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This is by far the most common question I get. It is usually followed by something specific and it is usually because what you are looking at is confusing. This regular blog post is for all those “What does it mean when…?” questions you have. Please send me your puzzlers and I’ll include them in a future post because I doubt you are the only one!

What does it mean when FBA Scout returns a “Not available on Amazon” message?

This can mean several things. First and most obviously, it means that the particular ISBN/bar code you have scanned is not listed on Amazon. However, that doesn’t mean the item or book you are looking at isn’t on Amazon!  For example, you may be scanning the wrong barcode.  Many consumer items actually have two barcodes. One might be the UPC code and one might be an ISBN#, for example. If your item has another code, scan that one and see if the item pops up.

This happens frequently at BigLots, for example, where they have stickers that cover the original product barcode and they put theirs on top of it.  Generally if you peel back the sticker over the barcode, your product will ring through true and tell you what it is selling for on Amazon. (PS, do NOT mess with their orange price stickers, store detectives get touchy about that kind of behavior – I’m talking about the plain white stickers they use to cover up the original barcode)

Sometimes you may be scanning the correct barcode and it still says “not available on Amazon,” and you KNOW it is on Amazon! An example of this came up this holiday season for me.  I was buying a Barbie doll from Wal-mart (I think) that came up as “not available.” Since I had just bought the same item from Target or BigLots (I can’t remember exact stores), I went ahead and bought it to compare it to my other dolls at home. They were packaged slightly different. Apparently, one of the stores had an exclusive with Mattel on the doll, which made them a special version. Mattel then sold a similar one through the other chains.

I had a choice at that point. I could list the different one myself on Amazon with the different ISBN# and note that it was a store exclusive, or I could return it. What I could NOT do was list it on Amazon under that other ISBN#. That is a no-no and can get your selling privileges revoked.

Now back to the obvious. There are a lot of items not listed on Amazon. It seems inconceivable given that there are 10.5 million book listings alone on Amazon, but it’s true. And even doubly true for the other categories which have fewer listings. It is quite possible you’ve found something not up there.

You have a choice. You can take the item and list it yourself if you think it is a hot seller. Or you can leave it be.  This holiday season, Inkoos stuffed animals were really hot. Because they were new, a lot of the variations were not up on Amazon yet.  I went ahead and bought the “not available” ones and listed them myself because I felt comfortable they would sell – and they did. Other sellers came in right behind me so I only had a short window where I was the only seller, but that was all I needed.

Most of the time, however, I leave it be.  I’m not into taking big risks. I want to know something is going to sell. If it is not on Amazon or the rank is sky-high, I generally put it down. There are lots of great deals out there where I don’t have to compromise my rank and margin criteria in order to sell!

What does it mean if there is no barcode?                                                                     

Generally you find this problem with older books (pre-1980s) and hand-crafted items. In the case of a book, if you look a page or two into the book you’ll find the publisher information. If the book was published after 1972, there will be an ISBN#. You can either manually enter that number into FBA Scout which will bring up the information, or you can speak it.

At the top of FBA Scout is a microphone symbol and a white space.  The microphone allows for speaking in the numbers – just don’t pause in the middle or it will think you are done.  If you tap on the white space, it should bring up a keyboard and you can enter your numbers manually. Many older books are quite valuable and it may be worth it to check them out. However, if you are pressed for time, either leave it be, or start a “research” pile to go through at the end of your shopping trip.

What does it mean if there is no ISBN#?

An ISBN# is a unique number for books. UPCs and SKUs apply to other types of products. When you are scanning it usually doesn’t matter – you are looking for a barcode to read. With books that were published before 1972, there will be no ISBN (there may be a “SBN” but that standard is gone now).

If you think the book in front of you may be worth it and/or you are pretty sure it is in the Amazon collection (think about an older version of a classic, for example), then surf out to on your smartphone or computer and look it up by the title and see what happens. If you find the book on, then go to the “product details” page and scroll down. Part-way down the page you will find information on the book including ranking and an ASIN#. ASIN is Amazon’s unique number for products sold in its catalog. You can now cut and paste or write down the ASIN and plug it into your FBA Scout, FBA Power or Web Scout (comes with FBA Power) product. All the information will then come up and you can decide if this book is a good deal or not.

Join me on the radio tomorrow!

Join me tomorrow! I will be live on FBA Radio at 2:00 central time talking about my book and answering questions from the chat room.  I will also give away a few copies! If you miss the show, it will be available on podcast soon after.