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Tips for Balancing Your Online Business and Your Life

The eBay & Amazon Seller's News, September 21 2015 - Volume 15, Issue No. 16

Tips, Tools, News and Resources for eBay, Amazon and Online Sellers
by: Skip McGrath

In This Issue:

Musings from and about eBay, Amazon and The World Wide Web

  1. Tips for Balancing Your Online Business and Your Life
  2. eBay Fall 2015 Seller Update Positive Changes for Sellers
  3. eBay Niche of the Month Vintage Woodworking Tools
  4. Amazon can now repackage your eligible customer returns
  5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

"It is better to fail in originality than to succeed in imitation." ~ Herman Melville


Running an online business can be stressful if you let it. Even though I have been doing this for over 16 years, I noticed it was happening to me and it was starting to affect my health. So that is the genesis of the first article in this issue - Tips for balancing Your Business and Your Life.

It's that time of year again and once again Jenni Hunt is coming out with her annual Holiday Toy Guide that shows you what the hot toys are for the holiday selling and where to get them. Jenni has been publishing the Holiday Toy Guide for over ten years now and her customers swear by it.

In the last issue I had an article about the convenience of sourcing from local wholesale merchandise marts. Well the day after my newsletter went out, I learned that my local wholesale merchandise mart in Seattle will close in January. Apparently the building owners feel they can make more money by converting the building to office space. So now when I could just go to one place and meet over a dozen wholesale suppliers, they will be scattered all over town. But this is not happening in most cities, so look for a wholesale merchandise mart near you and use it as one of your best sourcing methods.

If any of you are bloggers or affiliate marketers here is a great article on tips to monetize your blog.

Amazon has been cracking down on sellers and lately there have been a lot more suspensions. Here is a great article in eCommerceBytes about suspensions

A new Stranded Inventory report is now available in Amazon Seller Central. The report provides a breakdown of your inventory in stranded status (i.e. inventory in a fulfillment center that does not have an active offer on Amazon.com).

You can access the new report by going to your Fix Stranded Inventory page and clicking on "Download Report" or directly from the Amazon Fulfillment Reports page by clicking on "Stranded Inventory" within the Inventory section.

Deal Local is a new third party eBay application that allows you to display your eBay listings on a website or blog. I have not used it so this is not an endorsement, but it does look interesting. Here is a page that Deal Local prepared for me that shows my items selling on eBay. http://www.deallocal.com/skipmcgrath

Lets get started with this months articles:


1. Tips for Balancing Your Online Business and Your Life

What could be better than an online business? You set your own hours, you get to work from home and you are your own boss. Besides the opportunity to make money those are the reasons that attract many of us into this business. But don't think it's all roses. Running an online business can be stressful if you let it -and over time that stress will take a toll on you and your family.

Here are some of my tips for reducing stress and keeping everything in balance:

  • Get a dog - My Golden Doodle Kipling likes to hang out near my feet while I am working. If I start to get a little stressed out I can just reach down and scratch him behind the ears and it has an immediate and calming effect.

  • Do what you love - I know you can make a lot of money selling ink cartridges or water filters, but if you are selling products you enjoy and know something about you will have more fun. There is an old saying - "If you do what you love, it's not work." I can attest to that in spades.

    When you are trying to figure out what product niche you want to work in, the first place to look is at your hobbies and activities that you enjoy.

    For example - I love to cook and am in fact pretty good at it. I also love to read and collect books on nautical and maritime history. When I started selling on eBay our first products were antiques left over from an antique shop we used to own when we lived back East. But when those were gone I had to find new products to source and sell. I first started selling used books and focused on the subjects I liked best -and then went on to source kitchen tools, utensils and gadgets. I am not doing books very much anymore but kitchen products are still some of my best sellers.

  • Get organized and manage your time -There is nothing that will cause stress faster than letting yourself become so disorganized that you are constantly putting out fires rather than doing high value tasks. This includes things like planning your day. Set aside time for emails, time for research and sourcing, time to create listings and take photos and so on. We sell on Amazon FBA and use them to ship all our products. But, if you sell on eBay, you will want to have a way to organize your products so they are easy to find when you sell, a dedicated shipping station with all your supplies in place so shipping is easy and quick.

  • Get some exercise - Sitting in front of a computer all day -day after day, will take a toll on your body. Be sure and set aside some time for a long walk or other exercise. You will feel better and if you feel good that will reduce stress.

  • Use Automation - Whether you sell on eBay, Amazon, Etsy, Facebook or from a website there are plenty of third party services that help you save time by automating listings, research, posting feedback and more. These services do cost money, but the old saying that "time is money" is very true and getting rid of these low-value tasks will allow you to focus on the more creative aspects of your business and the high-value tasks that put money in your pocket.

  • Set aside family time - I enjoy my work so much that I can't wait to get to it and often just don't take enough breaks. If you have a family or partner it's really important that you just get away from the business for a while and do something fun. And when you are out doing that something fun -even if it's just going out to dinner -whatever you do, don't talk about the business. If you are single and living alone you still want to set some time aside to get away from the business.

  • When things go wrong -just move on -There are so many things that can go wrong and most of them have to do with customers. You get customers who return things for no good reason. People who leave negative feedback when it's undeserved. Products that get lost in shipment and so on. I know from experience this happens. And believe me it happens to everyone -not just you.

    When we first opened our antique shop one of the things that happened right away was shoplifting. That used to bother me to no end. Whenever I noticed an item missing I became angry and then later depressed. I just could not understand why someone would steal from me. The shop we were in was a multi-dealer shop and one day one of the other dealers -an older gentleman, saw me upset over two miniature paintings that had been stolen. He took me aside and explained that shoplifting was just part of the cost of doing business like rent, advertising or utilities -and the national average for retail shoplifting was in the neighborhood of 2% of annual sales. He advised me to start thinking about it that way and once I did the anger and stress started to disappear. So the lesson here is when something goes wrong -and it will - just put it behind you and move on.

    One of the little tricks I have for keeping my mental stability when someone wrongs me is to forgive them. Just before going to bed, I will think about the person and what they did and say out loud. "I forgive you." You see the act of forgiving puts the power back in your hands. Try it and you will be amazed at how good you feel after doing it.

  • Never stop learning -This is my last tip on this subject and one of the most important. I often find that when I have made a mistake or done something wrong it was because I was lacking some knowledge. And I am not just referring to book learning.

    Yes, there are many people (like myself) who sell books and courses and when a good one comes along it can be a good idea to buy it. But you should also take the time to really dig into eBay and Amazon and understand their policies, the reports and how to use them, and the tools and services provided. Read blogs, join Facebook groups, attend conferences and trade shows and do everything you can to keep learning.


2. eBay Fall 2015 Seller Update Positive Changes for Sellers

Ever since John Donohoe took over as CEO several years ago, eBay sellers have complained about the selling policies that have been very restrictive and detrimental to sellers. Well Donohoe is finally gone and it looks like the new management is listening. eBay just announced the Fall 2015 policy updates and there is finally some really good news.

Here are some of the highlights:

Starting February 20, 2016, the following will no longer impact your defect rate

  • Buyer feedback
  • Detailed seller ratings (DSRs)
  • Returns requests that are successfully resolved with your buyer
  • Items not received requests that are successfully resolved with your buyer

New seller standards will focus on what buyers care about the most-getting the item they ordered on time, and effective customer service to resolve any requests for help. A new, simplified defect rate will include just two measures: Seller-cancelled transactions for items that are out of stock or cannot be fulfilled for any other reason, and cases that are closed without seller resolution. A new on-time shipping metric will measure shipping performance, based on what you control-shipping your item on time.

There are also changes to the tracking standards:

Sellers will be recognized for on-time shipping if tracking shows your item was either shipped within the stated handling time, or delivered by the estimated delivery date. If there's no tracking available, we'll check with your buyer. If your buyer confirms the item was delivered on time-you'll be recognized for on-time shipping.

Shipments will be considered late only when:

  • Tracking shows item was delivered after the estimated delivery date and there's no acceptance scan within your handling time or there's no confirmation from the buyer of on-time delivery, or

  • Buyer confirms item was delivered after the estimated delivery date and there's no acceptance scan within your handling time or there's no delivery confirmation by the estimated delivery date

There is one new policy that is not that great. If you want to achieve and maintain your top rated seller status then you have to offer a 30-day money back return policy. We have been using 14 days for years and I get very few returns so it will be interesting to see if going to 30-days changes that. Amazon has had a 30-day return policy for years and my Amazon returns are higher than eBay so I do suspect it will change.

All in all, these are big improvements over the older method and it will be much easier to achieve and maintain your Top Rated Seller status and the fee discounts that come with them. Best of all these changes put more of the workload on eBay instead of the seller and over all are much more fair - its not a perfect solution -but a big improvement.


3. eBay Niche of the Month Vintage Woodworking Tools

When my wife and I lived in upstate New York about 20 years ago we had a small antique shop in the Hudson Valley. One of the products I discovered that were easy to find and sold very well, were antique woodworking tools. There are two main types of buyers for these tools - Collectors and decorators. There is also a third category but its quite small - Woodworkers who actually like to work with these old tools.

This can be an extremely profitable niche. When I was actively in this business it was not uncommon to find an old woodworking plane at a garage sale for a buck or two that I could sell for upwards of $100.

Before we talk about these let's look at some of the sold listings on eBay so you can see the type of tools I am referring to:

First - Where do you find old tools? When I was in this business my best sources were garage sales, flea markets and small town country auctions. It is really amazing but there are so many people with old tools who have no idea how valuable they are. Another great way is to advertise. Take out a small classified ad in your local paper, or in the cheap throwaway papers like the Little Nickel, that says something like this:

Cash paid for old woodworking tools. Call Skip at 360-555-1212

The thing about ads like this is that you have to keep running them. It is not unusual to run and ad for three or four weeks before getting your first call. But when you do this can be a great way to source old tools. I did this once and when I got to the seller's house he had a 150-year-old wooden toolbox full of beautiful 19th century woodworking tools that I bought for $50. There were easily over $700 worth of tools in the box, and I even sold the box itself for over $100.

This brings me to my first issue which is - if you are going to deal in this niche you need to learn both about the tools - how to identify them, what they do, and what their value is.

Here are two books I highly recommend:

Antique Trader Tools Price Guide 2010

Warman's Tools Field Guide (Warman's Field Guides) 2011 Edition

The Warman's field guide is the better of the two but unfortunately it was last updated in 2011. Although I would not let that worry you too much as tool values have been a little flat since the economy tanked in 2008. Prices have gone up -just not as fast as they used to. In general, you would be safe adding about 10% to any of the values in the book and you will be in good shape.

There are two other ways to learn about tools and their values. First look at the completed auctions on eBay to see what the various tools sold for. Many of them are being sold by professional sellers so you can learn a lot by reading the descriptions.

The other way is to visit antique shops and see what they are selling for. This can also be a great place to source tools. Many antique dealers are generalists and don't have a lot of specific knowledge on the products they are selling. They might find an old tool at a garage sale for $2.00 and list it in their shop for $9.95. But if you know your tools you might know that the item is really worth over $50 and buy it on the spot. I did that many-many times when I was in the business.


I mentioned earlier there are two types of buyers - collectors and decorators. Collectors by far pay the higher dollar amounts and with them the condition of the tool is extremely important. It can be difficult to find tools in near perfect condition but there are ways to restore them that are not that difficult. Here is a book you can read about that.

Restoring, Tuning & Using Classic Woodworking Tools: Updated and Updated Edition

For the decorator crowd the condition is less important but not completely unimportant. Whenever I bought a tool made of wood, one thing I always did was clean it and apply a coat of Briwax. It comes in colors but I always found the clear formula worked the best. Briwax also works on most metals and painted surfaces both wood and metal. Here is what it looks like:

Briwax is easy to use and is the most favored product of most antique dealers.

The other two big issues with selling old tools are the photos and the description. Take the time to write a good description and take good photos - the more the better. Be sure and show the tool from every angle. If there is any damage or condition issues, describe them honestly and completely, and show a close up photo of the part in question.

So there you have it. If this niche interests you, go on eBay and search the following terms and you will sell literally thousands of tools for sale.

  • Vintage tools
  • Antique tools
  • Antique wood working tools

Etsy also lists woodworking tools so that is another possibility if you don't like selling on eBay.


4. Amazon can now repackage your eligible customer returns

Amazon recently announced an FBA Repackaging Service but I strongly suggest you think about using this very carefully. First read below to understand how the service works then at the end of this article I will let you know my concerns.

This service provides FBA sellers with the opportunity to return some customer-returned units to sellable status when the units are otherwise in new and sellable condition, but the packaging was opened or damaged. For example, when a customer returns an item where the packaging is damaged, but the item is otherwise in new condition, FBA will evaluate the item and perform repackaging services (such as poly-bagging, bubble-wrapping, or boxing) on eligible units.

You can choose the product categories you would like to include in or exclude from the FBA Repackaging Service. As additional categories are enabled for the service, you will be auto-enrolled for those categories. You can choose to disable auto-enrollment, and you can also choose to receive notifications when new categories launch.

Repackaging-eligible categories include:

  • Home Improvement
  • Kitchen
  • Pet Products
  • Sports
  • Home
  • Office
  • Automotive
  • Camera
  • Wireless
  • Lawn & Garden
  • Business, Industrial, and Scientific Supplies
  • Musical Instruments
  • Shoes
  • Apparel
  • Fashion

By default, you are automatically enrolled in this service. You can choose the product categories you would like to include in or exclude from the service by going to your Repackaging Settings. (You must be logged into Seller Central to see this page). As additional categories are enabled for the service, you will be auto-enrolled for those categories. You can choose to disable auto-enrollment, and you can also choose to receive notifications when new categories launch.

For more information about the service, please see the Amazon FBA Repackaging Service help page.

Now -here are my concerns:

At first glance this looks like a good deal as it saves you the cost of removing the item and having to sell it as used since it no longer has retail packaging. But we all know that Amazon buyers can be quite picky. If I bought a new item on Amazon and expected it to arrive in a new retail box and it arrived wrapped in bubble pack and a poly bag my first thought would be: "Did the seller send me a used item?"

The other issue is what if I bought it for a gift. I certainly would not gift most items packaged like that because the person receiving the gift might also think I sent them something used or re-gifted.

So I suspect although many buyers may just accept and keep the items, there are three other possibilities and none of them good.

  • The buyer returns the item which costs you money
  • The buyer leaves a negative feedback
  • The buyer files a complaint with Amazon that you sold a used item as new

It is this last one that concerns me the most because when that happens Amazon sends you a policy warning or violation which can get your account suspended if you get too many of those in a short period of time. If I have 25 of an item in inventory I have no way of knowing if Amazon sent the customer a repackaged item or a new one.

I will leave the decision up to you whether to adopt the program or not, but I have decided to opt out until the program has been in use for a few months. I am sure if sellers have any negative experiences they will be posted on blogs and in Facebook groups, so in time we should know how successful the policy is -and we can reevaluate it at that time.


5. New Wholesale Sources for eBay and Amazon Sellers

Absorb Health sells a wide range of health products including essential oils and supplements.

Isabelle Grace Jewelry sells a very nice line of fashion jewelry and accessories

Globright sells one of the nicer lines of LED flameless candles. The have a complete line of brand new models for 2015.

True Fabrications sells a very nice line of new and unusual kitchen products and gadgets. The kitchen category has been one of our best categories on Amazon for years and always does really well in the holiday season.

Under the Weather sells those one-person portable tents you see at outdoor shows.

Lighthouse Christian Services sells a nice line of faith-based products and gifts.

California Candle Supply has a great line of unique candles that should do well over the holidays.

Just Natural Hair and Skin Care sells a line of hair and skin care products that are made from all natural ingredients

Sprit USA Marketing is the wholesaler for the original German Shammy Cleaning cloths.

Drive Green makes and sells a unique one-shot tire inflator. This is a really interesting products for the automotive sector.

THE J&K OCEAN ROAD, INC. carries several lines of brand name products from major department stores being either closeouts, store returns, overstock, liquidations, surplus, salvage and wholesale merchandise.

Koehler Home Decor is a source for wholesale home decor accessories and unique gifts wholesale direct. Bath & body, candles, Christian, collectibles, general merchandise, licensed products, patio & garden, seasonal decor, shabby chic & more! No minimum. Merchandise Discounts!

Bear Woods Supply Wholesale wood and craft supplies. Specializing in unfinished wood turnings, dowels, plans, scroll saw blades, clock movements and inserts since 1987.

Green Valley Aromatherapy sells high quality aromatherapy products. Their oils are pure, therapeutic-grade.

Thats it for now. See you again in about two weeks.

Skip McGrath
The eBay & Amazon Seller's News

P.S. If you missed the last issue, click here to read it.

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