robo picker

Building Your Own ‘Robo Picker’

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Featured in Antique Trader Magazine

The show promoter’s message to dealers was quite clear: “WARNING !!!! DO NOT EMBARRASS YOURSELF BY TRYING TO SNEAK IN PICKERS TO BUY DURING SETUP. BUYING, HOLDING, AND SELLING IS NOT PERMITTED BEFORE 7:00 A.M. ON FRIDAY. YOUR COOPERATION IS EXPECTED. Violators will forfeit their space and will be asked to leave the show.” (sic)

Seems the promoter knows us antiques dealers pretty well. On the whole, we spend more time scouting for inventory than we do selling it. Unlike sellers of new consumer goods, we don’t have the luxury of picking up a catalog and ordering another dozen thingamajigs or two gross whatchamacallits. For the most part, we buy our inventory items one at a time.

Consequently, we spend a lot of time at auctions, estate sales, yard sales, scouring the Internet and networking with other dealers and pickers. From time to time, we are tempted to “jump the gate” at shows to beat the public to the best deals.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could just place an order for certain antiques and have them show up at our door for inspection? Pickers, of course, provide just that service; if we let them know what we want, they will certainly call us when they acquire our item. They will also call every other dealer on their list that has requested a similar item.

Imagine what it would be like if we had our own, private, robo-picker; a picker who worked for us 24/7 and delivered only items we were interested in! We could reduce the time spent driving from show to show (on the chance that we might find something saleable), and we would spend much less time searching online and monitoring auctions. Robo-Picker would save us time and money. Best of all, he would work for free.

Robo-Picker is available and waiting to help you with your business. Let me introduce you to Robo-Picker, a.k.a. your RSS Reader.

An RSS reader captures content feeds from classified ads and other sites and aggregates them to one place so that you don’t have to constantly re-search each site individually. The feeds can be set up to reflect your personal tastes, and can bring a steady stream of antiques for sale and industry news directly to your reader.

RSS stands for either Really Simple Syndication or RDF Site Summary, depending on who you talk to. RSS feeds are used by publishers to frequently update works like classified ads, blog entries, news, podcasts and videos so that they can be read in a standardized format. Users may subscribe to feeds and read them via any feed reader. Popular RSS readers include Google Reader, Feed Demon and Newz Crawler. Most readers are free downloads. All you have to do is set them up to deliver either to your reader or to your email.

Of course, first of all you’ll need a reader. There are many standalone desktop applications, free and commercial, available for a variety of platforms. To find one that suits you, search for “rss aggregator” or “rss syndication.”

Craigslist is the most prominent classified ad site, and they make it easy to set up a feed. At, choose the city in which you’d like to search, then click to the “antiques” category. You can set up a feed for the entire category, or search for particular items. Either way, when you have settled on the search you want, scroll to the bottom of the search results. In the lower right corner, you will see an orange rectangular button containing the letters “RSS.” Click the button. You will be taken to a page which looks like gobbledygook (but which contains the actual feed). Ignore what’s on the page.

Instead, copy the URL of the page (in the address bar above). Navigate to your reader and copy the URL into the “subscribe” window. When you open your reader and click the feed you want, it will update automatically to your page.

If you don’t want to bother with setting up a reader, you can have a craigslist feed delivered directly to your email inbox by using Notifinder or Classified Searcher by Cubixsolutions. With Notifinder, you can set up multiple searches and control how often results are sent to you; you can even have searches updated as soon as an item is posted. When you tell Notifinder where you live, be sure to enter a city already listed by craigslist; a drop-down list is provided.

Classified Searcher works in much the same way, but will search multiple cities and categories at the same time, and will deliver to your email or mobile device. Currently, Notifinder is free (it’s a beta release), and Classified Searcher charges a subscription fee.

Broader searches encompassing Craigslist, Amazon and eBay can be accomplished by using Search Tempest. Just set your search parameters, run your search and then click the orange “Feeds For This Search” button at the top-right of the results page to capture the URL of the feed. Then, add the feed to your reader.

Online classified ads are ubiquitous, and search engines are developing that will search sites like craigslist, kijiji, backpage, gumtree, oodle, OLX and kugli simultaneously. Not all sites have RSS feeds, though, which means you won’t be able to get their content delivered to your reader. With a little sleuthing, you can find antiques sites that have RSS feeds by using the search engine I just searched the hub for “antiques” and found 184 feeds. Not all of them will be useful for finding inventory, but 10 minutes of searching for the right site can bring results for years to come.

Using your RSS Reader as a Robo-Picker won’t eliminate your attendance at auctions and shows (that’s part of the fun of being a dealer, isn’t it?), but it will simplify your searches and cut down on the amount of time you spend scouring the Internet for inventory.

Don’t forget: Sometimes the first offer walks away with the prize, and using an RSS Reader can help us be the first in line for some really good deals found in those online classified listings and other sites.

After all, isn’t “being the first in line” why we dealers jump the gate at shows?

Originally published by Antique Trader Magazine

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