You might have noticed I haven’t posted in about a month and there’s a good reason for that:
The last month has been a whirlwind of events. It started when I ran out of stock…
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Rule #1 DON’T RUN OUT OF STOCK!
See, what happens when you run out of stock is it gives these leeches an open party on your listing. There are hoards of people who literally sift through every Amazon listing looking for one that is currently “inactive” or “closed”. Once they find these completely polished listings, they can hop on there and take advantage of your awesome sales rank.
When this happens, they are usually selling a counterfeit piece of junk and could care less what happens to your reviews. After all, it’s not their listing they have to worry about.
Hundreds of customers place orders expecting to get something from your brand and instead are met with a cheap knockoff or something entirely different altogether.
Not exactly the success you had hoped for…
Inventory Planning Is Key
One of the things I can’t stress enough is good inventory planning. It’s pretty damn hard to do, especially when you launch a new product and you aren’t sure how the sales will go.
I ran out of stock for one of my products around Mid-May. At the same time I was just sending out a new shipment. If all went well, I would be back in stock in around 10-14 days.
All did not go well.
It took 28 days!
Yes, you heard that right. I paid for Air Express shipping and it took 28 f*#kin days to get my items back in stock!!!
As you could probably guess, I was pretty upset about this. Luckily, I had an agreement in place with my supplier that stipulated any delays would require refunds of some sort.
When they couldn’t tell me exactly where my stuff was, I threatened to open up the case with Alibaba. Eventually those scare tactics worked and they reimbursed me $250 for the delay (honestly this rarely ever happens with a supplier so I felt pretty good about that).
However, the delay in this shipment cost me much more than $250 because the hijackers had already taken notice. They had latched onto my listing like a pile of roaches.
What Are Hijackers?
For those who don’t know, a hijacker is a term used to describe a seller who piggybacks on an existing listing, undercutting the brand owner to win the buy-box and steal some sales.
They usually are selling counterfeit or knockoff products that are nothing like the actual listing.
Many times, they don’t actually plan to ship anything at all. In all the cases I’ve seen, it’s a Chinese account that will take advantage of a hot product, catch some sales, and then leave before they are detected.
A few of these Chinese sellers jumped on my listing and I was able to scare them off with a Cease & Desist letter. Then, I noticed something troubling.
One of these leeches had actually sent in inventory to Amazon. In other words, they were selling FBA right alongside my own products, making it impossible to win the buy-box unless I drastically undercut their prices.
So you can guess what happened next…
A race to the bottom. Each time I adjusted my price, they would match. Eventually I setup an automatic repricer so that I didn’t have to sit at my screen all day.
Penny by penny my sales price would drop until I’m losing money on each sale. At this point, it’s the only thing I can do to keep my customers from getting some piece of shit in the mail.
This was infuriating, but there was still one thing that I could do to get them off my back.
After trying to report the seller, Amazon support recommended I do a “test buy.”
This is where you buy their product and then document everything, noting the differences between the actual branded product and whatever the cheap seller is selling. Then you report this, and apparently Amazon will take action.
So, I purchased their stuff and sure enough, it was a cheap knockoff. This is a clear violation of Amazon’s policies so I thought I had won!
I took all the photos noting the differences and reported the violation.
A few days pass and nothing.
One week passes. Nothing.
Now, it’s been about 2.5 weeks and Amazon hasn’t done ANYTHING. Talk about wanting to rip your hair out and punch a wall.
The test buy has proven fruitless…
So onto Plan B:
I decided to take matters into my own hands.
Hire individuals to purchase their product and file A-Z claims and report the seller. Hopefully with enough complaints from actual customers, Amazon will take notice and shut down their account.
But wait, there’s more!
Hijacker POS (Piece of shit) #2
While this is happening, all I can thing about is how I’m so thankful my main money maker is still clear from these shady sellers.
I spoke too soon…
One morning I wake up and notice a new guy on my listing, selling as FBA!!! Another idiot I have to battle for my own buy-box. Ughhhhh.
I sent him a Cease & Desist in English and Chinese (this seems to work as most of these guys are Chinese). He responds in Chinese with something like:
“Oh hey, yeah we only have 70 units in stock so once we sell it, we’ll get off your listing. We’re also just a small company looking for some quick money so don’t worry! We hope you understand.”
I couldn’t believe what I was reading. These f*cking idiots think this is just a friendly game where we’re gambling to make a quick buck??
The amount of time and energy spent into building a successful product with a clear brand is tremendous. And for one little guy to come on here and try to destroy it for a quick buck… I was fuming.
So, I had a few options. Fight the buy box for my own product and lose out on all my sales or do something a little more aggressive.
I took the latter option.
I dropped my price down to $9, a price I undoubtedtly would be losing money at. The hijacker followed suit. Then, one-by-one, I bought all of his stock 🙂
59 units later and several hundred dollars in product charges and he was out.
I got the buy-box back, raised my price and he is gone, for now. His counterfeit products have been arriving the last few days and I’ve reported and returned every single one of them so he does not get a dime.
I hate to use these annoying tactics to get rid of a seller but when Amazon doesn’t do anything to help legitimate sellers, you have to get creative and make things work for yourself.
The main lessons I’ve learned through this ordeal is that you need to get legal protection as soon as possible. In other words, get Trademarked and Brand Registered so you have more fire power against illegitmate sellers like this.
Furthermore, start thinking about your long term selling strategy from day one.
Do you want to only sell on Amazon? Good luck.
How can you position your brand or products to sell in Walmart, Target, Costco, etc.?
The 7 and 8 figure sellers are thinking big like this, and if you want to be successful in the long term, then you should be thinking like this too.
If you’ve dealt with any nasty hijackers, let me know. I’d like to hear what other sellers are doing to get rid of them and provide any other value that I can from the experiences I’ve had so far.
I feel like I have a bit of control on the situation but there is a high chance that they will be back. The only thing that separates me from another seller being hijacked is literally just luck. This has just been a very unlucky situation and that’s it.
That’s all I got folks. I have some stories about visiting factories and a trip to Shanghai that I’d like to share soon, so if you’re not already subscribed do so now!