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October Amazon News Roundup – Prepaid Returns, FBA Peak Season Pricing

Here’s the latest Amazon news from the last month or so including changes to the way Amazon issues prepaid return labels, planning for the holidays and the upcoming peak pricing, and more.

Amazon Now Enabling Prepaid Returns

Amazon has now started giving customers prepaid return labels for merchant fulfilled items (i.e. non-FBA items). Amazon has always done this for FBA items but this is a change for merchant fulfilled items. For a lot of sellers who are not using FBA, this spurred a lot of panic that all returns would now be prepaid on the seller’s behalf. Thankfully, the new prepaid labels only applies for items that are returned as an Amazon/Seller related error, i.e. if a buyer is simply unhappy with an item, they will still have the cost of the return deducted from their account.

If you return an item using a prepaid method (dropoff or pickup) from the Online Returns Center, and the reason for return is not a result of an Amazon error, the cost of return shipping will be deducted from your refund unless your item qualifies for a free return.

The big problem is that this will likely just encourage (more) abuse of Amazon’s return’s policy at the expense of sellers.

Speaking of Returns – Couple Screws Amazon out of $1.2million in Fake Returns

A couple recently pleaded guilty to scamming Amazon out of $1.2million in fake returns. How did they do it? They reported that thousands of high-ticket items like GoPros were either not received or were received damaged. They used a number of fake accounts in the process. As we sellers know, Amazon rarely investigates returns and gives the customer the overwhelming benefit of the doubt.

By the way, did you hear that Amazon is now offering customers prepaid returns for non-FBA orders?

“Peak Season” Pricing Now in Effect

Amazon earlier in the year quietly snuck in one significant change to their FBA pricing – they now apply peak rates starting from October rather than November. This means that your storage fees are increasing about 400% starting this month. Ouch.

How Does Amazon Find Employees During Peak? They hire RVers!

As someone who has witnessed first hand Amazon’s frantic hiring during the holidays, I know how hard it is for Amazon to find employees during the holidays. So how do they find thousands of workers to work for dirt cheap wages during these months? Well, of course, they hire RVers! Amazon reportedly travels to RV parks and campgrounds around the country and recruits the cash strapped residents to come work at Amazon warehouses on a short term basis.

Amazon Search Terms Changes

On August 28, 2017 Amazon announced changes to the way sellers can use search terms. These new guidelines are:

Key Guidelines:

  • Keep content within the prescribed length limit (less than 250, 200 for India, 500 for Japan):
    • Length limit applies to total content in all generic keyword fields (a max. of 5 attributes).
    • Whole entry will be rejected upon exceeding limit.
    • Number of bytes equals number of characters for alphanumeric characters (e.g. a-z, 0-9) while other characters can be 2 bytes or more. Examples include ä (2 bytes), £ (2 bytes), € (3 bytes) or ❤ (3 bytes).
    • Spaces and punctuation (“;” “,”, “.”) do not contribute to the length limit, but words should be space-separated. Punctuation between words is unnecessary.
  • Optimizing keyword content for search discoverability:
    • Do not include keywords that are not descriptive of the product.
    • Do not include brand names (even your own) or other product identifiers.
    • Do not duplicate content present in other attributes, such as title and bullet points.
    • No need to repeat keywords; once is enough.
    • Use keywords that are synonyms, hypernyms or spelling variations of content in visible attributes (e.g. if product title is ‘whiskey’, use ‘whisky’ in generic keywords).

In Plain Seller English:

  • Don’t exceed 250 characters – If you exceed 250 characters in most market places the entire entry will be ignored.
  • Game the system at your risk – Amazon explicitly encouraged sellers not to try to rank for other brand names or other non-relevant keywords. Is this a suggestion or an order? I’m not sure, but do so at your own risk.
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