Welcome to Full-Time FBA

arrow-blue-outline-rightWelcome! On this blog, we talk about our journey towards making FBA our full-time job. We give out free tips and tricks to help you make the most of your time, money, and resources. If you want to subscribe, just fill out the form over on the right side of the screen.

Seller Central Cover Mini x3To show you our appreciation, we’d like to give you a free download link to our newest book, Seller Central Tips: Reimbursements, Refunds, and How To Correct Other Possible Amazon Glitches. When you confirm your subscription, the download link will magically show up in your inbox.

By the way, we hate spam as much as you do, so we only send you stuff that will help you make FBA your full-time job! Let us know if you have any questions.

Stephen & Rebecca Smotherman

How to Handle Unfair Amazon Reimbursements

Unfair ReimbursementsWhen Amazon loses or damages one of your inventory items, it is their policy to either 1) find a replacement for your lost/damaged inventory, or 2) reimburse you the replacement value of your lost inventory (less any applicable FBA and selling on Amazon fees, of course).

This is how most people imagine this reimbursement policy being lived out in real life:

670px-Put-a-Rubik's-Cube-Back-Together-Step-1“You find a great item to resell, price it competitively at $24.99, and send it to an Amazon FBA warehouse. Amazon accidentally drops and breaks your item, so they now owe you a reimbursement. Amazon takes your $24.99 selling price, takes out the fees as if you had sold the item, and then reimburses you $18.42.”

Unfortunately, this is not how many Amazon reimbursements work out. Did you know that when Amazon reimburses you for lost or damaged items, they have specific rules they are supposed to follow when coming up with the amount they are to reimburse you? It might surprise you to know that Amazon sometimes (not all the time) fails to follow their own reimbursement rules.

Here are the set of factors Amazon is supposed to consider when calculating the reimbursement amount:

  1. Your sales history – Is this an item you sell often, and what is the price you usually sell it for?
  2. The current average FBA selling price – What is the average of the most recent (no number is given) sales prices for that item.
  3. Other factors (Amazon doesn’t explain what these “other” factors are).
  4. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 3.54.14 PMIf Amazon doesn’t have enough information to establish a reasonable value for an item, then the replacement value is determined based on a default replacement value from the table pictured to the right.

Here’s the deal… I have never ever seen a reimbursement that has followed the above table, so in my experience, Amazon comes up with their own reimbursement amounts based on something other than this table, something a bit more subjective.

In reality, this is how Amazon’s reimbursement policy is lived out more times than not:

728px-Disassemble-a-Rubik's-Cube-Step-3“You find a great item to resell, price it competitively at $24.99, and send it to an Amazon FBA warehouse. Amazon accidentally drops and breaks your item, so they now owe you a reimbursement. Amazon takes your $24.99 selling price, and somehow decides to reimburse you only $10.54.”

Did you notice that? If Amazon took your FBA selling price, and took out the correct fees, then they should have reimbursed you $18.42, not $10.54. What’s going on? The truth is, I’m not sure what’s going on, but I do know what to do to get the reimbursement you think you deserve.

How to know if you received a fair reimbursement:

  1. When you get a reimbursement, do some quick research.
    1. Research Part 1:
      1. Take the ASIN and put it in the Amazon.com search bar and find the product page.
      2. Click on the link to view the current FBA offers.
      3. Take 3-5 of the current lowest FBA sales prices and find an average. This number will be your current FBA average selling price.
    2. Research Part 2:
      1. Take the ASIN and put it in the FBA revenue calculator.
      2. Input the current FBA average selling price (that you calculated above) on the Item Price line under the Amazon Fulfillment column.
      3. Click the yellow Calculate button.
      4. Write down two numbers: the Cost (Amazon fees) and the Margin Impact (your profits after fees)
    3. Research Part 3:
      1. Repeat Research Part 2, but instead of the current FBA average selling price, use your original selling price you had priced for that item.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.13.40 PMCompare your Margin Impact number of the current FBA average selling price (found in Research Part 1) with your reimbursement amount. Also, compare your Margin Impact with your original selling price with the actual reimbursement amount.
  3. Screen Shot 2016-08-16 at 3.10.48 PMIf the difference is big, then it’s time to open up a ticket with Amazon and request an additional reimbursement (more on that in a minute).
  4. If the difference is small, then just let it go and move on with your business. Opening up a ticket with Amazon and dealing with getting a higher reimbursement amount can take some time. So, for most cases, it’s not worth your time to fight a reimbursement that is only a few dollars difference. Value your time and only fight a low reimbursement when you think it’s worth the time to dispute it.

How to get the reimbursement you deserve:

  1. Open up a ticket with Amazon. If you’re not familiar with the process, here is a quick video from our YouTube channel on how to open up a ticket with Amazon.
  2. Screen Shot 2016-08-15 at 8.17.09 PMWhen contacting Amazon, choose the option to open a ticket about Fulfillment By Amazon, and then click FBA Issue. Yes, it’s redundant, but it’s how Amazon has things set up right now.
  3. Click on the Something Else button.
  4. Choose your method of communication. Personally, I like to use email because there is a written record of the communication, and I can communicate without being interrupted.
  5. Enter the ASIN in question for the reimbursement in the proper field.
  6. In the “Please Describe your Issue” field, write this:
    “I received a reimbursement for ASIN __________, but it was not a fair reimbursement amount. I was reimbursed $$10.54, when I should have been reimbursed $18.42. I have calculated the correct reimbursement number using my sales history (My average selling price is $24.99) as well as the current FBA sales prices (the current FBA average selling price is $24.76). Here is the math:
    $24.99 (my sales price) – $6.57 (applicable fees) = $18.42 (correct reimbursement amount.
    Would you please approve an additional reimbursement of $7.88 ($18.42 – $10.54 = $7.88)? I would really appreciate it. Thank you for your time.”
  7. Click Send and a new case will be opened.

Keep Calm Do the mathWhen you go to the trouble to show the Amazon representative that you’ve done the math and spell it out for them, they are much more likely to approve your additional reimbursement request than if you only complained about your reimbursement amount. You’ve basically done all the work for them and they don’t have much to argue with.

When you open up a new case for an additional reimbursement, someone who works for Amazon will review your case and will reply. When you get a reply, one of three things will happen:

  1. You will get the reimbursement that you deserve. (YAY!)
  2. You will be requested to provide more information such as a receipt or invoice of that item.
  3. You will get a form letter from an Amazon employee that probably didn’t read your entire message and is just responding with a “copy and paste” reply that basically states back Amazon’s current reimbursement policies. They will then close the case.

If Amazon asks for more information (like a receipt):

ReceiptsI don’t know why Amazon asks for a receipt or invoice in order to get a proper reimbursement of a lost or damaged item. It might be in case you never really sent Amazon the item, and Amazon says they lost it, but in reality you never sent it, so Amazon wants proof you actually purchased it to sell on Amazon. No matter the case, I have never sent Amazon a receipt in reply to this response. Here is how I reply:

“I’m not sure why you are asking for a receipt or invoice in order to determine the proper reimbursement amount for this item. The reimbursement amount is supposed to be calculated by looking at my sales history, as well as the current FBA selling prices.”

I would then copy and paste the math I provided earlier so that all the information is in one place for the Amazon rep to make a decision.

If your request for an additional reimbursement was declined and the case was closed:

escalate-300x2911If you didn’t get the additional reimbursement you expected, the next step is to re-open the case. When you re-open the case, be sure to ask that the case be “escalated” and for that Amazon rep to hand the case off to one of their supervisors. Be sure you use the word “escalate” because the Amazon employees know and understand that word and that you mean business. You can re-open the case and communicate something like this:

“Thank you for your response, but it did not solve the issue. I would like to escalate this case to your supervisor. Please have your supervisor read through our previous communications and reply to me at their earliest convenience. Thanks and have a great day.”

Usually when you escalate a case, your request will be forwarded to the Amazon rep’s supervisor who will more than likely approve your request.

Stickerline-elsa-let-it-goIf, after all this, Amazon still doesn’t reimburse you any more, then it’s time to let it go and move on with your business, but the majority of the time you will end up with an additional reimbursement.

For more information about Amazon’s FBA Lost and Damaged Inventory Reimbursement Policy, just click here.

Want more? Two fantastic resources to make sure you’re getting all the reimbursements you deserve are The Amazon Refund Guide (a do-it-yourself book for all things reimbursements) and AMZSuite (a really affordable service that does most of your reimbursement work for you). We have personally used both of these resources and found great success at getting reimbursements!

So how about you? This is how I handle unfair reimbursements, but do you have any more ideas on how to get the reimbursement amount you deserve? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Amazon’s New Inventory Liquidation Program – How to Get Paid for Removing Inventory From Amazon

There are multiple situations where it’s in your best interest to remove some of your items from your Amazon FBA inventory. Here are just a few:

  • To remove dead inventory that seems like it will never sell
  • To avoid long term storage fees
  • Because the item has become restricted and you can no longer sell it
  • To lower your monthly storage fees on larger items
  • and more…

Before August 2016, there were only two options if you wanted to remove your inventory: You could have it returned to you or have it destroyed. This month, Amazon has added a new option called Amazon Liquidate. If you choose to liquidate some of the items in your inventory, then it’s possible that you will actually get paid for “selling” your items to a liquidator via Amazon. I’ll give you the details of how much money you could get later on in this post.

The Amazon Inventory Liquidation Program is still in beta, so it might not be available to every Amazon seller, but Amazon plans on trying out this program to see if it can help both Amazon and Amazon sellers make some money from sellers liquidating some of their inventory.
Liquidation screen shot 2Here’s how the program works:

  1. You chose the specific items you want to be removed from your inventory.
  2. You are given the option to return, dispose, or liquidate your items. Note: If the liquidate option is not available, then either that option has not rolled out to your account yet or that item has already been deemed ineligible for liquidation.
  3. Once you submit your items for liquidation, Amazon will spend up to 60 days looking for a liquidator who is interested in buying your chosen liquidation inventory.
  4. During the 60 days, Amazon will not charge you any Long Term Storage Fees (THIS IS HUGE).
  5. During the 60 days, Amazon also will not charge you any Monthly Storage Fees for items successfully liquidated.
  6. If Amazon finds a buyer for the items you submitted for liquidation, Amazon will keep 10% of the liquidation payment and will give you the remaining 90%. Note: It’s pretty normal for a liquidator to only offer to buy liquidation items for around 10% of the average selling price, so basic math tells me you can expect to receive around 9% of the average selling price as a liquidation payment.
  7. If Amazon does not find a buyer in 60 days, then once again you are left with 2 options to remove your inventory: return or dispose.
  8. Once an inventory item has been selected to be liquidated, there are no options for you to cancel this process.
  9. Payments for all liquidated items will appear in the “Miscellaneous adjustments” section of your Payments Report in Seller Central. You should receive the payment within 60 days from the date you submitted the liquidation.
  10. If you don’t get the liquidation payment, then it’s a good idea to open up a ticket with Seller Central and have them investigate.

Liquidation screen shot 1

So when are the best times to use the Amazon Inventory Liquidation Program?

  • If you think you can get more from the liquidation program than from any other method of selling that item (like on eBay, at a garage sale, through Craigslist, etc)
  • If you would have originally paid to dispose of that inventory, then liquidate it and possibly get paid for it instead.
  • If you don’t want to deal with returning items to your house/business.

Amazon LiquidateThe Amazon Inventory Liquidation Program is still brand new, and even Amazon says there is no guarantee they won’t suddenly pull it without warning. It’s an interesting option, however, to think about when you’re faced with removing items from your inventory.

If you’re curious how to set up a removal order (either to return, dispose, or liquidate) on Amazon via Seller Central, check out this quick video:

So what do you think about the new Amazon Inventory Liquidation Program? Do you think you’ll try it out? If you do, be sure to check back here and share your experience with the rest of us.

The 2 Best Retail Arbitrage Sourcing Strategies

RA Sourcing StrategiesRetail arbitrage can be very profitable. The feeling of anticipation when you walk into a retail store is extremely motivating. I always advise other resellers to grab a shopping cart when they first enter a store because they need to be mentally ready for a big haul. Now, the big haul doesn’t always happen, but it’s still good to be prepared in case you do find tons of potentially profitable inventory.

Retail arbitrage is a method of sourcing inventory from retail stores in order to sell it through Amazon. When you’re doing retail arbitrage (or RA, as it’s often abbreviated), you are looking for items you can buy at a low price in retail stores and sell high on Amazon. “Buy low, sell high” is the definition of arbitrage in a nutshell, and retail sources for arbitrage are a staple for many Amazon FBA sellers.

I got my start on Amazon FBA by sourcing at mostly garage sales and thrift stores, and I was able to build up my Amazon disbursements by buying inventory at a ridiculously low price (e.g. books for 25 cents or a dime) and selling it for 1000% return on investment (ROI). After a while, my disbursements were sufficiently large that I didn’t have enough time to spend the entire amount of the disbursement at garage sales and thrift stores – I was starting to have more money than time.

targetstoreThe next step for me was to scale my Amazon FBA business by transitioning to retail arbitrage. Garage sales and thrift stores can provide amazing ROI, but you typically can only buy one-off products at these sources. You can have a great day of sourcing and find 50 items, but you have to enter 50 MSKUs into your inventory as a result.

Retail arbitrage provides the ability to scale the business by buying multiples. It’s possible to find 50 items at one RA stop, and it’s possible to have a much smaller number of MSKUs because of multiples. Fewer MSKUs means less hassle down the road in maintaining your inventory in Seller Central – fewer times to reprice, fewer chances for listing issues, etc.

And the even better thing about finding multiples at a retail source? The potential for replenishing. If you can find a replenishable item through RA sourcing, you automatically know how you can spend part of your capital the next time you have it available. The more replens you can find, the less time it takes you to source each disbursement cycle. Buy a replen, send it in, sell it, get a disbursement, buy that replen again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

walmart-superEvery seller likes to do RA a little differently, and it’s really a matter of trying out different things to see what you prefer. Everyone also has a different schedule, different family commitments, different number of stores available within driving distance. Some sellers like to go out to do RA for a couple of hours every day while their kids are in school. Others can only go on the weekends or evenings when they’re off work from their 9-to-5 job.

For me, I typically spend one full day doing RA every 1 to 2 weeks. I would rather spend all day driving to different stores and get all my sourcing done in one day, instead of breaking it up and doing a little here and there each day.

When I spend a day doing RA, I have two main strategies for how I spend my time:

Store Signs1. Source all the stores in one area

One strategy I use is to choose an area of town where I will focus for the day. The benefit of using this method is that I can hit a large amount of stores in a small amount of time with minimal driving. I use this strategy when I don’t have very much time to spend driving, and I don’t have any good leads on items that I already know I want to buy.

After I decide on the neighborhood, I plan out a route on Google Maps where I go to that neighborhood’s WalMart, Target, Kohl’s, TJMaxx, Marshalls, Walgreens, etc, one after the other. The next time I’m doing RA, I’ll pick a different neighborhood and plan a similar route.

Target Route2. Source multiple locations of one store

The second strategy I use for RA is when I have a good lead on some items to source at one particular retail store. Maybe there’s a big sale going on at a chain of stores, or maybe I have some replens that I need to restock.

In these instances I plan my driving route for the day to cover a larger radius from my home, but I only put one or two stores in the route. For example, I might go to every Target in a 30 mile radius in one day. Depending on where you live, a 30 mile radius might be too many Targets for one day – in that case, using this RA strategy could give you several days worth of work.

I also use this method when I know a chain is doing a big seasonal clearance. I’ll even call ahead to the store branches to make sure that each one in the chain is already doing the clearance before I drive all the way out there.

Walmart ManagerBuilding relationships with managers is a helpful way to plan for sourcing days in this second strategy. I have the names and phone numbers of managers at certain stores in my area, and I give them a call from time to time to see if they know anything about the timing for upcoming sales. If I can be one of the first to know about a clearance event, I can plan my sourcing schedule so that I’m one of the first shoppers to see the clearanced products. I even have managers in some stores who know that I buy a lot of items at a time, and they text me to come clear out their inventory for them!

Using these two strategies doesn’t have to mean that you choose one over the other on any given day. More than once I’ve set out for the day with the goal of using the first strategy, but I found a couple of really awesome deals early on in the day at one store. At that point I rerouted my day to only go to that one chain for the rest of the day. Sometimes you gotta ride the wave and go where the deals take you!

Do you have any retail arbitrage strategies you use that are different from these two? Do you prefer to go to many stores in one area of town for RA or to go to one store in multiple parts of town? Please share your experiences with us in the comments!

7 Ways to Save Money So You Can Spend More on Inventory

Save Money Spend MoreWho doesn’t love to save a little time and money?

I would prefer to save a lot of time and money, but hey, every little bit counts when we’re trying to make a profit at Amazon FBA. Any time I can save money on shipping supplies or other areas of my business, I can use that saved money to buy more inventory – and buying more inventory is how I would prefer to spend my money in my business!

All of the tips I’m going to share with you in this post should be either free or next to free. I hope you find these tips super practical and easy to implement right away in your Amazon FBA business, no matter what stage of business you’re in.

Before I get into my tips, I want to invite others to add their advice to the comments at the bottom. Let’s make this post our most-commented post ever! We all have knowledge and experience that others can benefit from, so please share your wisdom and be a blessing to others in the Amazon FBA community today.

Also, if you want to see these tips in action, scroll to the bottom of this post to watch a video of Stephen demonstrating them.

Now…here we go…my top Amazon FBA hacks to save money:

brownbox21. Use free boxes from grocery stores for Amazon FBA shipments.

Especially in the early stages of your FBA business, there’s no need to pay for shipping boxes when you can get them free from grocery stores, friends who have recently moved, or other places who are just going to recycle their old boxes. Find out from store employees when they’ll be restocking the shelves, and stores are generally happy for you to come take the empty boxes out of the aisles for them.

2. On a similar note, use the boxes from online arbitrage purchases to send in Amazon FBA shipments.

We do a significant amount of our sourcing through online arbitrage, so we just turn around and send our shipments to Amazon in the online stores’ boxes. Just make sure you remove or cover up any previous barcodes before putting on the Amazon and UPS label.

AirPouch-Open-Box-w-EarthAware-Biodegradable-Pillows3. Use free dunnage for your Amazon FBA shipments.

Dunnage (isn’t that a weird word?!) is the stuff you put in a shipment to pad the items and keep them from touching the sides of your shipping box. Here are a few ideas for things to use for dunnage:

  • air pillows from online arbitrage purchases
  • blank newspaper
  • plastic grocery bags filled with printed newspaper and tied off (do not let newsprint come into contact with your inventory in the shipment)
  • small cardboard boxes

3117TC++78L4. Use lighter fluid to remove residue from price stickers.

I usually recommend using Goo Gone for removing price sticker residue, but if you don’t want to rush out and buy a new bottle of Goo Gone, you can use lighter fluid if you already have it at your house. (If you want to see how I remove price stickers, check out this video.)

board game closet5. Get FREE inventory from around your house.

We all have items sitting around our house that are brand new or barely used – prime candidates for sending to Amazon and turning into profits. Check out your bookshelves, your kitchen cabinets, your game closet, and your kids’ rooms (with their permission), and you might be surprised what you can find that you don’t use and would actually turn a profit on Amazon.

freecycle_logo6. Get FREE inventory from Freecycle.org.

You can join a group for your area of town on the Freecycle Network and keep an eye out for items that people are giving away for free. I’ve been able to source free board games (new and used), boxes of books, and other items. If you claim an item on Freecycle, the person will leave it on the porch or sidewalk for you to drop by and pick up on your own time. It’s way easier to coordinate than Craigslist purchases, but please still use safety practices and don’t make pick-ups alone.

facebook-twitter7. Join Amazon FBA Facebook groups to get tons of free FBA business information.

One of the easiest ways to absorb free information from the FBA community is to join Facebook groups, search and read the archived posts, and ask questions. We have a Full-Time FBA Facebook group that we would love for you to join, and there’s tons of other groups you can search for on Facebook as well.

Those are my top tips for getting FREE items so that you can use the money you save on buying inventory instead. Let me know in the comments if you know of any other awesome ways to save money on supplies for your business.

Here’s the video (Amazon FBA Hacks to Save Time and Money) with these tips in action:

How to Use Inventory Lab to Track Supplier Profitability

Inventory Lab, Track, Supplier, Profitability

Let’s talk profitability, shall we?

You’ve likely heard us mention that we use the Inventory Lab software package to streamline our process of listing inventory on Amazon FBA and for sourcing inventory through the Scoutify app. Today we want to share with you another feature of Inventory Lab that we’ve come to depend on: the ability to track supplier profitability through Inventory Lab reports.

175_InventoryLabSometimes it’s easy as a reseller to get caught up in the rush of sourcing for inventory, sending it in to the FBA warehouse, and seeing the pending sales in Seller Central. Honestly, isn’t the thrill of the hunt and the excitement of the sales one reason we all do this business?

But if we stop and dig a little deeper into those sales, would we still be as excited about the raw numbers? Sales numbers can be deceiving at times, and if we don’t take the time to look at and think about our actual profit, then we don’t really know if our business is as successful as we want it to be.

Inventory Lab allows you to enter the total cost of an item when you list it on Amazon. Inventory Lab then takes that cost, your sales price, and associated fees to calculate profit and return on investment (ROI). You can see the projected profit and ROI for a batch when you’re listing through Inventory Lab, but you can also run reports to show you the actual profit and ROI based on payments from Amazon for your inventory items.

Supplier Profits

The circled area is where you input the data to help Inventory Lab calculate supplier profitability. Some areas of the screen shot have been blurred out for business privacy.

Prices may change from the time you enter a batch to when the item actually sells – it’s fun to think about a batch having 150% ROI when you send it to the warehouse, but it’s more useful to look at the ROI when you are actually paid for the sale of those items. From time to time we need to stop and analyze our numbers and ask ourselves, “Am I making the ROI I want/need on my inventory? How do I need to tweak my business to get the ROI I want?”

You can take the profitability question a step further by entering not just your total cost for each inventory item, but also the supplier. Then the question becomes, “How do I need to tweak my sourcing from each supplier to get the ROI I want?”

We currently use the supplier profitability report in several ways:

  1. To track how much commission on sales we need to pay our helper who sources for us
  2. To track the profitability of our online arbitrage subscription services
  3. To track the profitability of our wholesale sources

Enter Supplier ProfitsIn order to run the supplier profitability report, you will first need to enter a supplier at the time of listing an item. Inventory Lab comes with many retail sources already listed as options for supplier, but you can easily add your own. For instance, we use our helper’s initials as the supplier when we’re listing items she has sourced for us. We use other abbreviations for tracking each of the OA subscription services we use (e.g. Cyber Monkey Deals is CMD, Gated List is GL, Your Sourced Inventory is YSI, OAXray is OAX, etc).

After this info is entered and enough time has passed to have generated some sales, you can run the supplier profitability report by following these steps:

  • Go to the top menu on Inventory Lab.
  • Click on Reports.
  • Choose Supplier Profitability.

(Note: You will see there are several other useful reports you can run to analyze your inventory’s profitability.)

The default selection will be for the last month, but you can click Advanced Search to choose more date range options. You can choose within the last 1, 3, or 6 months or the entire date range since you started tracking. You can also choose a specific date range from a drop down calendar.

Reports menu

Once you’ve pulled up your report, you can sort by supplier, units sold, revenue, % of revenue, profit, ROI %, and on hand (number of units currently on hand in your inventory).

Suppliers all dates

Depending on the circumstances, each of the fields might carry a different weight for you as a seller in your decisions for how to adapt your business to improve those numbers. Some sellers like to have 100% ROI on everything they sell; others have a business model that supports 50% or even 30% ROI. The point of running these reports isn’t to compare your numbers to someone else, but to look at your own results and see if they meet your own business model’s criteria.

Let’s look now at two practical ways that we use our supplier profitability report.

  1. To track how much commission on sales we need to pay our helper who sources for us

At the beginning of each month, we run the supplier profitability report and look at the line with our helper as the supplier. We look at the dollar amount for the previous month under the Profit column, and we pay her commission out of that amount.

  1. To track the profitability of our online arbitrage subscription services

We also look once a month at the lines for each of our subscription services as the supplier. First, I look at the profit and make sure it’s more than the amount we’re paying for the subscription. This is an easy way to put solid numbers together to show yourself whether or not it’s worth it to pay for that particular subscription.

roiI also will look at trends as far as profit and ROI go. I don’t rush to cancel a long-standing subscription if I randomly have an off month, but I do look at whether a service seems to be deteriorating for me over time and make my decision whether to keep subscribing or not.

I also don’t rush to cancel a subscription if I think that I’m the problem rather than the service. For example, a while back I saw in my monthly report that my units sold and ROI for OAXray were not what I would prefer. A quick look back over my schedule for the previous weeks reminded me that I hadn’t been spending the same amount of time using OAXray each day as I had in the past. Of course those numbers are going to go down! If I’m not prioritizing my time to use the product as often as I should and actually send in items I sourced with it, the problem is me, not the product. So I made some adjustments to my schedule, made more time each day to use OAXray, and the numbers the following month were back up where I wanted them.

We’ve also started using Inventory Lab to track supplier profitability for wholesale sources, and many people use it to track their retail arbitrage sources. Are there other ways you use the supplier profitability report in Inventory Lab? We would love to hear your ideas and experiences in the comments!

If I Had To Start My Amazon FBA Business Over Again With Only $500

Start FBA Over 500Who doesn’t love a do-over?

Hindsight is 20/20, and I’m sure all of us can think of ways we would improve our Amazon FBA businesses if we could start over from scratch. I know I can think of plenty of things I wish I had known back in 2011 when I started selling on Amazon!

Since I don’t have a time machine, I can’t revisit 2011 and get that do-over for my business. Instead, today I’m going to share with you the products and services I would invest in from the very beginning if I had to start over from scratch doing Amazon FBA with only $500.

These items are the essentials, folks. The bare minimum for starting Amazon FBA and finding success in a sustainable yet timely fashion. In fact, you’ll see that with my plan below, of the total $500, you’ll actually get to spend $342 for investing in inventory. Not a bad amount to start sourcing with!

Here are the ways I would spend my $500 if I got to start over on my Amazon FBA business today:

AM-Pro-Sellers1. A Pro Merchant account with Amazon –FREE for first month ($40/month afterwards)

Yes, I know that you can start off with an Individual Merchant account and save the $40 fee per month for the Professional Merchant account. But Individual Merchants pay 99 cents per sale, and a little quick math shows that selling only 40 items per month means you’re paying the same as a Pro Merchant.

There’s one huge benefit, however, to setting up that Pro Merchant account from the very beginning. It gives you accountability, a $40 incentive every month to send in plenty of items to Amazon FBA so that you’re making at least 40 sales per month to make that account worth it from the very beginning. If you can start off giving yourself the goal of at least 40 sales per month, you will gain momentum more quickly than if you allow yourself to be satisfied with only 20 sales.

The Pro Merchant account is also necessary for other reasons that we’ll get into below.

175_InventoryLab2. Inventory Lab for listing and sourcing – FREE for first month ($49/month afterwards)

We use Inventory Lab to process our FBA inventory, list it on Amazon, and keep track of our accounting for that inventory. You can list your inventory directly through Seller Central, but the process is much slower than listing through a 3rd party program like Inventory Lab. Using Inventory Lab allows me to touch each inventory item fewer times during the listing process because I can label it and divide it into shipments at the time of listing, rather than waiting until I’m finished listing everything.

Inventory Lab comes bundled with the Scoutify sourcing app, which I use for scanning inventory at retail stores, garage sales, and thrift shops. I prefer to use Scoutify rather than the Amazon Seller app mainly because Scoutify gives me direct access to sales rank and price history on CamelCamelCamel and Keepa, which is essential for me to a make a smart sourcing decision.

You must be a Pro Merchant to sign up for Inventory Lab, another benefit to going ahead and making the commitment as a Pro Merchant from the very beginning.

If you sign up for Inventory Lab through our link here, you can get a free 30-day trial of their listing software and Scoutify sourcing app. After the first month, Inventory Lab and Scoutify cost $49/month, but they are absolutely worth it to my business.

41MNr5dy0HL3. Barcode scanner – $22

A barcode scanner connects to your laptop through USB and saves a ton of time (and errors!) when entering the UPCs from the barcodes on your inventory. Simply place the cursor in the correct field of your listing program, scan the barcode, and presto! No more squinting at tiny numbers and pecking out the UPC on your keyboard.

Every little bit of time counts when you’re working at building an Amazon FBA business, and using a barcode scanner is a simple way to help scale your business more quickly.

41IWrVLa8yL4. DYMO LabelWriter 450 – $70 new, $40 used

A DYMO LabelWriter is another essential for scaling your business and saving precious time. When used in conjunction with Inventory Lab or other 3rd party listing programs, the DYMO will allow you to print a label for each individual item as soon as you have it listed. Scan the item, enter your price and other accounting info, and then print the label. If you have the “live” listing flow turned on in Inventory Lab, you will know at this time which fulfillment center the item will be sent to, and you can sort it into boxes immediately. No need to print 30-up labels and sort back through inventory at the end of your listing process.

s15. Scotty peelers – $6 for 3-pack

These are an essential tool for scraping the price stickers or other residue off my inventory before I send it to Amazon. The Scotty peelers come in a pack of 3, and we use them for several months before the ends become too dull to work easily.

61h-B0szXtL._SL1280_6. Goo Gone – $4

Another must-have item for cleaning up inventory before sending it to the FBA warehouse. Goo Gone takes off the sticky residue left over from price sticker adhesive. (Note: be careful not to use Goo Gone on certain types of non-glossy cardboard boxes or book covers, as it will soak in to the material and stain it.)

81K1bfSxJ5L._SL1500_7. 3-inch tape gun – $13

8. 3-inch tape – $13 for 4-pack

I started out using a 2-inch tape gun when I first began selling via Amazon FBA. That 1-inch difference may not seem like a lot, but it’s a huge difference when it comes to the number of times you have to swipe the tape gun across a shipping box in order for the tape to hold the box flaps together. With the 3-inch tape on my 3-inch tape gun, it’s one swipe, and I’m done – saves time and tape.

FB-Genius9. Feedback Genius – FREE for first 2 months ($20/month afterwards)

Getting control of the buy box is a crucial component of getting sales through Amazon FBA. Some aspects of who controls the buy box are a mystery, but having a positive feedback score is known to be one important factor. Having a high number of positive feedbacks and limiting your number of negatives will help you gain the buy box more often. Feedback Genius is a simple way to automate contacting buyers after a sale in order to limit your negatives and increase your positives. Feedback Genius also alerts you when a negative feedback is received so that you can quickly and appropriately handle it.

I wish I had started using Feedback Genius from the very beginning of my Amazon FBA business. If you sign up through our Full-Time FBA link, you can get 2 months of Feedback Genius for free, along with a bonus of 500 free email messages. Two months and 500 messages will go a long way towards boosting your feedback score!

Using Feedback Genius requires a Pro Merchant account, so go back up to #1 in this list and sign up for that account if you haven’t already!

UPS-Shipping-Labels-110. UPS self-adhesive labels – FREE from UPS.com

UPS offers a great partnered rate for Amazon FBA sellers on their inbound shipments, and they also provide you with free self-adhesive labels to use for your shipments. If you sign up for a free account with UPS.com, you can order the labels to be sent directly to you.

brownbox211. Shipping boxes – FREE from grocery stores, friends, etc

In the early days of just starting an Amazon FBA business, I recommend getting free shipping boxes from friends who have just moved, from grocery stores, or from other locations where people are wanting to recycle their boxes. Just make sure they’re sturdy enough to hold the weight of your shipment, and cover or remove any previous barcodes before adding your Amazon and UPS shipping labels.

61sL7QYmSwL._SL1500_12. Scale – $30

If you don’t already have a scale at your house, you will need to buy one in order to weigh your inbound shipments to the Amazon FBA warehouse. You can get a scale on Amazon for about $25-30.

In summary, here’s a list of the items and prices:

  1. A Pro Merchant account with Amazon –FREE for first month ($40/month afterwards)
  2. Inventory Lab for listing and sourcing – FREE for first month ($49/month afterwards)
  3. Barcode scanner – $22
  4. DYMO LabelWriter 450 – $70 new, $40 used
  5. Scotty peelers – $6 for 3-pack
  6. Goo Gone – $4
  7. 3-inch tape gun – $13
  8. 3-inch tape – $13 for 4-pack
  9. Feedback Genius – FREE for first 2 months ($20/month afterwards)
  10. UPS self-adhesive labels – FREE from UPS.com
  11. Shipping boxes – FREE from grocery stores, friends, etc
  12. Scale – $30

NOTE: Prices of these tools and services will change over time, so be sure you double-check all prices and fees before purchasing. Some prices might go up, while other prices might go down.

If you add up the amount of those items for the first month of starting an Amazon FBA business, the total comes to $158. That leaves us with $342 to spend on buying inventory. I would recommend looking for low cost (or even free!) inventory with low ranks and high return on investment (ROI), so that you can reinvest your profits and grow your available capital quickly. When I started Amazon FBA, I frequented garage sales and thrift shops while I was learning the ins and outs of how the business works and while my capital was growing. I would follow that same method again today.

If you would like to watch a video where I show the items from the above list, check out this video on our YouTube channel:

Do you have anything you would add to this list? Or do you have questions about any of the items or services I mentioned? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Overcoming Your Fear of Handling Sales Tax

Fear of Sales TaxToday we have a guest post from Mark Faggiano. Mark is the founder and CEO of TaxJar. We hope you find the information as helpful as we have.

I get it. Sales tax can be confusing and intimidating. The rates change from location to location. The laws change from state to state. And don’t get me started on the legalese. What the heck is “nexus” anyway?

TJ_logo_color_office_pngAs the founder of TaxJar, I talk to eCommerce sellers of all experience levels every day. Over and over I’ve found that several common fears prevent sellers from tackling sales tax. These include:

1. Sales tax is governed at the state level – Sales tax laws are created at the state level, so there’s no central, overarching “IRS” for sales tax in the U.S. For this reason, one state might consider some items (like groceries or textbooks) taxable, while another might not. Or one state might want sellers to file their sales tax returns on the last day of the month while another will want to hear from that same seller on the 20th day of the month.  Dealing with multiple states’ laws can present a major challenge right out of the gate for eCommerce sellers.

targetstore2. Sales tax laws were written for brick-and-mortar businesses – Another reason sales tax can be so intimidating? The laws simply weren’t written with eCommerce sellers in mind. The language and thinking around many sales tax laws simply don’t apply.  For example, sometimes shipping charges aren’t taxable if a customer has the option to physically pick up a product at your location. This is, of course, impossible for Amazon sellers (among others). States are still interpreting their laws when it comes to online sellers.

3. There are a lot of rumors and misinformation out there – I demystify sales tax misconceptions every day. Common rumors include that online sellers don’t have to charge sales tax at all, or that Amazon takes care of all sales tax obligations if you use their sales tax collection service. Sales tax can seem much more complicated when you’re trying to untangle fact from fiction.

But fortunately…

gettting-startedGetting started is the hardest part – How many times have you dreaded a task like going to the gym or tackling a stack of laundry only to find that things are smooth sailing once you get started? Sales tax is the same way. Once you get started, it all clicks into place. Remember – states want you to collect sales tax from your buyers because it funds their budget items like roads and schools. And tools like TaxJar are here to help when you get stuck.

Now that I’ve talked about why sales tax is so intimidating, let’s demystify it together.

The 5 Basic Steps to Sales Tax Compliance


1. Determine your sales tax nexus states.

“Nexus” is Latin for a “tie” or “connection,” and sales tax nexus simply means that you have a tie or connection to a state that requires you to collect sales tax from buyers in that state. As I mentioned above, every state’s laws are different, but a few common factors generally create nexus: having a location or personnel in the state, attending a trade show in the state, or having other ties, such as a 3rd party affiliate or trade show presence, in a state.

Also, with the recent exception of Virginia, storing inventory in a state creates sales tax nexus in that state. This is where Amazon sellers often run into the intimidation factor. That’s why, if you are a new online seller, we often recommend starting with your home state when it comes to sales tax.

You can read a whole lot more about how to determine your sales tax nexus states in our free Sales Tax for Amazon FBA Sellers guide.

sales-tax-permit2. Register for a sales tax permit in your nexus state(s).

Once you’ve determined your nexus states, your next step is to register for a sales tax permit in that state.

Don’t skip this step! Most states consider it unlawful to collect sales tax without a permit. (They’re suspicious, and afraid you’ll tell customers you’re collecting sales tax while really keeping that extra percentage of the sale in your pocket.)

You can find step-by-step guides to registering for a sales tax permit by state here.

When you register for your sales tax permit, the state will tell you how often and on what dates they want you to file a sales tax return.

tax3. Collect sales tax from your buyers.

Once your business is registered to collect sales tax in a state, your next step is to ensure you’re collecting sales tax from your buyers in that state. If you sell on multiple channels, be sure you’re collecting sales tax on all of your shopping carts.

Out of the most popular shopping carts, Amazon has one of the most sophisticated when it comes to sales tax settings. To use Amazon’s sales tax settings, you’ll need to be a Pro Seller and then tell Amazon in which states you’d like to collect. You can find step-by-step instructions for setting up your Amazon sales tax settings here.

tax_return14. Report how much sales tax you’ve collected.

When it comes time to file your sales tax return, your next step is to report how much sales tax you’ve collected from customers in each state.

Unfortunately this isn’t as simple as sending the states a single amount. The vast majority of states want you to break down how much sales tax you’ve collected by city, county and other special taxing district. In essence, they require you to help them distribute the funds collected to the right part of the state.

This is where sales tax automation can help. Tools like TaxJar will integrate all of the channels you sell on and give you all of your sales tax collected in return-ready reports. As your business grows more complex, automation takes sales tax off your plate.

Tax Return5. File your sales tax return(s).

Now that you’ve reported how much sales tax you owe, your final step is to file your sales tax return and remit payment to the state.

You have a few options here. You can take your sales tax report and file online, or you can let a sales tax automation service file your sales tax for you. Either way, be sure you file on time to avoid fine and penalties. Some states will even give you a sales tax discount for filing on time! That means you get to keep a small amount of the sales tax you collected in your pocket!

Also don’t forget to file every time you have a sales tax return due, even if you don’t owe any sales tax to the state. Some states will fine you or even revoke your license for forgetting to file.

And that’s it – you’ve successfully mastered sales tax!

I know this is a lot of information, but most sellers tell me that once you face the learning curve, handling sales tax will become just another routine (but not necessarily fun) part of your business – like counting inventory or recording expenses.

Do you have questions or comments? Ask here or over in our Sales Tax for eCommerce Sellers Facebook Group.

For a much more in-depth explanation of sales tax, download our free Sales Tax for Amazon FBA Sellers guide.

mark_headshot_web_hAuthor Mark Faggiano is the founder and CEO of TaxJar, a service built to make sales tax compliance simple for eCommerce sellers. Click this link to get a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax compliance headaches from your life!

8 Tips for Making The Most of Amazon Prime Day

In 2015, Amazon decided to celebrate its 20th birthday with a huge day of sales called Prime Day. Amazon promised its Prime customers would see even more deals on Prime Day than on Black Friday. The sale ended up living up to the hype as Amazon reported selling 398 items per second (source) that day.

This year, on July 12th, Prime Day is back. Amazon is promising even more sales than the year before. In fact, they are going to start with early exclusive Prime deals starting July 5th and every day afterward leading up to the big day. With these pre-Prime Day deals, I think Amazon is basically “priming” their customers to buy even more on Prime Day (see what I did there?).

Here are some timely tips on how to make the most of Amazon Prime Day:

1. You might be tempted to buy some of the Prime Day deals to flip right back on Amazon. Don’t forget that it’s against Amazon’s rules to buy items using Prime shipping that you intend to resell on Amazon. This is a rule that many new Amazon sellers don’t know, but could get you in a lot of trouble if broken.

EBay_logo.svg2. Even though you can’t use Prime to buy inventory for Amazon, you can still use it to buy inventory to sell on other platforms like eBay, craigslist, or anywhere else you can make a profit.

3. Search the Prime deals for items you can use in your business, like shipping supplies, office supplies, a new processing laptop, or anything else you can deduct as a business expense.

4. Last year, other stores responded to Amazon’s plan for Prime Day with special sales of their own. Be sure you look at other online stores to see if they have special deals going on that day. I know Walmart had a big sale last year in response to Prime Day. I’m sure they (and other stores) will be doing so this year, too.

LC_OFF_Body_NLP5. In preparation, right now is a good time to reprice some of your inventory. With more people shopping on Amazon on Prime Day (as well as the days leading up to it), there is a greater chance for you to get increased sales. Be sure you competitively reprice your items to maximize your profits. Here is a post on how to manually reprice your inventory and another post with some smart repricing strategies to bring in quick sales.

6. Not only should you reprice your inventory to get more sales, you might want to reprice the inventory you have that will be charged a Long Term Storage Fee (LTSF). Remember, in one month Amazon will be charging you a LTSF. If you need some help with this, here is how to find out what items (and exactly how much) you’ll be charged come August 15th, and seven tips on how to avoid the Long Term Storage Fees.

July-127. Set a reminder on your calendar for July of 2017 and be sure you are ready for Prime Day next year. Even though this is the second consecutive year Amazon has planned a Prime Day, it’s still not for sure if this will become an annual event — but if it does, you want to be sure and be prepared.

8. Have realistic expectations for Prime Day sales. An increase of sales is expected, but overall it will most likely be a nice bump in sales. While some people might have a day filled with tons of amazing sales, that probably won’t be the norm. Don’t get caught up with checking your sales every 10 minutes to see if you have any new sales. And don’t fall into the trap of comparing your sales with others who are posting online. Remember, comparison is the thief of joy. Just enjoy the nice bump in sales and then get back on track with your overall goals for your Amazon business.

If you have any more suggestions about how to make the most of Amazon Prime Day, then leave a comment below. I’d love to hear what you have to say.

Overcoming Your Fear of Training Your Competition via Outsourcing

Fear of Training Your CompetitionWe all need help.

Especially when it comes to running an Amazon FBA business, we need help in order for our business to grow. Sure, there are days when I feel like no one can Tetris the contents of an FBA box quite as well as I can, but in reality my business has more potential to grow if I put down the tape gun and let someone help me.

Many aspects of an FBA business can be outsourced or automated in order to free up my time or expand my capabilities. Tasks such as removing price stickers, poly bagging and shrink wrapping, prepping shoe boxes, listing the inventory, and packing shipping boxes can all be outsourced to someone else. Virtual tasks such as requesting reimbursements, fixing stranded inventory, or searching for online arbitrage leads can be outsourced as well.

There’s one task, however, that many Amazon sellers fear outsourcing more than all other tasks. Sourcing. The actual task of going out and scanning the aisles or the garage sales for inventory to resell.

Over and over we get this question when we tell people we’ve outsourced some aspects of our sourcing:

“Aren’t you afraid of training your competition?”

I can tell you emphatically that the answer is always NO. I don’t at all fear training a competitor. I’ll get into the reasons why I don’t have this fear in moment.

scrollAfter your business reaches a certain level of inventory and sales, it becomes harder and harder for one person to go out and buy enough inventory to maintain business at that level, much less grow beyond that level. It can become tiresome or even impossible to maintain that level of sourcing without becoming more than a one-man-show.

Sourcing is a more specialized skill than removing stickers or packing shipping boxes. Sourcing requires analyzing information and making decisions, and those decisions carry with them a certain amount of risk. Part of what makes each Amazon FBA seller able to excel in their business is their ability to make smart sourcing decisions.

Many sellers fear that if they teach this specialized skill to someone else in order to get help with their sourcing, they risk having that person take their newly acquired skills to go out and start their own competing Amazon business. Here are a few more questions we often get about training other people to source for us:

  • What if they see how much money you’re making at FBA and decide to quit working for you to start their own business?
  • What if they go to the stores in your area and buy all the good inventory for Amazon FBA before you can?
  • What if they get to all the garage sales in your town before you do?
  • What if they keep working for you, but they keep all the good inventory for themselves and only give you sub-par inventory for your business?

worry1We get it. Those are legitimate questions to ask and legitimate risks you are taking when you train someone else to do your sourcing for you. But we feel that the benefits far outweigh the minimal risks. We would rather have the help we need sourcing today than fear something that might or might not (and honestly, likely will not) happen tomorrow.

Here are the reasons we do not fear training our competition to source for us:

1. Not everyone wants to run their own business.

If you’ve been selling on Amazon for any amount of time, you know the time, effort, and money required to invest in running an Amazon business. The return on that investment can be great, but it still takes an upfront investment and ongoing effort to actually do the work of running the business. Not everyone wants to go through that effort of setting up an account, setting up an LLC, setting up programs like Inventory Lab, getting ungated in certain categories etc. Not everyone has the money to invest in a few tools and some inventory (we think it can be done for about $500 to get started) – or wants to spend their money that way. Some people really only want to work for someone else and not have to deal with the responsibilities and headache of being the one in charge. They just want to earn some extra money and be done with work for the day. Just because you train someone to source doesn’t mean that person automatically will want to become the boss.

Abundance_624_3512. We have an abundance mindset when it comes to finding Amazon FBA inventory.

This reason is even bigger for us than the first one is. We truly believe there is more inventory to be found than there are sellers on Amazon. We know for a fact that there is more inventory to be found in our geographic area than our own small business can handle purchasing. If we train someone to source for us and they decide to leave and start their own FBA business, we do not at all worry that we will run out of inventory in our area.

We live in the Fort Worth-Dallas area and belong to a Facebook group of local FBAers. That group has over 200 members. Think about that for a moment. That’s almost 200 people doing FBA in this metropolitan area. Our business has grown year over year since I began selling through FBA in 2011, so I know for a fact that the increasing number of sellers in Fort Worth or Dallas is not affecting my business. Each seller has their own business model, their own strengths at sourcing, their own personal preferences for categories on Amazon. If you send 5 resellers into the same store, it’s likely that all 5 of them would come out of the store with a different set of inventory.

I’m truly not worried about my business if I train someone to help me source and they decide to strike out on their own. There is an abundant amount of inventory in this geographic area, from online stores, and from wholesale sources. Whether you live in a large city or a small town, there are abundant sources for Amazon FBA inventory available today.

If you decide to train someone else to source for you, you only stand to gain from the help. Your business only stands to grow from the increase in inventory. But that other sourcer cannot replace you. No one can source like you. No one has your unique gifts and abilities at making decisions for your business. No one knows your own business like you do and your categories like you do.

If you train someone and they leave to become one more seller on Amazon, bless them in their endeavor and get back to your own business. You have just proven that you can train someone well enough to give them confidence to be independent. Get out there and train another person now.

3d-cover1-738x1024(If you’re ready to take the leap to train someone to source for you, we highly recommend Ryan Grant’s book Outsourcing Sourcing. We used this guide when we hired our first sourcing help and found it tremendously useful.)

SAVE TODAY: Use coupon code FBA30 at checkout and save 30% off the price of the book today!

Have you tried enlisting help in sourcing for Amazon FBA? Are you afraid of training your competition or do you have an abundance mindset? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.