Tagged: amazon.com

Catching a scammer on Ebay – BUSTED!

Ebay has scammers? Unfortunately, they have plenty! The sad part is they’re hard to catch all the time and these guys are extremely smart! Getting scammed for anyone who does more than 25/day might be overwhelmed with the attempts and they can be hard to catch 100% of the time. Fortunately, I was able to catch a guy who almost ran with $1600!

Most of our scams come from user names without any feedback (or little), a new user with a new member indicator and they’re purchasing a high end item with overnight delivery. The bad part is that some decide to ship to unconfirmed address across the board because a significant 15% of sales can come from these users.  Shipping software can prevent some filtering of potentially fraudulent orders with filters in shipworks, but takes some personal attention to find the real scams.

The Scam: This one was obvious after the fact. It was someone who fell for the craigslist job posting scam to make “$300+” per week and needed to start immediatly. Basically, overseas guys steam an ebay/paypal account with cash and have the item shipped to your house. You sign for the packages and will often be told to purchase the item from your computer so it cant be traced with a hacked account. When the item arrives, you send each package overseas to the scammer with the potential to make $30+ per item that you resend. After you’ve sent the first 10 items they offer to pay and then their gone. All the evidence falls on the receiver/buyer of the item and when the original account holder files a claim …your address is at fault. Some are gullible and believe it, other know what’s going on but go along with it. Being paid is common but eventually you’ll get burned hard.

For some reason they tricked us one day when we were off guard. A user bought 7 identical items worth $150+ / unit.  They were shipped overnight through FedEx express and by the time we caught it the packages were already on the way. He had a phone number in the shipping info so I decided to give it a call. Go figure, it was disconnected. Following with a straight forward e-mail of calling the cops if they accepted the package , the scammer did not respond.

At this point I was pretty pissed. Some idiot sits at home and makes more than 98% of Americans by defrauding people from the comfort of his couch. It was getting late in the afternoon and unless we could get something worked out the guy who have the phones and then there’s no hope. I used google earth first just to see what kind of neighboor hood he was in and I was surprised when it was a nice family neighborhood in the city. The image was hard to swallow knowing tomorrows GPS photo might include the scammer accepting the packages from Fedex.

I figured giving this guy’s neighbors a call would undercover a few more facts. I used a reverse directory look up from a website and started to type in potential house numbers that were located next door. Lets say his address was 100 Main St. I would type in 101 Main St. and find the persons number. The one fact he cant hide is where they’re being shipped so you know someone there was participating (knowingly or unknowingly). I basically told the guys on the other end we sell items online and a scammer was using a neighbors address for potential fraud. This way they wouldn’t feel like we were attacking their weekend BBQ buddy, but enough to get in the door and find out a little bit more information. They told me he worked at home and was a “nice man”. I politely asked for his phone number so I could let him know what’s going on and the handed it over like stealing candy from a baby.

Calling this guy was a trip. At first we left a few messages and he actually called us back first. The message told him the same thing, that his house was being used for a scam. When he called back he played dumb and said he just got off of work …but his neighbors said he was home and the car was outside. Later, I told him what I found out from his neighbor that he worked from hom and had been at home during business hours that day. I could feel the nervousness in him now. That line was like McKoy on Law & Order tripping up a weak defendant on the stand to prove their own guilt. He was quick to get off the phone and finally hung up on me saying he was clueless.


Calling ebay and payal did not work AT ALL! After two hours on the phone with both, they didn’t seem to really have the means of reacting out of the training manual for a time sensitive issues. Eventually they told us they had some more info that might help about their location etc but couldn’t tell anyone but law enforcement or fraud division that they recognized.

The next best thing was to call fedex. I asked if we could get them held and they said yes but preferred to put me in touch with the recipients local fraud department and they were the key to getting the items back. Luckily, the guy there was pretty dedicated to his job and knew about the scam from a previous “case”. Now we had the guys if he could stop fedex. He was able to get some information from talking with ebay and he literally was planning a sting for the Fedex guy to deliver and after he signed have proof he had committed a crime and search warrant his house. That was the plan for the next day but before then he knocked on the front door and when he couldn’t get a hold of anyone he left his business card in the door.

By this time the scammer actually called us back again telling us how sorry he was and he didn’t know what he was doing and he’ll send the packages back to us the next day. Kind off because 2 hours earlier I offered him $500 to return the packages and he didn’t even sound interested when he wasn’t even accused yet. Fedex also got our page and we figured we would ask them to go back to the house for a “pick-up” and told the driver to ask for the packages he delivered earlier in the day back. He had to be sweating hard after his neighbor called him and said some random person called them accusing their loving neighbor as a scammer. When Fedex drove by, he was probably so shook he just decided to hand all the packages back over. Everything came back and we were saved (minus some overnight charges) and the local detective was trying to build a case against him. Apparently, it wasn’t the first time this had happened at the location.

If they were caught a few hours later everyone we called would’ve been closed and he the items would be gone but thinking fast and catching some people who wanted to take this kind of thing down saved a bunch of money. The scam is pretty big so catching them all is impossible but at least this one was taught a lesson.

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Improve your online business – buy from your competition

Everyone is trying to sell their items on line these days through a website or ebay. The big guys will always be there but a large percentage of sales are pushed by smaller companies that you compete with on one level or another. Ever wonder why your competitor has higher DSR stars or better feedback ratings than you? Occasionally, a good way to check your own operations or to get a feel for how other companies handle their post sales procedures can teach anyone a few shortcuts or cost savings ideas.

A few interesting points to check are:

  • Checkout system – How easy? What processing method? Ease of selecting item specifics etc.
  • Communication – What e-mails do you get when you checkout? Do they cross promotions with mailing lists and repeat customer tactics after after the purchase?
  • Packing Materials – You may learn a few cost savings techniques in shipping supply reduction or alternatives, invoice information and paper marketing materials.
  • Customer Service – Call up after you’ve received your item and even if all is well, test their customer service department with e-mails or phone calls. Test their returns and exchange procedures and length of time etc. Playing the unhappy customer has never been so fun!

Testing a few of these areas can help you find strengths and weaknesses in your own and others post sale transaction. Your routine might be comfortable, but with everything involved after the sale it can be easy to look past an improvement that can make a big difference when multiplied by all of your outgoing shipments.

Sources to find and research top Power Sellers on ebay

Once in a while it’s interesting to go out and see who else is selling and how big some of the companies on ebay actually are.  Searching through the core can be tedious but a few websites and tools can help you locate and see some of their statistics rather quickly.

  • Top Sellers List – A rather cheap database that extracts just the basics of high feedback sellers. While feedback score is sometimes irrelevant to success, it does give a general indication of “status” on the marketplace. Sellers have to submit potential user names to scrape information from but the list has most of the big names included.
  • SellerDome – Another database that has a few more search options and organized a bit more than others. One feature I like is the row that shows what category the user is in. Scanning down the list to find categories of interest are easily found.

After you find some competition or interesting names you can always use hammertap or terapeak to get their revenue and listing data.  The data can sometimes be a bit behind but offers some potentially valuable starting points for finding out whose out there selling in volume.

AnandTech.com gets inside tour of Newegg facility

In the past this option s Newegg.com has always been a great place to find all your computer parts at a fair price. They’ve even opened up shipping to Canada after a lot of demand from potential customers. Combo deals and customer ratings and reviews are two reasons you can find a good price and be sure of your purchase. New egg ships over 25,000+ orders a day and has a very intelligent flow of products in their warehouse. One plus I’ve always had is the shipping speed of their product and in touch via email each step of the orders.

Their peanut machine is pretty large and has dozens of utters for dispensing. They even have an automatic box makers that is built to the customers orders to ensure safe packaging while reducing shipping cost with tailored precision.

(Photo from AnandTech.com)

Their systems also seem very automated and completely leaves the decision making and costly error prone procedures robotic. Their pick, pack and pull procedures are control ed by computers and use bins with what looks like some bar-code hierarchy. This brief and rare inside tour of a companies internal operations is a great way to see how large e-commerce vendors are able to use the best in technology and conveyor belt systems.

(Photo from AnandTech.com)

While all the procedures are not spelled out, Anand’s article might give you some ideas on your operations. You can view the entire tour and a great write up of newegg’s facility at AnandTech.com.

Just bought 30 shares of Ebay Stock at 15.25 ..gamble or good call?

I’ve been monitoring ebay stocks price pretty closely the past few months and for some reason I kept telling my self it gets much below $16.00 I would take a “gamble” and scoop some up. For some reason, it just seems like the right time. I’ve put some money in stocks before and have money in a Fidelity Roth IRA …but I would never consider my self even half way intelligent with stocks.

However, as a Titanium Powerseller and someone who has his hands in ebay for 12+ hours a day, I’m thinking this is a good call (for now).

  • For starters, ebay’s stock has been doing poorly the last few months if not past few years down from $40 on it’s 52 week high. Could it really tank below $10 …my personal opinion is no.
  • Obviously, ebays recent policy changes have had the market down and some sellers either adjusting or leaving the marketplace – most have made up their mind by now and things are starting to seem a bit more consistent. The vibe still hasn’t improved but sellers are implementing new strategies and at least not feeling like they’re playing as much of a guessing game with a bit of experience and testing of auctions in the past few weeks.
  • Also, last week when the stock market plunged 700+ points ALL stocks were doing poorly; to the point that global markets were taken severe beatings! I considered ebays plunge last week due to economic factors …not necessary ebay’s marketplace.
  • The 700+ Billion $ bail out has now been approved and a SMALL bit of hope is putting a bit of confidence into peoples heads and the market (or at least better than when they couldn’t come to a resolution). Please note the word SMALL.
  • The Holiday season is approaching and we’ve had a few customers mentioning they’re buying our items for gifts for the Holidays. The summer was very slow this year but even in a semi-recession, you can expect lots more sales from the past few months.

With all of this being said, it seemed a bunch of external and internal factors have been hitting ebay hard all at one time. More importantly for my purchasing decision, as a “large” ebay seller and tax payer, I see ..again a SMALL light at the end of the tunnel at the least. Especially with an election a few months away …no matter who wins, people will feel a page is being turned for the better after the previous administration has left office. I feel ebay is a buy because some of the weights of the marketplace and economy have been lifted off ebays shoulders and I’m willing to buy a few shares to see if this is the case! Lets see what happens in the next few months! 🙂

How to E-Mail Postage with USPS Dazzle / Endicia

There comes a time for every customer service department when a customer refuses to pay the return postage, even if it’s their fault! Unfortunately, this can cost you money but to save a negative feedback or the hassle of having them call and bother your crew can often times be well worth the $5.00 to have them ship it back. Likewise, the customer is more likely to send the item off right away instead of waiting at his conveyance to wait in line at the post office. Everyday that passes, the customer might still be e-mailing you threats or silly e-mails.

You will need an Endicia account and have their Dazzle software installed. Dazzle with Endicia does not necessary explain in layman’s terms how to email postage and it’s defiantly not an automated task with that works with your other software applications but it is possible. One reason USPS doesn’t really want you doing this is because the shipping post office is graded on a scale of 100 the on-time percentage of delivery for parcels and upgraded options. You might send someone a label via E-Mail on Monday, but your customer might not send it till Friday, causing the Post Master to feel a small deduction in his percentage if the process is repeated over and over.

Anyways, it’s pretty easy to do.

Step 1: You will need to download adobe reader and install the full version. You also need Dazzle from Endicia installed as stated above. This version doesn’t cost you a dime but might take in upwards of 10 minutes to download and install. Restart your PC. Doing so will allow your computer to set adobe as a valid “printer” when you go to print postage and is necessary in the below steps.

Step 2: After you’ve installed, open up Endicia Dazzle software and the layout that you wish to send return postage etc with.

Step 3: Fill out the address and return address accordingly. Usually I type our company name in both the return address section and the mailing address section. We can usually be accurate with the weight, but if it’s not, USPS might return it to the return address and the postage is wasted and still needs to be sent out. When you put your address in both of these fields, if for some reason something goes wrong, USPS has no option but to “return to sender” and it will eventually make it back to your facility/home.

(When you double click on the senders address a menu comes up. Here you highlight the entire address, press CTR-C and it will auto populate the shipping address. USPS has no option but to send it back to you even if the party you’re emailing over packs for the next earthquake)

Step 4: When you have the label, weight (adjusted by double clicking on the postage section on the label) and method, you’re ready to export to PDF file so you can email the file. You will need to set up the postage to print to PDF Adobe Reader. Click on FILE>Printer Setup> and change the default from your thermal/laser/inkjet printer to AdobePDF Creator. Select this option in printer drop down menu and click ok.

Step 5: Time to “print”. Click on the print Icon in the upper left of the application and it should open adobe, create the file automatically and then (for me at least) opens up Outlook with the file already attached. I enter in the customers email and a quick message and you’re done! EASY!

Remember to remind them to send it out ASAP so you don’t get a call from your Post Master or it gets delayed. Faxing labels doesn’t work because it throws the bar code off and 3D scan postage at the top off and cant be used by USPS. Very rarely, faxing a copy might make it’s way to the lost and found never to be seen again. Also remember to change your layout back to your default!

Key automation & business rule changes with new FP30 and best match changes on ebay

Sellers might want to adjust many of their automation rules or listing strategies on ebay with the new policy changes. Previously, listing management software based alot of their automation rules around times to list. Now that best match doesn’t take this into consideration, getting a listing up as soon as the previous one ends will increase your exposure time.

Example: Before if product A sold best at 7pm EST on Sundays you set a 7 day auction to start and end at this time. If the product sold out or was bought before then using BIN or Best Offer, your rules would relist the item at a popular time or date that you specify. Sometimes the listing might not relist for a few hours or days depending on how you set that one up. Best match isnt sorting by time ending soonest and is in fact hiding it from the search results. Changes to make automation rules relist as soon as the listing ends or to always keep one listing active will now need to be updated to listings. You could miss out on hours or days of exposure till your old rules relist (which seem to be the norm). I’ve found when you list your product is having less and less to deal with success ratios unless they’re auction style, that I try to submit the listing as soon as i’m done with it. This can also save those that are paying scheduled listing fees 10 cents per listing now as well.

Ebay FAV Double Discounts on Oct 14th – How much can you save?

There’s one thing ebay rules are changing for the better these days. Companies who give great customer service, have great DSR stars and have above average feedback scores will be greatly rewarded with discounts coming in mid October 2008. What does this mean for those who qualify? HUGE discounts (double) in FAV fees that can help your bottom line!

First of all, for those who are so upset with the policy changes this year should really reconsider their operations. Many are saying that reaching 15%-20% off is close to impossible and I was one of them. We are in a cut throat category with lots of competition dealing with used, refurbished and new electronics. Things happen with electronics and you can even experience a 5% defect rate buying directly from manufactures with brand new items.  Currently we qualify for 15% off and our DSR stars are rising to where 20% off is not an impossible reality.

Starting October 14th, Ebay will give double your FAV discount located in your seller dashboard for those who offer free shipping on their items. For those with 5%-%20, this can mean hundreds if not thousands of dollars in savings per month off your bill.

Example: Previous to ebays fee structure change, we were spending $2.50 to list a single item that was $39.99 with some listing upgrades and paying $3.80 for each item that sold totaling $6.30 per item that sold. Now ebay has given us a free gallery image and a free subtitle (with free shipping) reducing this cost by about $.75 cents.

Now, the FAV fee without any discounts is $6.60! That’s a HUGE increase from $3.80. But take into consideration that the insertion fee is now only 35 cents, reducing the front end fee by $2.15 cents per item. With a 15% discount, doubling this so 30% because we offer free shipping on the item, we will only pay $4.62 cents per successful listing saving $1.68 per item from their fee structure before the increase and discounts were announced. Times this by 10 per day and 30 days per month, this one specific line item will save us $504 per month. Now times this by your top 10 line items and you’re sure to save thousands a month, only paying for successful auction with the ebays new successful based pricing tiers.

My take on Ebay’s move: It’s very simple. They want to separate GREAT sellers from average and below average sellers. The thing is, even those who “boycot” ebay or are leaving really make little to no impact on ebays bottom line in most categories.

Example: We monitored a close competitor that was selling the same item as we were. His feedback was 98.2% and was obviously paying squaretrade $10 per negative feedback to be removed. When ebay made the feedback changes, he dropped below 98% (went down to 97.2%) and lost his powerseller status and 2 months later was NARU. (No Longer a Registered User). Does ebay miss his sales? Not really, our sales almost doubled on this item because the buyers were still there! The new rules simply made it harder for someone who did not take care of their customers shut down and threw the sales to someone who did resulting in nearly identical sales being purchased, just spread across fewer sellers.

Also, because the sales are shifting towards a company who offers customer support, longer warranty periods, faster shipping and a great product etc …the buyer will be more likely to revisit ebay because of the buying experience that they had, and hopefully be a return customer of the seller who offered them a prestine buying experience.

Conclusion: It will probably take several months into 09′, but ebay is moving towards Amazonification where just not everyone is allowed to sell on ebay. Those top merchants will be rewarded with search standard exposure rates in the core, double discounts in fees and repeat/more buyers for those with the total buying experience. When someone gets ripped off or even encounters a simple error in their buying experience they hold ebay accountable not the seller. They flock off the ebay to buy elsewhere resulting in less sales potential for legit sellers and then no one gets the sale.

Tip: Take care of your customers. Phone support, email support, clearly stating your return policy and abide  by it 100% if there’s a problem. Get your DSR stars, feedback etc up NOW because those who have done this even before the changes are reaping the benefits in success ratios and increases in sales.

Fixed Price 30 (FP30) vs Good Till Canceled (GTC)

I was a bit unsure about the differences between Fixed Price 30 and Good Til’ Canceled and how it would effect velocity with your listings so I decided to shoot a call to the powerseller hot-line. In a brief summary, the differences are both obvious but can drastically change velocity and rankings within ebay’s core search results.

 

This blog article received so many hits so It’s moved over to my official blog. Please follow this link to catch up on all your good till cancelled vs fixed price 30 auction listing duration items. And lets get making that money!

Hammertap and Terapeak not up to date with ebay changes

Going through some seller searches, it’s very definite that listing research tools (hammertap and terapeak) have some serious tweaking to do with their software platforms before we can consider them serious tools after ebay’s policy changes this year. Research on seller competitors and reports have stats way off and not even  close to a ball-park figure.

One main reason people use these research tools is their ability to look up recent trends within the past week or month on how a certain product has performed and tracking competitors sells to find new products and trends to take the guess work out of listings to reduce listing fees and guesstimate success ratios. Let’s take a look.

What I found: For starters, they’ve been unable to update 30 day listings formats in any of their stats. As many ebay sellers start to pump their auction out with Fixed Price 30, having these stats to make better decisions is a great way to take a lot of the guess work out. As you can see below, weeks after the new updates, FP 30 items are neither listed as a listing type or duration making many sellers who’s product fall under this category useless for research.

Falling along this same idea, trends change so fast on ebay in a 7-30 day period, that completed auctions can no longer be a standard for research data. Most sellers want to know what’s sold or is selling within the past few days or weeks, not over months and months of data.

If I wanted to do a search for “Unlocked Motorola V3 Phones” …using this tool I am only going to see finished auctions and BIN items that were successful/unsuccessful. But when I do a search (not under completed and on current items) I see dozens of fixed price 30 auctions up and selling WELL.

With the current programming, Terapeak and Hammertap will HAVE to implement some type of current listing data to flow into completed auction data. Until a 30 day listing ends, (which is way to long to grab real time data in E-Commerce for current trends), sellers will be unable to really get a feel of how their items might sell with post-sales data.

Ex: I see an auction for Motorola F3 Unlocked Cell Phone up that is a featured FP30 listing. Under purchases, it’s sold 350 phones in the past 10 days and still has 20 days left. Terapeak isn’t going to take those 350 phones into consideration till the auction ends in 20 more days. Two other sellers have similar auctions up accounting for over 700 purchases on FP30 with at least 15-20 days left before they end. Only 1900 of these phones sell per month leaving about 30% of sales data out of the equation and taking. Even more importantly, neglecting the MOST RECENT sales data. By the time these end, prices can easily change in the cell phone category leaving sellers with unreliable up-to-date research data.

Competitor research is also completely off. After researching our user names sales in the past 7 days, this is the screen shot that I get.

These number are completely off.  Our inventory system gives us very accurate reports on weekly/daily sales and we actually averaged about $18,000/day this week and by tomorrow will have done about $80,000 in gross sales. Again, terapeak is taking ONLY completed auctions into consideration and is unreliable because the tool won’t current (not yet ended) FP30 auctions into their equation.

We also averaged 380 packages per 24 hour period this week, taking reliable reports from shipworks. Terapeak is saying we only sold 973 pieces.

Conclusion: I think they’ll eventually change this but have to really think hard on how to merge completed auction and current sales data and even more importantly, represent it in a way that benefits their customers. Also thinking about the options the users will have to graphically or numerically represent data around these new issues is sure to be a large task in their R&D departments.

For others, research might not be as off. It all depends on the category and nature of products being sold as many categories will not be selling in FP30 because it doesn’t make any sense. Other categories such as consumer electronics, DVD’s, CD’s etc are sure to feel this effect.

Tip: All sellers should do a basic search from the main page of ebay.com to check current FP30 auctions. Check their success, prices, keywords etc as these research tools will not have accurate data till after 30 days (if they make the update by then)