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Solving problems, advanced edition

I must say, the customers that are brave enough to purchase parts from a small independent website like ours seem to be made of heartier stock than their brethren that quietly retreat to the safety of Amazon.com for such purchases.

We know for a fact that those of you that purchase from us directly seem to be better at reading, as you rarely ever return items just because you didn’t fully read our product pages and ordered the wrong item.  On some products on Amazon.com, returns approach 15% of purchases; on our site we sit comfortably south of 1% of total orders being returned.  Even the characters that buy from us on eBay hardly ever return items, so this is definitely an Amazon phenomenon (phenomazon?).

But, there are some Amazon.com returns that are truly based on difficulty with our parts.  Granted, trying to replicate a line of replacement parts on a shoestring that was once developed by a huge corporation is bound to result in some imperfections.  But I give you our website customers credit, you seem to either figure it out or contact us for help (which we dutifully supply in droves) and rarely ever give up and just return the darn things, like your cohorts at Amazon are more likely than not to do if there is an issue.

So we’ve made some changes to try and engage with Amazon.com customers more; we now put stickers on every part with our Gmail address to make it easy for people to contact us for help, and we contact every customer who returns a product (that Amazon will allow us to in their infinite wisdom) to ask what went wrong.

And it turns out, we’ve been able to identify some small issues that are worth noting from al this.

Knobs that won’t screw on easily

Sometimes, the lid knobs just don’t seem to want to screw on.  I suspect it is corrosion on the lid screws that is the ultimate culprit here.  When you see a screw that looks like this, you know there will be trouble.

I suspect the tolerance on our embedded nuts is a little tighter in our latest production run vs prior runs.

Here are some things to try if you are having hard time

  • Use some WD-40 or household lubricating oil
  • Scrub a rusty screw with a green Scotch-Brite pad to try and remove as much of the rust as possible.  A wire brush might also be helpful
  • Push the knob onto the screw to try and engage the threads
  • You can always remove the screw, drill a hole, and use a separate screw from the hardware store, as we detail here, if your screw is too far gone.

If it still doesn’t work, contact us for more help

POH-2 pot handle won’t fit flat against the pot or the holes don’t line up

This one is another head scratcher.  We’ve had a few customers where the handle fits on just fine, but the hole in the handle isn’t line up with the hole in the bracket.

If this happens to you, you can sometimes get the screw to fit in just enough to screw down, and it holds fine.  Another solution is to nibble away at the inside hole of the Bakelite handle with a Dremel tool, or a round file, to provide extra room for the screw; usually you just need another 1/16th of an inch.

We’ve also had customers for whom the handle won’t fit all the way over the bracket. Here is the bracket of one such customer (who also had the hole won’t line up issue).

I measured several brackets from my test pots and they came out at 1.75″ x .5″ x 3/16″ (deep) the same exact measurements as the customers bracket.

In this case I sent her a replacement handle that worked, so it was probably just a little extra Bakelite on the inside of the handle where the bracket fits in that was preventing it from going all the way down. Please don’t hesitate to contact us if you have this problem.  If you are a DIY type person and don’t want to wait for another handle to try, use a Dremel tools to remove some of the Bakelite material from where the bracket fits to get it to seat all the way.

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Shenamazonigans

When a customer returns an item to Amazon, warehouse staff evaluates the item to see if it is OK for resale or not (fulfillable), or they are supposed to. Since we started getting our unfulfillable Amazon returns send back to us, we’ve seen some strange things come back that were supposedly our parts.  Either customers get mixed up and return the wrong item with the wrong label, or people are intentionally returning something different than what they got so they can keep the item.  Probably some of both.

What is troubling though is when the Amazon staff returns things to inventory that are either damaged, missing parts, or the completely wrong thing.

A few months ago we started putting a sticker on all of our parts with our Gmail address so Amazon customers know how to contact us if they have an issue.  We got an email from a customer this morning that seemed really strange.

I only received the yellow part. Missing the brake part of the device

We don’t sell anything yellow and I have no idea what on our parts might be considered the brake part.  So I asked for a picture.

Well the knob looks familiar, but the yellow thing is part of a steering wheel lock.

So it appears that someone ordered that item, and our knob, and returned part of the steering wheel lock and our knob in the same return.  Amazon staff somehow evaluated this combination and found it fit for resale.

As a seller, I find much to be desired with Amazon’s Marketplace for 3rd party sellers.  As a customer, I’ve become more and more cautious about what I buy from Amazon and always try to use a service like Fakespot to vet items.  This one example shows a little bit of all that is wrong with Amazon these days. Clearly, they have chosen quantity over quality, at the expense of customers and sellers.

What I mean is that they have prioritized growth in sales volume, number of sellers, and number of products while making it harder for honest sellers and for customers, and virtually ignoring abusive sellers that do things like massively fabricate reviews and steal other sellers stores and ruin their reputation with cheap knockoff products.

Why would they do this?  Perhaps because they are the 1000 pound gorilla now and they can.  Perhaps because they have been able to deflect criticism thus far and have been taken to task over their failures.  Perhaps because they are making a conscious decision that it would just cost too much to provider better customer service for sellers and to put more effort into cracking down on abuse and fraud.

Last night my wife and I both found the same food for one of our pets, me on Amazon, and she on Chewy.com; same price in both places.  The choice was easy; whenever we can, we will divert our spending to another retailer over Amazon.com.  We still give them a lot of business, but less than we used to.

 

 

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Funny eBay drop shipper listings

If you aren’t familiar with the practice of eBay drop ship listings, sellers take items they can buy off Amazon.com, and list them on eBay for more.  When an order is placed, they simply place an order with Amazon.com with the eBay buyers address as the shipping address.  All this is done behind with automated software, making it very easy for these sellers to list tons of items and handle sales with a minimum of effort.

But of course, they just make money from unsuspecting buyers that don’t know to look directly on Amazon.com for a cheaper price.  Returns can be difficult, and you will get no support from the seller typically.  We recommend you stay away from cheesy looking listings like these on eBay.  But sometimes they can be rather funny in how inept the listings look.

We also do sell some of our more popular parts directly on eBay.

Much of the time when people list products from our Amazon.com listing on eBay, they just copy everything over.  But sometimes, seemingly to attempt to make them more attractive, they embellish them.  I found two such embellished listings that makes it clear the people doing this are just doing it en-masse and don’t really check the content for accuracy or to see if it makes sense.

Okay, great, top seller and fast shipping.  Does anyone really believe claims like that anymore?  It’s like adding L$$K or RARE! to an eBay listing title.  Personally, I avoid all listings like that.  And what exactly do this icons mean in the context of a product like this?

But now look what they’ve done to the content?

I got a chuckle out of that.  I’m guessing that no-one is really buying from listings like that.

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Selling on Amazon; can this be fixed?

The last year has been plagued by issues selling our replacement parts on Amazon.com.  First there was some abuse by a single customer who ordered about 100 parts just so she could go through them and pick the few she wanted with the smallest molding defects, and then returned almost all of them.  We stopped selling on Amazon.com for about a month while we worked to tighten down our sales policies to avoid that type of thing in the future, and while Amazon investigated, and possibly banned her from continuing to purchase there.

Then Amazon started suspending some of our listings due to high return rates.  We did some major revamping of our listings, added lots of photos with circles and arrows and writing to make it explicitly clear exactly what the parts were and were not made for.  Amazon made this very difficult as we had to go through multiple support requests for each part, just to be able to get listing changes approved; the entire process took a month and a half.  We also removed the low volume parts that had high return rates figuring people will just have to get them from our website.

Now they’ve once again suspended our listing for our most popular part, the single screw pot handle, that fits most Revere Ware pots from 1968 through the late 2010’s.  On reviewing our return rate we see that, despite all of our new “educational” material, we are still seeing lots of returns, perhaps even more than before.  And the process to get it restored has become that much more complicated.

I am seriously scratching my head on this one.  We have something like a 1% return rate for sales made from our own website. Because people are forced to contact us before they return something, we have a chance to help solve the problem, and often times, these customers just need a little help figuring things out, and we are able to avoid a return, or we can send them a replacement for a defective part.

For sales on Amazon.com some of the return rates approach 25%.  It seems that there is just no way to convince Amazon.com customers not to order items they aren’t sure will work, or to at least ask questions before ordering. Furthermore, almost no-one contacts us to ask for help before returning a part, despite the fact that we’ve added explicit instructions to most of our listings on how to contact us through Amazon.com.  The only real differences between ordering on our site and Amazon.com is the free shipping.  Free shipping, it seems, causes people to act unreasonably, by ordering things they have no real expectation will work, and making no attempt to get help before giving up.

The real shame of all this is that it makes items unavailable for everyone else.  More and more of our parts are now available on our own website only.

I’m not sure of the path forward this time, but I’ve got a few ideas.

  • Raise the prices on Amazon.com significantly to discourage casual buyers looking for generic parts and that don’t read the details.
  • Start shipping problem items ourselves so that people have to contact us for a return, and we can interact with them.  Not excited about this one; there are a lot of shipments and I already have a day job.
  • Somehow get Amazon.com to stop returning parts deemed defective by customers back into inventory.  Seriously, look at this return report.

Does returning items that customers claim are defective back into inventory strike anyone else as odd?  I can’t help but wonder if quite a few of my returns are the same few defective or customer damaged parts getting sold over and over again.

  • Start stuffing every part with a detailed troubleshooting guide, and contact information.
  • Stop selling on Amazon.com altogether.  I’ve thought about this from time-to-time.  It seems that the majority of time I spend on this business is now related to Amazon.com.  This will probably mean that our sales will drop by about half, but my workload for this business (above and beyond my real day job) will drop by 75% or more.  We ship things to our fulfillment center for our own website sales in boxes, with a cover sheet. We ship things to Amazon.com and every item has to be labeled, and some get an additional insert (to try and help reduce the return rate ha ha).  This is a business of passion much more than profit, so I don’t like the idea of making replacement parts less available to people, but Amazon.com is just not a good partner anymore.

That’s what I’ve come up with so far.  Any Fulfillment by Amazon gurus out there with some other ideas?

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Revere Ware on eBay continues to grow

It was less than two months ago that we bench marked the number of Revere Ware related listing on eBay at just under 13,000.  But now:

Wow.  Just wow.  It is hard to pinpoint exactly what is causing this upsurge to continue at such a rapid rate.  In much of the country, life is slowly getting somewhat back to normal.  Our sales have slowed a little from the holiday high, but still remain far above our typical level as evidenced by this graph of monthly sales for all the years we’ve been in business.

You can see 2020 broke ranks in March / April from prior years and continued at a high level throughout the year, interrupted only when we removed our parts from Amazon.com in October 2020 due to some inappropriate customer behavior.  This year the part has continued, with last months sales more like what a typical December used to be like.

There has been a lot of talk about what changes that were forced upon us by the pandemic will remain.  It seems that cooking at home is still wildly popular by all measures.

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Funny eBay drop-ship listings

I got my dose of humor this morning finding a couple of listings for our parts on eBay.  If you aren’t familiar with drop-shipping arbitrage, it is the practice where people take items for sale off Amazon.com, for example, and list it on eBay for a higher price.  When someone places on order on eBay, they simply execute an order on Amazon.com for the item, thus, getting Amazon.com to “drop-ship” the order for them.

We don’t like the practice at all and have tried reporting these sellers to eBay, as this is a violation of eBay’s policies.  It inflates the price to the buyer, the buyer has no possibility of getting support from us, and we believe the practice results in a higher number of returns that affect our standing with Amazon.com.

Other than that, they are great! 🙂

The first thing I found humorous about the two listings is that they cut off the full title of the product, which makes them rather confusing:

To top that, they chose to replace the actual description with these very interesting one liners.

Trade gasket?  Venerate?

I’m not sure what fusing two sets actually does.

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Whoops, Amazon did it again

Once again we seem to have run afoul of Amazon.com and they removed both of our listings for pot handles, vintage and more modern variety.  These were our top-selling items there, with many hundreds selling every month.

The problem this time is the high return rate; we seem to average between 7-10% of these products being returned, which apparently is too high for Amazon.com.  We’ve had our listings suspended a number of times for the same issue; this time they opted to remove one of the listings, for the single screw pot handle, permanently.

With every previous suspension, we’ve tweaked our listings to try and make it less likely people will buy them just to try them on an item we specifically say it won’t work on.  For some reason, our listing now has reverted to the initial version from quite a few years ago, loosing all of these edits.

The problem with selling on Amazon.com is that they make it extremely hard to get any good information from the customers as to what is wrong.  Here are the comments we got along with returns in February (the few that actually gave us a comment).

  • Big
  • It is not broke, it is not compatible with my pot
  • Product was not what I was expecting and I do not want them.
  • will not fit on my stock pot
  • Par de mango para macetas (which translates to “Pair of potting handles”)

Not very helpful.  And the Fulfillment by Amazon take-it-or-leave-it no questions asked return policy precludes us from having a conversation with customers before a return is authorized, to determine whether there is actually a real problem, with either the product itself, or the products somehow getting damaged through the fulfillment process.  To make things worse, they appear to be returning damaged items back to inventory, such that they get shipped to another customer and rack up yet another return.  Here is just a few returns they processed.

Disposition Customer Return Reason Status
Customer Damaged Product damaged or defective prior to shipping Unit returned to inventory
Customer Damaged Item is defective Unit returned to inventory
Customer Damaged Product is not as described on website Unit returned to inventory

In dispute of the listing removal, we sent Amazon.com a three page brief on everything that was wrong with their service from a sellers perspective.  Ultimately, it was the fact that they appear to be putting defective or damaged items back into inventory that seems to have convinced them to allows us to relist the product.

I seriously doubt there is anything wrong with our actual product; we sell about half as many on our own website as we do on Amazon.com, and rarely ever receive a complaint about these handles not working.  I suspect that when customers have to pay for shipping, and return shipping is not free, people tend to actually do  some due diligence before buying, which probably avoids 99% of the potential issues.

I love the convenience of buying from a business like Amazon.com, but with all the problems from a buyers perspective and a sellers perspective, that I see every day/week/month, I have real concerns about continuing to use Amazon.com as either a buyer or seller.

Like Google, Amazon.com seems impossible to replace.  But complacency has felled many past giants.  Along those lines, for several months now I’ve been participating in a alpha test of a new search engine.  With almost no exceptions, I haven’t needed Google search since I started.  If Google can be replaced for search, it isn’t that hard to believe that an alternative to Amazon.com, for both buyers and sellers, might come along.  Here’s hoping.

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Revere Ware is dead, part 2

We’ve reported previously on the abandonment of the Revere Ware brand in 2018 by the new owners Corelle Inc.  Today we discovered it goes further than just discontinuing the production and sales of the product.

We received an email from Amazon.com that one of our listings was closed due to a suspected trademark violation.

We have removed ASINs that can be found in the Suspected Intellectual Property Violations tab of your Account Health, under the Reason “Potential Trademark Text Misuse”.

That made me look to see what trademarks actually exist for Revere Ware, and I found this:

Wow, all trademarks are dead.  That is actually surprising, as it says that no-one actually sees any remaining value in the Revere Ware brand.

Many of them were cancelled in 2002, 2006, 2010, 2012, 2016, and the last one was dropped in 2019.  Seems like the brand has been dying for some time.

The issue with Amazon.com appears to be them thinking we don’t have the right to sell under the brand RevereWareParts.com.

The brand RevereWareParts.com mentioned in the product detail page of the ASIN B001U2E1DY seems to be incorrect.

Hmm.  Well hopefully this page placed on our website is proof enough to them that we own the brand.

Update: Turns out what they objected to was this product listing title:

Revere Ware Pan/skillet 2-screw Handle Replacement Hardware Set (Med, Lg, X-lg Handles) (Two Sets)

They claim that Lg (which is shorthand for Large) infringes on the brand LG.  Just how to you respond to that kind of silliness?

 

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Amazon.com product listing update

We’ve started relisting some of our products on Amazon.com.  As we relist items there, we are adjusting our listings to accommodate the increases in risk and difficulty that selling on Amazon.com has acquired in the last few years.

We want to accommodate customers that prefer prime shipping and not having to buy from a small independent seller they don’t know (it’s ok, we don’t take it personally).  But Amazon.com in their quest to be come everything to buyers, has become somewhat of a snake pit for sellers.  We’ll do our best, but buying our products on Amazon.com might be a little less convenient and a little more expensive.

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Say goodbye to the eBay drop shippers

We’ve never been fond of the people who sell our products on eBay by drop-shipping them from Amazon.  They do this by listing our products on eBay for higher then they sell for on Amazon.com, and then when an item sells on eBay, they place an order for it on Amazon.com. But they just cut and paste our product information, which misses any updates, and don’t provide any support. There were 160 different listings of our best selling parts on eBay at one point.

But now that we’ve delisted our products from Amazon.com, all of the listings for our products on eBay are gone.  I can’t say we are disappointed.

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