September 9, 2019

Sellers cannot turn off repackaging, but should turn off new “refurbishment” setting ASAP

By: Lesley Hensell

Amazon has recently (and quietly) eliminated third-party sellers’ ability to turn off the horrific “repackaging” settings for FBA returns. This means, Amazon’s repackaging service is now mandatory for FBA returns. In addition, the company has added an optional “refurbishment” service – which fortunately does include an opt- out for Amazon sellers.

Unfortunately, this terrible decision is likely to lead to additional complaints for good sellers, who will see customers complaint about:

  • Inauthentic
  • Counterfeit
  • Used sold as new/condition

Why will there be more complaints? Easy. FBA returns grading and repackaging are of extremely poor quality, and sellers will suffer as a result.

stack of boxes, repackaging

What are repackaging services?

Repackaging services apply to FBA returns. When a customer returns an item, the unit is evaluated by fulfillment center staff. These team members determine whether the item can be repackaged and resold, or if it should instead go into a seller’s unfulfillable inventory.

According to Seller Central, repackaging can include replacing a polybag, bubble-wrapping, or re-boxing. It can also include repackaging of branded and unbranded boxes and poly bags.
Why is this a problem? Let us count the ways:
  1. Used sold as new/condition. Amazon fulfillment center personnel do a flat-out terrible job at returns grading. They decide to re-sell items that should never be sent to customers. Examples from our clients include selling curling irons with hair in them, mouthwash without lids, multipacks of toothbrushes that were clearly opened, and supplements with broken safety seals. All of these mistakes can lead to complaints for used sold as new. In categories like grocery, or health and personal care, sellers can see their ASINs blocked for safety.
  2. Inauthentic. When customers receive merchandise in less-than-optimal condition, they sometimes complain that the item was “inauthentic.” This can lead to nightmares for sellers, from ASIN suspensions to full-out account deactivation. But who could blame a customer for making an inauthentic claim if the item comes in unfamiliar or obviously generic packaging?
  3. Counterfeit. Ask any shoe or mobile phone seller about their worst FBA scammers. They will put swap their old, used, nasty shoes for new ones, returning the soiled footwear for a refund. They use metal bars as precisely weighed substitutes for expensive mobile phones and return them for big bucks. Then, when Amazon carelessly re-sells the metal bar or the nasty shoes, the seller is hit with a return – and likely a complaint for counterfeit.

What are refurbishment services?

Amazon’s new refurbishment services carry an even higher level of risk than repackaging, so thank goodness that sellers can disable this feature. (Go under Settings to Fulfillment by Amazon. Under “refurbishment settings,” click “disable.”)
Here’s the shocking part. Amazon’s refurbishment services include behaviors that sellers should never, ever undertake – at the risk of being suspended by Amazon for selling used goods as new. (And they would deserve it!) Refurbishment services can include:
  • Re-taping, re-gluing and re-stapling boxes
  • Removing excessive tape, non-product labels and stickers
  • Re-boxing branded and unbranded corrugated boxes
  • For shoes and apparel, steaming and removing stains and odors

OK, my seller friends. Seriously? Did you read that last bullet? Did it make you shudder?

If you want to risk your account, go ahead and opt-in to refurbishment services. But assuming that you aren’t crazy and don’t relish angry customers, please disable this terrible feature.

What is our takeaway?

Here at Riverbend Consulting, we have had some rousing discussions since uncovering this horrific change at Amazon FBA. Our team includes former Seller Performance investigators and managers, as well as long-time Amazon third-party sellers. To a man, we believe this is a disastrous change for sellers.

Why did Amazon make this change? Without going through a lot of boring inside-baseball talk, I can distill our conclusion to the following. Because of the way Amazon accumulates data, and because of the methods Amazon’s managers use to report that data about their own teams up the chain, Amazon has a skewed view of its success at grading and repackaging returns. In other words, mangers like to make themselves look good. So they have convinced the higher-ups at Amazon that returns grading is impeccable at the FC, and that they are ready to expand the returns repackaging program.

They could not be more wrong.

 

Riverbend Consulting navigates online retail. Get your Amazon account reinstated, sell with confidence, and increase your bottom line. Contact us.

Lesley Hensell is Partner at Riverbend Consulting, she offers practical know-how to improve retail performance. Lesley’s experience with Amazon compliance gets accounts back up fast.

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