I’m hearing from more and more sellers of heavy bulky items struggling to come to terms with Amazon’s new “UK Street Address” policy. The policy mandates that sellers must ship to all areas of the UK (and some non UK addresses that aren’t even within the EU, such as the Channel Islands of Jersey and Guernsey) at a flat cost.
When items are being shipped by Royal Mail this makes little difference for most sellers – it’s a flat cost to all addresses under Royal Mail’s universal delivery promise. However as soon as an item needs to be sent by courier it’s a different story. Couriers charge extra for many outlying areas of the UK and most classify areas such as the Channel Islands, not even as an EU delivery, but as as a “Rest of the World” delivery – the top rate for International shipments.
Some sellers have started to add disclaimers in their Amazon Dispatch Policies pointing out that shipping fees are for the UK mainland only with notes such as “There will be an additional surcharge of £55 per item for any of the Channel Islands” or “We Don’t Deliver to Ireland or Any offshore Island”. Naturally Amazon buyers are used to clicking and buying and many won’t even realise they’re purchasing from a third party seller – they simply don’t see these notes.
You might think that buyers in places such as the Channel Islands wouldn’t be buying furniture and Multi-Gyms on the Internet expecting delivery at UK prices, but they are. They’re also dinging seller’s feedback with comments such as “1/5: Couldn’t deliver to the Channel Islands” and “2/5: Would not deliver to Northern Ireland but offered to leave it with anyone else we wanted on mainland UK”. This is giving Amazon customers a terrible buying experience and putting seller’s accounts in jeopardy from both Feedback and from Order Defect Rate.
How do Amazon themselves handle the Channel Islands?
Amazon treat their own orders differently to those from their third party sellers. They simply state “Additional delivery restrictions may apply due to the nature of some products…. For example, large items…. can only be delivered to mainland UK.” Amazon don’t have to worry about an Order Defect Rate or Feedback.
Seller’s can’t even take advantage of “Fulfilment by Amazon” (FBA) to sidestep the problem. FBA has a weight limit of 30kg and so won’t handle the type of product that’s causing the biggest problem for sellers. Plus Amazon themselves won’t deliver to the Channel Islands with FBA – “FBA items sold by third-party sellers can be delivered to addresses in the UK (England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, not Channel Islands)”
Amazon seem to have taken the old dictum “Do what I say, not what I do” literally. They’re expecting their third party sellers to do what they themselves either won’t or can’t and at the same time giving them no feedback protection or tools to reject orders and protect their accounts.
What will happen?
It appears that sellers of large items only have two choices. They can either stop listing bulky and heavy items on Amazon and remove the inventory from the site, or they can carry on selling until such a time as their Feedback or Order Defect Rate falls below acceptable levels in which case Amazon will simply close their account.
Neither of these are attractive propositions – if you have any ideas on how to handle shipping to off-shore Islands, or of avoiding negative Feedback or Order Defects then we’d love to hear your comments.
I don’t have a solution, other than to suggest that Amazon allowing a seller to set inventory level shipping rates is LONG overdue!
Sellers can take a wider view and work on overall profitability of a sku (or even venue) rather than aiming to make a fixed margin on an individual sale. You can also have your mainland buyers subsidize the shipping cost.
Courier products are a bit of a pain to deal with but oversize or >30KG products are impossible, we have simply sold through and stopped selling such lines. I do really feel for merchants who only deal with these types of products as the Amazon system is useless when it comes to the big and bulky
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