How many times have you sourced product via OA ( online arbitrage) for Amazon FBA and when you sent them in, you found out you were restricted or that they were hazmat?
If your answer is anything other than “never”, then you know the sting of eating the cost on those products.
In this post I am going to show how to do this manually and show you my simple work around to make it even easier.
The Hard Way
Most people are going to tell you to try to list it and see if you are allowed to sell it.
This in essence is the right answer, but it is a pain in the butt to do this if you have a lot of 1’s or 2’s of a products.
Since I do mostly RA ( retail arbitrage) I am using the Amazon seller app and it simply tells you (***most of the time) if a product is restricted or hazmat.
This works great if you have the product in hand like you do with RA but when you are doing OA, you don’t have a product to scan.
The process is simple.
You go to seller central and try to list the product.
Then this should pop up.
Now you would enter the UPC or asin ( or do a title search)
In this case, if I try to list Nike socks, it show that it is restricted for me
So pretty simple but time consuming. The AZ seller app would have just put a big red RESTRICTED across the screen.
So now I will tell what I know about determining if a product is Hazmat:
I don’t know! Truthful.
Either I see it with the AZ Seller app warning or when I try to ship it in and Amazon says I can’t.
Here is a Reddit about it
Yeah that sort of sucks.
The East Way
So here is the easy way. I actually built a Chrome extension for seeing if a product was restricted and after people started using it, they were like “Hey you can find out if a product is Hazmat with this”.
Simple dumb luck that I made it but if it works, let’s go with it.
So with this extension you highlight UPC codes and it turns them into barcodes. Then you can scan the bar code with the Amazon seller app which tells you if it is restricted and if it is hazmat.
The Chrome extension I am using is call UPC Detective and you can get it here:
When you highlight a UPC, the barcode pops up and you can scan it with your AZ seller app
This works great if there is a UPC code on the page. Sometimes there isn’t a UPC code and you need to grab the ASIN and take it to a ASIN to UPC converter website
As a person that has had a #1 selling tee shirt design on the Merch By Amazon platform, I can attest to the fact of people stealing designs via the pixel for pixel method. It can be very frustrating and the simple fact is that you don’t always know how Amazon will handle this from day to day or case to case.
Sure there is copyright law but having a copyright and enforcing a copyright are two different things. It gets really muddy when Amazon is involved. It is more about how Amazon enforces copyright and in this post I want to show a simple, 1 minute or less technique that probably 99.9% of the people are not using that might just sway Amazon to rule in your favor when and if one of your tee shirt designs are hijacked.
Before we begin, I want to cover some basics on copyright ( and I need to fill some space in this post)
You can download a copy of the copyright basics from the official government copyright site here:
“Copyright is a form of protection provided by the laws of the United States (title 17, U.S.Code) to the authors of “original works of authorship,” including literary, dramatic, musical, artistic, and certain other intellectual works”
So your original tee shirt design would fall under artistic works.
Again straight from the government:
“Copyright protection subsists from the time the work is created in fixed form. The copyright in the work of authorship immediately becomes the property of the author who created the work”
So if you are sitting at your laptop at 2AM and create a tee shirt design, it is automatically copyrighted to you.
“Publication is no longer the key to obtaining federal copyright as it was under the Copyright Act of 1909.”
When you create a design, you don’t have to do anything to get it copyright like people had to do in the past.
Copyright is what we are going to use to help prove to Amazon that we were the creator of a design and legal copyright holder in the event that we have people stealing our designs.
Using Copyright Symbol In Our Designs
“The use of a copyright notice is no longer required under U.S. law, although it is often beneficial.”
This is what we are going to do because as it said, it is beneficial.
“Form of Notice for Visually Perceptible Copies
The notice for visually perceptible copies should contain all the following three elements:
2 The year of first publication of the work. In the case of compilations or derivative works incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the compilation or derivative work is sufficient. The year date may be omitted where a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying textual matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or any useful article; and
3 The name of the owner of copyright in the work, or an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of the owner.
Do you have a copyright notice on any of your stolen designs? I am guessing 99.9% of the people reading this don’t.
Adding Copyright Notices
We are going to add copyright notices to all our designs. This will not take away anything from the design because outside of the Merch world it is common practice for all companies to place copyright and trademark symbols on their products.
Image if I have someone steal my design pixel for pixel, it will also contain my copyright notice. When I contact Amazon, it is a slam dunk case when the image of the other Merch seller says
Copyright Jason Wilkey 2017
The common practice is to place the notice at the bottom of the image. I simply have this notice saved on my desktop and drag it to the template just prior to saving the image to be uploaded. This might require changing the text color or resizing it slightly, but this should take less than 30 seconds.
Now I would guess that some of the design thieves might get wise to this, so to have a little fun, we can actually move this into the body of the design and use it to delete out some areas of color ( this is easier to see on the video) Basically you can have “hidden messages” with your designs. ( this is also fun to do with other text messages if you are immature and sophomoric like me)
This video show what I am talking about
While we don’t know for sure what Amazon will do in every case, by adding the copyright notice to every image we create ( which we are legally entitled to do) , this is almost absolute proof that you own the image design and i would believe that Amazon would be hard pressed to deny this.
This is a very simple technique that most people overlook because it is not something we are use to doing as opposed to traditional businesses. Take the extra minute or so to include this and add some protection to your designs.
I am at heart a RA ( retail arbitrage) kind of guy. I love the thrill of the hunt and high ROIs that I get flipping products that I find locally to Amazon FBA.
With at said, RA has become harder and harder in the last year or so. There is more competition and many retail store have gotten wise to the fact that people are sourcing products to flip to Amazon and aren’t pricing products out at crazy low prices anymore.
I am not saying RA is dead, but what I am saying is that RA needs a little help from OA ( online arbitrage) to help with keeping the bottom line in the black.
With that said, there is only one obvious choice now for finding OA deals and that is the Tactical Arbitrage sourcing software.
For a Tactical Arbitrage review , see my post here
If you don’t have it, sign up for a free trial here ( do that now so that you can follow along with what I am going to show in this post)
Tactical Arbitrage is a great program to use but it has one big drawback.
It is expensive!
In this post I want to show you how to make enough money to cover the monthly cost in the fastest way possible. You need to understand that it is a tool to help make you money. It cost $99 a month, so it needs to make at least that much for you ( actually more than that) to be worth your while. If you pay $100 a month and make $500 a month, that is good business. If you pay $100 and make $50, that is bad business.
Before we go any farther, sign up for your free trial. If you don’t plan on using it or “don’t have time”, then stop right here. Signing up and half assing it will not do. “ Oh, I tried it and it didn’t work” doesn’t cut it when you logged in only once or don’t follow the steps I am going to lay out for you in this post.
Tactical Arbitrage is somewhat a geeks program. This is an issue because most of us sort of want simple, easy, push a magic button type software.
So the first step is to watch this video my son made on how to use Tactical Arbitrage’s interface. If you don’t understand how to get around the program, you are destined to fail at finding OA deals.
This takes about 45 minutes to watch and is where most people will get bored and drop off. Just that much better for those that commit to learn how to use the software.
Now that you understand how to use the software, now it is time to find some products.
First we need to think about this realistically.
While people occasionally find products from say Walmart or Target, these are probably the most searched sites. Not that we shouldn’t look at these sites but we need to realize that these sites might be more about timing (basically you get lucky to buy before the website runs out of stock).
Now these sites are great for the stacking of discounts which is one reason they are so popular to source but you will most likely find better products on the lesser known sites.
Next thing to look at is what products you can sell ( ungated in). There no reason to scan categories that you can’t sell. This is an issue if you purchase a bulk list for sites.
These list are great if you can sell everything but many people can’t and there is the fact that you wouldn’t scan every section if you were in the store doing RA. While Tactical arbitage can basically run constantly, having a bunch of stuff show up that you can’t sell will make it hard to weed out the deals ( of course you could do some horse trading with the products leads that you can’t sell)
So where am I going with this?
I might be best to build a bulk list ( and you SHOULD be building bulk lists) that are for multiple, lesser known sites that are in categories that you can and want to sell in ( similar to RA) You should basically run this list over and over because the prices on websites do change all the time ( remember I said timing is important?) Also remember that sales and discounts will play into this.
Now it is possible to get a list too big and it times out before it can run all the way through. The simple fix to have multiple bulk lists and rotate them through.
Now this is one function of Tactical Arbitrage. You can actually run multi functions at once. You want Tactical Arbitrage to be running every single possible scan 24/7. You set it up, check the results daily ( or several times a day) and see if the deals work for you.
I love to sell books on Amazon but I know many people don’t. Well they don’t because many just don’t understand books. I get that but here is a little secret. While books are generally onesy or twoesy type thing, they can total pay for the cost of Tactical Arbitrage with only a few MF to FBA flips each month. ( I actually know a seller that made $13k on just 2 college textbook flips. It was a large purchase but it was a thing of beauty)
Tactical Arbitrage has a book search feature call the the library search and it basically works that same as any other search but it is a separate feature so that you can run it at the same time that you run other searches. ( as you will see by the time we are done, you will have multiple searches running at once)
Just like typical searches, you want to use bulk lists. You can build these yourself very easily. I have a post that shows how to do that.
Now since I am a book seller, it was easy for me to make up my own bulk list. I used my knowledge of local book sourcing and just did Amazon searches to find the same kind of books ( MF to AZ flips).
I actually made my list available for sell on Gumroad and if you don’t know how to source books or don’t want to make the list yourself, it is available on the Training & Sourcing page of the website
So now that we have the library search running we will move on to the reverse search.
I have mostly done RA my whole FBA career and love to find discontinued products because they sell for a premium on Amazon. The problem is that once I clean out say all the Walmarts in my area of a product, then I can’t get anymore of it.
Now we have to remember that our local Walmart in this example isn’t that only place that has ever sold this product and there are other retailers, online stores and eBay that are likely to sell this product. Grant it, they might not be selling it at clearance prices but then again, they may be selling at a price that is still profitable if we flip it to Amazon.
Once again we are going to make a bulk list but this time it is of ASIN that you have sold in the past. You will need to go through your inactive inventory to find the ASIN numbers. If you delete your inactive inventory like I do and use Inventory Lab, you can look up old sales and grab the ASINs that way.
While there is a chance to some websites might have these available, the best source will be eBay. Inventory pops up all the time on eBay, so this list should be run daily ( and once again, this can run while other searches are running).
With eBay, you will get a lot of mismatches results due to the titles. ( UPC sites always have better results) but the visual matching makes it easy to see if you should skip over the find or take a closer look.
A side note: You can also scrape other sellers storefronts and use this feature to find out where they are sourcing from.
Next we can use the Amazon flips feature. Now this is a little be more time/knowledge intense. Basically you are looking to find products that Amazon drops the price on and then set alerts to catch them doing it again. Then you buy them and flip them back to Amazon to sell at a profit.
Obviously the more you run this, the bigger you build your alert list, the more future deals might come your way.
This video show how to use this feature.
Next you can actually do RA via Tactical Arbitrage. Now this is very hit or miss but it does work.
We are looking to find products that we can just run and pick up in store to flip to Amazon faster than if we ordered them online and had to wait until they arrived then shipped them to Amazon. Sometime this time frame can make the difference between profit and the race to the bottom.
In store sourcing is my preferred method for souring grocery and HBA products ( anything with an expiration date) . Too many times I have ordered something online and when it gets to me, I can’t send it in because it is too close to expiring.
Also we want to find say a product on the Walmart website, click on it and see that it is out of stock. Then we check to see if it is in stock at our local Walmart.
Here is a video on how to do this
The final feature I am going to show is the geekiest. Tactical Arbitrage uses Xpaths to run the searches.
You can actually create your own ( or pay someone else to do it) to use for website not already on the Tactical Arbitrage list of site.
This is where the real advance users are making the big bucks. They are sourcing where very few people are and using software to make it easier.
This video tells about using Xpaths
Is Tactical Arbitrage worth the price? Yes if you are willing to actually take the time to learn how to use it and have multiple searches running at once. You should have a constant supply of leads to source from. If you are a person that has bought lists in the past, now is the time to switch over to Tactical Arbitrage. Once you get it set up, there really isn’t much more time involved in using it.
I hope this has helped and make sure to sign up for your free trial. Then take action during your trial period.