Three Longreads on the Stuff We Buy and Sell

MEL Magazine: Inside the Strange Yet Profitable World of Retail Arbitrage

I actually just picked up, about one or two weekends ago, a bunch of light bulbs. A light bulb is an everyday item that people use, so there’s always a need for them, and I picked them up on clearance at Walmart for $2 each. I was actually able to identify the markdown before Walmart caught it: They were assigned at $9 each, and I bought them for $2 each, which is a huge, huge thing — you’re almost guaranteed that nobody else has bought them, since they’re still assigned at full price.

So I bought 218 packages of light bulbs after travelling around to several Walmarts within a 150-mile radius, and I was able to send them all into Amazon FBA, which is Fulfillment by Amazon. I’m going to net anywhere between $4 and $5 of profit for each package, which comes to about $1,100 or $1,200, give or take.

The Atlantic: Where Amazon Returns Go to Be Resold By Hustlers

With a couple hundred dollars and a few minutes, you could go to a liquidation website right now and buy a pallet full of stuff that people have returned to Amazon. It will have, perhaps, been lightly sorted by product category—home decor, outdoor, apparel—but this is mostly aspirational. For example, in one pallet labeled “home decor,” available for sale on liquidation.com, you could find hiking crampons, shimmer fabric paint, a High Visibility Thermal Winter Trapper Hat, a Mr. Ellie Pooh Natural White Paper List Pad, a St. Patrick’s Pot O’ Gold Cupcake Decorating Kit, a Spoontiques Golf Thermometer, a Feliz Cumpleanos Candle Packaged Balloon, and five Caterpillar Hoodies for Pets.

Gizmodo: I Tried to Block Amazon From My Life. It Was Impossible.

Keeping myself from walking into a Whole Foods is easy enough, but I also want to stop using any of Amazon’s digital services, from Amazon.com (and its damn app) to any other websites or apps that use AWS to host their content. To do that, I enlist the help of a technologist, Dhruv Mehrotra, who built me a custom VPN through which to route my internet requests. The VPN blocks any traffic to or from an IP address controlled by Amazon. I connect my computers and my phone to the VPN at all times, as well as all the connected devices in my home; it’s supposed to weed out every single digital thing that Amazon touches.

Ultimately, though, we found Amazon was too huge to conquer.

Photo credit: Álvaro Ibáñez, CC BY 2.0.