Amazon HazMat Policy Can Be Hazardous to Merchants' Bottom Line
By Ina Steiner
Even before some warehouse workers got lightheaded when unloading a trailer at an Amazon.com warehouse due to high levels of ammonia, the company was cracking down on potentially hazardous products belonging to FBA merchants.
A number of online sellers who use Fulfillment by Amazon learned about the company's ban on hazardous material (HazMat) the hard way. They reported on message boards (several posts in the October 2011 time period) that Amazon had destroyed their inventory, including such items as Glade plug-ins and first aid kits, citing its HazMat policy.
In its recent email newsletter to FBA merchants, Amazon reminded sellers of the policy. The January 2012 issue of the Amazon FBA Newsletter listed examples of materials that were prohibited from its fulfillment centers, including the obvious - Explosives and Poisons - to the not so obvious - Hair Coloring kits, Perfume, Nail polish and Hair Spray. Certain kinds of batteries are banned, including when they're packaged with other products.
"Sometimes we take for granted how many household products can be hazardous to our health and safety," Amazon.com wrote. "Any product that is or contains a liquid, powder, or paste could be a hazardous material. Hazardous materials can place the health and safety of our fulfillment center staff and customers at risk and can damage or contaminate other products in the fulfillment centers. For this reason, products containing hazardous materials (hazmat) cannot be shipped from or stored in our fulfillment centers."
On a discussion thread where one merchant claimed Amazon.com had destroyed $1,000 worth of his inventory, and another said Amazon had destroyed $2,800 worth of his inventory, sellers discussed whether Amazon was complying correctly with its user agreement. "Please ask why when the package is in compliance with exemptions in Title 49 for consumer commodities, they still flag it as hazmat," one merchant wrote. "The whole point of consumer commodity packaging is to make it exempt from regulation."
Some sellers report that Amazon.com has incorrectly flagged products as hazardous material, including toys and stationery, and say it can take a long time to get Amazon to lift the ban. In describing her experience, one seller wrote on the boards, "My last one was a toy I had in Purple and Pink. Purple was OK to send but Pink was Hazmatted. It took until Dec 12th to get it approved, nearly 3 weeks. A toy. During Christmas. I sold out the minute the things hit the warehouse."
Amazon's recent newsletter warned sellers, "If you have products that are liquid, power, or paste, and you are not sure if they are considered hazardous or not, check out the Hazardous Materials Identification Guide."
About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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