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Fulfilled by Amazon: How to get rid of old stuff immediately, sell it for more, and use Amazon as a cheap storage facility

20 Oct 2013  |  Tags: , , , , , , ,

Most people don't know that you can ship stuff to Amazon's warehouse and have them simultaneously store it and offer it up for sale to their customers. Sounds cool, right?

Amazon (logo)

It is. And it's super convenient.

Most people also don't even know where to begin when they're cleaning out their house. Every single small gift that you have ever received, every book that you have ever read that you still own, every power adapter for every small electronic device you ever owned… where does this stuff all end up? Usually: a landfill

Landfill

That's right! Everything you've ever owned is still sitting somewhere unless it was lucky enough to be recycled or incinerated. However, there is a better way to avoid waste or e-waste! Ship it to Amazon.

First of all, it's not as bad as it sounds. I've sold things for way more on Amazon than they were going for on eBay at many times. Previously, I've also blogged about how eBay's fees can be kind of a rip off. — For example, I had a 2006 Apple “Mac Pro” desktop that I could have sold for about $300 USD on eBay, but I instead sold it while traveling for about $900 USD through Amazon's marketplace (after shipping it to them a month prior). All it cost me upfront was about $20 in discounted UPS shipping (which they provide) for its giant, heavy box to reach their warehouse. Post-sale, they even took a smaller commission than eBay would have and I had sold it for 3x the price! The best part is that it got it out of my house immediately and also made it available for same day shipping via Amazon Prime to another customer once it arrived and was processed by their warehouse. This efficiency is the beauty of why you can sell for more using “Fulfilled by Amazon”.

What's the catch? Returns.

So, besides being able to sell stuff for more money because Amazon markets it and ships it the same day to Amazon Prime customers, there is one drawback: people can return stuff.

This doesn't happen very often, but you have to account for it when you're selling via Amazon. They provide the customer service without your involvement. Sure, you fetch higher prices for items, but there is always the risk that someone will attempt to scam you or simply make a mistake in their purchase and return the item. The customer is always right in this case, but Amazon does protect you to some level via their anti-fraud measures.

I've had people try to return broken electronics and such in place of the electronics that I was selling in excellent working condition. I've also had people simply realize later that what they were buying wasn't compatible with their existing equipment.

Don't be nervous, though! Use these tricks:

  1. List the serial number(s) of the devices in the product description for items that you are selling! That way, if a product is returned, Amazon's fraud detection can compare and shield you against loss.
  2. Don't overestimate items' conditions. “Like new“ means that it basically has to be.
  3. Reach out to customer service immediately if someone returns something and you are suspicious. If the reason for the return is something totally bogus, it needs to be investigated not just refunded.

When an item is returned, it is inspected by Amazon and often simply returned to your inventory immediately and sold to someone else later. However, in some rare instances, an item can only be disposed of by them (for an additional fee), or returned to you for alternate handling.

Making something out of potential e-waste

At my parents' house, I had a box full of cables. Ethernet cables, USB adapters, old Apple power cords, etc.

I spent about an hour labeling 20 or 30 of them individually, and dumped them all into a box that I shipped to Amazon's warehouse. They offer super discounted shipping to their warehouse, and you just print the shipping label for the box using their web tools. — A week or so later, each of the cables was being purchased individually for about $2-$10 USD on Amazon.com! Great, I just avoided throwing them out, but I simultaneously got them out of my possession and recouped some of the value in case I ever need to repurchase them for some purpose later.

Photo of the inside of Amazon's warehouse

Not just for books! Here's the inside of one of Amazon's warehouses. (Huffington Post)

What if some items don't sell? Slowly and casually drop the price to $0.01 USD, or just tell Amazon to dispose of them properly for a small additional fee. Either way, their persistent inventory charges amount to almost nothing for physically smaller items. — Easy, right? I used to mail all of my old textbooks to Amazon instead of selling them back to the bookstore at school. Use Amazon's inventory management to get stuff that you don't need and that's replaceable to someone else who can use it instead. Turn junk into cash that you can use to buy more junk later!

I've suggested this to friends who have a ton of stuff lying around that's worth something and:

  1. Feels hard to find the right buyer for…
  2. Is out of date but might be needed by someone at some random time in the future (and you wouldn't want to keep relisting it over-and-over on eBay)…
  3. Is something that someone might search for on Google and stumble upon at any given time in the future, but would not normally find for sale through typical internet channels…

You never know what you'll find at yard sales, but don't be the guy that's sitting on a bunch of stuff to sell and clean out later. You don't have to do it all at once! Just ship a few things to Amazon and have other people buy the stuff that you don't really need from now on. It's so easy and it cleans out your place simultaneously.

Certain things to avoid selling

Don't sell things that are going to fall in value soon. For example, don't sell your previous generation iPhone through Amazon because it's not guaranteed to be a quick sale. If a new iPhone comes out, the prices will continuously fall without yours necessarily selling for a while. Even if it does sell at a higher price, someone could still return it within 30 days and you'll be stuck selling it again later at a then even lower price! :(

iPhone 5, new in box

What to do instead? An eBay auction makes perfect sense for this, because it ends at a specific date for the maximum possible price on said date. The fees are higher (as mentioned), but by contrast, your phone could sit in Amazon's warehouse for months until someone actually buys it for much less than the eBay auction would have fetched at that same time.

Truth be told, I sold my iPhone 4S and 5 via Amazon, but I was slightly anxious about it throughout the process. I don't plan to sell my iPhones there in the future unless they're much older models compared to today's most recent. — There are often quite a few iPhones for sale at any given moment, but you'll never know if someone will buy yours for a fair price or if you'll need to drop its price further to attract more attention. With product values falling simultaneously in this instance, it can be difficult to maximize the price that you'll get for the device. eBay is better for quick sales of high-demand items that are falling in value due to buyers bidding up the price automatically to the current theoretical maximum.

Live lighter, be a consumer!

I've vouched for minimalism before, and I think that this is a great step toward not only cleaning out stuff that you don't need but in getting the most from the things that you don't necessarily want or need anymore. There's almost no setup required to use Amazon Fulfillment and they'll store your old stuff for you while providing the ability for you to manage pricing and availability remotely, 24/7. Is something not selling? Offer it for $0.01 USD and basically give it to someone who can use it, or tell Amazon to send it back to you or dispose of it properly.

Brooklyn Home Office, Minimized, At Night

If I'm considering getting rid of anything of any value what-so-ever, I try to send it to Amazon for sale and storage instead. If there's anything that I don't need, I opt for keeping my local “inventory” light and getting the value out of it now rather than dealing with it later. Let Amazon store and sell it for you! — If you ever need it again later, then buy it again. Be liquid + mobile, not sitting on a home full of “maybes”.

2014/05/18 Update, Bonus tip! … A barcode scanner

Amazon has a new App for sellers (called “Amazon Seller”), and it packs a camera-based barcode scanner! — If you're adding a lot of items at once, this is a huge time-saver.

Amazon Seller App (icon)

Just scan your products' barcodes all at once, see their pricing/value right away, and then optionally queue them for shipping to Amazon. — Decide if the shipping costs are worth it by weight, or if it's a better value to donate them locally to Goodwill as a tax write-off… since they even offer electronics recycling for free.

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