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


ebay since 1998 here since 2009. ebay had some bad years from 2010 until 2015 the ceo Donahoe nearly singlehandedly killed the company by driving off sellers with attempts at making it like Amazon. Their philosophy was sellers are a dime a dozen and can always be replaced. Starting with Meg Whitman they said buyer traffic brings the sellers. Well in 2015 they were nosediving as buyers left in droves because many sellers offering unique items were gone. The new ceo to his credit has recognized the problem and has done well correcting it.

Amazon has been a mixed bag. Back in the day you could look forward to being suspended by rogue bots for nebulous reasons and losing sleep and sales over it. It has become more stable in the last year or so. It has also become more restrictive in categories and brands. So the opportunities for sales have dwindled for smaller sellers.


Over the years we always felt that Amazon’s liberal refund policies, encouraged and promoted customer fraud. Slowly, they have to begun to tighten up the process realizing that there are customers who are only out to scam sellers. For a long time, Amazon was the only mail order company that did not accept a scanned delivered item as actually delivered. That policy change in May 2016, was a massive step in the right direction. :train2:


I’ve sold on Amazon many years as a private seller. What I have really noticed is that my sales are much lower due to the incredible prices Amazon Prime can give its customers; there is no way I can compete, most of the time, with Amazons prices. Now, as a very happy Amazon Prime customer, I love this…as a seller, not so much. Amazon is definitely incredible when it comes to customer support and that is why I buy here without worry; but, of course, my customers expect to use things as gifts and then return them after more than a month…returns are definitely higher. As far as undelivered items; as a customer, I have often not gotten what I pay for. It is funny that even the shipping services, knowing of Amazons policies, seem to snatch our items…so our customers are not always lying when they say they did not get items that show as delivered. What I really have noticed is the downturn of sales between November and March, which used to be incredible on toys, have plummeted; but this is true on other markets as well. I still love it here; but more as a customer than seller


Yeah I used to ship everything except the most cheap paperbacks priority mail flat rate. I actually had to get a Rate and Rules hearing to get my local PO to accept flat rate envelopes where the shipping label was over the flap. They want to reject them because putting the label over the flap was “modification” of the envelope.


The rules are much tighter now, and there’s much more you need to know to avoid the pitfalls.

In the mid-2000s I worked for an online bookseller. His instructions were to list against the most popular product page for the book we had, regardless of whether or not it matched, and use the condition notes to indicate when we were selling an outdated edition, or even a completely different book by the same author. Needless to say, we got a lot complaints from angry customers who thought they were buying the book that Amazon was selling, and not the 1927 version of the textbook they needed for class. My job was to accept the return with a restocking fee, while lecturing the customer about the importance of reading condition notes.

He was too cheap to pay for delivery confirmation, which turned out to convenient, as his shelving system was so disorganized that we routinely failed to locate at least 25% of our orders. Our process was to confirm shipment, then take turns looking for missing books. When the customer would start to complain, my job was to repeatedly assure them that their book had shipped and was merely slow in the mail. If we couldn’t find the book before the customer finally lost patience (typically, one month), we’d begrudgingly issue a refund, claiming that the book had been lost in transit.

If a book actually was lost in the mail, however, my instructions were to tell the customer “tough luck,” and complain that Amazon didn’t give them an option to buy insurance, like on eBay. I hated that my job was to lie and cheat, and ultimately left for this reason.

The metrics system was implemented to prevent these kind of shenanigans, which is good, but of course it creates a lot of stress if you’re a low volume seller vulnerable to a run of bad luck. And this, of course, was before intellectual property was being policed as zealously as it is today, so you also have that to run afoul of.

The money, of course, was better because you were buying from (and competing against) people who didn’t use computers and were slow to understand that you could sell things on the Internet. Today, of course, it’s hard to find an auction where everyone hasn’t looked up everything online prior to bidding.


Things I miss about the old days:

  • Media mail rate $1.63 for one pound - although it didn’t include tracking.
  • Lower Amazon fees - which meant it was possible to make profit off a $5 book. No longer!
  • Individual seller listings expiring after 60 days - because it was a great reminder to cull or reprice.
  • The ability to send my own personalized “your package has been sent” email, because I think it helped build a relationship with the customer. If they knew there was a person on the other end of the deal, not just some faceless company, it made things go more smoothly.
  • The ability to sell DVDs. I buy a lot fewer of them now because there’s no market for getting rid of the ones I change my mind on (but that’s not just Amazon).


I find mostly squeakers and scammers buying on Amazon these days. We’ve reduced what we sell on Amazon substantially and new products are not being added to the catalog. Between scamming buyers, Amazon not following their own policies which screws us sellers, and the added burden of complying with policy, it’s not as profitable here as it used to be. For us, Amazon has steadily grown to become the leader in headaches by a long shot. Amazon has/is driven many USA based sellers out, while opening up more warehouses to stock goods sent in from Chinese based sellers. Foreign sellers often have far cheaper labor rates and better margins than American businesses which is why they are better prepared to absorb the losses from scamming buyers, etc.


-Profitability: i guess it depends on what you sell. i went from books to high end computer parts ($200-$2000). i’m doing very well.

-Shipping (cost and accessibility): shipping rates keep going up, but it doesn’t affect me as much because i am a low volume, high profit margin business.

-Seller Support: amazon support in general went from being useless to doing more harm than good. they tell buyers to open A-Z claims for random junk, like when the customer changes their mind about a purchase or wants to price match AFTER buying something.

-Buyers: international buyers who ship to freight forwarders are driving me insane. one of them wanted me to provide a return label FROM RUSSIA! and gave me a 1 star rating when i told them i couldn’t. seller support basically told me to take it like a man.

-Payment structure(s): waiting two weeks to be paid is irritating, especially when you are floating $50,000+ balances. nothing we can do about that.

-VS eBay: i’m shifting more of my business to ebay. their seller support got WAY better, without a doubt better than amazon. and they are Americans who speak English!

-Anything else that comes to mind!: the Asian invasion. china sellers hijacking listing of items that has immaculate reviews and start selling garbage masked as quality items. since i have shifted to high end electronics that require explicit permission from the manufacturer to sell, this hasn’t affected me as seller, but definitely affected me as a buyer. i stopped shopping on amazon.


I’ve been selling 99.9% books since 2002. Biggest difference is I used to make good extra money - maybe 300 to 400 a month without doing much besides listing carefully.

I remember it was July, in 2011 or 2012 when the lights went out. One month I made $7. What most of us didn’t know was that that was when Amazon started to use robots for FBA and really parade FBA as a cool way to store your books. I never recovered after FBA ruined the book market.

I tried FBA starting last fall, and it’s been a waste of time, with fees that make you feel like you’re being scammed, and faulty interfaces, unbelievable mistakes at the warehouses, etc. I think I have about 50 books left there after I just paid them to destroy a bunch.

Other points:

  1. They are a lot easier to list now
  2. I have learned that I have to bow my head and lower lower lower my prices constantly. I used to get 25, 30, 40 easily. Now, rarely.
  3. I’m more wary of buyers. My one piece of software and a rare video game both attracted fraudulent buyers who use then want to return. Amazon used to support sellers, but no more.
  4. I’m culling hundreds of books. Amazon has lost about 15% of my listings. They have also lost photos, keywords, descriptions of any used books over 10 years old. The catalog dept has no explanation.
  5. The no description for New media is a disaster. No one wants to buy something with just a one word description. Book buyers, in particular LIKE TO READ. I get a lot of New books from publishers, so it’s very distressing.
  6. Books don’t sell on ebay! I guess I’m listing the wrong things. I see the major bookseller listing every book at 3.73 Nice profit there.


More Feedback… Your “Store” had more functions …

There have always been lowballers… Perhaps more sales…But the on and off again was still an issue…
Fees were lower so you could reduce prices and still make a few dollars…


I have really enjoyed reading all of these responses.

I have another question: for those of you who were selling in the 90’s, were you able to purchase postage online?


We were beta zstore testers. The software was too clunky.
My only huge regret is not buying 1000 shares of amazon in 2001 at $10. Probably would have sold the shares too soon.


I started on eBay with collectables in the late 1990’s. I am an estate liquidator so I get tons of used merchandise. Started selling books on half.com then moved the majority to Amazon back then, at one time probably had 4-5k items listed between all three sites. Made really good money before hand held scanners and penny listing. (half set the bottom price for an item at .75 cents.) I would typically clear $1500 a month on Amazon. As it caught on and book scanners became more used the price of most contemporary books plummeted, penny listings took over. I quit Amazon for a few years but kept the half.com and eBay going. Now I rarely list a book, can barley list CD’s or DVD’s because of Amazons rules they all go on eBay if they are worth listing. Shipping is much better and so so so much easier today. In the beginning I would go to the post office daily 10-20 books it sucked. Finally got a postage meter that you could refill online and print stamps big improvement but still no tracking etc…I have always hated the feedback system on Amazon you just simply do not get enough from satisfied customers to offset the occasional bad feedback. I would love to sell more but fees and prices kill me on top of competing with prime free shipping and Amazon itself on some items, just ain’t worth it. On the other hand I do better than ever on eBay.


STAMPS.com was founded in 1996… I started using before coming on board Amazon(mainly eBay at the time - 1998-2005).I have always kept it separate also. Never LINKED it to any account. Used USPS online postage rarely.


I had a friend that was a Postal Clerk, I would slide my packages and some money his way : )


I remember when I was a new seller here, one of the sellers I listed against sent me a threatening email to get off “his” listings, put his name on there and all.

Amazon suspended him for a couple months. Since it was only the two of us back then on that line, I had a great 2 months.

That would never happen now.


Amazon charged me well over 26% on the last few Sales PLUS they make you lose money on shipping ($3.99). I honestly don’t see how Anybody can make a Profit. Maybe it’s my fault cause I sell at the lowest prices and I never ship Media Mail. Mostly though, these Steep Fees are killing me, more than Anything else. If you price higher, you run the risk that your items will never sell.


I started selling books on Interloc (which later became Alibris) in 1994. Interloc was the first market for books. There were 200 sellers at that time. It was the golden age for selling books and the volume was incredible. Amazon originally had buyers who would call you up to order books directly. Every seller had a personal contact that they dealt with. A couple of years later Amazon introduced Zshops which later became Market place. The boom continued until the aftermath of 9/11 and the recession that it caused. The number of people selling on Amazon increased exponentially and became much less profitable to sell common titles.


With you every step of the way. Thought Interloc was the greatest thing since sliced bread. Alibris not so much. But they did me a favor when they insulted everybody and morphed. I was so ticked off it prompted me to expand to other venues.

Selling to Amazon. And then eventually through Amazon (zShops) etc.

All those Priority packages that went to Barnes & Noble to be reshipped because they’d never want us to know where they were going. Lost a couple of nice little ephemera pieces to the crew there - a couple of broadsheets on UFOs by T Lobsang Rampa.

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