Do you hate it when unapproved Amazon sellers start selling your products?
Amazon is like a honey badger. They just don’t care if someone else is selling your product.
I am not talking about hijacked listings or when someone gets your item from a liquidator and sells it as a one-off. I am talking about the customers that you sell your products to at wholesale prices and then sell your products on Amazon without your permission. Amazon won’t help with this scenario. Since Amazon.com of a free marketplace, just about any seller can sell any item if they have the inventory. Amazon does not take interest with your internal polices.
We are the brand manufacturer of our items and we have some approved vendors for Amazon.com. Everyone else is restricted from selling on Amazon as well as other third-party websites. We have a pretty high Best Seller Rank (BSR) for our category. Our product is in the top 10 for its subcategory. Needless to say our products sell pretty well, which is why a lot of sellers want to also sell our products. Every so often we get a seller who disregards our online selling terms and puts their inventory up on our detail page.
We will initially ask them who they are by saying something like:
“I don’t show you as an approved seller of our products on Amazon. Can you tell me the name of your account with us so we can update our records?”
Just asking them who they are works about 50% of the time. We then politely ask them to remove the listings as it is against policy. Most accounts comply.
What happens when they don’t let you know who they are?
We recently had a situation where we have one of our wholesale accounts start selling our products on Amazon, which is against our “Online Terms and Conditions” that we go over with each new customer.
How did I know they were a wholesale account? They had too many items for sale not to be. There is a trick you can do to figure out how many items a particular seller has. If you haven’t read it yet get your copy of “37 tricks your competition doesn’t know about,” which explains how to do it.
The issue with this particular seller is that their Amazon name did not match the name of their account with us. After emailing back and forth with them it was apparent that they did not want to reveal their identity. Originally, they lied to us and said they got the inventory from a liquidator. I replied with “Great, please provide some documentation.” They said they did not want to reveal their sources. I told them they could blur out the name on the invoice, but I wanted to see some line items with our items. They could not provide this information because we would obviously recognize our own invoice. I also told them that I didn’t believe them as we don’t sell to any accounts who resell to Amazon sellers. Plus the margins just didn’t make sense for one of our accounts to do that.
How did I find out who they were?
Here are some tips and tricks to figure out who unapproved sellers are:
- Look at their seller profile to see if there is a customer service number. If the company is big enough there will be a customer service representative you can talk to that doesn’t know any better. They will often times give up the name of the account you have in your files. If they don’t know, you can ask them for the city and state they are located in. This will help you narrow down the potential suspects.
- Go to their Amazon storefront. Find an item that is merchant fulfilled. Order it. When it arrives look at the address label to see where it was mailed from and cross reference with your customers. Sometimes the city on the label is not the actual originating city. Go to the carrier’s website and enter the tracking number. See if the city where the item originated from is different. Again, cross-reference with your customer profiles.
- Type their Amazon seller name into google. You might have to go a few pages deep. I found a couple of our accounts this way. The LLC registrations came back with a city and owner names which matched our accounts’ information.
If those fail to get you result, you will have to do some advanced ninja tactics, which unfortunately take more time.
- Again, go to their storefront. Look at the other item they have for sale. Go to those brands’ websites and look for a store finder. Try to cross reference with your account names to see if any match. NOTE: Not all store finders are made alike and many are out of date.
- [Advanced] If your order management system allows for it run a report for the companies that have ordered the 3 slowest/newest items the unapproved seller has for sale. If your order management system does not allow for this (as mine doesn’t) you will have to do it manually. Use the trick mentioned above to find out all of the items they have of yours for sale. I usually just fill out an order form with the info. Then run a report in your order management system to find the customers who have purchased the 3 slowest selling and/or newest items. Then export the info into three separate Excel spreadsheets. Filter each spread sheet for duplicate company names so they only appear once. Copy and paste the info from second spreadsheet to the bottom of the first spreadsheet. Find duplicate values again. This will give you the names of all of the companies that bought 2 of the three items. Sort to group them together. Then repeat with the third spread. this will give you a short list of potential violators. Then go back through each account to see if their order quantities match with what they have listed on Amazon.
What do you do when you find out who they are?
Well, that is up to you. You could let them continue to sell if they are abiding by your Minimum Advertised Pricing (MAP) policies. Or you can give them an ultimatum to stop selling otherwise you will cut them off as an account. We are not afraid to cut off selling to wholesale accounts that break our policies. To date we have deactivated 7 accounts due to noncompliance. Our brand protection and MAP pricing are more important to us than a few thousand dollars in sales. In instances like this where the account has lied to us, we automatically shut them off. We won’t deal with unscrupulous business owners.