The Full-Time FBA Quiz – Are You Ready?

keep-calm-and-be-your-own-boss-7Has it been your dream to work from home and be your own boss? In today’s world, being your own boss is becoming more and more realistic every day. But do you have the characteristics needed to become a successful work-at-home entrepreneur? I know that not everyone who reads this blog has the goal of making FBA their full-time job. Many of you subscribed to the blog to take advantage of all the free tips and how to articles that we post weekly. But if your goal is to make FBA your full-time job, then take this little quiz and see how you stack up. These questions will help you determine whether or not you are ready to take the plunge. Count each “yes” and then see how you stack up. Let’s get started.

1. Do you like work that offers challenge, change, variety, and even some elements of risk?
2. Are you willing to invest your own money in your Amazon business venture?
3. Are you comfortable with NOT receiving a predictable paycheck?
4. Are you willing to spend as much time and effort as it takes to make your business successful?
5. Do you actually enjoy the day-to-day details of running your Amazon business?
6. Are you flexible enough to deal with the ever changing market of supply and demand?
7. Do you enjoy learning more and more about being a successful Amazon seller?
8. Are you able to bounce back and learn from failures or temporary setbacks?
9. Are you optimistic, passionate, and persistent about your work?
10. Are you confident that you are capable of being a successful as an Amazon seller?

Count up the number of times you said Yes above and see how you stack up below:

boss-300x3008 to 10 – Full Steam Ahead – If you answered Yes to 8 to 10 of the above questions, then you most likely have what it takes to start moving towards making FBA your full-time job. You are someone willing and able to take calculated risks based on both your experience and solid information. You’re probably even energized by selling on Amazon because it offers you opportunities to master challenges and grow. You’re an independent thinker, but willing to listen to the wisdom and advice of others. I’m not telling you to quit your day job just yet, but you seem to have the main ingredients for a successful transition into full-time FBA.

5 to 7 – Move Forward Slowly – If you answered Yes to 5 to 7 of the above questions, then you have some of the key characteristics, but you need to move ahead slowly. Take a moment to write down your strengths and weaknesses (both personally and in business) and determine what you need to develop before you start making the transition towards selling on Amazon as your full-time job. Capitalize on your strengths, and seek to improve upon your weaknesses. Read as much as you can about selling on Amazon, working at home, and what it takes to be a successful entrepreneur. There are so many affordable ebooks you can find to help improve upon your weaknesses (some are even free!).

bigstock-obstacle-ahead-caution-for-dan-415158880 to 4 – Prepare For a Hard Journey – If you answered Yes to 4 or fewer of the above questions, then you have a hard road ahead of you. I’m not at all telling you to ditch the goal of working for yourself completely. If you still cringe at the idea of being an employee for someone else, do not fear, there is still hope. The road will be harder, but it’s still possible to overcome the obstacles ahead and become a successful work-at-home entrepreneur. If you are determined to make this work, then take that passion and move forward very, very slowly. Read as much as you can on all areas of your business. Take online courses like The Proven Amazon Course and Amazon Basic Training. These courses help walk you through step by step what you need to do to succeed in selling on Amazon.

No matter how you scored on this quiz, I truly believe that you can be successful with selling on Amazon via FBA. Whether you end up working FBA as a full-time job or you use FBA as a side business or hobby, you can count on this blog to bring you informative and relevant articles that will help take your business to the next level.

For those of you who have set the goal of making FBA your full time job, here are a few final thoughts about starting the journey towards being your own boss and working from home via FBA:

businessplan1. You don’t have to start immediately. Please don’t quit your day job today and jump into Amazon. It takes time to plan, and once you start selling on Amazon, it takes time to build up your income so that you can support yourself and your family. Selling on Amazon FBA is still a relatively new thing, so there is still time to learn as much as you can about what it takes to build a solid, successful, and profitable business. Make a plan, set goals, and take things one step at a time.

2. Success with being a work-at-home entrepreneur is so much easier when you believe in yourself. Being surrounded by family and friends that believe in you is also very helpful. It’s so much easier to believe in yourself when you focus on your skills, interests, and expertise. If there are parts of this business model where you lack confidence, be a reader and learn all you can to boost your skills to the next level.

WV-District-Logo-w-Facebook-Twitter3. You don’t need to go at this alone. Joining FBA-related groups online will surround you with like-minded individuals who are willing to help you along the way. Some examples of quality FBA Facebook groups include ScanPower, Amazon FBA Newbies, Fast Turn Radio, and more! If you prefer email focus groups, I highly recommend Bob Wiley’s FBA Forum.

So how did you score? If you’d like, comment below and share with us how you did. Number 3 (not receiving a regular paycheck) was the biggest hurdle I had to overcome, but over time, I was able to make it work for me. Do you have an obstacle you want to share? Feel free to share in the comments.

 

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. We hate spam as much as you do, so we only send you stuff that will help you make FBA your full-time job!

Stephen & Rebecca Smotherman

Seller Central Tip #5 – Fixing Stranded Inventory

Today we’re discussing our final Seller Central Tip in this series: Tip #5 – Fixing Stranded Inventory.

For a recap of our Seller Central Tips, here are the previous posts:

Tip #1 How to Check if “Returned” Items are Actually Returned to FBA
Tip #2 How to Get Reimbursed for Unfulfillable Inventory
Tip #3 How to Handle FBA Inbound Shipment Problems
Tip #4 How to Check for Reimbursable Lost Items
 

Fixing Stradned Inventory“Stranded inventory” refers to your items at a FBA warehouse that do not have an active offer on the Amazon website. Every few days, we check our inventory to see if any items have popped up in our stranded inventory list, and we take action according to the options provided in the drop-down menu beside each item.

Fix Stranded SidebarTo get started, log into Seller Central, and under the “Inventory” tab click “Manage Inventory.” In the left sidebar, click “Fix Stranded Inventory.” This brings up a list of all your items currently at a FBA warehouse that do not have active offers on Amazon.com. When we first began cleaning up the problems with our inventory on Seller Central several months ago, I (Rebecca) brought up this list and discovered we had six pages (six pages!!) of stranded inventory, requiring several hours of work to sort through the mess and take the appropriate actions. Now, I look at the stranded inventory every few days and never find more than a couple of items at a time that need to be addressed — often, these are items that I’ve already dealt with when checking for unfulfillable inventory, so I don’t need to do anything more with them.

In the “Status” column, you’ll see a few different reasons why your inventory might be “stranded.” The statuses we’ve encountered are Inactive, Incomplete, and Out of Stock. There might be others that we’re unaware of, but these are the ones we’ve personally had to deal with. If you have experience with other statuses, please leave a comment below, and tell us how you dealt with it. Now let’s look at each of these statuses and their implications.

Inactive

Stranded InventoryOne possibility for an inactive status is that an item has been returned by a customer and is unfulfillable, either because the customer damaged it (likely, he or she opened the package) or the customer said it was defective. If you’ve been checking your unfulfillable items as we learned about in Seller Central Tip #2, you will have already created a removal order for these items, and there’s no reason to take further action here. If you haven’t already created the removal order, there’s the option to do so in your stranded inventory list by clicking the drop-down menu under the “Actions” column.

Sometimes, however, there’s a problem in the Amazon system that causes an item to be listed as inactive for no reason that we’ve been able to figure out. In these cases, when we know that the item isn’t unfulfillable, we chose “Relist” from the “Actions” column and fill in the appropriate information in the “Offer” tab of the Amazon product page.

4On occasion we’ve discovered that “Relist” is not an option for certain items, particularly DVDs, automotive items, and health and beauty products. Movies and TV shows by certain studios (Warner Bros. and BBC, to name a couple) have become restricted items in an effort to control authenticity of DVDs for sale on Amazon. Also, anything that may be considered hazmat is restricted. Sometimes these restrictions come into place after you’ve sent an item to a FBA warehouse. In the case of movies, you can create a removal order and try to sell the item on eBay or at your next garage sale. For hazmat issues, sadly we’ve found that Amazon won’t allow us to create the removal order and have the items shipped back to us, for safety reasons. The only option is to cut your losses and have the item destroyed by Amazon.

Out of Stock or Incomplete

Out-of-stock3When I first encountered those six long pages of our stranded inventory, many of our items had the “out of stock” status because of a glitch occuring during the initial process of scanning and entering them in the Amazon system. Somehow, even though we were scanning them into the system as Fulfilled By Amazon and sending them to warehouses across the U.S., the glitch caused them to be recognized as Merchant Fulfilled and listed them as stranded inventory. To fix the problem, I clicked on each “out of stock” item’s “Action” drop-down menu and chose “Change to Fulfilled by Amazon.” Almost immediately these items became available for purchase. Since our initial inventory clean-up, we haven’t encountered this problem again, but if we ever do in the future, we’ll know how to handle it.

These are just a few of the issues we’ve encountered with stranded inventory. Sometimes the fault is ours, sometimes it’s a glitch in the system, sometimes it’s unexplainable. Regardless, you’ll want to check your stranded inventory and see if there are items that you can have relisted and available for purchase — inactive listings do not bring any profit!

Have you encountered these or other problems in your stranded inventory list? We would love to hear from you in the comments below.

My Top 6 Manual Repricing Strategies (#3 Increases My Payout Big Time!)

price-tag-267x300No matter if you have one hundred, one thousand, or even ten thousand items in your Amazon inventory, having your items priced competitively is one of the best ways to increase profits. No matter how long your inventory has been sitting in an Amazon warehouse, it’s very likely that new competition has come into the picture. Once you learn how to reprice your inventory, then it’s time to put that knowledge to work for you. Today I want to teach you my 6 most profitable strategies for repricing inventory.

1. Reprice “old” inventory - The items that have been sitting in a FBA warehouse the longest are most likely the items not priced competitively. I started selling on Amazon in 2011, and thankfully, all of the inventory I sent in in 2011 has sold. One reason is because I regularly reprice the items that have been in my inventory the longest. To sort your inventory to show you what’s been there the longest, simply click on the “Date Opened” column. To sort from oldest to newest, just click on the little triangle under the “Date Opened” text. This will show you the items that have been there the longest (The only instance where this is not the case is for the items in your inventory that you consistently replenish). Look through your oldest inventory and price competitively.

2. Reprice “high quantity” inventory - This one always gives me a big boost in my number of sales and helps me avoid potential long term storage fees. Sort your inventory by clicking on the “available” column. Click on the little triangle under the word “available” to sort that column from most to least. Currently, the item I have the most inventory for has 47 items and a great rank. I’m only a few dollars above the lowest FBA price, so if I competitively reprice that item, then I’ll see an immediate boost in sales. Remember, twice a year (February 15 and August 15) FBA charges a long term storage fee for items that have been at their fulfillment centers for 365 days or longer. This long term storage fee is $22.50 per cubic foot, so it’s a fee you definitely want to avoid at all costs. To provide flexibility, one unit of each applicable product ASIN is exempt from this fee. This means that you need to monitor the items at a FBA warehouse that you have multiple quantities of and make sure they are sold before the long term storage fees kick in.

3. Reprice “high priced” inventory - This one is my favorite, because it usually brings me high dollar profits fast! Sort your inventory by price by clicking on the “Your Price” column. Again, click on the little triangle to sort your price from highest to lowest. Most of the time, my price is still very close to the current low FBA price, but other times, my price is way above the current low FBA price. I do the necessary research and price competitively. Almost as soon as I reprice my high priced items, I get sales. Of course, not all of my high-priced inventory sells out, but the increase in sales of high priced items definitely increases my net payout for that payment cycle.

0074677526400_500X5004. Reprice “newest” inventory - If you have items that sell immediately after they arrive at a FBA warehouse, you may want to make sure that your price is optimized for maximum profit. Just last month I sent in five Elsa dolls to FBA. In the first few hours after arriving I had already sold two at $49.99. I quickly went in and saw that not only was I selling at the lowest FBA price, but the next highest price was $64.99. I immediately raised my price to $64.99 and by the end of the day, I sold out. If I had not been aware of my sales, or if I did not reprice these items fast enough, then I would have missed out on more profit.

5. Reprice “expiring” items – If you sell grocery items or other items that come with an expiration date, then it’s a good idea to reprice any inventory that might be getting close to Amazon’s cut off dates for expiration. Remember, Amazon’s expiration date guidelines state that any items within 50 days of expiring will be removed for disposal by Amazon. If you have any items nearing the 50 day mark, it would be wise to reprice your item to sell ASAP.

41Cq9F-SqgL._SY300_6. Reprice “seasonal” inventory - This is a strategy that I employ the least, but if your business model is more focused on fast nickels (AKA fast turns), then this strategy will bring back some capital for you to invest in other more fast-turning items. There is no way to sort seasonal inventory by columns, so you’ll need to do key word searches on your inventory page. Keywords like Christmas, Easter, Summer, etc will help you find most of your seasonal items. You also might want to scroll through your active inventory to see if you find any other seasonal items that these key words overlook. My business model is more of a well-balanced model as I want to include both fast nickels and slow dimes. I’m ok with waiting a few months for price and demand to rise up to where my current prices are for Summer items. But if you’d rather have that capital back ASAP to invest elsewhere, then this strategy will work great for you.

I’ll do a blog post soon about how I price my inventory, but here is a sneak peek. It’s a combination of many different factors: the price I paid for the item, prices of FBA competition, current sales rank, sales rank history, and pricing history. I even listen to what my intuition tells me when I price my items. After doing this for so long, I’ve started to get a feeling of how to best price my items. My main goal is to price items competitively. Sometimes I want to be the lowest FBA price and sometimes I want to match the lowest FBA price. Other times I price my items above the current low price, because I think I can get more for my items eventually. It’s a detailed process, and I’ll gladly share with you more about my pricing strategies in a later blog.

As always, there will be exceptions to these repricing strategies, but overall, they should help you sell more items and get more capital back into your pocket than if you had left the prices alone.

So what about you? What pricing strategies do you like best? Any strategies you use that I don’t? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

How To Manually Reprice Your Inventory

ID-10044546-resize-380x300You found some great products, bought them, priced them, labeled them, and sent them off to Amazon. Now what do you do? Of course you go out and look for even more inventory, but how often do you think about the prices of your inventory that’s sitting in a FBA warehouse? Prices in brick-and-mortar stores change all the time, and this is equally true with Amazon. As time goes by, your inventory will both gain and lose competition. Other FBA sellers will possibly undercut your sale price, while other sellers might sell out of an item. Just because you priced your item competitively three months ago doesn’t mean that it’s still priced to compete right now.

Smart FBA sellers take the time to evaluate the prices on their items to make sure they are priced to sell quickly and maximize profits. Repricing your inventory on a somewhat regular basis in order to keep prices competitive is a wise business decision. As you think about pricing strategies, you’ll soon learn that repricing doesn’t always mean lowering your price, but can often mean raising your price. We’ll talk more about repricing strategies later this week.

Repricing1

Now, let’s go over how to reprice your items manually. Click on the image to the right to see a visual representation of each step.

1. Log in to Seller Central

2. On the top left of the screen, click “Inventory.”

3. On the left sidebar, under “show my inventory,” click on “Active.” This will show you what items are currently in stock (no need to reprice something you don’t have in stock anymore).

4. The default setting is to sort your inventory by Merchant SKU, but you can change that to however you want to sort your inventory (by product name, date created, quality available, your price, and fulfilled by).

5. In this list, Amazon provides you with the current low price + shipping for each item, but be very careful with this information. Sometimes Amazon will give you the lowest used price even if you are selling a new item. It’s always best to open up the individual item’s product page to see for yourself what the current buy box price is, as well as what the competition is selling that item for, and then decide for yourself how you want to price your item. A quick click on the ASIN/ISBN link will open up the Amazon product page where you can get all the info you need to reprice wisely. Note: If you see a little check mark in the “Low Price” column, that means that you have the current lowest price.

6. If you’re looking to reprice a specific item, you can search for that item in the search bar located near the top left of the screen. You can search by product name, SKU, ASIN, or ISBN.

7. Under the “Your Price” column, you’ll see a box where you can update the price of the item. Simply type in the new price you want. The price box will turn into a yellow shaded box. This indicates that you have updated the price, but have not submitted it to Amazon yet.

8. Submit your new prices to Amazon. You can either do a hard return in the price text box, or you can wait until you are done updating prices on select items on the page, and then click the “Save” button on the top of the screen. Once submitted, it takes only a few minutes for Amazon to update the prices for your items.

Copy-of-salesThere you have it. You are now equipped with the skills to reprice your Amazon inventory. Keeping your prices current and competitive is a key component to a successful and profitable Amazon business. In our next blog post, I’ll share with you my 6 most profitable repricing strategies.

Comment below if you have any questions about repricing. I’d love to help you in any way that I can.

Now Available: The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games – How to Turn Play Money Into Real Money

BoardGameBook MiniA few years ago I was looking for a new niche to add to my online selling business. I needed something that was both profitable and abundant. The niche I discovered ended up being even better than I expected. What niche had I discovered? Board games.

For the past 2 years I have found hundreds and hundreds of board games, both new and used, to sell online. I’ll run out of money before I run out of board games to flip. It is the abundance of such a profitable niche that has lead me to share my secrets.

Today, I’m excited to tell you that my first eBook, The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games: How to Turn Play Money into Real Money, is now available for purchase. The book contains 12 chapters, is over 60 pages, and includes 3 bonuses. It’s packed with all the information you need to find, buy, prepare, and sell board games for maximum profits.

IMG_8909bTo learn more or purchase this eBook, click here. This book comes with a 60-day, no questions asked, money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose.

Seller Central Tip #4 – How to Check for Reimbursable Lost Items

Recently we’ve been running a blog series called Seller Central Tips, including posts on the following topics:

Today we’ll look at Tip #4: How to Check for Reimbursable Lost Items

FBA Amazon How to Get Reimbursed for Lost ItemsAs we discussed in Tip #2, Amazon warehouses handle millions of items a day, and it’s understandable that a small percentage of items would become damaged in the shipping and handling process. Such damage is inevitable, and Amazon is usually very reasonable about reimbursing FBA sellers for this damage — IF you look for the flags in your inventory and request the reimbursement.
The same goes for items that are lost at FBA warehouses. We’ve made it part of our regular routine to check our Seller Central Shipping Queue for shipments with item number discrepancies, and we think you should too! To do this routine check, follow the steps below:
1) Log in to your Seller Central account. Under the “Inventory” tab, click on “Manage FBA Shipments” to pull up your Shipping Queue.
2) Filter your list of shipments by clicking the radio button “At the fulfillment center.” This will pull up your list of shipments that have a status of Receiving, Delivered, or Checked-In.
3) Look for shipments that are marked as “Receiving” but have a delivery date more than three days earlier than the current date. Any shipment still marked as “Receiving” but with an older date might contain a lost item. The FBA warehouse does not mark a shipment as “Closed” until every item in the shipment has been scanned and accounted for. If the time frame hasn’t TimeFrameHasntPassedpassed, the shipment will contain a message stating you can’t reconcile discrepancies yet.

4) For any shipments older than three days past delivery with a “Receiving” status, click the shipment name to bring up the shipment info, then click “Reconcile” to see what problems might have occurred during the process of AtTheFulfillmentCenterscanning in your items at the warehouse. You will see either a positive number or a negative number in the “Discrepancy” column, depending on whether the warehouse workers found extra items or whether they couldn’t find an item. Either way, at this point you’ll need to click the drop down menu under the “Action Required” column.

5) If there is a positive discrepancy, you need to choose whether you accidentally shipped an extra item or whether this is an unexpected discrepancy and request the warehouse to research it. For a negative discrepancy, under the “Action Required” column you can choose “Units MissingPleaseResearchnot shipped” (if you forgot to include the item in your shipment) or “Missing – Please Research.” When we’ve asked Amazon to research missing items from shipments in the past, we’ve received one of two responses: either they research the case, find the item in the warehouse, and return it to our inventory — or they research the case, can’t find the item, and reimburse us for the loss. For either of these possibilities, you want to stay current in checking your shipping queue for these discrepancies. The sooner the warehouse resolves the discrepancy, the sooner you can be reimbursed or have the item back in your inventory and available for purchase.
You would be surprised what types of items can be lost in an Amazon warehouse and need to be researched. Most typically we have lost smaller items likes books or tiny toy packets, but recently we lost three oversize toys from the same shipment. I requested the warehouse research these lost items, and within one day Amazon notified us that we would be receiving a reimbursement.
Have you had any experience reconciling discrepancies in your FBA shipments? We hope this Seller Central Tip allows you to find missing items from your shipments or receive reimbursements where they are due.

 

Coming Soon: The Reseller’s Guide to Board Games eBook

I’m very excited to give you the exclusive first look at the video trailer for my new book. Check it out:

To find out more information about the book, and to sign up for an email notification for when the book is released, head on over to www.fulltimefba.com/boardgames

Our Liquidation Store Experiment

Today’s post is written by Rebecca, my wife and partner in doing FBA as a full-time job.

We’ve come down from the high of Q4 sales through FBA, and we’ve maximized sourcing at after-Christmas clearance sales in local retail stores. In years past, our focus at this time of year would shift back to mainly sourcing for FBA product at local thrift stores and garage sales. This year, however, we decided to use some of our capital leftover from Q4 sales to try a new location for sourcing: liquidation stores. Today’s post is a write-up of our first venture into sourcing at a liquidation store and a summary of the things we learned from that first trip.

mrsjess01-187x300Before we made this first trip, both Stephen and I read the ebook Liquidation Gold: A guide for Amazon sellers by Jessica Larrew. If you have liquidation stores in your area and want to learn about their potential for sourcing product for FBA, I highly recommend this book, for reasons I’ll mention below.

We used the methods Jessica discusses to find the liquidation stores within a 1-hour radius of our home, and we decided to try out the closest one first. Liquidation Gold did a great job of helping us know what to expect when we got to the store and how to tackle looking for potential items to resell in this large warehouse-type store. Let’s just say, the merchandise and aisles were pretty chaotic. At this particular store, there is barely enough room for one shopping cart to go down an aisle, much less for two to meet each other head-on. We had to do a lot of maneuvering with the cart, say a lot of “excuse me”s to fellow shoppers, and get down and dirty on the floor to dig through bins of items on the bottom shelves. The lighting is pretty awful, and the signage is all scrawled on scrap paper with a permanent marker. It was nothing like sourcing at a Target or JCPenney or somewhere that they try to make your shopping experience more aesthetically pleasing so you’ll stick around and buy more.

DSCN2295-800x600 But we didn’t let the ambience fool us! We were giddy with excitement as we started down the first couple of aisles. Grocery items and Health & Beauty items are new categories for us — in the past we’ve tended more towards Books or Toys & Games. We were pumped at the idea of finding items we could sell in multi-packs for big profits, but we were hesitant to start dealing with items that have expiration dates. The topic of expiration dates is an important one that Jessica discusses in several chapters of her book, and we felt a lot more confidence going into the store armed with that information.

Overall, we had a great first sourcing trip (I’ll share the numbers below). We found items to sell as individuals, items for multi-packs, items we wanted to test and come back to purchase more at a later date (but not too much later or they’ll be gone!), and items we knew already that we wanted to buy everything on the shelf. After scanning everything on the first two aisles in a fifteen aisle store, we were ready to call it a day and head home with a cart full of groceries to process and resell. There was no way we could scan the entire store on that first trip!

Looking ahead, there are several lessons we learned from that first trip that we’ve since applied in our subsequent trips over the past couple of weeks:

1) From now on we will allow more time for an initial trip to a new liquidation store. Maybe it’s just us, maybe we’re still working on a steep learning curve for a new sourcing category, but it took a lot longer to scan items and make decisions than when we source for books or toys. Part of the issue is that we need to do more research on CamelCamelCamel and the Amazon website to ensure we’re making good decisions about buying for multi-packs versus individual items. We’ll get faster at this as we go, but for now it’s taking us a bit longer than we first expected.

img_11412) We learned the hard way to make better notes as we shopped. There were a few items that we wanted to test before we purchased large numbers, and we mistakenly assumed that we could keep everything straight in our minds after we got home and started processing for shipment. Wrong. After a couple of days and the sales started coming in, we were asking each other, “Now, which ones did they have more of?” about the flavors of a particular beverage mix we had purchased two different varieties of. One flavor had started selling, but one hadn’t yet — would have been nice if we knew whether or not the liquidation store had more of the popular one on their shelves without having to driving all the way back and check! Also, we want to make better notes about prices of individual units and the numbers needed to make multi-packs, so that we don’t have to keep looking that information up on Amazon or a scouting app when we’re trying to decide if we want to go back and buy more.

3) We will continue to do tests of certain items, as Jessica describes in her book, but we will also try to be bolder in our buying in the future. It’s such a risk to take one of an item to do a test, but not know whether there will still be more on the shelf if the product sells quickly on Amazon. We’re still working out our tolerance for risk in these new categories.

4) We’ll look up more often. When we find a great item and grab all they have on the shelves, we also now know to look up on the top shelf for possible overstock quantities. We don’t want to leave any money on the table… or the shelves.

Liquidation-Sale5) We will eat a bigger lunch whenever we plan to source at grocery stores in the afternoon. Seriously, I almost needed a separate cart for all the stuff I wanted to take home for our family to eat! This particular liquidation store specializes in gourmet foods, and the prices were low, low, low. I’m having to learn a new level of restraint in personal purchases while shopping for groceries to resell.

OUR FIRST LIQUIDATION EXPERIMENT:
$148.75   Total purchased at Liquidation Store (1/29/14)
$46.22     Shipping costs to FBA Warehouse (1/30/14)
$194.97Total invested in our Liquidation Experiment

As of 2/24/14 our sales (after Amazon fees) were $389.87. This brings the amount of profit from our experiment to $194.90 The good news is that in less than a month, we have doubled our initial investment. The even better news is that we have not sold out of all of the items we first bought. There is still at least $50 more in profits just waiting to be sold. If things go as expected, our liquidation experiment will have quickly turned $200 into $450.

So what about you? Do you have any experience with liquidation stores? What tips would you like to share? We’d love to hear your experiences.

Seller Central Tip #3 – How to Handle FBA Inbound Shipment Problems

Does this look familiar?

Hello (AMAZON USER NAME),
      We discovered a problem while we were receiving your inbound shipment (SHIPMENT ID). We are taking the necessary steps to remedy the situation and receive your inventory.
      Please note that select problems may result in an unplanned service fee.
The problem was discovered for the shipment named “(SHIPMENT NAME)” on February 14th, 2014.

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 4.26.48 PMFor some reason, many FBA sellers have been getting an influx of emails from Seller Central concerning “problems” that a FBA warehouse worker has found with our inbound shipments. In my 3+ years of selling on Amazon, I have never had this many emails notifying me of errors I have made. To make things more frustrating, 99% of the “problem” notifications are completely inaccurate.

Here are the “problems” that I’ve been flagged on (so far):

  • I’ve been told that I didn’t polybag an item that needed polybagging (Except that I did).
  • I was told that one of my labels was not readable. (Ok, I’ll accept that one. Maybe I smudged it by accident).
  • I was told that a shrink-wrapped item required taping (It’s shrink-wrapped, it doesn’t need tape).
  • I’ve been told that a toy needed to be polybagged (It was in a box that had no holes. No bag needed).
  • I was told a boxed set of drinking glasses needed bubble-wrapping (Except that I did bubble wrap them).
  • I was told that a board game required a suffocation warning label (Is the box going to suffocate someone?)
  • I’ve been told that a plastic bottle required bubble wrapping (This is getting ridiculous).

ResolveWhen these alerts first started showing up in my inbox, I just rolled my eyes, clicked the “resolve” button, and moved on with life. WARNING: DO NOT CLICK THE “RESOLVE” BUTTON unless the inbound shipping problem notification is accurate. If you indeed made a mistake, then you need to own it, learn from it, and move on. But if you are positive that you did nothing wrong, then I strongly advise you to open up a case with Seller Central and inform them of their mistake. If you take responsibility for an error that you did not make, it will hurt your bottom line (you’ll be charged fees for Amazon “fixing” those problems), and possibly it will hurt your seller metrics.

bubblewrapIf you don’t fight these false accusations, then you are only admitting to Amazon that you don’t care to follow their rules. If, in the eyes of Amazon, you continue to make shipping mistakes, then they will stop allowing you to send in certain items, and they could eventually close your FBA selling account. Again, do not click the “resolve” button unless you have, indeed, committed the offense they are notifying you of.

This is what I do to fix these problems:

1. Log-in to Seller Central and click on the Help link.

2. Click on Contact Seller Support.

3. Under “What is the problem?” I click Fulfillment by Amazon.

4. Next, I click “Other Fulfillment by Amazon issues.”

5. I use the subject line “FBA Inbound Shipment Problem.”

6. I fill in the necessary information (Shipment ID, ASINs, etc)

7. Then, I address the false accusation. Example: “I was told that this item required polybagging, but it was already polybagged when the item arrived at Amazon,” or “I was told this item required polybagging, but it does not require polybagging per Amazon rules.” I also like to include a statement saying, “Please research and remove this flag” — just so the Help desk is clear that my purpose in writing them is to have the flag removed!

8. Submit your request.

A few seconds after you submit your request, you’ll get an email from Amazon about your new case. Within about 6-12 hours you will get a response from Amazon. 99% of the time I get a response like this:

Greetings from Amazon Seller Support, 
     We have received confirmation from our fulfillment center and removed the inbound problem defect rate for your Shipment: (SHIPMENT NAME).    Thank you for selling with Amazon,
(SUPPORT STAFF NAME)
 

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 3.46.31 PMAnd sometimes they really go at great lengths to apologize, as the image to the right shows.

While 99% of the time, Amazon removes the flag and corrects its mistake, the other 1% of the time I’ll get a response stating that the original accusation was indeed true and that I am still going to be penalized for my error. When this happens, I always reply, state that my question was not properly answered, and request they investigate again. 100% of the time they follow up agreeing that I was indeed correct and that they are removing the flag, along with any fees associated with the issue.

The important thing here is to protect your metrics. If you make a mistake, accept responsibility, learn from it, and move on. But if Amazon incorrectly accuses you of making a mistake, stand up for yourself, and politely correct Amazon.

Have you had these “problem” emails showing up in your inbox lately? How have you best responded? I’d love to hear what you have tried to correct these issues.