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eBay drop-ship retail arbitrage

We wrote a post on eBay retail arbitrage, termed by them as drop-ship listings, in 2017.  Since then, the problem has only gotten worse, with something around 150 currently listed items on eBay that are merely fronts for our parts sold on Amazon.com.

To refresh your memory on how this works, someone lists something currently sold on Amazon.com on eBay, with a markup.  When the order is placed on eBay, they have software that automatically places the order on Amazon.com with the eBay purchaser as the recipient.

We don’t like it as we prefer our customers get the items at a more reasonable price, and it can result in some odd activity on the other end when such drop-shipping sellers leave us negative feedback on Amazon.com; negative feedback on Amazon.com is a huge problem as compared to eBay.  on eBay, most buyers are motivated to leave feedback, whether they had a good or bad experience.  An Amazon.com, feedback is not at all integrated into the ethos of the site; there are disproportionately more negative feedback reviews per sales volume than on eBay because most of the people with a positive experience don’t bother to leave feedback.

eBay has a policy against drop-shippers that don’t actually hold inventory.  However it appears they don’t actually enforce this policy (see the chat with eBay support in that article).

In any event, what we worry most about is the damage to our brand that a poor buying experience can have.  What I mean by that is, our primary purpose in selling these parts is to make people happy and to provide them with a satisfactory buying experience.  Given the pain that Revere Ware owners went through for decades before we came on the scene 10 years ago.  Most people are thrilled that our parts are available, and we don’t want to temper that with a bad experience.

So, please buy our parts from our own website or Amazon.com, not from eBay, as we don’t list any parts there.

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The demise of the Revere Ware brand – the insult continues

In the ongoing saga of the thoughtless silent termination of the official Revere Ware brand, I have come across yet another prescient indicator of how little thought actually went into the decision and its aftermath.

If you search for Revere Ware on Google, here is the first result:

This takes you to this page on the Corelle website:

How fitting … it simply no longer exists.  But you can still sign up for Revere news and promotions.  And, rather than revising this page further than the no longer exists message, they left the prior categories of products (Stainless Steel, Hard Anodized, Open Stock, and Sets) and simply replaced the images with stock photos of other Corelle products that don’t at all related to the titles.

And to top it all off, they proudly announce at the top, Revere, since 1801.

Despite the fact that the most iconic Revere Ware products, the copper bottom cookware, was a complete dud as a quality product for the last decade few decades, it is sad that Revere Ware met such a demise, rather than passing the brand on to someone else that might make a better go of it.

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Corelle buys Instant Pot

In what is being called a merger, Corelle Brands, which owns the Revere Ware brand, but quietly buried it last year, is acquiring Instant Pot maker Instant Brands.

There are a couple of reasons this is considered news with respect to Revere Ware.  The first is that, in the news releases and other coverage about the merger, there is no mention of the Revere Ware brand.  To date, we haven’t seen any coverage of the quiet demise of Revere Ware, and this is no different.

The second, is that, as we pointed out, the Revere Ware Meal-n-Minutes is somewhat the spiritual precursor of the Instant Pot.  The Meal-n-Minutes, which came out in the 80’s, is almost exactly an Instant Pot.  This is sort of a full circle for the owners of the Revere Ware brand.

Similar?  You be the judge.  Instant Pot on top, Meal-n-Minutes on the bottom.

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Strange speckled handles from the early Revere Ware days

Karen sent us these picture of some very strange Revere Ware handles, that appear to be black paint over a speckled (Bakelite, we think) handle.

From our photo guide, we know that the logo and handle style put the piece somewhere between 1939 and 1946.  My guess is that this was some kind of early production model or prototype.

If anyone has more information on this type of handle, please contact us.

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So you think YOUR Bakelite is in rough shape?

I sometimes get a chuckle out of seeing poor shape of people’s beloved Revere Ware, that they simply refuse to let go of.  I’ve heard a few stories of the lid without a knob that is used with a pair of pliers kept nearby.  We often get pictures of really damaged Bakelite handles that people have been using that way for years.

It’s not surprising that people soldier on using damaged cookware thinking they won’t be able to find replacement parts.  While we’ve been selling them now for ten years, before we came on the scene, there was a good 30 years where parts were not available.

Today’s winner in that department is Alex, who sent us these pictures of his skillet.

I can only imagine how long they have been held together that way.

Sadly, that is the early style handle for which we don’t have a direct replacement, although our replacement handles can be used with those for a somewhat imperfect fit.

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Revere Ware may be gone, but it isn’t forgotten

While the official Revere Ware brand may be gone, it certainly hasn’t been forgotten, as we are reminded this week seeing Google search results for Revere Ware.  It seems that major retailer still see good reasons to try and draw people in using the Revere Ware brand, even though they don’t offer any actual Revere Ware products.

Neither the Bed Bath & Beyond link nor the Wayfair link lead to any actual Revere Ware products.

Interestingly enough, as Google Trends shows, Revere Ware as a search term is actually getting slightly more popular.

Who knows, this may be a second renaissance for the brand now that it is officially dead, which nostalgic interest building, plenty of inventory in the used marketplaces, and prices relatively reasonable still.

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Sales tax armageddon (say goodbye to small online sellers)

TL;DR: Unless the tax madness unleashed by the Supreme Court decision last year is tamed, you will see many small online businesses like ours shut their doors. 

By now, most people have probably heard of South Dakota vs Wayfair, the Supreme Court ruling the upended the decades long precedence of requiring a physical presence in a state or district to require the collection of sales tax.  At this time, something like 2/3 of the states have enacted legislation that requires out of state or out of district sellers to collect sales tax if they exceed a gross revenue or number of transaction limit in a state or district within the state.  Most states are going with greater than $100,000 in sales and greater than 200 transactions to trigger the collection of sales tax.

What exactly does this mean for a business like ours?

First, a little background.  Admittedly, ours is a niche business and one done out of care and concern for the people who love and still use their decades old Revere Ware, like us.  In other words, we aren’t primarily in it for the money.  Having said that, making money off of this venture is a way to justify continuing to put significant effort into it.  We’ve also spent considerable time to streamline the business so that it doesn’t dominate our lives for the small amount of profit it makes each year.

From our perspective, the difference between the two thresholds, $100,000 and 200 transactions, is also a little strange.  Our average transaction total is $12.13; our parts are pretty cheap, and people tend to buy one or two.  That means, 200 transaction is only $2,476, a long, long way from $100,000.  It means that if we are unlucky, we just might pass that threshold in a few states or tax districts.  (BTW, a tax district is any area that has it’s own special tax, like a state, city, or county.)

So when we look at the cost of compliance of the new tax regime, our main concern is simply whether attempting to be sales tax compliant will become incredibly burdensome, and there seems to be every indication that it likely will, unless things change.

Consider that there are more than 10,000 ta districts in the US.  Assuming that every state adopts some kind of post-Wayfair decision sales tax regime, that means that we have to be aware of each and every sales tax jurisdiction and whether or not we have breached the threshold.  In California, the moment you breach the threshold, you are supposed to register to collect sales tax THE VERY NEXT DAY, and collect tax from that point on.  Can you imagine what it would take to pay attention to this and be prepared to register and collect taxes for 10,000 tax districts every single day.

Furthermore, there really aren’t any good methods to do this.  Our sales data comes from two places, our sales as a third party through large retailers, and sales from our own website, which comes from our e-commerce platform.  Neither has any good tools for dealing with this issue. That means we have to develop those tools ourselves.  The data for our third party sales are very limited, so it isn’t clear if this is even possible.

Then comes the compliance burden of filing sales tax returns in every district in which we determine we have had to collect sales tax.  Given that we may have only had to collect sales tax for a particular district for part of the year, starting at some arbitrary date, this makes it particularly onerous.

It currently takes us between 3-6 hours each year to prepare our single sales tax return.  If it turns out we have to file 10 such return a year, that is 30-60 hours, or 3/4 to 1 1/2 weeks of work.

One justification for throwing open the doors to states collecting sales tax now, vs 1992 when the Supreme Court decision was made that limited this, is that online sales are all digital now and the cost of compliance is minimal.  I can tell you, from the perspective of a small seller, this is not the case.  The tools on the various e-commerce platforms that we’ve used, to just support making it easy to file a single state and district sales tax return, just aren’t there.

There is one more thing to consider, which could be much, much worse, than anything else related to what we’ve considered so far; some states will no-doubt be overly aggressive at pursuing online retailers for sales taxes.  I’ve seen this happen in particular with California; they often will make assumptions and send out demand letters that then have to be meticulously defended to prove you don’t actually have a tax liability.  This is potential more time consuming and costly than the compliance.

In short, I am very worried for the viability of small, online businesses if this sales tax trap is not fixed. 

One possible solution is a streamlined sales tax system, where the same tax rules and rates apply within every jurisdiction across a state.  This typically goes under the name SSUTA, or Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.  While this would be an improvement over the current landscape, I still can’t imaging having to file 10 state sales tax returns every year.

Unless this is solved, I suspect that many small sellers, especially of niche products like ours, will simply close up shop.  Some products will no longer be available, and sales will be consolidated among larger retailers that can handle the cost of compliance.  Consumer choices will decline.

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RevereWare.org is now mobile friendly

In 2010, we created revereware.org to make it easier for people to find Revere Ware cookware on eBay.  The site downloads and categorizes all Revere Ware listings on eBay every 30 minutes, making it easier to find the exact item and size you need.

In 2013, we updated the site to be prettier and work better.

Since then, mobile devices have become much more prevalent and our site didn’t work particularly well on smaller screens.

We are happy to announce a complete overhaul of the site which is now, in the language of web technology, fully responsive. This means that it will display well no matter what size screen you are using.  Here are some screen shots of the new design.  You can find the site here.

Desktop layout

Mobile layout

The site has a handy grid view as well, in addition to the default list view.

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It’s our birthday – 10 years of replacement parts

Image result for vintage 10th birthday

10 years ago today, we listed our first set of Revere Ware replacement parts for sale. Prior to the availability of our parts, there was a 20 year period where new parts were not available at all, as Revere Ware stopped selling any replacement parts in 1989, after being bought by Corning in 1988 (more company history here).

Prior to our parts, the only option for someone looking for the like new look, or to fix a piece that was no longer functional, was a complicated Bakelite refurbishment process that involved repeated sanding with progressively finer sandpaper; very labor intensive, and expensive.

So wish us a happy 10th birthday, and enjoy your Revere Ware for another few decades.

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