Monday, May 15, 2017

Using Consumer Arbitration with Amazon

Disclaimer:  Arbitration is not for everyone.  It is possible that Amazon may retaliate against those who file arbitration against them.  While easily identifiable retaliation will cause Amazon legal headaches, retaliation can come in more subtle ways that are hard/impossible to prove. For these reasons, arbitration against Amazon for active sellers may be a last case scenario (For example, someone who has been permanently suspended).


A bit of introduction: Alexender Bachuwa is a lawyer who has experience in consumer arbitration.  He writes a column for Frequent Miler called The Fine Print.  While Alex is a lawyer, the following is not legal advice.  Anyone who requires further information can contact Alex at his website.



Overview
As a points enthusiast and travel blogger, I am constantly seeking the most efficient strategies to accrue points. I learned about reselling from this and other blogs and was intrigued. That excitement quickly faded as I realized how much work it takes to be successful in this arena. As readers of this blog know, reselling is often a full-time job that can be both demanding and grueling. It is not for the lazy and it is not for those looking to get rich quick. On the other hand, those successful at mastering the art of reselling can earn a decent living. My appreciation for those engaged in reselling prompted my outrage when I learned of the number of complaints against Amazon, the reseller’s most used marketplace. 

Complaints

The typical complaints against Amazon include the following:

1) Items lost or damaged in shipment to Amazon.  Resellers send in 10 units but Amazon’s accounting only shows 5. Amazon reimburses the reseller only after the seller asks.

2) Items lost or damaged in Amazon fulfillment centers or damaged via carrier. Most of the time will not reimburse you until you ask. 

3) Reimbursements are less than it should be. Sometimes Amazon will give you something standardized for a category, like $25 for an Apple watch.  Other times it is just less than it should be based on current sales price and/or sales history. You usually will get a higher reimbursement if you appeal

4) Accepting returns that violate return policies. It is one thing when Amazon does this with its own money, but it is entirely another to do it when Amazon is taking away from the seller’s money.  For example, accepting returns after 30 days or when there is no UPC is a typical complaint.

Fighting Back

a.    Audit Companies: Many resellers have no choice but to hire audit companies to hold Amazon accountable for its actions. These companies charge steep monthly fees or a percentage of recovery to remedy problems that should not occur in the first place. For sellers facing significant losses, these fees are chalked up as a necessary business expense. It should not come as a surprise that Amazon is looking to ban resellers who employee the service of these firms.


b.    Consumer arbitration: For those that read The Fine Print on Frequent Miler, you know that I am a big proponent of consumer arbitration. Consumer arbitration was invented by powerful corporations in order to put an end to costly class-action lawsuits. For that reason, many consumers have doubts as to the efficacy of the process. Those doubts are misguided. I have successfully filed claims against Citi, Dell, eBay, among others (see Case Results) using consumer arbitration as the mechanism to seek relief.

The Amazon Consumer Arbitration Clause 

Amazon has a consumer arbitration provision that reads as follows:

Any dispute relating in any way to your use of this or any other Amazon Services will be resolved by binding arbitration as described in this “Disputes” section, rather than in court. An arbitrator can award on an individual basis the same damages and relief as a court (including injunctive and declaratory relief or statutory damages), and must follow the provisions of these Terms of Use as a court would. 

Payment of all filing, administration and arbitrator fees will be governed by the AAA's rules. We will reimburse those fees for claims totaling less than $10,000 unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous. Likewise, Amazon will not seek attorneys' fees and costs from you in arbitration unless the arbitrator determines the claims are frivolous.

The key takeaways from this clause is that Amazon will cover the expenses of the process and that the consumer can seek the same relief as he or she would in court.

The Solution

If you are a consumer whose livelihood depends on your reselling business or if you are consumer who casually resells to earn points, you have a right to hold Amazon accountable. And the way to do so is by filing a complaint in consumer arbitration.


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Monday, April 24, 2017

Turn On Two Step Verification for Your Amazon Account

Lately, there have been a rash of hackings on Amazon accounts.  Once the hackers are in, they will change your bank account and siphon the money into their account.  In addition, many times they will start selling items that are bogus, make some quick money, siphon that, and then cause many problems to your account.   It becomes hard to get your money back and get your account reinstated.

Often, these are on dormant account.  An account will have it's last review in 2014 and then 5 bad reviews now saying never received item or item is fake.  That being said, it can happen to an active account too.

Last week I received this message from Amazon.


Hello,

At Amazon we take your security and privacy very seriously. As part of our routine monitoring, we discovered a list of email addresses and passwords posted online. While the list was not Amazon-related, we know that many customers reuse their passwords on multiple websites. Since we believe your email addresses and passwords were on the list, we have assigned a temporary password to your Amazon.com account out of an abundance of caution.

You will need to reset your password when you return to the Amazon.com site. To reset your password, click "Your Account" at the top of any page on Amazon.com. On the Sign In page, click the "Forgot your password?" link to reach the Amazon.com Password Assistance page. After you enter your email or mobile phone number, you will receive an email containing a personalized link. Click the link from the email and follow the directions provided.

Your new password will be effective immediately. We recommend that you choose a password that you have never used with any website.

You can also enable Amazon's Two-Step Verification, a feature that adds an extra layer of security to your account. In addition to entering your password, Two-Step Verification requires you to enter a unique security code during sign in. To learn more about Two-Step Verification, go to Amazon.com Help, go to Managing Your Account, and click More in Managing Your Account, and then click More under Account Settings.

Sincerely,

Amazon.com

This e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. To contact us, please visit the Help section of our website.



The solution is simple.  Turn on Two-Step notification.  I had resisted doing it but this email was enough for me.  All you need to do is go to Settings>Log in Settings from with in your account and you will find the instructions there

Once two step notification is on, you will need to receive a text message with a code in order to log in to your account.

You can set it so that on computers you recognize you don't need to keep doing that but it should keep hackers much further away from your account.


As always, stay safe out there!

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

FBA Temperature Sensitive Deadline Coming Up In May

Amazon warehouses can get up to 100 degrees in the summer so Amazon places restrictions on what can be sent to their warehouses from May 1st until September 30th.


If you have a lot temperature sensitive items at fulfillment centers now is the time to sell or place removal orders if you aren't able to sell by the end of the month.

You can't sell FBA from May through September but you can sell FBM and without the competition of FBA sellers, FBM can be extra lucrative during these months as long as you take shipping costs into account.

Doing well on Amazon is often about finding inefficiencies in the marketplace and exploiting them.  Sure this is more annoying and more work than FBA but use it to your advantage and you can sell a lot of chocolate. just make sure it doesn't melt on the way....

Friday, March 31, 2017

Where Have I Been?

It's been about 4 weeks since I posted anything.  That's a really long time for me. I went almost 90 weeks straight with at least a Turnover Tuesdays post.  What happened?



I don't want this blog to be a job. 


I have been blogging for a long time, since the end of 2011.  Until recently I enjoyed blogging a lot.  It was a great outlet for me.  Instead of boring all the people around me I could bore everyone in cyberspace and no one had to offend me when they stopped reading. Win, win.

That changed with my Turnover Tuesdays series at some point.  I had to put out a post on Tuesday and I wanted it to be a more substantive post.  Many times I would only think of topic on Tuesday afternoon or Tuesday night and frantically put something (mildly) entertaining and substantive out there.   I also pretty much stopped posting any other idea because I thought I was wasting a Turnover Tuesdays opportunity.

I was starting to dread Tuesday and they don't pay me enough to be dreading my hobby so one Tuesday night I was about to write a post and then a business meeting happened suddenly and I didn't have time to put anything out there.


I feel liberated


I thought I would be disappointed to lose my streak but I didn't. I felt great about it.  It was such a load off my back.  It started to hit me that I stopped loving blogging and that was the biggest disappointment for me.


I'm a lot more busy than I used to be

As my Amazon business grows (and other parts of life grow too), I've had less time for non essential activities.  I would much rather have my blog fall by the wayside than my family.


I don't plan on stopping, at least not yet, but it has been great to take some time off.  Going forward, I hope to post randomly on stuff I enjoy.  Hopefully you enjoy it too.  Time to get back to basics!








Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Turnover Tuesdays - Walmart and eBay Are Not Going As Smoothly as I Would LIke

For those who are not familiar, I started a series a while back called Turnover Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I like to highlight one item that I have resold. This will include profitable and non profitable sales. I hope that there is always something to learn.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.




Walmart Was Going Great


If you've been playing along at home, I was hoping to use eBay and Walmart (mostly Walmart) to increase my sales and at a minimum mitigate the increased rent that I've begun to pay to allow for more merchant fulfillment and decreased Amazon storage fees.  Walmart does not allow for multi channel fulfillment from Amazon so you must fulfill outside of your Amazon inventory.  That requires space and a team to fulfill orders (or more time from you).

For a while, I was very excited about Walmart.  For the first couple of months I was getting a lot of orders on Walmart's platform.  Not all were very profitable, in fact some were actually losses but at least I was selling old inventory that was much less profitable on Amazon at that point (I wish I had been willing to lower some of them more as the price on some have continued to tank).

I was also selling some items that had great profits.

I was sure that the future was bright.


eBay Never Really Did Great

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Turnover Tuesdays - Why I Sell on Amazon

For those who are not familiar, I started a series a while back called Turnover Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I like to highlight one item that I have resold. This will include profitable and non profitable sales. I hope that there is always something to learn.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.





Let's Reflect Together

Every once in a while you need to take a step back and reflect on why you started the path you chose and whether it is still meeting your needs.  I find it both interesting to write about, important to keep you motivated or pivot and hopefully others will share their stories in the comments too.



Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Turnover Tuesdays - Manage Inventory vs. Manage FBA Inventory

For those who are not familiar, I started a series a while back called Turnover Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I like to highlight one item that I have resold. This will include profitable and non profitable sales. I hope that there is always something to learn.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.





Deciding Which Inventory Management Page to Use

There are two pages to choose from within Seller Central on how to manage your inventory.  One is Manage Inventory and the other is Manage FBA Inventory.  They both have pros and cons. Amazon is also rolling out a new beta Manage FBA Inventory with some "enhancements".   I'll also throw in one tip at the end to improve your Manage Inventory screen.  I've used Manage FBA Inventory since I've started but I'm now questioning that.

There are some things you can only see in one or the other so it's a bit of a mixed bag but it's good to know what each has so you can decide which one to use primarily and whether you need to go back and forth.




Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Turnover Tuesdays - Business Expenses

For those who are not familiar, I started a series a while back called Turnover Tuesdays. Every Tuesday I like to highlight one item that I have resold. This will include profitable and non profitable sales. I hope that there is always something to learn.

The previous posts in the series can be found at the bottom of this post.





Disclaimers

Now that it is 2017, it's time to talk about taxes a bit.  I'm not a tax expert and I'm certainly not an accountant.  My goal is not to create a comprehensive list of business expenses you may have.  Hopefully I can mention some things that others hadn't thought of, maybe others can come up with ones I didn't think of.


Please talk to your accountant before you decide to take any deductions.  I have an accountant and I've asked about all of these but not every accountant is as aggressive about deductions as other accountants.  

Hopefully this is the beginning of a conversation that is beneficial to everyone.