I recently purchased another seller’s book inventory during one of Amazon’s “free removals” periods. I almost backed out, but in the end, after running his inventory through ScanPower Evaluate, and some other checking of stock, his original asking price a few months ago of $2000 was brought down to $300, and for a number of reasons (not the least of which that I’m training my 19 year old son to sell books, and it would prove a valuable training session for him), I ended up buying the books, and he had them “removed” to my address so that I could reprocess them and send them back in.
Let me first preface this by saying I had no illusions that Amazon would send me “efficient” packages. I’ve done other small removals before, and I know that my items are scattered over many warehouses. That said, the items were usually well packed and came to me in decent shape. In this case, my experiences were varied. Here are the “Significant Digits” (to steal a recurring post title from FiveThirtyEight.com). I will also share my thoughts about the true significance of these digits as pertains to Amazon inventory!
I also have to give props to my daughter and son-in-law who watched streams of packages come into their house over the course of a month. We are in the States visiting for 3 months, and were at their house for almost 6 weeks during this process, so the books came to them! The local thrift stores seemed thrilled to see me with my discards, and since all of these books had “Amazon seller” labels on them, I didn’t have to worry about rescanning items that I had already rejected in those stores.
The wisdom/success of this venture is a discussion for another day (and will take some time to truly evaluate after the books begin to sell), but here are the things I learned about having over 1,000 items removed from the Amazon warehouses.
So, on to the stats!
The number of individual bubble-lined envelopes I received. The first day when there were 2 of these I smiled. As the weeks wore on, I wasn’t as amused, to say the least. These particular envelopes are not accepted by our local recycling center, and I would have preferred cardboard!
The number of individually packed “wrapper” boxes I received.
The number of boxes where the bottoms were falling out as we attempted to move them into the house from the deck.
The number of boxes over 30 pounds with substantial numbers of books.
The number of removals that arrived in repacked, reused or unsuitable packaging for the contents weight.
The number of boxes that did not have adequate packing materials to protect the items during shipment
The number of boxes that were grossly oversized for the contents of the shipment
The largest number of boxes that were delivered in a single day
The total number of boxes shipped, representing 1063 items
Items that were damaged in shipment. I had boxes for audio books come open, and CDs thrown about the boxes. I had books that were seemingly tossed into boxes where corners and pages were bent or creased by other books. I had dust jackets ripped in half by the poor handling.
The total number of items that were “missing” that I’m assuming Amazon had to reimburse to the original seller (I presented him with a list so that he could follow up). I will admit that I could have missed “marking” some as “donate”. I found a few that I sent to Amazon in my inventory that had no marking in my records, so it’s possible that a few of these 74 items weren’t properly accounted for by ME!
The total number of calendar days from the date we placed the removal orders, until the first packages started to arrive. This seemed very efficient to me – I was shocked that they started arriving so quickly.
The total number of calendar days from the date we place the removal orders (August 13, 2016) until the last of the packages arrived (I assume – but as noted, some items are still missing).
I think what struck me the most about this exercise was the seeming disregard for a seller’s inventory. As most of us in the business know, “removals” are not necessarily about unsellable or unsuitable inventory. Often it is inventory that needs to be corrected, repackaged, re-bundled, etc. I was quite surprised that Amazon did not seem to treat a seller’s property with the same care you would expect them to treat property being shipped to a customer. Also as a “receiver” of the packages, and not the seller who requested the removal, I don’t have a lot of ability to complain directly to Amazon. The original seller would need to do that, and seeing as how he is getting out the business, I don’t know if he has any interest in following up on this issue!
The other lesson here was realizing that everything is in the packing and prep! When sending light-weight items, having a lot of dunnage (paper and air pillows for example) is fine. The items will not cause a lot of problems. I’ve used boxes that were ragged, ratty and with bent corners many times for lighter weight items being sent to Amazon. Books, however, are heavy! Making certain that boxes are full, and that there is no wiggle room is very important. Box sizers are critical for shipping books, and after seeing some of the boxes I received, I would not recommend using air pillows as dunnage for more than the smallest crevices. I had many larger, heavy boxes that had 2-3 inches of head space filled with air pillows that were totally deflated by the time the boxes were delivered to me. These books were ratting around, and while I might want to give the Amazon workers the benefit of the doubt and say they didn’t just “toss” the books into the box, that’s certainly what it looked like by the time I got the shipments.
I’ve always attempted to make my book boxes as compact and dense as possible. I think my experiences over the past month or so have definitely reinforced that idea.
Now, let’s see how these books sell! I’ll update a new blog post in a few months to go over that process.