When Fulfilled by Amazon Is Broken by Amazon
By Brian Cohen
I was at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden gift shop and inquired about purchasing a rather large metal tree sculpture. To my surprise I learned that I was asking to purchase a showcase and that the sculpture was not for sale (this reminds me of the time I tried to purchase vintage lunchbox which was being used as the "cash register" at a book sale...but I digress...).
So I took note of the tag which read "Tripar International Inc." I went to Tripar's website and found the tree but learned that Tripar is a wholesaler that offers drop shipper and fulfillment services and doesn't sell directly to consumers.
I decided to "upload" the stock photo of the sculpture using the "search by image" feature at Google Image Search. This brought me to a smaller version of the sculpture by the same manufacturer at Amazon but facilitated my search for the larger sculpture which I was able to locate.
On the Amazon product page I noticed that a used sculpture for about half the price was being offer by Amazon Warehouse Deals. That's strange, I wondered, why would Amazon be offering this rather unique item for sale? Amazon Warehouse Deals offers discounts on returned, refurbished, used or warehouse-damaged items. Then I noticed that the default seller was using FBA. Sold by Dazzling Gifts and Fulfilled by Amazon.
The item being sold by Amazon Warehouse Deals must have originally been Dazzling Gift's inventory and subsequently been damaged by Amazon at the warehouse or possibly a customer return. The Lost and Damaged Inventory Reimbursement Policy has a "default" $50 Replacement value for the Home Category. I assumed fifty dollars did not cover the actual value as it is being sold for more than two hundred dollars.
I was able to contact Maxim Ryan of Dazzling Gifts and he revealed that my suspicions were correct:
"In the last year we had no returns for these trees and Amazon damaged two units. One was reimbursed automatically with $50, the second was reimbursed per our request with the amount of sale price minus the fees."
I asked Maxim if he could provide any tips for Amazon Sellers that want to avoid the default replacement value:
"We have custom software that automatically creates a support case about each items when it's deducted from our inventory with the note "damage by Amazon FC" or "damaged miscellaneous." I would recommend going ahead of Amazon's automatic reimbursement and request the refund through a support case, and when the default replacement value is given, again, write to Amazon seller support with an attached scan of the invoice that shows this item's purchase cost," he said.
Further, Amazon explains on its FBA Lost and Damaged Inventory Reimbursement Policy that "If we determine that there is insufficient information available to establish the value of a Unit, then the Replacement Value will be determined based on the applicable Default Replacement Value... In no event will the Replacement Value for an individual Unit exceed $2,000. For Units with values greater than $2,000, we recommend considering third-party insurance."
On the topic of Amazon Warehouse Deals stocking seller exceptions, I came across another interesting issue. I usually buy products as new on Amazon and the item condition as such is understood and usually does not need to be expanded. At the point of purchase, the tree was not only described as "condition used good" but the description was expanded to include that the item was in its original box but the box itself was beat up.
I purchased the tree from Amazon Warehouse Deals based on my suspicions that this was a new product but Amazon had merely damaged the box at their warehouse. Amazon further explains on its website that "In some cases, we sell customer-returned products that have never been opened but have slight box damage that prevents Amazon.com from selling the product as "new." Most products sold on Amazon Warehouse Deals should be considered "used.""
When I received the item, I went back to review the expanded description so that I could review if I got exactly what I ordered.
To do this, here is pro buyer tip I received from Amazon: "Go to your account, pull up recent orders, and then click leave seller feedback from the right hand side of the page. On the next page you should have the option to leave feedback, and then on the right would be any seller notes included in the original posting."
The item was described under the Seller Note as "Item in original packaging. Packaging may have cosmetic damage."
Amazon further explains in What do the different conditions mean? what kind of condition you should expect to receive your item in. Perhaps a more intuitive interface to access the expanded seller note description would be a good way to help prevent buyer returns. Unless buyers are in the habit of leaving sellers feedback, they are unlikely to know how to access this information.
In case you were wondering - I got my tree in very good - if not new - condition at a steep discount and am happy with my purchase!
About the author:
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998. He currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian can be contacted through his website at http://www.bidofthis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That."
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