I’ve been selling my used photography gear on Amazon for a few years now. It’s been good, but it’s also been horrible! First, let’s take a look at the pros and cons of selling on Amazon.

Pros of selling on Amazon.com

  1. Broad audience of customers.
  2. Listing of items is quick and painless.
  3. The sales process and getting paid are easy.
  4. There’s hardly any annoying buyer questions like on Craigslist or eBay.
  5. Ability to pay for and buy postage is straightforward.

Cons

  1. FEES! Depending on the item, it can be hundreds of dollars! I get that they need to make a profit, but they make a killing on sellers like me.
  2. There is no one a seller can talk to on the phone. No one! When you do try talk to someone on the phone, they are not Americans, their English is terrible, and they will NOT transfer you to the United States – I’ve tried!
  3. The only communication with Amazon is via email or their own case management system online. They only reply in the middle of the night (different country) and are quite unresponsive and unhelpful.
  4. The people that they do employ in Seller Support are incompetent or apathetic (it’s tough to tell – they could be both), they don’t understand American English, or deliberately choose not to answer specific questions, and above all else, they are ineffective.
  5. A to Z Guarantee – the buyer can return anything within 30 days of purchase, for any reason, in any condition, and no matter what, you have to take it back and give a refund (even if it’s been damaged).
  6. You cannot charge for the full cost of postage – ever! Shipping with insurance is expensive! They give you about $4.99 of credit towards postage, and the rest is on you! Try shipping any camera or lens with about $2,000 of insurance for $4.99 – impossible! On top of their exorbitant fees, you have to eat the shipping cost as well!

The A to Z Guarantee is nice in theory, it’s meant to protect buyers, but anyone who has ever been in any customer service for an extended period of time (for me it’s been 24 years) will tell you without any doubt, that the customer is not always right. Here’s where my tale begins.

A little over a month ago, I sold a Sony Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 lens on Amazon. It was in pristine condition. Even the packaging, cardboard inserts, and bubble wrap were like new. I sold it in “Like New” condition, and the buyer got a great deal. 28 days later, the buyer wants to return the item because he decided he would rather have a different lens. Not that there was anything wrong with the one I sold him. Rather, he got to use the lens for a whole month, and then gets to return it! OK, fine – rules are rules. Not like we have any choice as sellers on Amazon anyways. I tell him to send it back in the same condition with all the original packaging.

A week later, the lens arrives. It’s visibly worn, the packaging has been destroyed and replaced with random chunks of cardboard, and the original lens hood (which costs $60 to replace) is gone! He’s wanting a full refund! Here’s where things went downhill – fast!

I tried to call Amazon seller support. I wasted a half an hour talking to some lady in a foreign country that was impossible to understand, she played twenty questions with me and my time in order to get verified, then there were even more questions including my bank account information, and then after 30 minutes, she tells me to send an email!

It has since been three days of emails, case supports, etc. and no resolution. My question to Amazon was simple. I’ve been screwed by this buyer renter – now what? One person told me that the buyer’s information would be sent to a special team to look into his  abuse of the system, but they refused to answer what I should do about it. Days go by, more random emails from them about case IDs, but no answer other than for me to wait.

Well, this morning at around 3:00 a.m., I got an email telling me issue a refund to the customer, or I would be charged the FULL AMOUNT! What about waiting? What about the case ID and the person in Timbuk Two that was going to handle my case? I emailed back and referenced the case ID asking for assistance. They ignored that, and proceeded to tell me that I had to issue a refund!

After multiple emails back and forth between three and four AM (I got up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom and checked my phone in case you were wondering – TMI?), I was told that I could give a partial refund. I estimated the damages to be about $200, and they gave me the go ahead to do a partial refund. OK fine, but I asked if the buyer could challenge that. No direct answer, just that I could do a partial refund. Would that close the case? I asked. No answer. They did give me this link, which says I could do up to 50% of a partial refund. Still, it’s unclear if there is any retaliation or not that the buyer can do. So, I docked the buyer renter $200 and issued the refund. One thing is certain, he can still leave negative feedback and ruin my rating!

Going forward, I will first try to sell everything locally and for cash. Luckily, I live in a fairly metropolitan and tech savvy area. Even if I sell items for less than I would on Amazon, it will be less headaches, more money in my pocket (no fees), and no return or free rentals. Above all, I won’t be dealing with any bad / non existent customer service.

Wanna sell on Amazon? You’ve been warned!

Posted by Noah Bershatsky

I was a nerd before hipsters were cool.

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