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Book Smart!

Two Ideas for Sellers
of CD-BASED Products

by Craig Stark

#130, 6 December 2008

Several times in recent years we've published articles about selling books that resemble books - for example, CDs, DVDs, cassettes and VHS tapes. It makes sense on several counts. They're often encountered in the same venues we shop for books in, they consume very little shelf space, and chances are the packaging method you're using for books will also work for these items. Moreover, since many CDs, etc., are lightweight, First Class Mail becomes a shipping option - and it's usually faster and cheaper than Media Mail.

Perhaps more importantly, if your bookselling business has gone south during these economically challenged times, it might make sense to expand your product line, at least temporarily, to keep your revenue from dropping. These types of items often sell quickly, and those with values over $15 or $20 are surprisingly numerous. What's more, many more of them are showing up at sales these days.

So - how can we make your lives easier? I have two ideas today.

First, one of the more pesky issues associated with selling movies, music, etc. is guaranteeing playability. Almost nobody has time to actually listen or watch everything they list to make sure it plays okay, and yet, if you send out scratched CDs on a prayer, even if you detail the condition in your listing, there's always a chance you'll upset a customer who receives something that turns out to be unplayable.

What to do? Well, in the past week I've been test driving a resurfacing machine - a device that removes an ultra thin later of plastic coating on CDs and DVDs, thereby removing scratches that may affect playability. I've seen many methods and devices for accomplishing this, and of course you can investigate what's out there yourself by taking a trip to YouTube. But if you'll also take a trip to Amazon and read reviews, it's clear that a lot of these things don't really measure up.

However, I'd been hearing some generally favorable stuff about the JFJ product line, so I decided to have a flutter on their entry level JFJ Easy Pro - $199.99 at Amazon with free shipping.

Previous to buying this machine, my policy was to sell only flawless or near flawless CDs as a sort of insurance against something not being playable. My first trial with the JFJ, therefore, was with one of my near flawless CDs that had several light but visible scratches. I used the recommended buffing pad for minor scratches, applied some solution to it, inserted the CD, closed the lid, and ran the machine for one minute. I then sprayed the CD with cleaning solution and wiped it clean. The entire process consumed about three minutes - and the result was an utterly flawless CD. No visible scratches whatsoever.

Since I don't own any seriously scratched CDs, my next trial took me to my youngest son's room, which offered a generous selection of CDs in various stages of destruction. I selected the following CD from the top drawer in his desk:

Nice, huh? I repeated the same procedure I used with the first CD but ran the machine two minutes instead of one. This produced what I would grade as a near flawless CD. Following the recommendations in the manual, I then applied a second solution to the buffing pad and ran the machine for an additional two minutes. This was the astonishing result:

Keep in mind that these procedures were recommended for CDs with minor scratches. There are also procedures for those with medium and deep scratches which use a stepped sanding schedule - that is, you apply actual sandpaper to a buffing pad and either start with fine grit or step down from coarse to fine, then finish with the above buffing process. I haven't tried either of these more aggressive procedures because I haven't yet been able to find any CDs that couldn't be renewed with the first one.

What this machine does for you, of course, is bring many, many additional CDs, DVDs, etc., into play at sales that you previously would've passed on - those that are either cosmetically unacceptable or altogether unplayable. It's the work of a few minutes to restore them to like-new condition. It's also gives you the peace of mind of knowing that in almost all circumstances, unplayable products will be restored to playable.

The JFJ Easy Pro can be used for the following CD-based products: music CDs, CD-Roms, Sony PlayStation, PSone and PlayStation 2 game discs, Microsoft X-box game discs, DVD movies, double-sided DVD, VCD, CDR, DVDR, XBX360, HD DVD and "future" products. (This particular model doesn't support mini disc repair.)

Everything you'll need is included with the machine, but if you intend to do a lot of resurfacing, it would be a good idea to order additional supplies at the outset because these won't last long. Also allow yourself some time to practice.

Finally, a caution. Resurfaced CDs should not, IMO, be listed as "new" even though they may be equivalent in quality to new copies. "Like new" would be a better choice, along with the disclosure that machine resurfacing has been done to restore it to flawless condition.

Next idea, this one for those who use Multi-D boxes. At present, the smallest box offered by Packaging Control Corp. will work for CDs, but it's really much bigger than it needs to be - and costlier to ship. However, I've devised a very simple template that makes the process of cutting down a small box with a handheld rotary cutter to a CD-friendly size both simple and fast (under 10 seconds).

The template was cut to 24" x 14" from " inch plywood (available in 24" x 24" sheets at home improvement stores). The notch is 10" x 1 ". It's important to use " or thinner stock so the rotary cutter (a 28 mm Fiskars, in this case) can ride flush against the edge of the template. If you do use thicker plywood, you'll need a larger, more expensive cutter.

The 9 " x 6 " x 2 " Multi-D box is available here.

The Fiskars 28 mm rotary cutter is available here.

The Multi-D box before cutting.

The first template cutting setup. Note that the edges of both the box and the template are butted up against the back wall.

The box after the first cut.

The second template cutting setup. Again, the edges of both the box and the template are butted up against the back wall.

The completed box after making three cuts.

The resulting folded box.

Alternately, you can use the template to mark cut lines on the box and make the cuts with a paper trimmer, though this is a slower process.

Note that the cutting reduces the weight of the box by almost 1 ounces, and this in turn results in a postage savings of either $.17 or $.34, depending on where the package falls on the USPS scale.

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