Becoming a seller on Amazon.com can be a great way to build an e-commerce business or make a side income. But extensive and wrongly charged seller fees can take a big bite out of a seller’s or vendor’s bottom line.
The erroneous fees charged by Amazon and other selling platforms can put sellers and e-commerce platforms at odds with one another and create an ongoing, problematic relationship. However, there are steps that sellers and vendors can take to recover these fees and continue successfully selling online.
Fees are part and parcel of being an online seller. There are fees for shipping costs, inventory control, e-commerce site hosting and customer returns, among others, and they can easily compound to the point of becoming uncontrollable. These fees can also be charged in error, sometimes without sellers even realizing it, until their profits begin to dwindle.
Sellers and vendors should be able to expect transparency and strong oversight over fees charged in error, but that’s not the reality many of them encounter. The marketplace is solidly “pay-to-play,” forcing sellers to absorb these erroneous fees as a cost of doing business. One could call the practice abusive, but vendors and sellers need these platforms to do business. Amazon alone plays host to 6.3 million total sellers.
Sellers know that Amazon gives them access to a massive global consumer network. Competition can be steep, and if a seller decides to go without the assistance of a giant such as Amazon, they’ll have a tough hill to climb to reach success in the e-commerce marketplace.
Even so, these companies and their e-commerce platforms can make mistakes, and the resulting fees can surprise even the most diligent seller. Items can be destroyed without the seller being aware of it; customers can be over-refunded; weight fees can be overcharged, and returns can be noted as refunded even if they weren’t. Once sellers become aware of these erroneous fees, recovery can be a study in patience.
Sellers are aware of the importance of playing by Amazon’s rules. But that doesn’t leave them with a lot of options for the recovery of erroneous fees.
The recovery process can be complicated. For one, Amazon’s inventory and fee-collection processes are automated. It’s not a perfect system, and sometimes the automated system can have hiccups, in which inventory isn’t fully processed, or fees are assessed due to a mistake. Periodically, fees can be charged because vendors didn’t follow the strict guidelines for shipping, packaging or listing set by Amazon.
To recover fees, sellers and vendors must act fast. Sellers should have an audit performed on their business to uncover which fees were assessed and where they might have been overcharged. Sellers should also have tight data-collection procedures, which are key in searching for erroneous fees and their current status. The more complete the data set is, the better.
Approaching Amazon with a dispute requires timing, the right tactics and abiding by the company’s dispute-resolution guidelines. Toeing this line will increase the likelihood of a favorable outcome, and money returned to the seller’s pocket. Often, it can be challenging to know all of the ins and outs of the Amazon dispute process, which is why enlisting the help of an intermediary can be beneficial. When the exact approach is known, and the dispute is handled expeditiously, a good amount of erroneously charged fees can often be recovered.
Amazon’s seller fees are likely to continue to increase. With inflation and the rising cost of advertising and shipping, Amazon and other platforms rely on seller's fees to stay profitable. Don’t count on Amazon discovering mistakenly charged fees on its own. Without sellers and vendors keeping a tight rein on their own fee data and pursuing recovery, significant amounts of money can become lost.
Remaining on top of all the data and fees that come from Amazon each and every day requires highly specialized knowledge, not to mention a lot of help from technology and the hours to manage it, decipher the information, and act on it without missing Amazon's timelines on various fees.
Nevertheless, it’s absolutely achievable for sellers to work with Amazon as a more equitable partner. Once sellers learn the best way to approach the company and its e-commerce platform and follow the recovery process, erroneously charged fees can be returned, and sellers can retain more of their hard-earned profits.
John W. Collins is co-founder and chief executive officer of Chargeguard.
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