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There can't be many web users who haven't bought something from Amazon, or browsed their website at some time. In the past few years, Amazon have expanded from simply selling books and CDs into electrical goods and computer software. I was chatting to a friend about Amazon the other day, and was surprised to learn that he didn't know he could actually sell on Amazon, as well as buy from them... so I got my Ciao head on and decided to write a little intro.
I've been selling on the site on-and-off for about 18 months, alongside normal eBay selling, so this op will probably have a bit of an 'angle' to it - i.e. a comparison of the Amazon Marketplace and eBay Buy It Now system, and the pros and cons of Amazon over its' main rival. I'll also approach each section from the perspective of buyers AND sellers.
--> BUYING: HOW DOES IT WORK?
When browsing on Amazon, you may see a link that says 'Used from £9.99", or 'Used and New from £9.99' (obviously my £9.99 price used here is an example!). These links indicate that third parties - companies, customers or international sellers - have the same item that they wish to sell.
You can investigate the alternative sellers by following the Used and New link. Amazon presents you with a list of sellers who are offering the product, together with their prices and a brief description. It's important to read the description each time, as there are different categories and classifications - New, Nearly new, Very good, Acceptable, etc - and if you're going for anything that's not 'New', you'll probably need to know what kind of condition it's in. For example, does your CD have any serious scratches? And has an over-enthusiastic student scribbled notes in a Uni textbook?
One thing buyers need to be aware of are postage charges and estimated delivery dates. One the one hand, you'll never be able to benefit from combined postage with Marketplace, since it's rare for the same seller to offer two items you want. As Amazon now offer free second class delivery for orders over £25, new items often work out cheaper than used if you're going to spend enough to qualify. Of course, this won't apply if your Marketplace price is very very low, and an obvious saving over the Amazon price.
But at the same time, if Amazon is out of stock, you may be able to get the item New from a third party seller who can deliver within the week. I'm writing this op two weeks before Christmas and time is pressing - many of the ideas I've had for friends and relatives' presents are out of stock at Amazon but in stock in the New & Used section. Marketplace sellers are required to post items within two days, so this can be a real advantage. Just watch out for USA sellers, as there are lots of them, and some do not make it obvious where they are located. Posting a CD or book by Airmail is likely to take 10-15 days, so be prepared for that.
--> SELLING: HOW DOES IT WORK?
Selling on Amazon is relatively easy, depending on what you're getting rid of.
Books are a doddle - simply search for the ISBN number (usually near the barcode) and Amazon will present you with the book you own. You then choose the condition from a pre-defined list - New, Nearly new, and so on - and type a quick description. It's important to list and faults or flaws that a buyer would be interested in - e.g. curled corners or spine wear.
If the item is in stock in the Amazon warehous, the system will present a guide price for you, depending on the condition you chose. You can list your book for whatever price you want, and you can ignore the guide if you wish. If the item is not in stock or discontinued, you might have to use your own judgement - or the price of items already listed - to get a feel for what your book is worth.
The procedure with CDs, DVDs, vinyl records and other items is similar. Just search for the title or artist, and make sure you are listing the right item under the right category - sometimes Amazon have two or three versions of the same CD on different record labels and it's up to you to double-check and make sure you're putting yours under the right heading.
Once you've picked your price and clicked 'List', the item is submitted for sale and placed into your 'Opening soon' list in your Seller Account area. This is where minor technical glitches come in. Although your items are normally available to view immediately, sometimes it can take a while for them to show up. My items are listed OK, but are stuck in 'Opening soon', not in 'Open' as they should be. Amazon told me today that this is a known technical glitch, but didn't sem to be in any real hurry to correct it. It won't affect your selling, but it can make administration more difficult.
You must never be tempted to mislead buyers by giving inaccurate ratings or descriptions of the product you are selling, and you must always post your item within 1-2 days of receiving the email confirming a sale. Doing this can lead to low feedback ratings which means buyers are very unlikely to shop from you in the future.
--> BUYING: IS IT SAFE?
Buying from Amazon Marketplace is guaranteed. Unlike eBay, Amazon have a protection system built in, largely because all payments are made through Amazon and the proceeds are then passed from Amazon to the seller. If you don't get your goods there is a way to complain and get your money back. You can pay for Marketplace and Amazon items at the same time from the same card, and the order will be listed on the Amazon site, so you always have a way to track your purchase. Be aware that Amazon cannot control some aspects of the sale, like the descriptions of the products on the Used and New page, so excercise sensible caution and don't buy anything listed as 'Good' or 'Acceptable' that doesn't have a description - you may get a nasty surprise.
Like eBay, Amazon has a feedback system, and although it is less prominent than eBay's, it seems less open to abuse. You rate your seller on a 'star' system - from 1 to 5, depending on your experience - which seems far better than eBay's three-tier feedback where you have to be happy, unhappy or 'neutral' - an odd concept!
Amazon don't (yet?) sell high value goods like computers on their UK site, as they do in the USA, but if they did, I think I would feel slightly safer buying high-value goods from Amazon than from eBay.
--> AMAZON VS EBAY
Although Amazon run auctions within the main Amazon site, I've always found the system to be fairly inpenetrable, whereas the Marketplace is much more heavily promoted. I'm going to ignore Amazon auctions for this section since I don't have any experience of them.
In terms of selling used books and CDs, Amazon marketplace has always returned much better prices than eBay would. It's much more targeted and the user doesn't really have to go hunting for your low prices, and of course, you have much less competition on the Amazon site. I started approximately 150 auctions of books, CDs, records and SIM cards last week and have now sold five items and have £40 to show for it, after fees have been taken. On eBay, I would have struggled to get £25 after fees, and the administration would have been far more time consuming - scanning pictures etc - so much so that it would barely have seemed worthwhile.
However, while I'm talking about fees, Amazon generally take much more comission from your sale. There are no listing fees (which is great news - no paying for items that never sell), but Amazon do take a large chunk of your takings.
--> A WORD OF CAUTION: FEES
For a normal seller (i.e. not a professional), each sale will have 86p deducted, then an additional 17.25% deducted on top (11.5% for Electronics & Photo listings). Amazon will give you a postage credit, but it's rarely enough to buy a Jiffy bag, and they cheekily take comission from your postage credit too!
Here are a couple of examples of how this works out:
1. A CD sold at £5.99.
+£1.24 Postage credit -£1.89 Amazon fees -£0.29 VAT -£1.00 for Jiffy bag and stamps
Total I received: £4.05
2. A 400 page book sold for £19.
+£2.75 Postage credit -£4.03 fees -£0.60 VAT -£6.91 for Parcel post
Total I received: £10.21
The second example is an extreme, because of the weight of the book and the fact that Amazon's postage credits are standard for everything from a pocket dictionary to a hardback thesaurus. But it goes to show just how careful you have to be because it's much easier to be out of pocket than it would be on eBay, where you can price your own postage for each item.
The other con of Amazon is that income is never guaranteed. Your items sell when they sell... you may get three sales in one day and none for the next two weeks.
--> IS IT WORTH IT?
For a clearout, certainly, and especially if you have sought-after items. If you have mainly chart CDs and videos, many sellers are likely to be selling them at a loss already (perhaps unwittingly), and you will find it hard to compete with them.
I still enjoy selling Amazon as it is a simple and hassle-free process, and now my Dad - who is not web savvy - has done the same with boxes of books that he couldn't even give away to second hand bookshops. He has found it remarkably easy to set up and use, and that proves that anyone can sell on Amazon and list a few unwanted items for free!
l liked your breakdown of sales and actual profits received ~ l've bought 'jiffy bags' from VikingDirect which cuts down the costs of posting, but l cannot get to PO more often than once/week (Saturday), so l'm unlikely to try to sell anything in a hurry
. . . . ~ ! ♥♥ ! ~ ........................................................... ~ jes ~ ! ♥♥ ! ~
smudger1964 16.12.2003 21:17
hi great review will have a look.craig
melee679 11.12.2003 22:47
argh i couldn't sell any of my books, despite amazon reminding me every time i log in that i could earn hundreds of pounds by selling my past purchases... m Xx