Why I stopped selling to Amazon.com: The Amazon Con

Many customers have asked me why I no longer sell printed books through Amazon.com. Here's why:

1. Some of their actions were unethical and, in my opinion, fraudulent or a con. I will justify that opinion in a minute, but first let's review the dictionary definitions* of fraud and con:

Fraud: A deception deliberately practiced in order to secure unfair or unlawful gain.

Con: The act of intentionally cheating; a deception practiced to secure gain; to swindle out of something valuable.

I don't like buying new books or other products that are damaged, so I applaud the efforts of companies to ensure their customers receive flawless items. I did my part to facilitate that by personally inspecting (twice!) every book I sent to Amazon, carefully checking for even very minor flaws. I then wrapped the books in multiple layers of Glad wrap and carefully packaged them (see below):

Packing books for Amazon
After wrapping the books in Glad wrap, I surrounded them with ultra-thick cardboard that is designed to protect items during shipment.

Packing books for Amazon 2

I then used wadded packing paper to fill any voids (see above and below).

Packing books for Amazon 3

Packing books for Amazon 4

I then placed more ultra-thick cardboard on top, and then sealed the box with yards of strong packing tape.

Amazon never notified me that any of the boxes I shipped to them via UPS sustained damage, yet on various occasions they later returned individual copies to me because they were damaged. And that they were: some were more damaged than they would have been if a Mack truck ran over them! However, none of that damage was present when I packed the books, and my packing techniques were more than sufficient to prevent the kind of damage present in the returned books, such as huge sharp creases in the book covers. Had any book shipped to Amazon been so horrendously damaged during shipment, then the box itself must have been severely mutilated during shipment, which likely would have damaged other books in that box. However, judging by the "one at a time" trickle of damaged books returned to me, that did not happen.

If UPS mutilated a box, then Amazon should have notified me of that so I could have filed a claim with UPS. That never occurred, so I concluded that the damage done to individual copies was sustained after they arrived in Amazon's warehouse. Initially, I let Amazon get away with this, but after it happened repeatedly I wrote to them to complain. Here is one message I sent on May 13, 2005:

You recently returned a copy of my Fascinating Health Secrets book that was in your Amazon.com Advantage Program inventory. The cover of this book was mutilated, which is likely the reason you returned it to me. However, this book was in perfect condition when I shipped it to you months ago. I personally inspect every book that I ship, and I would not ship a book if it had even 1% of the damage evident in this book. This is not the first time that you have damaged my books and then returned them to me. In fact, I was so incensed by your policy of charging me for damage that you created that I began videotaping the packaging process as I boxed books to send to you. I would show every side of every book that I packaged, and I would then show how I carefully packaged the books (often going to extreme degrees of protection) and sealed the box. Obviously, the box itself was not damaged in transit, as you made no claim with the carrier, and you did not notify me of such damage around the time of shipment. From what I've read in the Publishers Marketing Association newsletter, you have damaged books from other authors and publishers, then returned them to those authors and publishers, charging them for the return -- as if THEY were responsible for the damage! Why do you do this? Why do you even TRY to do this? Do you think that we are stupid, or so cowered by the behemoth Amazon.com that we dare not utter a peep in protest? What you are doing is blatantly unethical and, in my opinion, illegal.

Kevin Pezzi, MD

Clearly, Amazon.com is a bully that uses its might to ride roughshod over the rights of others. Curiously, I've purchased books from Amazon that looked as if they had been loosely carried for a week in a jogger's backpack, with innumerable scuff marks and cover creases.

2. Another reason why I stopped selling books to Amazon.com is because of their insane ordering practices. Other distributors accept books (and other items) in case quantities. Not Amazon! Instead of ordering one case, two cases, three cases, etc., they would specify an exact number of books, which was virtually never the same as what a case held. Therefore, I would have to break open a case, hunt for (and often buy) a cardboard box of suitable size, and repackage the books. Can you say "waste of time and money"?

Amazon's ordering policy saps the profits from small independent publishers. Instead of placing an order sufficiently large to fill demand for a reasonable period (such as a month), they would often place multiple orders per week or even per day! It took me a few hours to fill each order. I'd first have to log onto the Amazon.com Advantage Program site, find my order, print it, find a box to repackage the books, CAREFULLY package the books (see above), drive 30 minutes to town, spend 15 to 30 minutes waiting in line, filling out forms, and paying for the UPS shipment, and driving 30 minutes home—after which I might turn on my computer and find a new order from Amazon! Sheesh! Why didn't they order a case of books instead of two half-cases? It is much less expensive to ship fewer large orders than many small orders because of how UPS (and other carriers) set their fees. Amazon.com knows this, yet they don't care if their policies waste enormous amounts of time and money for publishers.

I tried reasoning with Amazon on multiple occasions, but their bureaucratically cold and robotic replies manifested their apathy about how their policies made it difficult for small publishers and authors to make a profit by selling books though the Amazon.com Advantage Program. Therefore, after tiring of Amazon’s arrogant unreasonableness and unethical behavior, I refused to fill any more orders from them.

My brother and I also sell home and garage organizational products through our www.garagescapes.com site. We tried selling them through another Amazon channel but once again found Amazon impossible to deal with. This time, however, their policies were not just the usual "good for us, not you" one-sided Amazon arrogance, but practices that were clearly poorly conceived and not good for them, either. Jeff Bezos, are you asleep?


* Definitions excerpted from American Heritage Talking Dictionary Copyright © 1997 The Learning Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


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