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Monday, July 14, 2008

Sell your stuff at Marketplace: Part One - An overview

I wrote about Marketplace when I first started selling our used books there, but I thought it was time to revisit the topic since I've been selling there for three years now.

What is Marketplace? If you shop at Amazon, you've probably noticed the "Used & New" price option on most pages. If you click on that option, you're taken to a page with a list of sellers who are selling that particular item. The list includes each seller's price, the condition of the item, the seller's feedback rating, and hopefully a description of the item. This list is the Marketplace page for the item. And the sellers are usually a mix of businesses, who find customers at Amazon, and individuals, many of whom are like me and simply having their garage sale online.

My favorite thing about Marketplace is that you set your own price and wait for someone to decide to pay it. Unlike eBay, there's no listing fee, no auction, and no calculation of shipping costs. Amazon sets the shipping charges and gives you a shipping credit. The fees you pay to Amazon are higher than what you would pay to eBay, but with Amazon, you only pay a fee if your item sells.

You can also ensure your profit by pricing your item accordingly. Amazon makes this easy by telling you what you will receive if the item sells during the listing process. The amount you receive from Amazon includes the shipping credit but not the actual shipping cost. More than once, I have gotten to the "confirm your listing" page and realized that after paying for shipping, my net profit would be so small, it would be a better use of my time to simply donate it.

My least favorite thing about selling on Amazon is that a sold item must be shipped within two business days. Shipping for me means a trip to the post office, since I sell only books, CDs, DVDs, and video games, and U.S. mail is the cheapest way of shipping these items. (If you're selling these types of items, you should definitely learn about Medial Mail rates.) Items over 13 ounces must be delivered to a post office employee, and can't simply be dropped in a mailbox or even left at the counter with adequate postage already affixed (unless your post office is different from mine).

Since heavier books require waiting in line, something that's not always convenient, I usually do a cost-benefit analysis when my net profit after shipping charges would be low. If the item does not require a wait in line, I'll usually complete the listing. But if I have to wait in line, my profit must be at least $5.

Another thing I like is that I can list an item whenever I want, put it aside, and wait for someone to buy it. Listings expire after 90 days, but Amazon will send you an email to let you know that a listing has expired and include a link to relist the item with just a couple of clicks.

When I first started listing books on Amazon, Marc and I went through our bookshelves and sold about half of our books. One corner of our office was just filled with stacks of books, but over a period of about six months, the stacks gradually disappeared and I had a few hundred dollars in the bank from the online equivalent of a garage sale. Ever since then, I've had a grocery bag under my desk containing the items that are currently listed for sale, and every once in a while, I'll get a "Sold, ship now" email from Amazon.

In Part Two of this series, I'll share some listing and shipping tips that I've acquired in the last three years, so stay tuned!

Update: Part Two: Listing Your Item and Part Three: Shipping.

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  • At 7/14/08, 11:03 AM, Blogger Kris said…

    Cathy! So glad you're posting about this. I sold my grad school textbooks back through Amazon, and made about 1/2 the money back I spent on 'em.

    If anyone's interested in doing the same thing, now's a good time to get in, so you'll have your listings up when college is back in session.

  • At 7/14/08, 12:09 PM, Anonymous Rachel said…

    Thanks so much for posting this. I was looking for a new place to sell since ebay is so hit or miss!

  • At 7/20/08, 1:06 PM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    @Kris - Thanks. You're absolutely right, Amazon would be a great way to sell textbooks!

    @Rachel - Glad to help. Give it a try, I think you'll like it.

  • At 9/26/09, 5:10 PM, Blogger Bruce said…

    I was always getting frustrated in trying to figure out all of the fees on Amazon, so I built an Excel file that will calculate the Amazon Fees based on the cost and margin that I want to make on a product. So I made one which you can download for free.

  • At 9/26/09, 7:03 PM, Blogger Chief Family Officer said…

    @Bruce - Amazon will tell you at the end how much you'll receive if the item sells, so I just create the listing and if I think the net payment received isn't worth it, I just don't finalize the listing.


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