Can you make a full-time income dumpster driving for books to resell on Amazon? An interview with professional dumpster diver Jeremy, who quit his job to become an FBA bookseller
The man doing $3k/month dumpster diving for books to resell on Amazon
Early on in the life of FBA Mastery, I teased an upcoming interview with someone who makes $36,000 a year sourcing books entirely from dumpsters. After tons of delays and pestering him for an interview, it has finally materialized. Here’s the full interview, the full story behind it, and why it took so long…
Here’s the short version: I’ve known Jeremy for awhile. A couple summers ago I went to visit for the first time since I began selling FBA full time. I shared with him a little of my formula, brought hundreds of books to his house, and packed a couple of large FBA shipments in his living room during my visit.
One of my scores that week was from the dumpster of the library directly next door to his house. He watched me price and list everything on Amazon, and asked a few questions, but didn’t seem terribly interested. Little did I know, he was quietly taking notes and plotting his new FBA business.
Fast forward 6 weeks, Jeremy was making $500 a week. A month or two after that, he had grown to just over $3,000 a month in Amazon payments. What is so special about this?
- His inventory is entirely free.
- 100% of his inventory is from dumpsters.
I’ll let Jeremy tell his story
Interview With Jeremy: FBA Seller And Professional Dumpster Diver
First, I want everyone to know I had to ask you for over a year to answer a few basic questions about your model. That’s a poor display of gratitude after I got you into Amazon.
Quitting his job to do FBA and be a professional dumpster diver
Talk about where you were in your life when you started selling with Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA).
This was in the summer of last year, I think. I was working at an office at a telecom company part time. I was just barely getting by and I was really miserable at this
job. I needed more money but it was also important to get out of an office because it really wasn’t good for my health. It was a bad time for a few reasons.
So how did you get started with Fulfillment By Amazon?
This guy, who is kind of ugly and pretty annoying wouldn’t stop bragging about how easy it was to make money on Amazon and…
(Editor’s note: This is Jeremy’s unsuccessful attempt to make a good joke.)
No, I don’t know how much you want me to say but when you came to town I watched you bring back a bunch of books. The thing that I remember that stood
out is that you went out one day, and came back and listed the books, and said that you’d made hundreds of dollars that day. I don’t remember the number, but I remember thinking it was more than I made in a week. That’s when I started thinking about it.
So how did you get started? People are probably wondering when you’re going to start talking about dumpsters.
There were the books you brought from the trash bins at the library next to my house, so I knew if I wanted to start selling on Amazon I could start with that. This was really important because of my money situation and having, like, no money in the bank. Then I started thinking about how many books I might find at that library, and there are a million libraries, so I started thinking about doing more of that and how far I could take it.
Example of a dumpster he find profitable books at
I should let the readers know here you told me you wanted to be a little vague about your exact sources, because you already have some serious competition. Which I understand. So you spent the first couple of weeks just doing research, going out, and seeing what you found. Talk about that.
I started out going to a few libraries. I found some good books but it was hard to know if they were consistent. But I started adding possible sources to my list that way.
Then I started brainstorming different types of places that might throw away a lot of books, places that weren’t libraries. I wasn’t sure at first if I would be able to quit my job, so I was just looking at it as possible extra income.
So I started out going out and driving around, checking places out. I got a few ideas from you, but mostly I was going off of ideas I thought of when I was just kind of thinking about the whole idea of books, who has them, and who might throw them away.
I found a really good place almost right away. That got me realizing it could work. It was the kind of place that is one of a kind, so even if I named it it wouldn’t be helpful to most people. But it was really good, and it charged me up to keep going.
Eventually, and it took me about two weeks, I had six places that I felt pretty good about. I also had a bunch more that I knew were good for books now and then, but six that were really good.
Researching dumpsters that have profitable books
Can you go into the research process a little?
This is hard, because every town is going to be different. I just spent a lot of time thinking about who in my area had books. I did a lot of computer searching and a
lot of driving around.
(Editor’s note: 4 of Jeremy’s 6 main sources are places I never would have thought of.)
You built up your inventory pretty fast.
It took me about a month to ship in a thousand books. It took me awhile to get the hang of what to ship in and what to leave in the dumpster, so there was a lot that I shouldn’t have taken. But yes it built up fast. There were some times I couldn’t even take all the books I found.
What are the reasons people would throw away valuable books?
Most of the time, I wonder the same thing. Usually I think there are certain businesses that think it will cost them more money to try to find buyers for their books than just throw them away. Most of the time I think it’s laziness. I also think that the average person or business doesn’t think about selling on Amazon. It just never
occurs to them. And random, more strange books will probably only sell on Amazon, not in a store or anywhere else.
Typical work day of a professional dumpster diver
What does your work schedule look like?
I’ll go out a few nights a week, usually three. One of the downsides for someone like me is that you have to go out late. Some of my dumpsters are in populated
areas, and I have to wait for places to close before going out. So I’ll usually try to go out after 10 at night.
I schedule things so I’m going to every dumpster on my list once a week. So I’ll go to two dumpsters a night, sometimes more but at least two.
How many books he dumpster dives per month
How many books do you find per month?
My goal is to find 800 a month. I did that 1000 or so that I talked about, that first month. I was going crazy getting books and learned that I should only take books
that have a certain amount of value, and I learned about the Sales Ranks and what that means. After I learned all of that I got more picky, and now I might average
500 or 600. I’m trying to get to doing 800, steadily.
How much money he makes as a professional dumpster diver
And what do your Amazon payments look like?
They’ve ranged from $1,500, to over $3,000 a month. That’s been holding pretty steady for awhile, even though my inventory is going up. This was a really bad winter and I couldn’t go out for a lot of it, so I sold a lot during that time but wasn’t getting anything new. But $3,000, a little over $3,000 is normal.
Professional dumpster diver war stories
Tell us some good stories. You’ve shared some funny ones with me. You actually called me from a dumpster once while the police were there.
Ha ha, I remember that. I don’t know exactly what happened, but I was at a dumpster that was in a strip mall, and someone from one of the other businesses heard
me in the dumpster and called the police. I think that’s what happened. I heard someone come out, and then a half an hour later I heard a car drive by slowly and
when I peaked out I saw it was a cop. There wasn’t anything illegal about what I was doing but I didn’t want to explain what I was doing to anyone so I just sat on a box and read a book. He didn’t seem to know where I was or where he was supposed to be looking for, but the weird thing was he parked about 50 feet from where I was for almost an hour. It must have been a slow night in the suburbs. I stayed in there for over an hour just to make sure he was gone.
Other professional dumpster divers in town
You also told me you have some competition out there.
There are two guys I see at a few of my spots regularly. At first when I pulled up and saw someone I would hang out in my car until they left. Then I noticed it was
always the same two guys so I decided to see what they were up to. I got friendly with them eventually. One of them is a general scavenger, a book hound type who
just looks for what he’s interested in. The other guy sells books online, sort of. Actually not really, he just looks for books he thinks he can sell through a book buy back site. I don’t really know anything about those, but he doesn’t have equipment and I don’t think makes much money.
So you were able to quit your job, right?
I was able to quit within two months of starting. As soon as I knew this was working I got out of there. I work 8 hours a week at the maximum. I love doing this!
Thanks Jeremy. Awesome story.