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Saying goodbye to Amazon

We recently sent what will likely be our last shipment of parts to the Amazon marketplace, for at least a while, as we get closer to our summer sales pause.

If you wish to purchase any of our parts from Amazon, you may want to do so sooner than later; many of them currently have less than a months worth of inventory remaining.

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The plague of Amazon return theft

I’m glad someone is finally reporting on the phenomenon.

Amazon’s liberal no-questions-asked return policy is, at best, prone to mistakes, and at worst, prone to abuse.

It works like this: someone orders and expensive item from Amazon and then returns it, but substitutes something cheaper in the return box, and claims they returned the part as they should have.  The buyer then keeps the expensive item, or, in the case of organized theft rings, they sell it on another marketplace, or even Amazon.com itself, to turn it into cash.

The biggest part of this problem is that Amazon will often blindly put things back into inventory without even the most cursory of inspections or validations, so the merchant may not find about the theft until some time later when a customer complains they got the wrong thing.  If this happens a lot, Amazon may even suspend the seller due to “excessive problems”, to add insult to injury.  But it gets worse, as Amazon’s seller support is notoriously poor, as you can tell by our difficulties with the hijacking of our listings.

We’ve had some very strange things returned instead of our products at times.  I presume because our parts aren’t incredibly expensive, people aren’t intentionally substituting cheaper goods for our parts.  But they often return damaged parts or parts that are missing something.  Amazon simply does very little checking of returned items, and it causes all kinds of problems.  A single item that is returned damaged or missing parts can then go to several other customers in the next few months, leading to bad reviews and excessive complaints.

As a seller, I can’t see us continuing to stay with Amazon unless they significantly improve the return process, to the benefit of sellers, and their seller support.

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Brand hijacking on Amazon; beginning of the end?

The latest threat to this business is unsavory Amazon sellers hijacking our product listings.  Here is what a normal listing on Amazon looks like.  Notice that we are listed a the brand.

Here is one of the (so far) six hijacked product listings.

The product listings haven’t been altered yet, but I have no doubt this game is about replacing the product I sell with another one on the same listing, and tricking people into believing the ratings and reviews are for the new product.

With the items now associated with another brand, we have to “ask for permission” to be able to send products for sale, so this prevents us from shipping additional inventory.

The only way Amazon allows people to prevent this is by registering a trademark and creating an official brand on Amazon with the trademark.  Sounds simple but the last trademark application I was involved with took several years, multiple submissions, and tens of thousands in attorneys fees; they aren’t as simple as they seem.

This doesn’t bode well for the future my of selling Revere Ware replacement parts.  As dealing with Amazon (excessive returns, customers with attitude that don’t bother reading anything, poor customer service, ridiculous policies, removed listings, hijacked listings) becomes more and more of a hassle, I just can’t see continuing to sell items there.  I’ve already stopped selling a half dozen of our parts there due to excessive returns.  If our few big sellers get hijacked and we can no longer send inventory, that’s probably the end of Amazon selling.

Without the Amazon sales volume, the rest of the business doesn’t make a lot of sense for the effort.

We’ll see how it goes this time around with their support.  If I am unable to get any help in this, it is probably the beginning of the end for this business.  I can imagine winding things down by the end of this year.  Being able to take a vacation without answering customer service emails might be a nice change. 🙂

So consider this a warning shot, our replacement parts might not be available much longer.  Stay tuned.

Update 2/12/24

Oh what a mess Amazon’s support is.  A case filed under one issue type they told me to file it under another issue type.  Then that case they told me it would be transferred to another group that could help and I would be contacted but wasn’t.  Then I opened a new case and they told me to file under the account health dashboard | listing policy violation. This approach managed to get three of the six listings transferred back to my brand ownership, but the other three just kept coming back as “no violation found”.  I am now six replies deep in another filed case trying to get them to get a clue.  For example, a typical response from Amazon:

We cannot make the suggested brand change to ASIN B017GRFQBW B0170TXUNM B0170TEWUW.

Kindly note that the detail page associated with this ASIN is controlled by the brand owner. Any product-related information on this ASIN must be submitted by the brand owner.

Right, that is exactly the problem I had to remind them for the umpteenth time.  So I am still in limbo on three of my listings, hoping for the best.

 

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Wooden cookware handles?

I was looking to help someone find a generic replacement handle solution for a 90’s era Revere Ware pot, and did a search on Amazon.  Much to my surprise, they were a lot of results for wooden replacement handles and knobs.  I wonder what is driving the sudden foray into making replacement handles out of wood.

Granted, wood is a good insulator and some people have turned to wood to craft a bespoke replacement handle when he couldn’t find one.  But still, is this a trend being driven by something else?  Is there new cookware that is suddenly popular that has wooden handles and knobs?  I wonder.

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You’ve got to love Amazon customers

Reviewing returns on Amazon today, I just had to laugh.

In short, customer returns product and blames us because our website description was not accurate; the product wasn’t compatible with Rena Ware and we should have said so.  Here is our listing on Amazon.

Yes, we clearly need to fix that listing. 🙂

Here is another one.

Hmm.  What does the listing say about no screws:

Ah, it says there are no screws.

The sad thing is that every time a customer doesn’t bother reading the listing and ends up returning an item, it gets us one step closer to Amazon removing our listing for too many returns.  🙁

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Amazon and the INFORM Act

You might think I am obsesses about Amazon given how much I write about them.  Consider though what a big part of everyone’s lives they have become in the last decade.  If you buy stuff, it is far more likely than not you buy at least some stuff from Amazon.  My household has done a lot of shopping on Amazon and I can trace my first purchase back to 1997.

Buying on Amazon is not without its challenges, and we all know that the reviews are almost always gamed and can not be trusted.  (I religiously use Fakespot for new purchase.)

But as a seller, I get a unique perspective on just how self-centered Amazon is, and how poorly they treat their sellers.  Part of the problem is that they extend far too generous terms in order to get people to compulsively buy from them.  Much of the brunt of this falls to sellers.  For example, too-generous return policy means buyers often just order things without bothering to read any of the listings, thinking they will just return it if it doesn’t work.  The downside of this is that sellers items get delisted if the % of returns are too high.  Sometimes this just means you have a product that people think will work in ways that it won’t and no amount of information in the list that people don’t read will change this.

Well this week two more things happened that made me think of the ridiculousness of Amazon.  The first is this removal I received yesterday.  A removal is a return that is considered not-resellable that the seller has opted to have sent back rather than destroyed.

Bakelite is a brittle material, so, packing like that (yes there was zero padding) isn’t the greatest.  Is this how they ship my products?

Secondly, Amazon has been really screwing up this required verification for the INFORM Act.  They first sent me such a request a month ago.

So I dutifully did as they asked.  Two weeks later, I got the same email.  This time, I went to the seller verification page and saw this:

Unfortunately that tells me nothing about what I need to provide additionally.  So I opened a case to ask what I needed to do.  Mind you, just opening a case with Amazon is a chore because they make you go through this process where they try to get you to accept some help information instead of contacting them, and it is hard to get to the point where you can open a case.  Eventually I got this response to my request.

Hello,

We have received your inquiry, but we cannot provide support on this matter.

Why is this happening?
Your account has been deactivated because you have yet to complete your registration. If that is the case, you will continue to have limited access to your selling account until you complete all pending tasks.

Say what?  They can’t help at all and instead deactivated my account.  I’ve been a seller in good standing for 14 years now.

I angrily responded and eventually got them to help.

Hello,

We reviewed the documents that you provided and were able to complete your verification process. You can now sign in to Seller Central and start selling on Amazon.

We’re here to help
If you have any further questions, you can contact Selling Partner Support:
https://sellercentral.amazon.com/cu/contact-us

The Seller Identity Verification team

Thank you for selling with Amazon,

Well thank goodness.  But here we are two weeks later and I get another seller verification email.  I’m not sure why they need to again verify my.

I am debating with myself on whether Amazon in this regard is just inept, malicious, or just don’t care about seller.

 

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Amazon listings – another one bites the dust

If you’ve read our blog at all, you know we’ve got a lot to say about the deficiencies of Amazon’s seller marketplace, from the sellers perspective.

Oh Amazon

Shenamazonigans

Selling on Amazon; can this be fixed?

Whoops, Amazon did it again

Amazon.com and suspended listings

Amazon feedback – don’t believe what you read

That’s just a select few.

Well they did it again, with our replacement gasket for vintage pressure cookers.  The listing has been suspended and can not be reactivated.

By my calculations, over the last 12 months, 34 of 172 gaskets we’ve sold on Amazon.com have been returned; almost 20%.  The root of the return problem is Amazons excessively generous return policy; this motivates most customers not bother with the minimum amount of due diligence before ordering.  Combine that with the fact that Amazon routinely returns items to inventory that customers claimed were damaged, and you have the perfect storm for high returns, and the delisting of specialized replacement parts like ours.

It does appear that perhaps Amazon is taking some baby steps in the right direction.  Last month, they announced that they will start flagging items with high return rates with a “frequently returned item” tag.  I’m not sure if this is meant to truly help the problem or just mark certain items with a scarlet letter.

In any event, while we’ve tried to keep as many of our parts as possible available on Amazon for the convenience of the buyer, the headache of dealing with high returns for an items with modest sales just isn’t worth it; I am somewhat relieve to let this one go.

 

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Amazon shows they don’t care about the customer with Amazon Day shenanigans

Have you noticed your Amazon orders taking longer than expected lately?  You order a 1-day or 2-day item and it comes several days late?  Amazon’s forced enrollment in Amazon Day might be the reason.

Amazon Day allows you to bunch up your ordered items to be delivered on a single day, in fewer boxes.  It’s a nice option for people that want it, but, beware; if you enroll it it, there appears to be no going back.  In some cases, like with our Amazon account, it can get turned on by itself, and is enabled even when settings say it is not.

If you go to your account settings, you can find your Amazon Day settings.

Now, from looking at our Amazon Day settings, you could be excused for thinking it is turned off.  That doesn’t seem to be the case.  For example, we go to order an item that shows free 2-day delivery.

But on checkout, it defaults to the following Saturday.

I spoke with Amazon customer support and they confirmed there is no way to turn Amazon Day off.  The settings appear to be completely non-functional other than the day selection (although ours shows no day selected and it is using Saturday).

I can only imagine that Amazon is forcing this on customers because most customers will fail to notice the less expedient option is chosen, or get tired of the extra hassle to use them (see below), and Amazon will save money shipping less boxes.  It seems really disingenuous to force this option on customers with no way to cancel it.

Seems strange for the company that “invented” (or at least patented) 1-click ordering to force customers to use more clicks to checkout.  The solution is to be vigilant and chose the speedier delivery option upon checkout.

If you are ordering with 1-click on a mobile app they really try to hide the option.  Click on the date area to bring up the delivery options.

Then click on the FREE Prime Delivery option.

Now here is where it gets a little strange.  You just clicked on the FREE Prime Delivery options, but it takes you to another screen where you again have to make that selection.

Hmm.  Didn’t I just select Tuesday delivery?

The fact that they make you click three more times, combined with the fact that just changing the shipping speed takes an exceptionally long time on both the mobile and desktop versions, I can only think Amazon is trying really hard here to make not using the Amazon Day delivery option really difficult.

As an Amazon marketplace seller, I’ve gotten used to Amazon foisting really unfriendly policies on sellers that help their bottom line, but this move seems just downright sleazy.  Shame on you Amazon.

Update: The deceit is much worse than I thought.  Today I tried to place a 1-click order.  Three times I clicked on the more immediate date, and three times it took me back to the confirmation window with the Amazon Day date shown as the delivery date.  It would appear they have made the area you can click on so specific, clicking anywhere else assumes you are keeping the same options.  On the fourth try, I apparently clicked on just the right spot to select the faster delivery, and it took me to the regular checkout screen with a message that my delivery options had been updated, and yet, the Amazon Day delivery was still selected.

Does the portend some kind of extreme desperation on Amazon’s part to reduce costs?  Is the post-pandemic slowdown causing them to freak-out about costs and take extreme measure to contain them?

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Oh Amazon

I think these two returns from Amazon customers do a great job showing how ridiculous they can be sometimes.

This has been an ongoing problem with Amazon.  They periodically remove listings claiming high return rates, but are returning clearly defective items back to inventory to be resold again and again.  Sigh.

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Hello (again) Canada!

We already sell to Canadian customers from our website, but shipping is a little ridiculous; that’s just the way the postage is between the USPS and Canada Post.  But now, it looks like Amazon.com has automatically opted us in to selling on Amazon.ca from our US based inventory. Woo hoo!

You can find all of our active listings there, so enjoy, Canadian customers.

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