August 3, 2012
Every now and then a shopping portal offers a fantastic deal that’s too good to pass up even if you don’t really want to buy anything. As a result, I often find myself buying things just to earn points and miles. I then sell those things with the goal of losing as little money as possible. The end result is usually that I effectively buy miles at a very low cost. For example, when the British Airways portal offered 36X at Nordstrom I bought and sold headphones and watches (see “How Amazon paid me to collect miles”). And when the Southwest Rapid Rewards portal offered 15X at Sears I bought and sold tablet computers (see “Sears 15X: Frequent Miler’s almost final results”).
Thanks to HansGolden who will be co-presenting with me at the Chicago Seminars, I learned about a service called Fulfillment by Amazon. With this service, Amazon lets you ship things to them to be sold and fulfilled via Amazon.com. Amazon takes a cut of each sale and charges a small warehousing fee until the items sell. When you have a lot of items to sell, this service is many times easier than selling one by one on EBay or Craigslist. Plus, since Amazon has such a large shopping audience, items tend to sell quickly. Unfortunately, not everything always goes as planned…
List as new, or not…
When I went to sell my Dr. Dre Headphones (bought at Nordstrom for 36X), I learned a lesson…
After logging into my Seller account, I clicked “Add a Product”:
I found the headphones I wanted to list and then started to fill out the item details. In the box named “condition” I wanted to list the item as “New”, but I wasn’t given that option:
It turns out that certain brands do not allow resellers to list their items as new. Amazon recommends selecting “Used – Like New” for this situation, but that would effectively devalue your product quite a bit. The alternative is to find or create an alternate product page for the same product. In my case, there already existed an alternate page so I was able to add my headphones as new to that page. If you have to create a new product page on your own, you have to be a Pro Merchant (for $39.99 per month). I haven’t tried that yet so I don’t know how much of a headache that would be. In the end, I did OK with the headphones, but not as well as I would have done if I could have listed on the main product page.
Having learned from my prior mistake, when looking for items to buy and sell, I now first try to add a listing to Amazon to see if it will let me list the item as “New”. If not, I look for a different item to buy. Unfortunately, there are many items that do not allow resellers to list as new.
As a regular consumer, I used to think Amazon was an efficient, tightly run organization. As a seller, I now have my doubts. Here are some mistakes that have occurred:
- As I reported in the post “How Amazon paid me to collect miles,” Amazon somehow sold on my behalf far more watches than I sent to them. I did the right thing and filed a support ticket, but it was closed with a message basically saying that it was too late, tough luck but I would have to keep their money. Um…, OK, thanks!
- Later, the opposite happened, and Amazon lost one of the tablets I sent them. I filed a support ticket and after about a month they gave up the search and paid me the amount I earned on the other tablets sold. I was pretty happy with that outcome!
- Most recently, I requested that a returned tablet be sent back to me. About a month has passed and they have yet to find it. Maybe they’ll just give me the money again?
In the examples given above, I mostly benefited or came out even from Amazon’s mistakes, but one can’t count on that. It’s a little scary to trust hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of merchandise to an organization that seems to slip up so easily!
In the post “Sears 15X: Frequent Miler’s almost final results” a reader named Sun commented:
I think your CPP calculation needs to wait until the return period for Amazon expires. Like Phil says… it is very risky selling commodity products like electronics.
Sun was so right. Soon after that post, I received notice that two of my tablets had been returned as defective. I requested that they be shipped back to me (the alternative is that Amazon disposes of them!), but only one of the two has made it back. The other seems to be lost in the netherworld. In going through that process, I also discovered that a few of the phantom watches I sold were also returned as defective, so I asked that they be shipped back to me as well. Of the three watches and one tablet so far returned to me, it is clear that only one package was even opened by the consumers (and that watch works fine). That means that for the rest, I can still sell them as new. Or, maybe a give-away contest is in order?…
I believe that people return items as defective as a way of getting all of their money back when they change their minds about a purchase. Regardless of whether it turns out alright in the end, returns are a huge hassle! If you go into the buy/sell game be prepared to deal with headaches like these.
What did I miss?
I know some readers have much more experience than I do with buying and selling. What other “gotchas” do people need to watch out for?