I wanted to do an experiment, and get to the bottom of these 99 cent items on amazon. I set a budget of 100 dollars, and bought 25 items from Chinese sellers. All of them for the low low price of 99 cents plus 3.99 shipping. I bought them from 25 different sellers, in several different categories. From a TV to a pair of designer shoes, cleaning supplies, a drone, even a laptop, all of them from just launched sellers, all of them merchant fulfilled.

17 of the items I bought, the sellers no longer exist on amazon and I have gotten my money back from amazon, I seriously thought that was going to be what happened with most of them, so I was surprised the number was so low. Some of these I was automatically refunded, others I had to contact amazon to get the refund.

5 of the sellers contacted me to get me to purchase the items off other websites. I didn’t do this, because I didn’t feel like getting my credit card stolen. But this is an interesting strategy and really seems like an effort to scam people out of credit card info, plus the money paid for the item. There have been several articles on this, and it was mostly the higher end items. They claimed I would get a discount from purchasing off the other websites, and the prices where still too good to be true. Some of the sites only took western union or bank transfers, others took credit cards.

Several items actually got delivered (sorta)!

I purchased a 16 pack of mister-clean magic erasers, normal price $16.32 paid $4.98. I got delivered a grocery bag from china, with about 20 knock off magic erasers, they are pretty crappy, but the price was right. (I got my money back they where counterfeit)


I bought a text book worth around 50 dollars, I got a message from the seller with a link to download the PDF version of it.

I also purchased several private label products with 99 cent “highjackers” of these I got delivered 2 generic versions of the products. The products I purchased where pretty generic to start with, and I think this is part of the problem. If your private label strategy is to buy a generic product, and then just say it’s a brand I think this will continue to be a problem for you. The items I got where pretty much what was being sold on amazon but may have lacked a sticker or something.

So, after everything was said and done, for the low price of 100 dollars I got:

  1. Black grocery bag full of knock off mister clean erasers
  2.  PDF of a textbook
  3. some crappy PL products
  4. several attempts to steal my credit card info and money
  5. 3-4 hours of phone calls with amazon
  6. a huge disappointment

What really disappointed me:

I had to spend a decent amount of time on the phone with amazon, and I got really poor customer service. The text book, where a PDF version was delivered seemed to really confuse customer service. They wanted me to return the item to the seller. I realize that I was talking to someone that was foreign, but this was disappointing. I was clearly not getting what I paid for, and it just seemed to cause a lot of confusion.

I used my call center experience and got through to tier 2 support on a couple occasions. Even when speaking with someone that was state side, it was clear amazon is behind on this. The PDF was still confusing the American customer service reps. I was put on hold for a few minutes.

When I mentioned the sellers contacting me to take the deal off amazon, they seemed less concerned with the seller, and more concerned with informing me that the transaction would not be covered by amazon.

I have worked for one of the largest call center companies in the country. We where constantly updating our materials based on what was going on. I feel that there has to be a break down in communication going on. I can’t believe that executives in the amazon corporation are being informed of what is going on. Part of this may be because of calls being farmed out to 3rd party companies and not effectively communicating with amazon, or just a lack of care on amazon’s part. This is a huge problem on amazon. It is effectively driving down the prices on amazon . While at the same times lowering consumer confidence in the amazon brand. I have been burnt a few times on eBay, and now If I know I need something, I go to amazon. But that may be changing.