Around half a trillion dollars worth of stuff is returned to places like Amazon and Walmart every year. Millions of pounds of it winds up in landfills, but you can make money from the rest.
Many shoppers buy the returned items at stores like Dirt Cheap. Resellers focus on the latest crazes, such as InstaPots, air fryers and massage guns. A couple of nursing school students profiled by NPR's "Planet Money" say they earn about $800 a week at their local Treasure Hunt store. But they have to endure crazy Black-Friday-like stampedes to get what they want, using binoculars to peek into the store before it opens. Once inside, heading in the opposite direction of their competitors.
An alternative is the Amazon Return Pallet. These aren't neat stacks of folded jeans. They're filled with all kinds of stuff. One of the pallets I looked at online had dozens of wigs, vitamins, baby carriers, you name it.
If you look up "how to sell Amazon pallets" on YouTube, you'll get useful tips. One guy says he finds the stuff at 888lots.com and resells them on eBay, Poshmark and Mercari, though you can also sell the stuff on Amazon. When I checked the site, I saw four boxes filled with home improvement items, valued at $2,824 but going for $348. I clicked "Truckloads," and saw $18,000 worth of goods marked down by 80%. But you have to watch out. If you're listing your items on a multitude of sites and don't keep track of what you've already sold, you could find yourself committed to selling stuff you no longer have.
Watch out for fraud too. You may think you're getting a pair of $100 headphones for $20, but sometimes they're $20 headphones in a $100 box. People can be sneaky.
The return craze started with online shoe-seller Zappos. They encouraged people to buy multiple pairs and return them all if necessary. Other online retailers found they had to offer the same deal in order to compete. Sometimes Amazon doesn't even want the stuff back. My niece says they have told her at least twice to keep the darn things.
TURN OFF THE MIRROR ON ZOOM
An acquaintance of mine, working from home, was expected to be on a Zoom video conference call for 10 hours a day before she found a new job. Her old employer had software to monitor her eye movements and called her on the carpet when she took a seven-minute shower.
Hopefully, she wasn't dripping wet. Talk about "Zoom fatigue."
A big part of Zoom fatigue is having to look at your own live image while you're on a video call. Here's how to turn that off. On your computer, after you join a Zoom meeting, right-click your own image and choose "Hide Self View." To see yourself again, click "view" in the top right corner of the screen.
A free converter from joshmadison.com will convert meters to yards, Celsius to Fahrenheit, liters to gallons, bushels to pecks, horsepower to watts and so on.
It works with Windows or Linux computers. I pinned it to my taskbar to make it quick to call up.
FINDING FRAUD ON FACEBOOK
A reader wrote to warn me that some of the items for sale on Facebook Marketplace are stolen goods. He shared a link to a page with a stationary bike for sale for $10. It was obviously fenced, he said. He notified the police but they didn't seem interested.
"Some Facebook listings are just crazy," he said. "A seller will list "very low prices for cars that are merely bait. The poor buyer doesn't realize that the shady car dealer will insist on weekly payments at exorbitant prices."
If the buyer fails to pay even once, the car is confiscated and sold to someone else.
My niece needed a drill and didn't want to buy something she would use only once. So she turned to Buy Nothing, a free app for Android and iPhone. Sure enough, someone in the neighborhood had one she could borrow.
You don't have to offer anything in exchange when you accept someone's offer, but it's always nice to help out where you can. My niece took a package to FedEx for someone. But every neighborhood is different. I saw a lot more free giveaways than requests when I tried the app. These included a couch, a TV, a fish tank, dresser drawers, clothes and shelving units, among other things.
A child born with four fingers on his right hand finally got winter gloves that fit, thanks to a Facebook Group called Knit for a Unique Fit. If you want to join the group, just type the name of the group in the search box at Facebook.com. Then click on the title to join the group. To find it again later, just click "Groups" on the left side of the home screen and you'll see it listed.
FREE ONLINE MAGAZINES
If you have a library card, you can get 50 magazines from https://library.hoopladigital.com/ or the free Hoopla app. I've used Hoopla to rent movies and books, too. Recently, I took a look at The Week Junior, a kids version of The Week magazine. I'd given it as a gift and wanted to see how good it was. It's not as entertaining as the regular version. Needs more humor.
Joy Schwabach can be reached by email at [email protected]