Amazon Trade-In is your Friend

If you're are all up in the picking and flipping game, you are inevitably all up in the shipping game as well. Any online merchant worth his or her salt had better understand the costs and hassles of shipping. And you have better get yourself a pretty big stash of padded envelopes, adhesive labels, packing tape, and common sized boxes.

Sure, you can reuse old boxes and relabel old paddies here and there. But once you're shipping merchandise on the regular, you had better just bite the bullet and buy some supplies. You sure as hell don't want to be stuck paying full retail price for a last minute padded envelope at the post office or convenience store.

One of the best places to get cheap but effective shipping supplies sent directly to your home or office is right there on Amazon. Go ahead, do a quick search for #5 Padded Envelopes, or bulk packs of shipping tape. You aren't likely to beat those prices. And despite some frightening reviews, I've never had a problem with quality when buying generic supplies from a third-party merchant through Amazon.

And what's even better than buying discount boxes of boxes? Trading in picked books and media for 'em! Here is the short version of how it works:
Some popular items (books, dvds, and cds mostly) have trade-in value. To see if a book you are scanning has trade-in value, you need to use Amazon Student app (the regular app just doesn't give you these values). Just scan the barcode, and look for the extra value in green under the New & Used value. See:

So, in this example, you could list your recently bought copy of Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction for sale (the lowest competitive price is $6.40), or you can "Trade-In" your copy and get a guaranteed $4.59.

Basically, a "Trade-In" is a book that, if in Good or better condition, can be sold directly to a partner of Amazon. The best part is, they pay the shipping! And you can group all your Trade-Ins into one big package to ship all together.

The downside is that your Trade-In values are paid out in Amazon credit. This isn't much of a downside if you regularly shop through Amazon. And if you don't, you can use the Trade-In credit to stock up on shipping supplies, like we discussed at the beginning of this blog post.

A few things to keep in mind:
Not that many items have a lot of Trade-In value. And those that due usually have a value that is much, much less than what you could get from just selling the sucker. Examples like the one above a pretty rare. Even more rare, but certainly out there, are those anomalies that have the Trade-In value even higher than the lowest for sale price! If you find one of those bad boys, close the deal.

Also know that the Trade-In value listed on the item page on media items like CDs and DVDs are for New condition. The value for Like New and Good are usually much less. See the images below.

Another thing to remember is that the Trade-In value of an item can fluctuate (usually decreasing) over time. I used to save up a big box of Trade-In and then execute them all at once in one box, but even a few days in a holding pattern can reveal a huge drop in your potential credit. It's best to confirm and mail right away.

Lots of CDs have a Trade-In value of just 50 cents or so, but if you can get those cheaper, it is a guaranteed profit. No waiting to see if an item will sell, and no shipping costs to calculate (or mis-calculate). And I'll say it again, even if you don't want anything on Amazon, you likely will need to buy shipping supplies, so there you go!

Guest Post: Kathrine's eBay Store

This isn't Katherine... or is it?     It isn't.

I hope everybody out there is having a fun and productive time picking, flipping, finding deals and making friends. I know I've been having a blast and coming up on some decent scratch in the meanwhile. Best of all, I've gotten to know some real great folks out there as well as some real great folks on the net through this here blog. You all have some great stories and inspiring ideas. I've particularly shared some insightful emails with a fellow picker named Katherine. She was kind enough to write up her thoughts on eBay Stores for us, so here is our first ever Guest Blog on Part Time Picker:

I've been selling on eBay for so long it's become a way of life, and during those years I've seen many changes - some good, some bad, and some entirely unnecessary!

When eBay Stores first started I signed up enthusiastically, but within a few weeks closed my Store and went back to auction-style listings.  Why? Because back then stuff in Stores got no visibility.

If I remember correctly, Store items were tacked onto the tail end of all the auction listings. An insignificant link said something like See Matching Items in eBay Stores, so if you had a popular or common item, the odds of selling it out of your Store were somewhere between zero and a snowball's chance in hell.

So that was it for me. I ignored eBay Stores for years and discouraged anyone from opening one, for reasons that have now become obsolete.  Recently I've talked to a number of eBay Store owners who wouldn't sell any other way, so I investigated.

So what are the advantages of opening an eBay store?  
You can save money on listing fees – IF, and only if, you keep a minimum of 67 items listed all the time.  EBay's monthly fee for a basic store is $19.99 for a max of 150 listings.  For most non-store listings, you’re charged 30 cents. Multiply 67 x 30 cents and there’s your $19.99.  Pay by the year and it works out to $14.95 a month, an even better deal.

That means items you add to your store – from numbers 68 through 150 – are the equivalent of free to list. Cool beans.  Even better, final value fees (FVFs) are slightly lower with a store. In addition, you get a number of useful analytical and marketing tools and the ability to send newsletters to your subscribers.  You can also run sales if you need some fast cash or dump a bunch of dead stock and potential buyers can see that the price has been reduced.

Generally your listings run for 30 days, although you can opt for a shorter duration.  You could let your listing roll until sold (or you die), but I suggest that after 30 days you should change the main photo, adjust the price, and change the font and/or tweak the description. People will think it’s a brand new listing.
The other cool thing is, if you sell on Amazon, you could list your items in your eBay Store too. Some people shop for bargains exclusively through one or the other... why not get exposure to both? This, of course, won't work so well if you are using FBA.  

If you 'dual-list' with both Amazon and eBay you must be on the ball though to avoid complications from 'double exposure'. The instant something sells on one site, you’ll have to remove it from the other.  That means keeping your smart phone by the bed, if you get heavily into this – but what’s the chance something will sell on both sites at the same time?  Very little, but I hate tempting fate.  By the way, it's easier to cancel a sale on Amazon than it is on eBay, if that should ever happen.

Listing 150 items on eBay is very time-consuming, so if you have a mind to open an eBay store, start stocking up now. Don't do what a friend of mine did: open a store and list four items. Duh, that's a $5 listing fee per item, per month, fool.

In a recent interview on NPR, one of eBay's head honchos said that over 60% of listings are Buy It Now. The bidding novelty has worn off for many consumers. And besides, most people hunting for things on eBay want them NOW, so I haven’t run an auction-style listing in months.

I've sold a couple of 'local pick-up only' items too. There's an app people can use to find anything listed locally, and it can pay off. There are too many weirdos trawling Craigslist, so I don't mind paying eBay's FVF to get a serious buyer who has paid up front.

So maybe an eBay store would be right for you. With enough research, trial and error, and yes, even minor setbacks, you will find the right zone for your online business.  As they say: Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.

Garage Sale Picking Tips and Tricks

You will need: Preparation, focus, and a thick pair of gloves.

Even in these rapid-fire days where everybody and their Grandma seem to be selling loot online, there are still amazing picks and good times out there. But no doubt about it, there is more competition now than just a few years ago, and it's going to get worse before it gets better.

I love a junk store, and give me a soda and some sunscreen and I could browse a flea market all day, but for my hard-earned time the best picks are always at the garage sales. Hands down. And by 'garage sales' I also mean 'yard sales' or 'tag sales'. Basically anywhere where amateurs are selling their extra possessions for cash.

Sure, you can just spot a garage sale as you're driving by, pull over, and browse. It's fun and friendly, but you are unlikely to walk away with a trunk full of gold for resale. You need strategy and you need skills. And a little luck won't hurt, either.

So here are some of the Part Time Picker's favorite tips and tricks for garage sale scores.
  • Plan where you are going to go - Once you have scoured the listings and decided on what spots you think will yield the best picks, get a map and make a plan. Keep in mind drive times and when and where you are going to get a bite to eat. 
  • Start early - The early bird gets the worm, so don't hit that snooze button on Garage Sale Picking Day. Some of these things start as early as 7am, so be there and caffeinated and ready to dig. While I think it is fine to get to a garage sale a few minutes before the official start time, some folks show up an hour early. Those people are known as "jerks" and you don't want to be associated with them.
  • Go late - The selection might not be as fresh, but you can rake in some big bulk deals (and even free stuff) by swooping in at the end.
  • Know how (and when) to haggle - I can (and will) write a much more in depth article on haggling techniques, but a few of my favorites are:
    • Carry small amounts of cash in each pocket - Something costs 7 bucks, and all you have is a fiver in your pocket? Sold. Nothing hurts your haggling game more than a fat knot of large bills.
    • Ask for the bulk deal or 'add ons' - Garage sale hosts are what we in the industry call "motivated sellers". They want this stuff to move. And the psychology of adding-on more items into the basket is often easier to swallow for them than asking for a discount.
    • Be friendly and smile - Seriously, being a nice person who politely asks for a deal is by far the most effective tool in your haggling kit. Even if you are going to try to argue your way into some savings by pointing out flaws in the merch and such, do it with a smile. 
  • Be discreet when you are researching stuff on your phone - While some folks don't care who is buying their goods, others can be pretty reluctant to sell to someone who has an obvious profit motive. By blatantly researching items on your phone, you are basically conveying that anything you are interested in purchasing could be sold for more than they are asking. 
  • Dig deep, open boxes, and look in drawers - Bring gloves and get dirty. There is some valuable, albeit dusty, stuff down in the depths. Don't be afraid to look inside everything. If it's in the sale zone, it's fair game.
  • Ask if there is more stuff inside or elsewhere - especially if you are arriving later in the day. Time and again I have had the really big score handed to me simply when I asked, "Is there, by chance, any more toys (or whatever) that haven't been put out yet?"
  • Bring your own bags and boxes - Don't count on there being bags or boxes available to hold all your loot. On more than one occasion I have purchased an entire bin of books only to have the seller tell me that they want to keep the bin. 
  • If a seller won't negotiate, give them your name and number - More recently than ever in the past, folks are overpricing their stuff at their garage sales. If this is the case and they won't listen to reason and charm, just give them your number and tell them to give you a call later in the day or tomorrow if they find they want to move their items. Once late afternoon rolls around and the crowds start to dwindle, some of these sellers will seriously reconsider your offer.
  • Stay hydrated - your body needs water so drink it. It might be a good idea to wear some sunscreen, too.
  • Have fun!

Gone Fishin': Selling Vintage Lures on eBay

I'll tell you everything I know about fishing.
Worms are gross, fish are slimy, fish hooks can hurt, boats make me nauseous, and you can easily purchase and eat tasty fish at a restaurant so I really don't need to fish if I don't want to.
Also, vintage fishing lures can sometimes sell for a lot of money online.

I once bought a tackle box full of old lures for ten bucks at a yard sale. It was stinky and dangerous and full of hooks and fishing line all tangled up. But at the bottom were a few old Heddon lures that I thought looked cool so I saved them for years and years. When I later started sorting all my junk and seeing what I could sell on eBay, I was delighted to find these things can reel in some decent dollars

Now, unfortunately I didn't have any of those ultra-rare lures that can catch you hundreds of dollars, but I put the bunch of them up on eBay and walked away with over 50 bucks. Since then, I've been careful to always check in any tackle boxes or tool boxes at every junk store or yard sale.

Another good tip to find antique fishing lures is whenever you see a fishing rod for sale, ask if there are any lures or tackle. Folks often keep the lures and hooks aside to make sure some kids doesn't accidentally get pierced.
Some brands of old lures that can be worth a bit include Heddon, Creek Chub, Shakespeare, South Bend, and Pflueger. There are also lots of smaller companies. And, of course, if the lures you snag aren't worth a ton individually, I recommend saving up a box of them to sell as a lot.

Books That Are Better for eBay than Amazon

The general principle for flipping books is pretty easy. Check your book values on Amazon and if you can make a decent profit from the picking, do just that thing. But there are exceptions to the Books-Get-Listed-On-Amazon rule. Occasionally, some books are better suited for eBay.

In general, eBay gives you a greater sales pitch opportunity for you items. With Amazon, you get to list condition and maybe add a sentence or two to describe the defects. Not much chance to make your item stand out. But with eBay, you can put up all the photos you want, throw down all kinds of related keywords, and smooth talk your way into a big sale. In exchange for this freedom to add flair, the process to get an item listed on eBay with all those enticements can take a significant amount of time. So what books are worthy of the time that it takes?

Antique and rare books: Some folks do quite well by selling there antique, collectible, rare, or autographed books on Amazon. For me, on the very rare occasion that I do I come up on an early edition or a signed copy of a popular book, I like the advantages that come with the auction format. Some quality photos of those classic illustrations or embossed cover can go a long way. A quality listing will stand out and perhaps net you a few extra impulse bids or purchases.

Books that are restricted by Amazon: Some books and movies are just straight-up blocked on Amazon, particularly if you aren't paying the $40 monthly charge to have a Pro-Merchant account. This happen most often with DVDs, and will happen even more in the future. And then there are all kinds of hurdles to selling collectible books or toys during the holidays and on and on. When I hit against this wall, I just slide those bad boys over to eBay and count my money. Those fees could have been yours, Amazon.

Weirdo art books and editions that aren't even on Amazon: Despite having over 20 million books listed on Amazon, I regularly find myself with an opportunity to pick some obscure art title or self-published monogram or zine that isn't in their database. Now, an obscure book is obscure all over, so don't expect eBay to perform miracles... but somehow these things have a way of finding their way to the right person when listed with proper connective keywords.

Lots of books on a similar subject: See the picture of those old Qabalah hardcovers up there. Two of them are available on Amazon for less then $7 each, and one of them isn't even on Amazon at all. Not really worth a pick. But the whole is worth more than the sum of the parts (or whatever that idiom is). Put them together with some tasty photos, some choice words in the subject line, and some mystical wording on Qabalah that I found with a quick online search, and someone was putting over $60 into my Paypal by the end of the week.
There is a really good blog post about selling themed lots of throwaway books on eBay over at FBA Mastery. Do not interpret my posting of this link as an endorsement for all those overpriced eBooks promoted on that site, however.

Amazon is still my go-to spot for selling books and movies. But it is not a bad idea to keep these eBay-book picking thoughts simmering on the back burner when your out there picking. Have a good time and feel free to let me know any thoughts you might have on books that belong on eBay.

Selling Books for a Penny... Now How Does That Work?

Go pick out a couple of books from the shelf that you have recently read or plan to read, scan them with your smartphone and favorite picking app, and observe the lowest 'Used' price on Amazon that other merchants are selling it for.

Yup. One cent. A lousy, measly, nearly-worthless penny! Now, why on earth would somebody sell a book on Amazon for only a cent? Aren't they losing money when you factor in the cost of picking the book and the Amazon fees? How could selling a book for a penny possibly make good business sense?

The short answer: Shipping charges... and lots of them.

I was once privileged enough to visit and get an inside look at the operation of one of these large Amazon sellers that deals in penny books. It was a huge warehouse full of shelves of books and DVDs with giant piles of mixed books and people with scanners scanning and sorting them and another room with people on computers listing them and another room for shipping. It was pretty impressive, but how is could an operation like this be sustained by penny books, I asked.

The math is actually quite simple. This operation buys books and media in bulk, and often can even get bulk books for free. I was told it costs an average of $100 for a palette of over 500 books and movies, sight unseen. So that averages to about twenty cents per book for the picking cost.

Now, a couple of these books are gold. It might be a rare occurrence, but all it takes is a few decent textbooks or artist monograms that can be sold for $20-30 each and the costs on the whole palette is recouped. When you're dealing in bulk like this, you only need, like, 5% of your books to be worth just a few dollars each and things can really start to get profitable. So even if two-thirds of the palette should be classified as 'penny books', enough profit is still generated from that other third to begin to cover the costs of storage and labor.

So, you're thinking, all those penny books are just the leftover chaff to be recycled. They're a liability, right? Nope, those penny books also generate profit not in the sale price, but in the leftover change from the difference between the shipping funds collected by Amazon and the actual shipping costs. And when you ship hundreds of books a day like this operation does, you can qualify for bulk shipping costs, which are much lower than even media mail.

We're talking actual shipping charges of about a buck per book. So even after Amazon fees and the costs of shipping materials like padded envelopes and labels, these penny books are bringing in a buck or two each. Do that several hundred times a day, add it to the bigger profits made from the sale of book and media that actually has value, throw in the occasional rare mega-valuable book, and you have yourself quite a thriving business.

This Amazon Forum thread about penny books from a few years back breaks down the math with some more detail, so give it a look if you still are scratching your head.

Obviously, selling books for a penny does not work for the Part Time Picker. A penny book operation requires cheap laborers, large warehouses, forklifts, and all kinds of crap I have no interest in dealing with. That doesn't sound like fun at all.

Sure, I'm happy to pocket the proceeds that come from the low costs of shipping a lightweight book, but I'm not about to base my livelihood on the principle. Don't get me wrong, I love penny books... love buying them, that is. (But then, of course, I'm paying the shipping charges too, so they are really $4 books, now aren't they.)

And since your so good at math there is no need for me to explain that books sold for a penny but using FBA results in nothing but a loss for the merchant. If you see someone selling a book for one cent with free FBA shipping, you should buy that book just to teach that idiot merchant a lesson.

Pick-tionary: BOLO - Be On the Look Out

BOLO: The acronym, not the tie.

If you spend any time perusing the internet for blogs and groups and comments about picking and flipping items on eBay and Amazon, you are no doubt going to be seeing the word BOLO being bandied about. What it means is Be On the Look Out. It originates from 1960s American Police jargon and is basically the same as an APB, or All Points Bulletin. But we're not out looking for crooks, we're looking for big picks with which to make decent dollars.

Personally, I'm not a big fan of the phrase BOLO. Maybe it's that I just don't like acronyms (although I was delighted to find that 'Scuba' is one). Perhaps the word reminds me of the hideous neckwear. Maybe seeing this phrase in all caps over and over again just gives me the willies. And, technically, shouldn't it be BOTLO? Either way, I hesitate to use it here at Part Time Picker. But I do want you to know all about it. Why?

Because when you are combing the net for picking blogs and comments and such and you come across somebody posting a BOLO, you should sit up and pay attention. BOLO posts are a great way to build your mental radar for potential picks.

The online community of eBay and Amazon sellers is very generous with sharing their tips and finds. They love to brag about the huge profit they just made on an unassuming item, as do I. While many BOLO posts are about very specific items that you may never find and shouldn't waste your time searching for, it never hurts to know. Heck, I even keep a notebook handy to keep a list of potential BOLO picks I may have otherwise overlooked.

Two Facebook groups I like to scan for BOLO posts and comments are Stay at Home Moms Selling on eBay (those moms make up a large demographic of picker blog interactions online) and Thrifting With The Boys, who have one of those preposterous cable shows that make everyone think they can get rich quick by picking antiques.

So, yeah, that's BOLO.