What’s Real and What’s Not?
Several years ago, the Consumer Fraud Center, a website that highlights the sale of counterfeit and fraudulent consumer goods, called upon Amazon to increase its efforts to protect consumers who shopped on their website from fake or counterfeit products.
At the time of that announcement, the Consumer Fraud Center (CFC) said that “grey market” and counterfeit goods are rife on the retail site. They recommended numerous steps be taken to help support the efforts of legitimate sellers who make a conscious effort to ensure they only sell actual brand name products to their buyers.
James Lee, Executive Director for the CFC said, “Amazon’s sales practices with respect to the Kindle stand in stark contrast to the way the company sells other consumer products and illustrates the lack of willpower (or interest) keeping Amazon from instituting basic safeguards to protect consumers from fake products. Unlike virtually every other consumer product sold on its site, Amazon forbids the sale of “new” Kindles from anyone other than Amazon, thereby ensuring the authenticity of Kindles being sold.” The CFC went on to say that Amazon protects its own consumer products but no other items sold and this reflects a callous double standard!
Mr. Lee went on to say in his strongly-worded statement, “…..it’s the height of hypocrisy that Amazon aggressively protects its own products, but does next to nothing to ensure the same level of protection for other products sold on its site. The almost cavalier attitude shows a reckless disregard for protecting consumers and instead demonstrates Amazon’s intent to dominate online shopping at all costs, no matter the harm to consumers, manufacturers or local governments from lost tax revenues.”
While no one likes to buy counterfeited products that are of questionable quality and have no warranties, there is an additional negative impact for the genuine brands and their associated sellers. If counterfeit goods are sold and appear to be associated with legitimate branding, then subsequent product reviews and critiques can be unduly savage, causing these real- brand reputations to greatly suffer. For that reason, it is in everyone’s best interest to ensure counterfeit products are eliminated from Amazon.
Sell Generic…NOT Fake!
If you as a seller want to sell generic products, that is not a bad thing. Consumers don’t really care about brand names. They care about product performance. As long as the product they purchase performs as advertised, they are satisfied. For that reason, you as a seller still have the ability to locate new and unique products that can be sold on Amazon at reasonable price points, without having to (knowingly) deal in counterfeit products. To that end, Amazon buyers are becoming much savvier and they are learning to spot the fakes from real brand name products anyway.
If you are caught selling counterfeit products, the risk does not justify the reward. You may be banned from Amazon if they believe you knew you were trafficking in counterfeit goods. Your company could be sued by the actual brand holder. Your buyers will destroy (and rightly so) your reputation on line…..and finally, your provider of fake products may cut your supply chain off! For that reason, here are a few tips to help you ensure you are selling real products rather than fake products.
- Where are your products originating from? If it is a brand name product you wish to resell, it will probably ship directly from the manufacturer to you. IF the manufacturer is having it shipped directly to you from their contract factory, they will provide you with a certificate or document that proves they have approved the shipment of their product directly to you. IF the product you are ordering is shipped from China and you cannot secure any documentation from the parent company of the brand confirming the authenticity of the product…..you know it’s fake.
- Does the price you are paying for it make sense? If you are buying Gucci handbags to resell and they are priced ridiculously lower than most other wholesale pricing for the exact same product… then it is counterfeited products. IF it is too good a deal to be true…it isn’t true!
- Can the originator of the product provide documentation from the brand owner? The product supplier should be able to provide you contact information with the brand owner so you can confirm directly that you are working with a legitimate representative of the brand owner. IF they can’t, no matter what excuse they give you…they are lying to you.
- Can you get samples? The product supplier should be willing to sell you a couple of samples of the product so you can inspect them yourself to ensure they are the “real deal,” with regards to being authentic and legitimate. IF they refuse to do this, then you must question their integrity as a product provider.
- Will they accept a secured inspection process for the incoming orders? This is where you contract with a trusted third party to inspect the incoming orders to make sure that each box contains the legitimately branded products you are purchasing. Once they have reviewed and approved the shipment, your funds are released from the third party to the product originator. This step is usually not necessary if you are having product shipped directly from the brand name holders company. It will also cost you a bit to go through this process, but, unfortunately, it may be a future requirement to protect your company from fake products.
As a legitimate seller on Amazon, you may be asking yourself what you should do to compete against unscrupulous sellers who don’t mind risking the sale of fake products. Overall, all you can do is make a conscientious effort to secure legitimate products. Remember, successful Amazon sellers are constantly trying to increase their positive reviews on their digital company. Selling fakes can only have a negative impact on those reviews/ratings in the long run. However, if you choose to sell generic products, then you can compete with the purveyors of fakes head-to-head….without the negative repercussions that may follow those sales.
If you have ever been to New York City and had a street vendor try and sell you a fake Rolex watch, you understand the difference in successfully working in the system as opposed to trying to work around it. When the street vendor offers you the fake watch for $75.00, you (the customer) know you are not buying a real Rolex. If you purchase it anyway, your expectations are grounded in this knowledge. If the watch works for a while and it provides you with the outcome you were looking for, then you are satisfied and happy with the purchase of a known counterfeit product. If though, you paid $1500.00 for a counterfeit Rolex…whether it continues to keep accurate time or not, once you discover it is fake…..you are angry and want to prosecute the villain who sold you the product. You will go out of your way to punish that seller.
Amazon buyers react much like the above buyers who purchased a counterfeit watch. If they know what they are getting (as in a generic product) they are satisfied as long as the product still performs. If it is fake, whether it performs or not…and most likely it will not, they will file complaints and haunt your site with negative ratings for some time. It is precisely for those reasons you need to decide where you will draw the line regarding the sale of these type products.