Saturday, April 28, 2012

How to piss people off by selling 1.5% of your beer.


Here is a great BLOG entry from Adam Jackson that truly illustrates the madness that is involved with being a fan of the Craft Beer community. It’s one hell of a read, and I highly suggest you give it a look. What follows is the BLOG entry in its entirety:

The Drama

I took some time to respond. A lot of people encouraged me to jump in the conversation early on around my actions but it’s important to listen to the thoughts and opinions of many and come to a solid realization instead of going on the defensive. We’re better than just to react to rumors and unproven stories. I still think 24 hours for a response is pretty good compared to a lot of corporations dealing with crisis management.

There are 300 auctions on eBay for beer as I write this. On average, 2,500 beer sales occur on eBay each month. It’s not a huge number but it’s a big one. Buying beer on eBay is not something I have ever done or condone. I tell people to avoid it because I believe it inflates the value of beer and ruins the very personal craft connection between craft brewers and the men and women who buy their beer. I also believe that beer communities contribute to the same underlying hype around beer. The man who paid $900 dollars for beer was not random. He believes this is the value of that beer based upon reviews, discussions and groups of people in line for its release. The community is fantastic at connecting fans, giving feedback to brewers and helping the advocacy of craft beer which raises awareness and thus grows the market. For this, communities like Beer Advocate are hugely important but, there’s no denying that communities do more to hype eBay sales than those selling the beer on eBay. The seller puts a buy it now price in line with what people are trading for that beer and the buyer pays it because it’s clear everyone thinks highly of it. We are all to blame for this scenario.

I am easily obsessed.

It’s something I’ve been aware of since childhood. We moved a lot when I was a kid so I was in a new school every year. I never had any friends growing up and we never had a home that I spent more than 2 years in so, a lot of my hobbies center around the mindset of  ”nesting”. Most men are hunters and I am not. I don’t like to wrestle or conflict with others. In school, I’d get beat up and then try to make the bully my friend with gifts and favors. This tactic never worked but, to this day, it still resides within me. I “nest” into my homes and decorate and only have ever been in long-term relationships. I like a constant predictable lifestyle with little change. It’s nice when things stay the same and I’m able to nest.

My first post on BeerAdvocate was “You guys intimidate me.” I still feel that way. When a guy has some awesome collection of beers, has been to Dark Lord Day 5 times or can smell the liquorice in a beer and I cannot, I get a little depressed and go home an drink a lot of beer and setup more trades. I’m driven to find acceptance and, in this community, this need to be accepted drove me to do insane things.
I had a nice savings account at the end of last year, I was debt free and had some plans to go on a month long trip to India at the end of 2012 and was saving like crazy for that. Then, I saw this video on YouTube. I was in awe of it. I went on my first cellarable beer run in mid-December. I picked up Duvel and Chimay and mostly Belgian-Quads. On January 5th, I made my first post on BeerAdvocate and jumped right into the conversation.

A few days later, I was banned for reasons unrelated to what the rumors have said. I wasn’t banned for “being a d-bag”. I was banned for an illegitimate reason that, at the time, others agreed was unfair. I joined a Facebook beer group that a friend invited me to and I took a few weeks away from trading or talking about beer. Then, I went all-in again on a Facebook group. My communication style rubs people the wrong way. I’m well aware of this.

My tone is authoritative. I’ve taken courses to change my writing style to passive and the teachers have always said most people are passive and want the opposite but understood my reasoning. Either way, my responses to every thread on Facebook’s group and my constant buying of beer rubbed people the wrong way. Others have other reasons why they didn’t like me but I think it’s all personal choice. You can’t get along with everybody. I have some great friends still in the beer community but, the in public chatter would have you not believe that. Either way, I left that group. The reason? I was wasting my entire free time in there and it was affecting my daily activities. I was talking about beer more than drinking it. It was time for a change.

Shortly after joining RateBeer, something came up. I needed money fast and had depleted my savings. As of today, from December 20th to April 25th, I’ve spent $11,000 USD on my beer hobby. Gas for road trips, shelf beer buying, trades, shipping, packing materials, shelving and an A/C unit to keep my cellar cool. When life happened and it was time to actually take care of something, I was broke. I thought, a lot of these beers I bought off the shelf. Some were sent to me in trades..most of which I thought were fair trades $4$ and a couple of beers were actually bought from people via Paypal and I paid their markup just below eBay prices for those beers.

I don’t believe in the current state of eBay sales. The impossibly high Buy it Now prices or hidden Reserve prices with outrageous Shipping fees like $30 for one bottle to ship via UPS Ground. I chose to do things fairly. I posted 10 bottles on eBay mid-March. I set the starting price at 99 cents with no reserve and no buy it now with a flat rate of $15 shipping which was about $2 more than the most I’ve spent to send a single bottle of beer to California. I love beer so only sold bottles of beer that I already had tasted before. My gross sales were around $900. This was incredible and completely insane considering I started the bidding at under $10 for all 10 bottles. eBay is not as it would seem though. People do pay outrageous prices for beer but, what’s hidden are the fees.

eBay Listing Fee
Final Value Fee
Shipping Value Fee
Paypal Fee
Shipping Expenses due to miscalculation of my part
Packing Materials
Initial Investment (Price I paid for each bottle)

My net earnings were $250 on 10 bottles. At an average billable rate of $20, I also spent 5 hours in total setting up auctions, taking photos, fielding questions, packing and shipping bottles and then hassling buyers to pay. Deducting $100 for my time, the net was actually only $150. It’s hard to truly measure time expenses but it’s clear that eBay is NOT the right way to offload beer to pay bills and it’s also a royal pain in the ass. The $150 I acquired didn’t make a dent in my bills and I was left still with over 25 pending auctions for March. I asked a lot of people to wait until April for our trades which I didn’t want to do because then people wouldn’t like me. I tapped into my savings more to do trades for people that I had promised. Some still carried on into April.

Up until Monday, I was receiving 2 trade requests each day. Half of the people who requested to trade with me via BeerAdvocate, RateBeer, Facebook, Messages based on my YouTube videos of my cellar and via strangers texting and calling me. I’ve started getting weird voicemails from strangers asking me to send them things. I traded so much, I began feeling like I was a prisoner to my own hobby. Every day, boxes of beer arrived at my home and, every day, I visited the store to drop off more boxes.

All of April has been a blur. I come home, open a beer, start packing up beers and fielding questions about trades. I post on the forums a bit, go to tasting groups, buy tickets to beer events and hosted 3 people at my cabin who were just passing through. People in the beer community can stay with me for free and nothing in my cellar is off-limits.

Aside from my failure at eBay, I participated in tons of non-reciprocal beer trades and, everytime someone asked for what I wanted in return, I’d respond, “I want local and tasty. Love wilds and sours. Send what you want.” I never told someone “I’ll trade you a Heady Topper for your Kate the Great”. I got a lot of great beers in return but I never asked for great beers. I asked for $4$ trades and went broke doing it.

After 4 months in the beer world, my openness and transparency got the best of me but I think it’s a good thing. A lot of people laughed at my inability to cover up my actions of trading and what I was trading. I use my name and profile pic on every site and don’t hide what I buy or trade. My ebay profile I’ve had since 2003 so that name is not the one I use now but you can search Adamjackson on any site and find me. I like transparency. No one is catching me as a fraud just for their ability to use Google. I live transparently and don’t hide who I am to anyone. I wasn’t abused as a child but, if I was, I wouldn’t mind talking about it. What’s the point in hiding from people? Anonymity is wrong. I can’t change how people behave online but it does bother me that everyone on beer sites uses aliases and rarely has profile pics of themselves. People on Xbox live wonder why I use my real name. Why not? If I piss you off or screw up, you should be able to google me and write me an email. I believe in transparency and everyone that has publicly called me a fraud hides behind fake names.

Despite how people perceived me, those that traded with me (aside from 2 people who’s beers ended up on eBay) and those who stayed at my home and those who received beer from me and the people who invited me to their tastings know who I really am. The guy who got a 4-Pack of Heady Topper from me last time I was at hill Farmstead randomly because I heard he may not be able to get any on this trip to Vermont knows that I have been generous and open to everyone. It’s a shame the only support I’ve received has been in private via calls and emails because a lot of people will continue to trade with me and I’m happy to call them my friends.
This is the truth in everything. It’s the story of how a love of beer paired with a savings account and an obsessive personality and desire to be accepted completely changed my life with the outcome being I alienated my friends who don’t like craft beer and pissed the people off who do like craft beer. I’ll keep drinking craft beer, continue to cellar beer and buy beer and review it. Nothing will stop that because it’s a hobby that I truly enjoy. I’ve reached out to people like Shaun Hill with similar thoughts as above but with more personal correspondence. No one has to forgive me but everyone should know the truth.

Also, I didn’t get help from Shaun of Hill Farmstead and then sell a beer he gave me. I bought Damon on launch day in person and sold that bottle for 5 times what I thought I’d get for it before I even knew Shaun. I was just trying to recoup some of my costs and pay bills. I wasn’t trying to get rich or alienate anyone. Now that I know Shaun, that selling of his bottle has been a weight on my shoulders for the last month. That’s what really happened.

Moving on, there’s a bigger picture to all of this and I’d like to talk about it.
The Big Picture

There is no way to ignore the bigger picture and it’s one only rare mentioned by the beer community. Beer that changes hands for profit or trade is no different than that of the eBay Market. My hatred as a beer buyer for services like eBay is equivalent to my hatred of unfair trades or sales that don’t take place on eBay. They come in a few forms:

Trade requests from guys asking for whales or rare beers in exchange for a local and easy to get beer that’s popular at the moment. Men who trade Pliny, Heady or Hill Farmstead for “all the whales!” are crooks. $4$ or rare for rare is fine. Heady Topper is popular. I trade it a lot but I’ve never gotten some insanely amazing beer for one as a request. I have gotten great beers for Heady but the conversation always starts with “local and tasty” is what i want. When I trade a Vermont beer, i say, “I can get it easily and it’s local. No matter what you think of it, in return I want something that’s local and easy to get for you.” That’s how trades should work.

In person sales of beer. “I have some Cantillon I need to get rid of. Message me and we can meet in person.” Then, the person wants $50 a bottle. Remember, this is illegal. Selling beer is illegal but we have all done it. Trades are still an exchange of goods. Just because the sale doesn’t take place on eBay doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Cellar Cleaning Sales are the worst. I’ve been in on a few of these. I’ve always talked the person down to just over retail pricing and I always pay the shipping myself. Either way, every single person who has offered to sell 20+ beers to me, I hear them out and the pricing is 2-5X retail pricing aka eBay prices. This happens a lot and these forum posts are not scrutinized like eBay sales.

Muling. I’ve muled for people but never had someone mule for me. The best part about beer is camping out at a brewery, meeting great people and then buying beer and enjoying it at home or at a tasting with friends. It’s a great feeling. I know everyone can’t with kids and jobs and money but it is a lot of fun. Muling is bad because it decreases what’s on the shelf for others who did make the trip. The beer isn’t the reward but it sure is a nice finish line for a great beer-cation.

Shelf Hoarders. I’ve never bought EVERY beer on the shelf of something rare. I buy what I can drink which is one or two bottles or packs. if there are 2 bottles left, I only grab one. There’s always ONE person behind me that will be looking for the same bottle. To steal that from them is wrong and the shelf hoarders don’t get called out enough. Guys say, “bought the last case of Hopslam” and no one says, “did you really need a case? Why didn’t you just take half a case and leave it for someone else?” Nope, these shelf hoarders are cheered on from the side-lines with hoorahs and jealousy.

These are all examples of things I think are on par with eBay sales but not discouraged by the community. Offer you’re selling some Dark Lord on a forum and you get tons of messages. Post to the forum you put Dark lord on eBay with no reserve and a 99 cent start price with free shipping and people threaten to kick your ass. Neither of these are alright.

Of the 650 beers I bought since January 1st, I traded / gave away 150 of them, cellared 400 and sold 10 of them. As a percentage of my total beer purchases this year, I sold 1.5% of my beer. There are 300 auctions going at any time on eBay so it is a big market. I barely penetrated the top eBay sellers. In fact, my auctions were one-off and there are auctions going for beer 24/7 every single day of the year. Who are these people? I’ve messaged a few of them and they are among you. I know you don’t want to admit it. A lot of people blamed me for making the beer community look bad. I was a face to the eBay phenomenon but there are hundreds of people just like me doing eBay in a far more corrupt way. They don’t start their auctions at 99 cents. They start them at $100 or $900 and a guy comes along and buys beer at those prices. I let the market decide what my beers were worth. These guys set the market price with their auctions and pay their rent from these beer sales. This is wrong and, these salesmen are all around you. You trade with them, interact with them and send them kudos and extras in your trades. Some guys go to these events and buy the max bottles only to sell them online later. A man I spoke to on eBay bought 4 bottles of Lawson’s at $9 a piece and sold them for $100 a piece on eBay.
It’s very clear that there is outrage in this community about eBay. I think it’s misdirected outrage because no one is voicing the same anger for those trading Heady Topper for a King Henry or trying to sell a $15 Dark Lord Day ticket for $200 or “will trade for whales”. I would like to put forward a suggestion. We should out the guys who use eBay and bar them from the community. I will still get a paycheck every two weeks but these guys will suffer greater and should for the massive fraud they are committing by doing $200 Buy it Now prices on beers that someone else bought and traded to them or sold to them at cost and paying their bills with eBay sales of beer. I recently discovered someone I sent a beer to put my beer on eBay. I paid $15 + $12 in shipping and asked for “something local and tasty” and got a standard IPA from California. Then, my beer was on eBay for $75 on a 30 day auction as a buy it now only. In the next 30 days, someone will pay it. I don’t know his username because we did everything through text message but, when I find out, I’ll publish it in the comments.

Closing

I’m new to craft beer. I spent all of my free time and money over the last 4 months but I’m still new to it. I have never told anyone I’m an expert but, the fact that I’m so public about my life makes people think I’m arrogant. Those that know me know this isn’t true but there’s no way I can meet everyone and buy them all a beer. Those that read this are welcome to setup trades with me, stay at my cabin or ping me and we can chat. I’m not too hard to reach and consider this my very open and honest message to everyone in the community. I’m going to head home at 5, open a beer and review it. I love craft beer and will continue to be involved. I’ll still be lurking online and am open and receptive to everyone’s thoughts. Personal attacks, cursing and hate mail won’t be responded to. I don’t curse in conversation and won’t deal with it. if you comment, please do so in a civilized manner.

I would like to be friends with everyone. I realize more each day that is just not possible. This is the last time I’ll write on the subject. Have a great day! Thanks for reading.

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