Pallet wars: Jacksonville residents buy pallets to resell merchandise

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — It's that time of year when everyone is looking for a deal. Many shop online looking for bargains.

But there are others who wait in line for days to buy merchandise for pennies on the dollar.

Almost every Thursday is Black Friday at Jax Wholesale and Liquidation off Powers Avenue.

Bargain shoppers line up some 50 people deep for a chance to buy pallets piled high with returned and liquidated merchandise from big retail and home improvement stores.

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David Sanders owns the business and runs the warehouse.

He said there are good deals to be had, but buyer beware.

"We don't know what's on a pallet. We don't check them or inspect them. You could have overstock.

You could have shelf pulls, returns, damaged items, salvage. You never know," said Sanders.

Heidi Banks said she's been a customer for years.

She sells on Facebook Marketplace right out of her garage.

"It's like Christmas every day," said Banks.

Customer, Earl Smith sells what he buys at the Beach Boulevard Flea Market.

Smith said he tries to at least double his money on every pallet he buys.

"You have to get here really early to get a spot," said Smith.

The treasure hunt starts in the warehouse parking lot.

Bargain shoppers set up chairs to save their place in line.

Many sleep in their vehicles for days, like Jason Brantley.

"I've been here for two nights sleeping in the back of my truck," said Brantley.

Line position is important because the first few people in the warehouse have their choice of as
many pallets as they want.

Unfortunately, I didn't have days to camp out.

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I get to the warehouse at 5 a.m. the day of the sale and count 27 people who have chairs in front of me.

The doors finally open at 11 a.m. and shoppers rush in single file.

There are rules like no running.

If they catch you, you'll get kicked out.  Also, no touching the pallet.

Some hunters bring a flashlight to get a better look.

I go right for the home improvement pallet.

It looks like some lights and some fans are on it. I quickly pull the ticket.

It sets me back $250.

I try my luck at another pallet.

This one is full off baby merchandise and some small appliances.

That pallet costs $330.

Now it's time to find out if my buys were a boon or a bust.

Flea market veteran Smith helps me out.

First, we unbox the home improvement pallet.

Smith scans every item with his cellphone app to find the retail price.

We find a chandelier that's worth $204 and it's not broken.

Smith says we can sell if for about $100.

We also find some color changing flat panel lights.  They are worth $700.

We can probably resell them for $175.

Smith says we can sell all the items on the pallet for around $800.

Remember, we spent $250.

It was a good deal but the second pallet didn't pay off the same way.

We found a used coffee maker with some coffee residue still in the pot.

We also got a new microwave probably worth $55, a Hot Wheels set that we could resell for $35 and 
a number of baby items like walkers and small cribs.

But you have to watch out for baby merchandise.

"You got to be careful with baby stuff because there could be a recall," says Smith.

The best thing to do is check with the government's recall website.

The profit on the second pallet is only about $70.

Overall we came close to doubling our money with the two pallets combined.

The successful bargain hunters specialize in certain items and already have established customers.

Many bargain hunters meet their buyers in person after advertising on Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace or a flea market.

Others sell online and mail their products.

Remember, shipping costs have to be included in the price of the item.

Here's a tip: If you go to Jax Wholesale and Liquidation for a pallet first look at its Facebook page the night before.

Sanders videotapes the pallets that are for sale and give his opinion of what may be on them. Good luck!!

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