Note: I am sharing my opinion and commentary on what might be going on in this article. All sellers names have been removed since I am not accusing any single person or seller of scamming the public.
Amazon Low Price Possible Scam
As someone who buys and sells things A LOT, I notice trends that perhaps the average consumer doesn’t. When determining my pricing and which products to buy, I try to find the subtle changes in the market and take advantage of them. Lately though, there have been some interesting developments on Amazon that I think just about everyone has noticed.
The other day Amazon briefly had the Nintendo Switch in stock at its MSRP of $299.99. I tweeted this news out hoping that someone who wanted a Switch would be able to get one. As I predicted the available stock lasted only a couple of minutes. Of course someone tweeted me back having noticed something interesting.
@milestomemories dead, but available from $150 NEW from 3rd parties – confused?
— TJS (@tjs198) March 24, 2017
Perhaps you have noticed this too? Over the past few weeks many listings have been bombarded with “too good to be true” offers. Here is today’s pricing on the Switch as an example. The price has dropped from $150!
Wow! Only $87 for Nintendo’s extremely hard to find new console that has an MSRP of $299 and is selling many places for close to $500. WHAT A DEAL! Look closely though and you should notice something. Most of these sellers are “Just Launched”. This means they are brand new accounts.
But that first account has 2 positive ratings?!? Surely they aren’t scamming anyone? Well, if we look at the ratings then we can see that they are both from about 7 years ago.
My guess is that this is a hacked account. Now, I want to make it clear that I can’t guarantee these accounts are fake or that one or all of them won’t actually ship you an $87 Switch, but I would say it is highly unlikely. These accounts haven’t just taken over popular listings like the Switch, but they have taken over many more.
For example, the above account which has been dormant for 7 years, suddenly has over 260 listings! If you guessed that each and every one of these listings is at a price well below the normal selling price then you are a winner!
How Does This Work?
Now this is just an educated guess, but all of the items being “sold” are fulfilled by the merchant and generally have long shipping times. Most likely they are selling a product and marking it “shipped”, often with a fake tracking number. This means that Amazon will pay them within two weeks.
Perhaps you as a buyer are expecting the item to come in 2-3 weeks and by the time you realize it hasn’t arrived and check to see the tracking was fake, that account is shut down, the person has their money and now you need to go through a process with Amazon. Yuck.
Because I love to be all scientific and stuff, I decided that I am going to run a test so that I can report back on exactly what I experience with one of the “lowball” accounts. To start, I wanted to buy something cheap since I fully expect to lose my money. I zeroed in on a Nintendo Switch accessory that normally retails for $79.99.
I don’t want to pay $80, but thankfully I found a seller willing to generously get me one for just $2.58 + $3.99 shipping. I can wait for April 6 -21 to receive this product since the discount is so good!
The best part about this seller is that they have 131 reviews with 95% of them being positive. The most recent review is from 2013, but I am sure this is legitimate.
So I have now purchased this item from this seller. I did have it sent to a prep center I work with so the seller won’t have my address, just in case they actually do come through. I am not holding my breath.
Why This Is Bad!
Of course it is terrible for consumers any time they get ripped off, but this is also going to be bad for Amazon sellers in the long term. The less faith people have in the Amazon ecosystem the less they will use it. More importantly, when Amazon starts to crack down on scams, they tend to do it hard and normally innocent sellers end up getting caught in the middle. My guess is this wave of new scammers will only bring on tougher rules and restrictions for legitimate Amazon sellers.
How to Protect Yourself
In order not to fall victim to one of these accounts, first off do your research. If the price is way too good to be true then it probably is not legitimate. You can use Amazon price comparison tools Keepa and Camel Camel Camel to find out what the normal price should be and can also price shop across different sites.
Amazon is flushing these accounts quite regularly, but more pop up everyday. That is why it is important to take a few seconds to look at the seller’s account when buying a product, especially if it is merchant fulfilled. Is this new a new account or does the account have any recent positive reviews? You can also buy from third party merchants who use Fulfillment by Amazon. You will see their listings with the “Prime” logo next to them. This means that Amazon actually has their merchandise in its warehouses and Amazon ships and fulfills the order.
I’ll report back on what happens with my deal of the century purchase in order to help everyone understand better what exactly is happening here. In the mean time make sure you are diligent when buying on Amazon and you should be fine.
Have you encountered any of these sellers on Amazon? If so, what was your experience like? Let us know in the comments!