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  • 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.

    Don’t forget to sign up for the Trans Union Class-Action Settlement

    I hate to leave money on the table, so when a colleague sent me an email in June with a link to an LA Times article (no longer on their web site, unfortunately) on the Trans Union class-action settlement, I knew I’d be signing up for my fair share.* As you know, however, I’ve been busy, and I haven’t gotten around to registering yet. But the deadline is rapidly approaching, so it’s higher on my to-do list now.

    Here’s the lowdown:

    The complaint alleges that Trans Union LLC and Acxiom Corporation violated the law by selling lists containing personal and financial consumer information to third parties for marketing purposes. The settlement is for expediency, and not an admission of wrongdoing.

    Anyone who had an open credit account or an open line of credit from a credit grantor (such as car loans, bank credit cards, department store credit cards, other retail store credit cards, finance company loans, mortgage loans, and student loans) located in the United States anytime from January 1, 1987 to May 28, 2008 is eligible to apply for a share of the settlement.

    Class members must choose from one of the following benefits:

    • Sign up for six months of credit monitoring services.If you select this option, you can also register to possibly receive cash benefits in the event of a cash distribution or file an individual lawsuit against the defendants.
    • Sign up for nine months of enhanced credit monitoring services.If you select this option, you will not receive any further benefits, including a cash payment, and you will not be able to file an individual lawsuit against the defendants.
    • Register to possibly receive a cash payment. If you select this option, you can also sign up for six months of credit monitoring; however if you receive a cash payment, you cannot file an individual lawsuit against the defendants.

    I am going to register for the cash payment, as well as the six months of credit monitoring. I’ll have Marc do the same – I’m assuming that because we have separate accounts as well as joint accounts, and did so during the applicable period, we are both eligible for our own share of the settlement. Maybe we’ll get two unexpected checks in a year or two.

    You can register for benefits at the Trans Union class action web site but you have to do so by September 24, 2008.

    *Class-actions can be a great source of “free” money. It’s not truly free, since the company is compensating you for a harm you suffered, but it’s free in the sense that it’s money you never expected to see again. A couple of weeks ago, we got a $16 check from a Countrywide class-action settlement related to mortgage application fees, and we should eventually get settlements for the diamond and Bar/Bri (bar review course) class-action lawsuits. Eventually. Unfortunately, these things take time.

    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.

    Someone please "steal" & implement my business idea: Weight Watchers Points by text messaging

    A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I was taking Millionaire Mommy Next Door‘s advice and doing a progressive mental exercise to open my mind to more money. The exercise starts with spending $100 on day 1, and then coming up with a supportive action to bring that money into your life. The amount of money doubles each day. Like MMND, I haven’t done it for 30 days in a row, so I’m still on day 15. But it’s been a very interesting exercise, since doubling the money each day increases the amount rapidly. (Ah, the beauty of compounding.) Because aside from long-term calculations for retirement, insurance or education expenses, I’ve never thought in such huge amounts of money before.

    What would I do with $819,200? (That’s the amount for day 14.) I actually wrote in my journal:

    I realize what a happy, satisfied life I lead when I just want to take the money and invest it.

    I’d be perfectly happy to have that amount of money to my name, but I had to think hard about how I would spend it. (I decided that I would buy a home in Hawaii, in case you’re wondering.)

    The really challenging part of the exercise is coming up with ways to bring these increasing amounts of money into my life. For many of them, I find myself trying to come up with business ideas – which, since I’m not an entrepreneur, isn’t that easy for me. But I came up with a business idea over the weekend that I wish someone would implement:

    People on Weight Watchers’ Flex plan can send the business a text message inquiring about the number of points of a certain food or asking for a low-point recommendation from a chain restaurant. The business looks it up and replies with another text message.

    For example, this past weekend, we stopped at Jack in the Box. I wish I had looked up the nutrition values at Dotti’s Weight Loss Zone before I left the house, but it was too late. So I found myself wishing for another way to find out how many points were in each item. I had a good feeling about the Chicken Fajita Pita, which indeed turned out to have only 6.5 points, but I could easily have blown 10 points or more on something I didn’t even want that badly. A texting service certainly would have been handy. My cell plan doesn’t include text messaging (I believe each one costs 10 cents) but I’d add it if this service were available (and more reasonably priced than buying a Blackberry with internet service).

    Anyone?

    Review: SwagBucks

    Search & Win

    Update 7/21/08: I didn’t realize it when I originally drafted this review, but you can win $3 awards – I just got one. I also wanted to add that SwagBucks’ search function uses Google and Ask.com, so the results are usually what you’re looking for. If you signed up using my referral link, thank you and have fun!

    One of my daily reads is My Good Cents, which includes a weekly update on “extra” money. I saw repeated references to a $5 Amazon.com gift certificate from a site called SwagBucks, so when the author posted this review, I was intrigued and finally signed up last month.

    Swagbucks is super easy to use. All you have to do is register, sign in, and use their search function. (I’ve bookmarked the search page, but they also have a downloadable toolbar. I’ve already got more than enough toolbars, so I’m sticking with the bookmark.)

    Each search is an opportunity to win random “Swag Bucks” in the amount of $1, $2 or $5. Swag Bucks can be redeemed for various prizes. Obviously, I was interested in the Amazon gift certificates, which are 45 Swag Bucks, but there are quite a few other prizes as well.

    I hit that threshold last week, almost exactly one month after I registered. I immediately redeemed my 45 Swag Bucks for an Amazon certificate, which appeared by email within a couple of hours.

    It’s pretty effortless for something I will most definitely use. (And I would have spent that money at Amazon anyway.) I’ve found that on most days, I can earn a SwagBuck in the morning and another one at night. I get at least one Swag Buck each day, and average about five searches per award. It’s worth noting that only your first 20 searches each day qualify for the random awards.

    When you sign up, you’ll get 5 Swag Bucks to get you started. And if you’d kindly use my referral link, I’ll earn a Swag Buck every time you do. Thank you!

    One last thing to keep in mind: SwagBucks is part of a larger search and win network, but the bucks don’t seem to be transferrable. Prizes at SwagBucks’ other sites cost more, so My Good Cents recommends that you stick with the main site.

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