The crude but (usually) effective way some people (me) avoid having their FBA shipments split.
(Update: I added 6 more tricks submitted by readers in this new article.)
I’m usually on the side of “what’s best for
So whether it’s FBA fee hikes or weird FBA policy changes that make no sense, I’m usually on
But split FBA shipments are the worst.
And I’ll do anything I can to circumvent them, hack them, or render them inoperable through militant sabotage.
Why do I conveniently exempt split FBA shipments from my “What’s best for
How I used to deal with split FBA shipments
I did what a lot of us do: I’m listing 100 books. 90 go to one FBA warehouse. The other 10 are split between 5 other FBA warehouses. So I delete the 5 tiny shipments, set them aside, and hope
It can be effective at circumventing a split FBA shipment. It is also effective at delaying profits and driving me crazy.
Then I noticed something when I was traveling…
I’m always shipping in big FBA shipments from the road. I’ll be on a road trip in some weird town, seek out tons of inventory, and fund the whole trip via FBA. Usually this involves a patchwork of appropriating public space to do my listing (i.e. Whole Foods), hotel printers, dumpster-dived boxes, and the nearest Staples for drop-offs.
(To illustrate how much I do this, my tax return in 2013 showed I spent over $200 using the printer at various Staples’ around the country. Consider that’s 50 cents a shipping label [over 400 boxes]. Then consider I use printers that aren’t at Staples at least a third of the time = over 500 boxes shipped from the road in one year.)
The way you’re supposed to ship from the road is to update your return address to reflect wherever you’re staying. That way,
Since I inadvertently do everything the sloppiest way possible, I always forgot to do this.
And I noticed it was a little odd how no one seemed to care I was in one state, shipping a box with a return address from a totally different state. The UPS Store or Staples didn’t care – in hundreds of incidents they never mentioned it. And
The return address literally didn’t matter.
It hit me, this could be the way out of split FBA shipments
There is no way to know
Most of us fall somewhere in the middle: Our FBA shipments will be split for stretches of time, and not others. It’s apparently random.
So let’s examine this problem in a more Socratic fashion…
The two main factors that determine where your shipments go are:
Amazon‘s formula, that is always changing and can’t be controlled or predicted.
- The return address we provide
Yes, the contents of your shipment play a role, but we can bundle this in to “
So had my lightbulb moment when I considered two facts:
- Some people have their FBA shipments split, and not others.
- The return address doesn’t matter.
Do you see where this is going?
I started going into my listing software and playing around with the return address. Some days I was shipping from Fargo, North Dakota. Other days, Tucson, Arizona.
And the results I got were dramatically different. Some return addresses got me 10 FBA shipments with 4 books each. Others got me every book in a single shipment.
Remember that Staples or the UPS Store doesn’t care what your return address says (if they notice at all). It makes no difference.
But it made a huge difference to the ease of my FBA shipments.
When I found a return address that resulted in my books going into one shipment, I saved it and used it for every FBA shipment. Problem solved.
But nothing lasts forever…
There’s no point in speculating why this happens.
When my shipments started splitting again, I’d wait
Sometimes this was just a fluke. I’d do another shipment to make sure this problem probably wasn’t going away. And if it didn’t, I’d start shopping around for a new return address until I hit one.
I told you this was “crude but effective”…
To find a new return address that wouldn’t result in split FBA shipments, I picked addresses at random.
I do one or two shipments a week, so I can experiment a little. Sometimes it took a few weeks, but I’d hit on another address where
The most rewarding moment of split-shipment hacking came when I was sitting in the living room with my girlfriend. She was listing with her home address as the return address. I was shipping with a return address of Salt Lake City.
She tossed books around the room in a rage, with her inventory spread across the carpet in no less than 7 shipments. I had all mine going to exactly two.
Same place. Same IP address. Same type of inventory (books). Vastly different results.
I always prefer to use my home address
So every once in a while, I’ll go back to my home address and test it out. And often,
(By the way, forget trying to reverse-engineer
This is not as easy as it sounds: What can go wrong
I don’t want to glorify this as a cure-all. It doesn’t always work.
One common snag is that there seem to be periods where
Still another caveat: This works best with books, or sellers who otherwise are generally shipping in one of each item. If you’re shipping in multiples of each SKU, there’s nothing that will keep your shipments from getting split.
Lately, its gotten worse
I won’t lie. This isn’t working as well as it once did.
But I’m still rarely getting my shipments split into more than two. And from what I hear, that’s much better than most.
As always, I’m your canary in a coalmine
I don’t have an incentive to prosthelytize on this tactic, or recruit the
But if you have concerns about
On the flip side, let