Is Amazon.com’s Marketplace encouraging buyers to scam sellers by filing a refund claim?

I’ve been selling miscellaneous books on Amazon.com for years, and in the last three months three people have filed requests for refunds or sent messages claiming that their items never arrived. That’s a big problem because the cheapest way to ship books and similar items is through the Postal Service’s Media Mail. Big sites, like eBay, solve this problem by letting buyers rate sellers and sellers rate buyers, but Amazon only lets buyers rate sellers—sellers can’t rate buyers. Sellers have to ship the item and hope for the best, which worked fine until recently, or add a confirmation number, which increases costs to the point that selling books isn’t really worth it for me.

Someone claiming one item didn’t show up could be chalked up to USPS, or bad luck, or whatever. Two could be a coincidence. Three makes me think of enemy action: buyers heave learned to game Amazon’s system.* Looking around the Internet makes it apparent that problems like mine aren’t so unusual bad stories are more common than I would have imagined before I had this problem.

Looking back at the problems I’ve had shows that the buyers are systematically weird. In one case, the name of the person contacting me for a refund didn’t match the name of the person to whom the book was shipped (in most cases, Amazon encourages or requires buyers to contact the seller before filing a refund claim). Another message said, “Recipient has not received the item,” which is curious: most people would say, “I haven’t receive the book.” “Recipient has not received the item” is generic enough to be a bot. The third person has a U.S. address but doesn’t actually appear to live in the United States.

The only conclusion I can draw are that medium-priced items (in the $10 – $30 range) probably aren’t worth selling on Amazon: they’re expensive enough that adding a confirmation number makes them uneconomical, but not so expensive that a confirmation number is a necessity and a small percentage of the price.

Amazon could reduce this problem by providing symmetrical buyer / seller feedback. But Amazon presumably doesn’t want sellers to cancel orders to unproven buyers, and it’s still possible to game feedback systems (as eBay users have discovered). Nonetheless, I sent Amazon a couple of e-mails about the issue, and someone at Amazon did reply to eventually say, “I would also like to let you know that we do have a team that checks on the buyer’s account for any fraudulent activity and take the necessary action on them.” Still, buyers could file claims only on the occasional item. I’m happier knowing that someone at Amazon is at least thinking about the problem. Amazon, however, is a notoriously data-driven company, and I can’t see them taking action unless sellers stop selling on Amazon.

I’m tempted, in the name of science, to buy a moderately expensive item and then claim it never showed up, or showed up damaged, to see if Amazon will refund the money, and, if so, how many times I could do this before Amazon boots me. But I won’t for obvious reasons.


* This is of course a reference to Goldfinger’s rules about coincidence. I should also point out that the items shipped all had normal return addresses; none of them came back to me.

37 responses

    • And this is a complete lie. We’ve fulfilled over a million orders on Amazon in the last decade and we have these situations on a constant basis. Unless you provide a tracking number for your order, its very easy for someone to allow the carrier to just leave the package at the door, wait till they leave, pick it up, then claim to Amazon that they never received it. This scam is foolproof and we’ve been the victims many time. Fortunately Amazon does step in to cover the cost a good amount of the time, but they NEVER rule in your favor on an A-Z Claim if you don;t provide a tracking number, or if the buyer is stupid enough to drop hints about their scam through emails.

      Pack it up Marilyn, you;re no Amazon seller.

      Like

    • In the last message I said if you don;t provide a tracking number, what I meant to say was that you will lose the claim EVERYTIME if there is no signature proof of delivery, which kicks up the shipping cost at least another 2-3 dollars.

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  1. “Another message said, ‘Recipient has not received the item,’ which is curious” Not when the message originates from Customer Service. People call in, you get messages like that.

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  2. As a first time FBA seller, I learned a hard lesson. I sent a perfectly good product to Amazon, selling it at a low price since it came with all original accessories. It was purchased, shipped, returned damaged by buyer, taken out of inventory and my account was charge the full price of the item.

    Lesson, ALWAYS read the fine print when dealing with any company. Amazon does not protect the seller in anyway. I am having it returned to me but in what condition, I have no idea. Instead of selling my product, I AM BUYING MY OWN PRODUCT!!

    Can’t beat that for customer protection. Unhappy camper here!

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    • An update on this. The item was returned to me and there was nothing wrong with it. I wound up spending about $50 with this process. A buyer should not be able to return a product saying it was ‘damaged’ and receive a refund without the seller’s knowledge. I will never use FBA again although it seemed at the time it was the perfect way to sell. As a seller you have zero rights and the books I sold ‘cost’ me more than price I was asking. I have sold books off & on for years on Amazon and made a few dollars but this experience has taught me it is not worth it anymore.

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  3. Tried selling a used item in mint condition recently, worth a 220€ … the buyer was a complete moron and sent it back without paying for the postage (that’s a 25€ damage – so I’ve refused to accept it and told him to deliver it just as I delivered him – that’s my right here). Now Amazon tries to charge my CC – without being able to provide me with any tracking information or anything else. That punk also hired a wannabe lawyer – but I kindly refused her lame “offer” (which was actually more of a treat, by someone who isn’t in the position to threaten me). Just yesterday explained to her that she’ll have to deal with the attorney of state soon – if my goods shouldn’t appear within 7 days :)

    Decided to cancel any business with Amazon – in case they should get through with the attempted fraud. Also I have a suspicion that Amazon & DHL collaborate in order to produce shipments, which are not really required.

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  4. you have not been to eBay in years.They stopped allowing a seller to give a neg fb to a buyer years ago. the exact same day i stopped looking at my feedback or bothering to ever give it again.

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  5. Delivery confirmation number doesn’t mean anything in Amazon’s eyes. I am getting tons or ‘unreceived’ reports (at least 2-3 a week) from people whose packages were ‘delivered’ according to the tracking numbers. Just today I received another one that was ‘delivered’ 2 months ago, yet customer says it was never delivered. 2 months ago!!!!! I am still struggling what to respond, but I agree that Amazon is fast becoming a breeding ground for scammers. Just buy an item that you would like 2 of and when you receive it, report that you haven’t. You will receive another one from a seller who strives for a squeaky clean feedback and reviews. Or in the worst case scenario you will get all your money back.

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  6. Amazon has had a good reputation for many years but I agree that scammers have found a way to get into the buying & returning system. I used to sell books and make some money but not anymore. I had rather try selling an item on a local FB group than using Amazon anymore.

    Recently, I had an experience with trying to BUY an item. I kept trying to pay for the item in my cart and it kept sending me in circles and back to the same page over and over but would not take me to checkout.

    After some emails with Amazon and changing browsers, I found I could go to checkout. They blamed it on Internet Explorer but I am not so sure… Anyway, I wound up purchasing the product from another company.

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  7. The comments above sound familiar with our own setup on Amazon. We have had more claims in the areas where our competitors are selling which is rather odd. Oddly we found the claims are being made by (1) people of the same ages, (2) people who live within 40 mile radius from one another, (4) They all wait over 13 days before they hit the buyer with they have not received delivery, (5) They are usually linked through social media sites such as Facebook. We have a map where we highlight every claim, we highlight where our competitors are trading, we log the age of the person making the claim, we ask all claimants to complete a claim form. Any we suspect are committing FRAUD are reported immediately to AcitionFraud. We are also working with Royal Mail to tackle fraud where we are making Royal Mail aware of the delivery before the item is dispatched. As soon as we have had confirmation of delivery we wait for the crime to be committed by the buyer.

    If Sellers let them get away it they will continue to steal from others…. as the say CRIME TOGETHER WE WILL CRACK IT…….

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  8. I had the opposite. I ordered a computer from a supplier. My wife also ordered one so sent mine back. The seller claimed the computer was used. When I pointed out it was in my house over night he claimed it was damaged on return. He sent photos which show the damage as a fingerprint on the screen of something which might be a computer. For this he has deducted $175 and now it is 3 and a half months since he got his computer back

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    • You must not have ordered from an FBA seller because believe me, they have NO rights, it is a buyer’s market. If a package is even opened and then returned to Amazon, it is considered ‘damaged’ and they will not put it back in stock. Oh, they will send it back to you for about $.50 but you have already invested around $25 – $50 in the item by listing it in Amazon FBA. I thought it sounded like such a great idea to put everything in a box and mail to Amazon for them to package and mail out – I found out differently, sadly.

      Sorry to hear you got scr*wed by this transaction.

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  9. Pingback: Drop Ship Program - Legal or not??

  10. I know this thread is ancient, but I’m just happy to know I’m not the only one experiencing seller remorse from using Amazon as a middleman. I will never again use them to sell and/or buy anything. After two consecutive transactions went south and I was screwed out of money AND my product, I’m done dealing with their buyer-favoring, corrupt A to Z bull.

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  11. I’m a part-time seller only selling my few preowned textbooks. Recently, I sent a $80 textbook to a buyer lived in Orland, FL. However, she filed an A-Z Guarantee claim stated that she received another textbook which I never seen or owned before. I guess tracking # or delivery signature cannot solve this problem since even buyers do receive the item, they can always state that they receive the wrong item. As a result, the buyer can get whole refund without an effort. On Amazon, sellers have no way to protect our right, customers are always right!

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      • This is probably a good idea. I am tired of losing money selling on Amazon. As a result, I am selling more things on ebay with no problems. And I can state “NO RETURNS”.

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  12. This is happening to me right now. I sold a camera worth over $600 two days after they received it, the buyer is claiming the item is damage. Now, Amazon won’t even at look at the matter. Amazon is starting to be scam central.

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    • I’m really irritated with Amazon. I listed my husband’s laptop and someone obviously of Hispanic descent with poor english skills purchased it. I listed it as Used-Good because the screen has some pressure marks on it, absolutely nothing wrong with it other than some markings. I made that explicity clear in the description prior to his purchase. He filed an A-Z claim after asking for a refund claiming the laptop is broken.I responded to him expecting a reply back but got the claim instead. Now I’m trying to fight the claim, including facts and proof for Amazon but they’re still siding with the buyer. It’s really irritating since he’s now not obligated to send my laptop back. :/

      Liked by 1 person

      • I realize this post was over a year ago however I was wondering what happened in the end? I am questioning you due to the fact that my husband sold a $1000 computer and the person filed the A to Z guarantee and received all money back and we have not received the computer from buyer! it was a brand new computer; it just was not what we wanted so we sold it. Husband did not like touchscreen so we did a factory reset tested and sold as used like new. There was nothing wrong with laptop and buyer states the wifi does not work and put in the claim. We are right now fighting with Amazon and very frustrated. Buyer stated he was sending back computer; Amazon stated they would not issue a refund until we receive computer however they did anyway. We are now out a brand new computer and a lot of money

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  13. I got the following email today, supposedly through Amazon Marketplace, though it may well be a phish from outside Amazon. I never sold this person a Macbook Pro Charger. In fact I have never sold electronics on Amazon or anywhere else.

    “I purchased a macbook pro charger from you in december 2013 and it was been great until now, but it is now broken and doesn’t charge the laptop. How do i go about returning this as it is still in warranty. I really need this charger fast so would it be possible to order a new one and get refunded when you receive the old charger?”

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  14. I for one am sick of all the bs Amazon throws. There was a time I could have considered myself a customer of Amazon. Not anymore!
    After getting the short end of the stick as both buyer and seller I said to hell with that. I’m what some call rogue now.
    I used the same practices and policies to my advantage and scored a descent amount back (5k+ thus far). I just pressed back with the same force amazon used on me.
    If anyone interested in knowing more you can reach me at tr00p.666.azn (at) g- mail

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  15. Pingback: Owning Versus Sharing: Don’t get caught in the ugly middle « The Story's Story

  16. I havent sold all that much on Amazon. But I remember a time when a buyer received a video camera. Claimed it was junk. Even though it wasn’t. Filed a claim with Amazon and easily got rewarded a refund. I filed fraud against Amazon with my bank and got my money back. Saying it was an unauthorized withdrawal and played dumb about it. Amazon got charged back. And they didn’t do shit to my seller account. What I see here is a game of wits. Who’s smarter? It isn’t Amazon. Some people just put themselves in the fool’s shoes because they are more worried about their business than principle. I personally cared less what happened to my seller account. I just wasn’t gonna let Amazon conspire against me. Morals are more important than profit. Too bad the sellout society we live in today doesn’t have more ethical people.

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  17. I just got a message claiming that they received a different item. It’s not worth much and I didn’t want to deal with some crazy scammer so I just issued a full refund. But ethical side of me is thinking how sellers can be protected. Since Amazon doesn’t do anything, can we file a mail fraud complaint with the post office? It has to raise a red flag if a physical delivery address gets many complaints.

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  18. The Post Office now has GPS built into their scanners. If you can get the station manager to look up the scan data this is hard proof of delivery without a signature. Once you have that proof of delivery it becomes a police matter involving stolen mail. Once you inform the customer of this I have a 99.9% success rate of the package “mysteriously” showing up as my most recent customer stated.

    Almost all ripoffs start like this. “I did not get my package and I want a refund and/or replacement right now”

    Never, I didn’t get my package can you verify the delivery. I am afraid my delivery was stolen.

    Be polite but factual. Don’t be afraid to call the cops. After all you are helping the customer with their issue as they requested.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Pingback: Is Amazon.com’s Marketplace encouraging buyers to scam sellers by filing a refund claim? | Jamie's Online Attic

  20. I sold a brand new printer for a discount of about $300 and included a two year extended warranty. I did this because the printer did not have the original box. I got it a Staples brand new. The buyer filed an A to Z Claim that the printer was “materially different from what was described.” The fact that I described the lack of an original box in the comment section does not count per Amazon. I have to refund the buyer $1033.99 and he gets to keep the printer because I supposedly misrepresented it. I have tried in every way that I could find to appeal this A to Z decision but was unable to.

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  21. Amazon’s fixation on purchasers conspicuous difference a glaring difference to how it treats merchants. The organization is currently growing the profits approach in a way that has outside vendors anxious. Merchant concern is constructed generally with respect to how they’ve been respected by Amazon. Account suspensions have surged for the current year as Amazon takes action against a developing duplicating issue. In August, Amazon forced an expense for organizations to offer certain enormous brands. SellerPrime, recognizes particularly addresses a portion of the basic worries of Sellers to distinguish the correct items, cost and assess rivalry. While it’s actual that dealers will at no time in the future need to invest energy and assets on returns, they’re likewise stressed over losing the capacity to withhold discounts when items are harmed by the purchaser. Let’s seek after the best

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