Scammed By Amazon’s “A-to-Z Guarantee”

I sold my old cell phone on Amazon, and the buyer used Amazon’s “A-to-Z Guarantee” to scam me. Here’s what happened—and how you can avoid losing money.

Erica Douglass
Nov 2, 2013 · 3 min read

One of the great things about buying products on Amazon is their guarantee. Something doesn’t work, or is broken when it arrives? Send it back and they’ll replace it or refund it.

Unfortunately, as I found out recently, that same guarantee is being used by buyers to scam unwitting sellers that are new to Amazon. Here’s what happened.

Earlier this year, my co-founder, fiance, and I decided to migrate our cell phone plan from Verizon to T-Mobile. We had 3 Galaxy Nexus phones on Verizon.

We got new plans with T-Mobile and new phones. I suddenly had our three old Galaxy Nexuses. Craigslist has become quite an atrocity to try to sell on, with more emails saying “can u sell it for $10????” or “pls ship to nigeria” than actual customers who want to purchase phones for a reasonable price.

So I decided to try Amazon.

The selling process was pretty painless. I posted two of our phones (the third one was a bit battered, so it didn’t meet Amazon’s quality guidelines—I sold that one on craigslist for a pittance.) They sold almost immediately.

This was in July. Here’s a thank-you note the buyer sent me on July 7:

I thought that was the end of it—until 10 days ago.

Amazon sent me an email mentioning that the customer had claimed the phone was stolen:

Unfortunately, this caught me right as I was prepping to go on stage for Techstars Demo Day, and I was too overloaded and sleep-deprived to think clearly about it. I saw the email, but naively assumed Amazon would confirm that the phone was not stolen, or decline the request since it had been months since the phone was purchased. (This was my mistake, as I was about to find out, but as a new seller, I wasn’t aware of what the consequences would be.)

Today, I got the result: Amazon had sided with the buyer, and would debit my account for $128.98. Of course, I’m doubtful I’ll get my phone back, and even if I did, it wouldn’t be worth much, considering the buyer has probably used it for the past few months, and Android phones go obsolete about as quickly as bananas go bad.

Why I’m Writing This

I’m writing this for two reasons:

One, as a word of caution. Any buyer of your stuff on Amazon, at any time, can request a refund—even months after the purchase—for no legitimate reason whatsoever. You may never get your product back, and even if you did, there’s no guarantee that it would be in working condition. So: Don’t sell your old stuff on Amazon.

Two, because Amazon needs to re-think their policies for individual sellers.

Amazon, as a huge corporation, has loss protection built into its bottom line. But as an individual, this stings. Not only did I spend time and money listing and shipping the item, but now I’m out all that money, and I probably won’t get a working cell phone back in exchange. Even if I did, there’s no way the phone in its current condition is worth $128.98.

I don’t know if companies like Verizon make their stolen phone databases available to resellers like Amazon, but if they don’t currently, Amazon should certainly use its leverage to help get access to that database and prevent fraud on both sides—sellers from listing stolen items, and buyers from scamming sellers by claiming phones have been stolen.

This won’t solve the issue completely, though, so I hope this post inspires you to think of other ways to sell your old gadgets. Until Amazon works with individual sellers to resolve these issues, you could easily be ripped off.

I’m out $128.98, and I hope the same thing won’t happen to you.

This Happened to Me

Life is made of stories.

    Erica Douglass

    Written by

    Speaker; blogger; startup founder & CEO. I write a popular entrepreneurship blog about business success and failure at http://erica.biz.

    This Happened to Me

    Life is made of stories.