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Their faces were unmasked.And the pride was stronger than ever.The third edition of the gay pride parade – the first after consensual homosexual relationships were decriminalised in the country – in the Capital on Sunday was an unusual display of confidence by the lesbian-gaybisexual-transgender (LGTB) community.Clad in rainbow colours and dancing to the sound of drums, the gathering marched from Barakhamba Road to Jantar Mantar in Central Delhi with a different inclination.This time, they were celebrating their sexuality as against the previous years when they marched to assert their rights and protest against the criminalisation of samesex relationship.In July, last year, the Delhi High Court passed a landmark judgment revoking the controversial Section 377 of the Indian penal code that criminalised same-sex relationship.”I do not know or care about how social acceptance has changed after the high court verdict. But yes, I have changed. I feel more confident and I know that I am not doing anything wrong since the law of the land does not have a problem with it,” said Pooja (18), a student who wished to be identified just by her first name.”The judgment was a clarion call and asserted what we have been fighting for years now. But, I am a little disappointed by the turnout at the parade. I expected more to turn up to celebrate the anniversary,” said Vineet Trikha (30), a communication trainee who was there at the parade.The strongest evidence of the (slow but sure) change in the attitude of society towards the LGTB community was the presence of family members at the parade.advertisementWhile some made a proud proclamation of their support to their homosexual members of the family, others chose to stay on the sidelines and do the same tacitly.”My grandson is gay and he has the right to live his life the way he wants. I am an educated woman and I absolutely have no problem with it,” said Rani Sharma (65), who accompanied her grandson Sambhav Kumar Sharma to the parade and sported a placard making proud proclamation of his sexuality.”There was an initial shock. But he is a good boy and we have eventually come to accept this. Though our relatives still don’t know, I am here to support my child and his participation in the parade. I wasn’t here last year and I’ve come at my wife’s behest,” said a 45-year-old father on condition of anonymity.
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Things That Caught My EyeDraft Day!It’s the first day of the NFL draft, meaning that enormous financial concerns are about to publicly gamble in prime time television, which is always pretty cool. Penn State’s Saquon Barkley is the top running back prospect in this year’s draft and will likely go very early in the evening. But a team betting on a workhorse running back isn’t always the sure bet it was once considered. From 2006 to 2015, there were only three running backs drafted in the top five, and to some extent they never really panned out for their teams. Since then, we’ve had the phenomenal Leonard Fournette and Ezekiel Elliott going each at 4th. Barkley could join them if he joins the Giants at No. 2 or Browns at No. 4. [FiveThirtyEight]‘The Blind Side’ is overIn the aftermath of “The Blind Side,” which extolled the virtues of the left tackle position and lead to a commensurate skyrocketing to the value of those players, teams appeared to undervalue guards compared to tackles. In the 32-team era, 62 tackles were drafted in the first round of the draft compared to 14 guards. That may be changing, since 2013 the total value of draft picks for left tackles has been essentially in free fall since the post-2006 highs. [FiveThirtyEight]Oldest sport adapts to new realitiesThe International Association of Athletics Federations, which governs the world of track and field, will implement new regulations regarding testosterone levels for elite female athletes. Most women have testosterone levels ranging from 0.12 to 1.79 nanomoles per liter, while most men have 7.7 to 29.4 nanomoles per liter. The regulations — which will undoubtably fuel controversy from literally every angle, and that’s okay — will impact women who have testosterone levels above 5.0 nanomoles per liter, and would require them to choose between hormone therapy, not competing internationally, or competing against men. [The New York Times]Try out our interactive, Which World Cup Team Should You Root For?Winnipeg, city of miseryA new calculation for the quantified metropolitan sports misery score that counts not only the NFL, MLB, NBA and NHL but also the MLS and Canadian Football League puts the Canadian city of Winnipeg over perennial sports drought cities like Cincinnati and Buffalo to have the most yearning-for-a-win fans. [The 10 and 3]Tsunami of corruptionA draft report published Wednesday by the Independent Review of Integrity in Tennis follows up on earlier investigations from the BBC and BuzzFeed to find evidence of match-fixing in the sport, particularly at lower levels. The report found 20 unnamed high-level players who lost at least one suspicious match from 2005 to 2008. [BuzzFeed]World Cup getting called from statesideFox Sports is rolling out details about its play calling teams for the forthcoming FIFA World Cup in Russia. Given the lack of an American presence at the cup — the United States failed to qualify — Fox elected to pare back its footprint in Russia proper and will have only one of five announced crews actually in Russia. [World Soccer Talk, The Associated Press]Big Number(s)161.4Looking at a stat called five-year approximate value, the hoarde of valuable draft picks held by the Cleveland Browns is truly formidable. Overall, the Browns have a total draft expected value of 161.4, which is head and shoulders above their nearest competitors, the Bills (124.3), Colts (122.1) and Broncos (116.4). The Browns are poised for a guaranteed consequential couple of days, for better or for worse. [The Washington Post]Leaks from Slack: neil:MLB Now talking about 8 teams currently being on pace for 100+ losses…. wonder how that compares to other seasons via something more rigorous like Elo?natesilver:we have two teams projected for 100+, and 2 more for 99plus one at 97 and one at 95seems like a lot for this early in the seasonneil:TankFest ’18Predictions NBA See more NBA predictions All newsletters Oh, and don’t forgetThe past few weeks of the Overwatch League have been outstanding We’re launching a sports newsletter. 🏆 Join the squad. Subscribe
Cue Says Apple’s Ecosystem Is Expanding (L-R) The Mrs’ Mandy Prater, Andra Liemandt and Larissa Ness Daryl Hannah and Neil YoungPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images SXSW 2018 Inside The 2018 Texas Chapter Block Party At SXSW Email SXSW 2018: Keith Urban, Rapsody, K-Pop & More Facebook Daryl Hannah and Neil YoungPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images The Mrs Spread Kindness One Music Fest At A Time What 11 Artists Did At SXSW 2018 SXSW 2018: Keith Urban, Rapsody, K-Pop & More SXSW 2018: 7 New Bands To Check Out This Year MélatPhoto: Sasha Haagensen/WireImage.com SaweetiePhoto: Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images Deva MahalPhoto: Xavier De Nauw The 7 Most-Shazam’d Women Performers At SXSW 2018 Sophie Allison of Soccer MommyPhoto Courtesy Fat Possum Records What Happens After A Reality TV Singing Show? Keith Urban Talks ‘Graffiti U,’ Julia Michaels & MusiCares | SXSW 2018 What Happens After A Reality TV Singing Show? Cue Says Apple’s Ecosystem Is Expanding Watch: Neil Young Teases Experimental New Western Austin’s 6th Street Comes Alive At SXSW The Mrs Spread Kindness One Music Fest At A Time SXSW: Keith Urban’s Kinetic Keynote Photo: Earl Gibson III/WireImage.com Austin’s South Congress Boasts Vintage Charm SXSW: Keith Urban’s Kinetic Keynote KardPhoto: TPG/Getty Images SXSW 2018: How Big Is The K-Pop Explosion? Blake LewisPhoto: Tara Ziemba/Getty Images The Mrs Spread Kindness One Music Fest At A Time Korea Spotlight Coming To SXSW 2018 (L-R) The Mrs’ Mandy Prater, Andra Liemandt and Larissa Ness Daryl Hannah and Neil YoungPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Deva MahalPhoto: Xavier De Nauw Inside The 2018 Texas Chapter Block Party At SXSW Keith UrbanPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Keith UrbanPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images SXSW 2018: 7 New Bands To Check Out This Year Austin’s Deep Cultural History On Rainey Street HyukohPhoto: Han Myung-Gu/WireImage See The Official FADER Fort Lineup At SXSW 2018 MélatPhoto: Sasha Haagensen/WireImage.com Getting The Latest Music News Just Got Easier. Introducing: GRAMMY Bot. Find it On KIK and Facebook MessengerRead more SXSW 2018: How Big Is The K-Pop Explosion? News MélatPhoto: Sasha Haagensen/WireImage.com The 7 Most-Shazam’d Women Performers At SXSW 2018 Korea Spotlight Coming To SXSW 2018 What Happens After A Reality TV Singing Show? Keith UrbanPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images SXSW: Keith Urban’s Kinetic Keynote keith-urban-talks-graffiti-u-julia-michaels-musicares-sxsw-2018 Inside The 2018 Texas Chapter Block Party At SXSW DorothyPhoto: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic Revisit 7 SXSW 2018 Highlights Keith UrbanPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Eddy CuePhoto: Jason Bollenbacher/Getty Images Deva MahalPhoto: Xavier De Nauw SaweetiePhoto: Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images Keith UrbanPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Blake LewisPhoto: Tara Ziemba/Getty Images HyukohPhoto: Han Myung-Gu/WireImage Blake LewisPhoto: Tara Ziemba/Getty Images Photo: Earl Gibson III/WireImage.com Austin’s South Congress Boasts Vintage Charm Revisit 7 SXSW 2018 Highlights Watch: Neil Young Teases Experimental New Western Prev Next See The Official FADER Fort Lineup At SXSW 2018 SXSW: Keith Urban’s Kinetic Keynote From his musical upbringing to his new album and sobriety, the GRAMMY-winning singer/songwriter went deep during his keynote discussion at SXSW Renée FabianGRAMMYs Mar 16, 2018 – 5:06 pm As if SXSW 2018 doesn’t have enough cool stuff going on — the panels, the bands, the networking, the parties, the culture of Austin, Texas — one of this year’s keynote speaker sweetened the deal just a little bit more.GRAMMY winner Keith Urban took the stage in conversation with GRAMMY Museum Executive Director and “Required Listening” podcast host Scott Goldman on March 16. The duo covered a wide range of topics, including the singer/songwriter’s early music memories, how Ricky Skaggs influenced his career, the art of collaboration, memorable career advice, and why he’s a huge fan of MusiCares and Post Malone.The New Zealand native was quick to credit his drummer father for turning him onto his love of country. As a 5-year-old, Urban had the chance to see the legendary Johnny Cash in concert, which captured the young artist’s imagination.”What I remember from that concert is just how loud the crowd was,” Urban recalled. “I remember just the roar of everybody when this guy walked out on the stage and it’s never left me, and the power of when he played guitar and sang was an extraordinary thing.”By age 6, Urban was taking guitar lessons and learning from the country records spinning in his parents’ house as well as the local bands in his area. When he discovered the “chicken pickin'” style of guitar players such as Skaggs, the deal was sealed.Urban also discussed how his unique musicality stems from his affinity for collaborations. Not only has he recorded with other country artists but he’s also worked across many genres, including artists as diverse as the Rolling Stones, Carrie Underwood, Alicia Keys, John Mayer, Aerosmith’s Steven Tyler, and many more.Indeed, his upcoming studio album, Graffiti U, will feature a collaboration with “Issues” singer/songwriter Julia Michaels, as well as borrowing a sample from country great Merle Haggard on another track.Julia Michaels Deconstructs “Issues,” Writing Songs | “Required Listening” PodcastFor his part, Urban feels collaborations keep his music fresh while also playing to his appreciation for all music genres and their creators, whether they are an EDM electronic-only musician or the classic instrumentalist.”I’m a big believer that it’s all still musicianship,” said Urban. “If you’re doing it on your MacBook Pro or you don’t play an instrument … they still have to compose these things like a painter putting paint together in a such a way that it creates a compelling image. That’s as valid to me as a guy sitting there playing guitar.”Urban further solidified his stance when asked by an audience member about his current favorite contemporary artist outside of country music.”Post Malone because he’s got his own thing, it’s insane,” Urban answered. “I don’t even know what it is. I don’t think he knows what it is, which is beautiful. It’s just an incredible fusion of things — singer/songwriter, hip-hop, R&B, soul. It’s just all out there and I love it.”His penchant for fusing genres and forging his own path as a singer/songwriter, while it looks effortless now, wasn’t always an asset to Urban. He recalled his early days playing shows around Nashville, Tenn., when a record label employee followed his band religiously, yet there was no indication the label wanted to sign him. When the guitarist finally asked why, the employee had some sage words of wisdom for the emerging artist.”You’re just really unique and it’ll be your biggest curse until it becomes greatest blessing,'” Urban recounted. “And as cheesy as that might sound … what I took from that was stay the course and it’s just going to take time.”With Goldman guiding the conversation, Urban went deeper on more personal topics, including his path to sobriety.”It’s such a personal thing, sobriety, for each person,” Urban said about his journey. “I wished I gotten sober many, many years before I did but it is what it is. I’m glad that I finally got here almost 12 years later. I think for me it’s made it possible to do the things I do.”Urban revealed that the Recording Academy-affiliated charity MusiCares was a driving force behind him getting help in the 1990s. The organization’s MAP Fund helped pay for his first rehabilitation treatment, which is part of the reason he has lent his support to not only MusiCares but other charitable causes throughout his career.To conclude the panel, audience members expressed their appreciation for Urban’s music, including fans from as far away as Canada, Brazil and France. For Urban, who will play a special showcase at SXSW at Stubb’s BBQ on March 16, it’s clear that his reach will continue to make waves in the music industry for years to come. Eddy CuePhoto: Jason Bollenbacher/Getty Images SXSW 2018: How Big Is The K-Pop Explosion? Twitter Watch: Neil Young Teases Experimental New Western Austin’s 6th Street Comes Alive At SXSW The 7 Most-Shazam’d Women Performers At SXSW 2018 What 11 Artists Did At SXSW 2018 Revisit 7 SXSW 2018 Highlights SXSW 2018: 7 New Bands To Check Out This Year Austin’s 6th Street Comes Alive At SXSW See The Official FADER Fort Lineup At SXSW 2018 (L-R) The Mrs’ Mandy Prater, Andra Liemandt and Larissa Ness Austin’s Deep Cultural History On Rainey Street DorothyPhoto: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic Photo: Earl Gibson III/WireImage.com What 11 Artists Did At SXSW 2018 DorothyPhoto: Paul Archuleta/FilmMagic Cue Says Apple’s Ecosystem Is Expanding KardPhoto: TPG/Getty Images Austin’s Deep Cultural History On Rainey Street KardPhoto: TPG/Getty Images SaweetiePhoto: Ismael Quintanilla/Getty Images HyukohPhoto: Han Myung-Gu/WireImage Korea Spotlight Coming To SXSW 2018 Sophie Allison of Soccer MommyPhoto Courtesy Fat Possum Records Keith UrbanPhoto: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images Sophie Allison of Soccer MommyPhoto Courtesy Fat Possum Records Eddy CuePhoto: Jason Bollenbacher/Getty Images SXSW 2018: Keith Urban, Rapsody, K-Pop & More Austin’s South Congress Boasts Vintage Charm
2020 BMW M340i review: A dash of M makes everything better 2020 M5 Edition 35 Years is a dark gray homage to BMW’s performance sedan BMW 2020 Kia Telluride review: Kia’s new SUV has big style and bigger value Share your voice More about 2019 BMW M5 Competition Sedan Preview • 2019 BMW M5 Competition: Higher track IQ with tradeoffs 11 Photos 2020 Hyundai Palisade review: Posh enough to make Genesis jealous Tags BMW The BMW M5 sport sedan is now in its sixth generation. And though the current F90 model has arguably lost some of that lovin’ feeling we remember from prior generations (the E39 still makes us drool), it continues to be a hoot and a half behind the wheel, with tremendous power and supercar-stomping acceleration.To celebrate 35 years since BMW brought its M5 into the world, the company announced a new, limited-edition model on Thursday, appropriately called the Edition 35 Years. Only 350 of these special M5s will be offered globally, with just 35 earmarked for US consumption.The Edition 35 Years builds on the current, range-topping M5 Competition model, and wears BMW Individual gray paint, with “a special pigmentation to create the appearance of a silk matte surface finish.” New 20-inch wheels are also finished in gray, while the M5’s big brakes have gloss-black calipers. Inside, the Edition 35 Years gets gold-anodized aluminum trim on the center console, doors and instrument panel — which might sound gauche, but actually looks quite cool.Enlarge ImageThis gold-anodized aluminum trim is unique to the Edition 35 Years M5. BMW Under the hood, the M5 Competition’s 4.4-liter, twin-turbocharged V8 engine produces a healthy 617 horsepower and 553 pound-feet of torque, able to scoot the all-wheel drive sedan to 60 mph in just 3.1 seconds. Every Edition 35 Years M5 comes fitted with the M Driver’s Package, which raises the electronic speed limiter from 155 mph to 189, and includes a voucher for the M Driver’s School in either Spartanburg, South Carolina, or Thermal, California.Otherwise, the Edition 35 Years is pretty much a fully loaded M5 Competition, complete with the Executive Package (soft-close doors, power sunshades, massaging front seats, wireless charging, driver-assistance tech and more) and a 10.2-inch display running BMW’s iDrive 7 multimedia system.The US-spec M5 Edition 35 Years cars will be produced in September and October of this year, priced from $128,995, including destination and the gas guzzler tax. That’s about $8,000 more than a similarly equipped, non-special-edition M5 Competition, but on the other hand, a small price to pay to own something this rare. 0 Performance Cars Luxury cars Sedans More From Roadshow null
Kolkata: The Microbiology department of West Bengal State University played a significant role in a new study conducted by National Brain Research Centre (NBRC), where it has identified proteins which facilitate the entry of Japanese Encephalitis (JE) virus inside brain cells.The study points out that JE, a leading form of viral encephalitis is caused by mosquito-borne JE virus, which belongs to the same genus as dengue and yellow fever.The research team of NBRC has identified two brain cell proteins — PLVAP (Plasmalemma vesicle-associated protein) and GKN3 (Gastrokine3) that facilitate the entry of the virus into brain cells. It may be mentioned that JE infection occurs when viral attachment proteins interact with cellular membrane proteins of host cells.”There were around six such proteins that were under consideration on part of the research team. However, analysis of these proteins would have been time consuming and an expensive affair. In this context, NBRC research group collaborated with our research team,” said Sibani Chakraborty of WBSU’s Micro biology department.She further said the department’s bioinformatics section identified two brain cell proteins — PLVAP and GKN3 those are present on neuronal cell surface. “These findings helped in identifying their role in the viral entry into the neurons,” added Chakraborty.The experimental work performed by NBRC has been carried out in laboratory mice.The identification of host proteins, important for viral entry into neurons, provided the researcher team with candidates, whose targeting may be useful to block viral infection thus reducingdisease severity.Researchers have found that reducing PLVAP receptor in neurons decreased JEV entry and upregulating (increasing) them increased the viral entry on the other hand. “We are planning to collaborate with some pharmaceutical companies to identify potential drug/drugs which may be able to block this receptor proteins,” Chakraborty maintained.The research team included Dr Anirban Basu, Sriparna Mukherjee, Nabonita Sengupta, Irshad Akbar, Noopur Singh of NRBC Manesar, Ankur Chaudhuri and Sibani Chakraborty of WBSU and Arindam Bhattacharyya of Calcutta University and Amol Ratnakar Suryawanshi (Institute of Life Sciences, Bhubaneswar).The study has been published in the journal — ‘Scientific Reports’.
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own. Register Now » Growing a business sometimes requires thinking outside the box. Sometimes it snows in Albuquerque, New Mexico, during the holidays and sometimes it doesn’t, but there’s one thing Chris Padilla, 31, and Shannon Jacques, 34, can always count on: It’ll be the busiest time of year for their business on eBay and their retail drop-off store. “When it comes to holiday selling around here, it’s a huge push of people coming in,” says Padilla, whose business, E-Sell4Dollars (eBay User ID: e-sell4dollars), has weekly sales of between $6,000 and $9,000.Padilla also knows that the holidays are a make-or-break time, because that’s when push really comes to shove. Every one of the thousand details that come with running a business on eBay becomes more critical than ever, from carrying the right products to making sure orders get to last-minute gift-givers in time. “Shipping is crazy,” Padilla says. “If you have 300 to 400 packages going out and you have to have them out in a couple of days, it can be a challenge.”Preparation is the key to surviving and prospering during the holiday madness. “Like anything else, luck favors the well-prepared,” says Todd Lutwak, eBay’s senior director of seller development. “The more you think about this and the earlier jump that you get, the better off people usually are.”Early BirdsOne seller’s early start may look like a late start to someone else. Barry A. Goldblatt, owner of Epower2go Inc. (eBay User ID: epower2go) in Plano, Texas, reached PowerSeller status only three months after starting on eBay. Goldblatt, who’s been selling online through other channels for years, says January is not too soon to begin preparing for the year-end holidays. In January, conventional retailers liquidate unsold inventory at steeper discounts than at any other time of year. So shortly after New Year’s Day he’s not just thinking about what he’ll sell during the next holiday season, he’s actually buying inventory. “The only way you [can] compete is to go to other sellers and retailers and pick up what they’re dumping after a big season,” says Goldblatt, 59.For other sellers, clearing the shelves may assume more importance than stocking them. Padilla, for instance, has to clear space in his drop-off location for the flood of items customers bring to him to sell over the holidays. While clearing space is important, it doesn’t require starting a year in advance. “Usually, we’ll start preparing the store the month before the holidays,” he says.You can decide when to start prepping by coordinating your schedule with the holidays you are serving. “Know the calendar and work backward,” Lutwak says. “Know when things like Hanukkah are, and go 15 or 20 days back.” That amount of time should give you the opportunity to get your items listed, complete the listings, receive payments and ship the items for delivery before the holiday in question, he says. “During the holiday season, buyers are incredibly sensitive to delivery times,” he adds. “So you’ve got to work from those days backward.”You may want to start working even earlier to make sure all your systems are tuned up for the expected rush. For instance, design holiday listing templates well ahead of time so you’ll be able to quickly place items for sale when the time comes. Padilla creates templates featuring holiday-themed décor, such as Christmas lights.Earlier still, begin building inventory so you won’t run out of hot items just when demand peaks. It’s important to purchase inventory at an economically feasible price, but you can’t buy something just because it’s cheap. Before acquiring any inventory, Goldblatt checks eBay listings to see how many other sellers offer the same or similar items. “If you’re not careful, you’ll buy something that 20 or 30 other people are already selling on eBay,” he says. “Then you can only compete on price.”Lutwak suggests paying attention to your own shopping experiences when deciding what to stock for the holidays. Start buying for your gift list as early as you can and take notes when you see shortages of popular products developing. Those items might be good candidates for your own eBay sales. “If you’re having trouble finding quantities in October, it’s a pretty good indication that come the holiday season, that stuff might be even more scarce,” Lutwak says.While looking for mass-produced goods that are inexpensive or in high demand, keep a sharp eye out for products that are always in short supply. “Look for the magic eBay buzzwords–limited edition, exclusive and so on,” Lutwak says. When you have something truly rare or even one-of-a-kind, what you paid for it assumes much less importance, and competition from other sellers becomes almost irrelevant.Best PracticesGood listing practices always carry great relevance, and the holidays are no exception. “The standard listing best practices apply: Write a great item title, use the proper keywords, have a great picture,” Lutwak says. “If you’re selling multiple quantities, using a listing subtitle is a good idea. And be concise. Give the buyer all the information they need to make a purchase decision without scrolling.”Some other practices come into play at the holidays. As one possibility, Lutwak suggests adding gift-giving recommendations. A listing for a toy, for instance, might describe it as a great gift for both boys and girls ages 5 and under. “During the holiday season, people are shopping for others and not really themselves,” he says. “It’s really good to say, ‘This is a great gift for the man who has everything,’ and that sort of thing.”Goldblatt sets up gift-giving categories on his site and tries to write titles for them that sizzle. For example, he picked “Palm Pilot Riot” for a category consisting of items related to Palm Pilot handheld computing devices. He takes time to shoot extra-sharp pictures and packs more of them into his listings than at other times. “You have just a few seconds to get somebody’s attention,” he says. “If it takes more than a few seconds to find something they want, you’ve probably lost them.”Descriptions also become more detailed. “If somebody’s buying a gift, they want to know everything about it,” Goldblatt says. “Was it new in the box? Was it properly stored? We try to answer every question that we can without being so verbose that the customer won’t read all of it.”Timing is everything during the holidays–more so than at other times of the year. While most sellers use the conventional seven-day listing, they may leave listings up for fewer days as the gift-giving days get closer to make sure listings will be completed in time for payment and shipping. Alternatively, Padilla says, sellers will use 10-day auction-style listings for special items to give bidders plenty of time to submit their offers. He’ll create listings as short as one day for things like tickets for events that are taking place very soon.Standing OutCreating effective listings isn’t the only move eBay sellers can make to rise above the crowd of sellers that appears during the holidays. Standing out starts with knowing who you want to stand out to, says iRebound owner Pedro Rivarola (eBay User ID: pjcrr1), who sells about $1,500 worth of exercise equipment on eBay each week. “I have a profile of my buyers,” says Rivarola, 58. “Most of them come from California, and most are women between [their] late 30s and late 60s. So I need to have that in mind.”Having an accurate customer profile comes in handy when executing strategies that are designed to help you stand out. For instance, offline advertising is a key component of many holiday-season selling plans. Rivarola mails post cards and catalogs to addresses he’s collected from past customers and can use the profile data he’s created to identify lists of other likely customers.To encourage people to give him a try, Rivarola offers free goodies such as T-shirts to people placing orders. “I need to give away something,” he says. “I need to make them believe that they’re [getting] a great deal by buying my product.” Don’t forget your eBay status when you’re looking for a way to stand out with offline ads. Rivarola includes his PowerSeller status, positive feedback rating and Detailed Seller Rating comments on his postcards and other mailers. “They will trust that because eBay is a reputable company, and my feedback is 100 percent positive,” he says.Direct mail isn’t the only channel you can or should use to bring buyers to your listings. “We do a lot of advertising through the local paper, and we do advertising online,” Padilla says. “We are also all over the Yellow Pages, which has worked out for us. If people are looking in the collectibles and antiques categories there, they’ll find a color ad with our name on it.”If shoppers are searching for gifts on eBay, they are often looking for hard-to-find items not available in their local stores or, even more frequently, for affordable prices–depending on the category and specific item. Goldblatt believes good pricing starts with good buying. “I have this idea that there needs to be a 4 to 1 ratio between what an eBay seller could buy something for and successfully sell it vs. what a standard retailer could do,” he says. This means that if an item retails for $10, for example, an eBay seller has to get it for no more than $2.50 to be able to reliably sell it for a profit.The holidays are also a good time to go beyond the auction-style listing format, Lutwak says. That’s because shoppers may be in a hurry and therefore uncomfortable with the delay and uncertainty of an auction. These buyers want other shopping formats such as Buy It Now so they can move on to the next item on their shopping list. “I’m not telling people not to sell in the auction format,” he says. “But that time of year is a good time to also sell in another [format], such as Fixed Price.”Another way to approach pricing is to use the Best Offer feature on Fixed-Price listings. “It’s a great feature on eBay, and we’ve enhanced it this year,” says Lutwak. Best Offer allows you to automatically accept an offer over a specified amount. “Say you have a product you sell for $100,” says Lutwak. “You can tell the system, I’ll accept any offer over $94. If someone makes an offer of $97, it’ll say go.”One time you’ll want to go with an auction-style listing is when you have a hot item that’s sure to draw attention from many motivated bidders. However, take care not to set the bid floor too high. “People on eBay don’t like auctions that start off too high,” says Padilla, who urges his clients to set bid prices at no more than $9.99 for almost everything.Your customers won’t like everything they buy, of course, and sometimes they’ll want to return items. When that happens, most sellers who have a perfect feedback rating have a no-questions-asked policy. “If they don’t get it or it gets there broken, we don’t argue,” says Goldblatt. Instead, they apologize and offer to replace the item at no cost–including shipping–or they immediately issue a credit. “We try to make it as simple as possible,” he says. “There’s probably no way to maintain 100 percent positive feedback ratings as we get bigger, but our goal is to do that for as long as possible.”Clearly, Padilla offers great customer service: He has sustained perfect feedback ratings on more than 5,000 transactions. He also does not change his policies during the holidays. “We always try and keep firm on our return policies,” he says. “We say everything is sold as-is. However, if we ever get a buyer who has a concern or is not satisfied, we always try to offer other options. We’ll get them to send it back and we’ll replace it if it’s something we have more than one of. We really try to work with them.”Shipping for SuccessWorking with customers during the holidays means making sure they get their purchases in time to give as gifts on the appropriate day. For this, Goldblatt emphasizes shipping items as soon as possible. “Typically, if someone orders in the morning, it ships that afternoon,” he says. “If it’s ordered in the afternoon, it ships the next day. We ship Priority Mail, which is reasonably fast.”Rivarola offers express shipping as an option during the holidays, but few take advantage of it because of the cost–his trampolinelike rebounders weigh 37 pounds, which means rapid shipping costs a lot. “We can do it, but it will be quite expensive,” he says. “And we cannot just give [express shipping] to them for free unless we raise the price.”Speaking of costs, this year shipping is going to cost more across the board than it has in the past, Goldblatt says. He and other eBay sellers have all had to cope with higher prices from their shipping suppliers as fuel costs have climbed. The preferred coping strategy is to pass it on to customers, despite the occasional complaint. “We can’t take a hit on shipping,” he says. “We have to sell it for what it costs us to ship and pack.”Fortunately, there’s one solution to shipping and packing conundrums that doesn’t cost a penny: Include clear, honest and detailed shipping information in every listing. That’s especially important during the time-strapped holidays, Lutwak says. Padilla likes to use a table or matrix showing the date items need to be purchased by for them to arrive for the holiday. “We push that to make sure buyers know when they have to get their item paid for if they want to have it in time,” he says.Tables and matrices don’t work so well when it comes to international shipping. The vagaries of customs procedures in different countries mean shipments can be unexpectedly and unavoidably held up, Padilla says. “With international shipments, it’s hard to fully guarantee anything, because it’s so dependent on the customs offices.” Despite the reliability issue, Lutwak urges sellers to offer international shipping. New shipping features on eBay make it easier than ever to print labels and obtain discounts from shippers for international deliveries. And depressed U.S. currency valuations make U.S. sellers more competitive than ever to shoppers in other countries, he says. Also, international shoppers already represent a big market. Says Lutwak, “During the last holiday, I had certain electronics sellers tell me that more than 50 percent of the business was international business.”No matter where they come from, shoppers always like to save money on shipping. Padilla leverages that love of discounts by offering reduced shipping on multi-item purchases during the holiday season. “A lot of Stores won’t do that because it requires a lot more work,” he says. “But we see an increase in sales when we do. If [customers are] looking through your Store and you offer combined shipping, they’ll look for something else they can buy so they can save on shipping.”Service CountsEven offering truly remarkable savings may not help if customer service falls short. And good customer service is largely just a matter of being ready and willing to communicate with customers about what concerns them, says Rivarola. “When you understand the issues of others and you are behind your product whatever happens, you say, ‘Call me anytime, and I will solve it, whatever it takes,'” he says. “That’s real customer service.”Sometimes during the holiday rush, sellers mistakenly try to take shortcuts on answering questions, especially when they’ve made extra efforts to write listings that answer almost any conceivable question, Lutwak says. He points out that many holiday shoppers have never done business with you or even on eBay, so when they ask questions, it may not be because they don’t know the answer. They sometimes just want to reassure themselves that a responsive individual is behind that listing. “Answering questions quickly is always a really good best practice,” Lutwak says. “Often when buyers see you answer a question, you’ll see a bid or purchase.”After a purchase, it’s a good idea to send out a comprehensive e-mail announcing that the product has shipped, thanking the customer for the purchase and prompt payment, and providing other information such as tracking numbers and expected delivery dates. Rivarola goes even further than that, mailing a handwritten thank-you note to every customer. “It takes a little more time,” he says, “but that’s the way it should be.”Goldblatt regards the opportunity for this kind of after-sale follow-up as one of the best features of the holidays. Sure, the end of the year is a critical period for all kinds of sellers, not just those on eBay. But most, if not all, sellers hope to be in business for well beyond this holiday season. So Goldblatt aims to take advantage of the extra traffic to drive more than this year’s sales.”It’s a time when we get a lot more visitors, and we know that,” Goldblatt says. “So we’re also using it to build business for succeeding years and get more people to connect to us via the mailing list. That’s really where we’re headed.”Mark Henricks writes on business and technology for leading publications and is author of Not Just a Living. Free Webinar | Sept. 9: The Entrepreneur’s Playbook for Going Global August 1, 2008 15 min read