Thursday, December 29, 2016

Amazon Donated My Inventory Without Asking.... -

We've talked on many occasions about the importance of monitoring your inventory on a regular basis as Amazon has the tendency to "misplace" a lot of inventory without telling you or reimbursing you.  It's one of Amazon's fonder characteristics.

When you looking at inventory reports, transfers of all sorts have corresponding letters that tell you what has happened during the transferring (relabeling, damaged, lost, etc.)

My current service Glasshouse Inventory noticed letter G on one of the reports which was a new one for them and the inventory was missing after the transfer corresponding to G.  They asked Amazon for clarification on what the "G" was for.

Well this is a new one for me:

So it seems that Amazon donated my inventory to charity. That's really sweet of them but not something you usually do with other people's stuff.  Granted they admitted it was a mistake but I wonder if they were going to take a tax deduction for it too!

What was the ASIN for it?  B00X3B16YW 

A green Apple Watch, the gift that keeps on giving.  The person who got it from charity probably returned it back to Amazon without the watch in the box so I can sell it again as new and get a another return...

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Turnover Tuesdays - How it is Going Outside of Amazon

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.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.

Selling on eBay with JoeLister - Meh

As I mentioned in week 77, I am trying to move beyond Amazon into eBay and Walmart.  eBay has had very blah results with JoeLister.  Since September 23rd  I have sold about 30 units total through JoeLister.   That's not very good.  Really not very good.  During that same time I sold more than 6,700 units with Amazon.  Granted I have far more listings with Amazon (I only paid for 100 listings with Joe Lister) but even on those 100 listings I had far, far more with Amazon.  I don't know yet if I will drop JoeLister but it is not an integral part of my Get Rick Quick Schemes.  Right now I'm using them to try and sell items that have Long Term Storage Fees associated with them in February.  Each sale provided outsized returns.

Selling on Walmart - Bumps and Bruises

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Check Quantities Even with Purchase Limitations

One of the more important pieces of information when pricing items is to know how many units are cheaper than you and how long you can expect it to take to reach your price.  I will price something very differently if the person below me has 1,000 units vs. 15 units.

One easy way to figure out how many people have (without special software) is to add the item into your account and try to place 999.  It will default to the number the seller has. If they have more than 999 it won't go higher.  Parenthetically, I leave it in my shopping cart and see how many the person has the next time I got into my cart so I don't have to keep doing it.

Some people (including Amazon) like to put purchase limitations.  If you are only allowed to buy 3 or 27 (27 is very common for Amazon) when you put in 999, it will go down to 27 because of the quantity limits.  The problem is that the person could have 28 or 999+ and you wouldn't know so here is a little trick to figure it out.  It can take a while but can be useful information.

If you look closely when you change the quantity in your shopping cart you will either see one error message or two error messages.

You can see that when I add 28 it just say that you tried to purchase more than the quantity allowed.  However when you try to add 999, you will get a second error message  that the quantity you tried to purchase is greater than the quantity available so you know that it is somewhere between 28 and 999.  

You can play around with the numbers to get a better idea (or keep playing until you get an exact number but exact numbers probably aren't as important as general idea).  Again, this can take a while so I don't know how useful it will be but someone might use it.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Turnover Tuesdays - Using Q4 for An Accelerated Shake Up

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.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.

Inventory Shakeup

I've mentioned a few times recently that I'm in the process of trying to change over my inventory.  Instead of being mostly electronics, I'm moving over into Groceries, Beauty, Health and personal care, some toys after Q4 (plenty during Q4), some kitchen stuff, office supplies and the like.

I'm interested in high profit and few returns instead of a high volume of sales.

Free UPS Pickup for 10 Years (Maybe)!

HT: DansDeals

Free UPS Smart Pickups for 10 years!

Sign up for this before it dies.  I love my UPS Pickup!  Works on existing accounts as well just make sure you override existing promos if you have them on your account.

Do it now!

Keep in mind that Terms and Conditions say one year so this may not be honored for 10 years.  Can't hurt to try.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

Important Changes to FBA Fee Structure

There was a lot of news out of Amazon FBA including some new ingredient listing requirements for Health and Personal care but the one that will affect everyone is the new general fee structure for everything.

You can find the announcement with all the details here.

The key trends are that storage fees are going up, October is the new November, Amazon wants you to pay for Fulfillment Center processing and fulfillment fees are changing (mostly cheaper) but not totally.

Here are the specific changes:

Consolidation of Fulfillment Fees

  • Consolidation of Fulfillment Fees: Effective February 22nd 2017, the Order Handling, Pick & Pack, and Weight Handling fees will be consolidated into a single, per-unit Fulfillment Fee. See details (or scroll to Fulfillment Fee schedules below).

The gist is that it used to be that orders of multiple units incurred smaller fees per unit than orders of single units.  For example, if one iPad incurred a $10 fee, 2 iPads incurred a $19 (or usually less).  Part of that was the $1 per order fee which remained at $1 no matter how many units were ordered  but part of it were the rest of the fees.  This made a major difference on items that people tended to order multiple of since you can reliably earn more per unit than the calculator said.  That's a thing of the past.

It's important to note that while fulfillment fees for smaller items are going down, fulfillment fees for large and oversized items are increasing.  Profit margins will change for items you have been selling so it's important to reassess every item to make sure it's still worth it to sell.

Inventory Placement Service Changes

  • Change to Seller Shipment Requirements: Effective July 19, 2017, Amazon will increase how often you are asked to send items to multiple destinations when creating your shipping plan. For each shipping plan, you may choose to follow Amazon’s guidance or use the Inventory Placement Service, which gives you the option to ship to fewer destinations. A per-item service fee applies when you use the Inventory Placement Service; the fee depends on the number of destinations you choose. See details (or scroll to Inventory Placement Service Fee schedules below).

We've talked about Inventory Placement Service before.  IPS is Amazon's way of getting you to pay for fulfillment center processing.  Basically, you pay a per unit and a weight based fee to have your items sent to one fulfillment center.  This saves money on shipping and is more convenient to ship but the fees can be massive.  Also, once they get to the one center, Amazon is going to move some of them around to where it needs to go so sometimes you don't go from backordered to live any faster.  It's just more expensive.

The new fees are actually lower and give you the option of choosing 1, 2 or 3 centers to send to.  Overall, I think it is better to have more options. If you can avoid the fees and keep everything going to one Fulfillment Center, even better 😉

October is the New November Fees

  • Alignment of Q4 Inventory Storage Fees:  Effective October 1, 2017, the monthly fee for inventory storage in October will be increased for Standard-Size and Oversize units to be consistent with the storage fees for November and December. See details (or scroll to Monthly Inventory Storage Fee schedule below).
  • Alignment of Q4 Fulfillment Fees:  Effective October 1, 2017, we will reduce the Fulfillment Fee for all items shipped in October. October fulfillment fees will be consistent with fulfillment fees in November and December. See details (or scroll to Fulfillment Fee schedules below). With the reduction in fulfillment fees, sellers that reduce the storage space they use in October have the opportunity to pay lower total FBA fees in October.

I've dubbed this October is the new November.  The same increase we saw this year for November and December storage fees will now include October.   You can also see that storage fees from January through September are increasing from $0.54 per cubic feet to $0.64 per cubic foot, an increase of almost 20%.

Media and Zero-Fee Fulfillment Changes

  • Higher Fees for Media products: Effective February 22, 2017, the Fulfillment Fees for Media items will be increased to match the Fulfillment Fees for Non-Media items.
  • Elimination of Zero-Fee Fulfillment: Effective February 22, 2017, the Zero-Fee Fulfillment discount for standard-sized items that sell for $300 or more will be discontinued. Fees based on the product size tier will apply.

This change probably doesn't affect too many people.  I'm not sure but the Zero-Fee Fulfillment change may make iPads more expensive to sell.


- Storage is going up by 18.5% for 9 months, more than 400% for 1 month (October) and staying the same for 2 months (November and December).  This may be because their fulfillment centers are too full even with building more or they think the market can bear the increased fees which I think is true in general.  People will adapt and also pay more storage fees.

This will likely mean that I will focus on smaller items (lower fulfillment fees, storage fees increases are less significant on smaller items).  It might also mean sellers might start price increases more quickly ("Race to the Bottom") which is usually bad but can be good if it clears out sellers more quickly.  Think Kohl's.  Many sellers may start to think about renting a storage unit to ship more items into Amazon as they sell instead of sending all at once.

I have just started selling with Walmart with a much smaller volume than Amazon.  One of the disadvantages/advantages of Amazon is that there is no FBW (fulfillment by Walmart), which means you need to fulfill all orders yourself which I'm learning is quite expensive if you aren't selling the right sized items (for a different post).  You need to have your inventory with you since you are merchant fulfilling so I have already started the process of storing more inventory with rented space.  One of the luxuries this affords me is "free storage."  I'll already renting the space for Walmart, if I can decrease my storage fees (especially long term storage fees), I can use those savings to offset some of my rent and the breakeven number for Walmart is even lower.

For example, let's say rent is $500 a month and I can save $150 a month in FBA storage fees by storing at my rented space, if I can make $350 a month via Walmart (after all fees), I can breakeven on the new rent. If I can make more than $350 a month (sounds reasonable though the numbers are rounder for illustration purposes), it's now worth it to rent the space.

- October is the new November.  This one is tough for me.  I paid massive storage fees in this past November to make sure I was in stock in late November and early December.  My October storage fee was the highest all year since I was starting to build up my inventory but November storage fees were more than 4x my October fees.  Having to pay that increased fee an extra month next year would be really tough.  Big hit on the margins.  I will have to flood FBA with inventory even later next year than usual since they did a pretty good job in late November getting things in stock from the Fulfillment Centers, I was pleasantly surprised.  No Q4 stuff before late November next year.

- Consolidation of Fulfillment Fees.  I'm cool with this, nice to have some carrots instead of only sticks.  Might make me focus on smaller items, which I've been doing anyways but won't change too much for me.

- Inventory Storage Placement Fees - whatever, I'm not paying them.  I'll figure out a way around the issue.


Overall, I think the news is bad if only for the significant increase in storage but it will probably allow me to better focus on a smaller number of SKUs and make sure everything is selling and build up my Walmart inventory at the same time.  These were both part of my goals for 2017 anyways but my inventory turnover will probably speed up a bit.

How do you see the changes affecting you?  Will change what you sell and/or how much you buy at once?

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Turnover Tuesdays - Reimbursements

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.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.

Reimbursements, Yay!

I love reimbursement emails.  Makes my day when they are large.

It's not unreasonable to say that being on top of reimbursements and your inventory is the most important aspect of selling on Amazon after actually selling.

There are lots of reasons that you get reimbursements when you sell with Amazon, some more obvious than others.  They include Amazon not checking your inventory in (you sent in 6 and they received 5), lost and damaged inventory, returns initiated but never make it back to Amazon, returns after the return window has closed, returns that have been badly damaged.  All these can be reasons for a full or partial reimbursement.

I cannot underestimate the importance of reimbursements.  In 2016 alone, I have almost $500k in sales and over $42,000 in reimbursements.  I have almost as much in reimbursements as with refunds. I would have difficulty having any profit without reimbursements.

The actual numbers come out to 8.6% of my gross sales sales!  That's just straight crazy.  My rate of lost items seems to be greater than average but it is considered industry average to have shrinkage of about 1%-5% of inventory.  That same 1% of shrinkage can have a difference of about 5-10% on your margins.

Thankfully, as Amazon loses or damages your items they record everything in reports.  You can run your inventory adjustment and inventory reconciliation reports.  You can and should read them.  There is a wealth of information about what's happening to your inventory after it gets sent to Amazon.

Sometimes, about 40% of the time according to one person I spoke to who runs a company specializing in Amazon reimbursements, Amazon auto reimburses you.  Amazon acknowledges that they lost or damaged your item.  This should be auto reimbursed 100% of the time.  I'm pretty sure Amazon has software capable of doing that.  The reality is that if you aren't asking for reimbursements you won't be getting about 60% of the reimbursements owed to you.  That's your money, not Amazon's!  You can't let Amazon take that away.  Can anyone say class action lawsuit?

Inventory Shrinkage - Silent but Deadly

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Turnover Tuesdays - Returns, Returns, Returns!

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.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.

Returns, Uch!

Just the word returns gets me upset.  Oh, and those emails!  They can ruin your day.  I hate returns, it's just money out of my pocket.  Returns had a major impact on me in 2015, especially during the holiday season and immediately thereafter.  Last year I had over $8,000 in returns in December and then again in January.  Salt was just getting poured further and further into the wounds.

I was mostly ok with that since I was still making money despite the returns.  I had over $100k in sales last December so my business could survive those returns.  Still, that's a ton of returns and it would be nice to cut that down for this year.  I also want customers to be able to return item - just not mine ;) - so that they are more confident making purchases.

Friday, December 2, 2016

I'm Walmart Unbanned!

Yesterday, I mentioned that I had been banned from a few important stores this year including Target, Kohl's and Walmart.

I was both accused of stealing other Blogger's lucrative methods (in jest, obviously), while others were amazed that such a thing could happen at Walmart.  I, myself, was amazed and I said yesterday that I didn't even know it was possible

Thankfully Wes stepped in and helped me get unbanned.  He suggested I call up and ask to speak to the US call reps and see what the deal is.

The problem as you recall was that Walmart wouldn't allow me to even get to the order review.  I wasn't able to choose a credit card.

I called and spoke to a US rep.  She started going through my account and asked me to take off the credit card I was trying to use and add it again.  Then she looked at my credit cards on the account and said "Whoa, that's a lot of credit cards."   I guess about 20 cards on one account isn't so normal? I had taken part in an American Express Offers for you a while back and had added a lot of new credit cards to my account.  I also had multiple discover cards connected for different years of Discover doubling.

Either way, she said that having too many credit cards can be a flag for fraud and suggested I remove some.  I removed all the cards except one and magically I could check out again!

So am I now unbanned from Walmart.  Although technically I was never banned.  Hmm, I think you are still winning Vinh.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

And The Ban Hammer Continues...

Lately, it seems that I've morphed into #shutdownsalldayeveryday.  

One of the risks of reselling are bans.  Resellers tend to take advantage of stacking promotions, portals and free shipping that are readily available for anyone but aren't used to the same extent as crazy people like us.

When you are trying to grow your business, it can be tempting to continue to increase your purchase size to meet the demand of customers.  I was tempted and it didn't end well for me.

2015 Bans

Last year I was banned by Best Buy (I spent over $30,000 there in 2015), Toys R Us (I was only banned from getting their rewards,but I can still order), Bon-Ton (very quick ban trigger).  Maybe others I'm forgetting about.

2016 Bans

The past few months have been very fruitful for bans.

It started with Kohl's.  That wasn't fun but not so bad.  I did a bit of reselling from there but everyone else does too so competition comes in and crushes the price on most items.  Now, they autocancel my orders.  Kohl's let one order go through recently but then the next two were flagged again.  Oh well.

Then came Walmart, which is impressive.  I didn't actually know that was possible.  I can't even enter credit card information.

Next was the dagger to the heart.  Target.  Autocancel orders immediately.  Not only was that one of my favorite stores to resell from, but my wife shops there too :(  That was not a fun conversation with her.

So, for your reselling business sake and, more importantly, for your spouses sake, don't get yourself banned.  It's just not worth it.

Slow and stead wins the race.  If only I listened to my own advice.

Thankfully I still have Staples (for now).  The one good thing is that this gives me even more incentive to work harder finding manufacturers and distributors .  I will miss the portals though.