The View from England

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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