Enough with the Russian roulette, Amazon!


#1

First, let me say I have had no problems yet, but as a seller I am intimidated by the general threat of account cancellation if I happen to try to sell the wrong products. I’m talking about manufacturers who don’t want anyone selling their products other than their distributors. Personally I think that is Restraint of Trade, but that is a topic for another time. I’m not talking about knock-offs - that is a legitimate problem - but genuine items that for some reason manufacturers think they can keep from being sold. Everyone knows about branded clothing and Dr. Dre, but what about humdrum Kitchenware or Toys? What about knives, blenders, Espresso machines, bowls? They all have brand names too.

As I try to expand my inventory I find that I have great fear of an account suspension by Amazon for inadvertently listing the wrong product. There is no list I can consult of manufacturers who object, nor is there any guidance on how to tell if a product is “protected”. For sellers it is basically Russian roulette where we spin the cylinder and pull the trigger whenever we add a new product. Neither do I want to invest in new inventory when it may not be sellable on Amazon, and there is no way to know!

Does anyone have any advice on how to tell which manufacturers do this? Does Amazon have a list? Is the current punishment really proportional to the violation when there are no guidelines or lists?


#2

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> Does anyone have any advice on how to tell which manufacturers do this? Does Amazon have a list? Is the current punishment really proportional to the violation when there are no guidelines or lists?

First, realize that we hear about a disproportionate number of problems here, because this is where people come when they have problems. Many sellers never have problems. I’ve been here 11 years without any major problems.

Second, the only trick to Amazon is GET APPROVED BEFORE YOU LIST. List first/ask later is a suicide mission on Amazon. If you have any question about the brand, then ask Seller Performance (NOT Seller Support) in WRITING (not phone) about the brand. Then you at least have a CYA notification.

The other thing to be aware of is that I personally think the days of Retail Arbitrage on Amazon are waning down. Manufacturers have a leverage here with Amazon they don’t have with eBay, and they are using it. First Sale only gives you the right to sell something you own. It doesn’t guarantee you a venue to sell it on, and it doesn’t guarantee that you can offer it as NEW – in fact, First Retail Sale basically automatically changes New to Used (ask any car dealer). The fact that it has gone on for so long on eBay and Amazon doesn’t change that fact, it just means it wasn’t being enforced. You can slide with things at a Flea Market that you can’t get away with on a National Platform. Manufacturers are using the “we won’t honor the warranty from unauthorized sellers” card, and they are absolutely within their rights to do so. Manufacturers have always tried to control distribution channels. The way around that is obvious–become an Authorized Retailer.

No one said Amazon was easy. If someone told you it was, they lied. Amazon is extremely complex.

As far as brands, no, Amazon doesn’t communicate that well, but that isn’t going to change. However, there are several brand lists posted on these forums, and most of us long timers can answer questions about specific ones. But Amazon can also change the game on a dime – like restricting Frozen – or up their enforcement – like the current Health Purge (which, IMHO, was long overdue even if it has erred on being too broad) – and all you can do is roll with those. That’s part of selling on Amazon, and if you aren’t comfortable with that, it’s not a good venue for you. It’s also a good idea to have a diversification of venues so that if one venue closes, you still have channels to sell that merchandise.

HTH.


#3

I specifically excluded knock-offs and counterfeits because I knew that would be one of the first responses even though that is not the issue. I would prefer that this thread not turn into an off-topic discussion about knock-offs.

There are two components to my observation:

  1. there are 'secret rules" that sellers must follow, and
  2. the consequences of a violation of those rules are extreme - cancellation of accounts.

And the Secret Rules are essentially arbitrary and unknowable. If I sell a Dura-Ace bicycle wheel I am fine, but if I sell a Shimano bicycle wheel my account is suspended (I made those up, who knows if either of those manufacturers “protect” their products?)

Sellers need some way to know in advance of risking their accounts.


#4

>It doesn’t guarantee you a venue to sell it on, and it doesn’t guarantee that you can offer it as NEW – in fact, First Retail Sale basically automatically changes New to Used (ask any car dealer).

Sorry but that is not a good example. This wives’ tale often stated about not being able to sell goods on Amazon as “New” is bogus. Auto sales are special because they are covered by special laws in every state. Normal Goods for Sale fall under different laws. Items are new until purchased by the end-user. They can pass through many hands in the supply chain without becoming “used”.

>That’s part of selling on Amazon, and if you aren’t comfortable with that, it’s not a good venue for you.
Excuse me again Marilyn, but that is total baloney. We are not at an amusement park here, this is a business and we have a business relationship with Amazon. Secret Rules with suspension the consequence is not professional behavior by Amazon.


#5

When you open up a B&M shop, and you want to sell brand name products, you approach a distributor or the manufacturer directly to purchase the products. Most distributors will facilitate any contractual agreements between you and the manufacturer. i.e. you are approved to sell the product in a retail environment.

Amazon is no different.

Spare me the “we don’t need to get approval to sell in our own store, we can buy from XXXXYYYYY down the street and sell what we want in our own store.” Well, yes and no. Most of the time major manufacturers won’t come knocking on your door for selling their product without any authorization, but if you are found out expect a call from their lawyers.

i.e. You sell Samsung television sets. You put up a Samsung sign in the front and portray yourself as a dealer. You buy returns and overstock and sell the deal of the day stuff. A Samsung rep is driving down the street, notices your sign and walks in and asks to see you dealer contract/license. If you don’t provide him with one you can expect litigation quickly. Nothing legally is standing in your way from selling Samsung products you bought elsewhere. It doesn’t matter, litigation will follow.

It’s the exact same thing on Amazon.

You have to clear your brands you wish to sell. You have to clear the venues you wish to sell them on. You can’t just go and sell them anywhere you see fit and expect the brand owners to roll over and let you.

There is no “master list” of manufacturers at the local Chamber of Commerce or City Hall to show you which manufacturers you need to approach and become approved vendors for. Why would you expect that from Amazon?

Do your homework people. This is business.


#6

I don’t really know anything about this stuff, but this is just what one brand (Merrell) told me.

+“Once you purchase our product we have no control over what you do with it. If you are selling a couple pairs on those sites you would not be in the wrong. If you are selling many products on those sites we would consider you an unauthorized retailer”.+

So I asked them: If one is an unauthorized dealer, is that not allowed, or the unauthorized dealer could just not claim to be authorized?

And this was their response:

+“Any products purchased from an unauthorized retailers have no guarantee. We do not promote the resale of our products by un-authorized retailers. We do not promote the sale of our shoes on resale web-sites, so they would not be authorized.”+

(Basically beating around the bush.)


#7

I don’t think Amazon will ever publish an official list, it would move the responsibility from the seller to Amazon. I admit this would be a great service to sellers, but bound to be inaccurate. Then what happens, Amazon buys all your unsalables?

I don’t mean to flame, but this seems to be a grey market issue mostly. If you are dealing directly with the manf, it lessens the risk. Most of the legit touchiness from manf seems to be around the subjects of knockoff, manufacturer warranties, and manf MAP, which are all only really solved by being in the “authorized” chain.

Depending upon the category, sellers may also have additional responsibilities with product recall and safety issues, which is tough to do if you don’t have a connection with the manf or the distributor. No way Amazon takes that on for a sellers baby products.

The current system is scary.


#8

The rules will remain secret, it’s embedded in the business model of letting the sellers get away with anything until called on it by a third party.
Amazon has no absolutely no problem whatsoever with making a profit off products that manufacturers want to protect. It’s only when those manufacturers complain and threaten legal proceedings do they take action. Amazon then can claim they are not responsible for the sellers, meanwhile reaping the benefits as long as not called on it by the manufacturer. So even if they know there is a potential problem, they will not do anything about it unless and until necessary.


#9

To OP: Well said.

To Admin: I’d really like to hear an admin tell us what Amazon may be doing to fix this.

To Jeff: This is why I don’t invest more money in your company.


#10

Hi Marilyn,
Thank you also for the detailed answer. I have a few DVDs that I have not listed and are sitting in a box. I am not sure if they are authorized property of anyone’s and do not want to get in trouble. How/who do you ask if you are allowed to list these DVDs? I would have to create a listing for them. One is on deer hunting and the other on pitching in baseball. I think they would be of interest to someone, but again, do not want to infringe on anyone else’s rights. Last year, I got a warning to remove a listing (which I did, right away) because it was someone else’s intellectual property. Don’t want to repeat that again.


#11

Very well-thought-out answer, Marilyn. Not really what anyone WANTS to hear, but a very good assessment of Reality on the River and how to take steps to protect yourself.

Read the forums, find the brand lists others have reported, move away from arbitrage, ask questions of the right people and keep up with Notifications on front page of Seller Central, nt to mention reviewing ever-changing help pages regularly avoids 99 percent of problems, at least.

To survive and make money here, we have to deal with the way things are, and hope someday they are more the way we want them to be. Petitions, lawsuits, “my rights” won’t get you very far.

Proceed with caution and try to do quick turnovers at FBA so you put less inventory at risk, and for the moment, proceed with extreme caution in Health and Beauty, which is under siege.

I hope newbies take your advice seriously since you probably have as much if not more experience than anyone here.

Style


#12

> Do your homework people. This is business.
Lol, how pretentious. But the problem with your theory is that it is Amazon punishing the sellers, not the manufactures. AMAZON suspends our accounts, not the manufacturer. AMAZON prevents us from selling ANY other items, not just the Samsung tvs. AMAZON shuts down our business if we violate the Secret Unknowable Rules.


#13

I agree completely, booksrus, the key being “unless and until necessary”. I think the idea expressed elsewhere that “that’s the way it is, get used to it” is not a good one. Unless we, as partners with Amazon, express out dissatisfaction with the way Amazon does things then things will never change.

Unless we say “Amazon, please change the system where the consequence of making a minor mistake is account suspension”, it will never change. Squeaky wheel.


#14

I disagreed with you on a couple of your points, but here is one that is very helpful.

So if I read this correctly, Seller Performance has a list. Thank you, very helpful.


#15

+Unless we say “Amazon, please change the system where the consequence of making a minor mistake is account suspension”, it will never change. Squeaky wheel.+

We are not Amazon’s partners. In some cases we are Amazon’s competitor. Amazon uses us to get themselves to the next level and we use Amazon to make money. As long as we both get out of it what we want, the system works.
Toys R Us would not consider themselves a partner. The large big box store that couldn’t find success here and have moved off the venue, wouldn’t see themselves as a partner.

The squeaky wheel will more likely be suspended, the quite wheel is that might get the most attention. If enough sellers move to 11Main, eBay, Etsy, Walmart, etc. Amazon and the share holders will notice and Amazon will need to make changes to draw the 3Ps back to their venue.
At this point there is no need for them to change. We are willing to be abused, if it means we might make a buck.
I don’t think you will get any argument that Amazon needs to improve their seller service.


#16

They don’t pre-vet sellers, so why expect them to pre-vet every manufacturer? Even if they wanted to do it, the task of vetting every manufacturer may be impractical even for an enormous corporation like Amazon.
So it is seller’s responsibility to do the vetting, unless the seller wants to take the legal risk.


#17

It’s called CYA. Amazon is SHOCKED that any of their sellers would be so unethical and obviously never made any money off such awful behavior.
It’s the same with Amazon’s approach to buyers. A seller can say anything in his listings, there are absolutely no edits or controls whatsoever. Amazon is very happy to collect its percentage on the listings, no matter how misleading or false, until the buyer complains.


#18

Amazon is not going to publish a list because that would severely cut back on the number of offers, which would severely cut back on their commissions. They want as many offers as possible. If they have to snipe a few sellers to keep a manufacturer happy, so be it. But no one should pretend Amazon doesn’t know half of the offers in non-media are from “unauthorized dealers”.


#19

Unfortunately they aren’t going to share it.


#20

> I agree completely, booksrus, the key being “unless and until necessary”. I think the idea expressed elsewhere that “that’s the way it is, get used to it” is not a good one. Unless we, as partners with Amazon, express out dissatisfaction with the way Amazon does things then things will never change.

Amazon is not a union environment. They will not change because sellers are dissatisfied.

Marilyn and Manely wrote well thought out explanations. You are expected to be authorized to sell what you sell just like you would be expected to be authorized to sell in your B&M store. We are now getting to a point where manufacturers are restricting products sold online just like they restrict their products in B&Ms.

Amazon will not ever disclose a list nor admit there is a list if there is one because that would place liability on them. The way they are set up, they have no liability for sellers who do illegal activities. They expressly state that sellers are responsible for ensuring the products they sell are legal. If something is found not to be legal, the seller is the one that bares the consequences, not Amazon.

People who have retail business experience know these rules. People who don’t understand retail business and “just sell online” don’t even know these rules exist.