Half-Price Books - What do you think?
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Post Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 2:23 pm 
 

I lived around a lot of HPBs up until 2005, but I wasn't back into D&D yet then. Been hearing the hype for the last seven years (started collecting in 2009) and was excited earlier this year to have a chance to visit a few. It was a big letdown - didn't have much old stuff, and the prices weren't that great. Could be the cat's out of the bag, and the fun is over.

  

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Post Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 3:28 pm 
 

My main problem is they probably don't give whomever brought the stuff in hardly any $$. They should sell the stuff for less than the highest prices around. Amazon and sellers on ebay who charge 3-4 times the actual value are the ones who cause this.


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Post Posted: Wed Sep 14, 2016 4:02 pm 
 

That's usually the way with used whatever resellers. I know a couple of bookstores that will give a quarter for a used paperback novel, maybe 50 cents if in really good shape, then sell them for $2.50-3.00 or more. How much does a used car sell for on the lot versus what they gave the person trading it in? SOP. Sucks to be the buyer or seller to outfits like that.

What little I resell, I'm usually happy with doubling my money back on an overall basis. But then, I'm not greedy.


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Post Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 12:11 am 
 

I have seen the same, while I still take a look, rarely find anything, and when I do it is crazy prices.  Only once have I gotten lucky and that was probably because whoever was pricing that day either did not do the research or did not do it carefully enough (1st print DMG, probably a G or VG condition, $6 - needless to say I bought it.)  But mostly see stuff priced way too high, or a common printing priced like a rare/uncommon printing.

  

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Post Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 11:22 am 
 

I'll browse the local HPB occasionally, but mostly I prefer to stick to the small mom and pop used bookstores. Not only do they usually have a better selection, the prices are much better.

  


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Post Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 3:05 pm 
 

HPB pricing often seems to be based on supply. If they get several Judges Guild items, they'll price a few high and a few low. The high- and low-priced items might be placed in different sections. Therefore, if you see a bunch of old-school items appear, it is worth sifting through them for bargains. If you see a few high-priced items appear, it is worth going to all other sections in which RPGs might be (such as Clearance) to possibly find corresponding low-priced items.

  

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Post Posted: Thu Sep 15, 2016 4:38 pm 
 

burntwire brothers wrote in Half-Price Books - What do you think?:Half-Price Books right by my house has turned me off almost completely from visiting their stores. They had a nice amount of 1st edition stuff but when they want $20-50 a module in FN or lesser condition they are just assholes. I don't even charge close to the prices they have. Hell they may even start to make NK prices look good.


Hit or miss, really.  I have at least five stores within about an hour and a half drive.  Some are getting a little heavy handed with their pricing.  I asked at one store and they are using Noble Knight, Amazon, and eBay as their sources for pricing! 8O



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Post Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 12:02 pm 
 

I, too, used to find good deals here a while back.  A friend of mine used to go to comic conventions, and HPB would have a booth there.  Everything they sold in terms of RPG was truly half-priced.  He scored me some huge deals on rare items (loved seeing his number come up when my phone rang on convention weekends!).  I have to say, though, that, for the most part, the "overly" priced items I see in there now do eventually sell, so while I may wish I could get the deals like in the old days, they know what they are doing.  I'm sure many people do what I do and wait for their 50% off one item day to grab something they've been considering.

  

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Post Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 1:21 pm 
 

I could have never started selling online without HPB. In the 90s, they truly priced items for "half price" thus most books, modules and boxed sets could be had for half cover, and resold at a profit even if you just asked cover price. Sometime in the last decade they decided gaming items were collectible (whether they were or not) and priced them accordingly, often for prices far more than Ebay or other outlets.  Here we are in 2016 and they don't seen to realize they are in a global marketplace where I can check Amazon, Ebay and NobleKnight on my tablet while in the store and realize the $35 they are charging for a banged up copy of B2 is terrible. They mostly cater to the impulse buyer now and staff most of their stores with employees who are unaware of most prices on anything (they price based on other online sources such as Amazon or just guess). A good post about how haphazard this process is:

Yeti Factory

I find it's true that usually when they are rushed they will give you the worst offer, but those are often times you can find the best prices on used gaming stuff on the shelves...they have no time to research the prices and thus will often put them out there at affordable amounts.

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Post Posted: Fri Sep 16, 2016 4:17 pm 
 

Badmike wrote in Half-Price Books - What do you think?:A good post about how haphazard this process is:

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Post Posted: Fri Sep 30, 2016 1:26 am 
 

Badmike wrote in Half-Price Books - What do you think?:I could have never started selling online without HPB. In the 90s, they truly priced items for "half price" thus most books, modules and boxed sets could be had for half cover, and resold at a profit even if you just asked cover price. Sometime in the last decade they decided gaming items were collectible (whether they were or not) and priced them accordingly, often for prices far more than Ebay or other outlets.  Here we are in 2016 and they don't seen to realize they are in a global marketplace where I can check Amazon, Ebay and NobleKnight on my tablet while in the store and realize the $35 they are charging for a banged up copy of B2 is terrible. They mostly cater to the impulse buyer now and staff most of their stores with employees who are unaware of most prices on anything (they price based on other online sources such as Amazon or just guess). A good post about how haphazard this process is:

Yeti Factory

I find it's true that usually when they are rushed they will give you the worst offer, but those are often times you can find the best prices on used gaming stuff on the shelves...they have no time to research the prices and thus will often put them out there at affordable amounts.

Mike B.

The HPB went from one extreme - not pricing games, particularly boardgames appropriately - to another - the prices are two or three times what one could reasonably expect. I don't even bother to look anymore (although they still offer very good prices on used cds). Of course, HPB is likely a profit maximizing firm in a fairly competitive industry so presumably someone is buying this stuff. If so, more power to them.

Alternatively, there are so many niche markets in their business that training up staff to price things properly would be way too expensive, and too time consuming, and thus are willing to accept the tradeoff of a little more unsold inventory and more stuff being eventually liquidated.

  


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Post Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:44 am 
 

I worked at Half Price Books for a few months several years ago (seasonal job).

Their major selling point to employees is a 30% discount on used items (less for remainders) and the ability to buy stuff that hasn't reached the floor yet.  As a result, they end up with people who are willing to work for poor wages (versus what's expected of you) and can adapt to constantly shifting, irregular hours.  That means that virtually every employee is a big customer of the store, too, so they end up giving a good part of each paycheck back to the store. It also means that most of the really good stuff never makes it to the floor to be sold, unless it comes from a genre or topic that nobody in the store collects.  That sucks for the customer, but makes employee retention much easier for the business.

When it comes to pricing, they have certain price points that they default to on regular items (ex. $4.99 for paperbacks, $5.99 for hardbacks), but they still check their internal database on most items to make sure it isn't worth more.  By "worth," they mean the amount that it tends to sell for at other Half Price stores.  If it's something that's more difficult to price (comic books, for example), they may pass them on to an in-store "expert" (i.e. an employee who collects that type of thing).  There isn't much oversight in the process, so you can end up with things that are really overpriced and things that are really underpriced, depending on the knowledge of the employee in question.  

Overall, though, they don't worry too much about the price of an item.  Most stores buy thousands of books and other items every day, so the pricing and shelving process is really hectic.  If a book goes on the shelf and it's overpriced, it will eventually be marked down and sell at that time.  They would rather lose a little money here and there than use valuable employee time to be more careful.

When people sell items to HPB, they use their internal database (and guesses) to figure out how much they can sell each item for and how long it's likely to be on the shelf before it gets sold.  They come up with a number for the group of items that the customer brought in, and then offer them a percentage of that.  The percentage can vary a bit, but it's usually in the 10-20% range.  It can be even less for bestsellers, since they get so many of those.  It can be a little higher for items that they don't see often.  You can almost always do better selling your stuff on eBay or Amazon, or even (in the case of bestsellers) at garage sales.

Most of the used books in a given store were sold to that store (no redistribution among stores), so that's why the selections can vary so much.  If there aren't any roleplayers selling stuff to a particular store, it's unlikely to have much in the way of rpgs in stock.   In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, for example, there is only one store with a big selection of rpgs, and a few others that have middlin' ones.  

Despite the high markup on the books (versus what they paid for them), the chain isn't as profitable as you might imagine.  That's mainly because of poor decisions and management at their headquarters.  They are overbuilding right now, and that will catch up to them eventually.

  

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Post Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 12:58 pm 
 

Great post! Confirms a lot of things I expected, and dovetails with experiences of other employees I've known. The overbuilding and expansion is always dangerous in a niche industry, which is probably why they are trying to homogenize the experience (nowadays, one store looks pretty much like another store) and charging more for many of their items.  Their prices are still way out of whack. I've noticed their DVD prices are becoming more reasonable in view of the fact everyone has netflix, amazon prime, hulu, etc. But music CDs should literally be a few bucks each what with Amazon prime music and Itunes charging a buck a song. Does anyone out there still buy new/used music CDs anymore?


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Post Posted: Wed Dec 07, 2016 3:05 pm 
 

Badmike wrote in Half-Price Books - What do you think?:But music CDs should literally be a few bucks each what with Amazon prime music and Itunes charging a buck a song. Does anyone out there still buy new/used music CDs anymore?
Mike B.

Their cd prices are high to pick up the sales of people willing to pay the premium for the convenience of getting music today, in their hands, rather than buy online. They then effectively "price discriminate," marking down things that don't sell over time, to pick up sales of lower valued users. In fact, their used cds go down to a $1 if they don't sell, so long they are not a "classic" act (they'll keep many duplicates of each AC/DC, Beatles, Stones, etc. cd before they discount them). Still, if one is patient, it's remarkable what kind of music you can find for $1 (and I've purchased quite a lot, mostly 80s-00s best sellers), but this is due to there just not being high demand for physical media. In fact, nowadays when I hit up a HPB the music aisle is the only thing I check out.

  


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Post Posted: Thu Dec 08, 2016 6:32 pm 
 

Badmike wrote in Half-Price Books - What do you think?:Does anyone out there still buy new/used music CDs anymore?


I had stopped, but I have started again because I am done with digital media files. I prefer tapes, but on the rare occasion I want something more recent, I'd rather buy a CD than try to remember my Apple password.

  


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Post Posted: Fri Jan 13, 2017 12:50 pm 
 

carpocratian wrote in Half-Price Books - What do you think?:I worked at Half Price Books for a few months several years ago (seasonal job).

Their major selling point to employees is a 30% discount on used items (less for remainders) and the ability to buy stuff that hasn't reached the floor yet.  As a result, they end up with people who are willing to work for poor wages (versus what's expected of you) and can adapt to constantly shifting, irregular hours.  That means that virtually every employee is a big customer of the store, too, so they end up giving a good part of each paycheck back to the store. It also means that most of the really good stuff never makes it to the floor to be sold, unless it comes from a genre or topic that nobody in the store collects.  That sucks for the customer, but makes employee retention much easier for the business.

When it comes to pricing, they have certain price points that they default to on regular items (ex. $4.99 for paperbacks, $5.99 for hardbacks), but they still check their internal database on most items to make sure it isn't worth more.  By "worth," they mean the amount that it tends to sell for at other Half Price stores.  If it's something that's more difficult to price (comic books, for example), they may pass them on to an in-store "expert" (i.e. an employee who collects that type of thing).  There isn't much oversight in the process, so you can end up with things that are really overpriced and things that are really underpriced, depending on the knowledge of the employee in question.  

Overall, though, they don't worry too much about the price of an item.  Most stores buy thousands of books and other items every day, so the pricing and shelving process is really hectic.  If a book goes on the shelf and it's overpriced, it will eventually be marked down and sell at that time.  They would rather lose a little money here and there than use valuable employee time to be more careful.

When people sell items to HPB, they use their internal database (and guesses) to figure out how much they can sell each item for and how long it's likely to be on the shelf before it gets sold.  They come up with a number for the group of items that the customer brought in, and then offer them a percentage of that.  The percentage can vary a bit, but it's usually in the 10-20% range.  It can be even less for bestsellers, since they get so many of those.  It can be a little higher for items that they don't see often.  You can almost always do better selling your stuff on eBay or Amazon, or even (in the case of bestsellers) at garage sales.

Most of the used books in a given store were sold to that store (no redistribution among stores), so that's why the selections can vary so much.  If there aren't any roleplayers selling stuff to a particular store, it's unlikely to have much in the way of rpgs in stock.   In the Dallas-Fort Worth area, for example, there is only one store with a big selection of rpgs, and a few others that have middlin' ones.  

Despite the high markup on the books (versus what they paid for them), the chain isn't as profitable as you might imagine.  That's mainly because of poor decisions and management at their headquarters.  They are overbuilding right now, and that will catch up to them eventually.


I can vouch for an awful lot of this, being a current employee, though the company is always changing things and trying different ways to stay competitive in the realm of online retailers where there are no such thing as "business hours".

On the buying end of things, what you'll earn for what you bring in has an awful lot to do with how loaded down the store is with inventory at any given time. The store where I work, for instance, takes in anywhere between 3,500 and 6,000 items on an average day (towards the lower end of the scale on most weekdays, and inching up to the higher end on weekends and holidays). During the summer, that number can jump into the five-digit range easily with people downsizing to move. No exaggeration, we've had people back up moving trucks to our doors and offload 50+ boxes worth of stuff that all has to be evaluated and we don't bat an eye. Doesn't happen all the time, but one instance of that can drive the value of everybody else's stuff down into the basement for weeks until we can process it all.

At least in my area, stores are all bursting at the seams with DVDs and CDs. People are abandoning ownership of their movies and music, which has led to a glut of the market and low prices across the board for everything but the newest, most in-demand stuff. What's amusing is that I can always tell when a certain TV series has been removed from Netflix or Hulu, because phone calls and online sales for the show will start pouring in. I can also tell when everyone starts unloading the same TV series or films because a streaming service has picked it up...which means in another 12-18 months we'll get inundated with requests again. Vicious circle. As far as CDs go though, everybody's all about the vinyl again. Even classic stuff rots on compact disc, but we sell every Beatles, Floyd and Zeppelin album in the vinyl bins month in and month out. :)

The RPG market at my store has all but dried up. I think a lot of people divested themselves of their gaming hobby when the recession hit around here. We have plenty of folks still looking for material, myself included, but much of the supply seems to be in the hands of collectors who aren't interested in giving it up. Ten years ago, we had seven shelves crammed with White Wolf, d20, D&D, Rifts, and all that stuff. Now our store has a mere 2 shelves devoted entirely to RPG stuff, and they're currently falling over due to lack of product with which to renew them. I'd say maybe some of it has to do with HPB joining the online market (we sell through Amazon, Alibris, Half.com, and our own HPB.com website), but you still need the material before you can offer it up for sale, and we're just not seeing the sellers come through, even with the common stuff like 2E splatbooks, Vampire: The Masquerade clanbooks, old Warhammer 40k Codexes and the like, the stuff that doesn't sell for enough to make it worth the bother for the average seller to list individually online. The golden age of in-store RPG sales in my area is over, far as I can tell. I hope some of the rest of you are still finding those troves, because there aren't any to be found in my neck of the woods. :(

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