An absence explained, my inevitable return!

I am sitting in the waiting room of one of those quick lube oil change places, being terrorized by a toddler that is not my own. To distract myself from the unchecked tyranny of this tyke, I opened up my WordPress app on my phone and checked my blog stats. Posts I wrote months ago continue to receive daily views. It got me thinking. When was the last time I posted? Why have I been absent? Have I said it all?

Finding the balance between work and hobby has been impossible in the last few months. I work in a 24/7 environment on swing shift, meaning that my schedule changes every week. Unfortunately, a coworker went out on a medical leave, and overtime was heavy for several months to fill in his shifts. Working weekends and 16 hour days will kill your desire to blog, and leaves even less time for servicing my book hobby.

However, I have been able to get out and buy a few things in anticipation of the eventual work slowdown upon my coworker's return to work. I stockpiled a bunch of books for FBA. I didn't list anything for 3-4 months, but my FBA inventory at the Amazon Fulfillment Centers continued to sell and ship without my involvement. In past articles I have praised the passive nature of FBA, and this latest round of work drudgery exemplifies the power of FBA's passivity. When could I find the time to ship anything when working three consecutive 16 hour days from 11 PM - 3 PM the next day? Sleeping in those scant off hours proved difficult enough. With FBA, my books sold and shipped throughout the day without any effort on my part.

When I found a little time for myself, I would sneak off and source books and other things. I made the most of my time and bought as much as I possibly could. I shelved my inventory and waited for my return to normalcy. Two weeks ago, the overwork cycle broke and I was able to get back into listing mode. I found myself moving faster than ever, processing and packing my FBA shipment in record time. I sent in about 150 books, a good number considering my relatively low activity in recent months. The books arrived at the Fulfillment Center on Wednesday and started selling immediately. Those 20-30 immediate orders would have never been filled on time without FBA, because I was asked to work a couple doubles at work, and I would not have had the time to pack and ship them all in time for prompt delivery.

Have I been short on blog ideas? No, just short on time. I have a backlog of posts in my mind that are semi-composed. Look for them over the next few weeks, and thanks for reading! I think my car is almost ready!

A Veteran Bookseller’s Review of Profit Bandit for iPhone

Profit Bandit - Try Free for 7 Days!

What is Profit Bandit?

For the uninitiated, Profit Bandit is an app for iOS and Android devices designed for Amazon Third-Party Sellers.  Turning your smartphone eye into a barcode scanner, Profit Bandit retrieves selling data from Amazon servers and returns it to your phone in an appealing presentation.  The amount of data shown on screen after a single scan would take several clicks and screen views to generate using Amazon's own app or website.  That's time.  As the old adage goes, time is money.  The less time you spend on buying decisions means more money in your pocket.  Profit Bandit for iPhone improved my buying decision making process.

Features of Profit Bandit

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Profit Bandit dumps data on your screen.  Being mostly text, Profit Bandit uses disproportionately little cellular data to transmit the data dump to your phone.  The Profit Bandit layout presents the data in a colorful, interactive interface packed with features.  The obvious information of interest to a reseller is the current selling prices, and Profit Bandit delivers those data points broken down by categorization (FBA, New, Used, Collectible) and condition (Acceptable, Good, Very Good, Like New) all on one screen.

Sales Rank

My favorite datum, the one I most desired when looking for items to resell on Amazon, is Sales Rank.  Sales Rank is an indicator of how well an item sells on Amazon.  Though subject to daily, even hourly fluctuation, Sales Rank remains the most important metric for an Amazon reseller to gauge turnover.  If an item has a very low Sales Rank, it will sell quickly; conversely, a high Sales Rank means an item will probably sit in your inventory longer.  The current selling price tells an incomplete story about the future of the item in your hands.  Knowing the demand for the item can finish the purchasing decision for you.  I have passed on items with high selling prices because of high Sales Rank.  I have purchased items with little profit because of low Sales Rank, knowing that they would provide a small, short return on my money.  There's no such thing as a sure thing, but Sales Rank points to the probability of a sure thing.

Profit Calculator

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Accustomed to mental math, I ignored this feature for a few weeks before discovering its power.  Input a few settings on the back end of the app, type in your purchase price, and Profit Bandit calculates your potential profit on an item.  Being a veteran seller, I have my own algorithm for divining the profit on an item and thought the inclusion of this feature was trivial.  One day while scanning a book, I made an errant click, and the calculation at the bottom of the screen changed.  How did that happen?  I didn't change the purchase price and my profit increased?  I discovered that clicking on any price in the information field will change the calculation.  Think your item is in Very Good condition?  Click on the Very Good item for sale and see how it changes your profit.  Got a collectible?  Click in that column and watch your numbers change.  It's a nice feature that I cast aside for too long.  See the two pictures above for reference.  In the first (scroll up a bit!), I selected a VG (Very Good) copy for sale at $105.79, giving me a profit of $83.91.  In the second, I picked a LN (Like New) copy for sale at $121.76, delivering a $97.49 profit on my $1.50 investment.  Tap on the Profit in the lower right hand corner, and Profit Bandit will show you a detailed breakdown on the gross and net proceeds of your potential acquisition as shown below.

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Sell It

Want to sell your item while you're on the go?  Click on the Sell It button in the Profit Bandit app and start filling out the fields to list your item.  It might sell by the time you get home.  Reference that profit calculation made earlier and maximize the potential earnings from your item.

History

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Like your favorite web browser, Profit Bandit remembers the things it sees and compiles a History.  Want to see what you scanned that day?  Read through your History.  When I scrolled through mine, I was surprised to see how many items I had scanned in a day.  When I looked through a bag of my purchases and thought, "Why did I buy this thing?", I referenced my History and remembered why: great resale price, low Sales Rank, high profit!  Like that favorite browser of yours, you can clear Profit Bandit's History whenever you like.  If so inclined, you can even email a spreadsheet (CSV) of your History to yourself.  Information is power, and Profit Bandit gives you plenty of information for your education.

Special Functions

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This hidden feature allows you to search other marketplaces for the item of interest.  Tap on the name of the item and a dropdown menu appears containing links to search for an item on CamelCamelCamel, Google Products, eBay, PriceWatch, PriceGrabber, BookFinder, or PaperBackSwap.  I like to give certain items a quick cross reference on eBay without firing up the official eBay app.  That eBay link also saves you the time of typing the title of your search into eBay.  However, it does not get into specifics like Sold or Completed Listings that are often the true metric of the eBay marketplace.  Another great reference is CamelCamelCamel, which shows historical price data for the item on Amazon.  Integration with BookScouter would be a welcome function in the menu.  Of course, there is an official BookScouter app that you should have on your iPhone if you prefer to wholesale your finds instead of retailing them yourself.

Settings

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Customize Profit Bandit to reflect your situation.  Live in a foreign country?  No problem!  Set Profit Bandit for Amazon's United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Spain, or Italy sites.  Do you fulfill the item yourself?  No problem.  Use FBA?  There's a button for that!  Want it to vibrate at certain profit or Sales Rank thresholds?  Sure.  Change your calculation to account for Sales Tax, FBA fees, Postage, and more.  Got a bluetooth scanner?  Integrate it if you like, but it will cost you a one-time fee of $49.  Configure Profit Bandit to meet your needs.

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Scanner

Profit Bandit uses a built-in scanner app called ZBar that turns your smartphone camera into a barcode scanner.  Scan UPC, ISBN, or QR codes and Profit Bandit returns the information.  Used to using the popular Pic2Shop scanning app?  Set Profit Bandit to use Pic2Shop under Settings and continue enjoying the Pic2Shop experience.  I like the ZBar scanner.  It finds the barcode and boxes it in before snapping the shot and returning to the Profit Bandit interface.  The barcode can be anywhere in the visual field and does not need to be aligned to a horizontal red line across the screen.  Occasionally, I shake my phone or the object to bring it into focus.  Once in awhile, the scanner fails me, and I resort to typing information into the search bar at the top of the app.  If I type in the ISBN or UPC exactly, Profit Bandit returns the correct item.  If I type in the title or a few keywords, Profit Bandit generates a list of potential hits that must be scrolled through and selected from before arriving at the correct item.

The Cons of Profit Bandit

Above are 1,100 words about how much I like Profit Bandit.  Surely, I must have a few criticisms of the app.  Having used it for a few weeks, a few irks and quirks jumped out at me.

  1. The manual search could be improved.  When I type in a title or a few keywords about an item, the app returns a laundry list of possible items related to my search.  It would be nice to be able to narrow this down by category (Books, DVDs, etc.) and streamline my buying process.  Perhaps this feature exists and I am frustratingly free of this knowledge.
  2. Sometimes I have to rescan an item.  For whatever reason, the app convinces me that it sees what I see and closes the scanner but returns to the last page I saw, not registering a successful scan.  I press the Scan button again, rescan the item and get the expected data on my second try.  
  3. Occasionally, Profit Bandit is uncommunicative with Amazon servers.  Perhaps the service is overloaded, maybe a squirrel chewed through the server's power cord.  I don't know, but it frustrates me, and I know that my cellular connection is good because other apps function seamlessly in the interim.  The outages have been brief, but, like the rescanning bug, time lost is money lost.
  4. It's not free.  You read through all of this, skimmed it, and arrived at a price tag.  Profit Bandit will cost you $14.99 at the App Store or iTunes or whatever they call it these days.  Being exquisite gentlemen, the lads at SellerEngine responsible for developing Profit Bandit offer a 7-day Money Back Guarantee on your purchase.  That's pretty good.  That's almost free.  

How is that almost free?  On your first trip out, I can practically guarantee you that you will earn that $14.99 fee back.  If you have been at the reselling game for any period of time, you know how to turn $1 into $5, or $10 or $20 or $50 or $100 or more.  For $15 (don't be fooled by that $14.99), you will be working faster and smarter than you were before.  Data driven decisions are better decisions.  Trust your gut, but verify.  That's what I do.  Having been in the game for longer than I care to admit, I know the ballpark value of most things I pick up.  Knowing today's fair market value and the relative demand for the item empowers my decision making process. Try Profit Bandit and see what it does for your process and your profit.      

 

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