Dear Amazon. Want more than 40%? Quite frankly, stick it

The Ermine occasionally flogged off some spare CDs. In a previous life I used to wholesale some and occasionally I’d come across yet another bunch of these. It was an easy win – I get to clear out some space and somebody gets a new CD. But I’m down to the last box now. I had an Amazon Marketplace account. And today, having sent one of these and mailed it off yesterday, I get this peremptory message from His Jeffness.


Dear Seller,

We are contacting you today regarding your seller account. Please be advised that we have made some structural changes to our EU Marketplace. As before, Amazon Services Europe S.à r.l. operates the Marketplace platform and provides the Selling on Amazon service. However, from now on, Amazon Payments Europe S.C.A. will provide the new payment component of the service.

[translation: we have opened up yet another tax-beneficial scam joint who will no doubt start raking off more fees just like Paypal with Ebay]

In this regard, EU regulations require Amazon Payments Europe to collect certain business and personal information from you and take steps to confirm your identity. To fulfil those requirements, we need your support to make some changes to your existing seller account with Amazon Services Europe:

In addition to your current seller account you now need to open a Selling on Amazon payment account with Amazon Payments Europe. The proceeds of your transactions on Amazon EU Marketplaces will be disbursed from this account to your bank account.

[translation: we will be salami-slicing you for fees upon fees, because we can]

The Business Solutions Agreement has been amended to reflect this change, and you will need to agree separately to the Amazon Payments Europe User Agreement. Because these are new agreements and formats, we ask that you accept the new and amended agreements and provide the requested information in Seller Central.

*** It is essential that you accept the new agreements and provide the requested information within the next 60 calendar days in order to continue to sell on Amazon. If you do not provide the required information within 60 days, you will not be able to open your Selling on Amazon payment account and you will not be able to continue to sell on Amazon. ***

[translation: we hold all the cards and have you by the balls. You will do what we say because you’re a sharecropper on our estate and we’re bigger than you are]

Err, no. Piss off. All items removed. If you aren’t prepared to pay me the less than a tenner for that last CD then I am absolutely fine with that – my customer will get his goods, presumably Jeff gets a few quid to take over more of the world(edit: 5/6/2014 in the interest of observing Queensbury Rules  Amazon will pay for that last CD in the old way I have now heard) and I don’t have to agree with yet another non negotiable shrink-wrap you do what we say or you suck it up demand. I had enough of that sort of stupidity at work, but at least they paid properly. Working for Amazon is already low-rent enough as it is, Amazon makes about 40% on the deal – more than the postage. Royal Mail actual do the work shifting goods from A to B, Amazon just pay the ‘leccy bill for their website. Well, okay, and make it easy for people to find stuff 😉

As a retiree it isn’t always totally possible to avoid the issue of making money, but it’s the power-play I always want to avoid. I have done too many things for too long because I didn’t have options, and now I have the option it’s sweet. I don’t have a religious opposition to making use of skills, though curiously enough most of what I have done that’s made people money since leaving work has had nothing to do with engineering. Maybe I was too narrow in my engineering career, and lifting the daily grind has shifted the balance.

This much I know, however – selling or giving mind and know-how is far preferable to wrangling Stuff. Cash-flow and storage is always such a pain with buying and selling stuff, you have to store this clobber, you have to look after it, even after you’ve turned a profit on the deal it feels bad to just throw stuff out that has sold well even if you have a more profitable/timely product. Compared to that shooting sound and video, editing it, or hacking code doesn’t consume anything other than a bit of power, you get to see new situations  and problems, and junk doesn’t build up in your garage or loft. Selling knowhow or ways of doing something has other subtle business benefits – there are often indirect lock-ins or costs of changing, whereas with mass-market products you’re just a rat on a wheel, particularly selling made goods on the internet.

Every so often I’m tempted to make products, and even got a bunch of boards made for one design, but after I’ve used half of them on my own sensor network I think about all the EU crap like CE marking that didn’t exist the last time I produced devices and figure I need to remember the lesson from my multimedia company on the side relative to the CD operation run by DxGF.

Don’t. Do. Stuff.

Yes, if you’re starting out and want to make your fortune it’s not a bad way to go if you have the skills, but it’s a full time job. If you want to turn a little bit on the side it’s a hard row to hoe, because the margin on Stuff and the added value seems lower than adding Mind. And you need to warehouse Stuff and it moulders quietly if you keep it too long. So I’m going to toss the remains, get it out of my way and declutter. Jeff can get on his bike, and thank you very much sir for highlighting the low rent of that sort of work by being such a greedy bastard as to prep for extracting another slice of the action. The rake on Amazon Marketplace makes people like Hargreaves Lansdown look like public-spirited philanthropists -only 1.5% fees at HL compared to 38% at Amazon. And I’m no longer prepared to be a sharecropper for them and their bunch of Luxembourg umbrella companies.

I’m starting to warm to the concept of Bitcoin, just to get shot of all this bollocks. Seriously, Amazon, there’s less than a ton left worth of goods here. I’m not validating my bank account and giving you shitloads of personal details, which you will use a) to scam me brainless with advertising crap to me that I don’t want and b) no doubt fail to secure your corporate network at some stage like your mates over at Ebay, spewing this information all over the internet so some bunch of ne’rdowells can cause me grief. No. And of course you’ll probably do like the fine fellows at Selftrade and ask for all sorts of extra useful marketing cobblers because, hell, the EU made you do it.


10 thoughts on “Dear Amazon. Want more than 40%? Quite frankly, stick it”

  1. Nice post as usual Ermine.

    It struck a cord with me because my day job involves selling mind. I also have a few side hustles that also involve mind sale (photography, internet marketing amongst others). However ever since I was quite small I’ve wanted a stuff business.

    When I was a kid (maybe 7) I always wanted a stationary business for some odd reason. I had a fixation with boxes of reams of A4. Maybe I could have been Theo Paphitis in another world.

    It wasn’t just a boyhood fetish…just as recently as last week i was racking my brain trying to come up with a type of stuff I could sell online as a little side hustle. Ideally something small (easy storage), valuable (low volume), something specialist. I’ll welcome any ideas…!


  2. We used to sell CDs, real photos and DVDs but that was over 9 years ago, arbitrage makes that a mug’s game these days. Well, the photos might still work but I don’t get myself places to do that any more, the sort I was doing on the side was in the nights – too much fast and furious drinking for me now.

    In the long distant past I’ve sold electronic devices I’ve designed and built – you need to target niche vertical markets but you get loyal as hell customers. With some interesting stories – one guy was recording insects in the jungle with some kit I’d made, thinking you’d use it for bats 😉

    I think you have to add mind or craft value to Stuff – either by custom-making it, which can be a regulatory minefield (electronics, anything for kids) or by applying it to areas it isn’t usually used in.

    The big trouble with Stuff is it takes up a lot of space and is low value. It’s the devil’s own job to know when to throw the old or the slow-moving out and clear space – I know I ought to throw these residual CDs out, they don’t owe me anything. Same problem with getting a print run of anything done. The first 500 are the dear ones, the incremental cost of 1500 vs 500 is often so low, but you have to store the damn stuff, and manhandle it. It’s probably easier if you live near a Big Yellow, but doing in a semi is a drag.

    With Stuff there are serious scale problems at the bottom end – you can typically halve the cost of postage once you get to the big mailing bag stage at least once a month where they come to you, and that saves no end of time compared to driving it to the post office.

    But I’m truly glad not to have that sort of thing cluttering up the hallway. And my multimedia and web work invoices were usually worth a lot more than the mailings 😉

    But maybe it’s that you need dynamic contrast with the day job why Stuff is attractive, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In the same way as though I’ve assisted people with engineering, the bigger wins were nothing particularly to do with that.


  3. I like selling stuff. But then the stuff I sell grows out of the ground, on trees etc and I sell it straight away 🙂 Most of the satisfaction is in creating the stuff (veg, eggs, meat, flowers…) and seeing how happy people are with it. But it isn’t a good way to earn lots of money, unless you’re prepared to buy a huge tractor and do it on a massive government-subsidized scale trashing the environment to boot. Which I’m glad to say, I’m not 🙂


  4. My (flexible, part-time) work also sells Mind. I certainly could not be @rsed with all the fuss, mess and administrative nonsense involved in trying to make any money out of Stuff.

    Even when I de-cluttered and got rid of good Stuff (including my entire ‘business’ wardrobe), I gave it all to Cancer Research rather than trying to flog it on t’internet. They get the tax back, too. All good.

    I find I want less Stuff generally, now – I am enjoying having the time to sort through and get rid of Stuff that does not belong in my current and future life any more. I love to see shelves and cupboards with some empty space in them.

    One of my friends has a craft stash that takes up the whole of her spare room. Makes me hyperventilate every time I go near it…



  5. Coincidently I have just finished reading “The Everything Store” by Brad Stone. Very interesting if you can borrow it from the library. It does seem to confirm that you need to be slightly insane to create a new Internet business. And I wouldn’t want to work for Amazon either – far too adversial and work obsessed for me.

    As a contrast, I also recently read “In the plex” about Google which is also fascinating and scary. It’s also interesting to see the seeming contrast in company culture between 2 web giants. Amazon seems to be run on traditional lines – hierarchies and committees with Bezos as final power.
    Google seems to have tried to keep its university roots as a culture – less hierarchy and its engineers as the power.

    Small private occasional sellers have been priced out of the market in the past few years by both the slicing fees (eBay, Paypal and Amazon) but mostly by the mass increase in postage costs. It now costs £2.80 to send anything over an inch thick, so it is no longer worth selling anything like books as Amazon will sell the book for less and have free delivery – or the ebook will be cheaper again.
    I now give most of my books to charity.


  6. @Jane I haven’t quite got to your zen of decluttering, although I am slowly letting go of some Stuff. And I have fairly well arrested the acquisition of more!

    The worst aspect of Stuff is when you buy and sell it, ie act as wholesaler/retailer. I didn’t find making gizmos too hard on the space front because I made them on demand, and an notable part of the value was mind (the design and code).

    Whereas retailed Stuff is either high volume so it takes over your house or high value, in which case you have an insurance problem and a cash-flow problem.

    @Mrs Ermine – the postal side has been nailed. And some of the value for people is the experience, I would venture!

    @Sara I watched this which is not on iplayer but youtube is our friend which chimes with what reviews of the Everything Store say.

    Amazon look to be doing to Marketplace exactly what ebay did with Paypal – mandating that you use their payment processor to take a second bite out of your profit. They also want a lot of personal details, which of course won’t be used to inform their selling now, will it 🙂


  7. What a bizarre little rant. Unfortunataly you happen to be completely missing the point. Or points.

    Amazon are changing their payments in order to pay *more* taxes and move away from tax-free Luxembourg status. So the exact opposite of what you are accusing them of.

    They are asking for ID because it’s an EU requirement. As they stated.

    As for their “commission”, why on earth are you comparing their sales commission for selling a CD with that of an online share dealing service? Apples and pears (and CDs)? Amazon are a retailer – if you think a retailer taking 40% of the gross sales price is too high then you need to read up on capitalism and get a better understanding of how retail markets work.

    (I blame Google for somehow landing me on this page!)


    1. @Mark I’ll take your word for that Amazon trying to lock suppliers into their payments method is an act of philanthropy. However, they aren’t a retailer in terms of Marketplace – I get to store the goods, post it etc, they are a platform in that case, and as such don’t justify 40%. They perform a role closer to ebay.

      But in the end it was the peremptory tone of their missive that I imitated here. They haven’t bothered me since and I haven’t bothered them.


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