Ina Steiner EcommerceBytes Blog
News and insight focusing on ecommerce.
by Ina Steiner, Editor of EcommerceBytes.com
Tue Apr 19 2016 16:31:28

Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

By: Ina Steiner

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Online sellers are reporting that marketplaces like eBay and Amazon - especially the latter - are cracking down on UPC codes. 

GS1 US makes available standardized UPC codes so everyone along the chain - manufacturers, distributors, retailers, and consumers - can correctly identify products. In other words, a UPC will tell you not just that a listing is for a Gillette razor blade, let's say, but will tell you the specific type of Gillette blade and the quantity contained in that package.

Having standard UPC codes is invaluable, otherwise Gillette and Schick (or anyone else) might use the same UPC code for completely different items. And once the products leave their manufacturing plants, distributors and retailers would have a difficult time keeping track of the inventory and pricing.

However, small businesses say the cost of acquiring UPC codes from GS1 US is beyond their means, so many turn to resellers. You can find them cheaply on sites like eBay, which itself is now requiring merchants to add UPC codes to products, but the practice is problematic.

For many merchants, there's no issue - the UPC code is found on the product packaging of the items they source. But there are cases where UPCs are not available, and that's where things get challenging.

There are also cases where sellers list a branded product with a different UPC code than provided by the manufacturer.

Amazon already works to keep its catalog clean - see this article - but we've seen posts in recent weeks that indicate Amazon is expanding its crack-down on incorrect UPC codes. Take a look at this thread, for example. Some sellers are happy about it, since incorrect UPC codes can lead to customer (and merchant) confusion.

Let us know your UPC headaches and whether you're encountering any issues, and what  you are doing about it.

Update: See Newsflash article about this topic.




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Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

by: FeelingFroggy This user has validated their user name.

Tue Apr 19 16:53:38 2016

A few weeks back Fleecebay was delisting our listings because they didn't have UPC codes. We still have hundreds without UPC codes and Fleecebay has stopped delisting them. And no we haven't been relegated to the bottom of the pile. Our listings are right where they have been for years. First or second page.

Must be some big diamond seller go a million delisted and threaten to leave the holy land so Fleecebay stopped.

UPC codes are a waste of time. Unless you have nothing else to do just typing in the product in seach will bring hundreds of listings. I for one would rather spend my time on something else like family and funny.

Don't have time fretting over and sitting in front of the computer 24 / 7. Some of these buyers need to really get a life or a job.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Tue Apr 19 21:51:21 2016

Remember when one just listed an item on eBay, bare bones, and it sold quickly. Simple description, nice photograph, great sales.  It really should be that simple but between eBay, Amazon and Google it is headed towards being more complex than the US tax code. The hoops to jump through keep coming.

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This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Tue Apr 19 22:28:10 2016

The company that needs to "keep its catalog clean" is Google. I sold a book yesterday which has been flagged for ages as have an incorrect ISBN, when the ISBN printed on the book matched exactly to what I'd typed in the listing. At least I now have one less item which Google is rejecting.

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Apr 20 00:21:12 2016

I am very happy that Amazon is cracking down on those using UPCs in an incorrect way. So many are making up UPCs out of the air and then when someone goes to list the item with that actual UPC we have to jump through hoops to prove that our item has the appropriate UPC. I list items from only about 6 companies and I know they don't also make sneakers, stereos, or other miscellaneous stuff. The initial seller is just making up stuff. So I have to send an alert to the CSR, most of whom live in India and don't seem to understand American English. So we go round and round and many times it takes up to three emails before someone intelligent actually fixes the problem. I always have proof that I have the correct UPC and the other sellers couldn't possibly as their item may have been made long before the advent of UPCs. Unfortunately some companies reused their UPCs over the years which means instead of 2 or possibly 3 items having a product page only one can and the other item can never be listed on Amazon, at least not in the correct category. Some sellers dump their items in books when they aren't a book or they put them into everything else, when they actually have their own category.

So yes I'm happy if Amazon is cracking down, and I will be helping them find the offenders.

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by: BargainzBabylon This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 20 02:05:13 2016

UPCs are utterly irrelevant for those of us in the resale market. Which, if I recall, is what eBay is supposed to be known for?  

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by: tb This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 20 02:27:30 2016

It definitely IS a problem though. About a year ago, I went to list a product that I own, and was told the UPC was invalid and that I needed to sell from an existing listing. That listing had a horrible image, and the wrong product information. And it was MY product! I called until I was blue in the face. I sent emails with images of the product and UPC printed right on it and nobody would pay any attention.

The big question is, where are these manufacturers getting the UPC? The GS1 guy said they're not expensive at all, but $250 plus $50 a year for just 10 is ridiculously expensive in my book. Especially if you're a manufacturer with thousands of low priced, low volume items.

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by: sellerchick This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 20 02:30:19 2016

Soooo... we're supposed to ''clean up the catalog'' only to have the Chinese Spammer sellers piggy back on ''clean'' listings, undercut our prices and sell fake garbage. Amazon, get your house in order. Ridiculous. Why don't you ''clean up'' your sellers so only ''clean sellers'' are selling on the ''clean listings.'' WHO CARES what the heck the item detail is when you have NO CONTROL over what is actually being shipped to the customers. Give me a break.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Apr 20 07:02:01 2016

The mystery is why eBay rejects some manufacturer UPC codes that I enter write from the label. These are manufacturers' codes, not retail store codes.  If the manufacturer doesn't know what his UPC code is who would?

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

by: Mark4 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 20 08:33:35 2016

The great Amazon is a joke for sellers. We sold with them for a little over a year, got hit with 2 blatant scammers and amazon would not help us, their seller who at the time had a perfect record. We closed out store and left that nightmare behind. Amazon sucks, DO NOT SELL ON AMAZON, YOU WILL BE SORRY. Ebay and Bonanza.com are much better sites. amazon hates their sellers.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: FEEbay

Wed Apr 20 11:41:56 2016

Our main issue is that the idiot manufacturers/brands that we deal with do not always provide the UPC codes. We had to tell a Ukelele Company "Tough Sh*t" we are not going to be a dealer, because you do not have UPC's for your instruments. I cannot even imagine what some of you go through who sell collectibles, clothing..etc... What a nightmare

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Wed Apr 20 12:28:01 2016

Small sellers are caught in the middle, again, between venues that want every detail and manufacturers/distributors that know less than nothing.  I often can't get reliable information on release dates, case assortments, weight/dimensions, pictures/features, etc.  Yet "somehow" they think that I should be held responsible for all of them.  And now these demands for UPCs too?  Get bent.  I don't work for you.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

by: TMoore This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Wed Apr 20 13:26:04 2016

UPC codes are designed to identify mass produced products. I use my own 6 digit identifiers for free. I stopped using eBay and I have never used Amazon, so it's no loss for me because I never sold anything there and could not, thanks to the influx of Chinese counterfeiters. If you don't like what's going on, get your own site and dump these super fancy selling sites, because they will disappoint you every time and cost you more money than you will earn.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Wed Apr 20 14:08:12 2016

I think SEO programmers are scammers with their pay for clicks routine which in most instances give the seller zero dollars for their money. Unfortunately, like politicians, we are stuck with them. Paying $250 for up to ten UPC codes is also insane and a rip off.
My suggestion is everyone start clicking the hell out of every item in the search engine catalog. When the promotion bills soar and the results are nil, then SEO will have fly in the real world, by actual sales like the rest of us do.  

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

by: Jus_e This user has validated their user name.

Fri Apr 22 10:21:02 2016

The Internet is a NIGHTMARE. These companies can do what they want at will...the thing is regulations haven't really caught up to them yet...the dos and dont's. Like if you walk into a regular store there are certain things, they are allowed to do and aren't. Sales, markdowns, returns, etc. Same thing with Google, ebay and the rest of them. Rules aren't made up until they get sued. I'm not sure I want the government step in and make rules - because they are scary too but just saying...

For example, the big bank thing back in 07 or 09... they started charging extra for whatever, so I went to bank or business of a bank that was strictly online with only 5buck fees. something like Netspend or Greendot. Things had been going good, as a matter a fact perfect. I was confident. I think it was a Capital One acct. Then all of a sudden they closed, that part of the business...so I found another reputable company. Things going great, then after about a year or two they closed. The only difference is they closed with 500.00 of mine in the account. I had been notified 30 days prior but that message went to spam. To make a long story short, I had to do some very very heavy research and phone calls to get my money back.

The point I'm trying to make  - on the internet, they can just kinda' do what they want, most of the time.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

This user has validated their user name. by: bitbybit

Fri Apr 22 19:24:14 2016

It's the 'out of sight, out of mind' syndrome,principle,or whatever you call it. This is why these corporations get away with all the underhanded activity that they do. I firmly believe all this busy work accelerating over the years, including this UPC fiasco, is done just to divert eyes away from anyone or any authority looking any deeper. By the way, how many of those running for office or currently in office are even looking into cleaning up the corporate corruption on the internet? The internet will be the silent killer of our economy.  

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by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 25 13:22:19 2016

Amazon is full of s... on this. Their so-called efforts to clean up the catalog are minimal at best.

Hundreds of manufacturers and suppliers put the same UPCs on dozens of different items, especially in toys and games.

In grocery, many companies do not use UPC, but rather more often internal 8 digit SKUs. On Amazon they all end of with UPCs, some cheaply purchased, or SKUs expanded normally with Zeros to appear to be an UPC -- they are not.

Then there are the manufacturers who use the same UPC for each version of their widget. That is valid probably, but when you get to Amazon with one of the versions it is not valid as it is a different thing. Amazon has no clear way to address this either, or only half heartily.

And, eBay is and will continue down the same BS path.  All of it a total head ache for the small seller especially.

And, none of the above is addressed to the totally out of control Chinese and their flakes and forgeries.

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

by: TomH This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 25 13:32:35 2016

And, Ina,   the UPC barcode you have for the article is listed for a

Amazon Kindle Fire 1st Generation and
Amazon Kindle Fire 2nd Generation
and
a Sony Play Station4

probably more if I really dug in.

Thanks for the chuckle, just love it!

Perminate Link for Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown   Online Sellers Face New Threat: UPC Code Crackdown

by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Mon Apr 25 17:45:43 2016

I have to side with Amazon.  Anything to make it harder for ''junk dropshippers'' to pollute the catalog.

I sell Ridgid products.  I once made a list of 1000 SKU #'s, with 7000(!) duplicate ASIN #'s.  That's almost offensive, and has to make it harder for a customer to browse.

The bad part, is that I spent 20+ hours generating this list.  And Amazon's response was ''you can submit up to 5 revision requests at a time''.  Yea right.  I could spend another 40+ hours trying to get you to fix your catalog.  Thanks Amazon!

It all comes back to this: these big marketplaces are big, dumb companies.  They are not there for you.  They do not care about you.  You're not even a cog in their machine.  And if you rely on them, your chance of your business plan succeeding is very small.

It's hearbreaking, really.  Because the need for a mass-marketed marketplace, which can incubate small business, is huge.  But, as of right now, it doesn't exist.  If you're a modest business with $10-50k/mo monthly revenue, you're walking the tight rope.  One change of policy, one payment hold, one account restriction - can kill your company.

I just had something like that happen with Amazon.  I was selling ''Gate Latches''.  All new.  I sold 200-or-so units over a few months, using FBA.  Approximately 10 units were returned and the customers marked ''incomplete''.  No big deal to me.  But they were not ''incomplete''.  The customers simply purchased the wrong model, which doesn't include the ''external access kit''.  It triggered an account review, Amazon told me ''you're selling incomplete products ... unacceptable'', and now they hold all of my FBA funds for an extra 2 weeks.  So now, when an item sells, it takes 17-31 days to get paid.  And I'm helpless ... there's absolutely nothing that can be done.  I just have to eat it and keep working.  And that's how it is when you're a 'big nobody' to these billion dollar marketplaces.  If you don't like it, leave.

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by: budgetbabe This user has validated their user name.
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Wed Apr 27 01:27:45 2016

Just so you all know too, if you list without a UPC on ebay you will be bumped far down in the search results. I've been so frustrated lately with the lack of views I am moving to my own site. Ebay has hundreds of thousands of people on it a day yet I'm lucky to get 2 views this month. Can't do it. Not to mention Ebay has the authority to put you out of business at any time if you are only selling on it

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by: Automan This user has validated their user name.

Mon May 2 09:11:30 2016

I am happy to use UPC in everything I list on either Amazon or Ebay. As both a buyer and seller, it saves me time.
Not everything is going to work with a UPC (used car parts for example.) The system also depends on the marketplace and sellers to be conscientious.
Amazon sells way more stuff than third party sellers, maybe they do have a better idea how to run their marketplace than we do!



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