What to do when you get an Amazon Return notification – part two

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Last week, we covered three of the essential steps you should take when you get one of those dreaded “Amazon Return” notification emails from Amazon. This week, let’s look at some additional things you should do when (and if!) the item has been returned to the warehouse.

Find out why the item was returned

Although looking at the report to find out why the item has been returned may or may not provide a good explanation (sometimes it is unknown or the buyer simply changed their mind), it does at least give you a starting point as to whether the item is resalable or not. To see this report, you will need to go to Seller Central and then look under Reports, select Fulfillment, and then click on Customer Concessions and finally on Returns. In some cases, you may find that the item just simply isn’t showing up on the report. When this is the case, you will have to open a ticket (fun, fun) and ask Amazon why the buyer returned the item.

Decide if you want to have the item returned to you

Once the item has made its way back to the warehouse, an Amazon warehouse work inspects the item to determine whether it can be put back out on the shelf to sell again. If they see that the item has been opened, they will automatically mark it as “Customer Damaged” and it can not be put back out for resell. It also can’t be put out for resell if it was returned due to it being defective. If the warehouse worker determines it hasn’t been opened and it is not defective, they will then typically add it back in with your inventory.

It is at this point that you need to decide whether to trust the warehouse worker or ask that the item be returned to you so that you can inspect it for yourself. Although it will cost you a small amount of money to have the item returned and then turn around and ship it back, this can keep you from getting negative feedback from another future buyer if they buy the item and there actually was something wrong with it. In some cases, the worker may have not noticed that there was a tear in the box or the shrink wrap was cut. If you decide that you won’t have the item sent back, double-check why it was returned and then make a note that it was returned in case there is a problem further down the line.

Determine if the item is defective

If the item is open and described as defective on the report, you will, of course, want to have it shipped back to you just to see what the problem is. As you may know, however, some buyers will say an item is defective because they want to get out of the shipping costs to return the item. When this happens, you can open a ticket with Seller Central and tell Amazon that the item was not defective. Make sure to include photos of the item in good condition as you will want to show proof that the buyer has simply said it was defective to get out of the return shipping costs.

When this is the case, Amazon will reimburse you for the cost, but only if the item has been opened. If the item has not been opened and is in good condition, they won’t give you a reimbursement since they know that you can ship it back to them and just sell it again.

What has your experience with Amazon Returns been? Leave a comment below.

What to do when you get an Amazon Return notification – part one

Amazon Packaging

Nothing can ruin the day faster for an FBA seller than checking your email and discovering one of those dreaded “Refund initiated” emails from Amazon. Not only is a return notification frustrating, there’s also a lot of unknowns hanging out there that can make a knot form in the pit of your stomach.

Is the buyer planning on leaving me negative feedback?
Will I be able to resell the item or has it been damaged by the buyer?
Is this going to affect my seller metrics?

These are all valid questions and although it will all play out in time, for the moment, the things to concentrate on are protecting your account. Here’s part one of some things you can do that can help.

Save the return notification to an email folder

Although Amazon issues the buyer a refund as soon as they initiate the item’s return through Prime shipping, Amazon doesn’t wait until the item has been returned before it will issue the refund. Instead, they go right ahead and issue the refund even though the item hasn’t even made it back to the warehouse yet. Since there is a 45-day window for the return, it is important to keep up with the email notification, so that you can verify the return has been made within those 45 days.

Request a refund

Interestingly, even though the buyer asks for a refund, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are going to return your item. If it is not returned, Amazon is suppose to go ahead and automatically reimburse you when this happens, but that doesn’t always occur. After the 45 days are up, you will want to go to your Seller Central and click on Reports to take a look at your returns and refunds. If you find the item has not been shipped back, you can then nudge Amazon to reimburse you the funds.

Contact the buyer

At this point, you may not know whether the buyer has a legitimate reason to return the item or not, but it’s still a good idea to try to protect your feedback. To do this, contact the buyer and apologize that the item did not meet their expectations. In some cases, this may keep the buyer from leaving a negative feedback, or if they have already left the feedback, this may give you an opportunity to show that you are a helpful and responsible person. In turn, they may decide to remove the negative feedback they have already left.

Stay tuned. Next week in part two, we will look at the steps you need to take once the item has made it back to the warehouse.

What tips do you have for handling Amazon returns? Leave a comment below.

4 Untruths You’ve Probably Heard About Amazon

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A lot of wannabe sellers want to take the plunge and start selling on Amazon, but find they are intimidated by some of the things they’ve heard about the mega marketplace. In fact, there are a lot of misconceptions that get bantered around the Internet on an almost daily basis. Here are four untruths you’ve probably heard that may be holding you back.

It’s hard to sell on Amazon

Hang around on some of the Amazon sellers boards or Facebook pages and you’ve no doubt heard sellers talking about getting massive orders ready to send in to “feed the Amazon beast.” They talk about how stuffed animals have to be in plastic bags and boxes have to have labels on them and…and…well, it can seem quite overwhelming.

Although it might seem like it would be easier selling and shipping your own items out to buyers, the truth is that for many sellers Fulfillment by Amazon makes their life a whole lot easier. In fact, really all you do is ship your items to an Amazon warehouse and Amazon does the rest.

You can’t successfully sell on Amazon these days

A couple of years ago, it wasn’t uncommon to hear about sellers moving over to Amazon from eBay and suddenly go from making almost nothing to making five figures a month. While it’s no longer a sure thing (and really – despite what you’ve heard, it never was), there are still a lot of sellers making some serious money on Amazon. Do your research, study the market and you could still be one of the success stories.

The marketplace is just too crowded

When you consider that there are over two million sellers on Amazon, it’s no wonder that so many people find it daunting to give it a try. After all, that’s a lot of competition to go up against. When you step back and consider that Amazon typically gets around 175 million visitors a month, however, you should realize that you still have a fairly good chance to carve out a spot for yourself.

You can set it and forget it

Maybe once upon a time you could list a popular item, add a price, a few simple details and a photo, then just wait for it to fly off the shelf on it’s own, but that’s certainly not the case anymore. Today, you need to use every optimization tool at your disposal to ensure that your item will rank as high as it can.

This means, good item descriptions, good photos and a competitive price. Even after you have your item listed, you still need to keep an eye on what the competitors are doing and adjust your pricing as needed. You don’t want to be the highest with your prices, but you don’t want to end up losing profits by being the lowest either.

What untruth have you heard about Amazon? Leave a comment below.

Amazon to implement holiday storage fees for end of 2016

Amazon Packaging

If you’ve been following the Amazon warehouse saga, you know that the company is concerned about storage space, since their warehouses started filling up with unsaleable items that take up a lot of space. Although the company has made some changes that limit the amount of certain items that can be shipped to the facilities, it’s apparently not been quite enough to deter some sellers from their shipping patterns.

To counteract this around the holiday season this year, Amazon has decided to hit sellers right in the pocketbook. They plan to raise the fees for sellers using the Fulfillment By Amazon (FBA) service, but the higher fees will only start and stay in effect for the last three months of this year.

Amazon states that this change is to urge sellers to think before they send and instead, use the Amazon warehouse wisely. Basically, they want to make sure that items that are sent in for the holidays will actually sell. Interestingly, while the storage fees are going up, the fees will go down for what they call their Weight Handling Fees, or rather, outbound fees.

Adding to a bit of the confusion, they will actually lower storage fees for October to lower than they are now, but then the fees become higher for November and December. Here’s a copy of the email that Amazon sent out to its sellers. You can also read more about it and see the proposed fees by going here.

Hello from Fulfillment by Amazon,

In 2015, FBA volumes, growth rates, and inventory levels were very high. As a result, our U.S. fulfillment centers were very full in November and December. This fullness was driven in part by FBA inventory that did not sell until well into 2016.

To avoid potential capacity constraints during the 2016 holiday season, we are accelerating the expansion of our fulfillment capacity. Additionally, we are changing our FBA fee structure to encourage all sellers to send in and store products in November and December that are likely to sell by the end of 2016. To give you time to plan for these changes, they will begin to take effect on October 1, 2016.

We are introducing the following updates to our fees:

–  Adjustment to Monthly Inventory Storage Fees: Effective October 1, 2016, the monthly fee for inventory storage will change for Standard-Size and Oversize units. October storage fees will decrease, and the fees for November and December storage will increase. This change will first be reflected in November 2016 charges for storage that occurs in October 2016. See details (or scroll to the Monthly Inventory Storage Fees information below).

–  Reduction of Weight Handling Fees in November and December: To minimize the impact of the increased storage fees in November and December on your business, effective November 1, 2016, we will reduce our Weight Handling Fees for all items shipped in November and December. See details (or scroll to Fulfillment Fee information below). With the reduction in Weight Handling Fees, sellers who reduce the storage space they use in November and December have the opportunity to pay lower total FBA fees. Sellers who hold unproductive inventory through November and December may see an increase in total fees. See examples of how total fees may be reduced.

–  Box content information required for shipments to Amazon: To ensure that shipments to Amazon are received quickly and accurately, effective November 1, 2016, you must provide box content information for each box sent to a fulfillment center. Shipments containing more than 55% of FBA units already provide box content information. In September 2016, we will provide additional tools to make it easier to provide box content information on all shipments. If your shipping processes do not support providing this information, we will apply a fee of $0.15 per unit in November and December. The fee will be $0.10 per unit for January through October. If you provide box content information, you will not be charged this fee.

Should this concern sellers?

Well, yes and no. Basically, you will have to pay higher storage fees, but when the item sells it will cost you less in “fulfilled” fees.

If you want to keep costs down, you will really need to take a long hard look at what you plan to keep in inventory this holiday season. You will also want to adjust your prices accordingly to cover the cost of your items sitting in Amazon’s warehouse on a shelf, so that you can recoup the extra amount of the fee. While I wouldn’t panic or completely change my strategy, I would keep it in mind as you begin getting your holiday inventory together and perhaps may even consider listing some of it elsewhere if you believe that the storage costs could present a problem for your unsaleable items.

What do you think of the fee change? Leave a comment below.

Amazon: The Online Marketplace that Would Be King

Amazon Packaging

In recent years, while eBay has struggled to find its new identity, Amazon has quietly surged ahead with its plans, toppling all the competition in its path while slowly but surely becoming “king of the world” in the online marketplace (insert image of Jack standing on the bow of the Titanic). As you might imagine,their success has drawn sellers in droves to the e-commerce giant, but in some cases perhaps maybe it’s been a bit like a moth to the flame.

As an example, Amazon FBA recently began sending out notices to sellers that certain items were no longer being accepted by the company due to overcrowding in the warehouse. This meant that some sellers suddenly had inventory they had purchased, but could no longer sell.

Meanwhile, in another move of dominance and what seems to have been under most seller’s radars, is that while they have been busy feeding the Amazon FBA beast, the marketplace behemoth has been sitting quietly taking notes and making plans. You see, you may not know it, but Amazon has its own private label and its known as “AmazonBasics.”

While AmazonBasics was initially created to focus on selling commodity items, such as batteries online, the private label has been quietly growing to a point where there are now over 900 products being sold under the label. Interestingly, 284 of these private label items were added within the past year. According to KeyBanc analysts, this number may actually be even greater with AmazonBasic potentially offering even as many as 1800 products.

This information may not be enough to send up warning bells, but take heed, Amazon has no problem switching from working as a distribution partner to being a direct competitor whenever there is an opportunity for them to make a profit. As an example, they have even entered the fashion business by offering clothing items like women’s cashmere sweaters under the marketing label known as Lark & Ro.

Although its doubtful that sellers will turn away from Amazon even if the company they sell through is suddenly their direct competition, it is something sellers should be aware of since moths that are drawn to flames often are the ones that end up burned.

What do you think about Amazon having a private label? Leave a comment below.

Facing Your Online Selling Fears

Fear

Whether you sell on Amazon, eBay or another online marketplace, it’s a pretty sure bet that at some point in time, you have or will find yourself second guessing on an item and worry about whether you should purchase it or not. In fact, for many sellers making a purchasing mistake is their number one fear.

Unfortunately, this actually is a legitimate fear and one that all sellers have to deal with. The truth is, there are no sellers out there that make the right decision every single time. Everyone makes mistakes and even when you’re a seasoned seller there will still be an occasional time that you overbuy or even don’t buy enough.

There is some good news, however. As you gain more experience, or rather, learn the buying process through trial and error, you can reduce your fear and begin to cut down on your risk of making a purchasing mistake.

Keep in mind though that even with experience, it still isn’t always possible to predict how well an item is actually going to do. This means you have to face the fear and work to replace it instead by concentrating on the components of buying that you do know and can have control over.

Here’s some questions you can ask yourself that can help.

How much money do you have to invest?

Although this is a simple question, it might surprise you to learn how many sellers actually have no idea what they really can spend, nor have any real idea of what all they have tied up in inventory. Once you know these numbers, it can help you to move forward without fear because you know exactly how much you have available to spend.

How much competition do you have?

Logic would tell you that if a lot of sellers are selling the same item, then the item is hot and there are profits to be made. Sadly, this isn’t always the case. A lot of the time when there are a large number of sellers and a large number of sales, it is only a matter of time before one or more sellers will decide that it is time to start dropping prices. If this happens, you need to know whether you can still make a profit or not if you too have to start lowering your prices.

How many have sold or what is the item’s sales rank?

If you’re selling on eBay, you can generally take a look at completed items to get an idea of what is selling and how much buyers are willing to pay. If you sell on Amazon it’s not quite as easy, but numbers don’t usually lie. Check the sales ranking of the item you want to buy and see how it is doing in its Amazon category. Is it a top-selling item? Even if you discover that it is doing well, you still need to take care and do some due diligence. Is this the typical rank for the item or did it just have good day and it’s normally a slow selling item. If it is the typical rank for the item, the information can then go a long way toward calming your online selling fears.

Do you still have online selling fears or have you mastered them? Leave a comment below.

Where the Amazon Fulfillment Centers Are Located (And Why You Need to Know)

markfaggianoMark Faggiano is the founder and CEO of TaxJar, a service built to make sales tax compliance simple for eCommerce sellers. Try a 30-day-free trial of TaxJar today and eliminate sales tax headaches from your life!

 

Amazon doesn’t make it easy to keep track of the locations of the Amazon fulfillment centers. Between new warehouses opening up all the time, warehouses occasionally closing, and the opening of data centers and the fairly new “sortation centers,” keeping up with where your Amazon FBA inventory is housed can be downright confusing.

 

But as an FBA seller, you do need to know where your Amazon inventory is stored due to one thing: sales tax nexus.

 

That’s right, housing your inventory in a state likely gives you sales tax nexus in that state, meaning that you need to collect sales tax from buyers in that state. Here’s a map with info about each state and what constitutes sales tax nexus.

 

How Do You Find Out Where You Have Nexus?

 

So you sell on FBA and you know you have inventory has been shipped to other states. But where do you have nexus?

 

First of all, you have nexus in your home state. You live there and run your business there.

 

Second, you can use a couple of methods to find out where you have nexus due to FBA. You can run this report in Amazon Seller Central, or use a paid service like Wherestock.com.

 

Once you’ve figured out where you have sales tax nexus, your next step is to register for a sales tax permit in each state. Then, set up sales tax collection with Amazon. (You can find a step-by-step guide to setting up your Amazon sales tax settings here.)

 

Do you have questions about sales tax nexus? Start the conversation in the comments!

Prime Day: Amazon to Host Black Friday Event in July

Shipments from Amazon

If you’re looking to get a head-start on your Christmas shopping list, next week on Wednesday, July 15 may be just the day to do it. Why? Well,that’s when Amazon is hosting its first ever “Prime Day,” an event that according to Amazon will basically make Black Friday look like little more than child’s play.

There is a catch, of course. You have to be a member of their Prime service to be able to snatch up all those incredible deals. A Prime membership will cost you $99 if you don’t already have one, but they are allowing non-members a chance to join Prime and that will allow them to still catch all the savings. According to Amazon, new and existing members will be able to shop thousands of “Lightning Deals” along with Deals of the Day and as an extra bonus, members can receive unlimited free two-day shipping.

Amazon states that the incredible deals will start at midnight (PDT) on the 15th and will continue onward throughout the day, with some new deals happening as often as every ten minutes. They’re also promising that it won’t just be a few departments that are participating, prices will drop for everything from electronics to video games and even back-to-school items.

If you are a seller on Amazon, you may be wondering if you’re allowed to get in on the promotion for that day too. Well, it sounds like yes and no. You apparently have to be a seller who uses Fulfillment by Amazon and if you are eligible, you should have already received an advanced notice that you can participate.

In case you’re wondering about the reason for Prime Day, it’s probably no coincidence that July 15 coincides with the exact same date as Amazon’s 20th anniversary. Prime Day isn’t just for buyers in the United States either, Prime members who are in the United Kingdom, Japan, Italy, Austria, France, Canada, Spain, and Germany also will have have deals available to them too.

Will you be selling or buying on Prime Day? Leave a comment below.

Minions appearing on Amazon shipping boxes

One Eyed Minion
If you’ve got kids or you’re an adult who loved the Minions from the movie “Despicable Me,” then you probably know that the Minions have their own movie coming out on July 10. What you may not know, however, is that Amazon is tying into the promotion for the movie by featuring advertisements for the movie on their Amazon delivery boxes.

The cheery looking yellow boxes, which feature different Minions started shipping out about two weeks ago. There are reportedly three different ads with each one featuring one of the three characters. The ad you get depends on the size of the box your item is shipped in.

This isn’t the first time that Amazon has done advertising through their shipping. They have previously run advertisements for their Prime services on the packaging tape used on the boxes. They also sell advertising space on their Amazon Lockers that are used as delivery locations. This is the first time that the advertising has gone outside of their normal type of advertising, however, with independent ads running on the boxes.

Really, it’s not a surprise about the Minions appearing on Amazon’s boxes. They are also showing up on a variety of products with the little yellow creatures on everything from Tic Tacs to Mott’s applesauce. They are even apparently showing up on a special edition Monopoly board.

Interestingly, the boxes have already become somewhat of a collector’s item with some Amazon buyers hoping to collect all three boxes. If you’re like most sellers though, your big question is probably whether Amazon is sending the Amazon FBA products out in these adorable boxes.

Well, yes and no. Apparently, only certain warehouses have the box, but if the item that is ordered comes from one of those warehouses, your buyer may have their item delivered in one…at least, until the supply of boxes runs out.

Are you a Minions fan or have you seen one of the boxes? Leave a comment below.

How to run your Amazon business without becoming disconnected

Chain links
There are a lot of benefits to running your own online business from home. There’s no commute. You get to decide when you want to work. You don’t have to answer to anyone else (except maybe family members) and you can even work in your pajamas if you want to.

Unfortunately, if you’re not careful you can also find yourself becoming disconnected with the outside world. Days can pass without seeing anyone except maybe the postman and if it wasn’t for the fact you occasionally have to get out and find more merchandise, you might find that you never even leave the house.

If you’ve fallen into this habit, don’t despair. Here’s some things you can do to reconnect with the outside world:

Make a point to get out and about. You may not be able to do something every week (you do have a business to run after all!), but set aside some time each month to have lunch with a friend, get a manicure, or spend an afternoon simply sitting in the park.

Join a business network or local business association. You may not think of it that way, but as an online seller you are, in fact, a small business owner. Business networks are a great way to meet other small business owners as well as other types of professionals. You can not only share business experiences, but it’s a great way to get advice and can help you stay motivated.

Get out and exercise. One of the biggest problems work from/at home business owners seem to have is that it’s hard to incorporate exercise into their schedule. Join a gym, go for a walk, or find a fitness class, such as Zumba or kickboxing to take. Not only will it get you out of the house where you can meet other people, but exercise will help the body and the mind.

What do you do to stay connected? Leave a comment below.