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EcommerceBytes-NewsFlash, Number 2938 - November 19, 2012 - ISSN 1539-5065    3 of 5

Amazon Learns, Don't Mess with Sellers' Money

By Ina Steiner
November 19, 2012

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The Seattle Times exposed the problem of payment holds for Amazon sellers in an article published over the weekend. But Amazon sellers in the UK were struggling with "payment holds" of a different kind last week.

The UK sellers became nervous on Wednesday when there was no sign of disbursements into their bank accounts. Sellers said they received mixed messages from Amazon's customer service reps and fretted about when they would receive their weekly disbursement. Several of the sellers affected said it they were unable to buy new inventory until the funds made it into their accounts, and a few said they would be facing bank charges as a result of the delay.

Amazon sent an email to sellers to Friday apologizing for the delay in disbursements. One email from Amazon Services Europe read, "We are aware that there has been a delay in the delivery of some sellers' disbursements. If you have been affected by this, we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused. We can confirm that these disbursements have been processed and should appear in your bank account within five business days."

A UK reader forwarded another letter he received that stated, "We are aware that there has been a delay in the delivery of some sellers' disbursements. If you have been affected by this, we would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused. We can confirm that these disbursements were processed on 15 November and should appear in your bank account by Monday, 19 November 2012, depending on your own bank's processing time. In the unlikely event that you experience delays after 19 November, please contact us to investigate further."

On Friday, a seller posted on the Amazon boards, "I've been doing battle with Amazon CS for 3 days now over this, and they just fobbed me off. Should have had payment by Wednesday, they blamed my bank for the delay but said the money (nearly 1K) would definitely be in my bank account today, which it isn't."

Another seller wrote on Friday, "Have just spoken to Amazon again and I have been categorically assured that disbursements will be effected today. The problem was caused by a software issue at Deutsche Bank and is now resolved. However, there will be a time delay now whilst stacked up items are processed, (back end feeds ?), resulting in delays to all disbursements requested previously and possibly new ones too. I was informed that there will be no delays to deducting pro merchant fees and no compensation payable regardless of circumstances as disbursements can take "up to 10 working days"."

Sellers were not pleased at the delay, citing cash-flow issues. And a couple of sellers wondered if Amazon itself was having cash flow issues. Another pointed out Amazon was slow to respond to its sellers, while expecting sellers to respond quickly to Amazon buyers when things go wrong.

"Amazon penalise sellers if we dispatch late, don't reply to emails fast enough etc etc, but we sellers (we're Amazon's customers too!) have no redress when Amazon glitch and it can have a major impact on our businesses. Cash-flow can be the death of small businesses, surely they know that?? Hmph. Rant over."

One seller who was still waiting for disbursement of funds from Amazon wrote, "The way they have dealt with it is shocking and the way there customer services are telling everybody to chase it up with there bank is also a very poor show."

Another said, "We all seem to be getting mixed messages about this. Amazon told me it was an isolated case which only affected me and "not to worry, (could almost here them say "dear" at this point), you'll get your money". Now like most of you I've received the techinical (sic) issue email affecting multiple sellers."

One seller was skeptical about the excuse Amazon customer service reps gave to sellers. "No sorry, but it can't be entirely down to Deutsche Bank. I've worked in the finance dept of a large company (not as big as Amazon though) and had a direct line to the bank and knew precisely when money was being moved, any glitches, etc. If I'd kept quiet for 2 days about something like this I'd have been shot at dawn. My money should have arrived on Weds and I only get an email from Amazon after close of business on Friday. That's shoddy."

Another wrote it was "just pure luck" he or she didn't have payments to make. "Would be nice to be able to rely on disbursements arriving on time, instead we all have to waste time checking our bank a/c balances. Pretty shoddy display by Amazon, and I'm not at all impressed by them blaming it all on Deutsche Bank."

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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