Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Turnover Tuesdays - Dealing with Amazon Restrictions

For those who are not familiar, I started a series a while back called Turnover Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I like to highlight one item that I have resold. This will include profitable and non profitable sales. I hope that there is always something to learn.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Raise Limiting Staples Gift Card Purchases to $500 a Week? Might be Time to Check out Gift Card Mart with 5x Ultimate Rewards

I was trying to buy some Staples Gift Cards on Raise and I got the following error:

I don't know if this is my account or everyone's but they aren't letting me buy more than $500 a week.  Interesting.

This might give me the opportunity to use Gift Card Mart which is now being reported to earn 5x Ultimate Rewards points when making gift card purchases.  That's a big of a game changer as I've only had very good experiences buying from them.

Be aware that there is a one time fraud prevention you need to go through if you are a first time buyer.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Turnover Tuesdays - When a Good Deal Goes Bad

For those who are not familiar, I started a series a while back called Turnover Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I like to highlight one item that I have resold. This will include profitable and non profitable sales. I hope that there is always something to learn.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Long Term Storage Fees Are Coming in August!

Every 6 months, on February 15th and August 15th Amazon assesses a long term storage fee for any units in their fulfillment center for 6 months or longer on those dates.  The same fee applies if the item has been there for 6 months or 9 months, but the fee is even steeper if the item has been there 1 year or longer on those days.

You can learn more about Long Term Storage Fees at this link (referral link).

The next Fulfillment by Amazon inventory cleanup is scheduled for August 15, 2016. On that day, units that have been in an Amazon fulfillment center in the U.S. for six to 12 months will be assessed a Long-Term Storage Fee of $11.25 per cubic foot. Units that have been in an Amazon fulfillment center for more than 12 months will be assessed a Long-Term Storage Fee of $22.50 per cubic foot.
If you file a Removal Order before August 15, 2016, to have this inventory returned to you, you will be unable to send in additional units of these ASINs until January 1, 2017. You can continue to sell through your remaining inventory of these ASINs. You are responsible for paying appropriate fees for the return of these units

This is  the first time I will be likely be assessed a long term storage fee.

You can check which of your units will be assessed LTSFs by clicking on Inventory> Inventory Planning>Inventory Age

You can then sort your inventory based on how long it has been there or based on your LTSFs.  It's more useful to sort based on LTSFs since it will show you items that will be assessed storage fees on August 15th when it will be 6 months then even though it hasn't quite been 6 months yet.

I was a little shocked at how severe the fees are when you look at them practically for large items.  Don't get me wrong, the fees are laid out and I'm not upset at Amazon but my strategy will have to change a little bit.

You can see that I have one item that I'm going to pay more than $650 in LTSFs.  That's not good.  For smaller items the fees can be negligible.

Check it out, you may want to lower your prices or create removal orders to lower your fees just be aware that if you create a removal order you won't be able to send them back in under the same ASIN until January 1st which is obviously missing the quarter 4 price bump.  You may also decide that some items it might be worth it to keep and pay fees but please be aware of these fees and act accordingly.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Use Gmail Boomerang for Shipment Reconciliations

I've talked about Gmail Boomerang before as a way of keeping track of your returns, specifically the returns that don't even make it back to Amazon but somehow never get reimbursed.  Check out that post for more info on how to use Boomerang.  Boomerang is free for the first 15 times you use it in the month, it was so useful to me that I ended up paying $50 for annual membership.

I've gotten quite a few reimbursements this way but Amazon seems to have partially solved this problem.  Others have noticed and I have noticed as well that a very high percentage of returns started actually make it back to Amazon.  It could be that they now initiate the return when the buyer confirms the shipment back to Amazon.  Not sure.

Either way, Boomerang is less useful for returns thought I still find some that never make it back.

I have now started to use Boomerang for shipments reconciliations as well.

Shipment Reconciliations 

If you send 20 items in one shipment and somehow only 18 make it to Amazon you are eligible for a reconciliation from Amazon and a possible reimbursement for the missing inventory.  A few months back Amazon made a very annoying but understandable change to the way reconciliations are done.

It used to be that you can ask for a reconciliation within a few days or a week after the first box of the shipment hits Amazon.  It made it easy to just check your list of shipments on one page and see if there was a discrepancy between how many were sent and how many made it.  The problem for Amazon was that it was very easy to ask for reconciliation and to receive a reimbursement and many times they had to reverse the reimbursement once the rest of your shipment finally made it into the fulfillment center.

Now, you often have to wait more than a week and sometimes two weeks or more before you are eligible for a reconciliation. In two weeks I'll have made so many new shipments that it can be quite difficult to remember and find all the ones that need reconciliation.  So what is an FBA seller to do?  Boomerang to the rescue again.

Amazon sends up to 3 emails for each shipment

One email says Checked In, one says Receiving and the last says Received in Full.

I used to archive shipment notifications almost immediately.  I would look at the SKUs in the shipment and see if I needed to adjust pricing but that was it.

I now do not archive those emails until I am done reconciling that shipment.

After I receive the Receiving email I will archive the Checked In email, after I Receive the Received in Full email I will archive the Checked In email.

I check each shipment after they are Received in Full to make sure there are no issues.  Sometimes it says in full but it actually isn't.

If the Received in Full does not come through after a few days I will then check the reconciliation date.  I use Boomerang to resend the "Receiving" email back to me on the date of reconciliation.  In that way, it's much easier to to reconcile shipments.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Happy Prime Day Everyone!

Turnover Tuesdays will be postponed this week in honor of Prime Day.

As I'm sure everyone here is aware of, today is Amazon Prime Day.  A day when  we can snag some really great deals but you will likely have to move fast.

A couple of things I'm keeping in mind during Prime Day

For Buying:

  • If you still have Discover Doubling, you use your Discover card for 5% cashback which will turn into 10% cashback at the end of your 13th statement.  Make sure to activate the 5% category before purchasing as it doesn't work retroactively (Pro Tip: Chase Freedom 5% activation does work retroactively)
  • If you don't have Discover, consider buying gift cards from the MPX app.  You will earn 2x United miles and your credit card rewards (2.5x if you have the United CC).  You can also buy from Gyft using your Chase INK via PayPal to earn 5x ultimate rewards points
  • Please make your purchase through the link of your favorite blogger.  The money goes a long way psychologically, if not economically :) This assumes that you will not be earning a shopping portal bonus.  Amazon does offer some categories on shopping portals but not much.

Here is my link if you are so inclined.  I would be most grateful :)

For Selling:

  • Most likely, electronics will be the hot items today.  You can consider lowering your price to grab tons of sales.  Personally, I am raising my electronics prices.  I want all the cheap inventory out leaving me with little competition.  That being said, that is a huge risk so weigh your options carefully
  • Check your pending orders early and often.  If something is selling, you may need to raise prices dynamically to grab the most profit if it's still early in the day.

Here's hoping we crush it today!

Monday, July 11, 2016

Small Tip for Finding Distributors

This past Tuesday I posted about starting relationships with Distributors and/or brand manufacturers as a way of buying in bulk and at cheaper prices.

A few people emailed and commented that they are unsure where to begin.

I'll share how I found my first distributor and hopefully that will give you a way to get started.

Almost a year ago I saw some popcorn from Staples Clearance.  It was $5.  I scanned it with the app and it came up as selling for about $15 on Amazon with about $5 in fees with an ok rank in groceries (gated category - don't buy groceries unless you are ungated) so it was 100% return on my investment.  Always a good play!

I bought them and they sold pretty quickly.  I went back to Staples and the rest were gone.  I went to a new staples and found them and they were now $3.50 and selling for $20 on Amazon.  Fantastic!

They were still selling well for me and I went to more and more Staples stores to find my popcorn.  Unfortunately, it was in clearance they weren't going to carry this popcorn anymore which is why the markdowns continued.  No!!!!!

I kept searching online where I could find the popcorn on different sites and despite it being somewhat popular I couldn't find it available anywhere.

So I went directly to the website for the company.  On the site they had a list of distributors who were selling this popcorn and an email to contact them about bulk buying.

I emailed them with no response for weeks and weeks despite follow up emails.

I then called each of the distributors on the site.  Only one of them was still selling the popcorn, but I finally found it.  That was my first distributor relationship

Once I had a list of products that they sold I went through the list and found some other products which I buy from time to time as they are not super sellers but every little bit helps for replenishables.  

So that's one way to begin.  Find a product that you know sells well and you want to buy in bulk. Look up information from the company's website to find distributors.  Most of the time that information is readily available.

If that doesn't work, you can always try this.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Future of this Blog? Who Knows

Doctor of Credit had a post yesterday on his favorite new blogs for 2016.

In that post, Will writes:

If you don’t already have a blog, decide if you really want to start one. Blogging eats up a lot of my spare time and it’s not just writing and research content. You have to do other things, like answering readers questions via e-mail and comments, promoting the site, trying to make sure the site runs smoothly. I hate to think how much time I’ve actually invested into this blog. If you’re not sure if blogging is for you, or if people will enjoy what you write then consider writing a guest post instead.

I am constantly amazed at how much content comes out of DoC whether from Will or Chuck.  When I used to write about similar topics the only time I ever posted before them was when they had scheduled their post for later that day instead of posting immediately.  The content and research is amazing.  If you don't follow their blog, start now.

The post got me thinking about my relationship with this blog.  Allow me to muse a bit.

If you've been following my blog for a while, you've probably noticed that I've significantly slowed down the number of posts that I put out.  It's now not uncommon for me to post once a week.  In the past I used to post daily and it wasn't uncommon for me to post 2 or 3 times a day.

My pageviews, while still fine are way down from 8 months ago.  In November I had a high of about 130,000 hits that month.  I'm on track for closer to 30,000-40,000 this month.   I could attribute that to a decrease in my posting schedule and I know partly that is the reason.  If someone was coming 2-3x daily and is now only bothering to visit 1-2x a week that makes a difference.   However, I know it is more than that.  Partly it is a lack of "breaking" news.  You don't need to constantly check since new content isn't as time sensitive as it used to be.  I also have radically changed directions and not all my previous readers are interested in hearing about Amazon selling.  That's not why they came to begin with.

I've often thought about what this blog was, where it is now and what I want to accomplish and whether I still want to accomplish anything from this platform.

So, what happened?  Why have I decreased posting?:

  1. Time restraints - as my family has grown larger, my job has increased hours and it is further from my apartment and my Amazon business has grown, my available time and patience for other pursuits has decreased.  That's a huge factor for me.  There's just too many things going on.
  2. Content change - I write about what I'm currently doing.  It has been more difficult for me to come up with interesting and unique topics for readers that's solely related to Amazon.  I could have continued to write about manufactured spending in general, but that runs into #1, both because of available time to MS and available time to write about it. 
  3. Changing interests - to be quite frank about it, the same topics that used to interest me are not quite as interesting anymore.  There used to be a certain high I would get driving to the grocery store for Visa Gift Cards and liquidating them that I just don't experience anymore.  It's hard for most people to justify MS if you don't enjoy it since there are other hobbies or pursuits of income that can earn you more money in less time.  Amazon has fortunately/unfortunately become that for me.  I might feel differently if I MSed for luxury travel but I've always MSed for the cash or the "free" travel. 
  4. The culture of sharing has gone away.  I'm not the first to point this out but MS has lost its culture of sharing with the ever decreasing public methods of MS.  There are so many people trying to earn easy points that it's no longer "safe" to share anything.  If it's really good, people will talk and kill your golden goose.  Responsible blogs have followed suit but that's boring. We are meant to share juicy secrets.  Like it or not, great information is now shared via private groups among a small number of people.  That's just a fact.  Just as an example, I know far more about selling on Amazon but I just can't talk about it publicly.  I always read over posts to make sure I'm don't give away anything that's not for public consumption.  That's not a boast, others know far more than me.  Everyone loses when information is not shared.  I lose out too because what I'm doing can't be improved by what others know.
  5. There was a month or two where I thought I might actually make some money as a blogger.  If not a full living, at least as a part time gig.  Visions of titans in the air.  Certainly not worth the time investment as a job but it I could justify some of the hours because in the future I could earn even more.  As I moved towards a model of even fewer posts, less and less money came in.  That's normal but it also gives you less motivation to post. 

Why do I still blog at all?  I've asked myself this question on many occasions.  What am I still doing here?

  1. I've met a lot of amazing people through this blog.  Many of them I interact with throughout the day and  I'm still meeting great people.  It's probably worth it just for that.
  2. To help. It's nice to provide useful information.  Unfortunately it seems that it is harder and harder for me to continue posting great and unique content.
  3. I learn a ton from readers and researching for posts.
  4. It's nice to feel important, I have to admit that.  
  5. It's hard to give up.  I've been blogging since 2011.  That's not something you give up easily, but  I'm not sure I would start a blog today if I didn't already have one.

I don't completely know what direction the blog will take next and what topics I'll discuss.  There are only so many Turnover Tuesdays topics to write about.  This blog has some great dedicated readers, though less than it used to have and you guys deserve a great blog.  It seems to me that the blog has lost its way a little over the last 8 months and I'm not sure where the future path will be.  That's ok, it's been a great ride either way.  Maybe the blog can be reinvented in another direction.  I don't think I'm quite ready to give up yet but I guess we'll see where it goes!?

I would love to hear some feedback.  Do you want me to keep plugging away with more Amazon tips?  Any different topics you want me to discuss directly related to Amazon or other topics loosely related?

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Turnover Tuesdays - Look for Distributors/Manufacturers

For those who are not familiar, I started a series a while back called Turnover Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I like to highlight one item that I have resold. This will include profitable and non profitable sales. I hope that there is always something to learn.