One of the biggest hurdles I see for Amazon FBA newbies is prepping and shipping. Common questions are how to prepare your items, should you bag, should you bubble wrap, who to use for shipping (if you are in Canada) and so on.
I started with the Amazon FBA program on Amazon.ca in May 2014 and learned many lessons. This article covers lessons learned in shipping. Nowadays I also sell on Amazon.com and if you are looking for information on how to sell on Amazon.com from Canada, then I would have to recommend that you start with this ebook to cover all the paperwork and other border issues. It will answer all those problems for you.
Amazon FBA Supplies
First of all you need a few basic supplies to get the job done. I just love this tool caddy, I keep all my basic supplies in it, it’s perfect! This tool caddy holds my tape gun, scissors, label peelers, goop off, Suffocation stickers, pens, measuring tape, postal scale, etc … In another bin, I keep my bubble wrap and dunnage.
Basic must have shipping supplies include:
- Tape Gun and tape
- Scotty Peelers (for removing price stickers)
- Sticker adhesive removal such as goop off (for those stickers that leave glue on your item!)
- Shipping boxes. I started out using free boxes from work, but now I almost exclusively use Medium size Home Depot boxes. In Canada, they are cheaper than buying bulk from uline, they cost $1.57 each.
- Bubble wrap. I have various sizes and thicknesses
- Poly bags. I like this Poly Bag Combo Pack because it contains 4 different sizes (100 each) and they are already labeled with suffocation warning and are self sealing. Saves money on labels and tape!
- Box cutter. Used for opening your online orders. Be sure to save those boxes and packing materials for yourself!
- Stretch wrap. I recommend this Hand held Stretch Wrap . I bought one of the giant rolls and unless you have a holder for it, you need two people to wrap anything. This is a cheaper alternative to poly bagging if you are just starting out.
- Avery 30 up labels. I used these for 6 months before I invested in my Dymo printer. I use these Avery Easy Peel Address Labels. They are good to have as backup in case your Dymo goes down or you run out of labels.
- Read my article on proper FBA labeling procedures here
Other items that are nice to have
- Postal Scale. If you already sell on eBay, chances are you own this already. I find mine useful for those times that I sell an Amazon item Merchant Fulfilled (MF) and for when I create bundles. Amazon needs the weight of the bundle so they know how much to charge you.
- DYMO 450 LabelWriter Oh my goodness, why did I wait so long for this one!? For 6 months I used my printer and 30 up labels. This little guy is life changing and so easy to use.
- Impulse sealer. I don’t have one yet, but it’s on my wish list.
Prepping your items for Amazon FBA Shipping
Ok, so you have gone sourcing for products in thrift stores, garage sales, Walmart, Big Lots, Target, or online shopping (my personal favorite!). You have many items in front of you and now need to get them ready.
Be very careful how you grade your products obtained from thrifting or garage sales. In order to list it as ‘New’, the box must be in pristine condition with all seals and wrap in place. Ask yourself if you would be proud to present this a gift to somebody. Also, think of the customer on the other end. They just bought a NEW product from Amazon. How will they feel if it arrives with a caved in box, broken seals and a thrift store sticker still on it? They will most likely return it, wouldn’t you?
So the first thing to do is check over all the items carefully and use your scotty peelers and goop off to remove the stickers and any residue. It needs to look like what you would buy off the shelf. Anything less and I would sell it as Open Box, or Used or Collectible or Very Good, all depends on what it is.
Final Prep and Boxing
First, if you have never watched this movie clip of Jim Carrey as a UPS delivery man, you have to watch it. It will make everything else I say make sense!
I work for a company that has a warehouse. I can tell you with 100% certainty that warehouses are dirty and dusty places and that there are only two people who really care about your package. One is the customer who buys it and the other needs to be you. So with this in mind, as well as Jim Carrey as your delivery man, take the time to package well.
There are people who only prep if the Amazon Seller Central shipping process tells them they have to prep. My thoughts on this are, Why take the chance. If the item is dusty or dirty because you didn’t bag it, or if a mug or dish breaks because you didn’t bubble wrap it, well guess what? The customer is going to return it and likely never order from you again.
- Unless my item has a fully enclosed box, I poly bag it to protect the contents from dust and dirt.
- If it is an item that is highly collectible, I poly bag it to also protect the box. An expensive Star Wars Lego set is an example of something that technically needs no protection but I know that collectors prize the box as well as the contents.
- Anything that contains a breakable item is bubble wrapped because Amazon says that it must pass a 3 foot drop test on all sides.
- I poly bag all grocery items with a 2 ml bag. Grocery also needs an expiry date label.
- Anything that contains a liquid must have a double seal, as well as being poly bagged.
Here is an example of something I prepped yesterday. The item is a Coca Cola collectors mug, in a box already and it was not flagged as needing any more prep. In my opinion, it would have never made it to the customer in one piece. I just don’t take a chance.
What About Selling on Amazon.com From Canada?
Our biggest hurdle as Canadians who want to sell on Amazon from Canada is the border. It took me a long time to take the amazon.com plunge just because of the border and paperwork and basically just not really knowing what to do.
I recently purchased a new ebook written by fellow Canadian seller Duncan MacPherson. If you are a Canadian and want to get started selling on Amazon.com, then you need this book too!
It explains all the options available to you and goes through all the forms you need.
You can buy his book right here. This will save you months of agony and get you started in the US.
Shipping to Amazon FBA for Canadians
So finally the shipping. Amazon sellers in the US get to take advantage of low shipping rates to the Fulfillment centres. They don’t even have to pay up front! (New changes March 2016!-read below)
In Canada, up until March 2016, we not only had to find our own shipping deal, we had to pay for it up front, out of pocket. My very first shipment, I was so naive. I thought we got the same UPS deal as in the US. I boxed up 6 items, drove over to the UPS store and proudly told them I was an Amazon FBA seller and wanted the special deal. They looked at me like I had 2 heads. I didn’t know what else to do so I just shipped the box. It cost $48. That was the one and only shipment that I lost money on, partly because of the shipment cost and partly because I had no idea what products I should be buying! So now as of March 2016, we now have the same super cheap shipping deal with UPS that they have over the border.
This article is already too long, so last thing I want to tell you is to watch the many videos on Amazon’s site. They show you how to properly ship and pack everything right there.
The Amazon FBA program is a fantastic business opportunity and a great part time or full time business for the right person. It is not ‘Easy Money’ or a Get Rich Quick opportunity. It is a legitimate online retail business, subject to the real laws, rules and regulations of wherever you happen to live and the rather complicated and lengthy Amazon Terms of Agreement.
Do not start your Amazon business without first reading the Amazon TOS and without some basic knowledge of what it means to have a business and understand that with any business you must pay attention to basic business practises. And yes, this means things like taxes and insurance.