So I keep seeing Amazon posts here, generally people asking 'How do I scam Amazon?'. So, in the interest of doing my best to help (very very slightly) slow down the growth of Jeff Bezos' bank account balance, here is a quick and dirty guide to Amazon scams.
I. General Info
Amazon has very liberal customer service policies, and this benefits both people who have honest issues with orders from the site, and you, the enterprising scammer, who just wants free stuff. The thing is, Amazon tracks all this shit. if your account gets too many 'problems', they'll just shut it down - even if they have no proof you did anything wrong (in fact, even if ALL your problems were legit, they'd still shut down your account - you're just too much hassle). They will track your credit card across accounts, so you will need a different card, or gift cards, or whatnot if you are going to do this very often.
II. Amazon vs. 3rd Party Seller.
Here is where it gets tricky.
- For items SOLD BY Amazon, they are always FULFILLED BY Amazon as well. This means they both are the seller, and the shipper. So if you scam these items, Amazon is out the money (good for you! striking back against the corporate machine! Or something!).
- Then there are items SOLD BY a 3rd party, but FULFILLED BY Amazon - this means the item is the 'property' of the 3rd party, but they pay a fee to Amazon and the items are kept at an Amazon warehouse, and shipped out by Amazon when bought on the site (this generally results in faster shipping time, etc). If you scam these, the 3rd party seller is POSSIBLY out money... or Amazon is... depending on the reason you give. So if you claim the item doesn't work - Amazon likely won't have you send it back (though they could), they'll refund you or send you another. The 3rd party seller is then out the money. If you claim it 'never arrived' then Amazon may be responsible for the refund/replacement.
- Item is SOLD BY and FULFILLED BY a 3rd Party Seller. These are the easiest items to scam Amazon with. The caveat here is, you may be harming a small business - I will leave the morality of that to your conscience. Amazon has what is called their 'A-to-Z Guarantee', and this means the guarantee you (the customer) that you will get your item, or your money back, regardless of what the seller does. If you claim an item did not arrive (a bit more on that later), or arrived unworking, you can then open an A-to-Z Claim.
III: How to do this
3rd party seller / 3rd party fulfilment - First, you must wait until either the scheduled arrival date has passed, or the item shows as 'delivered' (depending on how it was shipped, there may not be any confirmation), and then you can open the claim. Amazon will first have you deal directly with the seller via an on-site webmail form. The seller will typically want to get the matter sorted out between the two of you directly, and they get what basically amount to 'strikes' for each A-to-Z claim Amazon has to deal with, and if they get too many their seller account is closed. They'll either refund you, or send another item. They MAY insist you 'contact the postal office' or the shipper if you claim non-delivery. If you a) Did not sign for the package and never interacted with the delivery person, then you don't care, you're fine. No one can prove you didn't get it. If you DID interact with the delivery person but not have to sign, you MIGHT be fine as the company will likely not care to really investigate it. If you signed for it, and possibly even had to show ID (fapologizeor really expensive items), then you're an idiot if you then try to scam it, but you still could be lucky and get a situation where the shipment company/post office gives no fucks. Or you could get arrested for mail fraud. Anyhow, I digress. If you and the seller work things out, and they refund you, you're all good. If you cannot reach an agreement (for instance, you did sign for the item, so you're claiming it arrived broken and yet the seller wants you to ship it back at your own expense, or the seller just doesn't reply, or refuses to refund without YOU pursuing the postal / shipping investigation, which is a tactic some sellers will try if they think you're scamming them) you can then escalate the issue to Amazon itself. By default this is handled all through the on-site webmail, and Amazon will just issue a verdict and if they rule in your favour they will issue a refund and flat out take the money from the seller's Amazon account. However, what you can do to get a better chance of a verdict in your favour if your story is a bit fishy and/or you're good at social engineering is, wait a day or so (this process usually takes several days) and call Amazon customer service. Speak to the rep, and act like a doe-eyed customer who is worried that YOU are the one getting scammed by the 3rd party seller. Play up any delays / odd replies in their messages etc (this works very well for scamming China-based vendors who usually have very delayed and often very oddly worded replies to your inquiries) and ask the nice customer service rep to explain to you what's going on. The rep can actually rule in your favour then and there sometimes, and just 'get it done' (interestingly, this tactic also works with PayPal disputes, again, better success will be had against chinese vendors). Even if they don't, the call will be logged in the dispute, and your concerns will be noted. You'll generally win against a 3rd party seller unless they have signature verification.
3rd party seller / fulfilled by Amazon. This one is a bit tricky. Amazon is on the hook if the item is 'lost' or 'not delivered'. On one hand, this is okay, because fuck Amazon anyhow, and they're out the money. On the other, Amazon will generally ALWAYS do a postal investigation if the situation is fishy (it was signed for, yet you claim you never got it) and the item is expensive enough. Sure, you could get the $10 pair of socks replaced free or your money back with no pushback from them, but that gets noted on your account, and you know what happens with too many of those. And if the gaming laptop you ordered and was signed for 'never arrived', be assured, they will have that shit looked into. Your best bet here is the old hope that the delivery people just leave it at your door and never interact with anyone. For low value items, that typically is what will occur. High value items, Amazon will have signature required for. If you claim the item did not arrive working/item was the incorrect item, here is where it could get ethically sticky for you - quite often, Amazon will simply re-ship you the item, NOT request you return the broken, and leave the seller stuck eating the cost. This depends heavily on your skill when speaking to the customer service rep, how genuine and upset/disappointed you seem, AND HOW POLITE YOU ARE. A big tip here is to make it clear that you are upset at the situation, but emphasise that you are not upset with the CSR themselves. Occasionally seem frustrated, but calm down, apologise, and explain that you know it is not THEIR fault personally, but that you are upset at the situation. After all, your expensive item you ordered arrived not working/not as described!
Sold by Amazon / Fulfilled by Amazon. This one is trickiest, but the least ethically concerning. You're really only fucking over Amazon here. Standard rules apply - if you didn't sign for it, AND didn't interact with the delivery person, you'll get a refund. If you interacted with the delivery person, but it's not a very expensive item, you'll get a refund. If it's expensive, AND you interacted with the delivery person, but didn't sign, you're rolling the dice - you may get a refund, or you may not, and if it was the postal service you might be looking at mail fraud depending on value. If it's expensive AND you signed for it, Amazon will not accept you saying it didn't arrive, and if you claim it was broken / not as described, they may or may not want you to send it back to them - you can try and see. I have had them just tell me to 'keep the defective item' before, but I've also had them want it back.
IV. A few notes
If signature is required, you still MIGHT be able to pull off a scam, but very likely you'll have the dispute ruled against you. Amazon tends to take that as the 'gold standard' that the item arrived as it ought to. Really your only recourse in a case like this is to claim it was broken or not as advertised, and hope that you aren't asked to send it back.
If you can buy an item from out of your country (eg. from Amazon US) you might have better success. Many 3rd party sellers that ship via USPS are unaware that tracking often does not work 'properly' on Amazon after the item leaves the US. What will happen is this. Say, for instance, you are in Canada and order an item from Amazon US, sold and fulfilled by a 3rd party. Be sure to NOT pay for express shipping of any sort (express is usually going to be UPS or Fedex or something that will get you to sign), They ship the item USPS, and once it hits the border, the tracking will no longer update on the USPS site, Now, that same tracking # WILL update on Canada Post's site, but the Amazon US customer service reps don't ever check that, and neither does the tracking info on the Amazon site that you see in your account view. They just see USPS tracking #, go check USPS website, package has just not been delivered. You then get your package (if you did this right you didn't have to sign for it anyhow, so you're doubly covered) and wait for the 'expected delivery date' to come and go. You then open your dispute, win, and get your money back. Now, a savvy seller will know about this and just not ship internationally USPS, but most of them don't.
Chinese New Year. If you have no ethical qualms about scamming a smaller business, Chinese New Year can be a godsend. If you time it right with an expensive purchase from a Chinese seller, you can have the start of your ability to do an A-to-Z claim fall at the beginning or middle of Chinese New Year. Typically they will simply not even be in the office to reply to your messages, which go unanswered, and then you automatically win the dispute. This also works well with PayPal and similar claims.
In the end, be smart, stay safe, and I really don't recommend trying to scam things you had to sign for unless it's fulfilled by Amazon, and you want to claim it's broken and hope they don't ask for it back. A 3rd party seller will generally ask for the item to be returned, and that's just complicated.