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Official Blog of the Tophatter Auction House

  1. Seller Story: A letter from a Tophatter seller

    Hello, my name is Melissa and I am known as LadeeBee.etsy.com on Tophatter. I became a member of the Tophatter community in December 2011 and started selling craft and jewelry supplies in February 2012. I loved the platform right away and became hooked. It was so much fun bidding and winning things and thrilling to sell my own items. Once I saw how great it was to be able to connect with buyers right away, to get feedback about my items and to receive support from other sellers, I started to get more serious about my online business.

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    Another benefit to selling on Tophatter was the resulting increase in traffic to my Etsy shop. The volume of packages I was bringing to the post office went from 2-3 a month to more than 100 in a couple of short weeks. Each time I shipped out an item, I would include a little coupon to my Etsy shop and a thank-you note and customers were coming back! I had been selling online since 2008 and never had this volume of sales. It felt so rewarding.

    Things began to change for me as my online business increased. I was able to stop doing other part-time jobs and to concentrate on my business full-time. I dedicated some space in my home to storing supplies. Soon, however, I began to outgrow my own home and I knew it was time to grow again.

    Tophatter sales were steady every month and this gave me the confidence to find a space outside my home. Since I live in a big city, rent is quite expensive. I wasn’t sure what I was going to do. Then, the right opportunity opened up and a local business owner, and friend, agreed to sublet the lower level of her business – formerly a gallery space. I have been in the space since January 2013 and it has been an amazing decision for both of us. Now I have the best of both worlds as I continue to sell to my online customers and meet new ones in my community. Without Tophatter, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity.

    Something I have learned from the dramatic increase in sales is the number of issues that come up. Before, a sale here and there didn’t really prepare me for the unique situations that may come up in the course of doing business online. Sometimes I have made mistakes, sometimes things are lost in the mail, and sometimes a customer is not happy with what they have purchased. I have had to think a lot about how to handle each situation as they arise. To me it is important that in the end, the individual customer is happy with their experience with me and my business. I feel all that I have learned from selling on Tophatter has given me the tools I need to succeed in my brick and mortar business as well.

    Now, I am surrounded by beads and yarn and feeling optimistic about the future.

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    Melissa, a.k.a. LadeeBee, lives and works in Toronto, Canada. You can find out more about her brick and mortar and Etsy shop at www.ladeebee.com. Please visit her Tophatter seller profile to find out when her lots go up for auction. You can also find a large variety of her items in the ‘Supplies with a Surprise’ community auctions every week. 

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  2. Dear Katie: Who Do I Ask for Help?

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    Dear Katie,

    I get SO frustrated sometimes. I post on the Forum about my problem, and they tell me to email you…and then, other times, I email you, and you say I need to contact Support. Then, I go to Chat Staff with other problems, and they tell me to post it in the Forum. Aargh! How the h-e-double hockey sticks am I supposed to know where to post my questions? I just need help!

    Thanks!
    Dumbfounded in Detroit

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    Dear Dumbfounded,

    I know it can be confusing sometimes…which Help is the right Help? It seems like an odd problem to have when you think about it, but, when you need help NOW, it’s good to know who to go to.

    Here is a list of the Help options on Tophatter, along with an explanation of when to use it:

    1) Chat Staff: These are your go-to people for immediate issues.

    • Where can the live Chat Staff be found? Under the “Help” menu on any page of Tophatter. Just type in the chat box when it pops-up and a staff member will be with you shortly.
    • What Type of Issues can they help with? Frozen auctions, rude user in the room, trouble with creating a new listing, etc.
    • These are all great instances of when to go to Chat Staff, but be aware that the fix may not be immediate. Depending on the issue, they may ask you to contact Support or they may flag your chat for further staff review. If you DO get asked to email Support with your issue, that does NOT mean you’re getting the brush-off. Instead, it means that your case requires more time & consideration and our team wants to provide the best support possible.


    2) Email/Support: This is for situations that concern your personal account.

    • How can I contact the support team by email? Contacting the team through the Help Center ensures faster service - we’re able to better organize emails this way and we want to make sure you get a response within 1 business day.
    • What Type of Issues can Support help with? Questions about unscheduled items, problems with your account, advice on how to deal with a customer service issue, etc. That way, we can take a deeper look into your account to see what the problem is and help you resolve it.
    • These support issues tend to take more time and we need your account information in order to resolve the problem.


    3) Forum: This is a place to go to post ideas you want Staff and the Tophatter Community weigh in on.

    • How do you find the forum? Under the Help menu, it’s called “Seller Forum”.
    • It’s also a great place to go if you need general advice about a situation or need a general question answered. 
    • Remember that the forum is public, so it should NOT be used to a) call out other users by name, b) post personal account details (we’ll most likely request that you email support because we don’t have enough account information to resolve the problem) or c) make comments that are not constructive or are negative in nature.
    • The forum is meant as a place for members of the community to help each other. 

    I hope this helps you better understand who you can contact for assistance and in which cases. We are all here to help you, but the ways we can help differ based on where you track us down. Following the suggested avenues of support outlined above means you’ll likely receive a much more accurate and efficient answer.

    And, if you’re ever unsure about who to ask, either email me (Katie) or pop in to Chat Staff to find out where to go next.

    Best, Katie

  3. Matilda’s Crafts: DIY Etched Glass

    This DIY is a great way to use any piece of glass and make it into your own! Create these pieces of mini-art to add design to your home.

    More ideas on how to use them:

    • Secret messages (etched in the glass)
    • Monogrammed glasses
    • Candle holders
    • Terrariums
    • Rock gardens
    • Supplies jars (ie. Beads, Ribbons)
    • Cooking Jars (ie. Spices)
    • …more!

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     Have questions about this craft or want Matilda to do more DIY tutorials? Leave your questions and comments below!

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    Tags: Crafts DIY Matilda

  4. Seller Stories: SuMo & the Future of Design

    Seller stories are a wonderful opportunity for us to share some of the amazing individuals in our community. Susan, of SuMo, is one of those individuals.

    Susan stumbled across Tophatter by accidentally clicking on a Facebook ad. She says it was a very happy accident! But before this fateful event occurred, let’s go back to the beginning of Susan’s story.

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    It begins in 2010 when Susan had leukemia, that manifested as a lymphoma on her spine. After waiting for a diagnosis, for which she thought would be for a minor form of cancer, she was delivered the news that she had a very aggressive and rare form of cancer that required a stem cell transplant. Susan left her job at Parsons School of Design, her apartment and her friends to move to Seattle, Washington to partake in the procedure. Afterwards, she found herself incredibly weak, barely able to stand and was being fed through a tube. With the support of her family, she slowly recovered and moved to South Carolina, where her parents had retired.

    While there, Susan took up jewelry-making again, a pastime that she had thoroughly enjoyed as a kid. “It felt good doing something fun and easy, and just worrying about colors and sparkly things…making people happy felt good”, she says. She opened up a store on Etsy and had been thinking about opening up a supply end, and that’s when she accidentally found Tophatter.

    Susan has been recovering ever since the life-changing procedure, making it difficult to have steady employment. She says that Tophatter has given her a great opportunity to grow her thriving supply business while simultaneously dedicating time to her art. Using the money she made on Tophatter, she was able to fund several art projects she showed in Brooklyn, NY and Ashville, NC. The connections she has made in the auction rooms are amazing, she says, and she particularly loves being able to help new crafters just starting out.

    What’s most impressive though, is Susan’s dedication to the emerging art of 3D printing. She’s been experimenting with 3D printing at a maker space in Greenville, SC, known as the Greenville Markers Group (aka GMG). She’s been invited to do a local Tedx talk and has also applied for an artist business initiative grant from the state to continue developing the maker space.

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    The Makers group is now fundraising to purchase a 3D Printer Kit. The group wants the larger community to have access to it, so that they can “bring ideas to life in new ways and help personal and professional dreams become realized”. You can see their campaign on IndigogoTo learn more about 3D printing and some of the current projects in which the Makers group is currently involved, watch this video. 

    The group is gearing up for a number of different development phases for the future, and ideally will be fully equipped with woodworking, metalshops as well as the robots. 

    As Susan has successfully built her brand and has begun to develop these groups that harvest creativity, we asked her a couple of really important questions:

    Tophatter: How important is customer service in order to run a successful business?

    Susan: Customer service is very important to me - as a buyer as well, I appreciate it when somebody goes the extra mile to ensure a good experience…and I try to do my best and do the same for my customers. What this means is coming to an equitable resolution. Sometimes if things go wrong, I remind myself to think of the bigger picture. What is worth more: a sale or a good reputation? Sometimes there are situations where you just need to write it off as the cost of doing business.

    Tophatter: How did you discover your brand and image? You have a great logo and great store presence. How does a new seller go about starting their own brand?

    Susan: Finding something that personally relates to you is great inspiration for developing your brand. For me, I took a cue from my name. Su - Susan, Mo - Molnar…SuMo. I also have an interest in Asian history and graphics, so I try to incorporate those elements into my branding. Another thing to consider is consistent lighting and setups for products, so that your store looks professional. If possible, learn programs like Photoshop or GIMP to add watermarks to your item photos and ensure that they are of high quality. Maintaining a consistent color palette is key too. Here’s a great place to start.

    We’re so excited to see the outcome of Susan’s 3D projects and how their initiatives impact the future of design. 

    If you have any questions for Susan, leave them in the comments below!

    You can find Susan on Facebook too.

  5. Meet Ragnar: All-Star Kitten Cuddler!

    Meet Ragnar. He rocks at what he does and you can send him your thanks when you see new folks join the auction rooms! 

    Learn a little bit more about this motorcycle-rider & kitten-cuddler…

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    • Name: Ragnar
    • What is your title/position?  I acquire traffic to our auctions to make sure they are exciting and social!
    • Do you have any pets? If so, how many and what kind? My wife rescues dogs and cats, fosters them and then gets them adopted. So I get to have a new pet every month! We now have a little Chihuahua who is scared of everything and everyone.
    • Who is your favorite Tophatter auctioneer & why? Wendell’s father is my favorite. He’s now on a sabbatical somewhere in Africa. 
    • If you were a superhero, what would your superpower be? Inability to gain weight, no matter what I eat!
    • What are your top 3 favorite non-Tophatter blogs/websites? webwan.commyspace.com and ebay.com! (Note from Megan: Ragnar is making a joke here….did anyone catch it?)
    • When you DO have spare time, what are your hobbies? Hiking and motorcycling.
    • What is your dream vacation? Riding across the USA and then winning the lottery.
    • Who is your favorite guilty pleasure musician/band? I dislike all music. But I do like watching Storage Wars and Pawn Stars! 
    • Could you go an entire week without phones, TV, and computers? I would love to go a week without those things, I would probably miss the computer the most!

    Don’t let the kittens fool you into thinking Ragnar is a big cuddle bug.

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    If you have any questions for Ragnar, let him know in the comments below!

  6. Cultivating Positive Feedback

    The foundation for stellar feedback is excellent service, both before and after the sale, paired with a quality, clearly-represented product. Assuming you have that covered, how can you increase the chances you will get the positive feedback you’ve earned? Here are some simple tips you can start using now, both to cultivate positive feedback and handle any problems before they become the dreaded negative:

    1. Educate your buyers. Many buyers are not aware of the impact their feedback can have. Develop a way to let your buyers know how important feedback is to you, both personally and professionally. If your buyers know that positive feedback helps you out, they will be more likely to take action. 

    2. Open your door. Have an open-door policy by encouraging buyers to email you before leaving negative feedback. If buyers know there’s; a) an outlet for their concerns, b) a promise they will be listened to and c) help provided to the best of your (the seller’s) ability and policies, then you can often turn a potential negative into a positive.

    3. Give a little bit. Even if it only costs you a penny or two, a little thank you gift can go a long, long way. Low-cost thank you gifts are a great way to leave a positive lasting impression. For some reason, candy works particularly well but if you send it, make sure it’s not candy that can melt and is individually wrapped.

    4. Listen to your mother’s advice. She may have been wrong about some things but she was right about writing thank you notes. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy; even a quick, hand-written thank you on the invoice is worth it’s weight in gold and will leave a lasting impression. For added flair, use brightly color markers or showcase your mad doodling skillz with a funky smiley face. 

    5. Spell everything out. Store policies, shipping info, and item descriptions should be written clearly with all the details a curious buyer might need. As well as being a preventative measure for any disputes that could arise, well-written policies and detailed descriptions set accurate expectations with your buyers, ultimately leading to less misunderstandings and better overall feedback.

    6. Take a P. Eliminate email ugliness by checking your messages before you send them. Make sure your message is a shining example of the 3 P’s: Professional, Personal, and Positive. Even with angry buyers (actually, ESPECIALLY with angry buyers), sending emails with a personal touch that are professional and positive not only lets you keep the moral high ground but also deescalates the intensity of the situation and moves on to the problem solving phase. 

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    I combine tip number 1 and 2 together with a professionally printed card I created that lets a buyer know both how to leave all the positive feedback they can, and asks them to email me first if anything has gone wrong.

    Although not every customer will take the time to leave feedback, there are ways to gently encourage buyers to give you that little green plus-sign you so richly deserve. 

    This guest post was written by a member of our community, Paul J for Feline Strays.

  7. Matilda’s Crafts: DIY Mercury Glass

    Have questions about this craft or want Matilda to do more DIY tutorials? Leave your questions and comments below!

  8. The Tax Man Cometh…

    They say that nothing in life is certain except for death and taxes. And, for those of us in the US, it’s getting to be tax time again. April 15th looms ahead of us on the calendar, commercials on TV remind us of it with lures to take advantage of their tax prep software and services, commercials tempt us to come shop with that anticipated tax return before it’s even in our bank accounts. So, before it all gets to be too much, I wanted to stop and take this opportunity to give everyone some tips/advice that you may find beneficial as you prepare to file your tax returns.

    The first, and easiest tip, anyone can give you regarding taxes and how to keep from paying too much is to file and pay! An income tax professor told his class this bit of information: when you see commercials on TV with the attorneys offering to help you save on back taxes you owe to the government, their biggest money-saving tip is to FILE. If you owe back taxes and file on your own, you are going to do better than if the IRS comes to you. 

    Your online income needs to be reported to the IRS on Schedule C of the 1040 form, even if you are a sole proprietorship and are not a corporation. What is Schedule C? That is the section for “Profit or Loss from Business”, which means that you report your income minus any business expenses. Remember to be sure you have documentation for any numbers you put on the forms! The IRS can come back to you for an audit up to 3 years from now, so make sure you save that documentation too.

    Where does this income documentation come from? If you did a LOT of business online, you may have already received income information from PayPal. What is considered a LOT of business? PayPal is required to report your income to the IRS (and provide documentation to you) if you made more than $20,000 in 2012 and that income comes via more than 200 individual transactions. While most of us aren’t quite that kind of PayPal high-roller, you still need to report your income.

    For the “regular” folks among us, here is a way to get all of your 2012 income information from PayPal. Log in to your account and select “View All of My Transactions.” In the next screen that pops up, select the time frame you want to look at, and then select “Payments Received.” That will give you a report of all of the money you received in that time frame. You can then export the report in whatever format works best for you (CSV, Tab delimited, etc) and then use it to work on your taxes.

    What about expenses? I can’t help you with all of your expenses, but I can give you some tips about costs for selling on Tophatter. The first thing you’ll need to do is download your CSV file from your Items for Sale page. Once you’ve downloaded it, you can use the file to get the following useful information:

    • Date range…Use the Paid Date (Column AC) to determine what income you had in 2012.
    • Hammer Price + Shipping Price (Columns M&N) will give you the total amount of money paid to you by your customers on Tophatter.
    • Shipping Price (Column N) is the amount paid to you for shipping your items but not your actual shipping costs since your shipping is done outside of Tophatter, so please bear that in mind.
    • When looking into the total fees paid to Tophatter, use the Listed Date (Column Z) to determine your 2012 fees. Don’t use the Paid Date because you would be excluding items that were listed but didn’t sell.
    • Seller Fee + Scheduling Fee (Columns AH&AI) will give you the total fees paid to Tophatter for the year.


    Now, you have all of the information you should need from Tophatter to take care of your taxes for 2012. While you’re at it, there are a few other things to keep in mind. If your state has a state income tax, don’t forget to file that too! And, if you should be reporting sales tax for sales to customers in the state you live in, you can also refer to your CSV to check for any applicable information and to also ensure that you’ve reported those numbers accurately. There’s always a few little things you’ll need to keep in mind when filing your taxes, but the biggest thing to remember is (in the words of Nike) “Just Do It!”

    If you have any questions about filing your taxes as an online seller, let Katie know in the comments below!

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  9. #GivingTuesday: Craft Day, Extra Toppings!

    Back in November, we asked you to vote for which DonorsChoose.org project we should fund. Thanks to all of the support in our #GivingTuesday auction, we were able to fully fund Mrs. Jahnig’s Craft Day, Extra Toppings project!

    Mrs. Jahnig shared her students’ weaving projects which were created with the supplies the Tophatter community helped fund. We wanted to share some of their pictures with you.

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    Thanks for being a great part of the community, fellow Tophatters! 

    See original Nov post here.

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    We’d love to do more community projects! Interested in helping out? Leave a comment below with some ideas for next projects!

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  10. Share the love with Tophatter Valentine’s Day cards!

    Want to tell that special someone how much you care? Use our Valentine’s Day cards to share your love!

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    Click here to access the easy-to-print file! 

    1. Download it & the cards will be saved as a file to your computer.
    2. Print! The sizing is already formatted to print 4 cards perfectly on one page. Note: use the “scale to fit” checkbox if any clipping occurs. 
    3. Cut along the dotted lines for 4 separate Valentine’s Day cards. 
    4. Write a personalized message on the back & give the card to your sweetheart!

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    What’s your favorite card? Tell us in the comments below!

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    Tags: promotions pinterest

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