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Trade Show in Las Vegas

I got the opportunity to attend my first trade show in March in Las Vegas for my new online seller business. To sell, you actually have to have items to sell and the trade show was a chance to meet hundreds of wholesalers as well as attend numerous seminars on the business. I knew the educational opportunities alone would be worth the trip so I hired a sub to guard my gate and hopped a plane. Las Vegas is one expensive place but I managed to find a reasonable hotel, The Mardi Gras, within walking distance of the convention center. I expected it to be a dump but it turned out to be very nice and the room was both clean and huge. A small convenience store, McDonald’s, and the monorail station were all within walking distance as well.

Mardis Gras Hotel

The first day of the trade show I spent getting my badge, collecting the free business magazines, getting oriented to the layout of the different buildings, and attending very informative seminars. The seminars must have been good because I have been helping others with what I learned ever since. LOL. At the end of the day, I had a networking get-together to go to which included light food. I got to meet one of my mentors and do a lot of shop talk with others I have only spoken to online. Afterward, I bought a multi-day pass for the monorail and hopped it to ride back and forth just taking in the views and exploring the different hotels it stops at. I could have just ridden the train all night.

Awesome seminarLas Vegas Monorail

The next day with schedule in hand (or rather on phone with their own tradeshow app), I walked back over to the convention center and got breakfast right there in a cafeteria they run. It was a busy day with more seminars, visits with credit card vendors hawking their business credit cards, and darting in and out of the sales floor between classes. There was lots of opportunity on display there and as a first-timer, I grabbed lots of catalogs. They get pretty heavy by the end of the day but I made sure to pack a folding cart to put them in and that really paid off big time! I did get a complement from one vendor on my business card. He said it looked good and stood out from the others. That was the point when I created it so score! That night, after dropping off the catalogs at my room, I hopped the train again for more exploring. So much to see! I got dinner at a hotel restaurant and stumbled on a bakery with delicious goodies. I walked the sky bridge and the boulevard till I couldn’t walk no more.

Las Vegas Ferris wheelLas Vegas traffic and hotelsLas Vegas Eiffel Tower?

Day 3, I took the monorail over to a discount ticket place. My birthday was coming up and what better place to celebrate than Las Vegas! I bought a ticket to see the Blueman Group perform at the Luxor Hotel then headed back to the convention center for a breakfast at a nearby hotel with one of my business groups to do some more networking. Having completely walked myself out now at the convention and all over Las Vegas, I opted to rent a scooter for the day. They have a coupe of rental offices in the convention center at the Fedex areas. That sure made the day fly by and really speeded up my sourcing. I was able to zoom down the aisles to visit most of the booths and chat with those I was interested in.

Networking breakfast

Not every vendor was warm to me. Some won’t do business with Amazon or Ebay sellers while others felt they already had enough sellers. Most didn’t care though so there were still lots of possibilities for me. While you can make deals there, you can’t buy samples until the last day per the tradeshow’s rules except in one area. While normally you want to make the deal before you leave, I didn’t because this was my first one and I’m still learning. My next one I’ll be loaded and ready for bear. I did pickup some business supplies, though.

That night, I was running late so I called Uber to get me over to the Luxor for the show. Another fine ride from them. After arriving, they made me check my backpack in at the hotel desk. They don’t allow bags at the show. The Blueman Group were wonderful and everything I expected! It was very entertaining and funny. Who knew plastic pipes could sound so good? I particularly liked them playing with paint on their drums. I love the way it splashes and splatters. You should also see what they can do with marshmallows. Wow! OK, been there, seen that, got the Tshirt. Really, I bought their Tshirt! Ha ha! Afterward, I explored the Titanic gift shop. I visited the museum in Branson, MO so I skipped the one here. I wandered over to the boulevard again, toured the M&Ms store, and rode the elevator up and down in the Coke bottle before heading back to the motel. I gave away my monorail pass that still had one day left on it to a nice couple from England.

Hanging with Blue ManTitanic Museum in the Luxor HotelMy new M&Ms friends

Back at the hotel, I started packing. OMG! Catalogs are very heavy and take up a lot of space. Thank goodness I had my folding cart bag which I squeezed two sample bamboo pillows and some clothes into while carrying the rest of my clothes and the heavy catalogs in my small carryon suitcase. I came in just half a pound under the weight limit. Whew! The hotel shuttle took me to the airport the next morning. As soon as I entered the airport doors, a lady came running up to me and suggested STRONGLY that I use a wheelchair to get to the gate. All that walking had taken its toll. I declined at first but when she told me the gate was a very long walk away I caved. Getting through security with a wheelchair and a metal cane is a bit of a pain but the ride was kind of fun with a nice young man pushing me around. Tee hee. BTW, even Burger King is ridiculously expensive in the airport in Las Vegas! Glad to be home.

For more pics click here.

Quartzsite 2017

After getting off the cruise ship and picking up Irene’s car, she drove me to a liquidation business nearby. I signed up with them as a reseller and we got a tour of their warehouse. I could have signed up online but business is about relationships so I wanted meet the account rep they would assign me and get a better feel for what kind of items you can find through them and how the items are handled.  It was well worth the trip. There were several flea market vendors there picking up pallets of goods as well as small Mom and Pop stores picking up. I get how that works now and see how many of the Quartzsite vendors are getting their wares. These lots are from major stores as customer returns, overstocked items, and shelf-pulls to clear space for new items or eliminate slow sellers. The warehouse had all kinds of goods, anything you could want. I did have to laugh a little when the rep proudly showed me a pallet of shoes and when I opened one box, there was an old worn out pair of boots in it. Obviously, an unscrupulous customer had done a fraudulent return and it had not been caught at the store. Some people! I couldn’t buy anything at the time since I had flown out and would not be home for over a week but the trip there was definitely worth it.

After a quick stop for groceries, my friend dropped me off at CruiseAmerica to pick up my rented motorhome. I had checked out other RV rental companies but despite having badly designed RVs, they still have the best deal in town. Before long, I was on the road (or rather in the Los Angeles traffic) to Quartzsite, AZ.

It was late at night when I pulled into Mayflower County Park in Blythe, CA to see old friends and get the park gossip before heading on. As it so happened, the spot I chose to park in was right next to one of my friends and she came out to help me park. She was surprised to see me after 4 years and unannounced! She helped me out with a sleeping bag and pillow since I wouldn’t have those until I met up with my sister the next day. I took my time the next day to visit several of my old friends and take a walk around the park. They finally got new bathrooms built and closed the old ones. The park was fairly full but still had plenty of sites for us wanderers. It felt good to be back. I used to winter there and always found them very friendly and fun.

In the afternoon, I left and headed on over the state line to Quartzsite to meet up with my family for a week of fun, shopping, and pranks. I also had serious reporting to do for my other website, RVQuartzsite.com . I found them at the La Posa West LTVA behind the Big Tent and we circled our wagons. I did goof and forget to bring exact change for the LTVA permit. I had to borrow $5 from my brother-in-law to pay for my campsite. Thanks, bro!

My Quartzsite Family

We had a good week in Quartzsite. I found some goodies to buy, tried Silly Al’s pizza (very good!), had ice cream every day, enjoyed the campfires, played lots of cards and dominoes, and got plenty of exercise walking around. There were some open booth spaces which I hope is not going to be a trend for the future of Quartzsite. The Progressive Insurance booth did not have their golf game this year but was still giving away great prizes so we hit them up every day. My insurance agent whom I met at Quartzsite was there again this year so I stopped by her booth to tease her a bit and get a hug. I managed to get another hug at the Escapees booth. Hey, single people take them where they can get them! I enjoyed the pretzels at the dip booth again this year and finally gave in to buy the grater dish and garlic roller you see there every year. The food booths were good though expensive as always. In the evenings, the local radio station was playing a perfect 1970’s mix for us old fogies. It was delightful.

Quartzsite Big TentProgressive Insurance Quartzsite boothMy cool wood carving

Quartzite RV show food boothSilly Al's pizza

One day, I stopped in at the Chamber of Commerce to meet the person I had been speaking to for so long about Quartzsite activities and to get information on current local changes. It helps to put the face with the name and voice. Very nice woman and while short, the meeting was helpful.

Getting out of town to return the RV to Los Angeles and hop another plane at LAX was not fun at all due to traffic. Aargh! I’m glad I left a day early to get closer to L.A. to be sure I didn’t miss my flight. It also gave me a chance to camp at Fisherman’s Retreat in Redlands, CA. Very nice campground I will probably stay at again. The food in their restaurant was very good and they have a nice clubhouse and store.

Fisherman's Retreat lakeFisherman's Retreat poolFisherman's Retreat play area

Fun on the High Seas

Time for another cruise and being able to combine it with both business and a trip to Quartzsite for the annual RV and Sportsman’s Show was too much to pass up. This time I sailed on the Carnival Imagination out of Long Beach with my childhood pal, Irene, who lives near there. This was her first cruise so we opted for a 3 night quickie to see if she likes it.

I broke my own first rule of cruising and flew in the same day of the cruise. Please don’t follow my example. Flying the day of a cruise is very risky. Your car could break down on the way to the airport or the flight could be delayed or even cancelled. Fly in a day ahead of time. I broke the rule because every day I don’t work it costs me a lot of money and I was already going to be gone for two weeks. To me the gamble was worth it even if I missed an inexpensive cruise. I still had business in the area and Quartzsite to go to.

After picking me up at LAX airport, we drove down to the pier in Long Beach. The terminal area is actually rather pretty and there is a restroom located away from the main building which makes it easier to use. Once we got in line, we felt like royalty as we were immediately ushered past the rest of the line thanks to purchasing Faster to the Fun. Talk about fast check in! They rushed us through and got us on the ship within minutes. Woohoo!

We dropped off our carryon luggage in our interior room and headed out to explore. The Imagination is the smallest ship I have been on yet and a little bit of a disappointment. The ship itself was fine but it has fewer pools and hot tubs than I am used to and not as much to explore. There is a small water slide area at the back of the ship and it does have a Serenity adult only area though it is very well hidden.

Carnival Imagination shipCarnival Imagination waterslide

The food did not disappoint though traveling with a vegetarian was certainly a new and interesting experience for me. Thank goodness my carnivore nature did not bother Irene but she did have a harder time finding food she could eat. She never complained though. We did both enjoy the mushrooms and carmelized onions at Guy’s Burgers and raided them a couple times during the trip. For the Main Dining Room, we did anytime dining and the food was good there as well though a bit different again from what I am used to due to changes in the menu fleet wide. We did make a point of going to the Dr. Seuss breakfast to eat green eggs and ham with the Cat in the Hat, Thing 1, and Thing 2, and George. Of course, Irene did not eat ham and I chose steak instead of the ham but we ate green eggs! Sam I Am!

Me and the Cat in the HatMe and George ThingsGreen eggs and steak at Dr. Seuss breakfast

Our cabin was great! I wanted Irene to have an excellent first experience so rather than reserving “just” an interior room, I got us a porthole room for only a few bucks more. We got sunlight in through the windows to lighten the room up and could see out a little. It was cheaper than an oceanview room and still gave us the main benefits of one. I recommend them highly. It was smaller than oceanview with no couch but it was fine for us.

Porthole room

While waiting to test drive the pizza shop on board late one night, we ran into the piano player from the Piano Bar. He was an interesting young man who had been called in quickly to replace someone and had a big world tour gig coming up with another cruiseline. We joined him in the Piano Bar for the rest of the evening for some fine music and every night after. Oh, the pizza was pretty good this time. Better than on previous ships though Dominoes and Pizza Hut have nothing to worry about.

The Piano Man

There was a very large group on board of radio station fans of a particular Tejano music band. They partied every night and the music was terrific! One night the band performed by the pool on Lido while everyone danced and another night they performed in the theater. That was a nice unexpected perk.

Tejano band and fans

Our first stop was at Catalina Island. I was a teenager many moons ago when I was last there. It has certainly changed a lot since then but it is still a nice place for a weekend getaway from Los Angeles. We rented a golf cart to tour the island on our own and took turns driving. You can easily tour it in 2-3 hours as it is a very small island. We made it more fun by geocaching along the way with my phone. We found several caches. Couldn’t find one. After dropping off the golf cart, we hit the shops and found a cruise ship and a sail boat charms. I had hoped to find a charm of the Sea Smoke catamarran I sailed on with the Girl Scouts the last time I was on Catalina but struck out. I knew it would be a long shot after so many years. It was a a beautiful day on the island, though, and I look forward to going back again.

Avalon Harbor, Catalina, CACatalina IslandKissing a Catalina seal

Our next stop was Ensenada, Mexico. We went on the tour to La Bufadora Blowhole. It’s an area where the waves enter a gully, crash on the rocks, and explode up into the air. It was worth seeing once. This is also a huge tourist attraction with numerous shops along the path to the blowhole. While they promote the shopping a lot with coupons, there is no time to do any shopping while there. They really need to add more time to this excursion. We had just enough time to see the blowhole, use the restroom, and quickly eat some excellent fish tacos before being shuffled back on the bus. They could at least eliminate the wine tasting at a historic building on the way there. I liked the building and once upon a time many famous people went there to enjoy it as a casino but it is not a big deal now.

Ensenada, MexicoLa BufadoraLa Bufadora market

I know I enjoyed the cruise very much. Any cruise is a good cruise. I still don’t know how Irene feels about cruising but hopefully I can convince her to go again. We did discover that we are both gimps. We both had issues with our legs onboard. Like an idiot, I failed to bring my cane since I have been working out and walking so much better. Um, that does not matter when one is walking all over a ship, an island, and a blowhole. Lesson learned. I bought another one as soon as we got back to Long Beach for the rest of the trip.

Workamper Selling Online

I have started selling on Amazon and Ebay using a wonderful thing called FBA (Fulfilled By Amazon). What makes it so great is that rather than trying to store a ton of merchandise in your RV and cart it around with you, you send it all into Amazon’s warehouse and not only do they store it for you for a fee, they also market it, sell it, take payment, ship it, and handle the customer service afterwards including returns. They will also ship to customers who order from you on other venues like eBay or your own website. This system is great for RVers! Before you get too excited, it is also a lot of hard work and while you most certainly can start with little investment, you will need to keep reinvesting in inventory and tools to grow such a business. How fast you grow depends on the decisions you make, time you put into it, what you sell, and many other factors. Amazon does not make it super easy. They love to change the rules and throw up roadblocks here and there. You will need to be flexible and determined. Their support people are incredibly frustrating and unhelpful. So why do it? Because you can make a huge amount of money selling online, at flea markets, swap meets, out of rented storage lockers, etc.

Most folks start with retail arbitrage which is catching items on sale or clearance at regular stores and thrift stores as you travel and then reselling them at the normal price or a slightly discounted price. Online arbitrage is the same thing except you you do it through your keyboard from home. You would not believe the kind of deals available out there and you can make them even sweeter by using rewards credit cards, rewards sites like Ebates.com, and gift cards purchased at a discount online.

To create an easier, lasting business you want to move to wholesale as soon as you can get accounts accepted by wholesalers though wholesale prices aren’t always that great. You can also buy wholesale pallets of new overstocked items or returns that stores have gotten rid of and get them at steeply discounted prices. Not every item will be in new condition and some may only be good for parts but there are good loads out there and ways to sell most anything for a profit.  Eventually many sellers move into private labeling items purchased overseas and imported to create their own brand and lessen competition. Bundling is another option where you take two or more different items that go well together and bundle them to form a new third item others can’t easily duplicate.

There are lots of books on Amazon and blogs online on the subject to read. Many tools, both software and physical, are also available to make it easier to find products to sell with a good return on investment, find the discounts, make listing easier, track sales and expenses, print labels, package items, ship items, etc. Many tools are free or a one time payment. Others involve a monthly fee and should only be considered once you have tried selling online, met some success, and decided to keep at it.

If you like making things, Amazon now has a handicrafts department and Etsy is good for that. I have sold crocheted items on eBay.

I’m just starting out but have had some success. It took some effort and expense but I managed to get permission from Amazon (known as “ungating”) to sell in their top 3 categories which are closed to new sellers. They make you jump through a lot of hoops and most folks have to repeat the hoops numerous times to get ungated and some give up. I got in on the first try. It pays to do your homework. 😉 These categories have a lot of items that people buy over and over (replenishables) so they are very important for sustaining a business.

Right now I sell anything I can buy low and sell higher but I am forming a direction or niche for my business to capitalize on my current websites. I already have a tax resale permit and business entity which are necessary to not pay sales tax on purchases, remit sales tax collected, be taken seriously, and unlock business doors. I got inexpensive business cards for meetings and trade shows. Today I got business insurance which is a must and not expensive so it is all coming together. A better business bank account is next.  I am also branching out to other marketplaces for items Amazon won’t let me sell and to cross-sell to other audiences. A lot of folks are also using local Facebook groups and Craigslist to sell when in an area for a long enough time or not RVing.

Next year, I am going to a tradeshow in Las Vegas to meet wholesalers and manufacturers. Woohoo!

It’s an up and down ride like a roller coaster so bear with me as I post updates.