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Amazon Charges Couple More Than $1,000 to Ship Paper Plates (newschannel5.com)
83 points by jscheel 7 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 64 comments

Dear Amazon: fulfillment is what made you a household name. If you didn't get it from the manufacturer and put it in your warehouse, I don't want it. Stop feeding grey-market middlemen and con artists.

That ship has sailed, but they could up their vendor standards from grey-market to perhaps a soft creamy beige.

Amazon really needs to clean house when it comes to these third party sellers and third party listings, it's a mess.

I'm glad this one in this case was supposedly dismissed (though I doubt they haven't reapplied with a new name... or even just held multiple seller accounts to begin with.

There are a lot of 3rd party shipping scams on Amazon now. In fact there are a lot of counterfeit items on Amazon now. I think I've posted this before, but if I am ordering a name brand item, I will not buy it from Amazon anymore. I'll only order things that won't really matter if they aren't the real name brand now.

Even if it is fulfilled by Amazon, even that doesn't guarantee it's not counterfeit. I can order a pallets of counterfeit items from Alibaba and ship them off to Amazon to fulfill (for a fee) so that I can qualify as a Prime shipper.

I used to sell a lot of (legit) things on Amazon (a $250K/yr revenue pace) but Amazon raised their seller fees which choked my already low margin business; and honestly since that I feel like the amount of scams and counterfeits has skyrocketed because now Amazon has trimmed people's margins so much with their high fees.

Now I hear from some others I know that sell on Amazon about how they will buy from Alibaba, negotiate a bulk rate and then sell it on Amazon. Generally they are almost all fake, but the seller doesn't care, or pleads ignorance. Then there's the shipping scams, which I feel are fairly new, but no less worrying if you're a customer. It's also a bit infuriating if you were/are a seller and people are getting away with this when you're trying to be honest.

I don't see the relationship between abundance of counterfeit items and higher fees edging out low margin sellers.

You can raise your margins if you merely sell counterfeit items, because your input cost is less. Amazon raising their seller fees squeezes margins and forces suppliers/sellers to reinflate their margin via external means. If you squeeze out legitimate sellers, the sellers that counterfeit will be more robust and their margins will be what the old baseline was before the seller fee increase (at least.) I don't see how you can't see that obvious relationship.

The simpler response is: selling counterfeit items is inherently a higher-margin business than selling the legitimate version of the same items.

I am a prime customer and literally every single time I have contacted Amazon support they have been receptive and refunded me, often times going beyond what I requested.

I am a very skeptical of this story.

As a counter anecdote, I bought a prime item on a Monday and didn't receive it till the following Monday. When I contacted Amazon they told me that prime just garunteed that shipping would take 2 days, not that they would ship it in 2 days and as they had shipped it on Thursday they would do nothing for me

I had that happen to me once. The Amazon rep told me the item was being transferred to a warehouse near me before being shipped out "2 day shipping". That sounds like 7 day shipping to me.

I've had things fail to ship in the two days multiple times. The only thing they will do is refund the shipping- which, if you have prime, is 0$.

That's exactly as advertised though[1]. 2 day delivery, once shipped.

[1] https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?nodeId=...

Advertising your product as "2 day shipping" and then going, oh well that only counts from when we ship it so you will get your item whenever, is the kind of misleading pedantry only politicians and lawyers would engage in.

They may be technically and legally correct, but a reasonable person would not assume that paying extra for 2 day shipping still meant you'd get your items in 7 days and Amazon knows it.

Additionally the Amazon order page told me I would receive my item in 2 days from when I placed the order so it's not like I ordered it when they we're telling me it would be a week.

If there is a guaranteed delivery date, they have to honor it.

This was a couple of years ago - I ordered replacement computer parts to get a failed laptop up and running for a critical timeline. The parts didn’t arrive so I had to search for them and over pay locally. Amazon issued a full refund and told me to keep the parts since they were already in transit.

Not sure if the story would be the same if the items were not sold by Amazon directly, but instead via the marketplace.

>If there is a guaranteed delivery date, they have to honor it.

They don't really have to do anything. I have no power to compel any action from them and I live in the US so it's not like I can expect the government to enforce the rules either unless Amazon starts pissing off other rich people or starts hurting a whole lot of people a whole lot of times.

My only real recourse is to stop purchasing items from Amazon which stops future problems but doesn't do anything to fix what already occurred.

Between actions like this and increasing prevalance of counterfeit items on Amazon an increasing number of people in my social circle are limiting their purchases on Amazon to commodities like toilet paper and buying anything else where quality or timeliness matter in other stores/websites

>commodities like toilet paper

Why don't you just buy this at the store in town? It's cheaper and probably takes less time to just throw that in your cart while at the store anyway. How much time do you save by buying that online?

No vehicle and it's bulky. My shopping is usually limited by volume. Amazon has become a provider to me of large volume goods that dont have a failure mode that can hurt me much or items that are cheap enough that I don't care about them.

If a market shows up in the development near my building then I don't know if I'd even get those commodities from Amazon anymore

In Germany, and in my experience, the "guaranteed" delivery date isn't honored 40% of the time and when you call or email them, they just say that they are sorry and extend your prime membership yet another month. Especially DHL is just a joke in Hesse.

This used to be a policy for US customers as well but I've read that Amazon no longer honors the policy and removed it from the support page it previously appeared on.

The Prime benefit is free 2 day shipping, not "ships right away and received in 2 days". The 2 day shipping doesn't always pan out but as others have mentioned there is often a resolution by support when contacted.

In my personal anecdotal experience, Amazon is quite good at extending Prime for another month (so basically only a few dollars) or refunding "sane" shipping charges. They are just about incapable of admitting that they messed up, though, and will promise you just about anything only to turn around and say "no, we can't do that" if it is anything that would actually cost them.

When the dollar amount goes up they are less than helpful. I was forced to dispute a $4888 purchase with my credit card at one point because they refused a return. Took over six months with the back and forth, bank being incompetent, etc, but eventually I won.

Have you ever generated a ticket that could cost Amazon $1000 to a supplier though?

I agree, Amazon are usually happy to write off losses of ~$20 as a CODB, but it sounds like this is far beyond that.

I’m pretty surprised by Amazon’s reaction to them. This is clearly a rip-off transaction, and Amazon has always been pretty customer friendly with me.

I would take that claim with a grain of salt. The person already claims that she didn't agree to $1000 shipping, but I think it's safe to say that there wasn't a glitch with Amazon's payment processing, she just didn't see it.

It is not safe to say that. I've been tracking this glitch for months and I estimate millions of dollars in fraudulent shipping charges have been added by sellers exploiting this glitch.

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't test ordered and seen the charges with my own eyes.

Edit: go to https://www.amazon.com/Scalpmaster-Shampoo-Brush-Purple-Coun.... Place a 1-click order. Verify for yourself.

I can confirm this. It is an item for $0.01 with free shipping. Once you add it to your cart and go to checkout it adds $10 in shipping fees.

I got a generic response from support about sellers setting their own prices. I do not know if the "concern team" will actually look into this or get back to me but my question is being sent to them.

I will no longer be using 1-click ordering until I know this issue is resolved.

This seems at best a very bad bug / loophole for sellers to exploit or at worst a deceptive scam to steal from people. I hope Amazon takes this seriously and fixes it.

Also doing a 1 click purchase purchases it for $0.01 + $9.80 shipping, but the $9.80 shipping never shows up on the product page, during the purchase, or on the purchase completed page. You only see the $9.81 if you navigate to your purchase history and see it there.

I experienced the same thing. Here is my chat transcript:


Me: I placed a 1­Click order and was charged more than the advertised price.

Prashant: Hi, I’m Prashant, I’ll be glad to help you from here

Prashant: May I've the last four digits of the order ID?

Me: 5844 For the Scalpmaster Shampoo Brush

Prashant: I see the item is being sold and shipped by a third party seller HEHENE who is charging

Me: The listing said “$0.01 & FREE Shipping” but I was charged $9.81

Prashant: $9.80 as shipping and handling.

Me: But the listing says “FREE Shipping” specifically

Prashant: Let me quickly check this for you.

Prashant: In this case, what best we can do is to refund the shipping and charges once the item is delivered.

Me: Ok, because I feel like this is false advertising. I clicked the “buy with one click” button expecting to be charged exactly what was shown (“$0.01 & FREE Shipping) but I was not.

Me: So you’re saying I should file a complaint once it shows up?

Prashant: I certainly understand your concern.

Prashant: You just need to contact us here and we will refund the shipping charges.

Me: Haven’t I just contacted you?

Prashant: We can refund the amount once the item is delivered.

That sounds like a robot or a person on a very tightly controlled chat script. Both are bad choices.

I'm very sad to hear this. This is what we became. Instead of human-to-human communication we have people forced to say illogical things/forbidden (and often unable) to actually solve problems. What a mess.

So Amazon is knowingly part of this scam. That does indeed explain a lot. They should be prosecuted for fraud, especially given that they've been alerted to the scam and have done nothing to stop it (and therefore are knowingly complicit). Amazon's a very scummy company. They don't hesitate to close accounts for no reason and keep the prime membership payments. It's not surprising to me to see evidence of outright fraud intentionally perpetrated by then too deceive customers. They might refund the few customers who notice and name a ton of money off the ones who don't.

Wow, wtf.

So in the "other sellers" section with seemingly more normal prices, <<$1.01 + Free Shipping Sold by: ATammy>> they have the same effect. Huge 8-10 shipping charges once you continue to checkout, but still not visible in the cart.

What a scam!

Arrrgh, so that's what that is about. I thought I'd imagined things when I added an item slightly lower in price than the other sellers, and free shipping, I almost placed the order before realizing I was about to pay ~10 in shipping (on a free shipping order) needless to say I didn't go thru with the transaction and ordered form a different seller.

AMZ better cut this nonsense out right quick. It's annoying.

On a side note, I also dislike how for some items they want to put you on a recurring order. Almost did that a couple of times --and now I'm careful when clicking to read the button.

These things are very customer unfriendly.

Do you happen to remember the item?

I'm sorry, no. IIRC, it was with a corp account --order quite a bit of things, so I can't recall what in particular it was. But has stuck in my mind.

That is unbelievable. I just emailed jeff@amazon.com about this scam.

If a customer doesn't intentionally accept $1000 shipping charges, a properly run business would recognize this as a problem with their service design when they do end up with $1000 shipping charges.

The alternative is to have a slowly growing public understanding that dealing with them is equivalent to gambling. If they're happy with that, then OK.

There's probably some threshold (either a fixed amount or in conjunction with the purchase price) where shipping is obviously a scam or mistake. For most transactions, I expect a severe warning if your freight is more than $100 would be appropriate.

I agree. Amazon also absolutely wants to encourage behaviour where you don’t even think before buying, so scammy listings like this are hurt their strategy. The fact that they later delisted the seller shows that they recognised the abuse.

I've seen some pretty insane expedited shipping fees - like $150 to get 2-3 day expedited shipping on an iPad vs free 5 - 6 day shipping, I always wondered if anyone actually paid those fees.

I guess some people don't pay attention to the charge.

I've never seen multiple hundreds of dollars or more -- Amazon really should have some reasonable cap.

I'd be surprised if Amazon didn't show the exorbitant shipping fee to the person in this article, she probably wasn't paying attention and just clicked through assuming that it was going to be the usual Prime $5.99 next day shipping upcharge or similar.

This also highlights one of the most ridiculous properties of many payment methods/how we handle money in general. Both credit cards and bank accounts allow others to just "pull" money from them [0]. To me this is such a silly feature (bug): it's like letting anyone send emails in your name if you don't regularly check your sent folder to cancel fraudulent outgoing mails.

The story described in the article would not have happened if our payment methods were all "push"-based. E.g. if you want to protect buyer and seller, a protocol could look like this:

1. select items to buy

2. send money to a trusted 3rd party (e.g. amazon)

3. the vendor ships the items or you can claim back your money in a predefined time frame

This could even be done without a trusted third party if the used money was programmable [1].

[0] having grown up in Germany where cash and debit cards are the main payment methods (and knowing much securer systems), finding out about this was quite a shock back then

[1] https://en.bitcoin.it/wiki/Multisignature

I'm all for improving the consumer experience but I don't see how this case would have gone differently. The likeliest scenario is the woman making the purchase did not notice the shipping charge when adding to cart and going through checkout. Perhaps something happened where the seller was able to modify the free shipping to the actual charge but as someone who has used Amazon and sold on Amazon for years, this is not likely/usual.

I've discovered deeper in the comments that using 1-click to purchase allows for sellers to add shipping fees later that do not appear to the purchaser unless they check their order history (It says shipping is FREE on the product page but this is not actually the case). I've never used 1-click so this is why I haven't experienced this problem before.

> but I don't see how this case would have gone differently

If you have to make a conscious decision to transfer money first before they ship anything I guess you would notice that $1000 for some plates is a bit much.

A good example for this is paypal (even though I don't like them as a middleman): whenever I pay something using it I am redirected to their website and am shown what I will pay to whom in return for what and money only leaves my account if I confirm the transfer.

> 1-click to purchase

Well, 1-click buying is an anti-feature for me: it promotes impulsive, non-batched and probably quite often unnecessary buying and makes the whole process less transparent (what lead to this incident).

Unlike eBay they don't have a highest cost+shipping option, but I just went there and the highest priced paper plates from a third party are about $8000 for 96 plates with about $2 shipping.

It is interesting. I would have imagined that Amazon refunded it right away, with a free 2 months of Prime membership extension as an apology. Most of my interactions with Amazon Customer Service has been nothing short of perfect. Just the other day, I called to complain that an item that was marked as "delivered" actually wasn't delivered at all. Within 3 minutes, I got a complete refund and also a free 1-month Amazon prime extension.

Sounds like a UI/UX problem to me.. I have prime & don't really do third party shipping and I've had no problems of this sort.

Is the seller trying to trick people in to buying paper plates? Or is that just one of the ways people launder money using Amazon?

They need to send an email to:


I did that for an item where the price had gone up to gouging territory (k-cups from 60cents/cup to well over $6/cup), and outlined my concerns: anxiety about subscribe and save prices, reluctance to Alexa order, and refusal of Dash buttons because I couldn't be assured of fair or stable pricing.

Amazon's response was: "With sellers on Amazon, we do allow them to sell their products for the price they feel is fair."

Amazon's response isn't too outrageous. I completely agree that it is unfair to the consumer, but it isn't unheard of. Unless those k-cups are a monopoly owned by Amazon, they can't really regulate prices for them. If gas prices rise, I can't call the CEO of Exxon to bring them down. Same thing applies for Uber Surge pricing. That's just how our economy works these days.

FYI, 3p sellers through subscribe and save have prices locked in. They can raise prices but people subscribing will not pay more.

Not the case for amazon selling directly, though.

> The Galloways now suggest you take a screen shot so you can prove later that you did not agree to any additional charges.

Does Amazon actually take action based on an easily manipulated screenshot?

Why would they need a screen shot? The order confirmation e-mail would show the shipping charges as well.

I very much doubt that the vendor was able to slip these charges by invisibly. Seems more likely the customer simply did not read the order screen before hitting OK.

They know that they are right.

Who is right? The couple or Amazon?

I’ve had Amazon Prime since the day it came out, but I’m seriously considering abandoning Amazon now. The ability to search and find items has deteriorated noticeably in the last two years as a hundred similar knockoffs appear for every search, and I feel I have to triple check the process to avoid fraud.

I don’t enjoy the experience of shopping in a marketplace that is full of scammers and fraud.

I wish Amazon understood that.

Side note: what a horrible standard of news quality here. This should be about 3 sentences, not hundreds of words and a TV interview. This is why most local news is ridiculous.

The article is a slightly edited transcript of what aired in the TV package and appeared in the teleprompter, which is the only strategy most local newsrooms can afford to do. Write once, publish twice. It’s not print journalism, it’s copy intended to hook television viewing interest, and that style does work.

If local news quality bothers you, be more bothered that the person who did the translation almost certainly pulls minimum wage, while the slightly more notable person reading the same thing negotiated a significant contract. I used to write these for $9.50/hour in 2005, for a producer pulling about $13, while the anchor reading them and doing approximately nothing else was arguing over $5 million in their renewal. And the gutting of local hadn’t even started yet. Now most shops can’t even afford photographers and have their reporters shoot their own stories, probably close to minimum wage themselves if they’re fresh from J school.

You think you’re going to get Peter Baker quality reporting in that scenario? You think that newsroom is empowered to develop source relationships and produce reporting that effects social change? They’re covering a shipping overcharge in an investigative feature, for crying out loud. The stylistic technique is far from why local news is ridiculous, and that’s a very shallow assessment.

There’s a clear path to fixing local news but the market won’t permit it, on account of it being a market, not to mention the whole battalion of news directors terrified of change and wondering why their 1994 Eyewitness News rundowns don’t work any more, all the while sweating about how much more the only marketable face is going to ask for when the next book comes out. A lot of it is self-inflicted, but a lot isn’t. But don’t worry, it’ll die. The aforementioned anchor reminded me of this when I was reconsidering the industry again. He now does real estate and begged me not to go back.

I'm not sure what your point is. I know they are short on resources, which is precisely why they shouldn't so much time and effort on a story about scammy shipping on paper plates.

What would you do instead, in their position?

Write 3 sentences. Or skip it. Or put work into a real investigative story about Amazon/online ecommerce scams.

I was thinking the same thing. "People these days shop online, not because it's convenient but because you can get a deal!"

"Person A does a ton of shopping online, you'll never believe what happened to them!"

You'll be amazed at this one simple trick of already knowing what they're about to say because the headline's already told you!

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