EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2858 - July 30, 2012     2 of 5

Amazon Merchants Still Waiting for Relief after Repricing Glitch

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Some sellers who were impacted by a glitch on Amazon.com earlier this month say they have been unable as of yet to recoup losses stemming from the incident and say their Amazon performance metrics suffered as a result. In mid-July, EcommerceBytes wrote about the glitch in Appeagle's repricing software that caused some sellers' listings to be inadvertently sold for 1 cent.

Appeagle spokesperson Zee Mehler said that initially Amazon told it that it would cancel the merchants' orders that were placed through the FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) system. "Unfortunately," Mehler said, "since the FBA system is built for speedy fulfillment, Amazon was unable to cancel all of the FBA orders that had been made." Merchants were left to cancel the merchant-fulfilled orders on their own.

The glitch did not impact all merchants using Appeagle, nor did it impact all of the listings of the merchants who were affected - though several merchants we spoke to said they had hundreds of orders that sold for a penny during the glitch. Reports also vary as to the duration of the glitch.

Several Appeagle merchants spoke to EcommerceBytes on condition of anonymity. "Our listings were priced at $0.01 for a couple hours, NOT the 15-20 minutes that AppEagle claimed," wrote one merchant. "The same day the error occurred, AppEagle sent out a note saying that they had met with Amazon and that Amazon was canceling ALL orders, however, that proved to be untrue. Most if not all FBA orders affected by the price error were shipped."

The merchant said Amazon offered no compensation of any kind. "Appeagle first offered only credit, but more recently have said to send a total of our losses and that they would "try" to reimburse for that amount."

Appeagle's Mehler said the company was currently "in the process of working to help recoup the losses of merchants who had their FBA orders fulfilled."

Another merchant described how the incident negatively impacted his performance metrics on Amazon. After the glitch, he wrote to customers asking them to cancel their orders and, "as a gesture of goodwill," he offered them a discount on any future purchases from his store. He said most people canceled their orders, but one buyer "tried to use feedback extortion for me to ship the 1 penny item, which I kindly refused," and several buyers never responded to his request. Because he had to cancel some orders himself, it resulted in his "Pre-fulfillment Cancel Rate" metric going up - it had been zero before the repricing glitch, he said.

The glitch in July was not the first such incident, one merchant wrote that it was "the 2nd issue for Appeagle in 6 weeks."

Mehler said May's bug was a very different issue than the one that occurred on July 17th. "It affected a very small number of Appeagle users and it did not affect any FBA merchants. We worked with Amazon on that bug as well and made sure that our users were free to cancel orders without any repercussions from Amazon. Merchants then canceled their orders and were able to avoid any financial loss," he said. "Anyone who was affected by this problem was then provided with a free month of our service."

The latest glitch occurred when Appeagle was pushing an update to Amazon this month in order to conform to the marketplace's new requirements for repricing software . A problem in one line of Appeagle's code affected all listings in which sellers had left the "minimum price" field blank, dropping prices for those listings to a penny.

A third-party developer said he was concerned that such mistakes would give all repricers a bad name. "I've already seen many of your readers expressing that they will stay away from repricers as a result of their latest glitch."

But despite such possible risks, many online merchants feel automated repricing tools are required in order to succeed on Amazon due to the competitive nature of the marketplace and its pressure on low prices. Large merchants have used repricing strategies for some time, and third-party repricing tools are becoming increasingly mainstream for mid-sized merchants as well.

The developer, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "the truth of the matter though is that every single third-party app that has access to your eBay or Amazon account can do exactly the same thing. No one ever worries that (eBay's listing tool) Turbo Lister will revise all your listings to $0.99, but it could."

Another potentially worrisome fact for merchants using Amazon's fulfillment service is that Amazon could not - or would not - cancel FBA orders when merchants experienced this major problem. Amazon did not wish to comment on the Appeagle glitch.

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About the author:

Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to ina@ecommercebytes.com.


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