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  • A new way to sell on Amazon: Trade-Ins

    I love selling my used items on Amazon, and I’ve written before about how to do it. I think of it as having an online garage sale. But because of the cost of shipping, and especially the obligation to get an order in the mail within two business days, I’m relatively picky about what I list. Working full time means it isn’t always easy to get to the post office, and most books must be presented to a clerk because they’re over 13 ounces and being shipped Media Mail. (Read more about the 13-ounce rule.)

    I had a DVD that wasn’t worth selling back, but I was intrigued by the “trade-in” option over on the right of the item’s Amazon page. You can read more about Trade-Ins here.

    It’s really quite easy: You tell Amazon that you want to trade in your copy by clicking on the trade-in option. Amazon will give you two pages to print – the first is your free shipping label, and the second is a packing slip that you’ll need to include with the item. It’s actually much like doing a return, if you’ve ever done one with Amazon.

    Less than a week after I sent the DVD, I received a $1.25 credit to my gift certificate balance. It’s not much, but I’m definitely going to keep this option in mind in the future for things I want to get rid of quickly or that aren’t worth selling myself. I already have a few things in mind that have been listed on Amazon for a while without selling.

    Amazon Selling Tips: Shipping

    This is the third and final part of a series on selling at Amazon.com Marketplace. Read my introduction to selling on Amazon and my tips for listing your items.

    Before I list my shipping tips, I want to make a recommendation for your own security. When an item you’ve listed on Amazon.com Marketplace is sold, Amazon will send you an email with the subject heading, “Sold – Ship now!” I recommend checking your orders and verifying the information in the email that Amazon sent to you. A few months ago, Mercedes at Common Sense with Money wrote that after she had removed a listing for a DVD player, someone sent her a fake “Sold – ship now” email. Her post includes tips on how to spot fake emails.

    In order to avoid being scammed, I highly recommend logging in to your Amazon seller account to verify that you’ve received payment for the item. In fact, I immediately initiate a transfer to my bank account so that I get the money sooner rather than later. Amazon automatically sends out payments every 2 weeks, but you can initiate a bank transfer every 24 hours. (New customers have to wait for the first automatic disbursement.) You can also choose to get paid in Amazon certificates. Read Amazon’s info on getting paid.

    Once you’ve verified that your item has indeed been sold, you’ll want to know the following:

    • Amazon helps you pay for shipping. You should definitely read Amazon’s info on shipping credits, but basically, they give you a certain amount of money to cover your shipping costs. Depending on the item you’ve sold, the shipping credit might yield a little profit if the item won’t cost much to ship. Or the shipping credit might be just a fraction of the shipping cost, and you’ll have to pay for the extra.
    • Media Mail is your friend. When I first started selling at Amazon, I didn’t know what Media Mail was (read the Postal Service’s explanation). It’s been great for me, since I only sell books, CDs, DVDs, and video games, all of which can be sent at a reduced rate via Media Mail – although sometimes if an item is especially light, First Class Mail will be cheaper. If you sell other types of items, especially heavy ones, the Postal Service may not be your cheapest option like it is mine.
    • Package your item well. You want to make sure that you take reasonable steps to protect the item in transit (read Amazon’s packaging guidelines). For me, that usually means a layer of bubble wrap or a padded envelope. I invested in a giant roll of bubble wrap and a 100-count box of 9×12 envelopes from Staples and have been using it for quite some time. And since I began playing The Drugstore Game, I sometimes buy some padded envelopes when they’re super cheap and use them for books that are too big to fit in a 9×12 envelope. Some people make their own boxes out of cardboard, although I have to admit that when I’ve been the recipient of such an item, it does strike me as unprofessional.
    • Consider getting a post office box to use as your return address. I began renting a post office box when I started selling on Amazon and eBay because I wanted the added sense of security of not giving strangers my home address.
    • Be careful about selecting Expedited or International Shipping as options. You’ll get a bigger shipping credit if you offer expedited or international shipping as an option and the buyer chooses it. Expedited shipping generally means Priority Mail for me, and it also means I need to check each “Sold – ship now” email for the shipping speed, since once in a while I do get an order with expedited shipping. I used to offer international shipping, but stopped after a first-hand lesson in the risks. I sold a book that took over eight weeks to arrive in Europe, long enough that when the seller contacted me, I felt obligated to refund his money. Shortly thereafter, he informed me that the book had just arrived. He was more than willing to pay me again, but Amazon told me that he had to initiate it, so I had to send him an email with instructions and hope that he followed through (thankfully, he did). I’ve since decided that for me, the risk of shipping overseas simply isn’t worth it.
    • When sending something via Priority Mail, pay online. You can pay for certain types of postage, including Priority Mail, online at the USPS web site. If you’re sending an order via Priority Mail, paying for and printing the label through the web site will save you a little money, and also get you free delivery confirmation.
    • Always remember to send your orders out within two business days. Marketplace terms require shipping within two business days, so keep that in mind when you list items. If you’re not sure if you’ll be able to get an item out in a timely manner, don’t list it.
    • Communicate with the buyer. I don’t always follow this rule myself, but I do try to send shipment notification emails through Amazon’s “contact buyer” option. This is especially helpful when shipping via Media Mail, since it can take two weeks for an item to be delivered and not all buyers realize this. I always include a general time frame of when the buyer can expect the item to arrive (for Media Mail, I say 4 to 9 days but possibly two weeks).

    I am by no means an expert on selling at Amazon.com Marketplace, but I hope you’ll find these tips helpful, especially as a starting point. And if you have experience selling on Amazon, please share your experience – and especially, any tips that I missed!

    Read an update on shipping here.

    Amazon Selling Tips: Listing your item

    Last month, I explained how you can sell your possessions on Amazon.com Marketplace, and promised to share some tips gleaned from my three years of selling there. Here’s the first set of tips, on listing your items. (Sorry it so long, Sam!)

    • Read Amazon’s explanation of how the Marketplace works. Be sure you understand what fees are involved, how shipping credits work, and what your responsibilities are. Decide whether you can meet the obligations imposed, especially shipping items within two business days of the order.
    • Decide what you want to sell. Unless you have a Pro or Subscriber account, you can’t create a listing, so your very first step should be to make sure the item you want to sell is listed on Amazon.
    • Next, check other sellers’ prices and decide whether the item is worth listing. At this point, you should decide what profit will make the item worth selling. When I first started selling on Amazon, I was on maternity leave after my first son’s birth, and getting to the post office was easy. So as long as I made any profit, I listed my items. But these days, with time at a premium, I only list things that will make a profit of $5 or more. You can see what profit you’ll make before you complete the listing – on the page where you confirm the listing, Amazon lists the price, fees, and the total you will receive. Don’t forget to subtract your shipping costs from the total to determine your profit.
    • Set your price. Are you pricing your item to sell, or are you pricing your item for maximum dollar? If it’s the former, set a price at or just below the lowest competitor’s price. If it’s the latter, you’ll need to look at the competitors’ prices for items in comparable condition.
    • Give a detailed and accurate description of the condition of the item. As a buyer, I like to see that the seller is letting me know exactly what to expect. I have avoided some big-volume sellers because they provide no description, and I believe that I have sold many items despite my comparatively low volume because I list specific details, such as a tiny bent corner on a paperback, or a scratch on a CD cover.
    • Complete your listing and put the item in a safe, easy to locate place. Be sure the item remains in the same condition you described in your listing, and that you can find it easily when it sells. I keep all of my items for sale in a bag under my desk. The kids know not to go there, it’s easily accessible, and I know exactly where all of my items are.

    Those are my selling tips – please add your own in the comments. And stay tuned for my tips on what to do after your item is sold.

    Sell your stuff at Amazon.com Marketplace: Part One – An overview

    Make Money Selling at Amazon - chieffamilyofficer.com

    I wrote about Amazon.com Marketplace when I first started selling our used books there, but I thought it was time to revisit the topic since I’ve been selling there for three years now.

    What is Amazon.com Marketplace? If you shop at Amazon, you’ve probably noticed the “Used & New” price option on most pages. If you click on that option, you’re taken to a page with a list of sellers who are selling that particular item. The list includes each seller’s price, the condition of the item, the seller’s feedback rating, and hopefully a description of the item. This list is the Marketplace page for the item. And the sellers are usually a mix of businesses, who find customers at Amazon, and individuals, many of whom are like me and simply having their garage sale online.

    My favorite thing about Marketplace is that you set your own price and wait for someone to decide to pay it. Unlike eBay, there’s no listing fee, no auction, and no calculation of shipping costs. Amazon sets the shipping charges and gives you a shipping credit. The fees you pay to Amazon are higher than what you would pay to eBay, but with Amazon, you only pay a fee if your item sells.

    You can also ensure your profit by pricing your item accordingly. Amazon makes this easy by telling you what you will receive if the item sells during the listing process. The amount you receive from Amazon includes the shipping credit but not the actual shipping cost. More than once, I have gotten to the “confirm your listing” page and realized that after paying for shipping, my net profit would be so small, it would be a better use of my time to simply donate it.

    My least favorite thing about selling on Amazon is that a sold item must be shipped within two business days. Shipping for me means a trip to the post office, since I sell only books, CDs, DVDs, and video games, and U.S. mail is the cheapest way of shipping these items. (If you’re selling these types of items, you should definitely learn about Medial Mail rates.) Items over 13 ounces must be delivered to a post office employee, and can’t simply be dropped in a mailbox or even left at the counter with adequate postage already affixed (unless your post office is different from mine).

    Since heavier books require waiting in line, something that’s not always convenient, I usually do a cost-benefit analysis when my net profit after shipping charges would be low. If the item does not require a wait in line, I’ll usually complete the listing. But if I have to wait in line, my profit must be at least $5.

    Another thing I like is that I can list an item whenever I want, put it aside, and wait for someone to buy it. Listings expire after 90 days, but Amazon will send you an email to let you know that a listing has expired and include a link to relist the item with just a couple of clicks. I believe listings no longer expire.

    When I first started listing books on Amazon, my husband and I went through our bookshelves and sold about half of our books. One corner of our office was just filled with stacks of books, but over a period of about six months, the stacks gradually disappeared and I had a few hundred dollars in the bank from the online equivalent of a garage sale. Ever since then, I’ve had a grocery bag under my desk containing the items that are currently listed for sale, and every once in a while, I’ll get a “Sold, ship now” email from Amazon.

    In Part Two of this series, I’ll share some listing and shipping tips that I’ve acquired in the last three years, so stay tuned!

    Update: Part Two: Listing Your Item and Part Three: Shipping.

    Image via FreeDigitalPhotos.net by Stuart Miles.