Me and Amazon: On the evolution of a love-hate relationship.

Posted by Rebecca Petris on

I love them. Sort of.

I used to buy stuff from Amazon for work all the time. Cheap office supplies, here I come! I've weaned myself off that, but I still cross their paths all the time.

Most of all, I refer customers to Amazon frequently. When we get a call from someone who is out of town without their lens plunger and needs one urgently, we'd rather send them to Amazon for the very cheap overnight shipping than charge them what UPS charges us. And we're always sending budget-driven shoppers there to get lower pricing. (As a small business, trying to compete on price is not an option.)

When you need something fast and cheap... they're unbeatable, unmatchable. They're terrific for consumers. At least that's the theory. 

And I hate them.

For their dark side.

They have distinct dark sides that affect the dry eye world. Here's just a couple of examples.

Like the rampant price-gouging on scarce OTC pharmaceutical products...

...by their third party sellers that are free to wreak whatever havoc they choose.

After all, where else can you buy LacriPure for $279?

 

Or Refresh PM for $147?

 

I swear, the moment an over-the-counter product that's important to dry eye patients or scleral lens users goes on backorder at its manufacturer, the scalpers on Amazon hear the whisper and come out in droves. Amazon is chock full of them - you might say Amazon exists for them. They are resellers that take advantage of every possible fluctuation in product availability to price-gouge.

Or, for a great price, get shady stuff

Not only that, but these resellers sell products repackaged in noncompliant and unsafe ways and frequently sell products that are already expired or right at their expiration. 

If you are buying on Amazon, you have to be an expert consumer to sort your way through the garbage and ensure you're getting what you think you are, from the place you think you are, and in appropriate condition.

Or like how they treat small businesses?

While Amazon is providing a nice safe happy home for those kinds of third party sellers, what do they do to a business like mine?

Here's just one recent way they endeared themselves to me (and mind, I don't sell on Amazon, for all kinds of reasons).

Last year I decided to offer Amazon Pay here at dryeyeshop.com as a convenience to our customers, because the e-commerce software we use supports it and I figured some people would appreciate it. It was pretty easy to sign up. I was quite surprised at how many people used it once we made it available, and was sure I had made the right decision. I waited for Amazon to start sending us the money from the sales that their payment processor had processed. 

And it never came.

Awhile after I added this payment option, I received an email from Amazon stating curtly that they had terminated my account due to possible noncompliance with their prescription products policy. The message was generic, but suggested that there was something in the shop that was a prohibited prescription-only product.

Are you kidding me, Amazon?

The email had a link where I could appeal. I followed the instructions, and received an email saying I would have a response within 48 hours. Months have gone by. They have ignored all my emails, and they will not take calls. Believe me, I've tried through the other numbers and as soon as they learned why I was calling, they said they don't provide phone customer service for Amazon Pay users and hung up.

And they are still holding my money. They would not explain why they shut the account, they would not reinstate it, and they won't tell me whether or when I will ever see the money that passed through their payment processor. 

Sigh.

Dear Amazon... mind if I call you out on a little inconsistency?

And by inconsistency of course I mean hypocrisy.

While telling me I can't use your payment processing service because I might be selling an Rx product (I'm not) on my own site (not yours),on YOUR site you are not merely allowing but promoting the sale of the very Rx products I conscientiously avoid.

Example... Addipak:

Yoo hoo, Amazon... Might I suggest you redeploy the technology that screens your payment processing customers for Rx and boots them out of the system, and aim it at some of your own sellers' listings? If you did, you might notice things like this:

I'm just not feeling the love anymore.

Late last year, I let my Prime account expire.

This year, I've sworn off Amazon altogether.

But it's so hard.

Because they have trained us, oh so effectively, to need and want them. Truly, I take my hat off to Amazon for their unparalleled success in changing our thinking and behaviors. It's... something. I'd rather not say what, but it's something.

Meantime, I'll stick with being a balcony garden in an amazon world, as my sister so beautifully described it.


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