Amazon Must Limit Third Party Sellers

I had a pretty frustrating experience with Amazon recently.  By and large, I’m willing to forget about it for two specific reasons:

  • Amazon rocks more often than not.  They’ve built lots of goodwill points
  • It wasn’t technically Amazon’s fault

The Lost Fitbit Charger

It all started last November.  After we returned from our Disney World trip, I realized that I had left behind the charger for my Fitbit.  I have a Flex, and the charger is really quite simple.  It is about six inches long with one end holding a cradle for the Fitbit, and the other end a plug to a USB port.  It’s pretty small and I can see where it got overlooked during our packing.

I knew I’d probably rule out buying one directly from Fitbit, but decided to check anyway.  The charger was $19.95 and I was pretty sure that they would want to clip me for shipping, as well.

No stinking way.

So, of course my next stop was on Amazon.

I typed in Fitbit Flex charger and it turns out I was in luck!

I quickly looked and determined that I probably wanted a charger that was less common.  See, to do a reset of the Flex, you have to put it in the charger, and do the old ‘press a button with a paper clip’ trick.  This power cycles the
device and short of letting the power drain, it’s the only way to do so.  I have had to do it occasionally to resolve sync issues, so I determined that this was what I needed.  Many of the devices on Amazon did not have this feature, so I skipped past these listings.

I found a few listings, and found one that I really liked.  It offered the charger with the power reset button, and they offered a two pack.  Plus, it was $12 for the two pack, and it was Prime eligible.  It was sold by a third party seller, but fulfilled by Amazon.  Cool.  On top of that, they offered a one year replacement warranty.


So, I placed the order, and a couple of days later the new chargers arrived, just as advertised.  Prime is so awesome that it came before the battery even drained on my charger.  Pretty cool.

Good Thing I Bought Two

Everything went smoothly for a few months.  I loved the idea of having two chargers, as I kept one at home and one at work.  Typically, I charge at work a couple of times a week, but having the extra one at home was nice.

One day I dutifully charged it, and popped it out at the end of the day, only to find that it was dead the next morning. Uh-oh.  I checked, and sure enough, one of the chargers was no longer doing its job.

Boy, was I glad that I had the second charger as a backup and also glad that they offered a replacement option.

I went back through my order history, and from there clicked ‘Contact Seller’ and notified them that one of the Fitbit chargers had failed, and per their product page, could they please send a replacement?  They replied within 24 hours that they would.

Easy, right?

Well, it was a little too easy.

A couple of days later I glanced out on the porch and saw a package sitting there.  It was about the size of a shoebox.  I opened it up, not yet figuring out who it was from, only to discover that I was now in possession of a replacment Roomba charger.  And we’re talking the entire charging station that a typical Roomba would go put itself into at the end of a cleaning cycle.

It’s a pretty cool charger…except I have no use for it as we don’t have a Roomba!  Until recently, we had cats, and they would occasionally make messes (throw up) on the carpet, and the last thing I wanted was for the Roomba to dutifully spread around such mess, so we never had one.

So, you can imagine my surprise when I had this much larger charger.

The Run-Around

I contacted the company again, letting them know what had happened.  I once again contacted them from my order page, so I knew that they had the exact order information.

They replied back and pretty much said that it was impossible, and asked if I could send them a picture.

So, I sent them a picture of the box I had and the charger that I was looking for.

They replied back and asked for a picture of the shipping label.

So, I sent them a picture of the shipping label.

Then, they replied back and told me that I needed to contact Amazon since it was fulfilled by Amazon order.

Now, I was getting mad.  I haven’t mentioned that each e-mail took about 24 hours to reply, so we were working on a few days of back and forth.  All while I looked at this stupid charger sitting in the corner of my eye.

I explained (clearly but a little less politely) that although the *initial* order had been fulfilled by Amamb-2015-07-signzon, that the problem came with the replacement item, which was not sent by Amazon, but had been sent by them directly.

It took about 48 hours but they finally replied back and apologized for the misunderstanding.  They indicated that they would send me the correct Fitbit charger, refund my shipping fees, and also send me a UPS label to return the Roomba charger.

To their credit, they did send the correct Fitbit charger within a couple of days.  They did not refund the shipping costs…because there weren’t any that I’d paid since it was a Prime eligible purchase.  And to date, they still have not sent me any label or requested the incorrect item to be returned.

Now, just out of curiosity, I looked and the Roomba charger sells for $45, so I guess there’s a certain point where I could actually turn this into a money making deal for me.  You know, for my frustrations and all!

Why Amazon Should Limit Third Party Sellers

Now, this whole thing was a bit frustrating.  It was more amusing than anything else, but because it was a third-party seller issue, I really didn’t assign this as a referendum to Amazon.  Yes, I went to Amazon to buy the product, but in my mind, none of the issues that I had, whether it be from the product failure itself to the replacement process, really had anything to do with Amazon.  They were just the go-between.

Which is fine, so long as that type of transaction is the exception.

I looked through our purchase history and I’d estimate that less than 15% of our purchases came from third party sellers.  Most are sold directly by Amazon.  And, that’s the way I want to keep it.

Amazon Must Maintain Brand Control

So, I hope that Amazon realizes the value of keeping control over more of their transactions.  It’s easy to picture a situation where they could start farming out more and more transactions, or even partnering up with other sellers for entire lines of products.  This might make sense in a conference room somewhere where I’m sure the word ‘bottom line’ would be thrown about many a time, but the counter to that is that Amazon loses a little bit of control each time they do that, and it can be a slippery slope.

I think Amazon has worked and grown so well because they keep so much of that control.  By limiting the control over what others have access to ‘mess up’, so to speak, they can limit their risk of problems so long as they set and maintain their own processes.  And, to their credit, they do that very well.

I’ve even heard rumors that Amazon intends to set up their own delivery network, meaning that one additional piece that is handled outside of Amazon’s control, the carrier that brings the product to your door, could be brought within their control.  So, yes, you might very soon see an Amazon truck rolling up to your house, and an Amazon driver getting out and bringing the package to your door.

That tells me that Amazon seems to understand the value of keeping things in house.  Let’s hope they keep it that way!

Readers, have you ever had any problems with Amazon, and if so, was it an issue directly with Amazon or was it a third party seller?  What are your experiences with things like third party sellers, fulfilled by Amazon products, and other offerings?

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9 thoughts on “Amazon Must Limit Third Party Sellers

  1. Most of the problems I’ve had with Amazon have been with fulfillment in general and these aren’t necessarily Amazon’s fault. I think my experience with fulfillment issues are split between Amazon and third parties. However, it seems as if though I’ve had to send more emails in the last year than all years combined.

  2. I’ve had a problem where I ordered a couple things from a third-party seller, and one came but the other didn’t. I contacted them to tell them this, and they said they’d send it. They never did, so I filed a claim with Amazon. I also had an issue when ordering from a third-party seller last year, (Lol, I partially blame my sister for this one.) The package didn’t get here in time for Christmas, only to realize that it was being sent from China! I told her to always check to see if it was prime eligible or fulfilled by Amazon.

  3. I ordered a key-finder through Amazon. When I gave it three stars (it works, but not as exuberantly as advertised), the seller got ahold of my email address, offered me a free replacement if I would update my review, and started nagging me to do so.

    Well, I took the replacement and gave it to some friends who are even elderlier than I am. And yeah, even though the thing isn’t as effective as they claim, during the time this exchange was going on, I lost my keys THREE TIMES and the gadget helped find them. So yeah, I upgrade the review.

    But it undermines one’s confidence in customer reviews, which in the past have been one of the salient characteristics of shopping at Amazon. A lot of sellers pay for or otherwise wangle four- and five-star reviews.
    Funny about Money recently posted..NIMBY, Indeed…or any anyone’s -BYMy Profile

  4. I agree that Amazon should get rid of these third-party sellers. I won’t buy from any of them at Amazon anymore. A gift I bought from a third-party seller in China didn’t come through after notifying me via email that the gift was sent. It never arrived and Amazon gave me a credit. I’m sure not all of them are shady, but this one bad experience turned me against buying from them again.

    • Sorry that happened. I don’t think that they’re ever going to go away completely, as I’m sure Amazon makes some money off of them and allows them to have sales in areas that Amazon themselves might not want or be able to get into. I just hope that they’re kept greatly in check, as it can have the ability to compromise the brand if the experiences of yours become more the norm and not the exception.

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