Amazon has started suspending sellers for price gouging during Hurricane Harvey and we can expect the same for Irma and any other natural disaster. Please be aware that price gouging during times of emergency is a CRIME, not just distasteful. Thirty-four states – including Florida and Texas – and the District of Columbia have laws against profiteering. This is not about having the hot new toy. This is about people’s lives.
If you are selling food, water, medical supplies (from band-aids to bug spray), diapers, supplements, tools or anything else that might be considered a necessity by people who’ve lost everything, then you could be subject to price gouging scrutiny by Amazon (and the government).
If you use an automated repricing tool for your inventory, make sure that your high end range on your product is reasonable. Amazon looks at the average pricing for that item over the past year and if yours is higher, you are price gouging.
If you are not sure your item qualifies, don’t risk it. M&M’s a necessity? Gatorade? Maybe. Luxury watches? Coach bags, you’re fine. The distinction Amazon is making is unusual price hikes after a natural disaster.
How long are you at risk for price gouging in affected regions? Probably until the state of emergency is no longer in effect. Selling $20 Oreos? If they’ve always been $20, you should be OK. If they jump to $20 from a normal of $15 you are gouging.
There are a lot of sellers who don’t know how to use their repricers properly. Be sure you are not one of them.
In summary, profiteering is a crime and will be prosecuted by these states. Don’t risk it. Check your repricer now.
DON’T SELL RECALLED ITEMS
If an item has been recalled by the FDA or the manufacturer, don’t sell it. Seems simple but it is easy for an arbitrage seller to run afoul of this issue.
The recent situation with soy nut “peanut butter” with E. coli is a case in point. The item had been recalled but was still being sold by 3P sellers on Amazon. This is literally life or death and you need to know that the SELLER is responsible, not Amazon. Usually when an item is recalled, Amazon takes it down and sends out notices. In the recent situation I saw, a seller was selling the soy nut “butter” long after the recall and Amazon didn’t catch it right away.
There are free websites and alert services you can use to make sure you are getting recall notices from manufacturers and the FDA. If you sell ingestibles (food, supplements, cough syrup) or topicals (shampoo, lotions, soaps, bug repellent, eclipse glasses, laundry detergent), you need to stay on top of your recalls. Don’t rely on Amazon to do your job for you. This is especially true if you are buying liquidation or items from stores.
If you are buying from an authorized source, you can get your money back for the tainted goods from the manufacturer/grower. Even if you bought from a grocery store, many of them will accept the items back within a reasonable time frame. They then get their money back from the manufacturer/grower. If you’re buying liquidation…sorry Charlie. Throw it away.
FAKE REVIEWS BACK IN THE NEWS
The ingenuity of sellers never ceases to amaze me. When Amazon slams the door shut on product reviews, sellers find a loophole and exploit it until they get caught. I call this job security. In all seriousness, we expect a wave of product review shut downs after the recent article in Forbes. If you are not sure if your review program is compliant, we can look it over for you and let you know. Just call or email us ( firstname.lastname@example.org).
AMAZON TOUGH ON BABIES
Oops. I mean Amazon is hard on sellers of baby goods lately. They are taking down listings for false claims, miscategorized products and safety issues primarily. This is in part because of tough federal regulations on items sold to babies, but also Amazon is cleaning up listings on the platform and you know the drill – comply or be suspended:
We are writing to let you know that the following detail pages have been removed from our catalog: ASIN: XXXXXXXX
Based on information Amazon has received from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), your product is inappropriately described as a pillow or sleep aid for babies.
In order to reinstate your ASIN(s), you must:
1) Update your product title and description to remove any reference to baby sleeping activities including, without limitation, the following words: pillow, sleep, nap, crib, cradle, and bassinet.
2) Remove all product images which show a baby using the product as a pillow or other baby sleeping images.
Once you have completed these actions, please contact Seller Support to have your ASIN(s) reinstated.
This item was a stuffed animal and blanket bundle…for babies. So the seller will need to do a new photo shoot and show the baby playing with the stuffed animal on the blanket or something like that. But not sleeping. Why? Because doctors agree that babies should sleep in cribs with NOTHING. No blanket, no toys, no top sheet. This is to help prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. It is a health and safety issue you can’t win.
If you sell in this category, review all your listings with safety in mind.
UPDATE TO DON’T CHANGE YOUR BANK ACCOUNT!
It is safe to change your bank account information on Amazon again. With mandatory two-step verification, Amazon has eased up on the fraud alerts. I still caution people not to change too many things on their account all at once because that could look either like you’ve sold your Amazon business (against terms of service) or something fraudulent might be going on in your account. Change things in stages if you must.