Tuesday 18 December 2018

4p an hour

Regular readers may know that I have a serious plant addiction. I spend hours in my greenhouse in both winter and summer. Whole evenings are spent watering, potting up, reorganising, insect-eradicating. To fund this wholesome hobby from time to time I sell excess seedlings, cuttings from larger plants and so on. What I raise from this I plough (ha!) back into it. If I can buy ten seeds and sell a few of the resultant seedlings such that the remaining plants are "free", well it doesn't get much better than that. Many plants grow from stem cuttings - simply cut off a few bits and root them in water or soil. A few quid here, a few quid there, and I might then be able to buy something different that in my tiny tiny mind hasn't cost anything. I never turn a profit of course, that would be ridiculous and mean I haven't bought nearly enough plants and seeds, however this year I have managed to recoup close to 50% of what I've spent which has been a big help. 

The hidden cost is of course time. Plants are not easy things to send, they are easily crushed, if shaken about stems can snap, cold weather might be a problem, as indeed is hot weather. Preparing plants for posting takes ages. This morning was a case in point - overnight somebody bought four small cuttings, so before I went to work I dutifully took the fresh cuttings and spent about ten minutes carefully wrapping them up, sealing the parcel up and sorting out the address label. Later on I went to the Post Office which by some miracle wasn't actually that busy. Nonetheless it took five minutes of queuing until I reached the counter. And it was here that I encountered the problem - my parcel was a little bit too thick to get through that slot thing they use. "Nooooo don't force it!" I pleaded with the teller who was doing his best to squeeze it through. I forked out £2.95 instead of £1.26 and idly wondered what I'd charged the buyer for postage.

£1.40. Oh dear.

Mostly I sell plants on Ebay. These particular cuttings had sold for £2.25, a bargain if I don't say so myself, and I had even thrown in an extra one. You can probably see where this is headed. I'd been paid £3.65 and £2.95 of that had gone straight to the Post Office leaving me with 70p. Hardly worth the effort really. But..... Ebay is a business and charges you 10% of everything you sell, including on the postage. My 70p had just become 33p. Great, really glad I bothered. Hang on, Paypal want a cut too. What do they charge I mused? Back at my desk I found out. A flat fee of 20p plus 3.4%. The flat fee left me with 13p, that was easy, but what is 3.4% of £3.65. Any guesses? The clue is in my blog title.




Yes, that's right. For my fifteen minutes of packaging and queuing I had made a profit of just 1p. An hourly rate of 4p. So much for the gig economy. I did all the work and got 1p, Ebay (which owns Paypal) did nothing tangible and got 69p. And that of course is assuming that the plant cuttings cost me nothing, which in fairness is probably accurate as this particular species grows like a weed. I did recycle an Amazon package, and I refuse to work out what 20cm of parcel tape cost me, but still, 4p an hour.  

I've heard there's this program called The Apprentice......


  1. Stuff Ebay.

    That's where you go to buy stuff for zero, which pretty well sets the price of anything you're selling.