Changes in 5 years of online trading

I have been trading on eBay now for over 5 years. Fundamentally, our service has essentially stayed the same. Yet, the list of items that we sell has changed. In the early days – certainly in the first couple of years – we would very rarely ever say ‘No’ to selling something. If we went to see a client and there were items there of a low value, we would find it hard to refuse them. Over time though, and with experience I guess, we know it is right not to take everything on that is offered up for sale.

A client will often say that they do not care what an item sells for but the two observations that I would make would be this – firstly, that item may not have a huge second hand value yet I do not want them to feel that we were unable to realise the item’s potential. And secondly, it is important to us to sell goods that have a value. Again, from experience, something may have a low sale price but if you are going to create a listing properly then we don’t put less effort into it just because it is only worth a small amount. It is better to say ‘No’ and nowadays we do! Any changes in www.AuctionGirl.co.uk over the last 5 years I would hope are for the best. And, we continuously strive to provide an improved service.

Interestingly, there have been changes in the market place over that time. eBay is no longer the only online outlet to sell your possessions. Amazon has fast become a successful competitor for a whole host of reasons. The site is used in the same way as eBay but it is all based on fixed prices so there are no auctions. Now, this is an avenue that we have talked about using but we have not yet explored it in detail. I suspect Amazon saw an influx of new sellers in the last 18 months. In particular eBay now charge 10% on whatever postage price is quoted which is in addition to them already charging a final value fee plus commission on every PayPal transaction! As you can appreciate the forums went mad, up in arms with many abandoning ship.  Etsy, is also another outlet but it focuses on selling more vintage pieces, again fixed price selling. I suspect that these are both places to consider for the future.

The rise of social media has also had an impact on our buying and selling habits and Facebook has proved enormously successful. There are hundreds of Facebook groups out there which provide an easy way of selling. It’s a simple quick process: take a picture, post it to a number of groups and if you are realistic about the price then you can be guaranteed to sell it. But, a word of caution: there is very little comeback and you can be continuously messed around. You also have to think about whether you are actually realising the true potential of the item being sold. Remember when you sell on eBay you receive the buyer’s contact information. With Facebook, there is no comeback or mechanism for reporting rogue buyers other than banning them from the group (if it is a closed one).

It’s been an interesting 5 years in terms of the changes that have taken place in online trading. The greatest challenge is keeping up with the pace especially in the world of social media and using the technology available to our benefit.

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Can clutter make cash for your business?

It has been suggested over the years that we all have clutter in our home. The figure that is often thrown around if we were to total up the amount of unwanted items in our possession is somewhere in the region of £500. My honest guess would be that this is a conservative estimate.

So if this is the amount that we have at home then how much clutter is there lurking around our office space?

Large companies may not realise the value there is and that is most probably because no-one has taken the time to actually think about it. The unused office furniture: desks, filing cabinets and chairs. Those ergonomic chairs that are extremely fashionable in the workplace don’t come cheap. They may be marked or have a slight defect but that doesn’t mean to say that there is no second hand value to them.

Smaller to medium size businesses will not have the quantity of items that bigger organisations possess yet don’t let this put you off! Why not have a good clear out of old, surplus stock, lurking around in those locked cupboards? It’s a very easy way of injecting a worthwhile amount of cash back into your business even though the volumes may not be as large.

There have been endless occasions where we have visited some companies in order to assist them with a clear out of clutter. And nine times out of ten they end up looking to sell far more than they had originally perceived. There is always the cupboard at the back of the room with a forgotten amount of printer cartridges stashed in them. More often than not they may be out of date but why not try and sell them? If the packages are sealed all that is required is to make the expiry date clear for all to see. It is then up to any interested parties to place their bids and more often than not there will be absolutely nothing wrong with them.

eBay is an ideal platform for selling all those unwanted items around your office. You would be surprised for instance just who would be interested in purchasing your unwanted furniture. Only two weeks ago we sold some Neville Johnson office furniture that was 17 years old. The client was moving offices and it was surplus to requirements. The alternative was paying someone to take it away. Whilst it didn’t fetch a huge amount of money, it solved a headache for my client and a smooth transaction took place. The buyers drove all the way down from the Midlands to pick it up from North London – they were solicitors and were setting up an office and it allowed them to furnish their office.

From five years of professional selling full time on eBay, I am always happy to share our experience with others and provide honest and truthful advice as to how to achieve successful eBay auctions.

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Selling clothing on eBay

I’m going back a few years now but after having started my business with the successful sale of a broken shower pump, I swiftly moved on. Some of the first items that were given to me by new clients (essentially some good friends in the beginning) were clothes. Yes, clothes are just one of those things that almost everyone without exception is going to have a surplus amount of. It could be because they no longer fit into them or that they are just clogging up the cupboard! Anyway, in a very short amount of time, I was inundated with men’s, ladies and kids clothes to sell.

It has probably taken almost 5 years but now, I hardly selling any clothing on eBay at all. The amount of time that it takes to correctly photograph, take down all the necessary measurements – and I’m not just talking about the label size – plus wrapping the garment and taking to the Post Office, means that an item has to sell seriously well to make it worthwhile. And bluntly, most of the time it just doesn’t.

My view is that there is so much clothing on eBay being sold, both new and used, that the market is fiercely competitive. Added to that, you also need to remember that shoppers can take themselves off to Primark and similar places to buy new garments of clothing for a fraction of the price of buying anything on eBay.

I also feel that the other downside to selling clothing on eBay is that quite often it is incredibly difficult to feel and appreciate the beauty of an item. Now that is my job to do in the listing but I hate having something fabulous to sell and know that it is not going to fetch a huge price. We are just in the process of selling a stunning supple leather jacket which actually is branded but getting across its beauty is still remarkably difficult.

My golden rule to successful selling of clothing on eBay is that only branded items tend to sell. You may have bought a fabulously expensive leather jacket in Italy, Turkey or elsewhere. However, if it is not a recognised name then sad to say, it will fetch a negligible amount.

If you have a fabulous piece but it is not top designer then it may be worth thinking about advertising the piece within a Facebook group. Decide what price you would be happy with and offer it at that price.

If you are going to sell low value items on eBay then this would be my advice. Keep the listing short a sweet. Be honest about the item condition and mention any defects, marks or similar. Only include measurements if it is worthwhile. Don’t do that on 99p items. The easiest but not necessarily the most profitable way to sell clothing is to do it in bundles. Then go invest in a bulk load of grey / black plastic sticky envelopes so that when you do send an item or items out in the post it is actually really easy to do!

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Festive time of year is rapidly approaching!

It struck me over the course of the last week that the festive season will soon be upon us. I don’t want to scare those of you reading who have spent no time giving any thought to shopping just yet but it really isn’t that far away.

There’s Halloween (at the end of half term), followed by Guy Fawkes and then Christmas will be upon us before we know it! For me it starts as a slow dawning.

So it really is a perfect time to think about how to best use eBay for both buyers and sellers alike!

For those buying on eBay, I would urge caution. And I mean this in the sense that the retailers will no doubt also have numerous offers to tempt you into their stores with. Those ‘3 for 2’ offers are almost as much a part of Christmas these days as is mulled wine and mince pies!

I believe that at this time of year, eBay is ideal for purchasing items or gadgets that are in good second hand condition. It may not be the latest model number but if it’s in good condition then it may be worth looking into. Bluntly, we all purchase for our kids techie items that don’t tend to last that long and that’s because they have no true concept or appreciation of what they are handling or using. Therefore does it really matter if it isn’t the latest model?

An iPhone 5 for instance will have come down in price now that a newer version was recently released. Personally I’m not a fan at all (much preferring an Android device) but hopefully you see what I’m saying. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the latest devices out there – no sooner has a new model appeared on the market then rumours are rife about when the next one is being released!

For those selling on eBay, it really is a great way to make some extra cash. Go round your home and be ruthless. If there are items that haven’t been touched for more than a year or so then frankly I can’t believe you are going to miss them! If they have any marketable value then why not think about selling them?

Don’t be clever with your listings. Just take some simple good photos, write a concise but honest description and then place the item on eBay. Forget any reserves or buy now, just put the item on at a price that you will be happy to accept. Again, it’s important to have a think about what’s going to sell well at this time of year. You must be strategic and seasonal with your thinking!

And, as with the advice above that is given to buyers, you must also be realistic about what the item will sell for plus what postage you are able to charge. Oh and don’t get caught out with this one – eBay now take 10% of whatever postage fee that you charge so make sure that what you quote takes account of this!

As a seller, please remember what you are competing against – the stores all have huge buying power and can afford to sell good items at seriously competitive prices. I spend a great deal of time talking about this with our clients. When you buy something from a retailer, depending what the item is, there will be a guarantee and this can be a 28 day period or longer for other items. On eBay this doesn’t really happen. Paying through PayPal provides buyers with some level protection but the point being made is that you should not expect to get the same prices for what you’re selling as the prices being charged in retail stores. eBay is a completely different market. I try explaining to clients all about the disposable society that we live in – people can go to a huge supermarket, purchase some plates and when they have had enough of them they can simply throw them away!

How times have changed…

 

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Buyer Behaviour

When I want to buy something, I go into a shop. And whether I am shopping in Primark, Marks & Spencer or an individual store, I will of course always pay for the goods that I am buying. Whether you are buying in a top end designer boutique or mooching round a market you would always pay for the goods as opposed to asking for credit!

Similarly, with the ever increasing use of the internet for shopping – even more so in the run up to the festive season – you would browse online at various websites and then you would purchase and pay for the goods that you were after. And I would even go further to say that you would most definitely be ready to complain if having paid, the goods failed to appear with the time specified.

However, all these rules are thrown out of the window when it comes to buying on eBay. It’s like…rules… what rules? Now there are of course guidelines in place for buyers to adhere to when it comes to purchasing off eBay. However, it would seem that a small percentage of people seem to have complete disregard for them. Frankly, I am astounded by how buyers think that they can behave so differently to shopping on the high street!

The most common scenario that as a seller I am faced with on a regular basis is people bidding yet not paying for what they have won. Why do people do that? I simply fail to see what enjoyment someone would have to sit and bid on an item and then fail to get in touch or have no real intention of purchasing the item.

Then there are those buyers who will conversely pay for their items yet delay making the collection arrangements. Some people think that if they have paid they can then use us as a storage facility and pick up their winning item when it suits them. This is extremely difficult for us as we sell for clients and are often clearing out properties. So for us it isn’t just about making the sale but also to see through the successful collection of the items.

We sold a stunning antique rustic mirror on 7th September for £275. The item was paid for really quickly. Yet, 5 weeks on, and numerous emails chasing for the item to be collected, it still has not been picked up. I am astounded and if I had paid that amount of money I would have be in touch straight away to arrange collection. I of course appreciate that unexpected circumstances may arise but to not be in contact just seems bewildering!

Then there are those buyers who simply fail to read exactly what is stated in the listing? For every single listing that we write, we follow a set formula and having provided the overview we then have a section with additional information in. This will talk about where the item is located and any more specific collection arrangements. I am astounded by how people can be considering making a bid without having read the entirety of the listing. Or even more frustratingly, make the offer and win…and then send a message to say that they have not measured the space correctly and want to cancel the auction! It really does happen!

Some of these situations make me smile and other make me grit my teeth by ultimately I still love the buzz of eBay selling. My word of caution would be to never send a message to a seller and ask if they are prepared to complete the transaction outside of eBay so that money on fees can be paid. Have you ever called eBay before? Remember they have access to all your account details and can therefore read all these messages. If you were reported for doing that then it could be the end of your eBay trading days – just a thought really.

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eBay…Why didn’t I think of that?

In almost 20 years of trading, eBay has become an international household name. Companies – and successful ones at that – who have been well established for many more decades than this would probably give their right arm to have had the rapid growth that eBay have experienced since the mid 1990’s. A simple business concept saw the company evolve and it resulted in a real success story from the dot com bubble. It took just 4 years for the founder to become a billionaire!

Selling on eBay has most definitely become an unbelievable phenomenon. The first thought that most people now have when they think about renovating or selling furniture from their home isn’t who they can give it to but if they can sell it on eBay?!

eBay has changed the market for so many businesses as well. Years ago if you had an old piece of furniture or antique, then the only way to sell it was to go directly through an auction house. But now dealers have had to keep up with the change in the business climate and technology otherwise they were in danger of being left behind.

I thoroughly enjoy reading about how eBay was established. For those that don’t know, it was founded in 1995 and one of the first items sold was a broken laser pointer. The story goes that Pierre Omidyar, founder and chairman of eBay, emailed the winner to check that they had realised that this item was broken and received the following response, ‘I’m a collector of broken laser pointers’.  And so this dot-com company went from strength to strength. And the rest as they say is history.

Before starting my business, one of the very first items that I sold on eBay was a broken shower pump. The new pump was hugely expensive and just as the plumber was about to take it away I thought that it would make sense to try and sell it on eBay. Now what I know about plumbing can be written on the back of a postage stamp but I was extremely honest and sold it as ‘not working’. I soon realised that if I could sell this then I could probably sell anything. And so this is how www.AuctionGirl.co.uk was established.

If you think about the eBay business model it is so simple and it works. Yet no-one really competes in the same league. From time to time we have thought about selling through other sites like Amazon and Etsy. Yet having looked into it on several occasions we often revert back to the fact that if it isn’t broken then why fix it?

Over the course of 5 years of trading there have been a number of occasions where we have been disappointed with how eBay have dealt with a situation. Yet it comes back to the fact that they have the largest market share and actually it ties in extremely well with the way we like to sell. I think that if you are an on-line trader of new or surplus stock then  there are other sites out there to trade off. However I am a firm believer that the best way to sell second hand goods is by placing them on auction and no other site has the visibility and catchment that eBay provides. Locally there are sites such as Gumtree that serve their purpose but I still think that you achieve better prices through eBay selling.

At AuctionGirl we offer a high level service selling on behalf of our clients on eBay. I often tell people that what we do isn’t rocket science and there is nothing to stop someone selling for themselves. However, we strongly believe that the more research that is done then the better the prices. Not only do we have software to assist us in pricing items but we spend hours trawling the internet to get as much information as possible and thinking about the best possible title that a listing can have to ensure that it comes up in searches. And not forgetting about the time it takes to photograph items, take down measurements (both metric and imperial) and then creating great copy. And then of course there is the postage that has to be done – the unglamorous side of the job – but if you can post an item then you will achieve more money for it.

I think about how the market will change over the next 20 years and wonder if eBay will be able to adapt to this. I hope they do in the immediate future as my own business, like many other sellers on eBay, relies on their success as well!!

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When is it time to apologise?

So the summer has speedily past us by filled with exciting things like two children that graduated from University, the pomp and circumstance of the ceremonies, the children off school for their summer break, holidays with the family and of course work pressure because eBay does not sleep…and so I come to you all with an apology…of sorts….

You see whilst I feel incredibly bad that we have not been blogging regularly over the summer and to those who read our every word, I am genuinely sorry, the reason is simple and one I almost can’t apologise for…we have been incredibly busy clearing several homes and businesses and literally have not been able to squeeze another moment in to sit and have cohesive thoughts to write!  This is an incredible position for us to be and one that you will not here me complain about, but, we have days when we just don’t know which way is up and we have to get the listings written and auctions running because mostly we have incredibly tight deadlines to meet.

One of the areas that the AuctionGirls try to pride themselves on is communication with both clients and buyers, we are very responsive and try to stay one step ahead of the game. However, I have to admit that this strand of communication through blogging has definitely suffered!

As those of you who run you own  business will know we work at very strange hours in order to fit everything in, of course the added angle with eBay is it is alive day and night around the world, so there is always a question from a potential buyer that needs answering or a bid being placed.  Very often we feed our respective families and then we start working again in the evening.  We generally use this time to catch up with things like sorting photographs and other simple jobs that all need sorting out as very often we are tired by this time and writing listings can be disastrous as I, in particular, seem to miss half the information out!

So when should we apologise; well we spend a fair amount of time apologising to each other when our days don’t quite go according to plan and we end up having to do children things, we say sorry, or when one of us has any number of appointments during the day that preclude us from getting our heads down and working, we say sorry, or when we make a mistake with work, we say sorry, in fact Belinda and I say a lot of genuine sorrys to each other possibly five or six times a day and so with that in mind we are always flabbergasted when people are rude and don’t say please or thank you, never mind sorry!

So coming back to my original question, when is it time to apologise? Well there are things that we genuinely should apologise for, I think admitting you have made a mistake is probably one of the hardest things to do, but why not just hold up your hands and say sorry! People will respect you for it in the long run and this applies to eBay too.  On occasions we have sent items to buyers where there has been something not quite right or it has become broken in the post, and guess what the first message we will write back to the angry buyer is we are terribly sorry…this apology goes a long way and is very necessary.  But do Belinda and I have to apologise to each other all the time, probably not, however, we are both keen to work as hard as we can and continue to make our AuctionGirl business a success and it makes us who we are…so Belinda…I am really sorry but I confess I did do an online food shop this afternoon in the middle of working!

And now ladies and gentlemen your weekly blog service will be returning to normal so we will not have to apologise again to you!

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Lots of work and very little time!

As we settle into the month of June it has occurred to me that in 7 weeks all my kids will be finishing school for the summer.

During the school holidays, work still continues but not at the same rapid pace that we usually operate at. I am always mindful of having family time and not having the children out the door at 9:00am every day. It is their holiday and I do try and ensure that it is relaxing for everyone. I try and manage the balance between them having some activities to go to but not fulfilling every second of their waking day. They are kids and there is often nothing wrong with ‘hanging out’ at home, entertaining themselves and just having some down time.

So I am now starting to think about our work load and pipeline of work for the next few weeks and I can honestly that we have enough work to keep us going into the summer and beyond! Believe me I am not complaining, it’s great, but we have so much work coming up.

Much of this has come about thanks to returning clients. I think last week we had calls from 6 clients who have used us over the last two years. What’s interesting is that we only sold a few pieces for some of these customers but they now would like our help with other projects or moving home! It’s great but we have just been staggered – yet delighted – by having all these calls. We are finding that more and more of our work is becoming referral based. However, this does not put us off still wanting to grow and expand the business.

I am starting to feel that we will be unable to take on any more work as we have to be able to still provide a high quality service. So much so, that an advertiser called me last week and it was a publication that I was interested in finding more information about as I have thought about advertising with them. However, it is important to keep the balance of advertising and having your name out there but I actually feel that we need a breather and should consider further new means of marketing come September.

Interestingly, some of the publications that we have been committed to over the last year are now also starting to generate a good response and we are receiving numerous enquiries. I know that a one off advert has very little impact and it is much better to commit to a minimum of 3 adverts so that the name gets recognised. And, with the type of service we offer I often find that people do tend to keep hold of our details and cut them out of the magazine.

So, on that note, I am off to make some more appointments for next week. I have told Marla no more appointments for this week (or else)! In actual fact, what usually happens is that she sticks to it and I am the one who sneakily tries to put one or two more meetings in the diary! It is a real juggling act getting out to meetings yet having time in the office to write listings for everything that we are selling. And don’t forget there is research to undertake, compile all the photographs that have been taken, catalogue all the items and so on. And the list goes on. But as I said earlier in the blog, really, I’m happily complaining!

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eBay Observations!

Last week my blog provided three top tips for creating eBay listings. In a brief recap it was all about having a good listing title, starting auctions at 99p providing that the item is actually worth more than that. And lastly I made reference to ensuring that you don’t get caught out with postage or courier fees.

Now the list can easily be expanded but I just wanted to provide some indication of the most important trends or observations that I have made over several years of selling on eBay.

I’m sure that eBay has a great knack of making you buy things that you don’t actually want! I personally don’t buy a great deal on eBay – I think it’s because I know just how addictive it can be so I tend to steer clear! It is amazing how people will often buy from a seller even if the items are totally unrelated. Whilst arranging a collection for a limed oak table and chairs last week, the buyer asked me if I would accept an offer on a French antique garniture set as well (which I wouldn’t do). And there’s the buyer who is waiting to collect an antique pine chest complete with…. A poker and tong set! So I know exactly what it’s like!

The other observation that we have made over the years is how people react when there is a problem. Traditionally, no-one likes to complain, especially the English. I always think about going to the hairdresser, the hairdresser asking if I liked my hair and me always saying yes despite the fact I hated what they had done! I would not dare complain. Well not until a few years ago anyway.

If someone has a problem with an item they have purchased from us then quite often, the first message that will be received will often be confrontational. It’s like they assume you aren’t going to fix the problem before they have even given you the opportunity to respond.  They are quite surprised by our helpful response. Unlike many sellers we offer returns on all our items and will also offer a partial refund in some instances.  We will often hear horror stories about trading on eBay but more often than not I really don’t think that is the reality. The best advice I would give to someone is to tell a buyer to go to the resolution centre and then all conversations are recorded through eBay and this will usually work.

My last point would be that eBay are always right! What do I mean by this? Well, if you pick a battle with them then you will never win! They have the upper hand. If you don’t like their rules then they can stop you trading on their site. And whilst there are other sites out there I really don’t think any of them rival what eBay currently offers even if their fees are cheaper. From personal experience of 5 years of eBay trading their mantra is often one rule for one and one for another. So you either live with it and work within their guidelines or find somewhere else to trade.

And my final sign off would be this – never ask a seller if they are prepared to do a transaction outside of eBay. If I had a pound for every time that I was asked this on an item I was selling… I don’t do it because it is not worth it. Whilst it may be appealing to think you are avoiding the fees please also remember that eBay can read all of your messages and could quite easily completely ban you from buying and selling. It’s a risk that I personally think is too big to take.

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Three Top eBay selling Tips…

Whilst I know that a great magician never reveals their top secrets I have decided to share some really important eBay selling tips in this week’s blog. Our business is all about selling for clients on eBay but there really are a number of pointers that everyone should be aware of for successful eBay selling.

 

The Number 1 top tip has to relate to your listing title. If you write almost nothing else in the body of your listing, write a really good title. You have 80 characters available to use and where possible you should try and use every one. Try to think of it as the Google search engine – this is what someone buying on eBay is going to use for searching for their item. The more you write in the title the better the chance of success your item will have of selling. If your item has a model number then make sure that it is written in. I know that it can sometimes be hard to find the need to use every character but use additional descriptive words anyway. Words like fabulous, stunning, quality, traditional style or similar make whatever it is you’re selling just sound so much better and more interesting.

Secondly, everyone knows that the best auctions start at 99p. When selling my own items (not that I ever have time to do that these days) I gladly start an auction at 99p on the proviso that it will generate interest and I know that it is worth far more than the actual starting price. Of course it is a gamble but invariably it will pay off. However, if the item is worth barely more than that starting price then you really should be asking yourself if it is actually worth selling. Remember, buyers still have the right to leave feedback for the 99p item that they have more than likely paid a lot more in postage for. To get bad feedback on something of such low value I’m not sure it is really worth it. You would be better finding another way of selling the item such as at a car boot, through a Facebook group or perhaps just donating to a favourite charity.

And lastly but by no means least do not allow yourself to get caught out on the price that you charge for postage. The prices that can be charged for postage has turned into a minefield and I can honestly that it probably took me several months to get my head round it. And every time that I think I have it sussed I then go and make a mistake as the main providers have changed their Terms!

I generally work with Royal Mail, MyHermes and book couriers through Interparcel. Royal Mail are great for small items but you must check your item or box dimensions carefully in order that you are not caught out. MyHermes are ideal for items that are unlikely to get damaged by using a 3-5 day courier service. Remember the longer the item takes to arrive with the buyer then the more chance there will be of problems along way. However if you book through their webpage then items are automatically insured up to the value of £50. And Interparcel provide a number of services for you to choose from and are really good if you need an item to arrive quicky. One additional sub tip if you like though is this: buyers will sometimes forget which service they have paid for so if you are going to use My Hermes then I would send the buyer an email after the parcel has been dispatched and to remind them of the service that they have paid for. Good communication is such a vital part of successful eBay selling. And, don’t forget that late last year eBay revised their Terms and now take 10% of whatever you charge on postage. Yes you did read that correctly but I’ll save my thoughts on that quite possibly for another blog!

 

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