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How to sell on Amazon
… Or how I traded wits with the Nigerian Mafia.
Unused, Unsold and Unwanted
In the past, I have disposed of my used equipment on eBay. Writing the perfect sales copy, creating images and positioning myself against other sellers in the hope to fetch a fair price took too much of my valuable time, hence I didn’t bother going through the motions and left much of my equipment unused, unsold and unwanted.
Amazon.com to the rescue
Most semi-professional photographers obsess about future equipment. I usually spend a bit of time on Amazon, hopping around, looking for new toys. One day, I discovered that my old camera was still for sale, although only from the “Amazon Marketplace”, or in other words from people selling their used cameras.
I had found a perfectly written sales page, linked on a high traffic website that probably ranked well for all the right keywords. All I had to do was to list my camera and wait.
I did not have to take any photographs, set up the the seller account up in a matter of minutes, and I had posted my camera in about two minutes.
Suddenly I realized how easy and fast the setup process was, especially when compared to eBay. An important factor is also the trust people place in Amazon, which should help with the sale.
I was thrilled and searched Amazon for a lens I also want to sell, but came up short. So I guess this one needs to go on eBay after all.
The Nigerians enter the scene
Imagine my excitement when I received a message that I had sold my camera in just a few hours time. After answering some inquiries from an overseas customer regarding the camera’s condition, they snagged it and I had an order confirmation from Amazon in my mailbox. Everything looked good; the email came with a whole bunch of security certificates, was well written and bore the Amazon logo. The buyer’s address was in Nigeria.
Wait a minute! Nigeria? Aren’t those people that scam everyone over the internet from Nigeria and didn’t the Nigerians play a crucial role in the exploitation of the aliens in District 9? Reason enough to investigate further.
The email seems to come from Amazon:
Let’s see if it really does, by looking at the header:
Clicking on “show details” in Gmail revealed this:
It is interesting to find out that Amazon ran out of email addresses and now uses the domain accountant.com. They didn’t even have enough money to register the domain and left this to “World Media Group, LLC”, a company that seems to own a lot of domains but has no further affiliation with Amazon.
Well then I thought, let’s check my Amazon Seller Account. Not surprisingly, Amazon still lists the camera and I didn’t see any orders.
Looking at the header is not sufficient to avoid trouble as this example of another Nigerian shows:
A skillful emailer can fake the sender’s address, something my other “Nigerian friend”, Jennifer, doesn’t seem to know (yet).
Jennifer inquired about the order status of her shipment. She faked some urgency, claiming that the camera was a birthday present, and that she was hoping to receive it in time. Normally, I would have no reason to doubt her urgency. And my own desire to get positive feedback should keep me from thorough investigation and asking too many questions.
Trying to get back at the Nigerian Mafia
After I convinced myself that this was not a legitimate transaction, I sent a reply back to Jennifer:
I will send it out as fast as I can. I checked the shipping rates and it seems I am $10 short. Can you just buy an Amazon gift voucher and email it to me?”
With this email, a short dance began. Jennifer responded by telling me that she checked shipping rates at USPS and that she was not short and I learned that the Nigerian Mafia is not only clever but knows their way around the USPS internet presence. Probably something they learned on a previous scheme gone bad.
I mentioned to Jennifer that the package is heavier than she assumed, she replied that she would pay me after I confirm shipment. She even knew that the post offices would close on Veterans Day, urging me to ship the package now.
We traded a few more emails but came to a stalemate. No gift voucher for me, no camera for Jennifer. She gave up.
Matt, the front man for Gang Number 2, the one with the spoofed amazon.com email, is still emailing me, phishing for a free camera. I suspect that he will give up too and that I again will not be rewarded with an Amazon gift voucher from the Nigerians.
Hurray, my first sale as an Amazon Marketplace Seller
Just two days after I put my camera on Amazon, a real sale came through. I almost missed it in the noise of emails generated by spammers with similar headlines. This time however, there was no shipping address and no link in the email.
After I logged in to my seller account, I found clear instructions on what to do and how to contact the buyer to inform her/him of the progress.
Overall, I found the entire process very easy and the intervention of the Nigerians amusing. I was surprised by the level of sophistication they showed trying to steal from me.
If you handle all transactions via the web interface on Amazon, you should be fine.