In October, the business that we have been operating on Amazon for the past 7 years was healthy.
But for the holiday season Amazon gave itself the Buybox on our private label product, which we have never provided directly to Amazon or ANY other seller, or vendor, ever. (We are a very small business making a modest living selling our own products through FBA.) And now Amazon is selling thousands of counterfeit units (“sold by and shipped from Amazon.com”) of our top product while our sales have dropped to virtually zero.
Over the years, we have stayed afloat in spite of copycat products, cheap Chinese sellers undercutting our business, competitors who literally copied and pasted our product descriptions, etc.
We never imagined that the greatest threat to our business would be Amazon.com itself hijacking our manufactured products.
For the first time ever, having lost out on the multi-deca-thousand holiday revenues we can usually expect, we will end the year in debt, with negative net revenues, unable to meet obligations on our current manufacturing orders, and very, very likely (though we will try hard to prevent this) we are probably going to have to go out of business.
So how did this happen?
We opened a seller case when we first noticed Amazon had the Buybox, and Amazon did not respond to that case for over a MONTH. Instead, once a week they sent a message saying they were reviewing the case (they weren’t) and would respond within 3-7 days.
I wasn’t too concerned initially, because the Amazon warehouse had mis-received as many as 375 units over the previous months. I assumed they had simply located those units and were selling them off.
But as the holiday season began in earnest, and our sales were zero, I realized that, no, there was actually a real problem here.
Finally after a series of phone calls, today Amazon confirmed a terrible possibility that we had never even considered: Amazon had procured a large number of units (how many they won’t say) from one of their vendors (which vendor they won’t say) and are actually selling counterfeit units of our private label product.
I confirmed with the factory that makes these for us that they have never made this exact configuration of dice for any other customer, and that providing our product with our label on it to anyone other than us is something that has never happened, and could never happen. They have procedures in place that make this impossible. And if it wasn’t impossible, they would still never do this!
So the big question is, does Amazon know they are selling counterfeit units?
They have a record of the fact that it was OUR business account that created that product listing, uploaded photographs, typed in the product description. They can see that it has been our business account that has been the sole seller of this product for years. That when new photographs got added, it was us who added them, us who updated the product description. They know that the name of our business is High City Books, that when they pay into our bank account, they’re paying High City Books. They know that we created every product under the High City Books brand. They know we’re the only seller of those products. They know our website is highcitybooks.com. They know our email address is email@example.com.
So when Amazon says in their counterfeit policy “It is each seller’s responsibility to source and sell only authentic products” it’s weird that they clearly made NO effort to source this product from us, the company they know created this product and was until now the only seller of it. They made NO effort to check with us to see if the products they were purchasing from their mystery vendor were authentic.
And when we opened a case and tried to communicate with them, they seemingly made every effort to stall and frustrate our attempts to find out more information.
This case was open for weeks and weeks. And I see no reason why they couldn’t have informed us “Yes, we are selling these on purpose, no, these are not lost units. We purchased these from vendor XYZ who says they sourced them from you. Is that not the case?” After, at MOST, a couple of days.
Had they done so, perhaps we could have cleared this up quickly. In time for us to still have had a successful holiday season, end the year in the black, and able to meet our current manufacturing obligations.
Keep in mind, for 7 years we have followed literally every rule that Amazon has. We have glowing reviews from customers. We’re green in every metric. We have a stellar reputation among the community we serve. This business was a dream. It really was a dream.
I would say “Don’t let this happen to you,” but if Amazon.com wants to hijack your product, sell counterfeit units, and ignore your communications while your business falls apart suddenly, with no forewarning and for no reason you could have predicted, I really don’t see what you can do to stop it.
Any ideas, please let me know. Especially regarding what kind of documentation Amazon would accept as proof that we have never authorized anyone else to sell this product.
We’ll do whatever we can.
The timing of this taking place in November/December is really devastating though. If we can get Amazon to stop selling the counterfeit units tomorrow I’m still not sure we will recover. We may not.
Thanks for lending an ear, guys and gals. Best wishes to all of you. I’m rooting for all of you and I hope you have better luck.
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