Category Archives: Best Practices

Recommerce Business Best Practices

Recommerce is also sometimes referred to as “reverse commerce”, “buyback”, “trade in”, “return management”, “reverse logistics”, or “reverse supply chain”.  In some contexts, it refers to product returns, but many business models now use recommerce as their main supply chain to acquire used or new products from customers.


I started Cash4Books in 2004, as a recommerce business for buying and selling used books.  And, it eventually became focused on college textbooks as the business evolved.  Over the course of those 13 years, I’ve learned some valuable lessons and best practices on how to run a successful recommerce business.

  1. Know your margins.  You can base your margins off of a percentage, or in dollars per item.  For us, we have found it useful to use a percentage margin for low dollar books and then switch to a flat margin for high dollar books.  Switching to a flat margin makes us more competitive on our offer prices in the high-end space.
  2. Know your shipping costs.  Shipping is our #1 expense.  We pay the shipping in and shipping out, so we must build this into our cost structure.
  3. Know all of your variable costs that contribute to your cost of goods sold (COGS).  We can up with the acronym “FLOMBIC” for our variable costs, and then taught that to all of our employees.  It stands for Fees, Labor, Outbound-shipping, Material-cost, Book-cost, Inbound-shipping, and Credits.
  4. Understand that you will have marketing spend on both your supply chain and your sales chain.  Recommerce businesses are somewhat unique in the fact that we have to spend marketing dollars to get a reliable supply of product.  Then we have to spend more marketing dollars to sell that product on the other side of the business model.
  5. Know your overhead cost (fixed cost).  The way I think about financials is that I’m selling products that have a certain amount of gross profit after my variable cost (COGS).  My gross profit must be used to cover my fixed costs (overhead) each month.  By using a percentage calculator, I know exactly what my overhead runs every month.  So, I have a target of how much gross profit I need to hit each month to cover my overhead.  If I have gross profit leftover have paying my overhead, then that’s called net profit.  Our largest overhead cost is payroll and benefits.
  6. Invest in automated software and systems.  To keep efficiency and productivity high, we invest heavily in software systems.  This includes a number of cloud based software platforms, databases, and a mixture of 3rd party software with our own.  The devil is in the details on software platforms.  Something as simple as making it so that warehouse workers do not have to touch the mouse can add significant improvements in productivity.
  7. Have a QA and test plan.  One of the reasons why we failed at TechTwice is because we did not fully understand what it would take to fully test our products.  We developed a 20 point testing checklist, but it was not sufficient.  And, in the end, this is one of the key reasons we shut down the business.
  8. Use multiple supply chains, and multiple sales channels, whenever possible.  When we first started the business, we had one supplier and one sales channel.  But, the most success we’ve had has been when we’ve been able to expand our supply chain through partners and relationships and also open multiple sales channels (some retail and some wholesale).  And vise versa, we’ve had our biggest struggles and pain points when we’ve been constrained to one supplier or one sales channel.
  9. Have fun!  If you don’t enjoy the recommerce business, then do something else!  It’s certainly not for everyone.
  10. Last, but not least, take care of your customers.  We obsess about our online feedback ratings and reviews.  Maintaining great customer relationships is absolutely critical to success.


Counterfeit College Textbooks – How To Spot Them

At Cash4Books, we occasionally see customers unknowingly buy a counterfeit copy of a college textbook, and then unknowingly try to sell the book to us.  And, of course we cannot buy and sell counterfeit college textbooks, so this leads to an unhappy customer experience. The purpose of this post is to educate our customers, so that you don’t buy a counterfeit book to begin with. There are various things to look for when identifying a counterfeit textbook. See images below for specific examples. Continue reading

Ten Job Search Tips from a CEO

Jim McKenzie SmithOur mission at is: “Helping people turn yesterday’s books into today’s cash.”  In addition to helping people sell their used books, we love to help people make money in other ways as well. In this article, I’m going to do so by giving you tips on landing a job!

As the President and CEO of for over 12 years, I have screened, interviewed, and hired hundreds of people.  Here are ten job search tips based on my experiences that will help you stand out in the crowd of job seekers:

  1. Stop the “Spray and Pray” method of distributing your resumeOften when I talk to people that are looking for work, they tell me they’ve sent out hundreds of resumes in only a few days.  This is not effective.  Instead, use a much more focused and concentrated approach.
  2. Do your homework on the companyPart of that focused approach in #1 is to do your homework on the company.  Some of the most impressive people I’ve interviewed over the years have been those I could tell visited our website and could talk intelligently about the products and services we offer.  They could talk about why my company interested them; they didn’t walk into the interview asking what we do.Part of the job search process is figuring out where YOU want to work, and where you will be happy.  Be picky about where you apply–this is just as much about you interviewing the company as it is them interviewing you.  What is the work environment like?  What is the company culture like?
  3. Google “common interview questions” and study what most employers askPractice in front of the mirror. Practice with friends.  Here is a link to get you started.
  4. Send a letter of recommendation along with your resume and cover letterThink about yourself in a crowd of 300 people.  How are you going to stand out in that crowd?  One way is to proactively send a letter of recommendation, even if none is required in the job posting.  Include this with your resume and cover letter. This can give you an extra edge above the other applicants.
  5. Have a friend proof your resumeSpelling or grammar errors are a quick way to get your resume tossed in the recycle bin (I’ve screened a surprisingly large amount of resumes out for this reason).  In the initial resume screening, recruiters will often be looking for reasons to NOT keep your resume on file.  Don’t give them a reason with such a simple mistake.  And, here’s a bonus tip: use action verbs in your resume.
  6. Read every word of the job posting, then read it againMany employers will include specific instructions in the job posting.  Then they will see which applicants follow the instructions and which do not.  For those that do not follow the instructions, it is an immediate disqualification.  For example, some job postings may require a specific job number in the subject line of the email you send.  If that job number is left out, then your email does not make it past the first round of pre-qualifications.  The reason that companies do this is that they are looking to see that people are competent and capable of following simple instructions.  And, they simultaneously weed out the spray and pray people from #1.
  7. Start “the folder” and be prepared to answer the phone whenever/wherever you areA while back I was reading an article about how to buy a new or used car, and it was recommended to have “the folder” and bring it with you to the dealership.  The folder has all kinds of information in it about the cars you want.  Similarly, start a folder about the handful of companies that you have applied with.  Print the job posting.  Print out some basic info about the company. Print out a handful of questions that you have for the phone screener.  Put everything in your folder. Take the folder with you everywhere you go.  This way, you will be prepared for a phone call anytime and anywhere.
  8. Come prepared to the face-to-face interview with questions written outTowards the end of almost every interview, there comes a point where the interviewer will ask, “Do you have any questions for us?”  Some of the most impressive people I have ever interviewed really took advantage of this section of the interview.  This part of the interview is your opportunity to show how interested you are in working there.  Employers are looking for people that are genuinely interested and passionate about joining their team.  Bring a notepad with questions pre-written out.  When that section of the interview comes, take out your notepad and go down your list.  Be careful to NOT ask about compensation… this can go sideways on you as it may sound like you only want the job for a paycheck.Try to ask questions that are not obvious by visiting the company’s website. If you are stumped on what to ask, here are a few ideas to get you started: What is the best part about working here?  Is this a team environment, or more of an environment where people work independently?
  9. Be friendly and likableRemember, you are trying to persuade people to hire you.  Don’t forget to smile and be likable.  You can feel it out a bit with how formal or informal the room is.  If some joking around seems appropriate, a few laughs will usually help too!
  10. Follow up your interview with a hand written Thank You cardMake sure you get the business card of the hiring manager, or the person that you think is most likely the one making the ultimate decision (don’t ask who the decision maker is, but you should be able to figure this out).  Hand write and snail mail a thank you card to the decision maker, and thank them for the opportunity to interview for that position.  Briefly say a few things about what interests you about the company or the position and why.  Drop the thank you card in the mail the same day of the interview.

I hope these job search tips have helped you.  Leave a comment below with any questions, and I’ll do my best to give additional advice. Best of luck to you in your job hunting and searching.  And, remember: luck is where preparation meets opportunity.