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Fri Dec 4 2009 09:34:45

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

By: Ina Steiner

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Amazon.com said it would suppress the Buy Box on product pages when the price from third-party sellers is above the List Price (MSRP). Featured Merchants on an Amazon.com discussion board are fuming and report that sales are down as a result of the change, which they say was not communicated to them in advance. One seller told AuctionBytes, "I lost several of my buy boxes and sales have dropped like a stone."

Sellers claimed that, without the Buy Box, a page can easily be mistaken as having no inventory available for purchase. Merchants who use Amazon FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) service were particularly upset at the prospect of losing the Buy Box. However, at least one seller who is not eligible to win a Buy Box wrote that he was pleased about the change.

Amazon.com did not post the change on the seller announcement board, and a company spokesperson said she would respond to my inquiry (watch for updates). 

The issue highlights Amazon's struggle to be perceived as having low prices, even for hard-to-find products. The craze for Zhu Zhu pet hamsters is driving up prices well above suggested retail price, and on Thursday, some product pages omitted a Buy Box - instead, consumers had to click on a link to see which sellers carried the products along with their prices.

The change had not been rolled out universally, and on Friday morning, the Buy Box seemed to be back on all Zhu Zhu hamster toys. Sellers had figured out they could win it if they didn't go over a certain price point that was still above MSRP.

Here's the message sellers said Amazon.com had sent them on Wednesday:

Effective this morning, we have made a change to the Buy Box logic. When a seller’s Buy Box-winning offer for a product is above the List Price (MSRP) of the product, the Buy Box will be suppressed (disappear) from the detail page and the merchant's offer will be listed with the rest of the buying options. No Buy Box will appear on the detail page.

This change is being made in order to improve buyer trust in the Buy Box. Previously when a seller’s Buy Box-winning offer was above the List Price, the List Price would disappear and the seller’s price was the only price showing on the detail page. This left buyers no reference by which to evaluate the sellers’ prices of the product.

Some sellers suggested Amazon.com simply display the MSRP on products that had higher prices to help educate consumers, rather than take away the Buy Box.






Comments (35) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Joe

Fri Dec 4 10:20:40 2009

@Amazon

Hey You Jeff Bezos...You're starting to look like eBay!!!!!!

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Patricia

Fri Dec 4 10:41:45 2009

I buy a lot on Amazon and generally buy from the sellers.  A couple weeks ago I bought a new Intuos Drawing Tablet.  Amazon had it for the amazing price of 199 with free shipping - the nearest seller had it for 238 plus shipping.  I wondered how they can do business when Amazon was so much lower.  I haven't sold a thing on Amazon since the days when they had auctions...so I'm in the dark as to how Amazon treats its sellers and how those sellers can make a profit.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Chris

Fri Dec 4 10:49:11 2009

Zhu Zhu pet prices have dropped from about $50-$60 a piece down to $32 a piece in two days since the change.  They even do it for things that are no longer even made.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: fruity

Fri Dec 4 11:53:34 2009

I don't think Amazon needs to optimize people with a BUY BOX when they are inflating the asking price above MSRP

Why dont you sell on ebay, because that's where you can get inflated pricing.

Amaz is a retailer, ebay is not. All customers are amazon customers. You are just a vendor. Sorry, but its the truth, its nothing more than an internet based version of a walmart/vendor relationship and youre paying them for the privilege

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: fruity

Fri Dec 4 11:56:38 2009

I think alot of you big brand retail sellers have milked consumers on the net for years. you kept prices high despite the fact you have significantly less overhead compared to the retail chain brick & mortors. well I hope that you have saved those profits because now the big retailers are coming to the net in droves

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: On Lies and Secrets

Fri Dec 4 12:03:04 2009

The interesting thing about the issue is that an ''MSRP'' is the Manufacturer's **Suggested** Retail Price.  This is a 'suggested' price - not necessarily the value of an item in a marketplace.  In a healthy marketplace, the market should set the price or the exchange value of the goods.

Removing the buy box from third party sellers when their listed price exceeds the MSRP indicates to me that amazon may suspect that something unsavory is happening in their marketplace and that prices may be artificially high for some reason or other.  To me, the fundamental question is whether an item actually *is* worth more than the MSRP or whether some sellers are engaging in price fixing.  IMO, removing the buy box on the basis of a rule like this one without the thoughtful consideration of what an item is truly worth in the marketplace is not the best way to handle the issue.  This type of solution (a unilateral rule) can do quite a bit of harm.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: bluebird

Fri Dec 4 12:21:44 2009

This is a very bad decision. Often, because of the large fee Amazon takes and because it is nearly impossible to get enough shipping for coast to coast on a large toy, selling at MSRP means selling at a loss. At least before, I could counterbalance those losses with slightly higher prices once things became sold out or rare. Now, I can't, so back to eBay.

Also, what about collectibles? Many toys and plush and dolls are limited editions. If I choose to store something for a few years because I recognize it will be more valuable later as a collectible, now, I can't get a Buy Box on Amazon? Look, AZ, finding something hard to find or rare makes me AND the consumer happy.

This is an over-reaction caused basically by ONE line of products, those stupid hamsters. It's a fad; don't ruin your selling model based on one product line.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Dec 4 13:36:10 2009

Amazon is behaving exactly like ebay would under identical circumstances BECAUSE THAT'S THE NATURE OF VIRTUALLY ALL CORPORATIONS!

Like ebay, Amazon is greed driven and if necessary will crush 3P sellers to maximize their bottom line.

They've expropriated everything necessary from 3P sellers to compete with you product by product -- your UPCs, your product descriptions, your photos. And they're doing precisely that as evidenced by Patricia's comment above just like they said they would.

The only way 3P sellers could ever again be treated ethically and fairly by these corporations is for most sellers to migrate to a few well chosen sites, buy stock, and provide input at stockholders' meetings.

Like ebay, Amazon doesn't care whether you lose money due to their shipping cost caps or ebay's 'free' shipping. Their objective is to make money for Amazon. If you make money in the process, fine, but Amazon doesn't really care because you're easily replaceable just as ebay sellers once were readily replaceable.

However, I believe the small to medium 3P selling model is about dead. 3P sellers are nothing more objects to be manipulated at will and profited from.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: singlesledgehammer

Fri Dec 4 13:38:42 2009

It needs to be emphasized that this was done without notice near the peak of the holiday selling season.

Sellers have spent a lot of money stocking up on inventory, with many of them spending additional money to send it to amazon fba.

Making a change like this in December is a huge breach of trust.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: singlesledgehammer

Fri Dec 4 13:43:21 2009

Ming: The thing you are missing is that these are items that amazon does not have in stock. Either they don't carry it at all or they are out of it. If a 3p seller doesn't sell it, then it isn't sold on Amazon. Instead of making a 15% commission plus fba fees off of all of these sales, amazon is making zero.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Dec 4 17:02:56 2009

@singlesledgehammer

No, I'm not missing anything. I was addressing two different types of situations.

First, corporations often engage in sudden, arbitrary, and authoritarian behaviors that may produce 'collateral damage' if they perceive a given action to be in their self interest (the Zhu Zhu Buy Box decision for exampleor the elimination of mutual feedback. The don't care whether the or ebay perceives to be in its best interests.

Secondly, Patricia pointed out the precise problem that should cause many Amazon 3P sellers to begin weaning themselves away from Amazon after the holidays.

Amazon's bean counters will determine which 3P sellers' product lines could be profitable for Amazon, use your product descriptions, UPCs, and photos for their listings, and then undersell you.

This is just how corporations behave, and they do so because they can.

Turn Amazon oir ebay or any other venue into a place that works for you NOT VICE VERSA.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Fri Dec 4 17:09:16 2009

Sorry, my mouse cursor zapped most the final part in paragraph #2 above.

Neither Amazon or ebay care whether these changes cause financial loss to their 3P sellers because they're going  to do what they perceive is in their best interests.

The B Schools brats haven't learned yet that if they treat 3P sellers as true partners rather than inanimate objects to be manipulated for profit, then every one would make money. As it is now,  it's about how more money they squeeze out the pockets of 3P sellers.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: fruity

Fri Dec 4 17:46:29 2009

Their timing sucks, yes but I think you guys are forgetting that its Amazons customers and you are inventory suppliers or vendors more than anything else. You are trying to scoot around the MSRP and "suggested" thinking its reasonable and professional to inflate the costs. Well heck, its been 10 years since I've been shopping online and the only times I pay above is when it comes to vintage or something that is so unbelievable that I will pay above and beyond to get it. And that was never from a RETAILER site, only on ebay would I pay more than the sticker. You're basically trying to say that we want to charge more to those consumers because they want the item. Sorry but that's SWAP MEET FLEA MARKET TACTICS. Exactly what Amazon shouldn't be doing.

You know what's going to happen to all you pouties? Amazon is going to find other sellers who have your product and they will look to attracting them. Are you really willing to have that happen? Competition? You clearly have no competition on Amazon, which allows you to have the above tag pricing. You may not like amazons msrp buy box change but you will lose more and learn to regret it when Amazon ups and brings in your competitors. Items out of stock and Amazon suffers? Amazon picks up the phone and they've got it. You guys are going to drop your prices and we know it. There are hungry small businesses waiting to take your place over at Amazon. Amaz generates lots of traffic and sales your way. You are probably pricing those things extremely high in order for Amazon to take this change so late in the holiday season.

and you wont get many to hand you a tissue because you "spent addional money" to send the inventory to Amazon. It costs peanuts for you to send it to FBA. Complain because Amazon is taking more from your profit margins but don't try to pitch the cons on this because it's a long time coming and consumers never benefit from price flipping "RETAILERS". You ain't that indispensable to Amazon. You sell brand new consumer products.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Dave

Fri Dec 4 19:29:38 2009

A bad decision on Amazon's part - I collect certain toys - MSRP was maybe $1.49 - now they go for hundreds of dollars - I guess not a good candidate buying or selling on Amazon. Let the market decide the value - show MSRP and don't patronize the buyers - assume he/she can make an informed decision.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: zhu zhu pets in stock

Fri Dec 4 20:12:48 2009

All that caused by some robotic hamsters, nice. Thanks Zhu Zhu Pets.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: singlesledgehammer

Fri Dec 4 20:13:10 2009

I don't know where Amazon is suddenly going to find new sellers who are able to supply mass quantities of high-demand items at MSRP that Walmart, Target, Toys R Us, and Amazon themselves can't keep in stock.

FBA costs aren't trivial. Including boxes/materials, it costs us on average 0.75 per item to ship to FBA, in shipments of around 500 at a time. FBA charges a $1 order charge and another $0.75-1.00 item charge to pull the item, and then another weight-based charge for shipping the item.

Add the FBA fees to the 15% commission and it becomes unlikely to even break even at MSRP.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Marvin

Sat Dec 5 06:21:11 2009

If you don’t want restraints on your business open an eCrater store and shut up. It’s simple business 101. Make a decision.

Do you want control to run the business the way you see fit, where you make the decisions that affect your business and there are no surprises? Or do you want to give up control and partner with a site that makes the decisions and may at any time change the rules without consulting you? Either way you go there are trade offs. Decide and proceed.

A lot of amazon sellers are former ebay sellers. They should know what to expect by now. Didn’t anyone learn their lessons while in ebays Screw U university?

To run a business where YOU control the price. YOU control your business practices. YOU control return policies. YOU control, YOU control, YOU control. . . then you have to choose a site (or set up your own) where you run the business the way you want without interference. Right now eCrater is the best game in town.

eCrater is a gold mine. It’s free, it’s growing, sales are up.

You don’t have the restrictive payment requirements, you can take checks, money orders, credit cards, google checkout and paypal. You can offer discounts.

You don’t have problems with deadbeat bidders. You don’t have scam buyers like on ebay crying mommy, mommy I want my money back.

eCrater doesn’t stick their nose in your transactions or tell you what your return/refund policies have to be.

eCrater doesn’t use best match crap so people searching for your stuff can actually find it. It is a google partner so your items automatically get indexed and show up in google searches.

It solves all your problems. However there is one big downside to using eCrater. You won't have anything to complain about.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Harriet

Sat Dec 5 09:37:00 2009

I agree with Marvin-

I have had a very, very nice increase in my eCrater.com sales. It is an excellent site, and getting better all the time.

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Lisa

Sat Dec 5 09:58:54 2009

I had never even heard of a Zhu Zhu pet when I read an article on MSNBC.com about it being predicted to be the must-have toy of the season.  I went to eBay and was stunned at the prices! Wow! Talk about greed!  But at the time online retailers like Target, Toys R Us, etc., were out of stock and my 5 year old niece is the only little girl I'm buying for.  I found an  eBay seller who had one for $20 and I bought it.  That's still $10.01 about MSRP but for the item, at the time, I thought it very reasonable.  The extra items were still at list price.  I've been irked by people who go to stores like Walmart and others, list WalMart items at a high percent above MSRP and then after you buy it, they order it from WalMart and have it shipped directly to you. I don't shop at WalMart, I don't like their employee policies "The High Cost of Low Prices" but I was really ticked about finding out that WalMart can't control it and eBay does not disallow the practice.  Amazon is taking positive steps to curb scalping on items and as a buyer I applaud that. If sellers want to gouge buyers, do it on eBay, eBay doesn't care what their sellers do.  

Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP   Amazon Takes Away Buy Box When Price Exceeds MSRP

by: Beckie

Sat Dec 5 11:24:51 2009

A friend of mine was frantically looking for one for his daughter and finally found one for around $10 on Amazon. He told me he used a site called  amzfinder.com  that keeps checking for an item until it is in stock. Sounds much better than trying to beat the crowds at the big box stores.

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