Sellers beware! Why is Amazon FBA shipping gross and horrifying products?

Amazon FBA sells gross things. Unfortunately, those gross things often are your goods – even if you’re a great seller.

I’m not talking about intentionally gross products. I’m describing disgusting, appalling and concerning orders fulfilled out of Amazon warehouses – when they shouldn’t be fulfilled. Imagine waffle irons crusted with batter, curling irons wrapped in hair, mouthwash missing its inner seal, and nutritional supplements that expired in 2020.

So, how do you prevent Amazon from selling defiled units of your products? Apply this strategy, especially if you sell ASINs you replenish frequently or have stock that expires.

Amazon FBA the disgusting truth

Why truly horrifying inventory gets sold by Amazon FBA

There are two key reasons icky goods are shipped out by Amazon FBA.

Reason #1: Amazon Fulfillment Centers (FCs) are flat-out bad at returns grading, which happens when buyers send unwanted orders back to Amazon. Returns go to a fulfillment center, where they are supposed to be inspected. Team members decide whether the item should be re-sold as-is, repackaged and resold, or placed into unfulfillable inventory.

As you might imagine, the folks who perform returns-grading tasks operate under pretty stringent productivity expectations. They have to work fast. And they don’t know what the original product actually looked like inside of its packaging. So they made a lot of mistakes.

They don’t always notice the hair in the curling iron, the missing inner seal, or the batter in the waffle iron. They don’t even realize when some items are missing outer packaging.

The result? Disgusting items and inventory with missing seals and packaging get put back into your sellable inventory. They are resold and returned. Resold and returned. Repeat.

Reason #2: Expired goods are the second category of disturbing inventory issues. This happens for a few reasons. First, Amazon does not follow the first-in-first-out (FIFO) principle of inventory management for sellers’ goods. The company says that it does. It may even try. But due to the amount of product and the number of warehouses, it’s just not possible – or reliable. In addition, Amazon sometimes loses inventory that is found months – or years – later and put into sellable even if it’s expired. Very old returns are wrongly accepted sometimes as well.

This FNSKU-switching strategy is almost magic

So what’s a seller to do?

Don’t trust Amazon to stop selling gross and disgusting inventory. Take back control. This strategy applies if you are sending ASINs in new batches with more recent expiration dates, or if you are selling inventory where some units might become used or opened by customers and then resold multiple times.

The solution is simple:

  • Do not send new batches of inventory to Amazon FBA FCs on the same SKU.
  • Rather, send new batches of inventory on a new SKU. Yes, this will require a new FNSKU on your sticker or packaging.
  • Make sure only one SKU per ASIN is an active FBA offer. You are not allowed to have more than one active offer for FBA per ASIN.
  • When you have sold out of the last SKU batch, turn it off and remove or destroy remaining units. Turn on the new SKU batch.

There are huge benefits to this approach:

  • Because the SKU is turned off, future returns will be placed into unfulfillable. This means if expired goods are found or returned months or years from now, they cannot be resold.
  • Items being resold multiple times in unacceptable condition will be removed from the warehouse.

It’s true, this strategy requires more inventory management, but it’s well worth a little extra effort. It decreases returns, negative reviews, buyer complaints and expiration problems. It’s proven to work.

In the end, Amazon doles out annoying and dangerous penalties when customers complain, even when it’s clear that FBA has fumbled the ball. Stay attuned to what’s happening with customer returns, reviews and feedback, and apply the strategy outlined above.

We’re always here to help.

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