Like to shop? Check. Like to make money? Check. Enjoy running back and forth from the Post Office? Um, maybe? Put these together and you’ve got the Fulfillment by Amazon or FBA program.

People are making a lot of money buying clearance items to resell for a higher profit on Amazon. This is what I’m specifically looking at: the retail arbitrage style of FBA.

Seems pretty straightforward, and it may be a great little side hustle for extra income. But how straightforward is this? I’ll walk you through my experience.

How Does FBA Work?

This differs from traditional Fulfillment by Amazon, such as sourcing a unique item from somewhere like China to sell in your own Amazon store as a specific brand.

With retail arbitrage, you’re not selling a unique item, but anything you can find on sale with the potential for a higher online markup. Basically, you’re just flipping the item.

This means you are spending a lot of time and legwork to find deals on bulk items. It may be tea towels or certain toys. You become a full bargain hunter. Walmart is the perfect place for this, as you can often find many clearance items.

The process is simple: buy a range of items and enter them into Amazon at a price that’s competitive — but still makes you money. You then ship them to an Amazon warehouse. When someone buys one of those items, Amazon ships it, and you make money on the sale.

This can be better than running your own business, as Amazon deals with everything regarding returns, customer service, refunds, etc. Also, advertising is easy as everyone uses Amazon. They do all the promotion for your products and people actively search them out.

For example, you find a pair of shoes for $20. They sell on Amazon for $70 and you list them for $68. In this situation, Amazon's fees could be around $17. Then, you factor in shipping. Since shipping rates vary so much, let’s just say $5 for the sake of argument. This would leave you with a $46 profit.

Not too bad, and if you stay consistent with this, you could make some decent money.

You can determine if something is worth selling by using an FBA calculator. There are many apps and websites where you can plug in the numbers, and factor in the shipping and fees to see if the item(s) are worth selling.

People are making a lot of money doing this, and many claim it to be the perfect way to “quit your 9–5.” Since everyone buys on Amazon, can this at least turn into a decent side hustle?

How Do You Get Started?

The first thing is to sign up for fulfillment by Amazon. There’s a lot of info needed, including proving your identity and various tax info.

Next, download the Amazon Seller app. I have to say this app is pretty outstanding. It definitely makes this type of side hustle more appealing.

The app gives you pricing alerts for sales, manages all your inventory, and analyzes your sales. It’s even got a built-in scanner to scan a product’s bar code and get information on how it’s selling on Amazon and if there’s any profit in it.

You want to find items that have high rankings and ratings on Amazon, so you know they sell.

Now you have to hit the stores. You’ll want to start out with a decent amount of inventory, and this is where it takes a while to learn exactly what to look for. These categories tend to do the best when you find them on sale:

  • Health and beauty items
  • Home items (decor, accessories, etc)
  • Toys
  • Clothing and shoes
  • Sporting Goods

Whether you’re at Walmart or Target, you’ll want to make a beeline for the clearance items. Some other good places to search through include Old Navy, Marshalls, and Home Depot. But the more stores you search, the more you can find and the more money you can make.

The problem is, I can't tell you exactly what to look for as sale items vary depending on your location. Also, the demand for specific items can go up and down on Amazon.

Besides popular items, another good approach is to buy “replenishable” items. These are the things we don’t want but have to keep buying, such as toiletries.

My Experiences With Selling on Amazon

I have my own business, but always like to experiment with other potential sources of revenue as I think it’s a good idea to diversify your income as much as possible. I was also pretty intrigued by FBA.

I got set up on Amazon and headed out to a nearby Walmart. I regularly shop there, but I’m in and out so quick that I’m not aware of everything they have. This trip was just to get a feel for things and explore those areas I never go to.

The middle of the aisles and the end caps tend to have all the sale and clearance items. I looked through clothing, shoes, toys, and household items. I saw several things on clearance and used the app to see how much could be made on them.

I spent around 45 minutes in the store to explore as much as I could. There are Marshalls nearby, so I looked around there for another 30 minutes as they have many clearance items.

The next day I went back to Walmart and bought a bunch of clearance kitchen towels and some fancy can openers. The problem is this Walmart isn’t huge and the supercenter Walmart is on the other side of town. It took me 35 minutes to drive there and another 45 minutes to look around.

At this location, I found some gardening gloves and more kitchen items. It was at this point I realized how much I hate shopping. I think I would prefer a double root canal and bump into my ex-girlfriend.

So I headed home with the plan to try again tomorrow.

I then realized another problem: I live in Canada and even though we have some of these big box stores, we’re missing the one key heavyweight: Target. Target died a quick and agonizing death when they launched in Canada. That’s an interesting story on its own but will have to wait for another day.

My area only had a few big box stores. I went to look around Old Navy but found little, as their clearance items don’t save you a lot.

I didn’t want to buy too much, as this was more of an experiment. At this point, I had spent $73.81. The next day, I went to the post office to buy some packaging materials.

Full disclaimer: It was at this point I threw in the towel. Between driving, shopping, and waiting at the post office; I realized I had spent nearly seven hours on this — not to mention all the hours I spent researching. To my best calculations: I would only make around $25 on the items I bought, and that’s if they sold quickly. It could take weeks or months until I had that money.

All the work I put in would — at best — make me $3.50 an hour. I think this is when I lied down to gently cry myself to sleep.

Can You Make Money From This?

FBA looks like it can be profitable, but it takes a lot of work. And it takes a lot of physical leg work. You also have to have some startup money to buy a decent amount of inventory.

Those seven-plus hours I spent running around took me away from my other work. I have a few websites, podcasts, and freelance client work, so my time is spread in several directions.

With FBA, I thought I could easily add it into the mix. I was wrong. Based on my location, I would have to do more running around compared to someone who has many of these stores close by.

I still like the idea of FBA, but as a “side hustle,” it doesn’t fit in with everything else I do.

However, it may work for you. I don’t know if I can consider it a side hustle as it takes a huge chunk of your day to do it properly and it took me away from the things that make me money.

Once you get the hang of it, it could be much more streamlined. But from my perspective: it seemed like a full-time job to make a decent income. And again, I would have to spend countless hours in stores — which makes me dry heave.

Key Takeaways If You’re Considering This

You often see Fulfillment by Amazon — especially the retail arbitrage side — as one of the easiest ways to “earn $100 every day.” This is definitely possible, but this type of side hustle is the definition of leg work.

Between driving, searching the stores, and trips to the post office, this can easily be a full-time job. To me, side hustles shouldn’t be over 5 to 10 hours a week. I also prefer a side hustle where I can wear a blanket and not leave my house.

Here are a few more issues to be aware of:

  • Amazon is notorious for its fees, and you will always lose a specific percentage of the sale. Amazon can always make more changes that cut into your bottom line.
  • A lot may go wrong with the items you ship. Once you send them off: they are out of your hands. Any damages that happen during transport — or if they get lost altogether — also cut into your bottom line.
  • You have to constantly be aware of what is and isn’t selling on Amazon. You need to be relentless in the stores to find deals, know what is a deal, and stay on top of product trends.

Another big issue: I quickly get sick of driving. This may not be a deal-breaker for you, but it requires a lot of time in the car. If you live in a busier area, this may be a nightmare, as you have to battle traffic. If you live in a more remote area, this may be easier.

If you need an income, I still think it could be worth checking out. But just realize how much work it takes. And I think it takes a specific type of person to properly do it.

I’ve tried many side hustles, and this was hands down the worst one. As usual, you get what you put into something. With FBA, there is the possibility of a good return, but the time required just wasn't worth it for me.