pile up in the "Pending" category. After four days of those live orders sitting, Amazon released them all to me AT ONE TIME. I now had to fill 34 orders with a time clock that had begun ticking four days prior. To the Buyer, it shows they placed their orders on a Friday. The orders weren't released to me until Monday night the next week. I had to quickly cover a lot of ground and can tell you how.
  5. Before suspending my account, Amazon froze the money account where all the money had been paid by the Buyer and was waiting to be transferred to my bank account. When they froze it due to velocity limits, they don't tell you for how long it is frozen. It now sits at several thousand dollars and all I've been told is that it will be released when they see that all my Buyers have received their packages and nobody needs a refund. I'll tell you how I kept selling products even though Amazon was sitting on MY money.
  6. I found several sources to buy products for reselling. Once Amazon suspended my selling ability until their investigation is over, I bounced over to eBay and picked right up where I left off with Amazon. I've made $160 in one day so far. I'll tell you where I got my products to sell and the difference between selling on Amazon and eBay.
I'm not trying to sound like I'm about to sell something. There's nothing to sell. I'm just trying to put as many of my thoughts to paper right now as I can so I don't forget what's been happening. I'll cover all this stuff and more over the next several posts because I truly believe anyone can make money this way but there are several things to learn to avoid headaches.

Quickly selling 53 items caused Amazon to sit on 34
This blog has always been about sharing what I learn and making money has always been kind of a knack for me. My mom says it started when I went door to door at the age of seven trying to sell her shoes. The ACTUAL shoes from her closet. Then I filled my lunchbox full of $0.05 seed packets and sold them door to door for a quarter.

I sold on eBay for many years and did quite well. I've had numerous websites and learned a ton about eCommerce, SEO, web design, and all the other technical stuff that goes with selling products on the internet. Hopefully it will help some of you out there to start your own online venture and make a little cash on the side. In my opinion, if you can sit at home, in your pajamas and make even an extra $200 a month profit...they why not do it? Every income stream you can create gets you that much closer to financial independence.

So if you are interested in this topic, leave a comment about what interests you the most and I'll cover it. From picking a company name and URL to grab attention , how to accept money over the internet, how to advertise or where to find products to resell. Let me know and I'll share the knowledge. 

This isn't the usual prepper/homesteading stuff you're used to reading here but making an income from home is essential to becoming self sufficient. If choose not to follow this series, I'll understand. I'm still working on a rainwater collection system, upgrading my chicken coop and other fun homesteading stuff.

~OJD

Sunday, March 9, 2014

The Black Cloud Continues to Follow

All drama aside, the one thing that seemed to be stabilizing was my new job in management. For over a decade I've been the grunt on the radiology front line shooting xrays and performing CT scans and ultrasounds. I was a night owl on the graveyard shift and was quite comfortable there. My favorite aspect was being left to do my work and not having many folks around to distract.

Then fate catapulted me into management and I slowly settled into an 8 to 5 Monday through Friday job. House fire aside, I seemed to be taking to the duties pretty well. I have my own office replete with papers scattered everywhere. I have overhead compartments to stash my own trash bags in for those times when housekeeping forgets my new office exists.

I designed my corporate email signature and established my voicemail. I keep my business cards close at hand in case an impromptu meeting springs up and I'm required to press palms. It has been pretty nice when you boil it all down. I get to take half the kids to school in the morning and sometimes we even stop for breakfast...if we're ahead of schedule. I'm home in the evening for dinner and homework before we settle in for the night.

Last Tuesday was a little different...to say the least. Wifey was informed that if she went to a few caregiver classes she would qualify for some type of monthly stipend to help take care of her mom in our house. Having Wifey removed from the daily routine for a few days meant reconfiguring my day. I decided it easier to just take the day off and spend it running kids around from school to track to church functions. At least...that was the plan.

Around noon, as I was about to pull into a Subway and enjoy my favorite footlong sandwich with Sis, I got a phone call from my boss. He was my Director and I was his loyal Manager. He asked how long it would take me to get to work (as in "come in right now") so I hesitantly said "30 minutes." Sis and I darted into Subway, grabbed our sammies and headed to our rental house across the street.

The slow drive to work was one of those "oh no, what did I do" moments. Why was he calling me in? I parked in the restricted parking lot instead of the one on the other side of town (so it seems) like I usually do. I didn't plan on being there for long so I wanted a quick get away.

No sooner had I walked into my office and began to sit my shoulder bag on my desk did an employee say to me "I'm sorry about the reconstruction." Bewildered as to why he would mention a construction project that was slated for next fiscal year I replied "Bud, that's not until next year." His head jilted to the side and he stammered for a second, his eyes making contact with my jacket and bag. "Did you just get here," he asked?

"No, I ALWAYS wear a coat and carry my bag around with me," I chuckled. That's when he almost whispered, "You haven't heard yet, have you?"

"Heard what?"

"The boss has been laid off." he said.

Right then my boss, our Director, came walking around the corner. The man who helped bring my family together by offering me this job and he was pale as a ghost. This was the man whom I called while my house was burning to the ground because he was the only person I knew in this town at the time. Standing before me now was my best friend and boss...who after 15 years of loyalty, had his world turned upside down.

It was like any other day for him. Same job for the last 15 years, although he had worked his way up the ladder from Xray Tech to Manager to Director. He was called into a meeting in Human Resources and was shocked to be greeted by an HR Manager in tears. "What the...?" he thought. Then he was handed a generic white folder containing his severance package. "You are terminated immediately. I need your badge please," she said between tears.

When the dust finally settled about an hour later, four Vice Presidents and five Directors were gone. No one at my level (Mananger) or lower was affected. The "official" story, as told to us in a meeting about an hour later in a forum meeting, was that the Administration (three Admins) could see the storm coming from Obamacare. They said it was unstoppable that our reimbursements were going to go down in a big way. Rather than wait for us to run into the wall head-on, they opted to do a preemptive strike and reduce costs now. Heresay estimates they saved a cool $2 million dollars annually laying off those nine administrators.

This was hard to stomach as I gazed at our cafeteria  which was vastly under construction to get a face lift. "We had money for that" I thought to myself. My boss left that day with an empty look on his face. Sniffles were heard throughout the halls of our department for the rest of the day. It was replaced the following day with anger. One of the last things he said to me before he left his office was "They're going to expect you to keep doing your job...and start doing mine too."

And so it began. Phone call after phone call of people introducing themselves and where they had been on such-and-such project with my boss. My office door became the cliche revolving door as droves of people came in and out with questions and condolences, problems and projects. My 8-5 has turned into an 8-10 as I stayed later and later trying to keep up.

In essence, we have two hospitals in our system and each had their own Director. Administration decided to layoff half the administration and require one Director to be in charge of two hospitals for every department. Some Directors are in charge of multiple departments at both hospitals.I don't envy any of them. I'll be officially meeting my new Director next week when we sit down and I try my best to tell her everything that is going on at my facility.

Wish me luck...and her.

~OJD

PS. On the bright side, Boo and I build a tree swing today in the front yard. Smiles abound!

Monday, March 3, 2014

Still Pursuing the American Dream


Part of the Amerian Dream: puppies in the snow
A small hiatus from your normal routine is sometimes mandated by things beyond your control. Such was the case for my blogging when yet another family tragedy struck my immediate family. I've been talking with a few close friends and surprisingly many have had similar experiences.

This event was worse than our house fire four short months ago and has rattled me to my core. It has forced me to rethink everything and focus solely on my immediate family. I'm not entirely sure that I want to post the details as it is easier on me to focus on the future than relive what happened one month ago.

Needless to say our family survived yet again and by the Grace of God. I cannot take credit for this one. Rather than wallow in what could have been done, I choose to focus on family and continuing to pursue our American Dream.

American Dream: remaking Grandma's homemade noodle soup
If you've been reading this blog for a few years, you know how we headed down the path to our dream of self sufficiency by growing our own food in our backyard, raising chickens, storing rain water in barrels...and the like.  You might have read about our attempt this past summer to start a new life on a farm in Oklahoma with dreams of owning cattle and farming land with the perfect little red belly tractor (1949 Ford 8N).

Our dream continued when we relocated to northern Arizona but was put on hiatus after a total loss house fire. Now in a rental and regrouping once again, we're focusing on our dream. To us, the dream is living on a few (hopefully lots of) acres of land that we can all our own. We want to raise our children with a multitude of animals and enjoy the outdoor life that country living has to offer.

Part of living self sufficiently is making some income from home. That's why I chose to participate in an "influencer program" and incorporate a given topic into my own post here. Hence, I must state "I participated in an Influencer Program on behalf of Mom Central Consulting for MassMutual. I receive a promotional item to thank me for participating."  

Fresh eggs are in my American Dream
Some of you have determined your American Dream through your own life experiences. As a self proclaimed Lifetime Student, I learn a lot through research. Researching topics, like American Dream, can provide some insight into what other folks might be dreaming about. In one research study (MassMutual 2013 State of the American Family) there are three statistics that resonated with me:
  1. Putting family first is top priority
  2. Educating children about money
  3. Making sure that our children aren't burdened by caring for us in our golden years
Number three strikes a little closer to home now that we have moved Wifey's mom in with us. She suffers from multiple strokes and has Huntington's Chorea disease. She is almost total care and has given me a perspective on life that I hadn't quite contemplated yet: who will care for me when I'm elderly?

Sure, I have six daughters and used to joke that I had that many so my chances were increased that SOMEONE would take care of me when I got old...but I didn't mean it.  I don't mention that joke anymore but that topic is for another day. This post is about staying focused on your dreams regardless of what comes your way. If you need help figuring out how to finance your American Dream, visit the MassMutual Family Finances Study or head to your local library.

As for our recent trials, I'll work on putting it into words soon. There's still a lot of grappling going on and therapists being frequented....by multiple family members. I want to share what warning signs I learned so that other families might be able to avoid what we went through but also want  to respect the privacy of my immediate family members.

~OJD