My Triplets: Entrepreneurs In Training

My Triplets: Entrepreneurs In Training

It’s funny how the simplest little statement can give birth to a huge project. In this case, it was “Mommy, how can we make some money?”

Apparently the $5 per week allowance each of my children receives is not enough to buy the hottest, most ridiculously expensive must have toy – Webkinz. These are plain little stuffed animals, the kind you can find at Wal-Mart for $5, or even $1 at a swap meet. But the retail price for these little varmints is $9 – $11 … that is, IF you can find them. The few stores that sell them can’t keep them in stock.

So what’s the big deal about Webkinz? It’s the fact that each one comes with a “secret code” that the kids use to “register” their little creature and “adopt” it at Then the kids earn money by playing games so they can feed their virtual pet, decorate their rooms, play with them, etc. The Webkinz people regularly “retire” some of the little critters, driving up the price and of course, the exclusivity of having this one or that one.

What a racket. Yep, that’s pure old sour grapes and jealousy right there — wish I had thought of it first.

Anyway, my kids caught the Webkinz bug and came to me looking for ideas to raise money. They’re too young to babysit or dog walk, what can they do? So I came up with an idea — they could sell some things on Ebay and keep all of the profits.

I don’t know what possessed me to say it, probably because enough time had passed since I last sold things on ebay so that I had forgotten what a pain in the ass it is, which is why I stopped doing it. It seemed like a good idea at the time. I figured that at 9 they were old enough and it would be an educational experience for them.

Of course they were all for it and got really excited about the prospect of making a pile of money. I had to talk fast to tame their expectations but not dampen their enthusiasm. I told them if things went well, they could make between $150 and $200. No, not each, collectively. They did some quick calculations and figured that they would probably end up with 4 or 5 Webkinz apiece. I warned them that it wasn’t as easy as it looked and they assured me, “We’ll do all the work, Mommy!”

So on a recent Friday afternoon, we pulled all of the things out of the Ebay closet, which was quite full since I hadn’t sold anything on ebay in 2 years. Actually I’ve been on a “Clean Sweep” type binge during the last few weeks, so the pile was manageable since I had donated or thrown out most of the clothes. So we were left with a nice stack of Gap, Hilfiger, Polo, Gymboree, etc. in excellent shape.

I showed them how to sort the clothes into lots by size, although they kept wanting to sort them by color or brand. That took all of Friday evening. On Saturday I showed them how to take pictures of the clothes. That was truly funny to watch, each of them “posing” the clothes, then taking turns with the digital camera. I was very proud of the way they stuck to it, even when their little friend Maddie came by and asked them to come play with her and her puppies. They were tempted but didn’t give in … no, they had work to do. Visions of Webkinz danced in their heads.

On Sunday, it was time to write the descriptions. By now, my little people were starting to tire of the project, but they tired at different times of the day, and peer pressure from the other 2 was usually enough to keep them going. I set up an email account for them and showed them how to email me the descriptions. Each child was given a range of numbers to use to number their lots so that I would know which description went with which set of clothes. They taped the lot number on the bag and included it in the subject line of the email.

Oh those descriptions, they were so cute! I got misty-eyed and laughing cramps all at the same time, reading the way they described things in their little 4th grade English.

Each child had a different writing style and added their own flair to the descriptions. They’d put in little details about the person who wore it. Isaiah’s tended to be very brief and to the point. Mariah wrote very long and detailed accounts. Sierra’s writing was very artsy and hip. I got such a kick out of reading those descriptions and couldn’t believe some of the words my babies knew!

Sunday evening was our target time for posting the auctions, so that afternoon I started creating the listings. It ended up taking longer than we thought, another couple of evenings (after school) to finish up the descriptions and post them to Ebay on Tuesday as 5 day auctions so they would end at the same time as the others. This was to encourage people to bid on multiple auctions.

In order to charge enough for shipping, the kids had to weigh the clothes and include that in the auction description they sent to me. So they were using all sorts of skills — writing, math, art, everything. It was quite the educational experience. People would write and ask questions about the clothes or shipping weights and I would pass it on to them so they could figure out the answer.

Of course, I supervised everything and made sure the info was correct — I have a good ebay feedback score and wanted to keep it that way. But it was their auction and they did much of the work.

Of course, the most exciting part was when bids started coming in. Every day they would come home from school and race to the computer to see how much money they had made. They started counting the number of webkinz they had earned and debating about which ones they would buy.

Hold on pardners! Not so fast. It’s not over until people actually pay. And don’t forget, you have to deliver the goods, as in put them in the mail. And then there are those pesky ebay fees that had to be subtracted from the proceeds. Hmm.

So the auctions ended and money started coming into my Paypal account. They had a total of 32 auctions, and 27 of them sold. We’d agreed that anything that didn’t sell would be donated to charity. So I printed out the postage from within Paypal, which is really cool, something they didn’t have a few years ago. Also the USPS will come to your house and pick up Priority Mail packages, which is great!

Anyway, the kids had to match up the right lot with the right person and postage label. Of course, I checked and double-checked all of this, having been on both ends of ebay mixups before. They had made $164.39, and $26.13 of that went to ebay for fees, leaving them with $138.26. So I didn’t want their profits to be eaten away by mailing mixups, where you mail the wrong item to the wrong person, then have to send them the money to send it to the right person, plus pay to mail them the right thing. With so many auctions, it would be easy to make a mistake and by then, they were tired of the whole thing. Frankly, so was I.

I had forgotten how cheap people were on ebay. Yeah, it was cute that kids were selling clothes and writing the descriptions but they still wanted to nickel and dime us on shipping and send money orders and ship to Canada and all that crap.

I tried to be nice but one lady really taxed my patience whining about shipping and how I could get a free box from the grocery store. Lady, you got a nice 6 or 7 piece lot of barely used Gap and Hilfiger clothes for $3.24 and you’re complaining about paying $10 to ship? No, I’m not running around town looking for a box, it’s Priority Shipping or no shipping. Then she paid with a debit/credit card so Paypal charged fees. Don’t you know I emailed her and made her pay me another $1 to cover those fees? My kids cracked up when I sent that email because they know that a dollar doesn’t mean that much to me, but I wasn’t going to let this old biddy take .72 out of their $3.24. It was the principle of the thing. And she was the one who had the most questions during the auction process! It’s true what they say, the cheapest customers are usually the ones that are the most high maintenance.

But finally we were finished. The last package was mailed and finally were off to the store so they could fulfill their fantasies. They carefully selected their 4 Webkinz each and have registered them and faithfully take care of their virtual pets every day. I do believe they will treasure those little critters even more, considering how hard they worked for them.

As for me, well, it was a hell of a lot of work. I worked harder during that 10 day period than I had in months. I had to take a week off to recuperate and am just now getting back in the swing of things. The fact that I could take time off to work for pennies to make them happy has given them a new appreciation for Mommy’s online business.

They know how hard we had to work for them to earn less than $150, all the while my websites were still earning money..and it’s a good thing too! One evening after we had knocked off for the day, they saw me check the stats and were amazed because they knew for sure I’d been working with them on the auctions all day. That’s when I explained to them about residual income and why it’s such a wonderful thing. You know what? I had explained it before, but on that day they really got it. That’s a lesson I don’t think they would have gotten any other way.

So it was a good experience for them and for that I’m glad. But the next time I open my mouth to make another suggestion like that, will someone please slap me?


p.s. For their upcoming 10th birthday, I promised each child $150 to do with as they please — have a birthday party, take a few friends to the movies, or buy whatever you want. Three guesses what they want? Yep, more Webkinz. Since they’ve bought pretty much all of ones available at the local stores, guess where we’re having to look for the ones you can’t buy in the store?? Ebay!