The Mirror’s Puppet. Victim of Product Hijacking?

This Jet Does the Hijacking

If I’m wrong in my assessment, please somebody correct me. Show me how I am wrong. But, in my experience, which just happened within the past two days, I’ve realized that Jet.com is NOT competing with Amazon.com. They are USING Amazon.com.

Let me explain…

Recently publishing “The Mirror’s Puppet,” a 6-book series, to Amazon, I’ve spent the majority of the last week immersed in “Book Launch Mode.” Prior to the Free Promotion maneuvering, I put the final touches on the “campaign,” then checked the internet for our immersion strategy’s success.

Maybe the strategy was TOO GOOD?

The book’s central theme of: Inspire, Expose, and Hold Accountable, was being put to the test right out of the gate!

Being anal, by nature, I scoured the internet to see how “deep” my strategy took me. In going deep, I uncovered something peculiar. Our book, “The Mirror’s Puppet” was being sold elsewhere. I was concerned. Troubled. Amazon demanded exclusivity. If caught selling elsewhere all work would be in vain. The thought never crossed my mind. Anyone who has put forth the effort to write a book, self-publish it, then self-market it, knows how much blood, sweat, and tears goes into it (all right: coffee, mental acuity, and tears). I made sure I crossed my T’s and dotted my I’s so the book launch would happen seamlessly. The 6-book series magnified the crossing and the dotting by six!

Each book had already been uploaded and waiting for the Free Promo to take effect today. My “reach” took me to the shopping section of Google’s search. Wanting to see if/how the books would show up there, imagine my surprise when I found them there, BUT, in a different format. I mean, the books were the same, but, the setup wasn’t Amazon. It was being listed by another company called Jet.com.

Price gouging?

Right away I saw they were offering the books at a crazy markup: $10.74!

I had painstakingly set the price of the paperbacks at $6.93. They were brought down from the exorbitant $8.88, I had them set at to ensure nobody would buy them before I had a chance to stabilize my campaign. But, getting the books set up on Amazon was a MUST, so pricing came with the set-up.

I had vaguely heard of the company, Jet.com, but had to do my due diligence. On this listing and the company.

First the listing:

From what I could see, it looked as if Jet.com had scraped Amazon’s site to check out a quality product to sell on their site (sounds about right 😊). Seriously, though, I don’t think I’m special here. In my opinion, this seemed too calculated, deliberate, and sneaky. The way things were set up on their site and how quickly things were set up on their site, this had to be ingrained in their business processes. What took me weeks, seemed instantaneous for them:

Unauthorized Product Listing

The weird thing to me was how they used our business name, “Dalcenori Enterprises,” and the Author’s name, “Rod Aponys,” but not the book title, “The Mirror’s Puppet.” Yet, the book title is what showed up in Google’s search engine, took me to their site, and led me to do this research (I don’t have the time to find out how/why that is, so if anyone can enlighten me, I’m all ears). But I did find out a clue later how they might have got all the info into their hands so quickly (I’m not entirely sure how this all went down, but, I do know what they did was UNAUTHORIZED by me AND Amazon!).

$17.37 for an 80-page book? I was cringing at charging that for the entire 6-book Series.

I explored things further by placing one of the books in my cart. Wanting to see how far this thing goes, I saw by opening the cart, not only were they charging the $10.74 for the book (that’s $3.81 more than I was listing it for on Amazon) but they were also charging $5.99 for shipping ($1.81 more than the $4.18 Amazon was charging for shipping the two books which I had just purchased as a “proof” the day before).

As I saw it, with an Amazon Prime Account, one could get Free Shipping and the book(s) in two days. If that was Jet.com, they could say the book would ship in 5 days to their end customer and have the order fulfilled by Amazon in either drop ship fashion (here again, I’m just quickly piecing things together) going directly to that customer (as they would have all the information needed from the order being placed on their site), or sent to them for delivery. The $5.99 shipping is worked in as a profit factor in the whole thing as well. So, the markup of $3.81 and $5.99 means Jet.com would net at most an astonishing $9.80 per book! UNAUTHORIZED! At least $3.81 if they broke even on the shipping (highly unlikely!).

To put it in perspective: 4 years compiling the notes of a 10-year ordeal to piece together a 6-book series being independently published, promoted, and tracked, was netting us, as publisher, WAY LESS per book. Jet.com had found a way to hijack that hard labor into company profitability. GENIUS! Evil Genius!

Every marketing effort which paid positive dividends for “The Mirror’s Puppet,” would allow Jet.com to reap those dividends as well. The thing is, though, we didn’t agree to Jet.com profiting off the book. It was tough enough saying yes to the exclusivity Amazon requires. But, that trade-off was agreed to, however tight those profit margins were per book.

Then the company:

In thinking it over, it almost seemed OK if they were buying the book through Amazon. Nothing is to stop anyone from selling a book or other product after purchase. After all, the campaign is set up for books to be purchased through Amazon. But, I called up Jet.com to see exactly what was going on before I jumped to any further conclusions.

The phone calls were evasive. The Customer Service Representative (a “JetHead” is what the company calls them) took my number Thursday night/Friday morning when I called, and said someone would be calling me. It may take 24–48 hours, though, he cautioned. I said that was unacceptable. I wanted to speak with a Company Representative about this blatant infringement on at least the product listing and, quite possibly, the copyright. It ended with me getting off the phone to await a call Friday.

Never receiving a call, I called them. Again, the evasiveness with this new “JetHead.” Must be part of the CSR training. After pushing to speak with a “superior,” I was told there was no other person to speak with on this matter. Back and forth got me nowhere and the agent finally ended the standoff by saying I had to wait for someone to call me since I reported it already. “Besides,” he said, “This number is only for people who have issues with items they’ve bought.”

Where does it say that? I just see a number to call. To the left of “help@jet.com.”

So, a big company that is now a subsidiary of Walmart says there is no other number I can call to speak with someone. Nobody in Tech Support? Nope. A Corporate Office I ask? Nope. Admin? Nope. HR? Nope. Screw you? YEP!

I hung up and took to the internet to find a Corporate number. Within seconds it was found. I called and went straight to a cell phone voice mail. Big company with cell phone voice mail? Hmm? Anyway, the greeting said, “Services Dept., leave a message.” I did for someone to call me back. Still waiting on that. Of course, now it’s Friday and the weekend is here. Tracking things over the weekend was already being done, but now it will be done for other unexpected reasons.

With the initial unauthorized listing followed by the price gouging which led to the questioning of it all, I was now beyond irked. The evasiveness of both phone CSR’s and the online rep I spoke with, too, had put me into a state of wondering “why?” I just wanted to get answers. Nobody cared to give them. So, I had to search. Now I had an axe to grind.

What I found is Jet.com’s CEO, Marc Lore, had an even bigger axe to grind. Which may be the reason this book was being price manipulated and sold without my or Amazon’s authorization?

It seems Jet.com’s main mission is to “dethrone” Amazon. They call it competition. Given what I described above with what I found below, it seems Jet.com’s business model is built around “Product Hijacking.” At least that’s what I gather. Maybe I’m wrong, but, you tell me…

An article in Bloomberg Businessweek on May 4, 2017, by Brad Stone and Matthew Boyle, entitled, “Can Wal-Mart’s Expensive New E-Commerce Operation Compete With Amazon?,” was centered around Jet.com Founder and CEO, Marc Lore. In it they describe how Lore basically has an axe to grind against Amazon and used that to get Walmart to buy his company and keep him on as CEO. According to the article, Lore’s video interview which finalized landing his gig, went down like this:

“Lore’s 40-minute presentation doesn’t hold back about the threat posed by its most fearsome and increasingly powerful archrival. “AMAZON IS DOMINATING” reads a slide on a large screen behind him. In the video, Lore presents a plan to bet Wal-Mart’s future not on e-commerce standbys such as books, electronics, and toys, but on product areas only now becoming popular online, including apparel, fresh food, and “everyday essentials” like drugstore items. “We’ll need to take the offensive, swim upstream,” Lore says. “As Sam Walton said, ‘Opportunity lies in the opposite direction.’ ”

Lore was brought on to “Repurpose Wal-Mart’s historically underachieving internet operation to compete in the age of Amazon.”

According to the article, Lore began sharpening his axe after these events unfolded:

  • “In 2010, Wal-Mart tried to buy Lore’s first online retail company, Quidsi Inc., which operated websites such as Diapers.com for parents and Wag.com for pet owners. But it moved too slowly and lost out to a higher bid from Amazon.com Inc. Lore then toiled at Amazon for over two years before quitting, in part out of disappointment with its refusal to invest more in Quidsi and to integrate his team into the company, according to two people close to him.”
  • “Jet, which he started a year after leaving Amazon, sells almost everything — books, electronics, clothes — so it was difficult to miss an element of revenge among his motivations. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s CEO, certainly noticed. In case anyone underestimated the enmity coursing through the Lore-Bezos feud, Amazon announced in March [2017] that it was closing Quidsi, saying it didn’t see a path to profitability. Coming from the historically money-losing internet giant from Seattle, the pointed wording of the announcement was widely interpreted as an effort to undermine Lore’s credibility at Wal-Mart.”
“Wal-Mart has a lot riding on Lore. Last year he received $244 million in pay, 10 times that of his boss, Doug McMillon, Wal-Mart’s CEO. His project could determine the future of Sam Walton’s legacy and the eventual success of McMillon. It will also settle the score on whether Lore is good at building profitable e-commerce sites or just selling unprofitable ones to his competitors for piles of money.”

““Marc’s been given quite a bit of freedom to go get it done,” McMillon says.”

Too much freedom, if you ask me.

The Mirror’s Puppet,” was written to benefit society by relaying an ordeal to expose agendas such as this one. One may choose not to sympathize with the fact it is wrong to list someone’s product without authorization. Or that a buyer failed to notice price gouging before purchasing a book. But, look at the fact here, Walmart is a multi-billion dollar company giving free reign to a man with an axe to grind against a company they’ve targeted as their key competitor. In the corporate world, that means in “whatever it takes” fashion. Both Jet and Walmart benefit from that approach. How about suppliers and customers?

The Mirror’s Puppet” introduced me to the Latin phrase Cui Bono? Meaning: Who Benefits? As with any multi-billion industry or entity, one is led to “follow the money” for the answer. It was never expected a book launch would lead to another investigation. But, that’s what happens when one sets out to Inspire, Expose, and Hold Accountable. Once you see the strings attached to the puppet, you can’t unsee them. Upon reading “The Mirror’s Puppet” one is given the gift to cut those strings.