Dr. Seuss I’m afraid I’m dropping a bomb
Red Rhino has hijacked Amazon-dot-com
The people will rally just like Vietnam
Nobody will listen but still try to stay calm
In the Amazon jungle the battle begins
You kidnap my customer in order to win
I only find out when I hear of the fray
By then it’s too late and I’ll never get paid!
I often write about dragons and intimidating monsters. This time it’s a Rhino that’s causing trouble, bringing a mighty stink to an unlikely field.
This is a colorful story, teaming poor suffering alcoholics and caregivers together with popular fictional characters, like Dr. Seuss.
Online sales is a real battlefield. I’m ready to go to battle, too. But they won’t give me my gear and gun. And now they’re shooting at me!
The unlikely field of battle is Amazon’s Dot Com Jungle. The foe is a third-party seller who taunts his enemies with high prices that frustrate their bookkeepers into surrender, and sometimes trick innocent shoppers into “one-click” purchasing a pile of paper or something vaguely collectible for hundreds more than it’s worth.
I sell AA CDs I recorded myself, as the official recording company for a dozen years at many big events. I do this to try and help those suffering from alcoholism and other interested folks. The pathway to find my CDs on Amazon, the biggest bookstore in the world, didn’t need to become any more cumbersome, but it did, when another seller decided he also sells my items. For exorbitant prices. This would normally not be a problem, as people are free to choose my reasonable low price, but the clever adversary has manipulated Amazon’s system so his price shows up in the desirable Amazon “buy box,” making it look like I’m selling a CD for $600!
So the poor AA member who wants a great recording to accompany them on their commute to work, an uplifting talk to get them on the right track and out of the doldrums, is led (by my hard work at marketing) to an Amazon page that fails in many ways, leaving the unsatisfied consumer wondering why I am such an idiot as to have Twittered them over to an embarrassingly high-priced item.
Thank you Amazon.
They do nothing. I have tried to get their attention about the matter many times. The problem persists, across many of my listings.
This guy, Rhino, doesn’t have anything to sell. He finds an item a shopper might think of as “collectible,” then enters into the system that he has one for sale for hundreds of dollars, for a three-dollar item, and the reasonable prices can also be seen (although sometimes hard-to-find). You can buy a hardcover copy of Dr. Seuss’s “Oh, The Places You’ll Go!” (1990), at the time of this writing (Summer 2017) for $607.93. I’m sure it’s a wonderful read, but this kids book isn’t worth more than three dollars, which you could also pay to the many other sellers of this “#1 Rated” item.
The problem occurs because of a hole in Amazon’s tidy “mix-it-all-up-not-so-randomly-because-we-lost-control-of-our-need-to-control” (Amazon project code: MIAUNSRBWLCOONTC) system of organization. Red Rhino obviously knows about this hole, which allows prices to rotate around, and sometimes show up as the big, obvious, main price. This happens often, as the A-Robot in charge of things likes high prices (apparently).
I’m making all of this up. Based on information I have received from Amazon. Having tried to reach out using any means I could find, I have received a generous zero help. I am selling nothing because of this problem, as I apparently am the Rhino’s target … little old me … just trying to do some good.
I’m making it all up in the sense that, as a “little” seller on Amazon (almost every company except Nike), I am not important enough to have a tiny little conversation with. As I build a beautiful, promising new platform to replace Amazon for sales (Just today I removed 96 items from their inventory), I have had 100% frustration and 0% satisfaction as an Amazon seller with almost a hundred products in their system. I have to “guess” what’s been happening.
Being a former Customer Service Manager (TowerStream, Inc.), I’ve begun to provide my own Customer Service.
Which is: with very little information from “them,” telling YOU everything I “know,” and embellishing it fancifully with cartoon characters and beasts.
I’ll make it up best I can. I’ll even provide pictures and documentation!
Amazon was supposed to be a place where I could thrive with good products, an authentic, well-meaning profile and some hard work. It has, instead, become the source of spinning wheels and attacks from other sellers, other sellers who in the long run do much better than me in sales, ranking and visibility.
I’m tempted to join the other side. Not really. I’m already on the right side. I just have to speak up, and do so much more loudly, if possible, than the other thousands of displeased authors and creators who choose, wrongly, to put their stuff on Amazon, and whose voices will also not be listened to. Amazon is truly a place to get lost, and sometimes even injured.
We have, us sellers, been pitted against each other from the beginning. That’s normal. Amazon provides, free of charge, the service of unfair competition. It’s me against a belligerent Rhino. Even worse, me against Dr. Seuss and his many adoring little fans if I chose to use the compromised listings as my venue.
The Rhino doesn’t fight fairly, and he picks private property to do it on. He is actually a homeless Rhino, having set up shop on listings intended to help alcoholics and entertain children, hoping to rip someone off by accident.
And so, with apologies to the dozens, maybe hundreds, of potential customers Amazon lost for me by maintaining listings poorly, I will continue to write.
I’ll write about how to starve in the world’s biggest jungle.
Only one thing makes sense. I’ve got to get out of here.
In the meantime, I’m not switching teams. I’ll continue to try to sell honestly. If you feel like you are on my team, please share what you read generously.
I will also look for solutions. But sometimes creating a stir is necessary when your opponent who you never knew you had has already started the stir. During your time on my blog site, you’ll find many positive, solution-based articles.
This is not one of them. This is me gathering, hopefully, you. Troops.
Together we’ll penetrate the corporate canopy and nurture not best practices, but honest ones; the “best” ones, I have found, are usually not fair.
If I could say one thing to the Amazon CEO, and he were to actually care, it would be “You couldn’t do a better job if you were trying to get rid of me. You have made a foe of the independent creator, your readers who are changing hats to become authors; you are spitting in their faces.”
Maybe they are trying to get rid of me.
The best camouflage is an unlikely one, like a Rhino.
This is not entirely all from the fictional part of my imagination. Despite the fact I have written permission from every convention speaker I ever recorded, years-ago an Amazon employee contacted me quite belligerently to insist I stop selling, on Amazon, a recording in which he was mentioned.
I wonder what position he holds today.
I think he’s in charge of the “Paranoia Division” of MIAUNSRBWLCOONTC.
I filed a complaint based on IPR, one of the few possible things to cure:
————- Begin message ————-
June 12, 2017
Seller Red Rhino is consistently preventing my products from selling by tagging them with high prices that consistently get the buy box. I have a single CD listed right now for ten dollars but when you arrive at the page it shows in the buy box as over five hundred dollars. My sales are at a standstill. I am sending my email list and followers to links to my listings on Amazon that end up just giving them a bad impression of me.
This is happening with many of my listings (more than ten) and has been happening for many months.
My brand is ReXark Archival Recordings, and I also sell under Mark Urso. Red Rhino seem to have targeted the former.
Can I block this seller completely?
Can I block him as a buyer, as I would never sell my items to him at regular prices, knowing he was trying to create an artificial market that is intended to deceive buyers?
Can he be stopped from doing this? Amazon is useless to me at this point, as my sales are near zero with this kind of interruption, which has been ongoing.
————- End message ————-
Below is my message to him:
————- Begin message ————-
Hi Red Rhino. You have many of my products listed under your name for unreasonably high prices. Please stop doing this. I am just an individual seller trying to do some good, and don’t sell very much on Amazon even without you hijacking my listings. Please remove your high prices ($600 for a CD in some cases) from all listings under Mark Urso and ReXark. I appreciate your cooperation. Mark
————- End message ————-
Stay tuned. I expect nothing.
Amazon’s reply to infringement complaint, June 13,’17, the day after I filed it:
————- Begin message ————-
Thank you for your message. Amazon respects a manufacturer’s right to institute policies and rules to manage and control the distribution of its products. However, Amazon considers the enforcement of these policies and rules to be a matter between the manufacturer and the retailers. As a result, it would not be appropriate for Amazon to assist in such enforcement activities. You may contact any seller directly though Amazon.com’s website by selecting their storefront name and then clicking on the ‘contact this seller’ link in the lower right-hand corner.
Additionally, it is important to understand that third-party sellers using the Amazon platform are independent sellers that make their own pricing decisions. It is not appropriate to ask Amazon to interfere with these decisions. Amazon will not discuss prices offered by third-party sellers as such discussions could expose both the third-party sellers and Amazon to antitrust liability under both Federal and state laws.
However, if you believe any of your images or product information is being misused in a way that constitutes copyright infringement, please follow our “Notice and Procedure for Making Claims of Copyright Infringement” available via this link:
Complaint ID: 980469581
Seller performance team
————- End message ————-
See? The jungle has rules! Plenty of them! But it ain’t no fun anymore!
I know, I know, I should be reading the Terms. The link they put in the message, above, doesn’t link specifically to copyright infringement — It links to the entire “Legal Policies –> Conditions of Use” document I forgot to read.
Gotta go. I feel like I owe them at least to read the document they sent.
ADDENDUM, JULY 26, 2017:
I didn’t read anything; I was just kidding. It was very long – maybe I scanned it a little. I don’t owe them to read it. Even though I do love a good boilerplate.
What I thought of, although the email response I got (above) warmed my heart but came from a notice-only email address that won’t take responses, and so it is a dead-end with no avenue to continue the discussion, was I could tell them something helpful, and get them on the right path.
It was them who mentioned “antitrust liability under both Federal and state laws” in their email, which surprised me, Amazon showing its cards that it’s not an international entity and has to pay attention to laws … and this made me want to elaborate a little and suggest it’s them (Amazon) who are liable because they fail consistently to police the prices displayed, to the ruin of random reputations. This is their responsibility. It isn’t related to copyright, though a boilerplate expert is available through that pathway, and it’s not about the high price, which seems to be an easy way to misunderstand what I’m suffering from if you’re not really paying attention.
The fault is Amazon’s. I don’t care if he sells my item for a million-dollars – let the customer truly choose the price – but the Amazon Robot is damaging its own jungle by displaying prices irresponsibly. Who handles that? It’s not the Rhino. As I stated earlier, the Rhino is just capitalizing on the Robot’s dumb pricing placement. The argument is valid, and the problem is caused by Amazon … it is their machine that is broken.
Amazon, if you’re still listening (I’m yelling loudly right now) please take this argument to your lawyers. It’s a different twist on things that wasn’t caught by the boilerplate robot and it’s worth a look I think.
Just for laughs.