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Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Wed Aug 29 2012 14:08:42

Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?

By: Ina Steiner
Sponsored Link
One concern of third-party sellers who use Amazon's FBA fulfillment service is whether Amazon packers are able to distinguish their products among other sellers' goods in Amazon's warehouses. The last thing they want is for one of their customers to receive some other seller's product, which could be in a different condition, damaged, or even counterfeit.

An item buried in a recent court case could fuel those concerns. According to an article in EcommerceBytes this week:

"In November 2009, an attorney for Tre Milano coordinated the purchase of an InStyler directly from Amazon, and it turned out to be a knock-off. She contacted Amazon's legal department and demanded that the company cut off such sales. An Amazon representative admitted that the company was having difficulty keeping its inventory distinguished from the merchandise that it warehouses and ships for its third-party sellers."

The article also reveals some interesting statistics about Amazon's anti-counterfeit measures:

- Amazon maintains a staff of more than 100 employees dedicated to risk investigation activities such as ferreting out counterfeit listings.

- The company has blocked nearly 6,000 sellers suspected of copyright infringement over the past two years.

- Of the 6,000 blocked sellers, three-quarters were identified by Amazon internally, with the balance having been flagged by takedown notices or customer complaints.

- In the past year, Amazon has removed more than 4 million seller listings.

- Amazon puts all of its third-party sellers through a screening process when they are setting up their stores.

- Amazon maintains a database that keeps track of items that are favorite targets of counterfeiters.

If you use a fulfillment service, are you confident that your items are being sent to your customers? How would you grade Amazon.com in that respect?



Comments (11) | Leave Comment | Permalink
Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
This user has validated their user name. by: Nan
       Web Site
Wed Aug 29 20:25:43 2012
>>>One concern of third-party sellers who use Amazon's FBA fulfillment service is whether Amazon packers are able to distinguish their products among other sellers' goods in Amazon's warehouses.

This kinda doesn't jive with the way I understand fulfillment.
There's 2 kinds of fulfillment.  One - where the seller barcodes their own stuff, and sends it in.  The barcode is specific to the seller.

Two - where the seller uses something called 'Stickerless, Commingled Inventory' where the seller sends in a box of stuff that gets sorted in with other sellers' stuff of the same kind and condition.

(I never used the co-mingled inventory option, it seems too vulnerable to mistakes).

And - if the seller barcodes his own stuff, it's my understanding that their inventory is kept all together in the ''Nan'' cubby (so to speak) and the pull sheets direct the orders to the specific sellers inventory.  A puller would have to search all over the massive Amazon warehouse to find the same thing by a different seller.

So the Stickerless-comingled people would understand up front that the buyer would not necessarily receive his particular item.

Am I misunderstanding the issue?

   
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
This user has validated their user name. by: Ina
       
Wed Aug 29 21:41:17 2012
Nan, it isn't clear, but the idea that Amazon would commingle a hair styling appliance with those from 3P sellers seems odd, and that it was having difficult distinguishing its own inventory from 3P sellers is puzzling. Note that it was from 2009, things may have changed since, but I have to think it's a bit unnerving for FBA sellers to read.
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
by: AgendaSwallowsAll This user has validated their user name.
       
Wed Aug 29 22:48:54 2012
John Donahoe says ''4,000,000 items? Nano Nano, peace be with you and Wall Street! Welcome to Ebay mistreated former Amazoners, we have 100 employees dedicated to making sure your fraudulent product will go nowhere other than receiving top search view with free hot dogs, Coke and/or Pepsi awaiting you at our fulfillment centers. HO HO HO, Mehhhhhhrry Christmas to me, the HO HO HO''
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
This user has validated their user name. by: thehosst
       
Thu Aug 30 23:33:09 2012
Once Amazon blocked our account because of a cheap abusive buyer. Amazon never even gave us the chance to reply, their strategies against counterfeit goods is just as fake as the goods they claim they want to remove.  
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
by: Red Ink Diary This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Aug 31 00:28:19 2012
I am sure that most who are reading this will recall outlandish things they have been told by customer service representatives on eBay. Things we know are simply not true. CSRs for other companies say equally bizarre things.

Right now I am wondering two things:
(a) why we are taking the attorney's word for gospel truth, it is a fact they do make mistakes from time to time, and
(b) we are so unquestioningly ready to believe an incredible statement by a CSR

My daughter started her business career as a CSR (not for Amazon). I can assure you they are generally well trained but she was making barely $20K a year. Call center employee turnover is high. By the time she got our of sales ten years later she had been promoted many times and still wasn't making over $35K. It is a high stress low paying industry.

Amazon basically invented fulfillment, they are very good at it. If they were as incompetent as the lawsuit suggests they would be out of business, not expanding the system.

I don't use it in my business and have no axe to grind. Obviously since I buy a lot at Amazon I have experienced FBA as a buyer. I have no complaints.

I think this is a 'stirring up the monkeys' story!
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
by: teddychan This user has validated their user name.
       Web Site
Fri Aug 31 01:13:15 2012
Too bad none of the "staff of more than 100 employees" at Amazon knows the first thing about autographs, because their site is flooded with fakes. They've been notified many times and taken no action that I can see.
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Aug 31 07:22:10 2012
I will tell you from personal experience that an Amazon Warehouse is an example of organized chaos!

Merchandise arrives, is unpacked and is scanned in to the computer database.  Once scanned in it is immediately available for sale on the web site.  It is then placed in bins on storage shelves where it is scanned again.  When the item is purchased the computer sends an employee to ''pull'' the item for shipment.

There is no special place in a warehouse to distinguish between FBA and Amazon's own merchandise.  It all goes in the same place. It is up to the ''Stowers'' to decide where to place a particular item that is on a cart for storage.  As long as there is space in a bin and there are not too many SKUs already in the bin the item may go there.  There are also MANY different people stowing items.  One stower may have a cart full of widgets that belongs to Amazon and another stower on the next shift may have a cart full of the same widget that belongs to an FBA seller.  The stower may very well be working the same row of shelves that the earlier stower was and may very well co-mingle the FBA items with the Amazon items (even though the computer is programmed to try to prevent that).

There could be a watch from an FBA seller and a half dozen pens or a similar watch that belong to Amazon in the same bin on the same shelf.  It is up to the ''Picker'' (the person that pulls the items for shipment) to ensure that the correct item is pulled from the shelves.  Since quantity is just as important as accuracy it is possible for a ''Picker'' to grab the wrong item BUT if the item has a different SKU then the computer should alert... if it has the same SKU it may not.  

Since the process depends on humans AND computers there is a degree of error.  They try not to do it (there are rules about it) but it is very possible (however rare) for a widget that belongs to an FBA seller to end up in the same storage bin as an identical widget that belongs to Amazon or another FBA seller.

I can (considering my own experience) understand how mix-ups can occasionally occur but rest assured Amazon has gone to great lengths to make sure this does not happen.

There are numerous checks and balances in the process.  Each and every time an item is handled it is scanned in to the computer system which tracks it's whereabouts and status.  If at any point in the process there is an error or the location or status do not match then an alert comes up and the individual handling the item at that point must double check their work and correct the alert.  If they can not then the item is pulled from inventory until it is tracked and corrected.

An item that is sent to the warehouse is scanned a minimum of 4 times during it's stay at the warehouse.  Some items are scanned even more often depending on their status or if QC runs random checks (which are done every shift).

Even though an Amazon warehouse may appear to be chaotic and disorganized it is not and the margin for error is low and the percentage of items leaving the warehouse in error is VERY low.
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Aug 31 07:32:05 2012
******Too bad none of the ''staff of more than 100 employees'' at Amazon knows the first thing about autographs, because their site is flooded with fakes. They've been notified many times and taken no action that I can see. ******

An Amazon employee (unless they were in the hobby) would generally not be versed in the art of authenticating autographs.  It would be completely cost prohibitive for Amazon or any other warehousing company to staff product experts in every category that may be subject to forgery.

It is up to the user base to alert them of suspected forgeries and ''knock-offs''.  Once alerted then those employees take measures to investigate and deal with them.  Just because it appears nothing is being done does not mean that nothing is being done.

Thing is that just as you would not want your items pulled and banned from the site (without cause) just because someone reported you, Amazon does not want to pull and ban sellers items without verifying that the item truly is fraudulent.

Amazon is not like eBay in that as soon as someone... anyone cries VERO they immediately pull the listings/items and sanction the seller.  Amazon attempts to be a little more fair about these things.

Oh, and in my last post I forgot to post the answer to this question... the question posed in this article:

***Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?***
In my opinion and personal experience I can safely say that 99.90% of the time YES!!
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
by: ecommercerocks This user has validated their user name.
       
Fri Aug 31 12:47:19 2012
It blows me away that an article written about Amazon immediately generates comments about eBay and a complete re-direct of the conversation occurs every-time.  I am glad to know that there are Amazon employee hacks who can't handle constructive criticism of the site.
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
This user has validated their user name. by: David Steiner
       
Fri Aug 31 13:26:42 2012
@ecommercerocks, here's what blows me away: Someone accusing a poster of being an "Amazon employee hack," with that accusation coming from an eBay IP.
Perminate Link for Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?   Is Your Amazon Buyer Really Getting Your Product?
by: Deltamaster This user has validated their user name.
       
Sun Sep 2 23:49:33 2012
Are You calling me an Amazon Employee Hack?

I am no Hack but I will freely admit that I HAVE worked for Amazon!


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