And so here I am, documenting the recent refund case with one of our customers on Amazon.ca (that’s Amazon Canada). I hope that this will help any sellers who might face the same issue as we did.
Before I go further, a little background of our operation. We’ve been selling on most online marketplaces (platforms) locally and international and we are quite familiar with how ‘buyer protection’ works for these marketplaces. We are aware how marketplaces impose stringent terms and conditions so that buyers are protected from unscrupulous merchants. The more established the marketplace, the more rules and regulations and inflexible they are when they deal with merchants.
Before signing up, these marketplaces will treat you so nice they make you feel like you’ll be the only one selling on their platforms. Once your first sale rolled off their marketplace, they will start treating you like you’ve got the 6th strain of Ebola. And usually, that’s when your love-hate relationships with them begins.
I am actually fine with protecting buyers, especially first time buyers that had no experience with online purchasing. Yet, marketplaces that allows third party merchants like us to sell on their platform leverages on our resources to provide ‘great customer service’. You’d think that their high commission rates is the only cost of doing business with them. And there are certain thresholds you don’t cross even when you think you are the biggest online marketplace in the world. And yes, I am referring to Amazon. And we all know what happened to the almighty eBay when they leverage on their merchants too much.
Of course, this is not a rant about why I think Amazon is a lousy platform for aspiring merchants. Far from that, I think Amazon is a great and promising platform for merchants who wants to reach a global audience, and specifically those where Amazon has presence in (10 countries at the time I am writing this post):
Amazon.com – Worldwise, specifically the United States
Amazon.ca – Canada
Amazon.co.uk – United Kingdom
Amazon.de – Germany
Amazon.fr – France
Amazon.it – Italy
Amazon.es – Spain
Amazon.co.jp – Japan
Amazon.cn – China
Amazon.in – India
And so, back to the refund case which I would like to share with you.
1. On 26 February 2016, a customer placed an order on Amazon.ca for a Mechanical Keyboard. The value of the order was CDN$264.59 and there’s no shipping charges as the order qualifies for Free Shipping.
2. Item was shipped out the very next day- 27 February.
3. On 2nd Mar 2016, I got this from the customer via Amazon.ca:
I just got the DHL shipping carrier coming to my house demanding I pay a 30$ charge. I paid you shipping already to cover this. I will not be paying extra at my house after I’ve sent almost $300.
You can contact DHL and tell them to send me my product or I will be going to amazon and getting a complete refund, I’m not getting scammed because you forgot to pay for shipping when I clearly did.
Remember, this order did not require the Buyer to pay any shipping fees. The CDN$30 is Import Duty for the purchase that DHL is collecting on behalf of the Canadian Custom Department.
This is one of the area where Amazon could have done better. Their website at www.amazon.ca did not actually inform the buyer that item is actually fulfilled from outside of Canada, and is likely to incur import duty imposed by the Canadian Custom Department. I was checking out a few items I was selling on Amazon.ca, logged on with a mock Canadian customer profile (with a Canadian shipping address) and realized that there’s no indication of where the merchant (in this case it’s me, a merchant from Malaysia) is fulfilling the item from. And I really cannot blame the customer for being angry with the extra fees he had to pay for import duties, but calling me a scammer is a little too much.
I responded to the customer complaint within the same day.
4. On 1 March 2016, based on DHL’s record, the customer somehow came to an agreement to pay for the import duty and proceed with the delivery. And eventually, the item was finally delivered to the customer and was signed off on 11 March 2016.
And you would’ve thought that’s the end of it.
5. Only it wasn’t so. On 11 March 2016, the customer sent another message via Amazon.ca asking, “Where’s my stuff / Où est ma commande ?”
What!? It seems like the customer knew how to play the game, or it could have been purely coincidence. The same day the keyboard was delivered, he sent out the above “Where’s my stuff” message to Amazon.
Of course, being a responsible seller, I informed him that he’d already receive the keyboard and it has been signed off.
6. Still not satisfied with my response, he proceed to file a refund. Amazon said, “Customer never received his package and is wanting a full refund back. Cx has contacted seller and is not having issue resolved the way they would like.”
What? Hello? Amazon, did you check the conversation log that I had with this customer?
No, apparently Amazon don’t give a flying fuck. And hence, I’ve learn that in an Amazon transaction, customers can play us merchants however they like. It doesn’t matter what information or customer service you’ve provided to the customer, as long as the customer is not happy for whatever reason that may be, you are still liable to please them. And please them you must.
7. And on 14 March 2016, a Refund was requested by the customer. Say what? Why is Amazon allowing a customer to seek for a refund when the item is already delivered on terms agreed by the customer and was already signed off by the customer himself?
What choice do I have? I’ll just have to play along, as Amazon sent me the following:
Here are instructions for issuing a refund or representing your case.
* Go to your Seller Account by typing the following web address into your browser’s address bar: www.amazon.ca/sc-claims. Sign in when prompted.
* Click on “A-to-z Guarantee Claims ” for action required claims.
* Click on “Refund the order” or “Represent your case” and follow the instructions.
For refunds, when the reimbursement is complete, we will debit your account for the refund amount, and credit you back all relevant fees.
You may wish to review our A-to-z Guarantee at: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/switch-language/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=10195011&language=en%5FCA And section 5-n of our Participation Agreement at: http://www.amazon.ca/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=10195031&language=en%5FCA
And this is where it gets downhill all the way. The link above: www.amazon.ca/sc-claims did not sent me to any claim resolution page. I only remembered that I was sent to the page that requires me to respond to the customer’s message.
8. And on 22 March 2016, unaware that I was supposed to ‘Represent my case’ within 7 days simply because I was not directed to the correct page, Amazon refunded the customer who already received the order:
The buyer’s claim was granted. Our investigations team concluded that you are responsible for this claim and your account was debited to reimburse the buyer.
Hooray, justice has been served. Investigations team, what were you guys smoking?
9. Anyway, my repeated email to Amazon to explain the situation fell on deaf ears. Their reasoning is very simple: If you don’t respond to the A-to-Z Guarantee Claims withint 7-days, you can have all the eye-witnesses and alibis in the world, it wouldn’t make any difference. It’s final. Period.
And that’s that. The entire episode of dealing with an angry customer who paid for custom duty which Amazon did not inform him and where the customer eventually figured out an excellent game plan to victimize the seller because he somehow knew Amazon will always side the customers.
Money lost, and one keyboard less in my inventory. I’ve closed down my Amazon.ca store to avoid such cases again. It’s just not worth it. I will continue to sell on Amazon.com, as I have no such problem at all.
And the Buyer had the cheek to still rate me 1 our of 5 stars in Amazon.ca, claiming “Seller will not stop contacting me after filing an A-Z claim.”
I will knock on your door and get my keyboard back when I visit Niagra Falls.
Here are some of the lessons learnt:
1) Amazon is not perfect, but they’d like to think they are. So, in any case, as a merchant, we should remain vigilant at all times.
2) When faced with a refund claim, utilize all your resources to click on all the links in your seller dashboard. That’s how I found out after the fact that claims resolution are managed under the menu Performance> A-to-z Guarantee Claims.
Like I said earlier, Amazon is a promising platform, and you should use it to optimize sales. If you have been following my previous posts, you will know that I always advocate that you spend 50% (if not more) of your resources to build your own website for the long term. Amazon is known for their long term plans, but it’s unlikely your business’s interest is part of that.
I hope my experience has been beneficial to you. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below.