When you’re shopping on Amazon, you might have seen the words “Fulfilled by Amazon” next to some of the things you buy. You hopefully won’t notice anything different about the purchase experience, but you could run into problems.
Amazon the Marketplace
Amazon isn’t just an online store—and it hasn’t been for some time. It’s a marketplace, like eBay or Alibaba; it just hides that fact better.
Over 80% of the products sold through Amazon are bought not from Amazon but from an Amazon Marketplace seller who is paying Amazon to list their product. The numbers are even crazier when you look at the products listed on Amazon, not just sold: of the 350 million-plus products available, Amazon only sell 12 million of them directly—not including books, media, and wine—the rest are sold by Marketplace sellers.
Even if you’ve never noticed you were buying from a Marketplace seller before, the odds are you have.
Fulfilled by Amazon
The reason most people don’t realize that Amazon is a marketplace like eBay is it generally smooths over all the roughs and bumps. Sellers have two options:
- They can list their products on Amazon and, when an order comes through, pack and ship it themselves.
- They can list their products on Amazon and bulk ship any number of items to an Amazon warehouse. When an order comes through, Amazon workers pack and ship it like it’s an Amazon product. This is Fulfilled by Amazon.
For sellers, the big advantage of Fulfilled by Amazon is Amazon handles everything. They don’t need to run their own store, handle payment processing, deal with a shipper, pack things up, or customer care—for a small fee, Amazon does it. Sellers sometimes refer to Fulfillment by Amazon as “FBA.”
For customers, the advantage is that they get the same, regular Amazon experience, including stuff like Prime, free shipping, and the like, for an extra 338 million products that Amazon doesn’t sell directly. Most people—including me—don’t even notice when they’re not buying directly from Amazon. The packages arrive at your door just the same.
How to Spot an Amazon Marketplace Seller
While Amazon doesn’t trumpet it from the rooftops when you buy from a Marketplace seller, they don’t hide the information either. Here’s an official Amazon listing.