It was 3 years ago in October that I opened the doors to Scanner Monkey with an invitation to a select few Facebook buddies to join my quirky little group where we could “swap funny stories about sourcing and maybe share a few BOLOs”.
What started with 3 members and a banner that read “Scanner Monkeys of the World Unite” has since grown into an extraordinary community of positive minded and generous online sellers with the unifying purpose of helping each other succeed – while having fun and making new friends in the process. [If you want more history on the group and how we have evolved you can read about it in our book The Scanner Monkey Way.]
I’ve always been a pretty nostalgic guy and I enjoy looking back at the humble beginnings of ANY great success story to see how things have evolved. After reviewing the Scanner Monkey Facebook group posts and the ScannerMonkey.com website, I was astonished to see how much we have grown in a short 3 years! Here are some interesting stats of what our tribe has collectively accomplished since 2013:
We’ve recorded 139 SMTV webcasts – each week featuring a successful seller or industry expert with actionable strategies.
Recruited 90 coaches, educators, and vendors to help our tribe with various facets of their businesses.
Secured 44 EXCLUSIVE discounts on FBA related software, services, apps, conferences, and books.
Connected with over 400 members at 11 conferences & meetups.
Coordinated 2 “Pay It Forward” Days – with over $10,000 worth of prizes going to our members.
We’ve had more fun than a barrel of monkeys by hosting 4 karaoke parties and one cruise with 54 attendees!
Most importantly, we now have 1,300 supportive members in our tribe! Our members, that range from part-time newbies to multi-million dollar mega-sellers, have always been THE most important asset of Scanner Monkey! I can confidently say that NO OTHER group is as supportive or positive-minded as the Scanner Monkey group. Yes, I might be a little biased, but I see examples of it every single day in our group. For that I feel extremely blessed to be a part of such a supportive community that truly understands the value of sharing with others so that we can grow together.
So how did we celebrate 3 years of supporting, connecting, learning and growing together? By giving away a gaggle of prizes donated by our awesome members! Here is just a sample of the great prizes we awarded to our members that entered our daily contests last week AND live on our special 3rd Anniversary SMTV show:
In order to win these prizes we asked our members to enter contests where they shared advice. Examples included their “Best #TuesdayTip” or “Tips to share with NEW Scanner Monkey members”. This way EVERYONE wins – either a prize OR great advice from other members. Between the FB contests and the live contest on our SMTV show we had over 100 entries, with 22 winners claiming over $4,300 worth of prizes! The winners included: Kim Coghlan, Sherry Morton, Dan Engler, Anita Hampl, Bond Chris Bond, Elizabeth Thompson, Ann Whitford Poppe, and many more!
Happy Anniversary Scanner Monkeys! I look forward to the NEXT 3 YEARS with my Scanner Monkey family!
In light of the recent discussions over the future of RA [see recent blog post by Cynthia Stine, “Is Arbitrage Dead?“], I thought I would share some thoughts . For those of you who may not know much about me, I have been selling on Amazon full time for a little over 4 years. During that time I have sold close to $3 million, 99% from RA. My business hasn’t really grown as I sold my first million in 18 months and have averaged around $600k a year. As those with me from the beginning know, I have diversified across RA going from Health and Beauty, to Grocery, then toys and now Clothing and Shoes. This has been my way to adjust to the adversities I have encountered. Others have grown their business and many have moved into Wholesale, Liquidation and Private Label. I have written a couple of books and started many others. My latest book will cover my experience from start to finish as I anticipate my voluntary extinction at the end of this year.
I drafted up a chart to explain how I feel about the different modalities of sourcing for Amazon and offer it up here for the Scanner Monkey tribe. The chart is based on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
Basically in a nutshell, Retail Arbitrage/Thrifting are the equivalent level of Freshman year in college. A necessary component.
For me I am kind of like a black and white photography professor. I teach you to get proper lighting with F-stops and how to pick the right angle, developing film in a dark room etc. I leave the digital and advanced photography to others. Does that mean that if you are going to be a digital photographer or work in animation or another form of videography that you shouldn’t take Introduction to Photography. No, I think it is very important, just as I think it is important for a Neuro Surgeon to have taken Anatomy in lower levels of their education.
Are there photographers who still do black and white photography and develop their own film? Yes, and many are very successful, sought after and very wealthy. However, the trend is leaning towards other mediums and sadly so seems to be the case with Amazon.
“So John, where does that leave us?” For me, business as usual. I am trying to grow my business a little and have involved family in that endeavor. Will I stop sourcing RA because of the possibility that they will not accept receipts from retail stores. Not at this time. Do I see this as another shot fired across the bow? Most definitely. Do I recommend RA as a way to start a business selling on Amazon? Yes! To me it is definitely the right path. What you learn, the product knowledge you gain, will only make you more prepared to be successful at the other levels.
Ok T-rex, like you I am a hard charging RA ground pounder who is selling over $300k a year and just quit my job, what should I do? That, of course, is up to your particular circumstances but as Cynthia’s blog post reads, Amazon ‘may’ take steps that ‘if’ you get inauthentic claims, you will not be able to use retail receipts to defend yourself. What is new? Amazon has been unreasonable in the past and will be so in the future. I have said on numerous occasions that selling on Amazon is basically gambling. To me, a new dealer has just sat down at the table and there are signs he/she may have marked the deck. Complaining to management won’t help, he is management. Do I run crying into the night? Did I when they suspended me two years ago? No, I buckle down, pay attention and try to play by the new rules.
So in summary, RA as a method of sourcing for FBA, may be going by the wayside. Makes no sense to me, but hey, Amazon is a self-serving entity and they will do what they will do. Many are fearful. Don’t be, but be cautious. If you were planning on opening a warehouse next month and hiring five people to do RA for Q4, you may want to reconsider. Growth at this time, may not be the best use of your money. Notice I said ‘may’. If I receive an e-mail or an official policy notification from Amazon that leads me to believe they don’t want my stuff I will slowly move in to other modalities. If I get suspended or see many others get suspended because of Amazon’s new policy I will focus on leaving Amazon totally. Any company that bites the hand of the person that is feeding it which is exactly what would be happening, does not deserve my food.
I am not fearful of new developments, I am cautious. To me the real concern should be for those who are selling non-exclusive wholesale. We have seen how profits have diminished when supply outpaces demand. If large RA sellers start putting their sourcing budget in to wholesale, I personally think that will diminish the returns in that arena. As for Private Label, sourcing from China is like playing Roulette with a .38 revolver. In the past you had one bullet out of five. If Trump is elected, you may see different importation regulations that put a hiatus on that endeavor. (Second Bullet) Also isn’t the whole reason for the discussion counterfeits ? where do they come from? (Third Bullet) Did John just say that! Creating local, American made Private Label items to me would be the best solution at this time.
Once again, this is all opinion and of course may differ from yours. I offer it simply as someone who has seen the ups and downs of business. I wish everyone a most prosperous Q4!
We recently asked our Scanner Monkey tribe to share their favorite Retail Arbitrage (RA) tips and strategies, and boy did they deliver! We received over 50 comments from newbies and veterans alike with actionable advice that runs the gamut from planning the day, to sourcing product, to developing relationships with store personnel.
Understand that if you want to learn a new category, or a new store, it’s going to take some time. It’s an investment, and it’s worth it. I see so many new sellers quit because they spend hours in a store and only find one item. Whenever you are looking at a new store or category (or just new to the biz) your time sourcing should be counted as learning. Any money you make is bonus. Probably for the first 5-10 hours this is reasonable. – Jennifer U.
Balance learning with action. I see a lot of people not utilizing the availability of learning tools, and losing lots of money because they are doing what they know and not learning how to do better. But I also see a lot of people who are constantly just trying to learn something new. Learn RA, try it for a month, get frustrated. Learn Wholesale, try it for a month, get frustrated. Class after class after class, spending tons of money but never spending the actual time in the field to really hone any one skill. Don’t do either of those things. – Jennifer U.
Have a plan. Don’t drive around willy nilly scanning random things here and there. Pick a store, pick a section and scan it from top to bottom before giving up. You’re going to struggle to find great product if you cherry pick what you think will sell. – Amy F.
Before doing anything figure out your business plan. By that I mean figure out the numbers that you need to make enough money to accomplish your mission. For example, if you are in the building stage and have small amount of capital, maximize that capital on high velocity, high ROI products, and once you are out of capital use the resources you have left which is usually time to elevate your skill set so you can further maximize your capital once it begins to really flow. When I ran out of capital I still scanned entire stores with no intention of buying (hated finding gem) because I couldn’t, but that led to me developing crazy recall and that coupled with learning the retail cycles is one of the biggest factors for my success. – Derrick F.
Buy things you don’t use personally. I’m a dude, and I’m an awesome buyer of purses, makeup, women’s shoes, high end health and beauty, etc etc. If you buy things you use, your personal passions will override market data. If you buy things you don’t use you enter the Zen space of only focusing on barcodes. – Andrew A.
(1) Get yourself a KDC scanner. Not only will it speed up your business. It stores your Barcodes from the day. Which you can go back to the computer and upload into Scanner Monkeys Scansheet software. Then when you are planning to go out and if you have already scan an entire isle (which i have the entire Target grocery departments UPC) you can just pick up what is selling great at that time. (2) Scan everything in the Beginning. Then when you are up and running you will know what is selling and what is not. Plus you will be able to know as soon as something new is on the market. (3) Get into a mastermind group with people that in different parts of the country then you are in and have the same drive as you.. I am apart of RA mastermind group and we share stuff at the stores that I would over look all the time. Team work can payoff. – Dean J.
Since focusing my business on RA primarily in 2015 I’ve formed a team that has their own stores to hit so they don’t cross paths. Over the last year each shopper would spend $1-$2k per day. We recently started experimenting with 2-3 man teams. Rather than 1 person going out and spending $1-$2k we have 2-3 people cover the store which enables us to cover multiple stores in a day and spend $4k+ rather than $1k-$2k. The additional cost of the 1-2 employees is $100-$200/day. The extra $2k per day in spending should net us an extra $1k+ per day in profit. Would you trade $100-$200 in someone else’s time for an extra $1k per day? – Brian F.
If you find a great sidewalk sale, semi-annual clearance event, etc, open up your calendar, fast forward 6 or 12 months, add an appointment to that future date to call that store & check back to see if they have that same sale going on again. – Elizabeth T.
Subscribe to a sourcing list, esp. in the beginning. You may not find the the actual items on the list but you’ll get a through schooling in what brands are worth checking. You’ll also learn to scout items out of your comfort zone. – Guusje M.
Be flexible and versatile, I have gone from primarily Health and Beauty to grocery then toys and now shoes and clothing. Open your horizons. Once you find a niche become an expert then look for new things. When sourcing, look for what you know first, then scan new things to add to your knowledge base. Build relationships. Find experts and buy them lunch and listen to their wisdom. Doing that I went from zero to 1/4 million in shoe sales in 14 months. And lastly, don’t give up, this is a marathon not a sprint.- John G.
Stock up on discounted gift cards from the stores you shop often to increase your margins. Also, use credit cards to rack up miles and cash back on your inventory buys. Always pay the cards off in full and never pay interest. – Alexander A.
Remember to track your mileage deductions. I like MileIQ because it uses your phone’s movement to automatically start/stop trips. At the end of the day you just go through each trip and swipe right for business, left for personal. – Dang L.
When you are planning a long RA day, pack a cooler of healthy food. Eat healthy and you will have more energy. – Karin B.
Stretch! Literally and figuratively. RA can wear on the body, and getting stuck in a product rut can wear on your business. Go down that aisle you always avoid, go to that store you always drive past. – Scott M.
OUTSOURCE!!! Find something good at a store? Hire someone to hit all of the stores in your area and grab those items for you. You can also hire someone hourly to scan everything in the [enter favorite product category] aisles. – Stephen S.
In the beginning go to smaller stores, and gravitate to CLEARANCE aisles. Larger stores like Walmart & Target, you can spend days and not find a lot of inventory and get frustrated. Get the “Finding Discount Stores” app on iTunes (not available on Android unfortunately). Only 99cents and a great app to find stores around you, especially useful when you are traveling or in another town. – Bob W.
Make sure you stay aware of current business news! With a lot of companies struggling with pending bankruptcies/store closings, this can lead to massive buying opportunities. Sport Chalet (West Coast only) and Sports Authority in the last few months have led to massive hauls for us with pennies on the dollar. Befriend the Purchasing Manager of the liquidation company, and store managers and get their contact info. – Lou B.
Look for store exclusives (ie Target exclusive, TRU exclusive). They generally are in more limited supply, and can command a higher price point. Also, look for regional & local brands in your stores – aka Regional Arbitrage. Once someone becomes “hooked” on a particular brand of coffee (or whatever) that they can only get in a certain part of the country, once they move elsewhere they will pay a premium for that “taste of home”. – Jay Bayne
Have a plan. Remember that you’ll be coming back to this store again. Be intentional about relationships and building them because the good ones TAKE TIME. Take a notebook and write down the manager’s name. You may think you’ll remember, but after 15 different Toys R Us stores, you’re bound to forget. See a stack of potentially awesome items in the overhead? Make a note to call the store in two weeks to see if the price has dropped and they still have them. – Chris Green [A special thanks to Chris for allowing us to use the front cover shot of his Retail Arbitrage book in this post 🙂 ].
When scanning shoes and sneakers scan all sizes available. Often times some sizes are not in the catalog but others are so you may miss an opportunity if you only scan a few sizes. – Marc P.
When sourcing shoes be sure the box has the matching size as the label and they’re the same. I’ve found a size 9 and the other shoe was a size 10 in the same box. – Molly G.
RA is its own animal. It’s not just reading charts and assessing risk. There is an element of the unknown with RA. What is at one store may not be at another. What one manager might allow, another will not. Etc. Planning is crucial. It just is. One must understand certain questions might come up and have responses for said questions. “What are you going to do with all this stuff?” “How much do you sell this for?” “What are you doing with that thing (scanner)?” You need to think things thru so you know how to respond intelligently and politely. You also must keep in mind that your actions, as an Amazon seller, DO impact ALL future interactions you will have with the store and others will have with the store. Tread nicely! – Robin J.
If you’re ever in a store, especially a Walmart, and you’re getting terrible or no cell service use their wifi. This happened to me on my recent drive back from Los Angeles. I was in a remote WM that had some decent clearance, but no service. Then I remembered about their wifi. At first I thought it wasn’t going to work, but I waited and a login page come up. I just clicked to accept the terms and was good to go. Found a cart full of profitable items that I would have missed otherwise. Not sure what other stores have free wifi, but worth checking out if necessary. – Jeff H.
When developing relationships in your stores…don’t stop with the managers. If you frequently shop in the same stores try and checkout using the same cashier (but only if they are nice). IF you are friendly and courteous, those cashiers will go to bat for you if you need to divide up your order into multiple transactions (to avoid the limit __ buys), or they may even have some “secret coupons” behind the counter. – Jay B.
You NEED a quick, easy way to take notes so you don’t forget. Reprice that. Update that listing. Make this item I am buying a 2 pack. etc. I use Evernote, but find what works for you. – Scott M.
Do you have some Retail Arbitrage tips & strategies you would like to share? We would love it if you posted them in the comments below!
Hiya…hallo…ciao…and kon’nichiwa. These are all ways to say “hello” in other countries and they are EASY to learn. On the other hand, learning the ins and outs of selling on other Amazon marketplaces outside the U.S. is NOT EASY. It requires a LOT more time, effort, and resources IF you don’t have the right guide to walk you through all the confusing and complicated processes involved..
Well, it turns out that we have the PERFECT guide to help you. His name is Steve Sawyer and he is a successful international and US seller, an experienced educator, and an active helper and member in the Scanner Monkey community since we were founded. He even runs our Scanner Monkey International Facebook community. Steve sold over $600K last year overseas and is committed to helping other sellers grow on these exciting platforms.
Steve created a comprehensive course (over 24 modules!) called, International Arbitrage, that will walk you through how AND what to sell on the Amazon international marketplaces. This course is price is so amazingly low for the value received that we cannot offer a discount. However, students who register for the class will ALSO receive a FREE LIFETIME membership to the Scanner Monkey, a $499 value! All for the course price of $1497! REGISTER HERE(This offer is available to current members and non members)
This is a different approach to how we normally offer products or services in Scanner Monkey. Usually, we only allow a vendor to promote a reputable product or service in the group IF they can provide a discount for our members. This time we are partnering with Steve and his team because of him being such an integral part of the Scanner Monkey team and the unique value of what he is offering in both his course, and the staffing and resources available to course members.
Watch our interview with Steve about the course and selling internationally in general.
Ultimately we wanted to find a way that would be a win for everyone involved but primarily for our members, and this is what we worked out.
With your course registration you will not have to make any payments to be member of our group forever, your LIFETIME membership is paid for with the course. ($499 value)
You have the full support of the growing Scanner Monkey International Facebook community which shares our values of helping each other succeed.
Steve has been selling internationally for several years and his business is growing exponentially. After being asked repeatedly to help others learn what he did, he invested heavily in both course and staffing infrastructure to create the ultimate course, where participants are helped with EVERY aspect of the this process to keep it simple and as clear as possible.
The price of this course will only go up as new countries and resources are added. You getting in at the beginning means you will have access to each new resource as it is developed.
So that’s enough about WHY we structured this incredible offer this way. Now you can see WHAT is offered in the International Arbitrage course so you can see what a great value it is at only $1497.
Video and Powerpoint course curriculum with over 25 key areas of instruction
Access to live and recorded webinars
Full support from our staff accountant for questions and paperwork assistance
Membership in an exclusive 4 month Mastermind facebook group made up of actual course participants
100%, 30 day money back guarantee
Additionally if you sign up by JULY 31st you will ALSO receive:
Lifetime membership in the Internal Arbitrage Private Facebook Group (course normally comes with 4 months then it’s $49/month).
A full package of the EasyPackBox system to jumpstart your shipping process ($99 value)
Registration for this course will SHUT DOWN for 2016 on August 31st so that we can all focus on profiting fully from the fourth quarter!
What You Will Learn International Arbitrage teaches you everything you need to know to make big profits in the European market, including:
SHIPPING Registering and opening your shipping account, harmonizing product codes, import duties, fulfillment, and so much more.
GOVERNMENT VAT and EORI applications, VAT invoices and returns, distance selling, intrastate returns and zero-rated VAT products.
BANKING Bank setup and documents, what accounts you need, US bank requirements.
AMAZON Account set-up and the verification process, how to calculate your profit, Amazon US to UK flips, the European marketplace, category approval, seller central UK, listing products, and pulling over the .com., insurance and more.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION…a request from a service provider
I consider myself very lucky to be associated with E-commerce leaders such as Chris Green, Duane Malek, Cordelia Blake, John Groleau, Andy Slamans, Sam Cohen, Jason T Smith, John Lawson, Cynthia Stine, Nate McAlister…and so many more.
I am sure that most of you would agree that these reputable FBA community leaders are extremely generous with their time and efforts. They go above and beyond when providing value and make the FBA world a better place for all sellers. Many of them spend a great deal of time researching ways to help you run your business more efficiently and add dollars to your bottom line. In return they receive a fair amount of revenue for their products and services, AND sometimes they get kudos from satisfied customers.
However, one of the most disappointing things I have seen is when someone leaves really bad feedback OR even accuses the service provider of being unethical in a public forum without giving them the opportunity to rectify the situation privately. I’m not trying to stifle freedom of speech here, but I would like to offer alternatives to address any issues that you, as a customer, may have with a product or service.
When contemplating criticism of someone’s product or service in a public forum, I would politely request that you consider doing the following instead…or at least beforehand:
1) Reach out to the service provider and give them the opportunity to address your grievances and see if they have any solutions for you. Give them the benefit of the doubt. Chances are that they may not even be aware of an issue with a product or service. Even with thorough beta testing there can still be kinks that need to be worked out after a product is released.
2) Adjust your expectations to mirror the real world. Example: if you’ve purchased an online sourcing or BOLO list from a reputable provider you still shouldn’t expect that EVERY single item will be a grand slam. I don’t care how good the list is (and I’m including my CyberMonkeyDeals.com list too), that is rarely the case. The best career batting average in baseball is .366…and that is equivalent to approximately 1 base hit per 3 times at bat. Secondly, don’t base your expectations on only one or two days of use. Give the product / service /extension some time to show favorable results before writing it off as an inferior product. I always tell new subscribers to evaluate Scanner Monkey for 30 days before deciding whether or not it is not for them….and that is with a 60 day money back guarantee (we’ll get to that in #10).
3) Think about what you want to accomplish when providing feedback. Is it a major bug in the software that needs to be fixed, OR is the product not as advertised? Clearly explain the situation with the provider along with how you expect them to address it. A simple “your product stinks” will not help them help you.
4) If the product doesn’t live up to your expectations, is there additional training available to help you get better results? Sometimes it’s a simple matter of watching a few YouTube tutorials to help you get the most out of a product. Most of the time the providers will include demo videos on their website or on YouTube to help you get the most out of their software.
5) Consider the track record and reputation of the provider. Do they have a history of providing valuable resources and tools? If so, chances are they will continue to do so moving forward. I can’t imagine an E-commerce leader jeopardizing their reputation in order to make $__ /unit on an extension that doesn’t work well as well as advertised.
6) CONSTRUCTIVE feedback can be very helpful when offered in the spirit of assisting the provider on making improvements to the product. Personally, we have made several improvements to Scanner Monkey and Cyber Monkey Deals based upon constructive feedback offered to us privately or in a survey. A good way to offer constructive feedback would be to use terms like: “I really liked ____, but to improve you might ____”. Or, “have you considered ______?”. If you don’t make it personal…then the service provider shouldn’t take it personally and will be more receptive to spending time making adjustments to enhance the product.
7) How will your criticism make YOU look in a public forum? If you are just “flaming” someone or their service it may come across as sour grapes. It might even look like you have a personal vendetta against that provider. Plus, if you do this repeatedly in multiple forums, you may find that people will not take your feedback seriously, and you may be labeled as a chronic complainer. If you feel compelled to discuss issues you have with a product, then see #6 for ways to provide CONSTRUCTIVE feedback.
8) Make sure you are reaching out to the RIGHT person when registering a complaint about a product. If it’s a widely distributed product or app that hundreds of users have access to, then their customer service department is a good place to start. IF they cannot resolve your issues then take your issue to the top brass. If it’s an extension or service that is relatively small scale and is being marketed by the individual then reach out directly to them to see if they can assist you with your issue.
9) Some people have told me “Jay, I lodge my complaints in a public forum because that is the best way to get the attention of the service provider”. It may be quicker, but it is NOT the best way to get the provider to work with you on resolving your issues with the product or service. Customer service should always be the goal of the provider, but it can be difficult to provide good customer service if the customer turns it into an adversarial situation (and the provider should not do this either). Complaining about someone’s product in a public forum should be a last resort AFTER you have filed a formal complaint via PM, email, or even a phone call.
10) Lastly, if you’ve done your due diligence and still feel like you have not gotten your money’s worth, then you should definitely ASK FOR A REFUND. All reputable product and service providers should offer a money back guarantee AND they should stand behind it…no questions asked.
I would like to ask one more favor. If you LIKE a service or product please leave a testimonial, even if it is in the form of a private message to the service provider. Why? A) Because it lets the product creator know that they are on the right track and the time and effort that went into the product was worth it. B) When you leave good feedback you are making it easier for others to make the decision on whether or not to purchase the product.
Service providers are fully aware that they can’t possibly please EVERYONE, and they have systems and guarantees in place to address those individuals that are unsatisfied with their products. However, it’s a two-way street, and it’s appreciated when the customer gives them the opportunity to make things right instead of posting their grievances in a public forum. Think about it….whenever you got a bad grade on a test in school, did you want the teacher announcing it to the rest of the class?
On behalf of FBA service providers everywhere, we thank you for considering these options to arrive at a mutually beneficial solution for everyone involved.
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