Practical Ecommerce

The dreaded Amazon A-Z claim, part 2

There are still readers who are commenting on “The dreaded Amazon A-Z claim,” my post from May 2013. I will not repeat that post here. But in light of some of the comments, it is worth revisiting the subject.

For readers that are not familiar, “A-Z claim” refers to Amazon’s “A-to-z Guarantee.” It reads, in part, “The condition of the item you buy and its timely delivery are guaranteed under the Amazon A-to-z Guarantee.”

Sellers on the Amazon marketplace are subject to claims from buyers and from Amazon if those buyers view the products that they purchased as having arrived in an unexpected condition, or did not arrive timely. In all cases, it is better for sellers to spot the potential for an A-Z claim and prevent it from happening.

In this article, I’ll review the primary reasons for receiving a claim, as described in comments to my earlier post. I’ll offer suggestions and remedies for those claims based on my extended experience of selling on Amazon.

Inexperienced retailer. Some commenters’ A-Z claims came about due to being inexperienced retailers who do not understand their obligations. In the U.K. it is simple. The retailer is responsible. Not the manufacturer. If something is wrong, it is up to the retailer to fix it. In all instances, if the customer returns the product, the retailer has to refund the customer in full. This includes the original postage. Amazon’s terms for both the U.S. and the U.K. match this heavy requirement. A-Z claims will arise if a retailer tries to avoid these obligations.

Indeed, in the U.K. if the product is different from what was described or has a material defect, the seller is obliged to pay the return postage as well. This is the cost of doing business.

When a seller receives an A-Z claim, he is notified by email and the claim is highlighted on his seller account home screen. The seller has to respond. Sellers should monitor their emails and the seller account screen. It is a seller’s fault if he does not respond timely, in the period that Amazon requires. Lack of a timely response ensures you lose the A-Z claim — and very likely the goods and the money.

Dishonest customer. Unfortunately there will always be customers who know how to play the system and effectively steal from you. There’s no way of distinguishing them from unhappy (but honest) customers. A seller’s objective should be to minimize her loss. Try to get the goods back. Try to get the customer to accept a discount to keep the goods. Realize that experienced scammers can twist the situation to ensure they keep the goods and also get their money back. At best, you may be able to word your reply so that Amazon pays the refund and not you. You do not want Amazon to think you are selling fake goods.

Inexperienced customer. These are inexperienced customers who believe that they have been wronged. They believe the retailer is trying to scam them, or have not properly described the goods. Inexperienced customers sometimes believe they can use the goods for a while before returning them, or have their return postage paid. I have even had customers who believe that I should additionally refund their petrol or travel costs to the post office.

I am not talking about the cases where you have inadvertently misdescribed the goods, or the description has changed since you listed the goods. I am talking about customers who did not read the description or made an assumption that was wrong. In one case I had a customer who purchased card sleeves. The description said they were suitable for Pokémon cards and gave their sizes. The customer wanted to use them for playing cards, and as they were far too small for that, the customer believed the description was wrong!

In the cases of inexperienced customers, you have to try to educate them — preferably before they raise the claim. Regardless, always refund quickly and politely even though it grates, because an A-Z claim can be hugely expensive.

Consequences of A-Z claim. Receiving an A-Z claim is annoying. It proves (perhaps unfairly) that you have failed. There are two costs to such claims. The first is the refund and potential loss of the goods. This is bad enough.

However the second cost can be far more devastating. If you have a low number of orders — less than 100 in 90 days — then even one claim can prevent you from being a featured seller. You lose the right to be considered for the Buy Box. This will decimate your order volume. It could cost you thousands of dollars in lost sales — as a result of a claim on a $10 order. Certainly it is hard to accept. But it is normally better to give in gracefully and issue the refund, whatever the merits.

Remember this. It is Amazon’s marketplace. Amazon makes the rules. Retailers should understand those rules and play by them. Or they should not sell on Amazon.


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  1. Carlos Rivera January 17, 2017 Reply

    I love selling on Amazon. In my experience, A-Z claims are not worth fighting. As you said, it is the cost of doing business. It is unfortunate some customers can abuse this claim policy. Amazon always sides with the customer.

    However as a word of caution, Amazon is a dangerous place to make a home for your business. Always realize it is a side job, because they can take away your ability to sell on their platform no matter how awesome of a seller you are. There are so many rules and algorithms that enforce those rules on Amazon, it can be difficult to speak with a human being that can understand your situation.

  2. keith February 27, 2017 Reply

    I’m looking into filing a law suit to this a-z claims for refunding the seller and not being concerned at all for the seller to return the product to me.

  3. Al Bender April 10, 2017 Reply

    My first sale on Amazon, $450, and then my first a to z. I spent three hours writing a detailed representment and apparently their website timed out. Result? No reply received and buyer keeps the goods, gets money and shipping back. The buyer is experienced as a seller and knew how to play the game.

  4. Angel May 18, 2017 Reply

    I don’t use to comment on public pages comments sections, but this time I’m feeling forced, because this thread is very biased. They are talking as if every buyer was a scammer and sellers are perfects and saints.

    There are buyers and sellers who scam, and we can not say one side has more cases than the other. I’m a buyer, an honest one. If I receive a wrong credit, I ask it to be removed from my account. Etc. I started buying on ebay, and then on amazon. I was subjected to 2 sellers who did scam. One selling pirated Adobe software and the other sold me a Windows 7 licence + CD, and it was blocked and Microsoft didn’t help me so I lost $60.

    This time, I purchased a refurbished computer on amazon from a merchant, and I trusted it will be all good.
    The day before mothers’ day, i connected everything (and I worked many years as technician), it worked for like 2 hours, and then it froze. I said “nah it’s just the RAM, it’s maybe dirty. I cleaned it. Then the computer started to turn on and off, and this is clearly a sign of faulty PSU (power supply). And it was very filled with dust.

    So I contacted the seller, and he, in few words (very unprofessional) implied that when he shipped the computer was OK, so it magically got damaged the PSU and applied DUST to it in the shipping process… hmmm… then I asked to return the computer and receive a refund, and he/she complained, but then Amazon sent me the A-Z refund and I was told that I don’t have to return the machine and I explained this to the seller, and he/she, again, in a few words, said something like “if amazon refunded it’s ok”.

    I discovered this A-Z claim my coincidence, when I was trying to start a return/refund process.

    I lost trust on refurbished computers and items. The PSU for this computer costs $49.99, but there is no guarantee that the other hardware is good. So I will better find a New or New Other computer for my mom this time.

    So, please, do not generalize. Not all buyers are scammers the same way not all sellers are scammers.


  5. amazon buyer/seller January 8, 2018 Reply

    I buy and sell on Amazon. Mostly art books in the 50-$100 range, maybe 3-400 per year. Drop shippers are a real problem. I ordered 10 books from a drop shipper. One was “sent” without tracking. Why someone would ship without a tracking number for a $300 book can only be suspicious. Four others were mailed with tracking numbers generated but no tracking ever showed that these four other $250 books were ever given to the post office. By generating the tracking numbers, seller got paid around $1,200 for five collectible books. Will have to cancel the other five orders (open over 2 weeks now).
    So while as a seller I dread getting an A-Z claim (have not gotten one yet), as a buyer the A-Z claim hopefully quickly straightens out bogus claims of shipment. Yes there are scam buyers, but there are also scam sellers, so Amazon does have a relatively easy way to straighten out the problems