Last fall I received an email from a reader who was upset that Amazon was no longer accepting USPS Delivery Confirmation (DC) as proof of delivery. She wrote that letter carriers scan DC at the delivery address only, not at the post office, so should be considered proof of delivery when buyers claim Item Not Received claims with marketplaces such as Amazon:
I happen to be not only an Amazon seller, but also married to a 20 year veteran USPS Letter Carrier, who is also a member of NALC (The National Association of Letter Carries, the Letter Carrier Union). Carriers are most certainly NOT allowed to scan packages at the post office-in fact, any carrier who's packages all start spouting scan times of 8am (which is before their "road time") will be disciplined. They are to scan packages **at the delivery address only**. If a package has a Delivery Confirmation scan, then it is 99.99% certain that package was delivered as addressed. (Obviously nothing is 100% but they work very hard to ensure it is delivered as accurately as is humanly possible). Yet Amazon is now currently denying 100% of claims where Delivery Confirmation has been used to ensure and prove delivery.
She elaborated and ended her email, "The logic that Amazon is using since the July 2007 AtoZ changes to deny these claims is severely flawed. Either kill AtoZ for sellers altogether, or do it right. But do not blame USPS."
Here is the Amazon policy in question and the part that has our reader so upset:
"Product(s) Shipped with Delivery Confirmation Tracking – Tracking Shows Delivery and Buyer Claims Item Not Received: The A-to-z Guarantee team will investigate the dispute. Amazon may contact the buyer to confirm non-receipt. If no receipt is confirmed, the seller may still be held liable for lack of fulfillment - Amazon will not cover service errors, including loss, theft, or postal/shipping issues. Amazon will, however, continue to protect sellers from fraudulent buyers and A-to-z Guarantee abusers."
I spoke to Shoshana Grove of the USPS about the fact that Amazon.com was not accepting Delivery Confirmation as proof of delivery in all cases, and here's what she said:
The policy in question is for Amazon Sellers. Reading their policy below, it appears that if there is a dispute, i.e. the Delivery Confirmation Tracking shows delivery, and the customer claims non-receipt, that the claim is considered on a case-by-case basis. It appears that loss or theft after delivery or loss due to misbeliever might not be covered by Amazon. The seller could still choose to cover the loss. Amazon advises sellers to use signature confirmation and/or insurance for high-value items. These guidelines seem reasonable. I would always advise any buyer or seller to read the fine print carefully before making a purchase.
Unfortunately, I don't have a resolution for sellers who pay extra for DC and then lose claims, finding themselves out both the item and the shipping costs. As I noted in January, Amazon replaces products they've shipped to customers when they receive claims, even after customers' neighbors have signed for them!
The USPS is working on something called Intelligent Mail, which I first read about in the Windowbook.com blog, but today the Washington Post has an article that does a good job of explaining it (be sure and read the end). While it's a tracking service for Enterprise customers, I wondered if it could be integrated with PayPal Shipping Labels. I've asked several eBay and PayPal executives if this is what they are referring to when they say they are working with the USPS to improve tracking, and they say they can't comment on specifics.
Shipping and tracking issues get more difficult for sellers who ship internationally. One thing eBay sellers have complained about for years is that eBay won't let them block individual countries, but rather, it lumps certain countries together. I brought this up with Jeff Clementz of PayPal and John McDonald of eBay's Trust & Safety, in an interview earlier this month. I asked them why a seller wouldn't be able to block, say, Italy - which some sellers have told me has a notoriously bad postal system - but still ship to other European countries. John said it was a good idea (as if eBay had never heard the suggestion before). I tend to think the reason eBay's never unbundled countries may have more to with the way eBay prioritizes its programmers' time rather than eBay being unaware of the problem.
The high cost of shipping is hurting more than small online sellers. Catalog company Lillian Veron has had major layoffs and is now looking for a new owner, according to MultiChannelMerchant. Citing devastating increases in postal and parcel rates, coupled with a paper price hikes and a decrease in value of the U.S. dollar, Muoio says the company was left with no alternative than to find a new owner.
Consumers are being squeezed (especially with the word Recession being tossed around so much), and etailers are feeling the pinch. I'll end this long post with a letter I received from another reader this week, this one a buyer, not a seller. I've never said online selling was easy!
I may not be doing this right, but wanted to try to tell you how discouraged I am with a lot of the sellers on eBay now. I don't sell, just buy, and since the announced changes in what the sellers have to pay, the prices for shipping have gone through the roof. I don't think a piece of jewelry should have a shipping charge of $8 or more. And that is just one example. Now I am checking the shipping very carefully to be sure I don't spend more for that than for the item. If the sellers can't make it without gouging the buyers, then they should quit selling. Some things do cost more to send - china, glassware, very heavy items - but slipping a piece of jewelry into a padded envelope and putting some postage on it should not jack up the cost to ridiculous levels. Even if I would dearly love to own some of these items, the shipping costs completely turn me off and I pass them by. I hope the sellers wise up before too long and realize that they are driving buyers away. Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I'm sure other buyers have noticed this same thing.