The View from England

The dreaded Amazon A-Z claim

If you sell on Amazon, sooner or later you will get an A-Z claim. No matter what you do, and no matter what the justification, you will get one. Amazon considers a claim against you as a black mark — irrespective of its merits. If you have more than one claim per 100 orders, you are in trouble and your account may be reviewed, suspended, and even closed.

When you get one, you must not reply instantly. Your response must be carefully considered, to put your side in the best possible light. You only get one chance to reply. It is best if you do this after you fully investigate and you have calmed down. You will get nowhere with an angry response to a fraudulent claim.

First, consider what have you done wrong in the buyer’s eyes? What could you have done to avoid this? Learn from your mistakes. Put into place procedures to ensure that the mistakes are not repeated. Sometimes a claim is clearly fraudulent and you can see it coming. Scam artists know that they have a limited number of A-Z claims that they can make. They will try and get you to refund before they raise the claim. You must put feelings aside. This is a commercial decision. If you are virtually certain that the customer is lying, but it is only a few dollars, it might be worth giving in. Too many A-Z claims put your whole business at risk.

Regardless if you can afford to pay an A-Z claim, do not give in to overt blackmail. A polite but assertive “no” to the buyer’s messages may stop the process before it becomes a claim. If it does develop into a claim, the damage is done. All you can now do is mitigate the aftershocks.

There are two main types of claims: (a) the product never arrived, or (b) it is not as described.

If the buyer says it never arrived and if you did not track the shipment, then you will lose. There are only two ways to respond to this. Either bite the bullet and refund the customer in full, or, if you have something to say to better present your company to Amazon in the long run, fill in the response form. To ensure it is actually read, you must put something in the tracking number field. I tend to put in “none” or an actual value. Leaving it blank will result in no one at Amazon reading your reply, with the buyer getting the refund regardless.

I have found that if I politely state my position, and have a good case, Amazon will pay the refund. I still get the black mark, but at least I keep the money.

The same goes for the “not as described” claims. If the customer has a valid point, refund straight away. If the customer did not contact you first, you might respond and complain about it. But the end result is still the customer gets the refund and you get to pay it.

If, however, you think the claim is suspicious, or the customer is being unreasonable, then build your case. Refer to any email the customer sent. Demonstrate how you have done everything. Show how the customer is wrong. If you present your case properly, you might win. In rare instances, Amazon will deny the claim. More often Amazon will grant the claim and will pay for it, too. So you at least keep your money. Irrespective of the outcome, you get the black mark.

It is always worth taking the time to respond properly. In the last few months, as money grows tight, I have had a few A-Z claims. Two came from a buyer clearly abusing the system by ordering two items on separate orders, claiming no receipt the day after placing the order. (She had to use the “not as described” option but then the text said “not received.”) So I had two claims. I defended both. I “won” as Amazon said I was not at fault, but the claims were still granted and Amazon funded them — but my business still received two black marks. I could afford them as I do everything I can to offer good service and I have very few claims. By keeping honest customers happy, and minimizing genuine claims, you can better stand up to the scammers.

In the end, it is Amazon’s playing field. By selling on Amazon, accept that Amazon will always put the customer first. Accept the way in which Amazon judges sellers. No matter how unfair or unreasonable, it is Amazon’s playground and rules. It is better to accept this and find a way to play within these rules, or get out before you are forced.

See Richard Stubbings’ follow-up to this post, at “The dreaded Amazon A-Z claim, part 2.”

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