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View Full Version : Half Price Books- anyone sold to them?


bardevious
06-10-02, 12:16 PM
Recently this new store opened up in my area called "Half Price Books". Oddly enough, the store is pretty much as advertised: a used book store that also sells software/CDs/Videos/DVDs.

I'm wondering if anyone here has actually sold anything to one of these stores?

I'm primarily wondering what they pay for used DVDs, in general. I've got some real dogs that I'd like to unload, depending on how bad they try and screw me over (if they're anything like Whorehouse Music, I'll definately pass).

bdots48
06-10-02, 03:28 PM
Don't expect too much, whenever I've unloaded books or cds with them it's been more like a donation.

yiinhc
06-10-02, 11:55 PM
What bdots48 said. They give an estimate on all the items you brought in. You could accept or decline the offer.

new2theplace
06-11-02, 02:11 AM
I think I got an average of 20-cents/book on a pile of books that I took in (if even that much). I left there with less than 2 bucks in my pocket.

But beyond that, I really liked half-priced-books (when I lived in a town that had a couple of them)

edreath
06-11-02, 05:51 AM
Okay place to buy books and software, but they are lousy to sell to. Depends on the clerk that makes the estimate.

bardevious
06-11-02, 06:00 PM
Thank you for the feedback, those who responded.

It seems odd to me that the amount they pay for used items is subjective, based upon the person working there. I'd think they'd have some sort of database or a standardized price list to go by, but they seem to be doing pretty well without it.

movielib
06-11-02, 07:09 PM
Originally posted by bardevious
Thank you for the feedback, those who responded.

It seems odd to me that the amount they pay for used items is subjective, based upon the person working there. I'd think they'd have some sort of database or a standardized price list to go by, but they seem to be doing pretty well without it.

You can't have a database or standardized list for specific titles or items. Things change too often and too fast. Employees have access to a guide with generalized information on all types of items and even that has to be updated periodically. The video section (including VHS, laserdiscs and DVDs) needs it at least once a year, preferably once every six months.

It shouldn't really be subjective from buyer to buyer but people have different knowledge levels for different types of merchandise and different experiences as far as their idea of what sells and other supply and demand factors etc. Also, different markets can vary quite a bit. With today's access to the internet, IMO they should also be using it often to check how things are priced and how they sell on eBay, Amazon etc., especially when uncommon items are brought in. I don't know how much they use this. But second hand store buying is not now and never will be an exact science.

BTW, the Barnes & Noble in Madison was one of the few in that chain that bought used books (I'm not sure if they still do). They would look up stuff on their computer - a database or standardized price list - and go by that. They never learned the market that way and, I think, they habitually overpaid for very common, outdated stuff.

madcougar
06-11-02, 11:51 PM
Basically everyone here is dead on. I've found some great books (and CDs) there for bargain prices. However, unless you are unloading hot books, by hot authors, you're almost better off giving the books to charity. I took some very expensive art books to them once with the hope I could get a few bucks on each one. They offered me about a dime for each. A freaking dime.

Jeraden
06-12-02, 07:31 AM
Don't even bother selling back to this place, its a ripoff. I took about 20 books in a long time ago, most in pretty good condition, but some not so good. I was offered 2 bucks for all of them (10 cents each). I asked why so low and she said most were in poor condition and would be headed straight to the discount rack. 4 of the 20 books were ones I had purchased at that very store previously and were in the same condition I had bought them in. A couple books were in perfect condition - she seemed to just be generalizing the whole lot based on the condition of the worst books. So basically, she was full of it - there was no way they'd all head to the discount rack. So I ended up just keeping all the books.

goofee girl
06-12-02, 10:57 AM
I sold to the store in Austin, TX years ago before moving from there and seem to recall getting a fairly good deal from them. But I brought in box loads of books that I kept in good shape. Back then they also bought magazines so hold on to them instead of recycling them. Sounds like they aren't all that they used to be. Too bad.

osokin
06-13-02, 08:47 PM
I worked at a couple Half Price Books stores here in Houston for a few years, and was a customer for many years leading up to that point. Since I can speak from both sides of the fence, as it were, I'd like to mention a few things about this company - particularly vis-a-vis their offers on used stuff.

As a customer, before my employ there, I found their offers on the used merch I would occasionally bring in to be comparable to that of a pawn shop: pretty offensive, I thought.
But after working there awhile and learning the ins, outs and overall logistics of buying used merch from the public, I came to both understand and appreciate - for better or for worse - the dynamics behind the offers. Of course, appraising used merchandise isn't a science, and to further complicate the situation, the less experience a person has working at the store, the less capable s/he will be in making an informed offer. (Some of the stores require that an employee be there for about a year before learning to buy. It's a good idea, but few of the stores follow it.)

Theoretically, though, the principle at work is basically good ol' supply and demand. If someone brings in a few books that the store already has stacks of on the markdown table, then no matter how clean and pristine those books are, you'll get little for them. By contrast, the hot new stuff would comand a much higher offer.
Certain subjects sell better at some stores than at others (e.g., gay studies does poorly in suburban areas, but better in near-town urban areas; for children's books, it's exactly the opposite); some entire subjects simply have very low resale value (sociology immediately comes to mind). It would be hard to know this unless you were intimately familiar with the store - which few newer employees and far fewer customers are. At best, an employee might be intimately famiar with one or two areas - often it's an area of his or her personal interest or study.

One issue that has clearly strained this company's ability to be competitive in buying used merchandise from the public is the fact that, over the years they have gotten more and more commited to being a remainder outlet: the stacks of brand new books on their display tables are all remainders; the kiosks and CD racks are filled more and more with remainder-market music from Delta LaserLight and so on. Same with videos and DVDs. This is brand new stuff that the company pays pennies-on-the-dollar for.
This is what your used stuff is competing with.

And unfortunately, even though the used stuff may be more interesting and of better quality than the remaindered, when it comes time to mark down items to make more room on the shelf, it's often the used stuff that gets the bargain treatment first, since the company clearly prioritizes the remaindered stuff. I've watched this company go from having a ratio of roughly 80% used / 20% remaindered in the mid-eighties, to now having a ratio of more like 35% used / 65% remaindered.

Of course, the other issue is that they're a big chain operation. It's not surprising that smaller, independent stores can offer more - even much more - for used stuff. Their expenses and overhead are much smaller.

So I guess my overall opinion is that Half Price Books is a great place to shop and find good deals at, but not-so-great to sell to.

Well, that's why the internet is so great: used B&Ms may have no use for your stuff, but some guy in Guam may be jonesing for it and checking eBay daily.

Doc Moonlight
06-14-02, 12:18 AM
Haven't sold to them in a few years, but they used to give you a 20% discount coupon when they bought books from you. I'd bring in a bag of magazines (which I otherwise would have thrown out) just to get the coupon.

majortom
06-14-02, 09:21 PM
I use them all the time for books and sometimes DVDs. The used books section has saved me a ton of money, it sure beats paying for shipping and worring if you will get your product. Their DVD section is also getting better.

infinite1
06-15-02, 08:36 AM
Book buying there is pretty good especially with a 20% off coupon. My Half Prices in Houston have a pathetic selection of DVDs (new VHS videos are another story though).

Book selling is awful - their offers are an insult. If/when they have too many of a particular used book they should just *turn them down* or offer to donate them to Goodwill/Salvation Army etc for you.

I work for another Houston seller that trades in used and new CDs and DVDs and we definitely pay customers better on CDs than Half Price does. If they have something we can't use, we simply turn it down rather than insult them with a low ball offer. I don't know what Half Price pays for DVDs but my guess would be not much compared to us. Wherehouse pays as much as $9.00 per DVD on some titles - at that price I doubt Half Price could compete.

Good luck

John Sinnott
06-15-02, 09:37 AM
The key to selling to Half Price is to seperate your books. If you have good stuff and junky stuff, put them in two different boxes and ask for a price on each box. That's what I always do. I'd have a gargae sale first, and see what I could sell for $0.50. Then the left overs would go to 1/2 price. My wife's romance/Sidney Sheldon crap would go in one box, my Science Fiction in another, and nonfiction in a third. The SF would get 2 to 3 times (per book) what the other books brought.

I always looked at it as getting rid of books I no longer wanted, getting some shelf space back, and getting a book or two for free. If you are hoping to make some money, you'll be disapointed.

osokin
06-15-02, 06:59 PM
Originally posted by infinite1
Book selling is awful - their offers are an insult. If/when they have too many of a particular used book they should just *turn them down* or offer to donate them to Goodwill/Salvation Army etc for you.

I totally agree with you on this. Unfortunately, it's always been the company's policy to make an offer on e.v.e.r.y.t.h.i.n.g, regardless of whether it's wanted or needed by the store. Believe me, I lobbied hard to get this policy changed - even writing letters to the owner/CEO explaining how being forced to make offers on unwanted/unsellable merch makes for bad community relations, because "token" offers piss people off.
And it's the employees who are caught between the proverbial rock-and-a-hard-place on this sort of deal every time... so go easy on them, and vent your frustration in a well-articulated letter to Sharon Anderson, CEO of Half Price Books.


I work for another Houston seller that trades in used and new CDs and DVDs and we definitely pay customers better on CDs than Half Price does. If they have something we can't use, we simply turn it down rather than insult them with a low ball offer. I don't know what Half Price pays for DVDs but my guess would be not much compared to us. Wherehouse pays as much as $9.00 per DVD on some titles - at that price I doubt Half Price could compete.

As I stated (or at least inferred) in my lengthy post earlier, the company isn't really trying to compete any longer - at least in the used merch market. They're primarily about remainders now.
Wherehouse Music and CD Warehouse will always be able to offer more for used CDs and DVDs than HPB will; but even so, why would you settle for $7 to $8 per used DVD when you could get $10 to $14 selling the same ones on Half.com or eBay? Even after the fees you're way ahead.

Originally posted by videophile
I'd have a gargae sale first, and see what I could sell for $0.50. Then the left overs would go to 1/2 price.

That's fine, as long as you don't then get upset when you become the recipient of one of those offensive "token" offers we've been talking about! Of course, I'm not saying you would, I'm just using your example to point out one of the drawbacks to a company adhering to a policy of making offers on everything indiscriminately.
Some folks know that they've got garage-sale rejects, and simply want to be rid of them: great! Other people are sure that what they've got should yield them at least $__ per item; these are the people who need to forget about selling to retailers - who, after all, still have to make a profit on the stuff - and should instead sell to other individuals on the internet.

infinite1
06-17-02, 02:44 PM
And it's the employees who are caught between the proverbial rock-and-a-hard-place on this sort of deal every time... so go easy on them, and vent your frustration in a well-articulated letter to Sharon Anderson, CEO of Half Price Books.


I just don't bother to bring in stuff to sell to HPB anymore. They're too remaindered focused and not really interested in used books and it's not like there aren't other used book sellers in Houston. And for the record I have never vented at an HPB employee, I have just cheerfully turned down lowball offers and sold my books elsewhere.


Wherehouse Music and CD Warehouse will always be able to offer more for used CDs and DVDs than HPB will; but even so, why would you settle for $7 to $8 per used DVD when you could get $10 to $14 selling the same ones on Half.com or eBay? Even after the fees you're way ahead.


half.com's seller fees are ridiculous (15% of your total plus a 30 day wait for a check for a couple of bucks) and eBay has way too many non paying bidders (sometimes as many as 50% of your 'sales' will actually be people who win and don't pay up, ebaY has told powersellers that the average across all its categories is 25% no pays)

Plus the amount of *time* it takes to post an auction/half listing, answer emails and ship DVDs takes away the $3-$7 premium for most ordinary DVDs. My time is worth a lot more than what ebay/half can reward me with unless I have say an OOP Salo CC (I don't). And I find I do better trading in DVDs locally or with fellow DVD Talkers.

Your mileage may of course vary but I only like ebay/half as a buyer.

Infinite