Jokers on Me

blog_jokerI thought I’d take a break from all this blog-based learning and have a play in eBay. Blow me down if there wasn’t a lesson there for me too!

A lesson in listening.

I’d advertised my childhood collection of playing card jokers. My ad featured a panoramic photo of all 177 permutations.

Certain of a bidding war between rabid collectors, I refused a prospective buyer’s request to flip the cards over. He even suggested I scan my cards in groups of eight!

I couldn’t see the point of laying all the cards out again to photograph their mangy backs – let alone processing them in tiny batches.

Then a second prospective customer made a similar request.

Before I could knock her back, she explained that the joker fraternity was a lunatic fringe of the much larger swap card sorority. If clearly shown the backs of my cards, the ‘swappies’ would likely far outbid the ‘jokies’.

I’d owned these jolly cards for 35 years, yet never turned them over to see the fascinating pictures on their backs.

Humbled yet again, even at play, I admitted my ignorance, conveyed my appreciation and did what I was asked.

At once, the number of eBayers watching my ad rocketed. Though bidding has yet to reach my frenzied fantasy, I’m already richer for this experience.

I’ve learned that even with something modest and small, that I’ve dealt with for decades, I can’t afford to ignore customers, take them for granted or think I know best.

This time, therefore, the jokers are on me.

Paul Hassing, Founder & Senior Writer, The Feisty Empire



  • Paul, I’m cursing you for putting the Kath & Kim theme song into my head for the rest of the day!

  • Ha!
    The Jokerrrrrrrrrr!

  • The link below will only last for a few more hours until the auction closes. However, the quick and interested reader may enjoy it:

  • Ok! That’s fairly disturbing… :- )

    I just watched ‘Dark Knight’ again the other night…and now I find that Paul is a closet collector…do you get dressed-up in a purple suit when no one’s home too mate? :- )

    It reminds me of a few years ago when I was a carer for my dear friend and mentor ‘Grandest Ma’…that’s what I used to call ‘Granny’, who was a great Chinese lady.

    I one day discovered that Granny (who used to work for an Airline), had a large garden shed packed to the roof with those little ‘touristy’ trinkets that seem to be sold only at Airports. I always wondered who bought such things…it was Granny. I reckoned that she was single-handedly responsible for supporting a global industry…no one else actually buys that stuff do they?

    Which reminds me, I was recently given some used crockery & knick-knacks. Amongst the items was a small white ‘Holly Hobbie’ ashtray with the obligatory gold-leaf edging. In the bottom of the ashtray there is a picture of a quaint little ‘country’ girl with a hood and patchwork apron and holding a small bouquet. There are words written above and below the little girl which say “Start each in a happy way”…In the bottom of an ashtray!!!???

    I just noticed something else disturbing… I’m here :- P


    Stephen G

    PS Checked your eBay ad Paul…Dude! You’ve really got a fine grip on this Web2.0 stuff :- ) I’d watch your ad just in case you did another update….excellent reading as usual :- )

  • Oops! That ashtray quote was supposed to say – “Start each DAY in a happy way”


    Stephen G

  • Thanks for your fine stories and kind words, Stephen. They are a balm to the wounds of modern life. Holly Hobbie has a new series out. It’s called Holly Hobble, to reflect the amputations necessitated by her erstwhile habit…

  • Your very welcome Paul :- )

    Now that IS disturbing….’Holly Hobble’? – Fine Quality Guilded Amputee Ashtrays for Ages 6-9 (bandages not included).

    Good ol’ consumerism…gotta love it!

    You’re a scary man Paul Hassing! :- )


    Stephen G

  • By jingo, that was exciting!
    Check out the bidding action in the final minute!
    Jana from the Czech Republic, you just made my day! :)

  • Great post Paul, very Seth Godin-esque in taking a seemingly random issue and identifying its larger relevancy. (Speaking of Godin, he had a great post today that segments forms of communication and shows why Twitter has taken off:

    And congrats on the auction… those things always seem to heat up in the last minute!

  • That’s VERY kind of you, Andy! Two other nice people have paid me a similar compliment, so I must be on the right tram. With feedback like yours, I’m going all the way to St Kilda! Really dug that link too, so thanks. P. :)

  • You’ve gotta be the ‘Steve Irwin’ of Copywriting mate… :- )

    ‘By jingo’?…by Jimminy Crickets, I thought ‘golly’ was a cack…talk about nostalgia…


    Stephen G

    PS Whatever you do, don’t go doing any more research re: collectable Joker cards… ‘sure as eggs’ (that’s one my mum used to say), you’ll find one of your cards out there for $150,000.00 :- P

  • Thanks for the warning, Stephen. I just went to post two other eBay sales to Canada (cook book) and the UK (bible). When writing my ads, instead of checking the parcel rates in the handy Australia Post guide, I extrapolated letter rates in my vain brain.

    This stupid error just cost me $72.65, which quite savages my ‘profit’ on the jokers. Is this God telling me to stop being such a mercenary bastard and simply donate my excess stuff to the Salvos? Bugger! :(

  • Bugger alright! :-(

    Maybe this will make you feel better:

    Last week I picked my car up from the mechanic. I then went and got my friend’s trailer and picked up my 2 new fridges (new to me, 2nd hand actually).

    All was well except for a couple of minor splutters which I chalked up to new everything electrical in the car. Nothing unusual there.

    I continued my journey home…it’s about 60klm from Canberra City. 10 kilometers from home I start to lose power and the car stops. I started it up, it revved up nicely but died as soon as I put it in gear (this was exactly what the car was doing when it went into the mechanic). My heretofore very reliable fuel gauge was showing over half a tank.

    With my friend’s trailer and my 2 fridges, I didn’t want to leave them unprotected out in the middle of ‘bushranger’ country. I paid $50.00 to get the trailer towed the rest of the way, $160.00 to get the car towed back to mechanic. The next day I found out that I had run out of petrol. The car had chosen that moment for the fuel gauge to stick. By the time it got back to the mechanic the gauge was working perfectly.

    Effectively it cost me $270.00 for a tank of fuel.


    Stephen G

  • Cor! Nothing like a bit of schadenfreude to soothe the soul. I feel much better now, Dave. ‘Just take that old Goethe off the shelf…’

  • You’re very welcome Arthur :- )


    Dave G ;- )

  • Sue Murray

    Lost in this world above…..won’t even try to understand your humour! Just wanted to say well done on the JOkers. I am glad you achieved a good price. Now are you going to take up collecting playing cards?

  • Sue Murray

    I LOVE Holly Hobbie – I’ll take that ashtray!

  • Dear Sue, thank you for crossing over from eBay (and for your very kind advice therein). I was getting rather arcane a few comments ago. We had a sci-fi thread going from another post and I threw in a phrase from HAL the computer but I think Stephen thought I was referencing Minder!

    Anyway, thanks also for your congrats. My collecting days are definitely over. I just sold two more books overnight to the US and my postage calculation errors will just about clean me out! I hope you’ll drop in again sometime, Sue. Best regards, Paul. :)

  • Sue Murray

    HAL? I think I was the girl mucking around at the back of the class the day that we studied that movie! Obviously we should have ALL paid more attention as it seems my laptop has taken over my life!
    If it shuts me out of the house – I will care not for the housework left inside.

    On a serious note – is there anybody out there that can point me in the right direction – for COPYRIGHT advise? Three of my fellow swapcard nutters are compiling a catalogue of 1970’s swapcards and would like to have it published. Many of the cards – I am almost certain – would have had copyright on the illustrations. (yes ILLUSTRATIONS – not the boring Joker side!)
    I was fortunate enough to track down 2 of the artists but they have very little or no interest in the cards. I think many of them were young at the time and JOhn Sands paid them little and used their illustrations at there own mass productive discretion.
    Getting sidetracked – sorry – can anyone advise where best to obtain a green light on reproducing the illustrations in catalogue form WITHOUT gaining approval from the artists and the publishing companies?

    sorry if you are all alseep by now!
    Let me know if I can upload a scan so that you can all share the JOY of what I am talking about!!

  • It’s a pretty sinister ashtray Sue…are you sure? :- )

    And don’t worry Sue…we don’t get our humour either…clearly! :- P


    Stephen G

  • HAL was the less-than-helpful computer in 2001 A Space Odyssey. Here he is being taught a lesson:

    Your project sounds fascinating. At this point, I’d like to invoke Megan, Goddess of Bits, to assist on two levels.

    First, Megan, could we please get Sue’s request in front of some folk who might be able to point her in the right direction?

    Second, could you please advise Sue on the best way to show her scans to us? I’d love to see them.

    Hold on to your hat, Sue; Megan’s a dab hand at this stuff! :)

  • Sue Murray

    Megan ‘Goddess of Bits’ ?
    Sorry to lump this on you!

    Stephen G – whack that Ashtray on ebay but be sure you show the illustration!!

    thanks Paul – this is all very exciting. Strangers working for me! Who would have thought?
    And by the way, my partner and I left our secure full-time jobs last year to fly solo-mia (quote from ‘Cars’) in our own transport business. We have had great success and considered purchasing a second truck to keep up with demand but then backed down from our own scary ambitiousness!! I am finding your site quite a read and have already gained a few valuable tips. We have another ‘business venture’ gaining momentum and I feel that I could learn much from your BRC collegues.
    Thanks for having me.

  • Hi Sue,

    Hmm, not sure we have anything on myBRC that specifically covers your issue – I’d recommend checking out IP Australia’s website ( or consulting with an IP lawyer – I’m not sure where you’re based but I have a couple of contacts I could pass on if you’re interested – email me directly at

    Re scanning, send images to the email above – assuming the scanned item doesn’t contravene any copyright laws either!

  • Dear Sue & ‘Nutters’ :- P

    In case it helps, the following will usually suffice in both hardcopy & web publication formats:

    Put a ‘Copyright Discliamer’ paragraph in the frontispiece of the pubication, stating that all reasonable attempts at ensuring proper copywrite permissions have been made. Known authors that we were unable to contact have been properly accredited. Unknown authors are welcome to contact us using the contact information provided herein. (words to that effect)

    Just ensure that each image is properly annotated with either the known Author’s accreditation or ‘(Author Unknown)’.

    In my experience, copyright remains a pretty grey area…especially when it comes to the ‘rights’ bit. I have had situations where authors (in my case, mostly photographers and writers), have given permission and then changed their minds after the fact. So make sure if you do get permission that it is in writing. And make sure that all your attempts to contact known authors are well documented. That’s about the best one can do.

    As usual, providing practical do’s & don’ts is much quicker than wading through the ‘Towers of Babble’ researching & interpreting policy & law on such issues. But I would consider it remiss of me not to include at the least the standard references:


    Stephen G

  • Hi Paul,

    Well done on the auction and brilliant post, one of the best. I agree it’s Sethesq style. Like it. In fact you are better.

    I am loving eBay and find it quite stimulating to my obsessive personality (I MUST win at all costs) and highly satisfying to my never ending quest for ego fulfilment through massing trinkets that are a physical manifestation of my relentless pursuit of proving that I’m successful however inappropriate. Dr. Phil describes this as basic instinct animal behaviour that serves us not. I disagree I love it. So are 5 bikes and 3 Bakelite phones obsessive? No. Just missed out on a very funky set of jokers as well. It’s all about the backs I hear.

    Anyway I digress more than Stephen. Back to the point. A friend of mine who lives in the UK made 80,000 pounds last year buying and selling on Ebay. Gotta love that. He’s an electrical engineer so buys non working sound gear (mixing boards, amps) for 20 or 30 pounds, spends 30 minutes fixing them (usually a clean and a fuse) and sells them for up to 600 pounds.

    He has the entire buying and selling automated with bidding software and an Ebay shop with outsourced picking and packing. Very nice. Like business it’s all about finding a niche that suits your skill and interest level. Being an engineer he has the skill to do it and he loves sound equipment so he enjoys the thrill of the hunt, enjoys working on them and loves the profit. Brilliant. So I guess it is possible to make a six figure income working 1 hour a day in your underpants at the kitchen table. And I thought that was all marketing hype………

  • I’m so glad you’re digging the scene, Sue. This whole blog caper was Megan’s doing, so full credit to her in all her goddessness. Without Megan, we’d be suffering from acute goddessnesslessness.

    Thanks for your links too, Stephen. I keep forgetting you were Technical Consultant to Rumpole of the Bailey!

    Feel the Fear and Quit Now Before You Accidentally Achieve Anything Significant was the lesser known sequel to a famous self help book whose author’s name eludes me. We plan to do a helpful book post soon, so I’ll look it up. :)

  • Thank you, Malcolm, for your kick-arse comment! How I wish I could do the same with my stuffed toys. Alas, they’re a little TOO stuffed. Megan has suggested that I do a post soon on helpful business books. I told her that you’d read a trillion of them and that you’d certainly have something to say. Thanks again for joining in! :)

  • Hi Malcolm… Not even close on the ‘digressing’ mate…but keep trying…my title stands :- )

    And you’re welcome once again, Arthur :- )

    I’ve read that book…there’s a sequel called ‘In Case of Accidental Achievement Blame Someone Else’ with a workbook called ‘Victims Guide to the Galaxy’…rumour has it that a new series is on the way from an associate author (Louise Hell-Pay) called ‘Be Happy or Die’…can’t wait for that one :- )

    Dear Sue,

    I don’t know if I could part with my little icon to ‘consumerism’…it has already served me well in a few fun debates :- ) It goes well with my new definition for insanity – ‘Constant & Never Ending Improvement’ :- P

    Besides that, I’m busy compiling an eBook of Malcolm’s posts…it’s called ‘I used to collect phones but I’m alright now’. ;- )

    Well, it seems we are on a roll yet again folks…too much fun…thanks :- )

    Stephen G

    PS Hey Paul…Off topic, but check these out:

    I was researching Smartphones for an EFTPOS system I’m exploring. Take note of the Coverage Recommendations (one is the blue tick). So nice to be able to rely on ‘experts’… :- /

  • Dear Stephen, In light of your recent Telstra drama, I laughed aloud at the ‘RECOMMENDED FOR RURAL HANDHELD COVERAGE’ tick sticker on your second link. Many thanks! :)

  • Hi Paul,

    I think you might have missed the other half of the picture…

    You saw the ‘Recommended for RURAL Handheld Coverage’ bit; but did you see the coverage recommendation on the other page? It says this:

    “Recommended for handheld use in metropolitan and major regional areas.”

    For exactly the same device? :-/

    On the “About Buying Online” page ( ), the very first paragraph points to the following very helpful shopping guidance:

    “Maximise your coverage
    The “Blue Tick” symbol that identifies the handsets recommended for rural coverage. It is displayed in our shops and on this website to help you choose the right handset, to get the best coverage for your specific location.”

    Ironic for a ‘communications’ company don’t you think? :- P


    Stephen G

  • Dang! They sure put the ‘urrrrrrr’ into ‘rural’! Why don’t we hook up some tin cans and string and call it a network? We’ll make a killing!

  • My joker payment from Czech Republic just came through. At last I can write the sentence I’ve always wanted to:

    Czech cheque: check!