Is it Even Worth Flipping Stuff From Craigslist, eBay, Amazon, etc?

Flipping stuff can be the ultimate thrill, but it can quickly become a massive nightmare. Trust me, I know from experience. See, I used to be a big flipper between eBay and Amazon. When I say “a big flipper,” I mean like $8-12k revenue a month.

But at some point, I snapped.

“This isn’t worth my time.” I concluded.

Yet years later, I find myself back in a position of considering doing it all over again. The countless hours sitting, bidding, tracking, recording, and posting. The returns, the endless buyer’s protection, and the “yankee swappers (people who break their own, order a new one and then return their original).” It was miserable at times, but it also netted me a solid piece of side hustle. Which was nice because I was also rehabbing a house which really was hurting the cash flow.

Let me make this clear, I wasn’t going to Goodwills and garage sales and hunting down unique items, I was literally flipping things like electronics, water filters, video games, etc. from eBay onto amazon. Why was this viable? Because I operated on very small net margins (think 10-15%). I made it up in volume. To add perspective, that “$12k revenue month” might have been $1200-ish net (before taxes).

The margins were so small in fact, that various perks became half of my business! Sadly I live near Krogers which have an “eh” gas perks program, but even being average at best, I can get 3% back via gas perks (would be more if I used additional gas tanks) from buying eBay giftcards. I also got back 2% from my credit card and another 2% from “eBay bucks.”

Keeping track? That’s 7% of perks of the total 10-15%. Meaning HALF of my profits were via perks.

At one point, I was even able to double dip into various rebate programs and get those perks up to 9%! If I lived in an Area with a Giant Eagle Grocery chain, I would likely be able to add another 2%.

So why did I conclude it wasn’t worth my time?

1. Amazon/eBay have all of the control

If you wake up tomorrow and find your account banned, too bad. You are 100% reliant on them. This is never the foundation of a good business, unless your amazon/eBay.

2. They shut down various perk programs

First they shut down various cash back websites for eBay, then they limit gift cards to “$5,000 a month per account per 6 months.” Ebay in particular really locked this down, but when you are working with as slim as margins as I was, it’s a huge hit! Even losing 2%, might literally be a seventh of my entirely profitability.

3. People can be ruthless and manipulative

Even with factoring in “the cost of doing business,” people are just emotionally draining. Also, it’s sickening how much protections buyers have. I had a charge back for something an individual signed for almost 12 months prior. Almost a year later this person went to Amazon and said “I didn’t get it” and amazon sided with them. Think about it though, for amazon they are quick to write you off because they stand to gain by making the customer happy, and there will always be another amazon seller right behind you. They really squeeze you, because once again, they are complete control.
So will I go back to Flipping? Maybe, but it seems like my best days might be behind me. I would personally like to get into Goodwills and garage sale searching, but frankly our Goodwills are 100% picked over (often by employees).  I would likely end up the same place as before, sitting in front of the monitor all day trying to score $20 here and $30 there, knowing there will be good days and bad days. Ultimately coming to same conclusion I had in the first place, “This isn’t worth my time.”

Let me say though, if you are looking to make $300-$600 a month with a LOT of effort, this might be the place to look for you.

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