Can Amazon Keep Your Money?

(WSVN) - A small South Florida business got into a dispute with Amazon. Then, one of the world’s largest companies said they were keeping that small business’ money. Can they do that? It’s tonight’s Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It’s a small business.

Marcia Rosenthal: “We have nebulizers. We have masks.”

Supplying products for those with the greatest needs.

Marcia Rosenthal: “Those are lifts for patients that are in bed.”

Marcia owns Totally Yours Medical Supply, selling to their customers in their Sunrise store, online through their own website or on Amazon.

Marcia Rosenthal, Totally Yours Medical Supply: “Amazon will retain our money for about two weeks, and we will get a pay out, and it has been working well so far until now.”

Marcia sells on Amazon’s website because of their enormous reach, but it comes at a cost.

Marcia Rosenthal: “That requires them getting a fee on every item that we sell, and amazingly enough, a lot of times, their fee is higher than our profit.”

Now, that narrow profit margin on Amazon has turned into an enormous loss.

Marcia Rosenthal: “We have over $8,000 being held by Amazon that will not send to our account because they claim due to that violation, they are entitled to keep our money.”

In an email, Marcia was told her company was being blocked from selling because they listed items that are not permitted for sale on Amazon, like a full face mask with headgear and a CPAP fit pack.

Amazon added Marcia had repeatedly listed the items.

Marcia Rosenthal: “The issue is when they restrict an item, we get notified, and we remove it.”

Now, Marcia can’t get the $8,000 for the products that were already sold.

Totally Yours Medical Supply versus Amazon is not David versus Goliath. Marcia feels it’s David versus an army of Goliaths.

Marcia Rosenthal: “They are so big. We are so small. You have no chance of winning against them.”

The coronavirus has crippled so many small businesses.

Marcia says if Amazon doesn’t pay the $8,000 she says she is owed, it could ruin her business.

Marcia Rosenthal: “We are not asking for any special treatment. We are just asking for what is fair and what is owed to us. Just pay what you owe.”

Well Howard, I assume Amazon can block a vendor from using their platform, but can they also keep their money for violating their rules?

Howard Finkelstein, 7 News Legal Expert: “Yes, they can kick you off their website, and according to the agreement you make with them, they can keep any money from your sales. Would that hold up if you sued them? Well, an Amazon vendor has to go to arbitration in Seattle, Washington, and most people won’t do that and will give up.”

An Amazon spokesperson wrote, “We have selling policies that all sellers agree to, and we take swift action if violations occur.” Marcia’s company “was warned multiple times for policy violations. Despite these warnings, the seller showed clear intention to disregard our warnings. Subsequently, they are no longer allowed to sell in our store.”

Marcia counters, when they were warned, they removed the products.

Marcia Rosenthal: “You have no rights, basically. You have to do what they tell you.”

But give Amazon credit. After we spoke with them, they are releasing the $8,100 for the products Marcia sold.

She will stay in business and has a message for South Floridians.

Marcia Rosenthal: “Support your small business community. Just go to our local website, and you can do business that way.”

A lot of small business owners will agree with that. Many are just reopening, and they need your support.

Glad we could help Marcia move forward with that $8,100. A big deal to a small business owner.

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CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
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