Late last year I wrote a post that got a lot of attention. I believe the reason it got so much attention was it contained very specific information about how to get approved to sell in the DVD/movie category after Amazon’s September restriction was put into effect. This was something no other seller seemed to be willing to disclose- at least as far as I could find! The original post is HERE
I am always happy to help other sellers because I know what it’s like to feel a sense of unease, panic or even desperation when a source of income is threatened or a great opportunity is eliminated. I always want to help sellers feel that there is hope and the possibilities may exist that are not being fully explored.
I was thrilled to hear that through sharing my experience, numerous other sellers were able to get approved to sell in this category- whether they were newer sellers or longtime sellers!
It seems recently, however, something has changed. In the past few weeks, I’ve received a small handful of emails and comments from sellers who have followed my suggestions to gain approval only to be denied! Since I aim to present the most up to date information as possible, I’ve investigated the possible reasons for this and thought it would be appropriate to devote a blog post to explaining what I know and what I don’t about Amazon’s approval process. Unfortunately, what I don’t know is much larger than what I know for sure right now, so I will be using these categories :
“what seems clear”
“what is unclear”.
Understand, however, that upon spending countless hours in research, on forums, reaching out to Amazon directly and talking directly to other sellers, the “what seems clear” category is still a bit more murky than I’d prefer! There is an overwhelming amount of speculation about this subject which brings me to my first point:
Amazon has no intention of disclosing the nature of their approval process
Ironically, the clearest thing I’ve found is that Amazon seems to be intentionally making this policy and approval process unclear! Several sellers have been in contact with me about reaching out to Amazon to ask questions only to received what appears to be a canned response or an extremely vague response with no direct answers. I reached out to Amazon myself to get to the bottom of it. We went back and forth for some time and I simply could not get a direct answer out of the representatives I talked to. In fact, I was told that they were “not authorized” to disclose the reasons some applications are approved and some are denied. Asking further questions proved to be fruitless.
With this said, I did some more digging into conversations on forums and blogs and also reached out to other sellers (and many reached out to me). I have found several bits of information this way. Please understand I cannot personally verify this information since Amazon continues to remain silent (to me), but much of it does seem to “fit”. If you visit forums, you’ll find a lot of wild speculation. I’ve included only the information that meets one of these criteria:
a. Information that I’ve discovered personally
b. Information I’ve received from actual sellers who have contacted Amazon
c. Information that has been deduced from numerous sellers having a common experience.
WHAT SEEMS CLEAR (or “what I think I might know”)
1. Allowing all sellers to sell DVDs on Amazon.com has created a problem
There are a number of theories as to why Amazon created this policy, but rather than speculate, lets be clear: corporations don’t create restrictive rules because everything is going well. There was a problem with things as they stood or at the very least, there was room for improvement. Amazon claims the issue was counterfeit movies entering the marketplace. Despite the speculations and alternative theories, I tend to think this reason makes sense and there is at least some evidence to support it (big studios suing Amazon sellers for selling counterfeits for example). This problem is not going away and neither is the restriction (unless you get approved)
2. In 2014 and early 2015, many sellers were approved for this category.
I am one of the sellers who was approved, so I can tell you without a doubt that Amazon was not denying everyone! I also heard positive reports from nearly every seller who contacted me about their journey in applying to this category
3. Something changed- and it changed fairly recently
There is a lot of common experience that is being talked about on Amazon forums of sellers who cannot get approved using the exact methods that other sellers used. There is also talk of DVD approval being reversed! This seems to have happened to a handful of sellers. In some (rare) cases sellers have even had their accounts suspended (due to selling movies that were purchased from sources from different sources than what was approved). Several sellers report hearing directly from Amazon that the restrictions have been tightened recently
I’ll get into a few more of the possible details of this stricter policy below, but let me first touch on what is unclear:
WHAT IS UNCLEAR (or “what I don’t know despite what I thought I knew”)
The one and only thing that is completely unclear is the one thing every seller wants to know: exactly what Amazon wants
I heard from a seller who spoke directly to a representative from Amazon that will provide some insight on this and I’ll get into this below. Unfortunately, upon speaking with other sellers, there is so much contradictory information out there and much of it is coming from Amazon directly!
Before we go any further, it’s important to be aware that large corporations like Amazon and Ebay employ a massive amount of people who sit in offices, cubicles and facilities for the single purpose of answering the flood of emails and phone calls that these companies receive from their sellers (and often another set of reps for their buyers). These people are generally not well connected with the company. In most cases, they are not in the headquarters and often not even in the same country. They do not not sit in the meetings or make decisions regarding the company policies. These people are usually reading from a screen or a script, piecing together canned responses or giving you information that is given to them (which is sometimes very little.) I know this due to one of my past jobs which was at a call center. At that time, I too was told how to answer certain customer inquiries. I too was told to say “unfortunately, we cannot disclose that information.” In reality, this meant “I can’t tell you because nobody told me and I don’t know” (but “we are not at liberty to disclose” sounds so much more professional doesn’t it?)
As another example, a few months back, I was disputing a case with Ebay over the phone and was told about an “unwritten policy” that justified Ebay’s actions. I inquired further as the policy contradicted some of Ebay’s “written policies” and in this case, the representative was trying to make the claim that sellers were to follow this “unwritten policy.” I was basically told that there are a number of “internal policies” that are not written down, but that sellers need to follow. Huh? After calling and speaking to several different people, I discovered that this “policy” was made up on the spot and there was no such “internal policy.”
I tell you this story not to embitter you against Amazon or Ebay, but to point out that the reps you are speaking with sometimes know less than you’d expect! In some cases, they will tell you information that is not true (I have even received completely contradictory information on Amazon policies within a single case!) These representatives are just people like you and me trying to make a living. Treat them with kindness and respect, but don’t assume what they are telling you is necessarily true (or that they even know what is)
Whew! That was meant to add a little clarity, but came off as more of a rant didn’t it? Anyway, with that out of the way, I’ll tell you what I’ve heard from people who have heard from Amazon:
1. Amazon’s rules do not seem consistent (which would make sense of the “we are unauthorized to disclose” statements since Amazon would then be free to take it on a case by case basis with no set rules).
Some have deduced that Amazon has sets of rules: one set for brand new sellers and one set for established sellers. There could even be a third set for established sellers who have never sold in the DVD category. It is unclear, however if this is the case and when these rules came into effect or when they were tightened up. My experience has been that new and established sellers alike were approved using a similar process as the one I outlined. It’s really only been in the last few weeks that I’ve heard of Amazon denying sellers who went through the process I suggested with the exception of one seller who was denied back in December (after initially being approved)
2. Amazon seems to cater to big sellers. The sellers doing tens of thousands of dollars a week in DVD sales are generally buying directly from the studios or from big distributors. Amazon seems to give favor to these sellers. One seller I heard from was told he needed invoices from “Hollywood vendors”. After talking on the phone to several representatives who refused to disclose, he finally got the suggestion “like Ingram”. Ingram Entertainment is a large distribution company focusing on working with big retailers. You can find their website HERE. Before getting too excited, however, know that I set up an account with them years ago, but never purchased due to most of their “wholesale pricing” being at or above Amazon’s retail price. Ingram will sell to small sellers, but will only provide competitive pricing to those who can buy serious volume.
3. Amazon wants to see at least $10,000 in sales and an established selling history. This was what Amazon told a new seller looking to get into the DVD category. This is the main reason why it seems there are different rules for different sellers (and perhaps at different times!) Having $10,000 of sales as a new seller is completely unreasonable in most cases. Yet, some brand new sellers in November and December reported to getting approved in the DVD category after only a month of selling (and a few hundred dollars worth of transactions). Other sellers report getting denied due to lack of sales history during the same months. Whether or not there are different set rules for different sellers, at the very least it is clear that Amazon is inconsistent in their approval process.
CONCLUSION: IS IT WORTH PURSUING SELLING DVDS?
Despite everything I’ve discovered, there still seems to be so much uncertainty right now. The strategy I used and presented in September of last year no longer seems to be effective across the board (or at least not consistently effective) and Amazon is staying very tight-lipped about their approval process.
If you have at least $10,000 in sales history, a great seller record and you’re willing to pursue selling media in volume through a company like Ingram Entertainment or another major distributor, I’d say your chances of getting approved are pretty good! However, I’m aware that this does not describe the majority of my readers. Most of us are small time sellers looking to make some cash on selling a few DVDs here and there.
For now, I’ve removed the section from my book regarding selling DVDs and media and have included an update at the beginning of my original post on gaining approval. In my opinion, with the current ambiguity of the approval process, it simply isn’t worth going to the trouble- particularly considering the recent reports of sellers being denied and even selling privileges being revoked! I’ve even backed off my DVD purchases quite a bit as it seems a bit uncertain what will happen with this category. If you manage to get approved, it is still a great income generating strategy but I’m not sure what the future holds for this category on Amazon and I would not put too much stock in it.
One thing to note, if you do go to a large studio or distributor to get approved, make sure you actually use that source to buy your inventory. Some sellers who use a particular source just to get approval then consistently buy from another source instead have reported getting their accounts suspended.
THE GOOD NEWS
The good news is there is still great opportunity for selling DVDs and media on sites like Ebay, Half.com and others! If you’d rather avoid it all together, there is still a wealth of opportunity for selling in other categories on Amazon.com (and most restricted categories are currently much easier to get approval for than the DVD category). My six step strategy is a fantastic way to get started with your business! The entire strategy is laid out in my book, but you can get started with my free resource “system start up” by entering your name and email address below.
Finally, I would love it if you’d comment below particularly if you’ve been approved for selling in this category or if you’ve been denied. Any insight from people’s real experience is really helpful! Thanks for reading!