Theories behind bad feedback for FBA sellers

FBA sellers are definitely more susceptible to negative feedback than normal sellers. We have seen this many, many times:

We've run this experiment for several months - self-fulling some items, and sending in some items to FBA.

In many instances, we would fulfill the exact same book, in the exact same condition (i.e., Used - Very Good). The delivery time is the same. Our self-fulfilled items receive 5-star feedbacks, but about 5-10% of the FBA orders receive 3-star or 1-star feedbacks (never any "2's" for some reason).

We've also looked at the reports submitted by other FBA sellers - their feedback ratings usually hover around 94-96%. That's pretty bad. If these sellers only fulfill via FBA, receiving 5% negative feedback from FBA orders, some of these sellers risk having their accounts suspended.

We've explored many theories about why FBA orders receive much worse feedback than self-fulfilled items. The FBA warehouse does make a few errors, but not terribly excessive.

This is the heart of the problem: When people order directly from Amazon, they expect new items, not used.

They may have ordered a used book, they may have even read your description. But when it arrives in the mail, and they see the Amazon logo on the box, they're conditioned to expect to see a new book in that box - no matter how well you described your book, some customers are simply disappointed with anything that's not new.

To make matters worse, the customer's order history page does not pull up the description or condition of the book - just the title. So they have no way to reference what they just bought.

We have cut & pasted the description to remind the customer, "Yes - You ordered a used textbook with two or three highlighted passages". Every time, the customer comes back and says, "No, I would never have done that - I was expecting a new book." Eh-hem?? You bought this book at an 80% discount, and you were expecting a new book??

They have simply forgotten what they ordered!!! That's an accurate description of roughly 5-10% of the FBA customers. Remember that "Amazon Prime" members are the primary consumers of FBA items (because they get free shipping).

But don't let the name "prime" fool you - these are not good customers. As a rule, they are spoiled, bratty, over-consumers. They order copious amounts of items online, and forget what they've ordered. One "Prime" customer read a book, and a year later decided she didn't like it so she got a refund!! (A separate entry details this account)

Amazon knows this all too well, and have even begun rescinding "Prime" membership from buyers who return too many items. Amazon knows when to pull the plug on a bad customer, but they don't care how much these people abuse and knock around 3rd party FBA sellers. They will complain, return the item, or leave bad feedback.

So is the solution to sell only new books on FBA? Think again. When ordering a new book, FBA & Prime customers expect it to be new-new. That is, absolutely free of any blemish or flaw.

Remember, FBA is a warehouse. No matter how clean it is, there will be a small amount of dust. Books are put on a conveyor belt before packed, where they may pick up a small ding or two. Sometimes humidity seeps into the warehouse, and the cover curls a little bit. None of these things really bother me as a consumer, but FBA will issue a refund for any reason, any complaint.

FBA really works best for packaged items, things in blister packs, or DVDs that are factory sealed ... not books.


Anonymous said... bleeds dry the labor of small business. We sell on and give good service but you have a few nutty customers that leave "random" negative feedback. It is not worth the hassle. We are gonna close our account this month and sell on another website.

xymon said...

Perhaps some of the negative feedback comes from the way FBA takes forever to start the shipping process for items supposedly already in the warehouse. I placed an order last week, and they say they won't be starting the shipping process any sooner than next tuesday. FBA doesn't make things better for your customers, they make it worse.

Bryan said...

What other web site? Alibris? Abe?

Curious minds want to know.

jthomasparuch said...

Can you send shrink-wrapped books to FBA? Or is this something Amazon does not allow?

CEE Staff said...

we've sent in shrink wrapped books to FBA ... and if they tear any part of the wrapping (or if it gets snagged during shipping, etc) they will mark it as "Not New / Condition Unacceptable".

But they don't notify you of this. You have to:

-Search your inventory
-Sort by "unfulfillable" (usually it's anybody's guess why it was marked that way)
-Create a return order (and pay for return shipping)
-Then, when it arrives, you may be able to figure out why it was unfulfillable.

So when we have a new, shrink-wrapped book, we either mark it as "like-new", or we take off the shrink wrap and send it as new.

PavelYord said...

Amazon let's customers leave bad feedback for you even when it's their fault. See: Amazon's unfair feedback policy.