I ♥ coffee.

When my wife and I first got a Nespresso machine as a gift last year, we both immediately fell in love…with the machine.

The whole Nespresso experience was magical – the coffee was phenomenal, the machine was easy to use, the packaging was incredible and they even recycle their pods. I felt very comfortable with this brand, the product along with their mission.

After finishing our initial variety pack that came with our machine purchase, we realized we could not recall which ones we liked, and which ones we didn’t.

Rather than purchasing full sleeves of pods we were uncertain of, we determined it would be best to try another variety pack.

…and here is where it all went downhill.

Watch article video summary here:

 

My first instinct was to check for them on Amazon.

The screenshot is above is who I made my highly anticipated purchase from.

I could not have been more excited to drink my new Nespresso pods.

That was until my shipment arrived and I saw the contents inside…

I received my variety pack outside of the normal branded Nespresso packaging I had become so fond of. The pods were packaged loosely and most were crushed. The messaging was inconsistent with Nespresso, and they weren’t even all the flavors I had ordered!

(Source: The Black Peppercorn & Amazon)

My wife and I were extremely disappointed and felt Nespresso pulled a “bait & switch” us.

The dented pods felt gross and tainted my brand image of Nespresso. I couldn’t get the visual out of my head of who could handle a product like this and be ok with sending them to a consumer (it felt like second-hand coffee).

Amazon has given us the power to leave negative reviews online, so I was on a mission to leave my honest review. After closely examining this listing, I quickly realized it was a 3rd party reseller.

What did this 3rd party Amazon reseller do?

They purchased their own Nespresso pods in bulk and put them into their own packaging to resell at a higher price for profit since Nespresso does not sell variety packs.

Imagine how I felt as a loyal customer who shelled out my hard earned money for a product I had become so fond of.

At first, I felt like I got robbed and fooled, but then thought to myself, “There’s got to be something that Amazon or even Nespresso can do to remedy this.” Much to my dismay, there wasn’t.

Amazon stated that they “do not get involved in disputes brands had with resellers or distributors”, and Nespresso said since I did not purchase directly from them there was also nothing they could do.

But how was I to know? As a marketer myself, I thought I understood how this stuff works. I even work with many clients where I help manage their Amazon listings. But the page above literally says “Amazon Choice” and “by Nespresso”. When you click the “by Nespresso” button, you’re taken to the official Nespresso Amazon page.

But the product was not directly from Nespresso…

Amazon has done a fantastic job by optimizing the buying experience so that consumers don’t even know what or from whom they are truly buying.

That said, I’ve examined this listing and if you are good optimizing listings on Amazon, you can manipulate the listings and out-compete brands themselves.

I was close to putting my negative experience online and telling my friends about my terrible Nespresso experience. That is why I want to apologize to Nespresso. Even though I am not in the power of massive influence, I would have spoke negatively about something Nespresso did not even do. So, if you are a Nespresso employee reading this. I strongly recommend you review your Amazon listings.

Now, let’s examine how brands are being hurt by Amazon.

Have you ever purchased something through Amazon?

With 35 deals closed per second and over a billion purchases yearly, chances are you have.

When you make a purchase on Amazon, you have the option to buy from the actual brand itself or an unauthorized 3rd party Amazon reseller. Just the name itself implies you should go with the brand, but it’s much more complicated than that for many online consumers.

These unauthorized Amazon resellers often offer brand name products or “alternatives” at a discounted rate, giving potential buyers an offer they can’t refuse. Established brands would argue that there is no guarantee that the product packaging and language in messaging will be similar or identical.

This is now tainting consumer’s perception of these successful brands in circumstances that it’s not even their fault.

So, what are brands doing to combat this?

A few years ago, Birkenstocks removed their entire official product selection from Amazon, stating that they don’t do enough to remove counterfeit products from their storefront. This followed a feud because of Amazon running “typo-targeted” ads to users who misspelled “Birkenstocks” in a Google search.

Birkenstocks are not alone, there’s a long list of brands who have run into similar dilemmas. At least in my case, I received what I believe to be legitimate Nespresso pods (albeit dented), but Amazon also is dealing with counterfeit products altogether – not just packaging and advertising.

If you want a full list of Amazon controversies, I suggest you look at this Wikipedia page that outlines them all.

I will say this, Amazon is not entirely evil. They’ve worked with certain brands to develop exclusive partnerships that disallow unauthorized retailers to sell Apple products on Amazon without their consent. Amazon removed these listings as of Jan. 4, 2019 and moving forward sellers will need to apply with Apple to become legitimate authorized resellers.

Though this will come with more grey areas that need definition, I believe it’s a step in the right direction, so I commend them for that. It will still likely only be for large brands who can afford it and make Amazon enough money where it offsets it.

Nike, for instance, also became an official wholesale, first-party seller with Amazon about a year and a half ago. After a few months, their sales numbers on Amazon dropped significantly. Third-party Amazon resellers continued to pop up on the site and Amazon Choice favored them.

Amazon Choice is literally allowing marketers to outsmart brands and beat them at selling their own products.

When Amazon slashed prices, they forced Nike to do the same through their own website. Amazon listings also did not always follow the same branding strategy as Nike, which confused consumers and reduced trust in the brand.

Conversely, Calvin Klein has publicly reported success with their exclusive Amazon partnerships, though it was moreso on a campaign basis rather than an all-in approach like Apple and Nike.

What did I learn from this?

My advice? Stick with brands pages on Amazon so you know what you’re getting.

If they don’t have an official brand page, go with the company website and avoid Amazon all together. As mentioned in my experience, the product I purchased links to the official Nespresso brand page and earned the Amazon Choice badge, which is where things get tricky.

No one knows for sure how Amazon Choice works, but it has something to do with sales, reviews, returns and customer support. This is where an Amazon Expert can trick Amazon’s search algorithm and out maneuver brands.

I’d also suggest reading recent, old, positive, and negative reviews. Look for reviews with images of the product and packaging so you have a better idea of what you can expect. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, and if it seems sketchy, it probably is too.

All Amazon resellers are not scam artists, and all brands aren’t always perfect. So, I encourage you to take everything I’ve said here and use your best judgement when purchasing on Amazon.

For now, I’ll likely purchase from a brand website for certain items rather than Amazon because I’m still not sure who to trust.

Have you had a similar experience with purchasing a coveted product from an unauthorized 3rd party Amazon reseller? Did you have a successful experience?

I want to hear your feedback. Let me know in the comments below and let’s talk.