Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Mon Feb 17 2014 22:28:32

What You Don't Know about Hazmat Could Cost You

By: Ina Steiner

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Many people would feel it necessary to don full body suits and respirators before being in the same room as hazardous materials, but they might be surprised to learn that Amazon.com considers many common household items to be in the same class as dangerous chemicals or gasses. The USPS and shipping carriers also have restrictions on what can be shipped by air thanks to hazmat regulations - including certain curling irons, of all things.

Many sellers have learned the hard way that even products that seem harmless, like plug-in air fresheners, can be banned by Amazon's FBA fulfillment service - discussion boards are full of such stories. But some believe Amazon do a better job of handling the issue. An EcommerceBytes reader sent a letter they received warning them of a product (a battery) Amazon deemed hazardous. The letter stated in part:

"Amazon will move the inventory found to be Hazmat to a Hazmat area in accordance with local and federal regulations. Amazon will then hire an outside 3rd party company to come into our warehouse to process the destruction of hazmat inventory per local and federal guidelines. You will be charged disposal fees in accordance with the FBA Service Terms.

"I cannot authorize any credit, reimbursement or concession related to the disposal of any hazmat items that are found to be stored within our fulfillment network."


The seller wrote, "Amazon should stop you from even allowing it to be sent in by prompts." In a followup letter from Amazon, the company explained, "It's extremely important that you understand that the Seller Central system is not designed to recognize Hazmat until items have been manually reviewed by our Product Compliance department."

And it warned that it was vitally important that sellers identify regulated hazardous products before shipping because there are "very significant fines associated with shipping hazmat undeclared (often a $60,000 minimum fine)."

And that's a good point that all sellers should understand. As the USPS explains:
 
"Many common household and consumer products cannot be mailed through the US Postal Service. These materials may not be dangerous on your shelf at home, but they may become a hazard when shaken or when exposed to temperature or pressure changes. Additional rules and restrictions apply for items being mailed internationally."

Some examples of items that may be mailable but have specific restrictions include Aerosols, Lithium Batteries, Nail Polish, Perfumes containing alcohol and Certain Glues.

This discussion thread started in December demonstrates the frustration sellers experience when shipments are held up over hazmat concerns. It seems hazardous materials is one of those issues that's not going to go away, whether you sell through Amazon FBA or elsewhere.




Comments (10) | Leave Comment | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for What You Don't Know about Hazmat Could Cost You   What You Don't Know about Hazmat Could Cost You

by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 17 23:03:51 2014

One thing I don't understand from one of the letter writers you quoted as not getting warnings not to ship. I always get Hazmat warnings from Amazon when I try to ship something to FBA. I even got it recently on some diecast model cars.

Perhaps it is Amazon being inconsistent -- but may be that items I have attempted to list were already on their hazmat list. That, I don't know.  

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by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Mon Feb 17 23:10:17 2014

PS: What is really frustrating is getting a Hazmat warning for an item that is already listed in the catalog for sale by Amazon or other sellers. Haven't figured that out yet, nor gotten a sensible answer from Amazon when I have sent in questions.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: Puck

Mon Feb 17 23:33:56 2014

"I even got it recently on some diecast model cars."

Probably failed to meet California emission standards...

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by: auctionguy This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 18 08:51:13 2014

"I even got it recently on some diecast model cars."

Maybe made in China with lead-based paint

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by: TRSeller This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 18 09:04:25 2014

Yep. It should be required reading for all sellers to review USPS Publication 52 regarding hazmat shipping regulations. Some stuff can be shipped, but restricted to ground transportation , meaning first class mail or parcel post, and MUST carry a ORM-D hazmat label or other required labels outside the box. Some Stuff can be shipped in small amounts, othr stuff must have special packaging, other stuff can't be shipped at all.  Everyone should have a copy of USPS Publication 52.  

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by: FREDDY This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 18 09:22:06 2014

I have a feeling that Amazon could pick up a lot of extra dollars by selling the so-called hazmat items. It must cost a fortune to dispose of in a sealed vault. Why not just have it put in the warehouse section and have a buyer or buyers purchase the items with them signing a written disclaimer to hold Amazon harmless of everything including an act of God. I think it would be a nice chunk of change to add to the bottom line. Not only would they make money by selling off the items, the amount they would save by not disposing in a sealed container. Maybe they already do this and not advertise the fact.....make more that way than in the fees????
ebay does this with the global shipping service.....and not with just hazmat products.

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by: Tornad0sRul This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 18 10:04:50 2014

Freddy, if it costs a fortune to dispose of hazmat items they would most definitely find another solution and quickly. It's always all about money and the bottom line. My educated guess is that is the cheapest way to dispose of the hazmat, and the environment probably pays the price. Big business always seeks to do things in the cheapest way possible with no care for consequences, unless they are legal. It would be cheapest to donate the items to a charity, who would gladly pick up the items, but then they would have legal liability. Therefore crushing everything is the quickest and most legally compliant.

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by: Theresa This user has validated their user name.

Tue Feb 18 12:22:20 2014

Yes, Amazon drastically needs to change their policy on hazmat products. Sometimes the seller receives an error message that an item is restricted from sending in FBA, but trust me, there are times when the hazmat issue can be VERY costly to a seller.

For example, I was selling a certain product for months via Amazon FBA with no problems. It was a fast moving product and I was making a great return. So when I had an opportunity to buy deep, I did and sent in 500 units. Based on 6 months of experience selling this product and the great rank, 500 units was only about 2 months worth of inventory.

Well guess what? It was received and checked in and for two days, sales were steady. Then BAM. All of my remaining units were deemed hazmat and were to be destroyed. For unknown reasons, Amazon decided this item was hazmat and despite my numerous calls and emails, I had no recourse and lost 450 units...period. Done. Amen.

It can happen to you. If a preciously non-restricted item suddenly gets flagged as hazmat and you have in an amazon warehouse, you will lose the product and have no recourse. This is an absurd and totally unfair policy and it needs to change immediately.

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by: comet This user has validated their user name.

Wed Feb 19 01:53:36 2014

Yeah if a MILK TANKER crashes did you know that that wholesome and innocent product suddenly turns into TOXIC WASTE?  

I didn't either til learned about it from a firefighter.

I wouldn't sell anything via Amazon that I couldn't afford to lose.  And def nothing EVER via their warehouse system.  And why DO you think the USPS asks you EVERY time you walk thru the door::

Is this fragile liquid perishable live animals or has batteries????

Not that they CARE--they stranded a shipment of LIVE chicks over a holiday weekend in a sort facility in the North East and killed a whole bunch as they had NO food and NO water.  But---no Humane Society or PETA made this a priority! And the USPS?  Yeah well too bad so sad.  

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by: Cassie This user has validated their user name.

Fri Feb 21 02:55:51 2014

Selling antiques on-line some made before U.S. regulations such as those little lead cast toy soldiers it must be declared - packaged differently and shipped different. It is best understanding these standards - ummmm hate admit but before 9/11 it was easier transporting items through air check-in or carry-on luggage than shipping. This especially included some high-end cosmetics and distilled beverages (slivovitz,absinthe & becherovka)was pulling teeth obtain years ago -so much easier before check point frisking & shoe removals ever existed or needed at airport screenings. Yet a few years ago the secret service did emergency land a UPS carrier plane near the holiday season as it suspected tip on attempted bomb delivery, so it's different times the world is not as nice as it use to be.  



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