Helping You with Your Amazon FBA Business

Choosing an Amazon FBA Prep Center

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Hello!  One of my January goals was to open one new wholesale account.  Well, I actually did better than that and opened 5 of them!

I believe that part of that success was because I’ve been using a prep center to process my online shoe orders.  This has given me extra time during the day so that I can concentrate on wholesale.  Without the prep center, I would have spent my afternoons playing “Shoe Tetris” and believe me, I’m super slow at figuring out how to fill up the shipping boxes just right.

What’s a Prep Center? Prep centers work very well with your online arbitrage & wholesale orders. You purchase your products and then use the prep center’s address as your shipping address.  The prep center will then receive your order and inspect, prep and ship your products.

In today’s post, I’ll go over prep center pricing, locations and how your general workflow will change.

Prep Center Pricing

When you start searching around for a prep center, I suggest that you first come up with a list of the typical products that you order online.  Then make a note of any products that need extra processing such as used books, bundles, glass, groceries and oversized units.

Remove inventory clutter by using a prep center!

Once you have your list, then start contacting the prep centers to confirm that they will process your specific type of inventory and to find out how much they charge.  For example, when I first started price-checking, I contacted several prep centers to see how much it would cost for them to process 10 pairs of shoes.

When you’re checking prices, here are a few questions to find out:

  • Is there a sign-up or joining fee?
  • What are the per-item charges and/or monthly charges?
  • Are supplies such as poly bags, bubble wrap and shipping boxes additional?
  • Are there storage fees?
  • What is the procedure if the prep center receives damaged inventory?
  • Is there a minimum number of units that must be included in each shipment?
  • If you live near a prep center, will they accept your retail arbitrage purchases?

Each prep center sets their own prices, but as a point of reference, I’m currently paying Pacific Prep Services $1.50 for each pair of shoes processed and I paid the same to FBA Prep and Ship last quarter.

While you’re doing your initial contact with the prep centers, also make note of their customer service.  You’ll want to work with one that gives you a great first impression by answering your questions promptly and courteously.

Do you use eFLIP?  If so, FBA Prep and Ship has a book program and they’ll grade your used books!  I used their book service and never had any buyers complain about receiving books that were graded wrong.

Prep Center Locations

In Jim Cockrum’s free list of prep centers, you’ll see that the prep centers are located in several different states.  The state that your prep center is in can make a difference in how much you pay in shipping fees and sales tax.

Save on Inbound Shipping Fees:  If you live on the west coast and are always shipping to Amazon’s east coast warehouses, you might consider signing up with a prep center on the east coast to save on inbound shipping fees.  But as a warning, this isn’t guaranteed because Amazon can change your normal warehouse location at any time.

The reason that I chose Fulfillment Butler (now Illinois Pack and Ship) as my first prep center was because of their close location to the IND4 warehouse where most of my shoe shipments go to.  I live on the west coast and figured that the savings in inbound shipping fees would more than cover the prep center fees.

Well, I was wrong and here’s what happened.  Every shoe shipment that I had Fulfillment Butler process was sent to California.  Go figure.

*** Don’t let my experience keep you from choosing a prep center that’s close to your normal warehouses!  

Save on Sales Tax: When you order your products online, you’ll use the prep center’s address as your shipping address.  If the online retailer charges sales tax, they will calculate it based on the prep center’s sales tax rate.  This means that if the prep center is located in a state that doesn’t have sales tax, then you won’t be charged sales tax.

The sales tax free states are Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire and Oregon.

Two of my favorite online retailers charge sales tax when I have my online shoe orders shipped to my house.  My sales tax rate is 8.4% so if I buy 4 pairs of shoes for $100, I’m charged $8.40 in sales tax.  By shipping the shoes to Pacific Prep Services in Oregon, I exchange $8.40 in sales tax for $6.00 in prep center fees.  This saves me $2.40 plus I save on not having to use my own prepping & shipping supplies.

Prep Center Workflow

When I know that I’ll be shipping my online orders to a prep center, my workflow immediately changes.

The first change is that I have to be super careful before I order any products.  I have to make sure that I matched up the product to the exact Amazon product listing.  This is because you won’t be able to scan in barcodes into your listing software because you won’t have the barcode in front of you.

Then after I order my products, I copy and paste the ASINs into a spreadsheet so that I can list the products later.

*** FBA Prep and Ship enters the UPC number into your shared Google Spreadsheet! 

The second change is that after you order your products, you’ll need to let the prep center know what you ordered.  Each of the 3 prep centers that I used provides a shared Google Spreadsheet.  This is where you list what you ordered and the prep center will update the spreadsheet as they receive and process the inventory.

The rest of the workflow really depends on if you will continue to do all of the Seller Central tasks or if the prep center will do them.  The table below shows the general process of how each workflow works:

Prep Center without User Permissions on Your Amazon AccountPrep Center with User Permissions on Your Amazon Account
You order productsYou order products
You tell prep center what you ordered You tell prep center what you ordered
You list your products You list your products
You send shipping plan to prep centerYou send shipping plan to prep center
You email a PDF file of your product labels to prep centerPrep center prints the product labels
Prep center preps & labels and packs the shipping boxesPrep center preps & labels and packs the shipping boxes
Prep center sends you box content info, box sizes and weights
You enter the box info and email shipping labels to prep centerPrep center enters the box info and prints shipping labels
Prep center gives shipping boxes to UPSPrep center gives shipping boxes to UPS

Saving Time 

I prefer that the prep center handles the Seller Central tasks because that means there’s less work for me to do!  🙂  This gives me more time to do other things.

With my current arrangement with Pacific Prep Services, I have it really easy.  All I have to do is order my products, update the Google spreadsheet and list my items.  They ship my inventory once a week and they have permission to create my shipping plans and to do all of the Seller Central tasks.

If you’re ready for a prep center, I hope that this post helps you with choosing one.  Also remember that you can use more than one at a time.  For example, you may send your online arbitrage orders to a prep center in a tax free state and your wholesale orders to a prep center that’s close to your wholesaler’s distribution center or close to an Amazon warehouse.

Please let me know if you have any questions about prep centers.  If you’re already using one, please tell me about your prep center!  Use the comment form below or leave me a note on Facebook!

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{ 18 comments… add one }
  • Bob Dykes February 13, 2017, 4:53 pm

    Hi Diana, I just signed up with Pacific Prep. I was paying 6 1/2% sales tax with the Prep Center I had on the East Coast. But, I’m not so concerned with Sales Tax as I am with the ability to jump on a plane and be at the Center in a few hours now if I have to. Much better than spending a full day flying one way and a lot cheaper.

    Reply
    • Diana February 13, 2017, 6:04 pm

      Hi Bob,
      I live just 45 min from Pacific Prep. It’s nice knowing that I can go there to check on my inventory if needed. Never had to though!

      Diana

      Reply
  • Dean February 22, 2017, 8:54 am

    Great post! Just wanted to mention that we also provide FBA prep services and recently expanded into an even larger space to continue to maintain our 24-48 hour turnaround for prep and accomodate our growing team. Check us out at http://www.flatrateprep.com – we have a low, flat rate and no hidden extra fees. We’d love to help take your business to the next level of growth!

    Reply
    • Diana February 22, 2017, 2:34 pm

      Hi Dean,
      I visited your website and I like that your pricing is very easy to understand. Some of the prep centers are very confusing to figure out. I’m not planning on switching prep centers right now. However, I’m planning on making a prep center list for my blog readers and will add your company to it! Thanks for letting me know about your prep center.

      Diana

      Reply
  • Mendel Fine March 20, 2017, 6:36 pm

    Can you trust the company using your seller central? one company I tried did tricks to get all the inventory to one place.

    Reply
    • Diana March 20, 2017, 9:04 pm

      Hi Mendel,
      That’s too bad about the company you were using. I haven’t had any problems with Pacific Prep and trust them.

      Diana

      Reply
  • Renee Hood June 15, 2017, 3:14 am

    Hi Diana,

    Thanks for this post. I’m looking into hiring a prep center and was wondering if you still like Pacific Prep.

    Reply
    • Diana June 15, 2017, 3:30 am

      HI Renee,

      Yes, I’m still using them for most of my OA shoe shipments. Never had any problems. Highly recommend them!

      Diana

      Reply
  • Brown Box Ninja June 18, 2017, 2:58 am

    Hello,

    I read that you were going to put together a list of prep centers. Please add Brown Box Ninja to the list if you don’t mind. We are located in Texas. We offer competitive pricing, and I guarantee our customer service beats anyone around.

    Reply
  • toni June 25, 2017, 10:01 pm

    seems like http://www.fbaprepandship.com/ they are not working anymore, or at least they are not answering emails anymore,.. JFYI

    Reply
    • Diana June 26, 2017, 4:47 am

      Hi Toni,

      I just checked their website and it says that it might take a week for them to respond to emails. Has it been longer than that? Please let me know how it goes. They’re really good to work with and Monica (owner) is very nice. I hope everything works out.

      Diana

      Reply
  • toni June 28, 2017, 12:30 pm

    They already reply, thank you. BTW the FBA Prep and Ship book program is $2.25 per book.
    Quick question, as far as I can see, all the these FBA Prep center, just get your goods, but it’s you who’s in charge of create a shipping from FBA Prep Center to FBA Amazon, all the FBA Prep Center works like this? I’m not living in the US so I don’t know from where or what kind of company it’s cheaper to schedule a pickup! any clue? thank you!

    Reply
    • Diana June 29, 2017, 1:01 am

      Hey Toni, glad they responded to you!

      Every prep center is different. When I used FBA Prep and Ship, I created the shipping plans. Then I emailed them the FBA Barcode Labels and shipping labels. They printed the labels and shipped to Amazon. I still did all of the Seller Central tasks.

      Right now I’m using Pacific Prep Services which is also in Oregon. With them, I list the items but they create the shipping plans and ship to Amazon. They have limited access to my Seller Central Account. Their method is less work on my end. You just give them guidelines to follow. For example, I have them ship all (or most) of my products on Fridays. If there are a few items leftover that won’t fit in the main shipping boxes, they will include them in the next week’s shipment.

      But regardless of the method, they schedule the pickup with UPS to get your products from the prep center to Amazon.

      Diana

      Reply
      • toni June 29, 2017, 11:26 am

        Thank you so much for your kind answer!

        I guess, in my case it makes more sense to have someone in charge of creating shipping plans, less work at my end, even if it’s more expensive to me,

        Thank you so much for the tips!

        Toni

        Reply
        • Diana June 30, 2017, 10:46 pm

          At first I was hesitant to have them create the shipping plans, but now I’m glad that they do. It does save time from emailing labels back and forth.

          Take care and wish you luck with your first prep center!

          Reply
  • Serkan Yildiz July 13, 2017, 8:01 pm

    Diana,
    Great and very detailed article! I am sure so many FBA sellers will benefit from it. By the way we also have prep center in Raleigh,NC. We offer very personalized services to all of our clients and also offer account management services for eligible private label sellers. Check us out at https://www.fbawarehousing.com/
    Let me know your thoughts, we would love to help you grow your business!
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Diana July 13, 2017, 11:36 pm

      Thanks for letting me know about your company! I’ll check it out!

      Diana

      Reply

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I am working towards creating a full-time income by selling on Amazon. It's a lot of work but very fun! If you're interested in selling on Amazon, be sure to follow my blog as I'll be providing you with lots of tips!

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