Unethical shortcuts may help you earn money fast in any business, and Amazon FBA is no exception. If you want to know the quickest, easiest, possibly most questionable ways to make a quick buck on Amazon, there are plenty of folks out there to give you advice.
Full-Time FBA is just not the place for that. Rebecca and I just won’t do it.
Unethical shortcuts may help you earn money fast, but at what cost?
Unethical shortcuts could cost you your business, but more importantly, they will cost you your integrity. Our good name and good conscience are worth more to us than any amount of money.
Here are a few ways to make fast money through Amazon FBA that we won’t ever encourage you to do:
1. We will not encourage you to bend the Amazon rules for your benefit.
There are a few teachers out there in the world of Amazon FBA who would tell you it’s ok to bend the Amazon rules, as long as you’re making good money off of it and no one catches you. Some book sellers would tell you, “You know what, as long as the book looks close enough to new, just go ahead and list it as new – you’ll make more money that way.” But I will always advise you that bending the rules and fudging on the condition of your inventory is one of the worst things you can do as a seller.
You’ve heard me say this plenty of times in past blog posts and YouTube videos – when it comes to condition, round down, not up. If the packaging of a retail item is scuffed up or torn, then the item is not new. You cannot write anything in the condition notes for a new item. You cannot note that the box is damaged but the item is new. If the packaging is not new, the item is not new. This is the entire reason the condition “used like new” or “collectible like new” exists. If you bend the Amazon rules this way, you will have your seller account suspended sooner or later. Don’t do it. It’s not worth it.
2. We will not advise you to contact other sellers about prices.
If you contact sellers of the same item as you and talk to them about agreeing on a price, you’re not only breaking the Amazon guidelines, you’re breaking the law. The bottom line is this: price fixing is illegal. You are participating in price collusion. If anyone ever tells you that a good way to avoid the “race to the bottom” on a price is to contact all the other sellers and agree on a price, they are giving you awful advice.
3. We will not tell you to lie to Seller Central when it comes to repairing your feedback (or any other task).
One of the most frequent questions that comes up for FBA sellers is how to take care of negative feedback. Some people would advise you to just open a ticket on every single negative feedback and make up something to get the feedback removed. Lying to Seller Central is a terrible practice, and not just because lying is unethical. If you are caught lying by Seller Central – or worse, if you’re ever suspended and then you’re caught lying – your account will be marked that you were attempting to deceive Amazon. You will have a very hard time convincing Seller Central to believe you about anything from that point forward.
4. We will not encourage you to take harmful shortcuts (like drop shipping).
Yes, you can make a lot of money (and do it really fast) by drop shipping to Amazon customers. Drop shipping is when you list an item as merchant fulfilled on Amazon, but you don’t actually have it in your possession to sell to an Amazon customer. When you get a sale, rather than shipping it yourself, you order it from another online retailer and have it shipped to the Amazon customer. People have made tons of profits selling on Amazon this way, but it is an extremely dangerous practice as a seller.
Drop shipping is so appealing because you never have to touch inventory. All you do is list. No shopping, no prepping, no shipping. Looks like a sweet way to make money, right? Wrong.
How many times have you personally made a purchase online and ended up getting the wrong item sent to you? How many times have you made an online purchase and didn’t receive the item within the time frame you were told to expect? How many times have you wanted to buy an item online, only to find the item out of stock?
Those things happen all the time with online retailers, and if you drop ship to Amazon customers, it’s a matter of when, not if, it will happen to your customer. And when, not if, it happens, your seller account metrics will suffer. Drop shipping can be one of the fastest ways to get your seller account suspended. More of my thoughts on drop shipping here.
5. We will never advise you to use stickerless commingling with your Amazon inventory.
Commingling is not against the Amazon rules, but it’s a shortcut that is destined to backfire on you. If your seller settings are set to stickerless commingled then when you send inventory to an Amazon warehouse, your item will be commingled (mixed together) with everyone else who is selling that particular item.
For example, say you send in an Iron Man DVD in new condition that you can guarantee came from an authentic source, but if you commingle and don’t have the item stickered with your unique seller account info, then your Iron Man DVD will be mixed together with every other Iron Man DVD seller who is set up for stickerless commingled inventory. That means when a customer buys an Iron Man DVD from you, Amazon will just ship the closest Iron Man DVD to that customer, and not necessarily your exact Iron Man DVD. In this case. you have to trust that every other seller of that particular DVD also sent in an item in new condition that came from a guaranteed authentic source.
Sad to say, there are a lot of sellers out there who either purposefully or unintentionally attempt to sell inauthentic items or used items labeled as new. But if you commingle and that other seller’s inauthentic or used item is sent to your customer, you are the one who will get in trouble for it. Commingling might save time, labels, and printer ink, but don’t do it. The risk to your seller account is just not worth it.
When all is said and done, your integrity and your seller account are worth more than any profit to be gained from taking questionable shortcuts. Work hard, read the Amazon guidelines, follow the Amazon guidelines – those are my biggest words of advice to you today. Growing an Amazon FBA business is a marathon, not a sprint. Growing an Amazon FBA business is like cooking in a crockpot, not a microwave. I’m all about finding ways to save money, outsourcing whenever you can, leveraging the precious resource of your time – but never, never, ever if it means taking unethical shortcuts.
Ok, I’m done. Stepping off my soapbox. Back to work, everyone. Make today profitable and full of success in life and business.
*updated for 2021
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I totally agree with you & a very good reason why I value your advise.
That was great and I learned a few things!
Great post, big thanks!
Adrienne Dupree says
Stephen, thank you so much for being an ethical seller and teacher. The bad thing is someone who is new does not realize that someone is leading them down a path to destruction.
Charlene Anderson says
Well said, Stephen! I agree with you on every point.
Every time I listen to you or read something you’ve written, it confirms why you resonated with me the first time I discovered you. Great post. Thanks for sharing! I wish every seller had your ethics.
Ree Klein says
Great post, Stephen. I’ve been selling on Amazon for nearly two years and I am right in your camp when it comes to doing it right. I’ll add a couple more to your list:
– Don’t include inserts in your product designed to direct buyers to your website if you have one. I have done this based on an “expert’s” advice and sweated being found out. I no longer do this and feel much better overall! (Although on my private label products, my web URL is printed directly on the product and that’s okay.)
– Don’t mark reviews on competitor’s products as not helpful. I’ve never done this but suspect it has been done to me.
Being honest and following the rules is always the best strategy!
Good additions, Ree! It’s amazing how working with integrity drastically reduces anxiety.
Mac Caldwell says
I’m ungated in several areas with the exception of groceries. Seems they are not accepting receipts only wholesale invoices or purchase orders.
I have also seen where many are running into the same issue in other areas.
Suggestions are to use a 3rd party resource to get you ungated. Pay them a fee and that party will get you ungated in whatever category you desire. I can’t bring myself to do that in the grocery category. Is there anything unethical about this practice? I don’t want my account shut down over a box of cheerios. Any input on this? Thank you and just really enjoy all your information, so helpful!
The act of hiring a service to help you get ungated is not unethical, but sometimes an ungating service can use unethical practices. It’s important to do some research in picking the right ungating service. We have used this service an love it, though I don’t think they offer help in grocery.
James Green says
Del Wong says
A lot of times Amazon will commingle your stuffs even though you label. No rhyme or reason to it. But it happens…
Del Wong says
Also, Amazon personally helped me get ungated in the Luggage category. They helped me on how to properly submit the example product pictures, the flat files, and told me what errors I had to correct etc.
An Unofficial Ungating Service provided by Amazon themselves!
Rarely happens, but it does.
Ramona Janelle says
Another point to add to this excellent post: Contacting other posters about changing prices is not only collusion, it is ILLEGAL! Check on the Sherman Anti-Trust Act for more details.
Thank you Stephen for your advice! It always bears repeating!
Eric Lindner says
Thanks for the post! I didn’t think of your good points with regards to commingle. I think I’ll change my settings 🙂 Do you know if it’s ok to use a picture off the internet when making a new listing? Thanks
As long as the picture 100% matches the product sold, and as long as you’re not breaking any copyright laws for that image, then it should be fine. Just be sure that the image fits all of Amazon’s product image guidelines.
Eric Lindner says
Thanks for the quick feedback! Sorry to bother you with another newbie question, how do I know if the picture is copyright? Thanks again!
You just have to do your due-diligence. Ask the company directly if you have to.
Thanks for the advice. This is the only way to run any business if you want to stay in business.
Incredible post Stephen. Thank you.
The issue of the proper “grading” of the condition of books is not about “grading up or down”. The key element is to be accurate about the condition of the book with proper notes added for clarification. An example, would be a new book that does not mention the fact that it has a remainder mark. Technically it might be “new”, but to not mention this is a significant omission.
Thanks for your comment, Keith. The problem with trying to be accurate about the condition of a book is that some people will have different opinions on what is like new, very good, good, or acceptable. That’s why I always grade down. However, there is no difference of opinion on what is considered a new book. A book, according to the Amazon condition guidelines, can only be sold in the new condition if it’s “a brand-new, unused, unread copy in perfect condition.” Unfortunately, a book with a remainder mark is no longer in perfect condition. Also, if a book is graded as “new,” there cannot be ANY type of qualifying description in the condition notes; it’s either new or not new, no need for description. Here are Amazon’s complete rules about grading the condition of an item (including the section on books). Yes, you always want the condition notes for used books to reflect everything specific about that particular book (be it highlights, underlines, notes, remainder marks, library stamps, etc), but just be sure to never sell a used item as new. Amazon is really trying to crack down on this.
I asked for an item back and I got someone elses. I am sure it was comingled, which I didn’the sign up for. It still had Walmarts’ price stickers on it!
Yes, sometimes Amazon “loses” your item, and then “finds” your item… except that all they probably did was take someone else’s item and gave it to you. It stinks, but there is no way around it. At least it’s a rare occurrence.
Terry Gray says
As a newbie, I’m wondering if I may have already at any time broken some kind of rule unknowingly through ignorance.
Don’t let the last worry you. There is nothing you can do now if you have broken any of my suggestions…. but just focus on doing the right thing moving forward.
Thank you very much for your honesty and principles Stephen. Much appreciated. I will be happy in the group.
You are completely right, Having your own web presence, off of Amazon, can take into account your business to acquire its own direct hunts rather than Amazon absorbing all of your customer traffic.