The dovetails are not the only twisted thing here…

A friend of mine sent me a message the other day about a book listed for sale on Ebay. This is the link here.

I was shocked to see the advert. Not shocked about the existence of said book, as I’ve already got a copy. No, I was shocked by the price of $99.88. More than 10 available at that price too. Why am I so shocked? Is $99.88 a smokin’ deal?

Well, you see, just like game show host Bob Barker on The Price is Right would say, sliding open the card to reveal all, actual retail price on that item is… ¥2857. It’s written right on the back cover of the book ya know, though curiously, despite all the pictures that the advert on Ebay shows, it omits to show the back cover. Funny that. There are four glorious pictures of the front cover mind you.

¥2857 – what’s that in Yankee greenbacks?: about $31.50. I guess the US$ must be tanking of late, ’cause even the Canadian dollar is worth more than the US$ at the moment, but that’s besides the point.

So, the seller is surely entitled to a mark-up for sourcing and advertising the book, but a 200% mark-up?!? And considering that the seller has a quantity of more than 10 available, one might suspect that they obtained them at something less than retail. Wow, now that’s pretty clever. What a rip off! My god.

Here I was laboring hundreds of hours to write and edit a series on Japanese carpentry drawing, which is selling a few copies but is hardly what you might call a good hourly labor rate (if it sells a few hundred copies, then, well, things would be different), and now I realize I have it all wrong. I need to fly to Japan, scour bookshops and tool sellers, especially those going out of business and who might unload their stock cheaply, then buy and sell with a 200% mark-up on Fleabay. I hardly need to lift a finger, except for packing the items for shipment an a bit of data entry, some photography work, etc..

Tell ya what – ’cause I’m such a sweet guy, I’ll happily undercut that seller by about half. That’s right, if you act now, I’ll get you that book for $66.77! What a deal!!! Plus shipping and handling of course – don’t ya love the fine print?

I’m surprised to note the seller’s feedback, on some 9900 items sold so far is a perfect 100%. Given the prices they are charging, you would think that someone might have complained by now. Hmm, let’s take a closer look at that feedback…nope, seems glowing right across the board. Buyers seem delighted with their purchases, or perhaps they don’t notice the retail prices on the books, which are written on the cover of every Japanese book.

Clearly I have no clue as to how to sell stuff. This is a big lesson for me. I should probably charge not $32.50 for my essays, but $98.77. And people would no doubt be every bit as delighted with their purchases, yes? Grrr.

It’s interesting reading the seller’s description of the book, as it is a little misleading. The book does feature one votive box (duly shown in the ad), comprising a hopper on top of a box, both with twisted dovetail joints, nejiri ari gata as the joint is termed. However, the focus of the book is not on those boxes, which are only one possible application for the joint. The author of that book, who is likely way more OCD than I am, has spent years, in all likelihood, drawing and making box corners (not boxes, just corner models of the different joints) with variations of the twisted dovetail joint. His cut-out skills are not the greatest, I might observe, and the book has little in the way of tips and tricks for cutting the joints, or showing interesting places where this joint has been used in Japanese woodworking. No, it’s basically a collection of joinery patterns, some of which are highly impractical to cut. I was excited to buy the book last year, but when it came somewhat disappointed. I wish I could have sent it back. I’m not sure it’s worth the $31.50.

Back to that Ebay ad. Cripes, the seller has some 1000 items for sale at the moment. At those rates of mark-up, they have found a pretty good little niche for themselves it would seem. Wow – rip people off, and they will actually thank you for it.

Maybe I’m exaggerating, making too much from but one example? Let’s see. Here’s another book the seller is listing on “Japanese Architecture Major Old Building Joint Framing“, which they list for $79.98. Here’s the cover:

In case you have the temerity to ask, what’s the actual retail price on that book? Um, gosh, it’s – whoa, is that a mis-print? – ¥2284, or US$25.21. That means, hmm, uh, that the seller on Ebay is charging a little more than 3 times the retail price there my friends. At least they are consistent with their rate of mark-up.

Tell you what, if you act right now, run don’t walk to that keyboard, I’ll sell you the same exact book for only $50.42 retail!! What a deal!! In fact, if you say you heard about it on the Carpentry Way blog, I’ll give you a special insider price of $50.40 retail. That’s an $0.02 savings!! Come one, come all!

I’ve been in the wrong business the whole time dear reader. It’s time I got savvy and starting hosing people like the rest of these jokers. Meh.

From now on, if you want some book out of Japan, and would rather pay a 100% mark-up instead of 200% (and many people seem perfectly happy to pay 200% so this really is a no-brainer!), then drop me a line. Truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity folks. Shipping handling, state and local taxes, bribes etc., are additional. Offer good until 12/25/15. Chris Hall bookseller is part of the Doin’ smart Business network.

Thanks for coming by the Carpentry Way today. Happy shopping.


7 Replies to “The dovetails are not the only twisted thing here…”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Thanks (and to your friend who alerted you) for pointing out this “injustice”. However, you would become a very, very busy fellow if you took it upon yourself to red flag all the “non-deals” on Ebay or elsewhere. My pet peeve is the prices people ask for certain tools that don't work any better than entry level offerings.
    Oh, well. That's the free market – buyer beware.


  2. yup, that guy was “iluvasianladies” kinda creepy… Then changed to aboutjapan and I would dare suspect he is azabugirl. Anyway, at least 200% mark-up. He was about 150% and then had a hefty $20+ shipping. Free shipping now if I remember. I had unfortunately purchased a book for a small sum of $30 to find it was only 1060 yen. Shipping was $20 if I remember. No vasaline included. All the titles are available via Amazon japan. Which also has instructions to order in english if you look around abit there. He may not even have copies of said books just relists the books right from Amazon and resells them.
    Side note, I had contacted paragon Books, an Asian book seller here in the US and they said they can not purchase wholesale and all books were retail plus handling. Shipping has to go them prior to you which means you pay shipping twice. So most of these titles end up about the same as azabugirls prices anyway. Go figure.
    C on da Big

  3. i have seen this guys site on ebay and it came in vary handy to see inside the books that i was interested in purchasing off amazon japan.(amazon japan does not have too many books you can look inside and not reading any japanese it is hard to figure out what they are about.)
    his site his kind of like a “window shopping” site for me. so…. “thank-you mr ebay rip off book selling man”


  4. ebay isn't the only place doing this. kinokuniya in los angeles and japanese bookstores in hawaii have regularly marked books up as much as 300%. you can order them from japan direct, pay shipping, and still get them cheaper than that. i guess many people don't often know or check out currency exchange rates.


  5. Thanks everyone for the comments! I think that because most people can't read the Japanese, including the price on the back of the book, they fall victim to these stores, retail brick and mortar outfits and otherwise, who feel free to gouge them.

    Currency and exchange rates can really bite you if you're not up to date, as Michael notes.


  6. Hi Jeremi,

    welcome! If you have never made furniture before then there are vast numbers of books and magazines out there on every conceivable aspect. You won't find much on Japanese furniture, especially from a 'how to' perspective however.

    I do lead an online study group and we're about to start on a furniture project, so you might want to consider joining, though it is not directed at absolute beginners so much so you may find it a bit overwhelming…


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