Reading fine print can help you avoid bad trip on Amazon
Follow these five tips to sidestep all the hassles
For most Amazon shoppers, the experience likely is a seamless one: You search for a product, perhaps read reviews and see related items, and if you’re an Amazon Prime member, you’ll likely have it delivered quickly.
It should be that simple — especially when Amazon’s $178 billion in annual sales rank the company as the largest Internet retailer and marketplace in the world.
Alas, shopping on Amazon doesn’t always go smoothly. You may have heard of a Georgia woman recently charged $7,455 to have three cartons of toilet paper delivered (she eventually was refunded).
Or a Montana mom who, when trying to return a T-shirt that was too small was asked to send a picture of her as proof to the Amazon third-party seller. Sheesh.
The following are a few ways to reduce the odds of a bad shopping experience on Amazon — especially among third-party sellers, companies that use Amazon’s site as a sales platform and now account for about 52% of all sales. Nearly a quarter of all third-party sales are from global sellers, according to Amazon, which means they could be an overseas company.
Difficulty getting refunds from third-party sellers has been at the heart of recent stories about shopping on Amazon gone bad.
Consider these tips to avoid any hassles.
Look for ‘Shipped by Amazon’:
“Read the fine print,” suggests Michelle Madhok, a New York-based online shopping expert and founder of SHEfinds.com. “I’d recommend only buying things that are shipped by Amazon,” because third-party seller disputes are becoming an “increasing problem,” Madhok says.
Some third-party sellers ship their products to Amazon’s fulfillment centers and let Amazon take care of the shipping and packing, a service called Fulfilled by Amazon. Others ship from their own warehouses and generally aren’t Prime eligible and can take much longer.
Madhok advises looking for products that say, “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com.”
Based on Madhok’s experience, third-party seller issues include long delivery times and low-quality items, especially from China.
A report from the Government Accountability Office revealed many products purchased from third-party sellers on five major e-commerce sites, including Amazon, not only were counterfeit but potentially harmful to your health. Some knock-off cosmetics were found to contain poisonous substances such as mercury or cyanide, toys and other items contained lead, and unofficial iPhone adaptors may be more prone to fire or causing electrocution.
Madhok says some third-party sellers “scam” Amazon by closing down and opening up under another name after they’re paid by Amazon. “Customers will have money refunded, yes, but it’s deceptive,” she adds.
Before you buy, read what the third-party seller offers by way of returns or refunds.
Amazon says it offers an A-Z Guarantee, which guarantees “purchases from third-party sellers when payment is made via the Amazon.com website.”
Customers who pay for purchases from an Amazon seller via the Amazon.com website are eligible to receive up to $2,500 of the purchase price, including shipping charges.
“If customers have concerns or feedback about their purchase, we encourage them to contact Customer Service,” Amazon adds.
Read the return policy: Do your homework:
But it’s up to you to look closely before you buy to see if it’s coming from Amazon or a third-party seller — even if it’s a “Sponsored” item. If it is a third-party seller, such as Xiaxue or iFunda, you can click on the name of the company, which links to a small bio and might say if they’re overseas (Amazon says companies do not need to disclose their locations).
It’s also recommended to read the reviews from previous customers — before you buy.
For reviews of third-party sellers or their products, use a search engine to type in a query, or turn to friends, family and colleagues over social media. You can also read reviews of products at other shopping sites.
“As a general rule of thumb, always shop with a credit card that offers good purchase protection,” Madhok advises, “even though Amazon is good about refunding money if there’s a dispute.”
Having this extra layer of protection, and peace of mind, is important, regardless of where you shop online.
Additional buyer protection:
Amazon shipping horror stories put the onus on the shopper to be careful when buying.
Research what customers and critics are saying about the products at Amazon — and elsewhere.