We have been doing some cleaning out over the summer. There are a few things (more than a few things) that we don't use or have never used. Those that are gently used we've accumulated into thrift-shop bags. Those go once in a while back to Wilmington, NY. The church there has a thrift shop we're familiar with, so we feel better about sending things there.

There were also a couple summer dresses that just don't fit. They still have the tags on them. We decided to give those a try on Ebay. Brooke bought them for a pretty penny, but after looking at similar items, it seemed that the going rate for "new-with-tags" second-hand dresses in this brand and style was between $15 and $25.Not as much as I had hoped, given the cost off the rack at a store, but better than zero.

We took pictures, wrote up descriptions, and listed them each for $24.95. They didn't sell. Ebay's auto-responder email that came when the auction time ran out suggested lowering the price by $5. We relisted for them at $19.95. Another week, and no sale. Ebay again suggested reducing the price $5. We relisted again at 15.95. (I couldn't see bothering for less than $15.) Still no sale, but Ebay suggested offering free shipping. We did.

Finally, last week, one of the 2 sold for $16 and change. The buyer payed using PayPal. PayPal put an automatic hold on the payement for 3 weeks (because it was an auction item and we don't have a track record yet for not having complaints from buyers). But we have to ship the dress. Turns out shipping it costs $8.05. So, we made $8 on the sale, not counting that we had to pay $8 up front to get the $8 we have coming to us some time 3 weeks from now.

On the one hand, $8 three weeks from now is still more than zero. On the other, for the time spent on photography, writing, listing, tracking the auctions, packaging and posting, the return on investment was worth next-to-zero. I've pretty much resolved never to deal with Ebay again.

Also, last week, Brooke, on a lark, entered us in the Publisher's Clearing House "Win $1000 a Day for Life" contest. We kept seeing it on TV around the evening news.

PCH contests are still like the old ones you get in the mail. In fact, we have been starting to get packets in the mail, too. Put this golden sticker here. Make sure to tear off this prize drawing number and put it in this envelope. The online version makes you watch ads, and gives you prize numbers at the end of the ad, so you can enter them in other locations around the PCH site. Emails come back a couple times a day with announcements like: "You're just 1 step away from being entered."

A couple days ago, Brooke said, she found the small print part of the site where it says (in the interest of on-line truth in advertising, I suppose) that the odds of winning the $1000 a day for life prize are 1 in 3 billion. That's billion with a B.

On the one hand, someone must occasionally win it. Otherwise, they couldn't show people winning it on TV. (But I'm skeptical about that, too.) On the other hand, 3 billion is half the population of the planet.

Nevertheless, yesterday Brooke finally got a notice that she'd successfully watched enough ads and placed enough prize codes in the right places around the PCH site that she'd scored a second entry in the contest. So now our odds next month are down to 1 in 1.5 billion.

It sounds like quite an achievement, knocking one and a half billion off the odds. How often to you knock off one and a half billion of anything in the course of a week?

Still, they sound like the same odds of getting the price you want for something on Ebay. Next time, the dresses are going to the thrift store with the tags on.