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The impact of the Apple-Amazon partnership: Goodbye refurbishers

By mongeese · 16 replies
Nov 11, 2018
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  1. As part of the deal, Amazon isn’t letting unauthorized resellers list Apple products, including second-hand and refurbished products. As the largest e-commerce platform by far, this decision spells doom for unauthorized Apple refurbishers that relied on Amazon's Marketplace.

    To understand why that matters, let’s take a look at John Bumstead. John’s an independent reseller who buys thousands of MacBooks and MacBook Pros every year, refurbishes them, and then sells them on Amazon and to other independent resellers who do the same. He primarily buys from small recyclers (large ones are required to shred Apple devices if they have a contract with Apple) who get their devices from large companies, government facilities and universities who replace their computers every 3-5 years.

    Because Apple supports their old devices with software for so long, these devices usually run fine for light workloads and are pretty easy to refurbish. Not only is this good for the environment, the recyclers and independent resellers like John, but it’s also good for the many consumers who can’t afford Apple’s high-end offerings.

    For a lot of people, $100-$300 older MacBooks are more than adequate and have a smooth software experience compared to budget Windows devices. On Friday morning, John received an email from Amazon explaining why he wouldn’t be able to operate his business anymore.

    "As part of a new agreement with Apple, we are working with a select group of authorized resellers to offer an expanded selection of Apple and Beats products, including new releases, in Amazon’s stores. You are receiving this message because you are currently selling, or have previously sold, Apple or Beats products. Your existing offers for those products will soon be removed from Amazon’s online store in the United States. Please contact Apple if you would like to apply to become an authorized reseller on Amazon."

    Despite a request for comment, Apple has declined to specify exactly what requirements there are to become an authorized reseller, but you can be sure it’s going to be pretty hard given the number of physical stores that are excluded.

    John will be able to continue selling his products until January 4, at which point his listings will be taken down. Amazon will reimburse his “return or disposal fees” up until February 4. At that point, he’s given three options.

    The first is to attempt to join to join the “Amazon Renewal” program for refurbished products, which would be fine if he was selling non-Apple products. But to join the program and sell Apple products, your business must be purchasing over $2.5 million in Apple products every 90 days from national wireless carriers or retailers; such as Verizon or Target; or Apple themselves. These companies may not even have $2.5 million worth of second-hand products that need refurbishing if John’s business could afford that anyway.

    The second option is for John to try and sell his products on a different platform, such as eBay or Craigslist. Unfortunately, refurbished products don’t have such a good reputation on those websites, so potential customers are less likely to go looking on those sites. Compounding the issue is the fact that only Amazon offers centralized shipping services, meaning that he can send a hundred refurbished products to an Amazon warehouse and then let Amazon ship them individually, saving a lot of money. Lastly, his existing customer base is on Amazon, and even if migration to another platform was possible then it would take a long time to build his reputation back up.

    John’s third option is to give up trying to sell refurbished MacBooks. Instead, he could try to sell refurbished Windows devices – though that probably won’t work very well as Windows laptops tend to age a lot worse. Perhaps his best option is to apply for a job working for a large authorized reseller or Apple themselves as a repairperson.

    The thing is, nearly all the devices John sells would have been destroyed or recycled anyway.

    In Apple's world of controlled ecosystems, this is just another such strike, this time against the refurbished, second-hand and repair markets for Apple products. But is it right for them to be able to do this? The United States Supreme Court has ruled that if you legally own a product, then you can resell it “notwithstanding the interest” of the original seller. However this ruling only extends to being able to list the product at all, and it doesn’t force a platform to list it for you. That’s got its advantages, but as Aaron Perzanowski, a law professor from Case Western Reserve University explains, it’s just big companies bullying small businesses.

    “This is a very troubling development,” he said to Motherboard. “Given Amazon’s dominance as an online retail marketplace, its decision to disregard the first sale rights of resellers will significantly limit consumer choice. The fact that this move was demanded by Apple makes it even more problematic. What we see here are the world’s two most valuable companies engaging in a coordinated assault on the lawful resale of consumer devices.”

    “Amazon is leveraging its power over its marketplace to give Apple power that the courts and Congress never have and never would.”

    Kyle Weins, the CEO of iFixit, agrees. He says that iFixit has been engaged in a lengthy battle to keep their iPhone replacement parts on sale – parts that Apple won’t even sell you.

    “The idea you have a retailer that if they can strike a deal with the most profitable company in the world and lockout independent resellers is concerning for the future of commerce,” Wiens said. “It’s kind of mind-boggling to think that a brand would be able to restrict the sale of used products. This is exactly the kind of control Apple wants to exert over the marketplace.”

    The fact that Apple can end John’s business on a whim is disturbing to me. Yes, there are lots of dodgy resellers on Amazon who do take advantage of customers, particularly iPhone resellers, and this is perhaps the biggest justification for Apple's decision, but there are also a lot of good honest people out there, so perhaps this should have been handled differently.

    Permalink to story.

  2. texasrattler

    texasrattler TS Evangelist Posts: 614   +231

    I'd say there is more dishonest people out here than good people. We have all heard the horror stories out there and that probably plays more of a factor than anything, legally wise. In the end it's Apples product and they want new product sold only on the website. Makes them more money obviously but it also can protect their brand and image as if someone else sells the product and it turns out bad or whatever, Apple tends to get some of the blame even if they didn't have anything to do with the issue. This removes that bad image of them. Personally I don't think Apple products should have ever been allowed on Amazon unless the seller/reseller was authorized to begin with. That alone will cut down on issues.

    Also Ebay is what people should have to use if you want to resell a companys product. Ebay may not be as trust worthy but if you ask me Amazon resllers aren't any better.
    p51d007 and Morris Minor like this.
  3. Evernessince

    Evernessince TS Evangelist Posts: 3,800   +3,183

    "refurbished products don’t have such a good reputation on those websites, so potential customers are less likely to go looking on those sites"

    I beg to differ. Amazon's refurbished products are terrible. Amazon does not check it's products at all and I've even had 2 "refurbished" products spark and smoke the instant the computer was turned on. These were items purchased directly from Amazon with themselves as the seller. Amazon does not check it's used, refurb, and even sometimes sells returned products as new.

    At least with eBay, you can choose which seller to buy from. If you are getting a bad experience on eBay because you decided to buy from that shady guy with an 80% feedback rating that's your own fault. Top Rated Sellers are a pretty safe bet.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
  4. cliffordcooley

    cliffordcooley TS Guardian Fighter Posts: 11,208   +4,877

    "As part of the deal, Amazon isn’t letting unauthorized resellers list Apple products, including second-hand and refurbished products."
    I will from this day forward avoid Amazon. That goes for all products. This is Amazon and Amazon will sell for anyone. And if a product is being sold it shouldn't matter who it is selling, because they sell for everyone. This deal with Apple would have been fine if they had not introduced Apple policy in the deal. Piss on Apple and now Amazon.
    psycros and Evernessince like this.
  5. gigantor21

    gigantor21 TS Maniac Posts: 163   +221

    Even with new products, Amazon isn't reliable. We stopped buying laptop accessories from them at my old job because they kept sending us the wrong stuff.

    The site has gotten so big that they have lost any ability to handle quality control--and so ubiquitous that they have little reason to try anyway. :/
  6. toooooot

    toooooot TS Evangelist Posts: 716   +339

    Who cares. They will just switch to Ebay.
    p51d007 likes this.
  7. OneDayBefore

    OneDayBefore TS Rookie

    And then when apple gets in bed with eBay? Who thinks like that cant happen?

    When one light bulb goes out, at least you have one left? WTF
    Fill the landfills! Apple loves taking every usable part from a broken phoneor laptop and destroying it to a pulp that is only "material" not a functional part. That is a detestable business practice, This is another.
  8. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,144   +3,565

    I have my doubts that ebay will allow itself to be swallowed up by Amazon. Can't say for sure, but ebay has worked too hard capturing what market they have and (correct me if I'm wrong) ebay isn't owned by a single person that can change directions in a moments notice. I am slowly doing more and more business on ebay since Amazon is beginning to snub it's customers with broken promises .... it won't be long. Kind of reminds me of when Sears started to screw the customers on the Craftsman name and now look who owns it!
  9. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,619   +2,353

    Apple is working harder to shrink the Macintosh market than Bill Gates ever did. Ironically, Microsoft is working even harder to kill Windows! At this rate we may finally see the Year of Linux within the next decade.
  10. ShObiT

    ShObiT TS Maniac Posts: 164   +160

    Ebay wont go to bet with Apple, Ebay itself is Unauthorized seller of everything, with second hand and refurbished everything, they will have to be willing to close its door to do this.
    Charles Olson and Digitalzone like this.
  11. Theinsanegamer

    Theinsanegamer TS Evangelist Posts: 1,516   +1,722

    Absolute **** move by amazon. Glad at this point I turned off my renewal of prime.

    It's interesting how these companies grow larger, and subsequently begin to act just as reprehensibly as the ones they replaced, and I end up avoiding them just like the old companies they replaced. The king is dead, long live the king and all that.
  12. Digitalzone

    Digitalzone TS Booster Posts: 92   +45

    If there is interest other ways for buying refurbished Apple products will emerge. Also, if there are people allowing Apple its politics by buying its products, what can we discuss?
  13. dirtyferret

    dirtyferret TS Evangelist Posts: 495   +519

    They will be sold on Groupon like every other refurbished peace of tech.
  14. p51d007

    p51d007 TS Evangelist Posts: 1,890   +1,166

    Well of course! Can't have people buying used Apple equipment...no money coming into the Apple space ship. By ridding the "used/referb" market, Apple's hoping people will over spend on their new products.
    What it really means is a niche market on Craigslist, Ebay or others.
  15. DigitalMike

    DigitalMike TS Rookie

    There are other on-line channels for reputable refurbishers to sell their products through. Marketplaces dedicated just to refurb'ed devices like Back Market are stepping up to address the issues related to Amazon, eBay, CraigsList - all well described above. They have thorough vetting processes and are very transparent in how they present refurbished products and their suppliers. For refurbishers like John in this article, the sites are a legitimate way to keep their businesses alive and well without having to jump through Amazon's hoops.
  16. lazer

    lazer TS Addict Posts: 230   +53

    The one refurbished computer (not apple) that I bought worked great and still works. However I did buy a brand new one that the hard drive died and had to be replaced. I was only about a month in use when it died and the manufacturer had me send it in and he replaced it.

    So, no telling what will work and what won't. always say a prayer before your purchase, it is the only thing that can help.
  17. Yet one more reason to drop support for both companies.

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