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JRR Shop Struggles With Amazon Returns Policy

...it has morphed back into “continue growing and try to catch up.” But despite this undeniably good news, JRR has lately been vexed by idiosyncrasies of “partnering” with internet behemoth Amazon.com.

When customers report problems with products, says Dahlberg, Amazon automatically takes their side. In principle he characterizes this customer-focused stance as “pretty cool” and is resigned to eating these losses in exchange for gaining access to a truly global pool of customers. However, recently he has seen that the giant’s rigid application of that principle sometimes skirts common sense and fairness. Case in point: Recently someone used a stolen credit card to buy a keyboard from JRR. When the credit card owner reported that he hadn’t ordered the product, JRR not only lost $1,700 for the fraud, but Amazon used the complaint to justify lowering JRR’s seller rating.

In another case, a buyer claimed non-receipt of the purchased item because he wasn’t home to receive the package. JRR successfully re-shipped the product to the customer, but Amazon still awarded him the refund. “He got the money and the product,” Dahlberg exclaims, and despite several requests from JRR, the customer has yet to remit the payment.

After thousands of Amazon sales over the years, these incidents were among eight or ten complaints—“half of them legitimate,” Dahlberg admits—that prompted Amazon to suspend JRR’s seller account. Adding insult to injury, it is also withholding about $20,000 in payments for products already delivered “against possible future claims.”

Typical of Amazon’s interpretation of customer relations as it applies to its sellers, one buyer returned a product to Amazon for a full refund, but Amazon won’t return the item to JRR. Numerous attempts to initiate its return have been answered with form letters from Amazon stating, according to Dahlberg, “The customer has x number of days to return items...” completely missing the point that the customer had already returned it—to Amazon!

Dahlberg’s frustrations with Amazon notwithstanding, JRR continues to enjoy strong sales of keyboards, MIDI controllers, electric and acoustic guitars, effects pedals, and recording software. Within those categories it has benefited from a more thoughtfully honed inventory. “A few years ago eBay talked me into the idea of going broad with lots of different SKUs,” says Dahlberg, “but recently we’ve returned to the way we started so successfully, focusing on a few really excellent SKUs per category. For example, we found an acoustic-electric from Breedlove’s Passport series with exceptional price-for-performance, and they gave us a good deal for going really deep with it.”

In last year’s Top Growth story, Dahlberg revealed that JRR was aiming to reduce its business through eBay and Amazon, citing primarily the high seller fees—15% for Amazon—that make dealing profitably in musical instruments nearly impossible. Adding frequent, unreasonable headaches to the cost of doing business with these lords of e-commerce makes that calculus even harder to justify.

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