Retail Arbitrage, the Kirtsaeng Case, and Amazon Third-Party Sellers

cliffThis week’s e-mail questions are from third-party sellers on Amazon.com, — some of the three million Americans who sell their own merchandise on Amazon’s website.

“I just received an e-mail from a major manufacturer telling me to stop selling their merchandise on Amazon. The e-mail says I have to apply to become an ‘authorized reseller’ or else I can’t sell their stuff. I have only sold one or two of their items, which I acquired from thrift shops. Is that really illegal?”

It is absolutely legal. Under the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Kirtsaeng ruling (http://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/12pdf/11-697_4g15.pdf), a manufacturer cannot prohibit someone from reselling their merchandise after acquiring it legally from a retailer, liquidator or other source as you did.

Many Amazon sellers engage in “retail arbitrage” – buying goods at retail and reselling them on Amazon for even more money to people who can’t find similar items in their local stores. The Kirtsaeng case gave a big “green light” to retail arbitrage activities.

If you ever receive an e-mail like this one, here’s how you respond: “Please be advised that I make only isolated sales of your merchandise on Amazon.com. I acquire these items from a local thrift shop and pay the full listed price for them. It is my understanding that reselling such merchandise online is entirely legal and does not require any sort of authorization from your company.”

If you receive an e-mail accusing you of selling counterfeit or “knockoff” merchandise, that’s a different kettle of fish. When selling trademarked goods online, you always have the burden of making sure each item is 100% genuine.

“I run a group Amazon sellers with about 50 members. One of our biggest challenges is to find good information that we can talk about at our monthly meetings. There are a number of authors who have written e-books for Amazon sellers. Recently I downloaded a couple and sent the download code to all of our members so that they can download the e-book as well. Well, I just got a phone call from one of these authors screaming at me because I did this and threatening me with legal action. I thought these authors would be thrilled that I was helping them promote their books to the Amazon community.”

While the Kirtsaeng case allows you to dispose of merchandise online that you acquired legally (even in a bulk purchase of hundreds of items), it doesn’t allow you to make unauthorized copies of books and other literary works that are protected under federal trademark and copyright laws.

What you did, although with the best of intentions, clearly infringed the author’s copyright on his e-book, and he was right to threaten legal action. To calm the author down, I would offer him a small royalty for each of your members who actually downloaded the e-book, and promise never to do this again.

Going forward, if you wish to use copyrighted material for your sellers’ group:

  • contact the author/publisher and ask for a “book club discount”;
  • ask your members to download the book directly from the author’s/publisher’s website, and give them the “coupon code” for the discount; and
  • inform your members that while they can dispose of their copies after use (that’s what Kirtsaeng is all about), they cannot make multiple copies and resell them online (or anywhere else)

“I just visited my local department store, as I do each week, to buy inventory for sale on Amazon. When I approached the counter the sales rep, who knows me, told me I had to meet with the store manager in his office. The store manager was very nice, but basically told me that because of my ‘personal buying profile’ it was clear I was reselling their merchandise online, which violated their rules. The manager warned me that if I didn’t stop doing this they would prohibit me from shopping there. This sounds really un-American to me. Can they do that?”

Some manufacturers of high-end luxury goods are dusting off their contracts with their key retailers. Under these contracts, the retailers are given the exclusive right to sell the manufacturer’s merchandise at retail with some limitations, one of which is that the retailer not sell the merchandise “at wholesale or otherwise for resale.”

Because of the Kirtsaeng case and the rise of “retail arbitrage,” manufacturers are pressuring their retailers to enforce this restriction. Retailers are now telling their salespeople to keep an eye out for customers who are buying things in abnormally high quantities. If you are buying thousands of dollars of sneakers each week and are not a professional basketball player, you probably will be called on the carpet at some point.

If you are engaging in “retail arbitrage” on Amazon, you must stay under the radar screen by:

  • limiting your purchases at any individual store; and
  • varying your inventory so you don’t become too dependent on one line of merchandise that is available at only one or two local stores.

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’. This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state. To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com. COPYRIGHT 2014 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO. DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC

Amazon Goes Back to the Future…but Not Yet

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If you’ve been eagerly awaiting the start of Amazon’s Prime Air drone delivery service, you may have a long wait…as in never. Or then again…maybe not.

 
Fans of Amazon’s drone program were a bit disappointed earlier this week when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) released its guidelines for unmanned drones on Monday and literally shot the idea of drone deliveries right out of the sky (pun intended). But…Mary Osako, a spokeswoman for Amazon, was quick to note that the new guidelines only apply to hobbyists and not commercial entities, so the proposed guidelines don’t quite apply.

 
This seemed to match statements made by FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown, who stated in a CNET article that the FAA still had plans underway to perform extensive testing to help develop the drone delivery guidelines. According to CNET, this testing is scheduled for six sites in U.S. cities, although there has been no recent update as to the progress of this testing.

 
Meanwhile, the FAA has said that they published the guidelines on Monday because there have been a series of incidents in recent months that have involved unmanned aircraft, which the FAA have said are coming into close proximity with commercial airliners. The Washington Post reports that there have been at least 15 reported cases over the past two years, including a near-collision with a U.S. Airways plane over the Tallahassee Regional Airport. The NASA database, which is compiled of confidential complaints that pilots make, has actually stated that this number is higher and there have been at least 50 reports made by pilots and air traffic control about incidents and encounters with the unmanned drones.

 
While it remains “up in the air” as to how the FAA will ultimately structures the regulations for unmanned drones of both the commercial and hobbyist variety still remains to be seen, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos still fills confident in his Prime Air program and has stated that he doesn’t actually expect to see the regulations put into place until some time in 2015.

How to Sell on eBay as a Sales Person Even If You’re Not One

Are you a sales person? If you own an eBay store or list auctions on eBay, the answer to this question should be an affirmative “yes” and yet many sellers don’t want to classify themselves that way. After all, there is still that stigma for some people that sales people are pushy and just want to talk you into buying something. That’s why some sellers may say they have a store on eBay, or tell you that they sell on eBay, but a sales person?

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Ummm…NO.

 
If you’re one of those people who doesn’t consider themselves to be a sales person, then it may be time for an attitude adjustment. Okay, you don’t have to call yourself a sale person if you really don’t want to, but you should still sell on eBay as if you are. Here’s some sales person techniques that can help.

 
Positive Attitude
It’s the small things that can make or break a sale and if you’ve got a bad attitude as an eBay seller, trust me, it shows. People can’t physically walk into your store, but when they visit you online, your persona should come across as friendly and trusting. After all, who wants to buy from someone who practically shouts at you that if you don’t pay, they are going to report you right away? Or maybe they start the listing out by telling you all the reasons you shouldn’t buy from them. Is that how a sales person would act if you walked into the showroom to buy a new car? Would they be in your face telling you why you shouldn’t buy or would they show you the vehicles and point out all the nice features they have? Even if you’ve been burnt in the past by a unsavory buyer, keep a positive attitude in your listings and see how differently buyers will respond.

 
Explain the Features
One thing a good sales person always does is know their product. You can always tell when someone is new as a sales person because they have to run and find a manager every time someone asks them a question. Think about the item you are selling and what kind of questions you might ask if you were going to buy it for yourself. Explain the features of your item in your description as well as why someone might want to purchase it. As an example, if you are listing a shirt, you would want to list out all the measurements, the material and the color. You might then also offer some ideas of where the buyer could wear the shirt. “It would look good for an evening out or pare it down and wear it to the office…” Give the buyer a reason to purchase your item and you have a pretty good chance of winning them over.

 

Time is Not Relevant
We’ve all had it happen, one day things are humming along and sales are booming. Then suddenly one day, nothing happens. Then the next day it’s more of the same. Tumbleweeds start blowing across the living room and you wonder if eBay has been playing with their search algorithms again. When this is the case, it can be easy to want to give up. Instead, do like a sales person would do and take a step back. Maybe it’s just a slow week or maybe you need to figure out what the issue is and make some adjustments. Has another seller started selling the same products or lowered their prices? Are you selling an item that was hot, but the crowd has moved on? Analyzing the situation from a business perspective instead of an emotional one where you want to just throw in the towel can help you see the changes you need to make and gives you a clear objective for getting there.

 

Huge Changes to FEDEX and UPS Ground Dimensional Weight Shipping Charges for 201

Last week UPS made the official announcement that they would follow FedEx in making a significant change to the way billable weight is determined for small (<3 cu feet) packages beginning in 2015.

Currently dimensional weight is a factor for large packages but is not a factor for packages measuring less than 3 cu feet (length x width x height < 5184 inches).

If a package measures 12” x 12” x 12”, for example, the “billable weight” (the number you have to look up on a rate chart to determine shipping fee) today is whatever the package weighs. Easy to calculate. A 6 pound package is billed as a 6 pound package.

Beginning on 1/1/15 for FedEx Ground and 12/29/14 for UPS Ground things get a lot more complicated and for many packages significantly more expensive.

Here is the new rule. The SIZE of the package will be a factor in considering billable weight for ALL packages.

Billable weight for ANY package shipped by FedEx Ground or UPS Ground will now be the greater of actual weight or a number calculated by the following formula:
Package length x Package Width x Package Height / 166

Here is an example. Let’s say you are shipping a large 5 pound teddy bear in a box that measures 18” x 18” x 12”.
Actual weight is 5 pounds.
Weight according to the formula is 18x18x12 / 166 = 23.4
The 5 pound package will now be billed as a 24 pound package.
With current rates a package shipping from Chicago to Los Angeles (without regard to fuel surcharge or any ancillary charges) would cost $10.21 today or $23.05 in 2015. Huge increase!!!

The most significant change will be for relatively lightweight packages that are less than 3 cubic feet in volume (since dimensional weight is already a factor for larger packages). Some examples of effected products are pillows, stuffed animals, lampshades, rolls of bubble wrap, diapers or floral arrangements.

So now you know the new rules. WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO??

Here are our top 5 tips for dealing with the new billable weight factor.

  1. Educate Yourself – Now is the time. Before the busy shipping season is upon us, take the time to familiarize yourself with the new rules. Take a look at any package you currently ship via FedEx or UPS Ground and figure out what the shipping costs will look like with the new billing system. If you are purchasing inventory for re-sale, make sure you take the possibility of dimensional weight shipping charges into consideration when calculating your potential margin. Be particularly careful when offering items for sale including “free shipping”. For example, if you are selling that teddy bear referred to above and choose to offer FedEx Ground or UPS Ground as an option, make sure that your selling price can absorb the cost of shipping a 24 pound package across the country.
  2. Make sure that your box is not any larger than it needs to be. Anything you can do to make your package smaller will decrease the billable weight of the package. There are a couple of things you can do to your boxes to accomplish this. Consider using multi-depth boxes. These are boxes pre-scored to allow the sides of the box to easily (and neatly) be folded down to the appropriate height. Purchasing multi-depth boxes allows you to purchase a bundle of one size box that you can use for various products without having expensive empty space at the top. Another way to re-size any box is by purchasing an inexpensive box sizer tool. This is a handy tool that will allow you to score the four sides of any box so that you can (again, easily and neatly) fold the sides down to create a more compact package.
  3. Carefully evaluate what you are putting into your box. If the contents of your package can in any way be safely flattened or deflated this will be to your advantage. Definitely don’t scrimp on padding where it is needed, but try not to overpack. If you are packing clothing don’t swaddle your item in layers of bubble wrap. You have probably all received one of those packages containing a tiny item and a mountain of air pillows. Don’t do that!! If you are accustomed to filling your box with large air pillows, consider bubble wrap or some other less bulky void fill product.
  4. Consider other shipping providers or services. You may find that FedEx Ground or UPS Ground is no longer a viable option for your particular product. There are other choices. If you haven’t explored the options before, now is the time to look into various USPS options such as First Class Package, Regional or Flat Rate Priority Boxes, Parcel Select/Parcel Post. Note that while dimensional weight is a factor for some Priority Mail packages, it is not a factor for Express Mail. In some cases USPS Express Mail may be less expensive than FedEx or UPS Ground. Both FedEx and UPS also offer hybrid services (FedEx SmartPost and UPS SurePost) where packages are picked up by FedEx or UPS but delivered by the Post Office. These services are generally slower than regular Ground service but dimensional weight is NOT a factor and savings can be quite significant. Local or regional carriers are also available in many areas and may not use dimensional weight billing.
  5. Negotiate. Don’t wait until December. If you currently have a FedEx or UPS account or are considering having one in the near future, NOW is the time to get contact your representative and try to negotiate the best possible rates for your business. You might want to contact both companies and see who is willing to provide the best rates for you.

These tips were compiled my Robin and Mark Le Vine, of Bubblefast, a family owned business providing shipping supplies to the online community since 1999. Please feel free to contact us at robin@bubblefast.com or (877) 599-7447 if you have any questions or would like further clarification.

Things I Learned at the eBay Radio Party and Conference

Ciff Ennico HeadshotLast week’s eBay Radio Party in Las Vegas was a sellout:  more than 300 sellers on the eBay platform, ranging from rank “newbies” to powersellers with millions in gross annual sales, enjoyed three days of networking, educational programs and (ahem) extracurricular activities.

For those who don’t know, eBay has its own Internet radio station (www.voicemarketingradio.com), broadcasting a weekly talk show/podcast on everything eBay, hosted by Lee Mirabal and Jim “Griff” Griffith, eBay Inc.’s avuncular ombudsman to its seller community.  With eBay no longer hosting “live” events for its sellers, the annual Radio Party (www.ervegas.com), organized by eBay education specialist and consultant Betsie “eBetsy” Bolger (twitter.com/ebetsy), has become a lightning rod for sellers hungry for information, the latest software tools and advice on how to build their businesses on eBay.

Here are some new developments, news items and choice pieces of advice I picked up during the show.

According to Richelle Parham, eBay’s Chief Marketing Officer, more than $20 billion worth of merchandise was sold last year on eBay’s new mobile smartphone app (mobile.ebay.com) – that’s billion with a “B,” folks.

Marsha Collier, author of virtually all the “eBay for Dummies” books and her latest, “Social Media Commerce for Dummies” (www.coolebaytools.com), told me she was very excited about WorldLister™, a new easy-to-use software tool that helps eBay sellers list items for sale from their mobile devices with fewer than five mouse clicks (www.worldlister.co).

In her keynote address, Collier gave several tips for marketing your business on Twitter®, including:

  • tweets with hashtags and links outperform tweets with just one or the other;
  • tweets with more than two hashtags get 32% less engagement;
  • tweets that use more than 120 characters perform best, while tweets with under 60 characters see 1/3 the engagement of longer tweets;
  • tweets containing the word ‘click’ average 35% more engagement than the brand average;
  • tweets containing the words “right now” or “today” average higher engagement than the brand average; and
  • link with embedded photos perform 29% better than plain text tweets with links.

John “ColderIce” Lawson, author of “Kick-Ass Social Commerce for E-Preneurs” (www.colderice.com), told me that branding is largely a function of “staying in your lane” – focusing on a specific niche of merchandise rather than “selling stuff all over the place.”

The Home Run Guide, authored by eBay expert Janelle Elms (www.homerunguide.com), is an easy to use e-book (including a special download for Droids, iPhones, tablets, and iPads) that will help you separate the junk from the profitable treasures at garage sales, estate sales, rummage sales and thrift stores.

Cindy Sorley (www.bubbacandance.com), the founder of CO$T, an 850-member eBay seller group, shared a great story:  “On my flight home from Las Vegas I say next to the rapper Coolio.  No clue who he was. I had never heard of him.  By the end of the flight and after attending his concert he was wearing my cost shirt and will be selling on eBay!   Why?  Customer service on both levels.  A Utah girl who had never heard of Coolio or listened to rap went to his concert because he was so nice and so real.   I am now his eBay mentor to get him started selling.”

Bryan Goodman and Jason Smith (www.thrifting-with-the-boys.com) are the hosts of a hot new reality TV series, “Thrift Hunters,” on the Spike channel (www.spike.com/shows/thrift-hunters).

Kathy “ThatKat” Simpson has teamed up with sales tax compliance service TaxJar®  (www.taxjar.com), to provide a new service that will help Amazon third-party sellers (yes, this was an eBay event but a lot of sellers put up merchandise on multiple e-commerce platforms) register for sales tax in all 19 states in which Amazon sellers currently have “nexus” for tax purposes (for details, see www.thatkat.com).

E-commerce marketing strategist Lisa Suttora (www.visualcontentvelocitytips.com) spoke about several free software tools to help sellers organize their visual content, including:

  • Evernote (www.evernote.com) – a tool for aggregating your visual content ideas;
  • Skitch (www.evernote.com/skitch) – a annotation tool that helps you add arrows, comments and shapes to your visual content to announce sales and promotions; and
  • Hootsuite (www.hootsuite.com) – a tool that schedules your visual content across social platforms.

Last but not least, here are some pointers from yours truly, who spoke about legal and tax issues at the Radio Party:

  • if you download an e-book from the author’s website and give the access code to all members of your eBay sellers group, you have infringed the author’s copyright to the e-book and owe him or her royalties for each and every person who received the access code, whether or not they actually downloaded the e-book; and
  • some big department stores are beginning to crack down on sellers engaging in “retail arbitrage” (buying goods at retail and then reselling them on eBay or Amazon for more money) by creating “buying behavior profiles” on frequent shoppers – if you are buying so much at the store that you are clearly engaged in reselling activity, you will be called into the manager’s office for a friendly chat, and may possibly be banned from the store.

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2014 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

 

Yard Saling: Yep, There’s an App for That!

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If you’ve been reading my blog posts recently, then you know that if there’s one thing I love it’s a good yard sale. What I don’t like, however, is wasting a lot of time trying to find the yard sales that I want to go and visit. That’s why the other day I was happy to discover that there’s an App for that.

Yes, that’s right! There is an App for your smartphone that can help you find yard sales all around the areas where you live. Actually, there are quite a few Apps that you can supposedly use to help you find your way around town to all those lovely yard sales, but the one I am currently using is called Yard Sale or Yard Sale Treasure Map.

Before I go any further, I will give the usual disclaimer that I am not associated with this App, I just really think that it’s a cool tool. It may not even be the best out there, but it’s the one I’m currently using, so it’s the one I’m going to talk about.

Anyway, here’s what I know. This particular App apparently gets its data from Craigslist. When you first install the App, you get this little disclaimer that comes up that tells you that’s where the information is coming from along with a lot of legal talk so you know that if you drive cross country to a yard sale and it’s been canceled…well…basically, it’s not their fault.

After you’ve read over the legal mumbo jumbo, the App will tell you that it wants to use your location. I’m not particularly fond of any App knowing where I am all the time, but there’s really no way around it if you want to use the App, so you’ve got to acknowledge that it’s okay to use your location. A map will then pop up with little markers of where all the current yard sales are.

But wait! It gets better!

If you click on Settings (which in this case is a little spikey wheel looking thing), you can make some adjustments for your search. You can tell the App to search for yard sales between two and 30 miles from your location. You can also choose what day to perform the search. As an example, I checked for tomorrow and there are seven yard sales that are very close to where I live.

Now for the really cool part. You can also get a description of all the yard sales and then it will create a route for you. It will also let you narrow down your searches by letting you choose keywords and then marking yard sales with those keywords in a specific color. As an example, if you’re looking for yard sales that have books for sale, then you would put “books” as your keyword and it will change all the markers for yard sales with books to a different color, so you can easily find them. Pretty neat, right?

Have you used the Yard Sale App or another App to help you find yard sales? Leave a comment below about your experience with this type of technology!

 

 

KiOui-Apps presents 1st Annual Midwest e-Com

Bloomington, MN — Thursday, July 24 and Friday, July 25, 2014: Join us for our first annual Midwest e-Com Conference at the Ramada Mall of America Hotel – Minneapolis, MN. . It’s a two-day, fully catered event packed with tips and tools on e-Commerce for only $99.99 a person. Two-day sessions are from 9am to 4pm, include lunch and networking fun and happy hours afterwards. Tickets are on sale now at our website: http://www.midwestecom.com/.
If you are a current online seller on eBay and Amazon or always wanted to start your own business, this is the place to be. Two days of dynamic sessions featuring well-known professionals in the field; sharing tips, tools and techniques for running a successful e-Commerce business. Topics to include selling and sourcing inventory on eBay and Amazon; and using tools like PayPal and Inventory Lab. Learn about FBA selling on Amazon and the new Sales tax rules all sellers are talking about. More information and detailed sessions and speaker profiles at http://www.midwestecom.com/.
The Ramada MOA Hotel is offering discounted rooms, Free WiFi and complimentary Shuttle to and from the airport and the MOA.
Thank you to our sponsors BubbleFast, The Danni App, 2ndOffice, NeatOScan and Inventory Lab. Please contact us if you would like your company to become a part of Midwest e-Com 2014.
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For more information on the conference, hotel, sponsorships, to purchase tickets and press:
Travis Barritt
KiOui llc
715-323-4189

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Forming a Partnership VIA Website . . . Without Personal Liability

 

Ciff Ennico HeadshotI have run my own professional services business for some time.

In the course of running my business I have become close and friendly with two other professionals in the county where I live.

We have worked together on a number of projects, and we seem to work well together.

So we have decided to market some of our services together as a team and split the profits from certain jobs. We have set up a website under the name ‘ABC Partners,’ with short bios and photos of each of us and a description of the services we will work on together.

We don’t intend to do everything together. Each of us will be free to work with clients outside of the arrangement. We will work together only on very large projects that are too big for any one of us individually. We may also bring on board people in other disciplines so that clients can get all of the necessary skills for a job in one place.

Our attorney is freaking out about this. She says we have formed a partnership and can all lose our houses if something goes wrong. We never intended to be partners, and we don’t have a partnership agreement. I know lawyers are paid to worry, but is she right about this? Can we get around this problem by just taking off the ‘Partners’ in our name?”

Sad to say, but your attorney is 100% correct.

By setting up this website, you have created what is called a “general partnership.” Once of the biggest misconceptions in the world of small business is that “you have to have a written partnership agreement to form a partnership.”

Not true.

You can legally form a partnership with a handshake. You can even (as is the case here) form one by accident.

It doesn’t matter that you used the word “Partners” in your name. Even if you hadn’t done that, your website holds the three of you out as partners, and that’s enough for the law to imply a partnership.

Partners have what is called “joint and several liability”. That means that if one of you makes a professional mistake, your aggrieved client can sue all three of you and can collect from whichever of you has the deepest pockets. He is not obligated to collect one-third from each of you. Depending on your state law, he may be able to put liens on your houses and other personal assets as collateral for his judgment.

There are two ways you can get around this problem.

First (and the better way), you can form a limited liability company (LLC) for the work you will be doing together. LLCs are inexpensive to form and easy to operate. You can define the “purpose” of the LLC as narrowly or broadly as you wish with the help of your attorney. Then make sure the LLC name appears clearly on your website, stationery, business cards and other marketing materials.

Of course, you will have to file a partnership tax return (IRS Form 1065) for the LLC each year, and each of you will need to receive Form K-1 showing your share of the LLC’s profits and losses for the year. You will almost certainly have to register the LLC as well for state and local taxes depending on the type of services you are rendering.

If you do not wish to form an LLC, there’s a second way you can get around the problem: each of you can form an LLC or corporation for his own business, and then list the LLC or corporation as the “partner” of “ABC Partners” on your website. Next to each of your photos, there would appear text saying “John Jones, Managing Director of John Jones LLC, partner of ABC Partners.”

By doing so, when people look at your website they will be seeing a general partnership consisting of three separate LLCs or corporations. Your LLC or corporation will still be liable for anything that “ABC Partners” does wrong, but your liability will be limited to the business assets you have contributed to the LLC or corporation. Your personal assets won’t be at risk.

You will need to word your website text very carefully to make certain clients and others who view the site know that you have limited liability. You should also create a short “disclaimer” document stating that you have limited liability, and post it on your home page so that it’s clearly visible.

Yes, I realize that making these changes takes a lot of the “pizzazz” out of your joint marketing efforts. That’s why I personally think the LLC is the way to go here.

One more thing: before you work with people in “other disciplines,” check your professional code of ethics to make sure you can. For example, lawyers are strictly prohibited from entering into partnerships – even accidental ones — with nonlawyers.

Cliff Ennico (cennico@legalcareer.com) is a syndicated columnist, author and host of the PBS television series ‘Money Hunt’.  This column is no substitute for legal, tax or financial advice, which can be furnished only by a qualified professional licensed in your state.  To find out more about Cliff Ennico and other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit our Web page at www.creators.com.  COPYRIGHT 2014 CLIFFORD R. ENNICO.  DISTRIBUTED BY CREATORS SYNDICATE, INC.

 

 

Etsy takes swing at eBay about recent security threats

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Last week, Etsy took a bit of a swing at eBay by commenting that after the recent security threat on some “high profile websites” that the company had noticed an increase in some of their own members receiving random spam messages through Etsy’s “conversation” system, or rather, their internal messaging.

 
While eBay was quick to defend their online security by stating that member’s log-ins on their site are encrypted, it still brought up a good point that should be addressed. Many online sellers use the same usernames to sell on multiple sites around the Internet. From a business point, keeping your name the same across different sites makes good sense because if you have an easily recognizable name, buyers can still find you whether you’re selling on eBay, Etsy, Amazon or somewhere else (iBid and Bonanza anyone?).

 

Unfortunately, it’s a fairly safe bet to guess that probably at least half of these people or more are using the same password on every site. It actually makes sense that many would do this because it is so much easier to remember if you just use the same password for all of them, but — and this is where the problem comes in, it also makes all of your accounts vulnerable if hackers get your password from even just one of your online accounts.

 
A couple of weeks ago, I discussed what steps you should take to ensure that you have a strong password (you can read about that here), but it appears I forgot to mention that we all need to take this a couple of steps further. Make each password to each site that you are on different from the others. It’s not simply enough to just change a few letters or digits or symbols either. Each one needs to be a complex password that is completely different from the others. This is especially true for your eBay and PayPal account.

 
Finally, don’t forget that your Auctiva or other template companies should have different passwords than the accounts that they connect to as well. Make it a habit to never click on links (or emails) that are sent to you, if they are sent by someone you don’t know, or even if the links are sent to you by a member you do know, avoid clicking on it if there is no written content from them that explains what the link is actually about. Instead, contact the member first and ask them if they actually sent it to you.

 
You can read Etsy’s blog post in its entirety here.

 
Have you recently had more spam than usual on your Etsy account? Leave a comment below.

 

How to Increase Your Amazon Business with Pinterest

When it comes to promoting your Amazon business, it’s kind of like having one hand tied behind your back. Unlike eBay, which promotes that each seller is their very own entity, Amazon kind of wants its buyers to think that when they purchase something through the Marketplace, it is coming from Amazon itself. This means that if you’re doing your own shipping, you aren’t suppose to put advertising in the box or really even tell your buyer that you would like for them to purchase from you again.

Fortunately, Amazon doesn’t have a problem with you promoting your items through social media, so if you want to share, tweet or pin, you can feel free to do so. While I think each has its place, the one I want to talk to you about today is Pinterest. With a reported 70 million members and growing, Pinterest is a great way to advertise your products by having them get “pinned” or shared by others.

Before you go and start randomly pinning your items, keep in mind that there is a bit of an art to it.

First, don’t just pin your own items. Pinterest members don’t like people who overly self-promote their own business. Instead, choose a theme for your boards and promote some of your items, but then pin some other interesting images or products that tie in with your board’s theme. As an example, if you sell cake pans, you could post recipes for cakes or cake decorating ideas.

Second, create a daily pin theme. This will allow you to promote different products each day in a fun and friendly way. For instance, you could use “Pretty in Pink” to promote items you sell that are pink or “Black Tie Affair” to promote party items. Daily themes usually tend to draw repeat visitors to boards and will help get your items re-pinned by other members.

Third, follow and pin items from other members who are popular in your niche. You may think of them as the competition, but people who are looking at their items will often follow other members who are creating similar Pinterest collections. Plus, if you follow someone who is a popular figure in your niche, they may just follow you back!

Finally, think of Pinterest as an investment that will pay out over a period of time. It may take you a while to see results and build followers. It usually doesn’t happen overnight. As you pin and repin, however, you will find those who have a common interest with you and your products. Those are the ones that will not only follow you on Pinterest, but will ultimately follow those links that lead to your Amazon store. Devote a little time to it each day and I bet you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results.