Fishy Returns on Amazon

I recently sold my old camera, Olympus C-770 Ultra Zoom via Amazon Marketplace where I have had a sellers’ account for more than a year. I was damn pleased to have sold it within a week of putting it up for sale. The camera worked great and had produced great photos for me over the past two years. I was simply selling it because I got my new DSLR.

The camera was purchased by a guy in Atlanta who first emailed me about my return policy and I replied that the usual 30-day period and return-as-you-received applied for a full refund minus the shipping costs. He bought the camera a few days later and I instantly shipped it to him through Priority Mail to beat the Thanksgiving break. I received a delivery confirmation yesterday so I was naturally surprised when he emailed me as to when he could expect it. After sending him the tracking number, he confirmed that he had received it but at the same time added that after shooting few pictures, the LCD screen was not working for reviewing the pictures. In the same breath, he asked for my return address. I asked to see if he was using it correctly and pointed him to the different setting for shooting and reviewing the photos. He responded within the hour saying, the MyMode was not working and he was returning the camera.

Of course, I was disappointed since I was considering using the money for a new lens for my SLR but I found the whole thing a bit fishy since the buyer was more concerned about returning the camera than its condition or quality even before he bought it. Probably I am just being paranoid but the camera was working perfectly fine and I packaged it extremely carefully complete with bubble-wrap and those air-filled plastic bags that come with any Amazon purchase. I read up on Amazon’s return policy on the Marketplace and it is heavily skewed in favor of the buyer especially for used goods. But there have been cases of buyers returning defective items and keeping the originally purchased items. Ash managed to dig up the original receipt so that we can compare the serial number of the camera when it is returned. But I’ll have no way to prove if the buyer has tampered with the internal parts and damaged it. I’ve told him that I would refund the money only if it arrives before I leave for India, is in the condition I had sent it in, and matched the serial number. But in absence of any outward proof of any wrongdoing, I might have to refund his money if those conditions are met. But the whole thing just seems too fishy and I’m keeping my fingers crossed and waiting for the camera so I can personally inspect it.

Online transactions are heavily based on trust and although retailers shoulder most of the liability burden, you are simply not willing to invest any time and effort in any dispute that arises. Your reputation as a seller may be negatively impacted and thus any future sales that you might be hoping to do can be affected. Any misdeeds such as buying stuff and exchanging non-working parts or tampering with the original item before returning must be rampant. I just hope that isn’t the case with my camera. Although Amazon recommends that the seller refund the buyer in case of returned items, the sellers are not obligated to in case they suspect any mischief. The buyer is covered under Amazon’s A-to-Z Guarantee Protection and the sellers have to negotiate with Amazon regarding the dispute. I just hope I don’t have to go that way because frankly I don’t have the time or the inclination.

Have you had any such bad experiences with selling your stuff online?



  • http://sirjorge.com/blogx sir jorge

    I had a similar problem with amazon’s seller program earlier this year too…

    Someone complained about a book not being shipped in a bubble mailer, despite the fact that the book was hardcover and there was no way it was going to be damaged in shipping.

    Needless to say, Amazon sided with the buyer and now my online account is tarnished forever :(

    Hope your situation works out well.

    • Mark

      Hardcover books CAN be and often are damaged when shipping in nothing but a padded mailer! I’ve seen it time and time again. Sorry but Amazon did the right thing in this case.

  • http://www.sines.blogspot.com Sines

    I have had a similar experience with selling my medical school books on amazon as well. I made the mistake of throwing the receipt with tracking number on it and this one person sent emails saying they have not received the book. I had sold close to 20 some books during that time, after mailing then the book i would email them the tracking number via usps and this was the only incident where I had to return the money. It was very fishy indeed for me as well.

  • http://www.ipatrix.com Patrix

    sir jorge, incidentally my only negative rating on Amazon Seller was thanks to a buyer who bought a hardcover book and complained of its sorry state. When he returned it, the book was hardly in the sad state he described. I guess he wanted it for an exam.

    Sines, Yup! I guess we’ve to learn the hard way. Sending a tracking number in a reply email makes sense.

  • http://www.suyogdeshpande.net/blog/ Supremus

    That’s why I use craiglist. Easy to dispose of as ppl are in same city and once the deal is done, well its done :D

  • http://www.ipatrix.com Patrix

    Supremus, I know! I had placed the ad on all possible networks – Amazon, CraigsList, Facebook, etc. It just happened that Amazon took the bait first.

  • http://hawkeyeview.blogspot.com Hawkeye

    This is not simply an Amazon rules&regulations game with just your feedback at stake. If the buyer did tamper with your camera, he is violating the law.

    10 years ago, in the early days of eBay, my roommate paid $1200 for a bose he never got. At that time we complained to the police and there is a separate section that deals with internet shopping frauds. Your recourse would be to go there. Or at least threaten the buyer that you would approach this police if you suspect fraud.

  • http://www.ipatrix.com Patrix

    Hawkeye, I understand but I’m waiting for the camera to be returned before I can conclusively say that I was cheated. If the camera was exchange, I’ll know instantly but if its innards were tampered with without noticeable damage on the outside, I really won’t be able to prove it. My trip to India might put a damper on any action I would want to take.

  • http://hawkeyeview.blogspot.com Hawkeye

    Its amazing right. I used to think I was the only magnet who attracted all the world’s cheaters to steal my money.

    Imagine the odds of someone picking you to cheat. I suspect if the buyer is really a fishy guy, he is prowling for first time sellers with little or no feedback rating.

    I wonder what his feedback rating is.

  • http://hawkeyeview.blogspot.com Hawkeye

    Also, take it from my personal experience. If you are planning to give a huge bulky SLR camera to a close family relative and ask that person to snap all the important moments of your wedding, your gonna be doing more man-resource-management than you what you think.

    my person never wore the camera belt and was always near water.

  • http://www.ipatrix.com Patrix

    Hawkeye, oh yeah! if something can go wrong, I’ll be one of the first to get a taste of it. Although not a scam, I had a similar weird similar experience once with a Craigslist ad. BTW although I know it exists, where can you direct access the buyer’s rating? Never mind..got it! The dude doesn’t have a rating yet; so it seems he is new on Amazon.

    And nope, I’m hardly likely to give my camera to any relative apart from my wife/fiancee and my brother. I’m protective that way :)

  • http://hawkeyeview.blogspot.com Hawkeye

    In that case, If he does not turn out to be a fraud, I think he is chickening out of the deal or he got a better deal somewhere.

    ya! the close family relative i was referring to is the ‘brother’ :-)

  • http://www.ipatrix.com Patrix

    Hawkeye, well, I understand getting a better deal and wanting to return the camera. I’ve no problems with that. But then why make up a story about a defective camera? And if he is going damage the camera just to back up the story then it is simply pathetic.

    And if my brother does anything to my camera, he know there’ll be hell to pay. He has had that experience before. Adi, if you are reading this, remember the way you fled after dropping my PoP model?

  • thew

    We to sell on Amazon as a Market Place vendor. We use Amazon Fulfillment for about 80% of our inventory. We have found that not only does Amazon Always side with the Buyer, they even go out of the way to destroy the merchant that is paying Amazon Fees, Pick and Pack cost etc… In our case we have had a few items arrive at the Customers home with damage. After talking to the customer we discover the Items were damaged by the Amazon Fulfillment team when they checked in the items. They Sliced the Blister pack of the item upon checking it into the system.. Then they had no problem selling and shipping the time they damaged to my customer. Of curse the customer thought we were selling them used goods and sent it back to Amazon. So Amazon Took the money out of our account , Gave it back the the customer and then the placed the damage items back in out inventory to resell again! Beware… Amazon acts as they are Perfect and can do no wrong. They will not help out a merchant at all . They are happy to Steal our money but do not treat the Vendor with even 2% of the customer care they give to the Amazon Buying customer.
    Lastly How come there is no place for us to leave Feedback on Amazon FBA ? this seams’ slighted in there favor and is not at all Fare. The only issues we have had all last year were do to Amazon not fullfilling there agreament with us the vendor ( ie, shipping damged goods that they damge to our customer). When you bring this to them they say, ” Well maybe selling on Amazon FBA is not for you ! ” They never offer an apoligy nor do they ever admit wrong doring.. Even after they drove over a box of our times with a Forklift, they tried to blame us for that to.

    Be ware Selling on Amazon or the FBA system..

    We will set up a Amazon Market Place Vendor Blog so us Vendors can vent about Amazon Poor performance, unless this is it?

  • Karin

    I think the fees amazon charges are just outrageous. I'm looking for another dedicated bookseller to add the capability of listing
    books, and paying max 5% on the final price. Amazon does NOTHING for this huge sum of money! They just have a lot of traffic to their site, because there are so few competitors. But the sellers do all the work – listing, buyer communication, wrapping and shipping and are getting ripped off with 15% commission +2.34$ per transaction.
    I've de-listed my books and wait for a better option.
    A grocery store gets 2% or so! 10% is good for a brick-and-mortar store. I will boycott amazon in the future.

  • Jas

    Hi, I’m a new seller on Amazon and I am experiencing the same kind of things. I sold a set of CD Audio books and a scientific calulator. About a week later they claimed that the products did not work properly and I know for a fact that those Items were working properly before I sent them. I owned those Items for a while and they never disappointed me. Suddenly, when they arrive in the hands of the buyer they don’t work? Sounded fishy and my instincts were telling me that something was wrong. So I decided to have a no refund policy on electronic items. I’m still trying to decided exactly what to do but it seems fishy that two items that worked perfectly for me suddely dont work for the customer. I also decided to ship all electronic items to Amazon to be shipped and video tape the items being inspected and the serial no. before shipping.

    • mike

      Same here lost $420 in one item customer never return item. Amazon refund the money to customer and got my item.I even told the customer to return item for a full refund then 5 days later amazon refund money and closed my seller account.I called amazon  they said its not there problem. Welcome to the New America Dream! ceo scams! politician scam! Wallstreet scams! Thief!

      welcome recession!

  • http://twitter.com/Michiev0us Michael

    Alongside the pro of the simplicity & efficiency of Amazon’s Marketplace, the cons include the outrageous “commission rates” and the fact that us sellers are FORCED to accept returns. I had to grant my first refund to a buyer who bought a textbook, because she “no longer had that class”. Unsurprisingly, she packaged it very poorly in a box that was too small for the book, and it had cigarette stench all over it.

    However, due to the fear of Amazon reps & negative feedback, I was forced to grant the refund. It’s disappointing but I guess it happens.

  • KHerburger

    Unfortunately this has happened to me three times. All book sales. Expensive college textbooks. the buyer claims to get a completely different item. I am not a business and have only sold a few books for my college kids. I wouldn’t accidentally send DVD’s or empty packages. So how do they return empty packages? You never get an item returned, but Amazon refunds them immediately, before you ever can confirm you receive a returned item. The A-Z policy guarantees they get a refund and I dont get my books back or the money. I’ll never sell on Amazon again! They ALWAYS side with the buyer, regardless of the facts. They lead you to believe that if you have delivery confirmation that they may side with you, but it doesnt happen. The get their cut and dont mind enabling scam artists to get it. It is a waste of time trying to contact them and plead your case, they just dont care.

  • ED

    Just had a similar experience, buyer said the unit was not identical and wanted a refund, which was OK….untill the buyer started asking for nearly 3 times the postage to return the item. Amazon sided with the buyer even though this difference was clear. They even went on to say that the buyer could ask for whatever they wanted for the return postage !!! Outcome is outragous…buyer keeps the unit and gets their money back. Biggest scam ever !!! Closing Amazon account right now.

    The girl on the phone at Amazon went further and when I said this was clearly a scam for the buyer to get the unit for free and what is there to stop me doing the same….she said theres nothing and I could !!!! unbelievable.

  • JeteRends

    Just had a terrible situation happen to me as an Amazon marketplace vendor. A foreign customer purchased several items from me which I checked and packed carefully and sent to the customer. A few days later, he contacted me to say that 4 items were not included in the package (which I know were). I sent him a firm e-mail indicating that I know he was making a false claim. Two hours later, Amazon deducted the amount of his ENTIRE purchase (several hundred dollars in merchandise). When I contacted them, Amazon told me that I processed the refund not them so nothing could be done. So it’s not only the dishonest customers behaving in a dodgy manner. Amazon does so too and their practices aid dishonest customers with stealing from the honest vendors. Anyone here ready to join forces in Class Action lawsuit against Amazon?

    • Gamenex

      yes same thing happen to me, I kept my evidence. Plus they force to refund this theif half what he paid.  and they keep holding my funds for already 4 months. cause of a falise chargeback

  • Glddraco

    Recently I sold my macbook for 850 dollars. I was pleased and shipped it but within the next day after confiming shipment, etc I found that I received a message from Amazon and told that she got billed twice and that I had to transfer money back to her and I’d get wired 1700 dollars in account and if I didn’t pay I’d be charged for fraud. Now I am at which end because I dont have 850 to give and I could be going to jail! I contactacted amazon and am waiting reply.

  • Flooridasnow

    Amazon is a haven for scam artist and AMAZON helps these scammers by assisting them in staeling your money.  Amazon then keeps the commission costs!

  • Harriet

    We need a class action lawsuit against AMAZON!  EBAY is a much safer place!!!!

    • Joe

      not trueee

  • Jcrd

    I  had a similar experience. I sold a Kodak Easyshare USED camera on Marketplace
    on Amazon and the buyer 3 weeks later decided he didn’t like the camera, although I
    used it and it worked perfect in every respect.  The camera he returned was a defective
    camera of the same model number and color, probably his old broken camera. He
    wanted a refund.
        What can I do?

  • guest

    You are lucky he is ruturning your camera at all. scamazon can and will take the purchase price out of your bank account, give it to the buyer and let him keep the product. Buyers have ALL the control. Don’t even bother contesting by phone either, when you call they will only let you speak to someone in “seller support” overseas. When I asked to be conected to the claims department handeling my case that told me that “due to leagal reasons, I am not allowed”. Clearly Amazon is aware of these scams and are not only allowing, but facilitating criminal activity.

  • Kaleikaipuala

    I wonder if when selling an item, such as the camera, you could heat seal it in plastic.  Allowing them to test the camera while in the plastic, but once the heat seal is broken and item is removed from the original packaging they forgo the ability to return the item.  It seems much, but if you resell it (if it is in fact the same camera you sold)  make sure the plastic has some sort of markings so it can’t be duplicated.  terrible to deal with people who are so untrustworthy……sorry for your troubles!

  • Joe Dassaro

    Similar experiences with Amazon Seller (Marketplace)  I detailed a lot of it here: http://blog.dassaro.com/2011/08/24/amazon-seller-nightmare-part-i/  

    Still fighting them, have an attorney on board.  More of a principle argument at this point.  Just got the product back in a crushed (trashed box).  

  • Amazon is Polluted

    Had a VERY similar situation.  And Amazon got in the middle, took my money, and told the buyer to keep the merchandise.  Mine was an mp3 player.  What the buyer was saying was just as unbelievable as the string of excuses in the above scenario.  ”The headphone jack doesn’t work, so I’m going to keep the player, and you give me a partial discount of $10.”  Repeated in six emails as I tried to tell him I would even pay return shipping if he sent it back and I refunded him.  ”Give me $10, give me $10, give me $10.”  It was a shakedown.  And now he has the mp3 player and ALL the money.

    The bottom line is Amazon has to compete a lot more for the
    buyer’s business than they have to compete for the seller’s.  They have to compete with way more places a
    buyer can go.  So they give the buyer a
    ridiculously generous return policy, that no business could afford, that THEY can’t afford, that is in
    some ways better than a local brick and mortar, and they take from the seller
    to pay for it.  If Amazon creates an
    environment where buyers realize they can very easily rip off sellers and huge
    powerful Amazon will get in the middle and help the buyer do that, they think that’ll
    be fine.  It’s a bit more difficult for
    the sellers to go elsewhere.  But we can.You might notice Amazon’s return policy says (I’m paraphrasing), “If Amazon sold you the item directly, your only possible remedy is to return the item in the same condition.”  But they make clear that in many cases, if you bought it from someone else, Amazon will take the money back from the seller, pay you back, and you keep the merchandise.Until they suffer a class action lawsuit from this, which I think they will, we should try to sell at Craigslist and eBay (can’t imagine they are as unethical, unreasonable and inflexible as Amazon, but maybe), local used bookstores, cd stores, donate to Goodwill and deduct it from your taxes.It’s offensive what Amazon does.  

  • Guest1

    I apologize for my English (I am an international student). I study law in the US. Sometimes, i sell on amazon. In my opinion, unfair feedback policy on amazon violates First Amendment to the US Constitution which is FREEDOM of SPEECH. My point is, “If A Buyer can leave negative or neutral feedback to a Seller then why a Seller can’t leave any feedback to a Buyer?” In addition, here is not enough public observations in amazon’s feedback policy because no one Seller can see Buyer’s feedback on amazon. In my opinion, it is not only violates Commercial Federal Laws but also creates a lot of opportunities for scammers-buyers . In my opinion, it is UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICE if amazon gives a full refund to a Buyer if a Buyer never returned an item to a Private Seller because Amazon treats their company in different way. Amazon listed plenty of conditions under which amazon gives a full or partial refund to a Buyer if a Buyer bought an item directly from amazon. One of this condition is, ” The item MUST be returned in 30 calendar days……” So, here is no FAIR BUSINESS PRACTICE if Amazon gives a full refund to a Buyer when a Buyer never returned an item to a Seller.
     Here is a simple example, “No one store will give a full refund to a Buyer if a Buyer does not return an item in time.” In my opinion, Sellers and Buyers are treated UNEQUALLY on amazon which violates  “The Declaration of Independence” in the part, “ ALL PEOPLE ARE CREATED EQUALLY”.  

  • Energy Jay

    Amazon closed my account for false cases and claims about 4 months ago, to this day still haven t received the remaining fund, prior to my account been closed, and worst of all they would not reopen my account. Hope this whole Amazon thing shut down or go out of business one day.

  • Forwarder
  • carol kerr

    I recently sold my son’s Kinect console as he wanted to buy another gadget with the money. I personally packaged the item and sent to the buyer 1st class. However, the buyer put up a negative comment requesting to return item saying it was in bad condition (my son had only played twice and it was in excellent condition) So I put my point across in an email stating that the product was in perfect condition. Like the experiences her amazon quickly gave this buyer a FULL refund. I have been waiting for the buyer to return my son’s Kinect for over 3 weeks now. I have emailed Amazon several times who just sent me an email saying….’we do hope you get your item back soon.’ We cannot help you further with this matter!
    So I am out of pocket with postage fees, the cost of the console and I am having to console my son who is very upset!
    Disgusted with Amazon and their lack of care for their sellers rights!