I love the questions I get from my readers because they are so varied and interesting. Sometimes I don’t know the answer either and it makes me curious. Here’s the latest crop of great questions. Hopefully they will help you, too:
Q. I Hate Competing Against Those Low-Ball Guys! Is There Any Way I Can Eliminate Them From My Repricing?
A. Me too! They drive me crazy because we could all make more money together if they weren’t so busy driving the prices to the bottom. Plus, if you set your repricer to price you in the middle of the bottom 4-5 prices, you are often competing against someone charging less than $4 (in books, for example). I would rather wait these guys out and get my price, but it is not always easy to tell your repricing software how to do this. I use ScanPower to reprice, but I imagine all the repricers out there offer this functionality so check with whichever one you are using. For ScanPower users, I have a Step-by-Step for the repricer, HERE, if you want more help.
OK, inside your repricer, go to “settings.” With ScanPower, the setting you want is at the bottom of the settings page. As you can see, there is a place where you can put in the seller ID numbers for each seller who drives you crazy. No names – you know who they are. OK, how do you find their seller IDs?
Go to a book or item where you think they have an offering. Click on the company’s name.
Once you get to their seller page, look up to the top of your screen. Their seller ID is actually part of the URL for the page. You can now copy it and paste it into your repricer settings box for sellers to exclude. You only need to do this once and your repricer will ignore their offerings when repricing your items.
A word of caution, make sure you’ve got sellers who are repeatedly low-ballers – it is part of their business model – and that you truly don’t want to compete against them. Once you put their ID in your repricer, it will be as if their offers don’t exist but they may still be impacting your sales.
Q. Are There Other Scouting Tools Besides ScanPower You Recommend?
A. I get this question in one form or another pretty often. I’ve used ASellerTool in the past, and have been with ScanPower for nearly three years. However, that doesn’t mean that the other scanning tools don’t have something to offer. Since I can’t speak from personal experience, I asked one of my friends and fellow FBA seller to give me his review of the new scouting tool from ASellerTool to share with you. Robert Prince is an experimenter and likes to try new things, which makes him a great source for us. He has used all the scouting tools at one time or another:
Until couple months ago, when I was sourcing, I had three devices to use: My smartphone (I’ve used both Droids and iPhones, settled on the iPhone), a Scanfob 2002, and a Dell X51 PDA with a Socket scanner. Loaded on the phone were ProfitBandit, ScanPower, Amazon Price Check, and Flow. The frequency of use is pretty much in the order listed. Then I had ASellerTool’s PDA where you regularly load part of Amazon’s database on to the PDA and carry it with you.
When we were scanning any non-media items, we used the phone. For books and other media items we used the PDA. It was no fun carrying around the PDA, but it was much faster than the phone when scanning books.
Now, ASellerTool has come out with a solution so perfect I expect anyone who sources to flock to their new app. With the app loaded on your smart phone, you can download the entire book database onto the phone. NO SD CARD OR PDA NEEDED. And, I just got an email that they just added three new Amazon categories into our local database: (1) Home, (2) Grocery, and (3) Health. In addition, you can program your criteria for a “buy” into ASellerTool so it will notify you if an item falls into your criteria. This means you can scan faster and only scrutinize the scans that fall within your pre-set criteria (rank, selling price, etc.)
So… when I am sourcing media, Books, DVDs, CDs, VHS, Software, Video game, Toys, Grocery, Home or Health, I set the app to “DB” (database) and response time is 1/10 sec. For any other category, I set the app to “LV” (live).
There are two other modes that I really like: “NF” stands for “use live for not found item.” The program will first search for an item’s pricing information from the pricing database downloaded to the phone. If the item is not found in the local database, the program will do a live lookup to search on all Amazon items. “MR”: stands for “use live for more results.”
The program will first search for an item’s pricing information from the pricing database downloaded to the phone. If the item is not found in local database or is found in the database and is showing ‘Buy’ based on the criteria, then the program will do a live lookup to get real-time pricing information.
This means that people in areas with poor cellphone coverage can still scout and that scouting in certain categories is much, much faster than a live lookup. BUT you still have a live lookup when you want it.
Now I only carry my phone and the Scanfob. The monthly subscription is $40 and well worth it to me. The links below take you to instructions with screenshots on how to set up and use ASellerTool on your phone:
What about you? Do you use NeatoScan, ProfitBandit or some other scouting tool? Please let me know what you think and I’ll share it with the community.
Q. What Can I Do To Get Rid Of Negative Feedback?
A. First of all, congratulations! You’ve been selling enough that you got feedback. Now you know you are in business! Negative feedback happens for a number of reasons including customer confusion – they think they are leaving a product review, for example – product problems or poor delivery by Amazon. The last happens rarely, but it does happen and Amazon will take responsibility for it. Overall, the best way to keep your negative feedback low is to be a good seller with honest representation of your product. When something goes wrong, there are several approaches to make it better. The first and best is to contact the customer yourself.
When you get negative feedback, the trick is to answer promptly with sympathy, politeness and gratitude. Your customer is doing you a favor by responding even if you are not thrilled about it. I wrote a blog post about how to remove negative feedback: www.fbastepbystep.com/feedbackfrenzy that shares some of the form letters I use with unhappy customers.
Q. I’ve Found Some Inventory That Seems To Be “Off” On SellerCentral – How Can I Reconcile My Inventory With Amazon?
A. This is a high class problem to have because it means your inventory has gotten big enough that it is getting hard to keep track of it. Luckily, there are some easy solutions for you. First, Amazon has a new Inventory Reconciliation Report that you can access from your SellerCentral. Once you login, go to the “Reports” main page. Scroll down the left-hand side and under “Inventory” you will see “Inventory Reconciliation.” This is the cheapest way to start because it is free. It lets you put in specific SKUs and see every transaction. You can see that there were 5 shipped, 4 sold and 1 lost in the warehouse, for example. This is a good tool for inventory where you want to track it yourself. You can also send an email to Amazon about specific SKUs where you have questions and they’ll get back to you by email.
If you want to see the status of all your inventory, then you need to do the “download” report. It will take a while to generate, but is a great report to run from time to time. In looking over the past year, for example, I learned that 51 of my items were returned by customers, 45 were lost by Amazon in the warehouse and 11 were damaged. Out of 2997 items sold, that represents a small percentage of my overall inventory: 1.7% returned; 1.5% lost and .3% damaged.
Q. How Do I Know If My Inventory Is HazMat?
A. This is a complicated question because Amazon’s list of what is HazMat is constantly getting additions as they review inventory in their warehouse. Basically, HazMat is an insurance issue. They could lose their insurance if there is a fire, toxic spill, etc. in their warehouse due to inventory. They’ve been going through their tens of millions of items and reviewing them for HazMat so what happens sometimes is that an item you’ve previously sold will suddenly become HazMat. What is especially annoying about this is they are required to destroy that item. You don’t get it back, you don’t get reimbursed. You are S-C-R-E-W-E-D. On your scouting tool you may notice an item has no FBA sellers. This is either a good thing (yay! I’m the only one!) or a bad thing (wah! It is HazMat!). If it is a book, rejoice. If it is a Spiderman Webshooter…put it back. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself:
- Check Amazon’s HazMat guidelines on SellerCentral periodically. Aerosols like my Webshooter are a no-no. I was thinking “toy” not “aerosol,” and made a mistake.
- Wait for Amazon to approve your item. Many new items are being flagged as “HazMat” that aren’t actually hazardous but need to be reviewed and officially approved before you send it in. If you get the HazMat notice from Amazon, don’t assume your item is forbidden. Try a few more times to list it. If your item has not been approved after a week of being flagged, send them an email explaining it has been a week and they will expedite your request. It should only take a few days.
- Get pre-approval. If you are not sure, get pre-approval from Amazon. Got a Barbie beauty kit and concerned it might be HazMat? Call or email Amazon and they’ll tell you if it is or not. Basically anything with perfume or nail polish will be, but what if the perfume is a solid or the nail polish is in pen form? It might be OK.
- Check Amazon’s new report to see if any previously acceptable inventory is now HazMat or if something of yours was destroyed and you missed it the first time around. Go to SellerCentral “Reports” and look up the “HazMat Status Change Report.” You will be able to see a list of all your inventory that is “Blocked,” “Allowed,” or “Pending.”
Q. I’ve Just Noticed That Some Of My Inventory Has Units That Are “Unsellable.” What Does That Mean?
A. Often an unsellable unit is something that you sold that was later returned by your customer for some reason. Maybe they changed their mind, maybe it is defective, maybe it has been damaged in the warehouse. For whatever reason, Amazon has determined it cannot sell it. Often the item has been opened by the customer, which means it is no longer “new.” You have a choice now to either have the item destroyed or returned. I have a standing order with Amazon to return my “unsellable” items to me once a month. Each item costs me 50 cents to return. The reason I have it returned is to see if I can re-sell it or not. Sometimes I simply change the condition and send it back in (like books and other media) or I might have my friend sell it for me on eBay if it is in good shape. Other times I donate it because the box is too badly damaged or the person returning the item forgot a few pieces (super annoying). Unfortunately there is no way for me know until I see it if the item can be re-sold.
If the item is “unsellable” because it was damaged or lost in the warehouse, then you are due a reimbursement from Amazon. They are pretty good about keeping up with reimbursements, but you can request a reimbursement yourself as well. There is a report in SellerCentral called “Recommended Removal” that lets you see what Amazon considers “unsellable.” There is another report called “Reimbursements” under “Payments” that shows you the reimbursements you have received from Amazon and when. Amazon usually reimburses based on a formula of a percentage of the retail selling price for that item. For many of us, this is more than we paid for the item and it is easier and more profitable for Amazon to simply reimburse us. In this case you do NOT want that item to be returned to you. If they return it, they won’t pay you the reimbursement. So, keep an eye on your emails (they notify you when they damage your merchandise) and run that “unsellable” report from time to time. If you see something on it that is not a customer return, then see if it is eligible for reimbursement.
Q. How Do I Find Out Why A Customer Returned An Item?
A. There’s a report for that! Under “Reports,” look under “Customer Concessions” for the “Returns” and “Replacements” reports. They will tell you the given reason why something was returned. These reports are helpful in several ways. For one thing, it tells you whether or not something is defective. After I sold a couple of exercise equipment items that were returned for being defective, I had them destroyed.
If you are getting returns because the item is not as presented, that is very useful information for you. Your customer’s expectations are different than you thought. I learned quickly with collectible Barbies that the boxes have to be PERFECT. If they get damaged by my sticker removal, for example, I now note it right up front: “MAY NOT BE COLLECTIBLE. Some have a small tear on box from sticker removal. Brand new, great toy for playing.” This tells my picky collectors to buy someone else’s toy but still makes little girls happy. Obviously I’m very careful with sticker removal, but some of those Big Lots stickers are impossible.
A lot of times you’ll see that an item is listed as “defective” that you know is not defective (I often have them returned so I can see what is going on) like a toy with no mechanical parts. What’s going on here? The customer changed their mind and are too cheap to pay the shipping to send it back. By stating it is “defective,” Amazon will give them a free pass on shipping costs. While this is very irritating for us, you can be comforted by the fact that Amazon keeps track of its frequent returners and has a lifetime limit on them. They will get theirs one day. In the meantime, it is part of doing business. That’s why I have customer returns sent back to me. Often I can re-sell them either on Amazon or eBay. Assuming that I had good margin to begin with, it is usually worth the extra effort.
Whew! I could have called this week’s post “SellerCentral Reports!” The fact is, Amazon is constantly offering new ways for us to drill down into our inventory. They track everything. Be sure to check your reports from time to time so you can make sure you are being paid properly, reimbursed properly, disposing of inventory properly. There’s a lot of information there. If you have a question that can’t be answered by one of their reports, contact them and let them know. They’ll either pass your suggestion along or they’ll tell you where to find the information you seek. Over the past three years, I’ve seen them respond to seller report requests so it is not just lip service.