How to Decide Whether to Use Fulfilled By Amazon or Store and Ship Inventory Myself

Buying FBA

As a shopper, I love buying used items. For starters, this saves me money. It also feels good to know I’m helping out another “little guy” seller like myself.

Then one day I got something that was very different than described. The listing said it was in very good condition, but it was closer to acceptable. And there’s a huge difference. For example, very good means there’s no writing or highlighting, the cover looks great, and so on. Acceptable, however, means it’s usable but it’s about to fall apart or is a total mess.

Turns out FBA items, meaning those a small seller sends to Amazon to store and ship, relies on all sellers correctly identifying the condition.

Fulfilled by Amazon for used items also means that Amazon puts all of them in a single warehouse location and picks any of them off the shelf when one is sold.

In other words, you might not get the used item from the seller you think you’re buying from.

As a buyer, it’s great to get used items as part of my Prime shipping. After all, buying a used book in great condition for $8 when a new one is $14 is a pretty good deal.

If the seller ships it themselves, I don’t get to take advantage of the combined shipping. Now the $8 also requires $4 shipping, making the total $12. Suddenly spending an extra $2 to know I’m really getting a new book seems like a good idea.

Selling FBA

As a seller, however, my reputation is on the line every time Amazon sends out someone else’s inventory.

It’s also a lot of work to sell using FBA. In addition to assessing the quality, now I have to bag it in a way that Amazon finds acceptable, and add a label so the picking equipment sends the right thing to the buyer. It also means I have to box it all up to send to Amazon, including a packing slip of exactly what’s in each box. And finally, I have to pay Amazon a monthly fee to store each unsold item.

Which basically gives me two options. One, I can control what the customer actually gets, and the costs of storing and shipping. Or two, I can ship a bunch of stuff to Amazon, pay them to store and ship it, and l hope the customer gets something similar to what is listed.

On the other hand, though, it’s more likely to sell if the buyer can take advantage of Prime shipping. And even if it doesn’t sell for a while, it’s out of my house right away.

Then again, if I hold onto it, it can also be listed on eBay or sold during a garage sale.

So how do I decide?

  1. Can it be listed on Amazon? For example, this platform does better with items that have an ISBN or UPC.
  2. Have I already read / heard / watched it? If no, I hold onto it to buy myself some time to enjoy the item before it sells.
  3. Will I make money selling it FBA? For example, is the average listing price $0.01 (which happens!)? Keep in mind, I have to pay for a bag and a label, and take the time to put it in the bag, print the label, and put the label on the item, and so on. How much am I really going to make? If it’s under $10, I hold onto it.
  4. Does it take up a lot of space? After all, FBA for used items isn’t just for books. One time I sold an amplifier. In this case, getting the floor space back made a lot of sense. If it’s small, I probably hold onto it.
  5. Can and will I list or sell it some other way, such as eBay, Etsy, or a garage sale? If so, I’ll hold onto it.
  6. Can I build a reputation and gain repeat customers? Quite frankly, using FBA for used items doesn’t work that way. The only folks who can get an Amazon storefront are “real” sellers with a physically shoppable location. Meaning I can’t have one. So the real question is, will this item help me build a reputation and gain repeat customers? The truth is that most items with an ISBN or UPC are so commonly available that a lot of buyers don’t really care who’s selling it. But if it will help my online brand, so to speak, then yes, l’ll hold onto it.
  7. Is it likely to sell without the draw of “free” shipping? This one’s a bit trickier because it has to be viewed from the customer’s side of the equation. Will the buyer still save enough getting it through me personally, even with the added shipping costs? If so, I hold onto it.

As you can see, there are a lot of reasons why I might hold on to the inventory instead of sending it in.

But there are two big reasons that override a lot of these answers. First, this is the best time of year to sell stuff, and customers might not even look at items listed on the site that don’t use Prime shipping. Second, I’ll be recovering from spinal surgery until January or February of 2019, making it harder for me to process items that sell.

In essence, then, the only question that matters is the first. If I’ve already enjoyed it and/or no longer have a use for it, off it goes.

Assuming I have time to get things out before the surgery, that is. Which I very well might not because that’s in eight days.

#1 Reason Why I Stopped Offloading iThing Apps

I first became aware of the “offload unused apps” feature in Apple’s iPhone X, on iOS 11.

It sounded nifty, so I turned it on. After all, I tend to fill up my phones with important things like dog pictures. Besides, the app will automatically reload when I want it again!

Except when it won’t.

See, the app only reloads if it’s still in the App Store. If you happen to occasionally use a “legacy” app, meaning one that’s made for an older version of the operating system that never got updated, well, you’re just sol. Because eventually, the App Store will stop carrying it because, well, it it’s not current.

Same thing if the publisher falls out of favor with Apple or goes out of business.

Meaning the app might still work fine, but no one can buy or install it anymore. And if nobody can install it, then you can’t reload it. After all, reloading is basically just re-installing it.

Trouble is, the icon will stay on your home screen, and then you just can’t use it because it’s no longer available. And nobody warns you, like, “oh, hey, this app your phone automatically off-loaded won’t be available after Thursday, so download now if you might ever want it again!”

Nope. You tap the icon to use it, and blam, you see, “this app is no longer available,” instead. That’s it.

So now I keep everything, even if it’s never been opened, because if I thought it was worth trying, then it might be worth using someday, even if I haven’t, yet.

Kinda sounds like this feature is causing me to do exactly the opposite of what Apple intended, which was to remove things rarely used to make room for frequently used or fresher stuff, and more importantly, apps containing code that’ll slow down my shiny new phone.

Yep, now I’m a digital pack rat because I have to be. Before this, apps hung around because I was too lazy, er busy to remove them.

Thank you, Apple, for giving me justification to hoard it all!

In all seriousness, though. Finding out how many things are just hanging around has helped me become more conscious of what’s actually used. Before this feature, all apps were on all devices. Now, however, I know which are used on the iPhone, the iPad, or the iPad Pro, and can consciously decide which device(s) to keep it on.

Turns out I don’t watch movies on the iPhone all that much. But I do stream them from the iPhone to the Apple TV. Why? Because it turns out homesharing from the 27″ iMac being used as a media server isn’t really working out that well. Even though all the settings match the help articles, it doesn’t really share content with any of the other devices.

I was vaguely aware of this before. Now, however, I’m reminded a couple times a week that this is an issue. Sounds weird, but it’s true. Now that I’m aware of how apps can get lost, I’m aware of how all my content is (or isn’t) available. And is or isn’t used.

Which basically means I’m suddenly aware of how even physical media availability and organization has been allowed to remain in disarray (at best). Since Apple introduced this offloading feature, I’ve been motivated to offload things not being used in real life, too.

Except. I can find the CD but not the case. Or worse, the case but not the CD. And let’s face it, garage sale shoppers would rather by a caseless disc than a discless case.

Alright then, I can sell the excess books I’m not using. Chances are that the pages are still in the binding. And they are! Yay!

So the book gets listed on amazon. And it sells. Like, right away. And it has to ship within two business days. But, uh, I haven’t read it, yet. And it’s 400 pages long. And it’s about blockchain.

If you know what blockchain is, you probably realize that reading a tome about it in two days makes it hard to comprehend, and harder to retain. If you don’t know what blockchain is or how it works, imagine learning how to read in Sanskrit then read a how-to-manual. In two days.

Ok, it’s not quite that intense. The point is, it’s not like reading See Spot Run.

So what is the point? It’s quite simple, really.

The number one reason why I don’t let the iPhone X offload apps is I’m not going to let some little piece of electronics remind me of just how many books I’ve purchased but not read, or music I’ve purchased but not heard, and so on.

Having the phone automatically clean out unused apps reminds me that my home is just one ginormous rabbit hole of stuff that’s taking forever to cleanup because each piece of paper takes me to another piece of paper that leads to another bookcase of things, and … nevermind.

In other words, yay, the iPhone can automatically clean up the clutter but I can’t. And so off the feature goes.

Oh, and it stops me from reloading stuff when it’s wanted again because the code is no longer in the App Store.

Ok, so that’s two reasons why I stopped using the new Offload Unused Apps feature in iOS 11 and 12.

Two Reasons Why I Don’t Trust Amazon Anymore

Amazon used to be my go-to place to buy just about everything. Until things started getting strange about a year ago.

Suddenly I went from being one of the top 2000 reviewers to having all of my reviews pulled. Without notice. And nobody could or would tell me why. In fact, no one even told me this happened. I found out by writing a review and getting an error message when trying to post it.

It took a couple of months, but I could post reviews again. Of course all the prior reviews were gone, but hey. Note that they never told me this was cleared up, so I didn’t know for months.

My good standing in this Community lasted only a couple of months after that, and then the same thing happened. Again without notice or explanation. See below for the one and only review at this time, and the error message:

Know what else happens when you can’t leave reviews? You can’t ask questions, either. You read that correctly. When your account is in this inexplicable bad standing status, you can’t leave reviews, ask questions, or provide page feedback. Basic things, such as “The listing title says five, the description says four, and yet six appear in the picture. How many actually come in an order?”

Apparently that’s not something a customer needs to know.

So how did I get kicked out of what Amazon calls the Community? Twice? Seriously, not a clue. Here’s a link to their guidelines. I’ll add a PDF as to what they were at the time of this article once personally identifiable information has been removed

The call-center people obviously use English as a second language, have no idea what is being asked, and about an hour into the call, each one says this has to go to a special team that handles these things who’ll get back to me in a few business days.

I’ve been through similar phone calls at least five times, and have yet to hear from this special team.

Yes, everyone I’ve spoken with has apologized for the inconvenience. They’ve all been very polite. And none have been provided the training or knowledge-base articles regarding this issue. It’s greatly appreciated that the company hires conscientious call-center reps. It’s also very unfair to these reps to not give them the information they need to do their jobs, which is to help the customer.

I get that Amazon wants to maintain the civility and integrity of the Community. This is why I know the rules, and follow them to the letter. I’ve never gotten into a flame war, belittled anyone, or uploaded inappropriate pictures or videos. And all reviews, good and bad, honestly describe my experience with each product.

This means that Amazon is pulling honest reviews down without notice or explanation. Which to me means the Community’s integrity is broken. I can no longer trust the product reviews and ratings because I don’t know how many others have been pulled, or more importantly, what they said.

You know what else this means? Amazon is now the shopping destination of last resort instead of being my first choice. Which means less revenue for them. Granted, I’m only one customer and they have hundreds of millions.

That being said, Facebook thought they were invincible, too. Then they violated user trust too many times. In the past year, they have significantly fewer active users, and those that still use the platform are on there less frequently and for shorter time periods.

Goodbye, Amazon. It was nice while it lasted. I was an early adopter, and now it looks like I’m an early abandoner, too. If you don’t have the integrity to ask first, keep me in the loop as to why or how you think things went wrong, and don’t offer a viable action to clear my name, then let’s just say I don’t need your mind games and shenanigans in my life.

Amazon says it wants a sense of Community and open conversations to enhance trust in their platform. Too bad this is absolutely the wrong way to do any of those things.

Plane Advice

A friend recently asked for travel advice, specifically for air travel. I suggested he take the train 😜

Or:

  • The only things to take are you, the clothes you’re wearing, and one small piece of luggage and one personal item such as a purse, computer case, or briefcase. See invasive search and pissing off everyone behind you if take a backpack.
  • If you check anything, assume it will be opened and taken apart, stuff may disappear, it’ll be poorly repacked, and that’s just too bad.
  • Have your ticket and ID ready, and expect to be grilled on the information so they can verify it’s you.
  • If you see a teeny pre-check symbol on the boarding pass, use that shit.

Otherwise,

  • Expect to be searched.
  • Expect to be invasively searched if you’re wearing a beanie or baseball cap, or if one of the TSA peeps is having a bad day, thinks you have an attitude or are medicated, wants to date you, you’ve used any personal products with powder, hand-sanitizer, or lotion or your luggage and/or personal item has any residual powder, hand-sanitizer, or lotion on it from prior use, or you have dandruff.
  • Expect to open your luggage and personal item, turn on electronic devices, that you’ll have to re-pack everything, and that everyone behind you will be pissed if you take too long.
  • Assume that the TSA will confiscate anything you bring, they don’t have to give you a reason, there is no recourse, and you’ll never get it back. If you whinge about it, see attitude (and invasive search).
  • Be comfortable with the idea that the TSA sees everything in their little X-ray device. Every curve, line, body part, hair follicle,  tumor, kidney stone, and fat molecule.
  • if you have cancer or kidney stones, see invasive search, but they won’t tell you or your medical provider(s).
  • See invasive search if your wear a tampon or feminine napkin (ladies), or Depends guard (males).
  • Don’t wear shoes with metal (see invasive search), or that will take you more than a few seconds to remove and put back on (see pissing off everyone behind you).
  • When they say empty your pockets, they mean it.
  • See invasive search if any pocket has lingering lint (see x-ray machine) or you put any lint in their tray.
  • If you wear cargo pants, see both invasive search and pissing off everyone behind you.
  • Make everything easy to recognize as yours so another passenger doesn’t accidentally snag it because the bags, electronics, wallets, and plastic bins look a lot alike.
  • Don’t bother taking personal hygiene products. The TSA hates them (no matter what their web-site says), the hotel will provide them, if asked, or you can buy some on the other side of the trip. 
  • No food or water will pass TSA screening, and expect that you cannot take anything purchased post-screening onto the plane.

If you’re traveling outside the USA, have another place to go if you’re not allowed back in.

Oh! And have fun!

What the .3% Doesn’t Want You to Know About How Money Works

Ever since Reaganomics, we’ve heard how Trickle Down Economics is the most powerful way to stimulate the economy. Actually, we heard about it earlier than that, but Reagan made it really popular, and it has since become the Republican Battle Cry. Don’t get me wrong, the Democrats are guilty of using this tactic, too. But in general, it’s more associated with Republicans than Democrats,

Anyway. In theory, it sounds like a darn good idea. Give a big business $1M and they’ll spend it on their company’s infrastructure and growth, meaning they’ll need to hire more people, providing new jobs or paying existing workers better.

If only that were true. Sadly, there are three glaring issues with this theory.

First and foremost, there are almost never any strings attached, such as “you must use 100% of this money to grow the domestic portion of your company,” meaning they could spend most (or all) of the corporate welfare outside of the US, meaning the money has left our economy, not stimulated it. They could also decide to hold onto the money in a Swiss bank account, not spending it all, collecting the interest all for themselves.

Second, the company has no incentive to spend these funds on infrastructure and employees because they don’t have enough customers to support this added overhead.

Finally, the power of a dollar isn’t in how it’s spent, but rather in how many times it’s spent. A dollar spent once is $1. A dollar spent five times is $5 to our economy.

This means that giving $1000 to 1000 families living paycheck to paycheck, called Bubble Up Economics, usually puts more into the economy. Why? Because the $1000 will be spent almost immediately. Sure, some of it might be spent in the big companies, so poof it goes away again, but some of it will be spent or donated locally, too.

The big corporation might spend it buying equipment or goods from non-domestic sources, or setting up an off-shore manufacturing facility. Or they might even spend it on pieces of paper called stocks, which create very little real value, which is why the crash hurts so bad. Suddenly the value goes from what you thought it was to what it really is, which isn’t much.

The local family, on the other hand, might spend it at the local farmers’ market, a flea market, garage sale, and so on. Ok, so yeah, they might spend it on cheap goods at Walmart made in China. Or even on those high-end Ivanka retail items, also made in China.

In any case, the paycheck to paycheck people will spend most if not all of the money which will eventually bubble up to the billionaires who will then spend it on their companies because they have enough business to support building the infrastructure and hiring more people. But before then, each dollar will likely be used several times, each time adding another dollar to the economy.

All of this in turn means that trickle down economics fails because it’s giving money to the rich who are likely to hold onto it or spend it outside the US rather than to the normal families who’ll spend it almost immediately, possibly locally.

If you add up all the years this has been happening, it’s easy to see how this might lead to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Which is exactly where we are.

Back when the Occupy movement started, it was the 2% vs the 98%. Then it became the 1% vs the 99%. Now we have the .3% vs the 99.7%. And it’s only getting worse.

If you know anything about history, a country is ripe for a takeover when the disparity between the Elite and Commonfolk grows. And our Elite is getting both pretty tiny terribly powerful. Think Marie Antoinette and her head.

Scared, yet? Because I sure am.

So next time someone says trickle down economics is the way to stimulate the economy, try to figure out how much of that money will come back to us commoners, and how many times each dollar will actually be used in our own economy before deciding which direction you want our government to take — bubble up or trickle down — and lobby or vote accordingly.

Killing Riggs

I’m thinking the revamped Lethal Weapon isn’t doing well.

Kheesha (Mrs. Murtaugh) has already picked up another role, and Jordana Brewster (the Doctor) is totally gone. Murtaugh’s daughter is stepping up as a decently written female role that’s growing while his son and baby girl are MIA.

Including Hendricks whose no longer needed because her son’s new father figure died, this means two strong women have left the show, and a third is becoming less important. Cole’s ex-wife is stereotypically waffling between her hubby and the new boyfriend who is too chicken to propose, which is clearly not a position of strength.

Cole’s daughter is the best part of the new story arc. At least she has a sense that something is wrong and people need to heal and move on.

Cole (Seann) is so poorly written he’s basically just some depressed guy with lots of military skills and no depth. Plus his appearance changes each week. Seriously, Seann looks bored.

In short, they’ve over-corrected last year’s problems, which were set-safety and Clayne internalizing some of Riggs’ troubles, and are pretending the first two seasons never happened.

In doing so, they’ve lost the whole point of the show and over half of the interesting characters. Bailey, Scorsese, and Avery are still around, but are totally floundering because these characters barely acknowledge that anything’s changed.

The show could’ve easily spent two or three episodes showing the grief from losing Riggs (Clayne) to gain some closure and re-find their footing and interrelationships before introducing Cole. This also would’ve allowed the exiting characters to gracefully leave.

But the show rushed right past this opportunity, meaning the audience has almost no closure, either.

I don’t know why the decision was made for “out with old, in with the new” all in one episode, but a tremendous opportunity was lost. The show could’ve grown in ways the movies never could. It would’ve been great to see how the remaining characters changed, and this would’ve bought the writers some time to figure out who the new characters are.

Instead, they cut out the old with a sledgehammer which was then used to smash the squishy new characters in. Whoever decided to abruptly do all the story re-work may need a nudge with the same sledgehammer to find a new career. Losing Riggs is a big deal, and it’s like they’re trying to erase that he was ever there.

But I keep watching just in case they figure it out, mainly because it’s unobtrusive background noise while getting stuff done. More often than not, I’ll watch the intro, do some things around the house while vaguely glancing at the predictable progress, and catch the wrap-up to verify my guesses were accurate.

Not exactly the best formula to keep a show running.

You’ll notice that I haven’t covered Murtaugh (Wayans) and Getz.

I know it’s Wayans’ show, but if he didn’t want be overshadowed, he shouldn’t have picked a role that’s defined by its contrast with the other main character. Now that he’s just about the only thing the audience has to focus on, we see how boring he truly is. He has nothing to react to externally anymore because Cole is basically a prop, and the character itself doesn’t have much going on internally. The entire role is built on how someone with a stable family life and hates getting older reacts to Riggs’ special kind of crazy.

As for Getz, that actor always grates my nerves, and is the only character I wish they’d abruptly drop. Pesci made Getz work as a humorous side note despite the character being annoying twaddle. This actor’s just annoying twaddle. In all honesty, I skip every episode he’s in and catch up in the next, only to see that the overall story wasn’t changed or moved forward. At all.

Adding the borification of Murtaugh and realizing there’s no purpose whatsoever for Getz further lowers the chance of this show continuing. Which is too bad, because I really enjoyed the first two seasons.

I’m thinking maybe it’s time to watch Clayne’s new movie with Christian Kane, instead. if nothing else, it’ll have some yummy eye candy.

Saxenda is Killing My Dog

I know, it’s weird, but it’s true.

See, my fur baby eats when I eat. I’m on Saxenda to lose weight, which is basically aversion therapy for food. Nothing tastes good. Nothing smells good. I’m nauseous all the time. So I don’t eat. And I’m losing weight.

Except only one of us is overweight, and it’s not him, but he’s also losing weight.

He used to weigh 15.6# and was in fantastic condition. Then he dropped to 14.3#, which concerned the vet, and she told us to give him puppy chow to put some meat back on his bones.

But I don’t eat, meaning he won’t eat, and now he’s so thin you can see all his bones,

For me, the choice is simple. It’s my life or his. And I choose his happiness. I’d rather feel nauseous and eat flavorless goo than watch my best friend die.

So here I am, eating oatmeal. It tastes terrible, like soggy cardboard, while an 18 year old dog is happily going after puppy chow with gusto.

And I have to eat slowly, because as soon as I stop, so will he. And the more I eat, the worse I feel.

But his pain meds are in his food, too, so if he doesn’t eat, he’s in pain. All day. All night. Quite literally, he’s wracking with pain unless he eats his pain meds.

Which is why this post is being written at the same time … he sees me at the dining table with a bowl and occasionally taking a bite, and he keeps eating.

Jr brings joy, love, fun, and happiness to everyone he meets.

And so, I eat.