Tuesday, May 29, 2012



On January 17th, 2012, I listed my Pioneer DJM400 Mixer and 2 Pioneer CDJ400 Turntables on Amazon.com. I was running short on my account and, considering my upcoming travel plans and incoming tax refund; I decided I didn’t need the DJ equipment anymore. I listed my prices the usual way, by selling it $0.01 lower than the lowest-priced item in the same condition. Within 2 days, the mixer sold and I was relieved. 2 days later, I got an email from Amazon.com:

Subject: Your Amazon.com Account
We are writing to let you know that we are conducting a review of your selling account.  During this review, your funds will be temporarily reserved in your seller account.

We conduct account reviews in support of our commitment to improving the customer experience. These reviews are intended to ensure the timely shipment of orders and compliance with our selling policies.

Please continue to fulfill orders and list only items that you are able to ship by or before the promise date.

For information on how you may be able to expedite this review, search on “Velocity Limits and Account Reviews” in our seller Help.

We will notify you via e-mail when our account review is complete.

We appreciate your patience and cooperation.

Seller Performance Team

This didn’t make any sense at all. I had a perfect 5-star rating over the life of my account and zero disputes. Everyone had always been pleased working with me. As I read further, it seemed that I had sold items more expensive than I usually list (I generally sold used textbooks) which had triggered the system to flag my account for review, just to be safe.

There was a link to a form to input information for expediting the account review process. I filled out the information completely and sent it off quickly. On January 24th, my two CD turntables sold and the transaction amounts were withheld in the same account, which had now amounted to $1000.

I received an email on the 26th, which said that my account review had not yet been completed and recommended me to remind buyers to leave feedback on my account. I went ahead and did this the next day for both buyers, but I was fully aware that the buyers had no incentive to leave me feedback other than doing so out of altruism. I had sent several inquiries to their Merchant Review department and I still hadn’t gotten a response. It had been almost 10 days and my attempts to recover my funds were being deflected. I decided to pick up the phone and settle this by speaking with a person. People can solve reasonable issues more readily than automated computer systems, or so I thought. Not one representative or supervisor could help me with my issue. And here’s the best part:

Customer Service Representative: “The account review process can take up to 30 days. The Merchant Review department is the only place that can help with this issue. Would you like me to give you their email address?”
 Me: “No, they don’t answer their email and that’s why I’m calling. What is their direct line?”
Customer Service Representative: “They don’t have phones.”

Jeff Bezos (CEO) is worth billions, yet a vital branch of his company doesn’t have phone lines. Yeah right! Apparently, the only way to resolve my issue was through email, which they conveniently didn’t answer.
I went ahead and filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau. I went a step further and contacted their corporate office in Washington to let them know about the complaint. I wrote several emails, made some more scathing phone calls, got another perfect 5 from the guy who bought my turntables, and this fiasco went on for another few weeks. They had all the information they needed to conduct their review of my account in less than 1 hour, but they seemed intent on holding my funds for the full 30 days. This is how I realized that this company is fraudulent. I then went on to research my issue and found many other merchants who had suffered similar mistreatment and fraud. Some bigger 3rd party merchants (think tens of thousands of dollars in revenue), had even gotten their accounts suspended and had their funds stolen!!

3rd Party Merchants (me) list items on Amazon.com at competitive prices. Amazon lets them sell a certain amount and then freezes their funds for 30+ days. They invest the sum of all frozen accounts and gain interest (you are giving them a no-interest loan). An all-powerful algorithm reviews and suspends accounts. No rational explanation is given, only a list of vague possible reasons. The more successful you are as a merchant, the more likely you are to get flagged. After all, you are competing with Amazon.com's prices. Having a competitive marketplace would undercut their profits. There is no way to facilitate the review process, despite the tips on how to speed it up. You HAVE to wait the full 30 days. For some people it gets extended to 90 days. Others have their accounts suspended indefinitely and lose all the withheld funds.

On Day 30, I received an email that said my account was cleared and that my money would be deposited within 4-5 days. A few days later, I got an email notifying me that my account had a credit card company had filed a dispute regarding the transaction where I had sold my mixer. The dispute was filed through the credit card company and she had never notified me that there was even an issue! By now, I was enraged! I sent an overassertive email and a Facebook message to the woman who had bought my mixer.

I received an order refund request on Amazon.com without any explanation. Apparently, you've contacted your credit card company at the bank to dispute our transaction. Amazon is a scam company that has encouraged many buyers to submit negative feedback in return for free money and products. You need to send me your phone number by tonight so we can discuss what is going on here and why you're requesting a cancellation through your bank without leaving me feedback or contacting me first.


Haroun Omar”

I waited. She never replied. The following day, the full amount was deposited into my bank account. I never heard from Tina. She was as evasive as a reasonable customer service representative from Amazon.com.
On a brighter note, I received an email from the BBB asking if the seller had effectively resolved my issue. It appears that filing a complaint with the BBB is something that they actually did respond to, while every phone call I made was deflected and every email I wrote was returned with a canned response from an automated system. If you find yourself in my situation, file with the BBB. It will not do much to help your case, but at least they take the time to respond to a complaint case. But better yet:

Never sell anything on Amazon.com

And if you’re a consumer, please do your part and stop buying from a company that defrauds innocent people.

Please pass this article to everyone you know. I would like as many people as possible to get this insight and protect themselves from what I had to go through. It was a long month of suffering and putting in a lot of effort only to make no progress at all.

Haroun Omar