Friday the 13th just went by, but ecommerce players’ scare tactics continue all year round. From direct threats to indirect bait traps, online sellers are being bullied regularly.
We agree, not all sellers must be facing such issues. However, bullying is wrong, whether it is with one or one thousand. That’s why Indian Online Seller (IOS) decided to unearth the kind of threats marketplaces make to suppress sellers.
Read on to know what goes on behind the closed doors.
‘We’ll hold payments until you sign-up for our fulfillment service’
Online marketplaces assert that Fulfillment Services were introduced with an intention to assist sellers in fulfilling orders. It has been reported that etailers hold payments, suspend accounts and falsify seller’s performance report to coerce them to sign up for their fulfillment service.
Amazon and Snapdeal sellers too have alleged that indirect bullying tactics are applied to create an unconducive environment and pressurize them to use Fulfilled by Amazon and Snapdeal Plus services.
An AIOVA member shared with IOS that ever since Snapdeal opened their warehouses, they started restricting sellers from block shipments by giving any flimsy reason. Account of sellers (self-fulfillment) who were shipping 400-500 orders per day were blocked without any concrete explanation. Then they started restricting number of orders to only 5, 10 or 20 per day and hold payments of sellers who self-dispatched their products.
Participate in our promotions or we will deactivate your listings
In December last year, fashion etailer Voonik asked its sellers to either participate in the Christmas sale promotions with discounts or delist products until the promotion ends.
The etailer later denied the ‘delisting’ move by saying, “Apology for the confusion. Would like to bring to your notice that, we are not delisting any seller. Sellers who participate will only be promoted.”
Voonik did apologize or at least rolled back the decision by blatantly denying it. But threatening sellers seems to be Voonik’s favourite thing to do. Recently, one of their company representatives again intimidated a seller by saying ‘either send products for photo shoot or your account will be blocked’.
Pay-up extra margins or make your inventory zero
That’s what ‘facilitator’ Snapdeal mailed its sellers.
Can a facilitator that claims to be just a connecting link between buyers and sellers do that? Isn’t it a seller’s call whether or not he/she wants to participate in promotions? How can a marketplace extract additional margins as and when it pleases them and stop vendors from selling their products or remove listings, even temporarily?
Then there are the usual masked threats given out by Flipkart, Amazon such as ‘accept returns’ without valid reasons. Amazon is criticized across the world for its inaccessibility (a brick wall with no direct phone numbers and email ids to contact seller support team) and competing with small sellers directly by poaching their suppliers.
Can the bullies be tamed or should sellers quit?
Bullying and exploitation has no end when it comes to big online marketplaces that have crushed businesses of many offline & online sellers.
Indian Online Seller has published a series of articles on seller issues. There’s:
- Unfair returns policy issue (Also read this article)
- Technical glitches
- Brand infringement (Also read this article)
- Incorrect shipping charges
- Shoddy service
We have asked all the ecommerce biggies over and over again to address these issues instead of mailing standard automated responses. For instance, IOS had asked Flipkart to comment on unfair returns, wrong shipping charges, high cancellation of orders due to Ekart, technical glitches, and reimbursing sellers with interest.
Flipkart’s spokesperson parroted the usual baloney without specifically answering any of the above questions by saying, “Our returns process is designed to create a win-win situation for both our customers as well as sellers. As India’s largest eCommerce marketplace, our focus is to create the most seamless end-to-end selling experience for our sellers starting from listing to return or exchange of products.” Sigh!
One would think if sellers are facing so many issues and marketplaces are not paying any heed to their problems, why don’t they stop selling online.
Three reasons why sellers can’t, won’t and shouldn’t quit the online platform
Reason 1 – Why they can’t quit
Many sellers have shut their offline/traditional business and taken huge loans to sell online, thanks to the bright promises ecommerce players made. They have and are investing precious hours along with energy and tons of money. Sellers are too invested to quit at this stage. Some don’t have a ‘Plan B’ or an alternate career to fall back on.
Reason 2 – Why they won’t quit
Finally, we can see that ecommerce specific rules and policies are being formulated by the government. Authorities are questioning etailers about their business model, pricing policies, its own seller entities and discount policies. Sellers across the country too have united to form bodies such as AIOVA and Seller Suraksha. This is probably the most favourable time to get justice as etailers are being forced to correct their business practices.
Reason 3- Why they shouldn’t quit
Ecommerce industry is growing and will continue to grow. Many international players such as Alibaba and Rakuten are set to enter the market. Sellers’s grouse is not against ecommerce or pure online marketplace model. Their grouse is against existing players. Can we really expect vendors to quit a growing platform and let go of a chance to reach out to so many buyers because of 7-8 odd companies that are dictating terms currently?
As for the Indian Ecommerce Bully Club
Kunal Bahl, CEO of Snapdeal in one of his interviews last year said, “We have 100,000 sellers and our goal is to create a million successful online entrepreneurs in the next three years.”
Here is a question to Mr. Bahl and to all the other ecommerce owners – How do they plan to create a ‘million successful online entrepreneurs’? By threatening them? By pressurizing them? By pushing them into debt?