Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Amazon: 5 Illegal Tricks of The Trade

Amazon is by far my favorite online store. It is my favorite store even compared to those I can find down the street. They are large and in charge, and have a great support system in place. They are always making advancements into newer markets, and their service is second-to-none. However, there are many of us out there taking advantage of Amazon. I would like to discuss those methods.

DISCLAIMER: I am in no way responsible for how this information is used. The following information is only for educational purposes.

The Lost Trick
One of the easiest tricks to pull on Amazon is having a "lost" item. What this entails is ordering something from Amazon, receiving the item, then contacting Amazon support and claiming that the item never arrived.

This is an easy trick, and if done right, can be done multiple times. However, someone who has--or almost always has--items lost will likely be caught. It becomes much harder when it is spaced out with legitimate purchases. In the same fashion, inexpensive items are easier to steal than items that cost hundreds of dollars.

How This Hurts Us
While many of us might think that Amazon is a huge company so a few hits here and there isn't going to affect them, the problem becomes how often and how many people pull this trick. If hundreds of people start doing it, they'll likely clamp down on delivery service one way or the other, making it much harder to receive a package than it is now.

In addition, for those of us who actually do lose an item, it could become a big hassle to get a refund if Amazon suspects everyone of trying to swindle them.

The Broken Media Trick
Another trick which is quite effective is ordering a piece of software or movie that comes on DVD or Blu-ray. After the DVD or Blu-ray is received, you quickly make a copy of it and then crack or break the DVD/Blu-ray.

This is a much harder trick for Amazon to battle against unless it opened each item and checked beforehand, making it a "used" product during the process. Think of it like driving a new car off the lot, once it's off the lot the price automatically drops. Amazon will give you a refund and never be-the-wiser of what really happened.

How This Hurts Us
I would have to honestly say this has little effect on Amazon's general base of customers. Not unless the person committing this crime does this repeatedly, forcing Amazon to create new rules and guidelines on how such matters are handled and preempted.

In either case, this is just dishonest. I like owning my actual movies or software. I always make backups in case they do get ruined, but the point of me buying them are to support the companies producing these products. This in turn could affect how those movies or software programs are priced in the future...

The Swap Trick
This trick involves swapping out items and is a bit more devious in my mind. This can be done with most any item of a decent size, and with a little communication, you can end up having a new item free.

An example of this would be if you already had a phone, like a Samsung Galaxy S5. You personally purchased it from Verizon without insurance, and now it has a cracked screen that renders it nearly inoperable. On Amazon someone is selling the exact same model and color, second-hand. You order the phone and wait for it to arrive. After ensuring that it works you contact Amazon and claim that the phone arrived but has a crack on the screen which was never detailed in the listing. Amazon has you return the phone and refunds your money, leaving you with a brand "new" Samsung Galaxy S5 to continue using.

I should note that items do not have to be used, but likely if the item isn't in perfect condition crooks have a better chance of getting away with the dirty deed.

How This Hurts Us
This truly hurts the sellers of Amazon, and by hurting them, that hurts us. If too many people were to perform this trick sellers may be wary and prefer to sell their items elsewhere, somewhere we don't want to buy from.

And if Amazon were to catch on to what was happening, they may go ahead and introduce new policies for used items to ensure (as much as possible) that whatever was sold worked and appeared as detailed. This could be good for us in reality, but it could also cause higher delivery prices, or introduce a new tax to make these new policies possible.

The Still NIB Trick
This still NIB (New-In-Box) trick has been used for a long time. A product is bought that comes in some sort of box and shrink wrapped. You open the box and use the product, then either put it back or keep it, followed by shrink-wrapping the box and sending it back. In the case of Amazon, you contact their support and tell them you no longer want the product and need a refund.

This is definitely riskier than the other tricks on the list, but can still be done. Boxes that have taped edges will be extremely hard to remove and put back as that would be a surefire way to know if someone tampered with the box. And keeping the product is even riskier than sending it back. I would imagine criminals would choose a product sold on through a third-party on Amazon since they would likely not have as much recourse as Amazon itself.

How This Hurts Us
Again, this really hurts the sellers. Which can push sellers to other online shops for selling. I don't think it would be as much of a threat to Amazon's customers as it would be difficult to determine what was done, and I doubt it happens very often, if at all. But there is a chance Amazon would decide to check all boxes first, then re-shrink wrap them to ensure no funny business occurs on either end on the transaction.

The Financing Trick (Update!)
This trick isn't as bad as the others, but it's still immoral nonetheless. Amazon offers a store card, which is much like a credit card, but it can only be used for Amazon purchases. You receive a credit line and make payments for items you either can't afford immediately, or wish to pay off slowly.

The financing is $149 for 6-months with no interest payments, $599 for 12-months with no interest payments, and 2 years on select items (like TV's). If you are unable to pay the full amount within the specified time, the full interest amount will be added to your remaining payments.

This trick is used when you want to get financing, but are just under the amount needed to apply for it. For example, I have $500 worth of items, but would like 12-months of no interest payments instead of six. I then find another item worth at least $99. I agree to the 12-months of no interest payments and wait for my items to arrive. Once they have been delivered, I contact Amazon and tell them I would like to send back my $99 item--and/or any others. They deduct the amount from my payment and allow me to still keep the 12-months of financing.

I have since been told this trick does not actually work. I had an incident where I was trying to buy a new phone along with phone accessories and some other items to get the 12 months of no interest financing. The third-party seller did not send the item, so I had to return the accessories. I called the bank to find out if I would still get the special financing, but they stated no (I believe it would become 6 months of no interest if I had kept the items and they met the $199 price point).

How This Hurts Us
This can come in handy when you genuinely no longer need an item you just ordered, or if done by accident. However, if people use it just to get the special financing and keep sending items back, Amazon will eventually decide not to allow people to return anything unless it's broken in some way. Those who would no longer need a product would then be stuck with it regardless, and still end up making payments for it.

Tricks I've Used
I've never used these tricks for personal gain. That being said, I have had a Blu-ray movie lost in the mail. I contacted Amazon after a month to report it to them and I was immediately given a refund. Another time I did do special financing where I no longer needed one of my items I had purchased. They gave me a shipping label, but I ended up keeping the item.

Don't Hurt Us
The big reason for this article is to not just inform, but to let people know that even if they don't believe these tricks to be immoral, they can affect all Amazon customers. No one wants to pay for other people's "mistakes", and no ones wants procedures to get difficult because of it. If you ever think about doing any of these things, think twice, there is always risk involved and inevitably you end up hurting yourself as well as others.

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