Mistakes I made Selling Online in February 2014

Hope everyone had a good weekend. I only did one post last week, as I was visiting some friends in Austin, TX from the 5th through the 9th.  I also did some sourcing in Austin while I was visiting on the 5th through the 7th.  It was sort of a practice run to see what shipping items to amazon fba from the road is like, for when I take a longer “sourcing roadtrip” later in the year.   If you missed the post where I discussed the goal of taking a sourcing roadtrip, you can read a little more about it HERE.

It was great to be able to take this trip, and not have to worry about taking any vacation days or getting approval from a company or manager.  As with this trip, I am often mentioning the positives of selling online full time, but it’s not all sunshine and roses, so in this post I will be discussing a few areas where I went wrong this past month.

February 2014 Selling Mistakes

Let’s start with some items I lost money on in February of 2014.  In total, I sold 11 items via FBA at a loss before factoring in inbound shipping into the equation.  The largest of these losses was $6.42 on a Star Wars Operation game.  HERE is a link to the amazon product detail page if you are interested in taking a look.  This item was purchased back in December for $19.20 with the intent to resell it as new.  It turns out that upon getting the item back home, there was a puncture in the box and it had to be sold as used.  In addition, it did not sell until February when the prices were a bit lower than in December.  This item ended up being sold in very good condition as a result of the puncture for $18.99.   Selling for less than you pay for is never fun, but the price did not appear to be going up anytime soon, and for me having the cash is more valuable than waiting for someone to possibly purchase my item with an artificially high selling price.

In addition to the 11 items that I lost money on without inbound shipping factored in, there were an additional 14 items that I sold where I profited less than $1 before factoring in inbound shipping costs.  So in reality, these 14 items were likely items that I lost money on as well, or at best broke even.  In total last month, there were 25 items that I sold at a loss or breakeven.

In addition to items that I sold for unprofitable prices, there were a couple of other mistakes that I made (that I am thinking of right now, there were probably more).

One of these is buying expired grocery products.  You would think I would know by now to check the expiration date for EVERY grocery item that I buy before making a purchase.   However, in February, there were at least 4 separate instances where I purchased items that were expired, or the expiration dates were too close to send into FBA.  Some of these items I purchased multiple of, and some I only had one of.  One trend that I have noticed is that I will often check the expiration date of the first of an item when I am making a purchase of multiple of the same item assuming that all of the products will have the same expiration dates.  This is not a very good assumption to make, as I have now been burned by this several times.   In one instance I purchased about $75 worth of one product that was all expired, and in this case I returned the items to the store for a refund.  If it is just one or two items that cost me less than $5 I will often just toss the items to save myself the time of going through the return process.  In theory, (most) stores should never have expired items on the shelf, but be sure to double check as it creates somewhat of a hassle if you buy expired products.  Here are a couple examples:

Purchased in February 2014 from Walgreens: 20140310_010918

Purchased in February 2014 from Target: 20140310_010902

Purchased in February 2014 from Target: 20140310_010858

Another mistake that I made this month was buying damaged products.  Take a look at the main picture for this blog post.  This was an item that I purchased on clearance from Wal-mart, and did not notice the large rip in the stuffed animal prior to making the purchase.  Here is what I saw when initially looking at the packaging: 20140310_011115

If I would have examined this item a little bit closer, I could have saved myself from this mistake.   I have noticed that clearance items tend to be a bit more beat up at Wal-mart than many other big box retailers, so carefully examine items you are buying on clearance from Wal-mart before going through the check out.

Overall, these are relatively minor mistakes, but in total they do add up to having a fairly significant impact on your bottom line.  One of the less obvious issues with these mistakes is the loss of time associated with the items as well.  For example, the items I broke even or lost money on, consumed time sourcing them, and shipping them into amazon.  The other mistakes require me to either return the items to the store (which can require a rather excessive wait) or to just eat the cost.

From these mistakes I know I need to carefully look over items that I am buying before going through the check out and make sure it is in a proper condition to resell.  For the items that I lost money on, I have gone through and looked at each one to see what (if anything) I could have done differently to have either not purchased the item, or sold it at a profitable price.  There are instances where I would have made the same decision, but there are also instances where I could have avoided these losses.

My goal is to turn all of these mistakes into learning experiences, and make sure I do not replicate them in the future.  Making a mistake once is just fine in my opinion, as it can be a great teacher, but making the same mistake over and over again is where the problems begin.  I plan to learn from each of these mistakes and avoid them in the future.

Hopefully you can learn from some of my mistakes as well, and save yourself some money in the future.  I encourage everyone reading this to go through items you have sold on a regular basis to identify any items you lost money on. Then look to identify ways to make sure you don’t replicate those losses in the future.

If you have any mistakes you would like to share, questions, or comments, please leave them below.

Thanks for reading, and make sure to subscribe (left side of screen towards the top) so you don’t miss out on any future posts!

23 thoughts on “Mistakes I made Selling Online in February 2014”

  1. Hello…….Ive been reading your blog and found it wonderful and full of helpful information. I would love to start selling on Amazon. Now the question………..I have a FBA center not far from my home………..are you allowed to drop boxed up items off instead of shipping them?????…or is Amazon not set up to deal with this ???

    1. Hi Kevin,

      Thanks for the comment.

      Amazon is not setup to deal with this at the present time, so you will still need to ship your items.

      Best Regards,

  2. Pingback: Mistakes I made selling online in March and April 2014

  3. Natalie Sevillano

    Hi Ryan,

    I found your blog via Jessica Larrew’s blog which I found via Pat Flynn. I am just starting out (literally just started this week, sent in my first shipment today) and am trying to learn as much as possible about FBA as it is a bit confusing. I have already made a mistake in the first week, as I bought some air filters from Target that were over 70% off, but then realized after I got home that since their length is 25 inches, I wasn’t able to fit them into any normal size boxes. I’m now trying to figure out if I should go through all the trouble of resizing a box to ship them and pay extra shipping and storage fees since they are considered oversize, or if I should just return them. I think if they sold I could still make back the price I paid for them plus an extra $8-10 each after all the fees but not too sure if it is worth it.

    Anyways, glad I found your blog and am looking forward to reading and learning more!


    1. Hey Natalie,

      Glad you found my blog! It sounds like you will have a good learning experience from this. You might be able to get a large home depot box which are 18″x18″x24″ and modify the box slightly and make them fit.

      Best Regards,

      1. Natalie Sevillano

        Hey Ryan,

        Just wanted to follow up on this for anyone that might come across these comments. I ended up resizing a box (a wardrobe box I had in my garage) and shipping these oversized filters to Amazon as part of my first shipment, and they ended up being my first sale! So, I guess it is a good thing that I went through the trouble to send them in. I also ended up making 140% profit on them!



        1. That’s awesome Natalie! Congrats on your first sale, and thanks for following up to let me know!

          Best Regards,

  4. Hi Ryan,

    Just wanted to say thank you for writing this post! I was at the grocery store yesterday and found several items. I was about to get in line when I remembered what you said here. I checked all the expiration dates and sure enough, 5 out of the 12 things I was going to buy were expired!

    Also, you were in my hometown last weekend. I hope you had a great time!


    1. Hey Jenn,

      That’s awesome to hear that this post helped you out! It’s no fun to get back home and find out you bought a bunch of expired stuff, so glad you were able to catch it.

      Austin was a great time, it was the first time I had ever been there, and I think I will probably have to go visit there again!

      Best Regards,

  5. Hey Ryan,
    Just came back to sign up to
    Receive your blog posts by mail and
    thought you might want to know that the subscription form only shows up if
    you click view website. I think you have to add the code in each post if you want it for the mobile version just something to think about..

    1. Hey Chad,

      Thank you very much for pointing that out! I will definitely figure out how to let mobile users subscribe without having to view the full website.

      Thanks again,

      1. Hey Ryan,
        Another quick question,
        I am trying to download profit bandit
        So I added $15.00 to my iTunes account and have a total of $15.84 available but when I try to buy it , it keeps telling me I have insufficient funds to cover the purchase. Is it more than $15 , is there tax added or something else that I am missing ?
        Thanks for any help you can give ..

        1. Hey Chad,

          It shouldn’t be more than $15 if I remember correctly. I would recommend contacting their customer support. In the meantime, since you are an iOS user, you should look into Scanpower Gateway or Amazon’s seller app https://www.sellermobile.com/. Both of these are brand new within the past week or 2, and are definitely worth a look for free (you may find you don’t even need to buy profit bandit, I can’t say for sure as I am an android user and haven’t been able to personally try them out).

          Best Regards,

  6. Always nice when we can learn from our own mistakes. On the expiration, Amazon won’t sell 50 days before expiration date, correct? I have some high dollar supplements that expire I believe in August. I paid nothing for them. I could make $18 a bottle. Should I send them in and hope they sell quickly?

    1. Hi Kristine,

      That is correct, amazon will remove FBA items from your inventory when they reach 50 days from expiration. As for the supplements you have expiring in August, personally I would send them in and see what happens. Depending on how many you have, it may be worth listing them on ebay too and then doing multi-channel fulfillment if you sell any on ebay. If you want more specific advice, feel free to send me an email with the item and I can get back to you.

      Best Regards,

  7. Hey Ryan,

    I found your blog through Jessica via Pat Flynn. I’m very intrigued by this entire process and looking into giving it a try. I’m very green with selling on Amazon. When you started, did you find that it was hard to get sales because initially you didn’t have any seller ratings? Meaning, did it initially take longer to sell an item because of “trust” factor? Thanks for your transparency and look forward to reading more!

    1. Hey Zoli,

      Glad to hear that you found my blog and are enjoying it so far! There might be a little bit of an impact on the amount of sales you get when you have zero feedback, but many buyers are willing to look past this as they know amazon has their back should anything go wrong with the transaction. Especially if you do FBA out of the gate, I think having zero feedback matters even less. Overall, I wouldn’t let the concern of losing sales due to lack of feedback be a reason to hold you back from getting started, as everyone else started with zero too.

      Best Regards,

  8. Yeah, expiration dates are a top priority when you are selling grocery items. I found this out the hard way when I got a 3/5 feedback on Amazon for shipping some coffee k-cups 30 days from expiration. Partially refunded the buyer and asked for removal of the feedback but well see…

    Ryan, how do you handle feedback on Amazon? I feel like the last month has been brutal for me with returns and buyer issues.

    1. Absolutely, I think I now have it down to make sure I check every item for the expiration before buying it, but it is essential for maintaining profitability and feedback.

      As far as how I manage feedback, I put this post together about a month ago discussing feedback: https://onlinesellingexperiment.com/maintaining-a-great-amazon-seller-feedback-rating/ My main strategy is to be proactive whenever I receive a neutral or negative, but that post talks some more specifics. If you have questions you want to email feel free, my email is grant.ryanj@gmail.com.

      Best Regards,

  9. Never repeating the same mistake twice is the key to living a happy life in general! Mistakes can be great for teaching wisdom to those who are worthy of it. 🙂

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