What did selling on Amazon used to be like?--that is, "back in the day."


I started selling on amazon in 1995 on what was then called “Marketplace” and I sold used books and Beanie Babies.
It was a part-time hobby then, and extreme fun, finding and shipping things internationally with minimal effort/work in the 90s. The forms and rules for international shipping have changed faster than amazon has changed, in my own opinion.

In the 90s, the rules were fewer, the customers a delight, the risk low, and the profit margins high. But the traffic was also low. It is my impression that in the 90s, customers bought and paid for things they wanted and I can’t remember a return until about the year 2010. Since 2010, every year my return rate is higher.

My perception as a third party seller now in 2018, is that the risk now is pretty high, the profit margin is much lower due to market conditions and competition, but the opportunity to build a business with amazon has never been greater. I would say now is a great time to partner with amazon and I can’t imagine a time where there was a wide open track for new products to be added to its catalog, and for unlimited earnings, if you are willing to take the risk and do the work. It is much harder to list things than it was 20+ years ago. Amazon has become a household name and a mainstream way to purchase nearly anything. People simply love, love, love amazon, and so do I.

Best of luck in however you decide to proceed!


It used to be profitable to offer international shipping and sell overseas from the .com site.

For the first 6 years we were selling on Amazon (BMVD) we had shipped to 26 different countries.

Unfortunately, due to postal rate increases and the current cost of international shipping (and the fact that Amazon has not increased it’s shipping allowance to keep up with the rise in costs) we no longer offer international shipping.


Small “hobby” book seller on AZ for 19 years - use profits from book sales to supplement income.

There are more book sellers using “scripted” descriptions than back then, more sellers who do not seem to use AZ guidelines for conditions. Many more “penny sellers”. Far more fellow sellers who have lots of negative feedback and thus muddy the waters for good sellers who pay attention.

Seller support used to be excellent. Phone calls, reps who spoke English. Not many “scripted” email replies. These days trying to get assistance from seller support is an exercise in pure futility.

Shipping rates are set by the USPS. Amazon shipping services have been excellent. Much easier than driving to the Post Office twice a week.

The forums used to be much better - useful information from experienced sellers, many of whom have left over the past few years and now with this new forum.

Compared to Ebay - Ebay is not a good platform to sell books, imho. In general Amazon is easier to use, everything is handled in one place - list, buy shipping, get paid. I do not like Paypal and that is one big reason why I don’t like Ebay as much.

I used to sell DVDs and CDs - those are no longer possible here. Many reasons for this, changes in how music is sold, listened to, etc. As for DVDs the fake sellers, where ever they are from, killed a good marketplace for good used DVDs.

For the most part I still like selling here. I still check the forum for information - I can usually find what info I need already posted.

Kelly at Tahoe


BELIEVE IN YOURSELF as well as be true to yourself, do your best, the forum CAN DEFINITELY BE HELPFUL&POSITIVE GOOD ANSWERS and you can always learn from your mistakes and you’ll find your path - nothing else matters…AGAIN, BEST WISHES IN ALL YOU DO & GOOD LUCK!

Moderator Edit (Jake@SellerSupport): External URL Removed


I started here in 2002, selling used books and media. VHS tapes too sheesh.

At that time 3p sellers were not able to sell items in new condition. One pound by priority mail when it was first initiated by the post office in the 90’s was $3.20 anywhere in the country. Two pounds I think was $4.20 or so.

Sometimes when listing some uncommon book or cd, one would come across a pending pre-order on the listing page, giving you the option to instantly sell your item at the buyer’s pre-order price which was often quite high.


I have been selling books (formerly CDs and DVDs) on Amazon for over a decade, earlier than that on eBay. I have seen some changes.

Profitability: Much better back then. The fees were lower. I could also find inexpensive books more easily, as there were fewer people looking for them (for a while, everyone started scanning books like crazy, that seems to have subsided somewhat). There was more competition in terms of the number of sellers, but it did not seem ultra-competitive like now because the big betterthriftHPBgoodwill sellers were not a problem back then like they are today.

Shipping: Slightly more expensive today, but Media Mail comes with tracking now, which was extra back then. The $3.99 shipping charge did not cover the cost of shipping back then and still does not today. If Amazon would accept USPS tracking numbers as proof of delivery, things would be much better, but as it is shipping is an area where things have gotten slightly better.

Seller Support: Mediocre at best then; atrocious today. I will not romanticize the seller support people who were around back then; they were not very good. The fact that the current ones are even worse is amazing, because I thought seller support was bad a decade ago.

Buyers: More scammers today, but there were some back then. With no tracking on Media Mail, it actually made it somewhat easier on scammers, because sellers had no idea whether something had been lost or scammed. Today, the fact that everything is tracked just makes sellers angry because we know we have been scammed. Amazon always has had the buyer’s back, not the seller’s. Feedback was more emphasized back then. I got between 5% and 10% to leave feedback when I first started on Amazon. Today it is about 1%.

Payment structure: I can also manually transfer still, but rarely have I had to do so. Fee structure on the other hand was certainly better back then. Amazon’s fee increase last year was just greed, exactly what sellers have come to expect.

Vs. eBay: Hard one to answer. eBay had many more buyers and sellers back then and was a bustling auction marketplace. I rarely listed anything that did not sell first time, and I was not one of those $0.99 auction sellers. However, you could sell things on Amazon for more money, closer to retail price; it would just take longer. eBay went downhill for years, so much so that I gave it a break for a couple of years. But, for me, eBay has almost become better than Amazon in the past year. I am doing brisk business there while my Amazon sales have actually been declining since August. It could be that so few sellers have stuck with eBay that there is less competition. But what I do know is that eBay has less in fees. Selling a $20 book on eBay will see me make $2 more than selling the same book for the same price on Amazon. I can also still sell CDs and DVDs on eBay. All in all, Amazon has pretty much always been better than eBay.

Everyone generally sees the past with rose-colored glasses, but I think Amazon had a rosier tint to it back then.


Started selling online in the fall of 1997 and I remember the pre-PayPal days on eBay when buyers used to snail mail Money Orders for payment!
Hard to believe that was 20 years ago!


I have not been on eBay twenty years, yet (2002 was my first year, starting selling a little bit later), but I too remember checks and money orders. PayPal put a lot of people off eBay for a while (some forever), since we had gotten along just fine without eBay taking more of our money for the “privilege” of using PayPal.


Over the years changes I have noticed are increased fees, increased scammers, increased returns, increased supposed INR’s, decreased seller protections…

As for ebay- sales have gone down there while they increased here…

Ebay backs the seller with tracking for proof of delivery, amazon well…

Support at Ebay exists…here, well…

I used to really enjoy really selling here all the time, now, I enjoy the days I don’t have someone ripping me off


Don’t forget the auctions. Those were pretty cool.


You are so right on.


You are so correct.

Back before the Chinese and outsourced support.,Amazon was better for US sellers.
Now it is worse.

The Chinese own the product market now.

If Chinese product disappeared from the USA market,Walmart would have to close up stores.


I could’ve sworn I already responded to this thread but since I can’t see anything at 3:30 AM I’ll do so now.

I started selling here in 2003 as a very small hobby seller. By 2005 I decided to run it more as a business despite my miniscule size.

A) Profitability: I have had to adjust my pricing structure several times over the past 15 years. I am actually more profitable now as I always keep up with shipping costs and adjust prices when needed.

B) Shipping: Of course shipping costs have been going up annually. Not only in postage but in purchasing shipping supplies as well.

C) Seller Support: Used to be much better in some ways. When I had my sole A-Z the Amazon employee worked with me so that I understood where I fouled up so that I could fix that similar problem in the appropriate listings.

D) Buyers: As I only sell books (although I once dabbled in games without issue) I find that if the book has been adequately described there are no problems. It is when Amazon merges two different editions into the same record that problems occur. Book buyers are more understanding of that than buyers in other categories so I have seen no change.

E) Payment structure: Minimal change that affects me.

F) Vs. the Bay: I used to sell on many of the online bookselling platforms, most notably Amazon, ABE, Alibris, Biblio, and Choose Books. I dabbled with the Bay for about a year until they banned me of a fee dispute. My book sales there were minimal. In fact, Choose Books and Biblio often outsold them. In 2007 I dropped ABE and Alibris as there fees were killing me and the sales volume was just not worth it. I stayed with Biblio and Choose Books since they had simple fee structures and did not charge monthly fees. I stopped using Choose Books only because they were bought out by ABE. I am still with Biblio.

One of the keys to surviving on any online venue is to adapt to the change. Last year when Amazon raised the BMVD fees I was prepared as I had been anticipating such a move for at least five years. I was actually relieved that it happened.


Boy – how things have changed for me there. I started with distance selling before the internet, but only on a very small scale. When I started the USPS service was called Book Rate (Special 4th Class Mail). Delivery Confirmation didn’t exist. Now Delivery Confirmation doesn’t exist again, but that’s because they finally decided the service was good enough to be called tracking.

My philosophy on shipping charges was to break even on the average. I charged $3.50 in 1995. I still charge $3.50 on some of the sites I use. And postage has gone up every single year. Packaging has gone up every single year*. My packaging has undergone several changes, searching for best protection for least money. Now my philosophy on shipping charges is to keep the losses under control.

*come to think of it, there might have been one or even two years when Book Rate/ Media Mail didn’t increase.


Could be a book in the works on this topic - been around here since 2005;

– This will always be what you make it. If you can acquire inventory as low as possible, your profit will be maintained. Biggest factor that effects the profits is the TIME involved - whether waiting on seller support, dealing with the MANY “glitches” in the past two years, etc. It is a matter of “going with the flow” - don’t waste time complaining about no payment transfer, trying to fix item pages…just move on.

-Shipping (cost and accessibility)
— one area that has seen a great improvement. Being able to print from Amazon instead of 3rd party source. The ability to actually set shipping templates for areas and items that weigh different. The “old” $3.99 and price/lb were killers back in the day. Heavy toys - electronics etc were hard to ship without raising the product price to cover it. One thing Amazon should do is implement a SCAN FORM for the post office. Seems someone should be able to write that code.

-Seller Support
— definitely different over the years. Now it is 97% SCRIPT replies from seller support. If SS can not locate an issue in “the book”…you get the scripted INTERNAL TEAM will handle it reply. MANY MANY cases go unanswered, huge lack of follow up on Amazons part. But then again, do you spend hours/days begging them to reply.

— Of course with the recent return program, scammers are raising daily. In general, I think that buyers(good ones) here are still searching/find/buy compared to the flea market type on eBay. Many will pay 25-50% more then the same item on eBay.

-Payment structure(s)
— Being grandfathered - the daily requests are still very helpful. Past year the “glitches” are appearing more and more frequently. Surprised Amazon has not really raised the $39.99 for pro-merchant yet.

-VS eBay
— Hard to compare, I no longer sell on there. When I left I had 6,000 items, having a store there was great. Once they started with PAYPAL and then with the price per listing, Was not profitable for me to stay. To have 6,000 sit in a store front and pay 20¢ per item each month would be costly.

-Anything else that comes to mind!

MANY OTHER THINGS do come to mind;

#1 The HUGE SNAFU with toys that eliminated MANY MANY sellers because some techno-nerd or BOT changed a code. This put a huge number of ASINs into a restricted category and AMAZON had to lose MILLIONS on this screw up. Slowly coming back - a lot have gone elsewhere to sell.

#2 Also with toys was the SNAFU with the NEW YORK law on TOY GUNS. Again eliminated huge amount of ASINs and again, had to impact Amazons profits in that category. Seriously - a LEGO TOY BLASTER (ONE INCH in length) looked to much like a real gun?

#3 PHOTOS for item detail pages…back in the day was out of control. You could actually add a photo of your pet dog to the item page and it TOOK! But now it goes to far to the other side…you need the 14 URLs from the manufacture that prove the photo matches the item. Plus you need to have the “power” as a seller of the item to actually change it. This is sometimes determined simply by the seller support agreeing to the photo(even if they have no clue). That toy car description really doesn’t match the photo of that woman in the bikini.

#4 Continuing with Item Pages…back in the day it was “better”… now the item pages are so screwed up. Again, not worth the time going round and round with “seller support”. I have had titles that state “paperback ( hardcover 2003)”…hello??? really? Or allowing a item to actually say NEW in the title, but options to list as used. Yes, Amazon doesn’t “create” the listings, but if you are going to “police” something, this would be a start.

#5 So after the TOY SNAFU…same year Amazon comes out with the MUSIC SNAFU. Eliminates, NOT hundreds but THOUSANDS of ASINs because you can’t prove that yardsale buy you got on CDs are not fake. BIG(HUGE) killer of the bottom line Amazon. Someday you may realize EVERYTHING can be counterfeited.

#6 BOTS – this could be another 5 pages of info. This automation is creating more havoc then good. These “bots” have become Amazons “INTERNAL TEAM” and seems to be a lack of HUMAN supervision over the bots actions.

#7 Buyer INFO – a simple “code” can be written to insure that the order you get has a VALID ADDRESS recognized by the postal system.

#8 STOREFRONT – totally screwed this up in the past couple years when Amazon changed your storefront to show BEST SELLERS and no option to see RECENTLY ADDED ITEMS. As a seller, if you have regular buyers that would like to shop your store, now there is no way to show them the new items added. Leaving us 3rd party sellers with a poor marketing strategy. Again, a SIMPLE code (much less then what was involved in the new forum).

#9 NEW CONDITION NOTES — Eliminating these hurt some item pages, this will always be a topic of discussion. This comes from the title description that may have varieties or questionable description - notes sometimes eliminated the confusion.

#10 AZ Claim and Feedback program needs a major overhaul. What does and doesn’t effect metrics. When/how a buyer can post these. TOO MANY good 3rd party sellers are CANNED because of this system and then you see others that have 20% feedback rating etc and are still selling.

oops…forgot a major one… AMAZON PHONE APPS!!! “I ordered it NEW, not used(from my smart phone and I didn’t go past the first page)…please send new item…”

Sorry this message was so long…just 13 years, need to vent a little. Thanks for the post. :slight_smile:


Unfortunately, due to postal rate increases and the current cost of international shipping (and the fact that Amazon has not increased it’s shipping allowance to keep up with the rise in costs) we no longer offer international shipping.



Ebay was more than a little bit dishonest when Meg whitman was at the helm and John Donahoe.

Paypal was just a Convenient way of them charging double {for each transaction}
It is difficult to turn a profit on Amazon due to the High fees, for selling books anyway.
Have not found a ‘perfect platform’ both are good, due to the high visibility they have


You can now set your own shipping rate. We do two tier, one for small pkgs and one for larger. None over 3 pounds, because becomes too expensive.


Easier to get anything/everything done. Always spoke to SS in USA. Full interest in 3P sellers. It was nice.


I started here in 2002, selling used books and media. VHS tapes too sheesh.

At that time 3p sellers were not able to sell items in new condition. One pound by priority mail when it was first initiated by the post office in the 90’s was $3.20 anywhere in the country. Two pounds I think was $4.20 or so.

Sometimes when listing some uncommon book or cd, one would come across a pending pre-order on the listing page, giving you the option to instantly sell your item at the buyer’s pre-order price which was often quite high.
I had forgotten this. it was called “Buyer in Waiting”