In four hours we find over $500 in books college students threw away in my annual dorm dumpster diving book mission.
College move out day is a goldmine for Amazon sellers
Move out day for colleges is a very special day for Amazon sellers. This is when everything imaginable can be found for free behind every dorm in the country.
Including books. Especially books.
Here’s me last week:
How to time dumpster diving at dorms
The college next to my house gets out earlier than most. I wait for move out day all year, and I know the schedule.
Move out day works basically the same at every school, everywhere.
Final exams happen Monday through Thursday. Some students have their last finals Thursday, some Wednesday, some Tuesday, or some just on Monday.
When finals are done, students go insane. That’s when they throw out everything they own, and drive into the sunset. Like clockwork.
That’s where I come in and make tons of money.
Our dorm dumpster book heist plan
Timed with move out day, a friend and I set out on two dumpster excursions: Wednesday evening, and Thursday late-night.
In total, we hit approximately 10 dorms.
How to profit from dumpster diving at dorms in 3 steps
#1: Choose your targets
Identify student dorms (Google school name + “student housing”) and map your course.
#2: Choose your timing
The best time is going to be Friday – preferably day, but night will work. There’s the risk (as with the school next to my house) of dumpsters getting emptied sometime Friday, so daytime is ideal. Most moving out is done by Thursday night, with students having to be completely out of the dorms sometime Friday.
So what you’re really exploiting here is dorm move-out dates. Get that date, and you’re earned yourself a windfall of free stuff.
#3: Choose your comfort zone
Bottom line: The more aggressive you’re willing to be, the more you’ll find (and make).
The most skittish approach: Go only at night (few witnesses), and only search recycling bins (little mess, little effort).
The most aggressive (my approach): Get in every dumpster, tear through every bag, and proceed without regard for witnesses (they’re just jealous).
Why would college students throw away books in dumpsters?
They’re not Amazon sellers. They’re not in our business. And either is the college bookstore – who rejects many books that Amazon sellers can easily profit from. Anything the college bookstore won’t take, probably ends up in the dumpster.
Though that explained less than half the books we found. Most were so well ranked, and so awesome, there was only one explanation for taking them to the dorm dumpster instead of the college bookstore: The dumpster was closer.
Weirdest thing we found in a dorm dumpster
After 10 dorms, we found a lot of weird stuff, most of it not books. My favorite: An unopened Priority Mail box, sent from a female suitor to an unresponsive dorm resident (“James”).
Yes, we opened it. (Was it a federal crime? I’m considering all trash public domain. Criminal lawyers weigh in below.) It contained homemade cookies and a love letter.
Is there any bigger Casanova than the man who gets a love package, and doesn’t even open it? Play on, player.
There’s way more than books in dorm dumpsters
This is supposed to be a case study on unconventional book sourcing, but its very tempting to talk about everything else we found:
- Clothes (my friend sold a bunch to Buffalo Exchange).
- Personal journals.
- Food. Lots of unopened food.
…and everything else imaginable. But we’re getting off topic.
What did I learn in this dorm dumpster diving mission?
I thought I knew it all about dumpster diving, but there was one big “a ha” realization: How much better the recycling bins were for books than the dumpsters themselves. Most of the books I found were in the recycle bins. Somehow, I’d always overlooked those.
Out dorm dumpster diving book heist: Final tally
Here’s all the books we found:
(The item on top is a box containing Windows 7. Selling for $70 on Amazon, but I’m hearing that Microsoft products are now being restricted on Amazon, so I’m not including this in the below stats.)
Dorm dumpsters visited: Approximately 10.
Hours spent: 4.
Cops who watched us dumpster diving and said nothing: 2 (dumpster diving has gone mainstream, & is seemingly no longer stigmatized).
Resellable non-book items found: Several, including a sealed electric toothbrush.
Profitable books found: 23
Average Amazon sales rank: 417,617 (the listing software randomly decided to not display this, so I did it by hand)
Total estimated Amazon payout: $581.77
Hourly earnings: $145 / hour.
If you live near a college, don’t miss next semester
Everything imaginable will be yours for the taking at the end of this semester.
Dumpsters don’t dive themselves.