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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Dealing With Family and Friends' Reactions to What We Do

"You do WHAT for a living?!??!"

Anonymous brought up an interesting subject on yesterday's post. S/he is hesitant to share that they sell online, because they have gotten mixed reactions in the past. I will admit, several years ago, I knew of two people who sold on eBay. When I found out, I scoffed. It seemed like such a ridiculous waste of time, and just plain wrong to go around buying people's stuff for cheap and reselling it for high, as if it was actually worth something. (Ok, ok, I was a jerk about it...)

When I started selling on eBay, I only sold what I had around the house. I declared that I would never become "one of those people who buys stuff and turns around and resells it."  (Yeah, yeah, I was a jerk then too....)

It only took me a month or two to realize that there was good money to be made doing this, and that it would be really nice if I could contribute a few extra dollars to our household income. That quickly snowballed into a full-blown business that I am very proud of!

Along the way, I have had mixed feelings about sharing what I do. I once had someone ask me, "Where do you work?" (As if stay-at-home moms don't work hard enough as it is!) I said, "Oh, I don't work." And then I said, "Wait. Yes I do. I sell on eBay." She kind of chuckled a little bit, and I immediately felt defensive and blurted out how much I had in sales that month. Yes, that was tacky, but I didn't like the idea of her scoffing at me and my silly little hobby. I felt a need to validate it. I don't go around blabbing how much I make (except here occasionally, and in our sales goal threads on the discussion board), but I still struggle with feeling a need to validate what I do. I think most people don't realize how many people sell on eBay for an actual living, and not just for a hobby. I had no idea myself until I met the people in our fabulous group!

Even aside from people thinking it's just a hobby, I also get other unpleasant reactions from people. I have had people express their displeasure that I am buying up items from Goodwill that are intended for less fortunate people and using those items for my own financial gain. Well yes, I am buying items from Goodwill and reselling them for my own financial gain. That's called running a business. And no, I don't think the items at Goodwill are specifically intended for less fortunate people. Goodness knows there's enough there for everyone.

Another reaction I get is people belittling the work I put into this. I've had people actually get annoyed with me when I celebrate an exciting sale, because they think I don't work hard, or that I don't deserve it. They think it's not fair that they work harder than I do and make less money. I am extremely fortunate to have been able to find an exciting job that I love that allows me to stay at home with my kids. I understand it's not for everyone. I also understand their frustration that they've paid oodles of money for college degrees to get jobs that pay less than what I make, and I didn't have to shell out those big bucks. But ya know ... We all choose our own paths in life.

So I guess now that I've babbled on long enough, I'll address the actual question. Basically, I don't go out of my way to tell people what I do, but I don't hide it if they ask. I try really hard not to feel defensive when I see them snicker or roll their eyes or blow it off as a silly thing, but that's not easy. Once they see that my eBay business has paid for our entire Christmas, or for our entire week-long family vacation, then maybe they'll realize that it's a valid career choice. But I won't be dwelling on it then. I'll be lounging poolside :)


  1. Thanks for sharing this! I am so glad I am not the only one who feels like I always need to justify what I do. You are such a blessing and encouragement. Thank you!

  2. I have felt like this on occasion. But I do think there might be less of a stigma attached to it in this economy. But for those who just can't wrap their mind's around it, I would tell them that it paid the utility bills. Now I tell them it pays for my new car too :) Then they have something they can relate it to, 'she works like me to pay the bills'.

  3. I have a slightly different view of this...I live in a very rural small town with only 3 thrift stores. If everyone knew the kind of money I make from ebay I am afraid they would all go picking and there would'nt be much supply left :) My kids are trained...if they see something at the thrift store that may sell on ebay they ask , "Do you think Grandma would like this?" Ha! My husband calls it brainwashing but I am teaching them good business.

  4. Well my husband both have college degrees (actually I have a masters degree) and were barely getting by. Thanks to Ebay I now have extra money for fun stuff and sometimes it helps pay a bill too. Please keep up the excellent work on your blog! Leigh

  5. Anonymous, that's a very real perspective! My town has 1 Goodwill. I know of several other pickers/sellers in my town, so we do have to share the goods. That's when my road trips come in handy!

  6. I'm not sure why you simply don't say that you run a very successful small business put of your home. If further inquiry continues, tell them you are in sales.
    Never be ashamed of what you do. You enhance other people's lives by supplying what they desire. My brother in law never got a degree and makes more than any of us degrees people put together. I am proud that he has built a fine business.

  7. As sellers, we all face the same things. I agree with your perspective completely. Dj in PHX

    PS, love your blogs and read every word from both of you! >\:-))

  8. One reason I don't broadcast that I sell on eBay is when they find out they want me to sell all of their "treasures" (a.k.a junk) or they want me to teach them how to do it. I have tried that and all of them have bailed on the idea when they found out MUCH work actually goes into doing this business. I think that is when people start respecting that we actually are working hard to make money.

  9. I think I'm going to start telling people that I'm a "Professional Shopper" I have built up clientele that has hired me to find vintage and hard to find items and they simply pay a premium for my time and effort. I'll have to let you know how that works out.

    FYI - my husband has a B.S. in both Chemical Engineering & Computer Science and a PhD in Molecular Chemistry - he makes less money then public school teachers and hasn't had a raise in 3 years due the economy. I'm thankful for his job as others are not so blessed. I do this to pay bills especially when gas was almost $4 a gallon. We are now digging ourselves out of credit card debt and I can see the light at the end of the tunnel. Without Ebay I would have had to leave home to work, pay Daycare for a 2 year old and find a private school for my 11 year whom we currently home school.

    Thank you for all your post, it has helped me tremendously!

  10. As an estate sale professional, I completely understand this problem. It used to be that people would look at me as though I was crazy when I told them what I do. However, I also found that when I started telling them with conviction and confidence, my responses were more positive. Take pride in what you do and others will often respond accordingly. Of course it didn't hurt that there are now such a proliferation of estate sale and picker shows on TV. TV, for better or worse, lends an air of legitimacy. BTW, like many others writing comments here, I have a BA degree, but I'm making more now at this job than I was at a "real" job.