SALT LAKE CITY — When you buy something on Amazon, usually, you can expect to pay something close to what you would pay if you picked it up at a local store.
But when a Salt Lake City couple found they had been charged nearly double what the product was worth, not only were they surprised by the mark-up but when they opened the box – they quickly learning the product they bought on Amazon.com didn't actually come from Amazon.
If you can get past the smell, Philip and Carla Carrol swear by Alaska fish fertilizer for their plants. They ordered two boxes of the stuff off Amazon.com. But when it showed up, it wasn't even packaged in an Amazon box. Even more surprising, "there was a receipt in it from Lowes for two bottles for $19.95," said Philip Carrol.
The Carrols paid twice that.
When they looked into what happened, they said they learned they had been dealing with some third-party seller who had been granted permission by Amazon to sell on its huge website.
"This vendor on Amazon took orders and then he would go he or she would go online and look for it cheaper," Philip Carrol said.
It was a frustrating experience — one the Carrols felt others should hear — so they called the KSL Investigators.
You just assume that Amazon is, you know, a safe bet.
The term for what happened to them is drop shipping: a seller takes orders before they actually have the product they are selling. Often, the true supplier of that product ships it directly to the seller's consumer. And make no mistake, it is against the rules.
"We do not allow sellers to 'drop ship' from other retailers," Amazon told KSL-TV in a statement. And without getting into the specifics of this case, the Amazon spokesperson said, "If a seller violates our policy, we will no longer allow them to directly fulfill customer orders."
As for Philip and Carla Carrol, they say they have learned an important lesson about clicking around a little bit for price comparisons, to get a good idea of what something costs before tapping the "Buy Now" button, even when shopping on a reputable site.
"You just assume that Amazon is, you know, a safe bet," said Carla Carrol.
It is not just Amazon that has a hang-up about drop shippers — the practice is not permitted by most retailers. If you open a package and find a receipt not from the seller from whom you ordered the product, you are probably a victim of drop shipping. Adding insult to injury, you also probably paid too much.
Check out Amazon's Drop Shipping Policy here.