Five small rules I break as an Amazon seller that make me money and save me time: Confessions of a rebel FBA seller
Confessions of a rebel Amazon seller
The best rewards in business will always come to those work smarter and not harder. As an Amazon seller, if you’re not questioning and constantly seeking loopholes, you’re in trouble.
So here they are: Five small rules I break as an Amazon seller that save me tons of time and make me significant money.
Rule to break #1: Ignoring most “No scanning” rules.
You’ll see these “no scanners” signs at many library book sales, and many other places that have had “problems” with Amazon booksellers. Either via a sign or some other medium, many book sources declare that no scanning or other bookselling implements are allowed.
Several times when I’ve seen these signs, I’ll casually ask (without revealing I’m an Amazon seller): “Why do you have the no scanning rule?”
I’ve only gotten three types of answers:
- “Amazon sellers take all the good books”.
- Amazon sellers represent a threat to their ego (using superior tools and business sense to turn their 50 cent book into a $10 book). They never say this explicitly, but that’s the takeaway.
- Amazon sellers make a mess / are rude / hoard and then abandon books / etc.
Are these “no scanning app” rules valid?
Let’s examine these 3 reasons one by one.
The third one is 100% legitimate. I’ve seen absolutely abhorrent behavior from Amazon sellers in a book buying frenzy. Sellers tossing books, shouldering other shoppers (and sellers), and abandoning mountains of books in corners for someone else to clean up.
That’s not me. So breaking this one doesn’t violate the spirit of the rule, just the letter of the rule.
The second one is too silly to legitimize with a response.
And the first bothers me. A lot. Because you rarely see these “no book scanners” rules in a for-profit setting. You see these rules in places that either serve the public and need the money, or serve a select group who believe volunteers are maximizing the return on their their book donations. Places where the money raised selling books will then be put to good use.
Take, for example, a public library book sale. Friends of the Library chapters are generally run by retirees who, despite their volunteer efforts, may or may not have an interest in furthering the library’s mission. Often, its a simple way to kill time during retirement. They simply have no skin in the game.
And while the library board (and public) trusts them to work in the interests of the library, they’re often willing to forfeit profit that could go to the library by enacting frivolous rules. Among them: prohibiting people from buying books, and generating revenue for the library.
Banning Amazon booksellers directly translates into less money for libraries. For one, we all know a book that has demand at a book sale and a book that has value on Amazon are two totally different things. And every book sale has lots of leftovers – no book sale liquidates every last book.
And that’s why I ignore (most) “no scanning” rules. I keep my book scanning covert, and fly way under the radar.
Rule to break #2: Removing book price stickers
It’s unfortunately uncommon: Book sources that cover the barcodes of books with a price sticker.
I don’t think sources do this deliberately to stymie Amazon sellers. I just think they don’t know we exist. And that is why a huge amount of the time you will find places that cover their barcodes with price stickers, making them un-scannable.
An example of this is one of my top sources for several years running. I can’t even begin to quantify what impact it would have on my revenue if I didn’t militantly drag my fingernail across every book’s price sticker at this source.
Is this against the rules? I’m sure this minor property damage would be frowned upon were I ever caught (which I never have been). I do my best to leave the integrity of the price sticker intact (not preventing it’s ability to be read by a cashier), so I consider this victimless.
And in any case, this vandalism directly translates into more sales for the book source: The more book price stickers I scratch off, the more I buy. Win-win.
Added bonus: Because most Amazon sellers (and people in general) always take the path of least resistance, sources that cover their barcodes are fertile fields for those of us willing to bend the rules. Almost no other Amazon sellers will go as far as removing the sticker.
Rule to break #3: Not weighing FBA boxes before shipping
This is a small rule I bend primarily when I’m doing FBA sourcing while traveling. Nobody really checks FBA box weight, so when I’m anywhere that my scale is not, I estimate the weight without actually weighing the box.
UPS always gets what they’re owed from Amazon, and you’ll always get charged what you owe Amazon. So this is another victimless rule-break that saves a lot of time when FBA sourcing on the road.
Rule to break #4: Shipping stranded FBA inventory right back to Amazon
Another small one that usually isn’t against the rules. Just sometimes.
Items become “stranded” in your Fulfillment by Amazon inventory for many reasons – often a customer or FBA warehouse worker reports them as “damaged” or otherwise unsellable. Often their assessments are simply erroneous.
Whatever the case, Amazon has declared: “We won’t sell this.”
So I place a removal order, have the stranded inventory shipped back to me, and 95% of the time I ship it right back in to Amazon.
When inventory is marked as “damaged,” unless the damage is severe, there is a 99% chance the FBA warehouse worker who receives it the second time won’t have the same assessment as the first.
One example: I once shipped Amazon several dozen bundles of coffee bags. A warehouse worker was apparently offended at how worn the bags were (they were obviously unopened, but clearly had been in storage for awhile, and I mentioned this wear clearly in the item description). The entire lot was declared unfit to be sold.
When I got them back, I relisted them and sent them right back in to Amazon And they’ve all since sold. With no negative Amazon feedback, of course.
Rule to break #5: Listing restricted DVDs in other categories
Since Amazon banned most sellers from selling DVDs with an MSRP of over $25 last year (and a lot of sellers from selling any DVDs at all), there’s been few options for liquidating DVDs other than eBay.
But there’s a loophole: You do find the errant Amazon product page for a DVD outside of “Movies & TV.” You’ll see this particularly in the Sports category, where a lot of fitness and other DVDs have product pages.
When I find one of these, I don’t hesitate to list my “restricted” DVDs in these other Amazon categories, where they are outside of the reach of DVD restrictions.
When added up, each of these rules I break generate a significant amount of Amazon revenue for me each year.
Source (and sell) smarter, not harder.
Jordan Malik says
I love this. This is the difference between a true entrepreneur (that’s you) and a prude prim and proper Amazon seller (that is, the handful of sellers who troll facebook groups and message boards and bash anyone who asks a simple question about Amazon rules). When competition increases, the bold and brave bend the rules. Bravo.
Peter Valley says
Thanks man. Not a lot of bravery goes into these rule-bends, but the rule-bending mindset will get an entrepreneur far.
Hey Peter great article. I always try and zig when others are zagging. With that in mind, I know you have touched on it before but I would like to read your thoughts on what constitutes a new book. My personal view is that a new book is based on condition and not ownership.
Peter Valley says
I don’t see how any reasonable person would disagree. Even a book on the shelf at Barnes and Noble had a “previous owner.” There is short-but-not-that-short chain of custody any book goes through before it gets into the hands of the consumer. Even Amazon states clearly in their condition guidelines it is a matter of condition not custody.
The last rule seems too risky, a ticket to getting your account canceled/suspected by amazon
Peter Valley says
I would never set up a product page in this way. Amazon could never suspend someone for listing something on a pre-existing product page that they have green-lit.
#1 – I never go to book sales
#2 – Just use search for name of product, model number or if you can read the numbers just put that in
#3 – weighing boxes is not a problem. I always have returns sent back to me and if they are unopened, they get re-listed.
#4 – DVDs are not worth the trouble
You should never break the no scan rule at library sales. That is the quickest way to get yourselve kicked out of the sale. Plus, it only further makes Amazon sellers look bad. if you really knew your books, then you don’t need a scanner. Spend your time learning the books rather than breaking the rules.
I could go on and on about most f of your other points. This really bad advice in general.
Peter Valley says
My tactics are vindicated by my revenue.
Although you may think since you don’t make a mess like other assholes, you’re not an asshole for breaking scanning rules, you are incorrect. It’s not a “bending” of the rules, it’s just breaking them.
However misguided, the organizers of the sale make the rules and you should respect that, even if you know the reasoning is often silly. Take some time to convince the head volunteer of the silliness if you really really really want to scan. Otherwise, no matter how tidy, you’re the guy that contributes to amazon sellers having a bad rep by acting devious and not seeming to care.
Peter Valley says
I agree with you Peter 100%. And, I must also say that just by his responses about “knowing” the books you are searching for is “ABSURD”.
That being said, I wonder if this genius knows about all the books in his possession that he is selling and telling YOU not to do. I seriously doubt it. Lol