Friday, November 30, 2012

Peek Inside an Amazon Warehouse

Image courtesy of the ABC Broadcasting Network

With the holiday season upon us, we are in a unique situation. We are able to be a part of the retail market that seems to be booming this year. We are able to connect buyers with the items they want and some of us are fortunate enough to make a living do it!

If you sell on Amazon, I am sure you have wondered what happened after your carrier dropped off your boxes and they were checked into the designated warehouse. If you are like me, at some point you have probably wondered what an Amazon fulfillment center looks like. If you have, then you have to see this.

As Cyber Monday rolled around this year, the press seemed to be looking to Amazon to show just how busy Cyber Monday was. From news stories to photo galleries online, nearly every network was talking about Amazon.

Here are a few fun facts about Amazon that were revealed during news stories by Bloomberg TV, ABC News, CBS News, and NBC News:

• Currently, Amazon has about 80 fulfillment centers worldwide. About half of them are in the US.
• Items are not stored in categories. They go into a free space and are scanned to document its location in the warehouse.
• Amazon’s largest warehouse in Phoenix is the size of 28 football fields (1.2 million square feet).
• On Cyber Monday 2011, Amazon processed 200 orders per second.
• For the 2012 Holiday season, Amazon plans to hire 50,000 seasonal workers.
• Amazon employs 20,000 full-time fulfillment center employees.
• Amazon was the most visited retail site Thanksgiving weekend.
• Amazon uses people instead of robots to pick orders.
• Amazon order pickers walk miles each shift.
• The order picks may also use tricycles to pick orders that contain items that are not warehoused close together.
Online, many sites shared videos and photos from inside the fulfillment centers. To see what happens when an item is ordered by an Amazon customer, click here for the NBC News story or here for the ABC News story. To view pictures from inside an Amazon warehouse, click here. (Photos courtesy of Coed Magazine)

FBA Sellers, did you spot any items you sell or were you looking for new items to source in the pictures? Were you surprised by the setup shown?

Related posts:

Understanding the Amazon Prime Customer – Become One!

Amazon Fulfillment Course – Automate and Grow Your Business with FBA

Invent Your Own Product to Sell Online

Monday, November 26, 2012

USPS Expedites a New Shipping Service

eBay, Amazon and Walmart Stores have recently a new same-day service in selected cities. (eBay Now serves some of the Manhattan and Brooklyn areas of New York City. Amazon offers same day in many cities throughout the country, including Chicago, Boston, Las Vegas, and Washington, DC. Walmart To Go is covering Chicago and San Jose/San Francisco.) Now a new company has thrown its hat into the same-day shipping ring, the United States Postal Service.

As you may know, the USPS has been dealing with mounting losses for years. This move may help to rebuild the USPS as a viable player in the delivery/eCommerce services market. The new service, called Metro Post, is slated to begin testing in the San Francisco market on December 12. For a fee of $10, the USPS will deliver purchases in that area from major retailers the USPS has partnered with. At this time, there is no list of retail partners available. That will be announced closer to the December 12 launch date.

According to the documents the USPS filed with the Postal Regulatory Commission, here is how the program will work:

Through this market test, buyers can request same-day delivery in one of three ways: 1) utilizing a qualifying online e-commerce platform to purchase items online; 2) purchasing items at the retail stores that have partnered with test participants; or 3) visiting a test participant’s website to purchase items. Eligible buyers must live in a specified area within a selected major metropolitan area.

The daily cut-off times for making any purchases of items delivered via Metro Post service will occur between 2:00pm and 3:00pm. Package pick-up will then be scheduled to take place at participating locations after 3:00pm, by Postal Service-uniformed delivery personnel. The Metro Post packages may be exchanged between agents, and dynamic routing tools will be used, in order to ensure efficient delivery; at this time, the logistics have not been finalized. Same-day delivery will occur between approximately 4:00pm and 8:00pm, as determined by the Postal Service.

The USPS is projecting that it will earn between $10 million and $50 million in new revenue in the San Francisco area alone. If the test is successful, the USPS plans to roll Metro Post out to 10 other large cities and believes it would increase its earnings to $500 million with the expansion.

This could be the program to help rebuild the financially struggling USPS. Last week, it reported a $15.9 billion annual loss for the last fiscal year. It will not resolve the entire budget issue but it could be a profitable move.

Related posts:

Amazon Considers Same-day Delivery

eBay Offers (Almost) Instant Gratification to Same Buyers Rolls Out its Locker Service to the Nation’s Capitol

Monday, November 19, 2012

Hostess Twinkie Feeding Fenzy Results from Baker's Union Strike

The Hostess Company announced late Thursday evening, November 15, that it would be closing its doors. According to the Chicago Tribune, November 17 2012:

"The company said Friday it has asked a bankruptcy judge for permission to go out of business and lay off 18,500 workers, blaming a labor strike by members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers, and Grain Millers International Union."

This announcement caused a frenzy of Twinkie and Sno Ball lovers to flock to local stores and bakery outlets to stock up. Many were stocking up for inventory to sell on eBay and Amazon. According to on November 17, "As of midday Friday, nearly 900 items for sale on eBay were Twinkie-related, including single-size snacks, unsealed boxes, and even lunchboxes, baseball cards, and magnets. One seller in North Carolina even set a price of $5,000 for a single Twinkie." Below is a screenshot of even more ridiculous offers on eBay as of Saturday, November 17:

According to different eCommerce Facebook groups, many sellers made substantial quick profit and were thrilled with the results. Chris Green, who runs the Facebook eCommerce group ScanPower, posted this screen shot of his own Hostess snack cake sales by late Friday evening. He was up to 26 sales by just after 6 PM. (Reprinted with permission.)

Once the news hit eCommerce groups that Twinkies, Sno Balls, and cupcakes were selling out so quickly, sellers hit the streets to stock up. Besides grocery stores and bakery outlets, sellers hit less obvious places like Walgreens, gas station convenience stores, and even hospital vending machines. (Now there's a captive audience - if you are going to eat a Twinkie the hospital is the best place to do it!)  Here are some photos contributed (reprinted with permission) by members of the various Facebook groups having these discussions. This seller posted her haul Friday night:

And this seller hit the streets early Saturday morning:

Many sellers reported lightening fast sales, high selling prices on both eBay and Amazon, and a very profitable weekend. By Sunday evening, eBay had over 21,000 listings with the keyword "Twinkie." Listings ranged from the actual snack cakes, boxes, advertising signs, store displays, domain names, and collector figures. One seller even listed his last box of twinkies in the category of Funeral and Cemetery.

Now the burning question: Will buyers experience buyer's remorse for paying inflated prices for Hostess products? Amazon's A-Z guarantee allows for unhappy buyers to file a claim within 60 days of their purchase. Most Amazon sellers see this regularly when buyers make incorrect assumptions about listings. In the grocery category, the item does not have to be returned. The buyer can simply contact Amazon regarding his complaint, and his money will be refunded. Will eBay buyers file "Item Received Not as Described" claims in an effort to recover some of the money spent after regretting their purchase? eBay buyers have 45 days to file such a claim.

Then there is the issue of feedback on eBay and Amazon. Will buyers regret getting caught up in this frenzy and punish sellers with negative feedback after the storm calms? Only time will tell. But many sellers decided to take the risk to make some quick holiday cash by jumping on the Hostess bandwagon. Hostess cakes may not be dead forever. It is entirely possible that another company will take over production and Twinkies will live on. However, if you are a Twinkie connoisseur, remember the saying, "The longer an item's shelf life, the shorter yours." Just sayin'......

Shortages of an item can increase an item's value on the secondary market including eBay and Amazon. Here are a few more examples of past shortages:

Today Sponge Shortage (2009)

Aveeno Eczema Cream Flip (2008)

Zhu Zhu Pets (2009)

Let's hear your Hostess stories. Leave a comment below if you participated in the Hostess Frenzy or had an interesting Hostess experience!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

eBay and Walmart Offers New Web Search Engines

eBay plans to release an upgraded web search engines early next year. This move is slated to help eBay be more competitive with in the online e-commerce market. When a customer shops online, the first thing they do is a search for the product they want. If that process takes too long, the customer will most likely go to another online competitor, or make their purchase locally. The result is a loss in customers and revenue.

eBay’s old search engine, called the Voyager has been around for more than ten years and it needs an upgrade. It was the best technology around when it was launched, but times are changing. Instead of an upgrade to Voyager, eBay is creating a new search engine named Cassini that will be launched in early 2013. eBay hired over 150 skilled employees to work on Cassini to make it the best web search engine around.

Some of the interesting features of Cassini are searches will show full product descriptions, Cassini will match search inquires and include product photographs, the search will also hone in on information about the seller and the buyer. Cassini will “understand” what the searcher wants in more detail.

The Voyager search engine takes search keyword literally and currently matches the keyword to titles in the product descriptions. This is because each eBay vendor describes their products differently and there are no strict rules on the how to write descriptions. Voyager pulls up everything related to the keyword that a customer searches. The customer then must add another search term, and eventually they will find the product. This is time consuming. has a catalog of products, and strict product descriptions. This allows the customer to search a product with ease and there will be no wait time for results. It’s almost a perfect search engine system.

Walmart has already launched their new search engine. It was created, amazingly enough, in less than nine months. This new search engine recognizes phrases that people use when they describe a product instead of matching the search to the exact words in the listings. One example of the way it works would be if a customer was searching for a backyard chair, the search engines will understand that a patio or garden chair is the same thing.

These types search engine improvements right on their websites for customers to use, this may be a threat to Google. Google wants the public to search for products on their website before going to or eBay. Google gets paid through e-commerce advertisements. If sites like and eBay suddenly stop advertising on Google, this will undoubtedly hurt Google’s business.

Google has also upgraded their search technology. Now they have visual recognition technology to search products. This means lots of photographs of products, mainly clothing.

With this competition to rein in the online buyer, it will be interesting to see how these new developments affect sales and traffic. We all have to wait a little longer to find out.

Related posts:

Optimize Keywords for Search Engines

Keyword Spamming on eBay

Free eBay Research Tool – Bay Estimator

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

eBay Thrifting Workshop in Atlanta November 13

We have an eBay Thrifting Workshop scheduled in Atlanta, Marietta area, for November 13. I realize this is short notice, but have 2 spaces still open. (Max class size is 5.) The next one won't be until January. The one-day workshop will focus on showing attendees how to purchase profitable items at thrift stores for resale on eBay. Product focus will be clothing, shoes, toys, household goods, sporting goods, kitchen items, craft supplies, and decorative collectibles. The purpose of this workshop is to teach participants how to select items to sell on eBay and concentrates on items that are commonly found in thrift stores and are repeatable.

Workshop includes 3 hours of thrifting in the morning, lunch at a local restaurant, 3 hours of thrifting in the afternoon. Attendees will learn:

Types of items that sell on eBay and why
Best selling brands, styles, and types of clothing
Items that appeal to international buyers and why
Consistent sellers that ship easily
Listing tips
How to get deeper discounts when shopping
Tips for out-selling competitors
How to use smart phone apps when buying inventory for eBay

Cost is $350 for the one-day intensive workshop. Participants will have ample opportunity to buy as much merchandise during the workshop as they like.

Click here for more information or email me at