Or; Amazon Returns, what sounds like a badass sequel to an already badass movie, turns out to be a Real Life Nightmare.
My apologies for shouting. But I had to get someone’s attention before my company practially goes down the drawn by the hands Amazon or one of their buyers. Of course I first contacted the buyer in question but I have not been getting a reply other than the autoreply on the days she’s out of the office.
Please hear me out. The tragedy that my company didn’t want a role in started last year in March. I was contacted by ms Michaella P. (name withheld, due to, I don’t know, I guess I am afraid of that giant you built)
Working as an entrepeneur and independent artist it is kind of hard for obvious reasons. So the phone call from ms Michaella P. was such a nice thing! She said she was a buyer from Amazon and she was interested in my lovely products and asked me which ones I could supply. I talked with her about my semi-handmade business. My philosophy is based on doing business in a careful manner. I design something, make it and if all goes well and people like my designs I outsource the production. This way I have worked since 2008. For an artist it is hard to survive. You have to be everything; designer, producer, bookkeeper, salesperson and head of the warehouse. But I want to change the world. Not only by opening people’s eyes to the beauty of nature but also by giving back to nature. So I use FSC paper and organic cotton and use as little packing materials as possible. It’s also in the little things I think. I pay attention to those details and always choose the most environmentally friendly option. I love love love nature and my work is an expression of that on many levels.
Amazon would sell FOR me
Ms Michaella P. asked me if I’d ever worked with someone like Amazon. I mentioned Dutch Bol.com and she said it would be different. Amazon would buy from me. Amazon would actually sell FOR me. With my products in the warehouses they would be selling as Amazon Prime. I didn’t want my stockists to object so I thought a market where my products weren’t sold yet would be perfect. But of course I was wondering if Amazon would be a good fit for my type of company. I mentioned that I was a little weary because of the work it involved and because of the handmade nature and the tiny size of my company. Michaella put my mind at ease. It wouldn’t be much work setting up. She’d send me the terms. Now I have to say I wasn’t very impressed with the terms in the way that I thought they were okay. I spoke to Michaella again and said that the term of a year in which Amazon can return my products would not work for me. I said I was scared that after a year, you’d ship it all back, without having to put much effort into selling. And that is a pretty easy way to run a business being Amazon, huh? I said that I expected Amazon to know the market and not callously buy and ship back, since my company would not be able to process that.
Michaella said it wouldn’t be like that and the terms would be that Amazon would take care of customer returns and Amazon would do the selling for me. The terms would be that Amazon would be happy to invest time in selling for me. Amazon would know and not buy things that couldn’t be sold.
I also expected a problem with the amount of items I would have to produce. I mentioned this of course and Michaella P. told me that we’d grow gradually. Orders would start small and then grow. So the risk of items being shipped back was so small. Amazon wouldn’t put in a second order if the products of the previous order wouldn’t sell, that’s common sense for a business owner isn’t it? She also said that I didn’t have to accept the orders when they were too small to make a profit, considering the shipping costs. So we started working under those terms. I learnt the handbook by heart, took the courses Michaella recommended, all to deliver items just as Amazon expected of me. I am quite organized and strive for perfection even in the books, unlike many other artists. It’s something that sets me apart from other artist I ‘d hoped.
The Shortage Claims That Couldn’t Be True
After a while I got some claims that the parcels I sent were incomplete. That is when I first encountered the ‘contact us’ of Amazon. It is so hard to communicate with them. I often had to explain a problem to a person that didn’t speak English properly and the answer I got was often so hard to understand. There were shortage claims in the warehouses of Amazon that I knew 100% sure were not correct. I supplied to big (for my little country, big) chain stores and I knew about how annoying it is for warehouses to not receive what’s said to be shipped. I also knew about the penalties that big companies charge so I actually TRIPLE checked orders to not get those claims. But at one point a box with 3 items got reported that there were 2 items missing! I tried to work with the people from Amazon’s helpdesk but what you really miss is an actual person who knows what happens. This is pure Vogon territory. Maybe as a bit of a sidenote; but I never supplied to a company with this much missing items in the warehouses. And who is paying for the items lost in your warehouses? I know now.
That’s What She Said; The Buyer Goes Silent
And that was one of the first problems; there is no person to ask your questions that knows you. In the beginning Michaella P. would reply nicely, but when Amazon and her actions were starting to pose a threat to my company and I told her, she went silent.
I will explain the severity of the problem for me as a person and company. To prevent that I am mentioning numbers here, I will refer it to my month’s salary. Any number can be filled in, so if you’d like to fill it in with your salary, I don’t mind. I just hope you understand that it is very serious for me.
The first order was about 1/2 my salary’s worth. Then one came that was a bit bigger. I did a couple of very small ones too that I would lose money on, but I thought it would be good to keep the ball rolling and get the market to see me on Amazon. So where´s my reward for being loyal? Then there was a monster size order for my company. 8 times my month’s salary and I couldn’t even fill it completely. So it was looking good. Amazon wouldn’t order this big of an order when things were not selling, right? That is what Michaella said!
Then all of a sudden within a month or so I received an e-mail that products were being sent back. That’s quick, I thought, and so much. It was still getting other orders so this was weird. It was about 2/3 of my month’s salary that I just got back without ANY explanation. Michaella was still not responding and from your ‘contact us’ people I got ‘overstock’ as a reason. Nothing more. This person also told me how to check what was already sold by Amazon. I was horrified that this was not even 1/2 the value of my month’s salary. So the stock was now built up to more than 12 times what was sold. Why did you buy all those things and then send small parts back? At the point of the largest order, Amazon bought 28 times more items than there were sold. Pretending to be an actual buyer, buy way too many things and then send them back would be a pretty evil businessmodel, right?
I won’t go into detail about the state of the items that are being sent back too much. But let me just tell you that it awful. I have to repack and iron everything because it’s all in very bad shape.
And if you understood why I chose the comparison with my salary you know that I won’t be selling the returned items that easily through my sales channels.
So now the situation is as follows; Amazon is sending back items that they bought, when they could’ve known it would become overstock. And last week I received 2 large boxes that Amazon has also send me an invoice for. You have charged me with shipping costs, of the previous overstock of an amount in euros that I could buy groceries from for a week. About 3,5 times more than I have to pay when I ship off a box to one of your warehouses. The latest I have heard is that ‘the system’ saw a huge demand in my products and ordered way too much. So I get the invoice for your system’s mistake. I have received numerous e-mails to keep me quiet, no responsibility is taken.
The way it looks now, is that Amazon will send back things and I have to pay for the shipping and the costs will be so much higher than I’ve ever earned. I will have to take up a loan to pay for those products your *buyer* said Amazon could sell for me. So I have to buy them back basically. But there had been only 1-2 item orders coming my way so I stopped the orders from coming anymore. Some of the items on those orders were still in stock and some that even have been sent back to me. I could buy lunch of that turnover, but not make any profit. I can’t fill them because it’s just as much as shipping the order would be. Michaella told me that would not be a problem to not fill an order, but now I can’t pay back the money of the products being shipped back to me through new orders. Besides there is another reason to not fill them; It would be crazy to build up the stock even more! I’d be setting myself up to have them crumpled up and thrown back over the channel back to me.
The Place To Be
If I’d known this of course I wouldn’t have done it. If Michaella would have been honest and said to me; “Then I think this is not for you”, you know as a human would do, I wouldn’t be in this mess. From a sensible business perspective it is just so unfair, to buy a lot from a tiny company and then start returning the items so shamelessly. No responsibility whatsoever. I thought we’d be in an era where people would take accountibility for what they did.
Some people will say; you should’ve known with a big company like Amazon. At least that’s how I feel right now. But everybody said Amazon is the place to be. And I expressed all my worries to Michaella. It wasn’t the case she said. I think being an entrepeneur obviously involves risks and some you have to take. But one shouldn’t have to accept this type of behaviour, right? There is such a thing as integrity, or isn’t there? Amazon is the first company that will put me in debt. I have always paid everything I owed people and have always weighed the risks of things so I wouldn’t be in a situation where I couldn’t pay for something.
Now Mr Bezos, you to me, seem like a person that had a dream and vision and you made it. I read that your wife was on board immediately when you explained your plans and I think it is wonderful and inspiring that people accomplish such things. My boyfriend loves what I do too but has to watch me get stuck in your enormous wheels, and has to patch me up every time I get another of Amazon’s invoices. I am making things to make other people smile. I just got a message from a mother whose first item she bought for her new born daughter was one of my pillows. This is what I love. I am sure you know the feeling too; your plans don’t only make you happy; they make others happy. I am a dreamer too and I am being stepped all over by your company. This wasn’t what you had in mind, was it?
Please, please, please help me! I don’t believe that one person’s success has to mean another’s loss. Do you?