Half-Price Books pays 1/30th price

What’s happened to the market for used CDs? 

We’ve had a pile of CDs at the library that need to find a home. They’re things that were primarily donated, that we already have, and if we turned them into money, we could get things we need. I tried one online dealer, with a setup where you scanned the UPC and they’d give you a bid, and they were offering 15¢ each. No, I don’t think so….shipping isn’t free. At SecondSpin.com, things were a little better, generally $1 if they weren’t already overstocked wirh that title. But surely I could do as well locally. so packed up the lot (123 CDs, counting discs in boxed sets, and 8 cassettes) and went off to Half-Price Books, which is the used record store in Cleveland that actually deals with classical (The CD-Game Exchange stores will have a few tired Charlotte Church, Bocelli, and “Best of Beethoven” offerings, though I’ve found good obscure things in the bargain bin.). These were nice things, not junk, lots of obscure European labels, some items never opened.

I was offered $25. About 20¢ each. I politely declined, without pointing out the obvious fact that it was an insulting offer. I was told, “This sort of thing doesn’t sell well for us here.”

Back in my Ann Arbor days, I was a fiend for used record stores. I didn’t often sell, but I remember getting more than that in dollar terms, 30 years ago. Yes, I was probably spoiled.

It’s Mayfield, on the east side of Cleveland Metro, next to Beachwod, fer cry-ay-ay. There’s a classical audience there, and they sell to HPB, because HPB has stock. Why aren’t they doing better at it? Well, for one thing, they’re charging a lot…sometimes you can pick up the same item remaindered at Berkshire Record Outlet for cheaper. They’re selling a copy of v. 10 of Carwood’s Byrd Edition for $11.95…yet it’s recent, and cheaper than new, but not a used CD price. Second, nobody there knows jack. When I search for classical there, I search 4 categories. Besides classical, there’s New Age, World Music (any classical CD with the name of a country in the title), and Christian/Religious (most but not all of the sacred classical). While In Classical, I have to dodge the jazz, pop and New Age that has made it in. I was amused to see a recording of Mompou piano music that made it into “Religious” on the strength of the picture of a monk on the cover. No, I don’t expect every wage drone to know who Mompou was (would be nice, ain’t gonna happen), but there are clear things to indicate that this isn’t religious music (titles that can be guessed though an elementary knowledge of English cognates, performer different than composer, etc.) Now, there’s a depression on, young people are particularly hard hit by unemployment, so why can’t they hire a music student or somebody else with a clue?

Most classical CDs there sell for $5.98. If my offer was typical, we’re talking about a 3000% markup. Now, I know you have to pay for the building, help, lights, the chance that you’ve bought something ultimately destined for the $1 clearance shelf, etc. It seems to me that a buck would have allowed for that. I would have taken a buck to be done with it, and been most happy if offered more. I bought some things there, and would have bought more, but the markup stuck in my craw. It’s a heck of a deal for them, for things that generally go $15-20 new.

Of course, I’m still faced with the problem of how to peddle these. Maybe my readers have some good ideas that are not labor-intensive.

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5 Responses to Half-Price Books pays 1/30th price

  1. kishnevi says:

    Have you checked out the Ebay-Amazon route?

    Be glad you have used CD stores. In fact, be glad you have stores selling CD not named Barnes and Noble or Borders. The Florida Legislatures, that wise and ever discerning group of Republicans, passed a law a few years ago in the name of making it harder to peddle stolen CDs, which effectively put the used CD stores out of business–too many hoops to pass through to make sure the person offering the CD to the store was legit.

    Or how about making it into a fundraiser for the library: “For every five dollars you donate, you will receive a randomly selected CD while the supply lasts.” If you really did for one CD per five bucks, that would net you about six hundred dollars. (Or maybe offer a box set for a contribution of twenty five dollars?)

    Just thinking….

  2. Jeffrey Quick says:

    I’ve thought of online, but I also have to consider the value of my labor, postage, etc. I want to keep this as simple as possible. I’ve got a proposal for my boss to allow a very low-key CD sale from my office…I’ll see if he bites.

    As for the infinitely wise FL legislators, I wish them a merry Ceausescu Christmas. As usual, the free market found a better solution to the problem: pay so little that it’s not worth stealing.

  3. Tom Jackson says:

    Jeffrey,
    You could swap your CDs at http://www.swapacd.com. Credits earned there can transfer to Paperback Swap and Swap a DVD, so your CD credits would also earn you free books and movies.

  4. Jaclyn says:

    I work for Half Price Books as a “wage drone” in the Pittsburgh area. While I cannot speak on behalf of the entire company, I hope I can give you some insight.

    Everyone (at least in Pittsburgh) works there 40 hours a week. For the most part, we all get the opportunity to buy items from the public every single day. We make offers based on the condition of your items and supply and demand of the store.

    As a result, we are required to have a working knowledge of the entire store’s inventory which changes every hour. The longer you work for the company, the easier it gets, but it will never be an exact science. We have to quickly analyze and make the best educated guess as to the best offer that will please the seller and make a profit for the store.

    Sometimes the seller is delightfully surprised at the offer, and sometimes we have to make an offer so low that it verges on insulting. We do not enjoy giving low offers.

    You are perhaps right to point out the failings of the Cleveland employees to correctly categorize the classical music CDs or recognize the worth of great classical music. We learn what is in demand from our customers. If you let someone working in the store know that you are in the market for classical CDs, they will most likely work harder to fix that section. Right now for instance, we are still trying to keep up with the ever-changing and ever-popular teen vampire novels.

    In any case, we care about your input and I am glad you wrote about your experience. Hopefully you will try selling again in the future.

  5. Jeffrey Quick says:

    Tom- thanks for the link. I’d use it if these were “my” CDs. but they’re the library’s, and what I actually want to swap them for is scores.

    Jaclyn: Thanks for offering the other POV. I understand the forces at work (even if I don’t particularly like the result), and I hope I made it clear that I wasn’t going off on the employees particularly…I made a point of being polite and not getting in the face of the person I was dealing with. Ultimately, the problem is you folks aren’t specialists and have to be up on too many subject areas to treat any one of them optimally.

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