Jeff Reifman Technology Consultant based in Seattle Thu, 10 Apr 2014 02:44:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Easy WordPress Install Now Available Thu, 03 Apr 2014 20:12:49 +0000 You can now purchase a pre-installed image of WordPress optimized with Varnish and W3 Total Cache (W3TC) as described in my popular tutorial. There’s no need to work through the tutorial step by step. Get started with a low cost, optimized WordPress blog in just a few minutes.

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Amazon Makes Fraud Easy in Its Marketplace Tue, 25 Mar 2014 20:09:14 +0000 Outsourced Customer Service Lets Unscrupulous Buyers Prey on Amazon’s Marketplace Sellers

Thanks to outsourced and semi-automated customer service, inconsistent application of clear rules and ignorance of a variety of ambiguous, conflicting rules, Amazon’s made it easy for buyers to defraud sellers in its highly successful marketplace.

As I learned this past week, buyers just need to 1) request a return and then 2) file an A-Z Claim alleging that the item was different than described. Amazon’s marketplace customer service team then facilitates any fraud through its incompetence.

While Amazon says it retains emails between buyer and sellers “to help arbitrate disputes and preserve trust and safety“, in practice its apparently outsourced, largely automated customer service system ignores the majority of content of these emails and any that you send them. Essentially, the “streamlined” practices of the Amazon customer service team make it easy for buyers to defraud sellers.

In February, I sold a second generation Apple TV unit, valued at $199 to a buyer named Rayah “Abby” Aladdin. A week later, Aladdin requested a return saying, “Better price available, i brought this off someone on craigslist for way cheaper but you had already shipped it.“ Then, Aladdin filed a false A-Z Claim Guarantee claiming that the item I shipped was different than described. In the end, Aladdin returned to me a used third generation Apple TV unit, valued at $65. Apparently, this practice is common; it’s called product laundering. From the seller forums, it seems that buyers often return empty packages or defective items in place of working ones.

By alleging I had sent the wrong item, Aladdin triggered Amazon to send me repeated emails warning me to accept the return and issue a refund or they would withdraw the funds from my account e.g. “Please let us know what the return/refund status is as soon as possible so that we may resolve this claim. Please note that failure to respond to this email within three business days may result in a debit to your account.

Aladdin Returned a Different Model

Aladdin Returned a Different Model Apple TV

Some sellers on the forums warned me to go pick up the package or be left empty handed. Amazon apparently often debits seller accounts even if they never receive their product back. So, I did. And, after verifying that the returned Apple TV worked, I issued a refund. However, I didn’t notice until a few hours later that Aladdin had returned to me a used, third generation unit, valued for much less. The model numbers on the Apple TV unit are engraved black on black in tiny 4 point font and I didn’t immediately notice that Aladdin had switched the outer packaging slip.

Even though it’s not actually documented, Amazon customer service insists that sellers accept any return for any reason within 30 days. For example, the actual returns guide says, “, and many sellers on, offer returns for most items within 30 days of receipt of shipment.” and ”While most sellers offer a returns policy equivalent to’s, some seller returns policies may vary. Some sellers, such as wineries, won’t accept returns. However, they may provide refunds. You can view each seller’s return policy in the Online Returns Center.” But you can’t actually view them and neither can sellers document their return policy from within the Marketplace system, nor did I find a way to do this even after signing up for Amazon Payments.

I would like to inform you that we have a feature where sellers can cancel a refund within two hours of the issue. However, I deeply regret to inform you that once the two hours has expired we cannot revoke the refund.
Many sellers say that the Marketplace seller participation agreement spells out the thirty day return requirement, but it doesn’t. Here’s what it actually says, “You will promptly provide refunds and adjustments that you are obligated to provide under the applicable Amazon return policies and as required by law, and in no case later than thirty (30) days after the obligation arises.” But as shown above, those policies are not specific nor clearly described.

In practice, I found that Amazon customer service ignored all evidence that the buyer had lied. Amazon’s A-Z Claims guide says that claims may be denied if “The item received was the same as described by the seller” or if ”The claim was filed due to buyer remorse rather than an actual issue with the item“.  I pointed out how the buyer’s first reason for return was price and that they specified a different reason for their A-Z claim. Aladdin said I’d sent a materially different item but in one email wrote they “never opened the box”. Finally, I pointed Amazon to the invoice with which I purchased my Apple TV showing my model # and the box UPC symbol Aladdin returned with a less valuable model. As Amazon continued sending emails threatening to withdraw the funds from my account, the content of my emails was repeatedly ignored and cases I opened were repeatedly closed.

Sellers in the forums have said that Amazon’s outsourced customer service team may not have English language capability. While I cannot say for certain, my semi-automated emails were signed Ayush Bir Tuladhar, Omair Shahid and Ashwin Alexander, amongst others.

At Amazon’s insistence, I issued the refund to Aladdin at 2:32 pm on Mar 13 and reported that the buyer returned the wrong model to me just hours later at 10:09 pm. And, this is where Amazon’s customer support responses began to read like Who’s On First … even as Amazon acknowledged the fraud, they said it was too late for them to reverse the refund … but it wasn’t too late for them to charge my credit card, which they did 48 hours later.

Mar 14 11:26 AM:
I’m truly sorry to hear of the situation regarding your recent transaction. I understand that the buyer for the order: 112-9787785-6306646 returned a different item than what you shipped and you only noticed after issuing a refund to the buyer.

I would like to inform you that we have a feature where sellers can cancel a refund within two hours of the issue. However, I deeply regret to inform you that once the two hours has expired we cannot revoke the refund.

Mar 14, 2014 12:15 PM
I would like to inform you that we are transferring you to a specialized team which handles concerns regarding A-Z claim.

Please know that when we transfer your case to the investigation team, this case will be closedbut a new case is created to the concerned team. Therefore, I kindly request you not to worry as you will be contacted by the appropriate department and they will address your concern, even if this case will be closed.

Mar 14, 2:25 PM:
We can certainly understand your concerns about this claim being closed. However, as stated in our previous message, unfortunately, we have no way of reversing a Marketplace Payments by Amazon reimbursement that you have made to your buyer. Once a reimbursement is complete, the transaction is essentially considered to be canceled.

We understand that you may not agree with the decision in this case, but we will not be able to assist you further. There will be no further response to your e-mail messages regarding this transaction.

Mar 14 3:09 PM:
I would like to inform you that our investigation team does not work according to case numbers. However, please be rest assured that they will contact you with regard to your concern. In case they do not contact you, you may contact the concerned team directly using the below emails: …

Mar 15 12:12 AM:
I understand that you want to know the status of the investigation regarding the buyer associated with order ID 112-9787785-6306646. Please be advised that we at Seller Support do not have any insight into the status of the investigation. Please be advised that you will have to write to the concerned team at to know more about this issue.

I can certainly understand your concern in this regard. However, as advised earlier, if the Investigations Team does not contact you, you will have to write to the email address provided above to follow up on the issue. I hope that this has cleared up any confusion that you might have with this issue.

Please note: This e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail.

Mar 16, 2:18 AM:
We can certainly understand your concerns about this claim being closed. However, as stated in our previous message, unfortunately, we have no way of reversing a Marketplace Payments by Amazon reimbursement that you have made to your buyer. Once a reimbursement is complete, the transaction is essentially considered to be canceled.

Mar 16, 6:27 am:
We have charged your credit card (Visa) for the balance due on your account: -$146.45

Even if I had noticed within two hours that the buyer had returned a different model, Amazon’s customer service team wouldn’t have responded in time to allow me to revoke the refund. They would often take 10 to 12 hours just to respond by closing my case without responding to the content of my emails.

In practice, Amazon enforces a 30 day return policy on all marketplace sellers. In other words, sellers unwittingly offer Amazon buyers a 30 day price guarantee on all transactions – something its website says it does only for televisions on its own site.

In practice, Amazon’s customer service runs roughshod over sellers empowering unscrupulous fraudsters to easily prey on them.

While we can all understand the importance of protecting buyers, this seller quoted at Consumerist reminds Amazon that its Marketplace sellers are its customers too.

I’ve been a longtime Amazon Marketplace seller with a 4.5 of 5.0 rating, but I’m not sure I’ll continue using the service. I think the applicable motto with the Amazon Marketplace is not “Buyer Beware” but “Seller Beware.”

Amusingly, Amazon sent me a warning today that I’m not allowed to post the buyer’s information publicly. But apparently, they have no problem with fraud.

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Simple Monitor: Low Cost Web Server Monitoring Tue, 25 Mar 2014 19:27:48 +0000 Jeff Reifman

I’m a Seattle-based technology consultant. If you found this tutorial helpful, please tweet it & follow me at @reifman.

Today, I’m releasing a productized version of Simple Monitor which offers a low cost, easy to use web server monitoring solution with email and smartphone notifications.

It’s available at Downloading the code to host on your own server is $10. You can also get a pre-installed image at Digital Ocean for $25.

If you run a web site or blog of any importance to you or your business, it’s important to have a monitoring service to ensure that it’s always running, especially if you have a sophisticated service running background tasks. A good monitoring service can help you relax knowing that your site is operating well – unless you hear otherwise.

WPEngine Affiliate Program

Simple Monitor is written in the Yii Framework (and can be installed on any PHP/MySQL capable server). It sends notifications via email and/or to a smartphone application called Pushover ($4.99 in the iOS App Store, also available for Android). It’s a simple, economical way to monitor your services via smartphone.

Simple Monitor ensures that your website is up, that your database is connected, that your disk isn’t full and that your background tasks are running successfully. If something goes wrong, it sends a notification to Pushover on your phone. When nothing’s wrong, it sends you a heartbeat notification every four hours so that you know your monitoring is running. It can even monitor web pages for content changes.

Learning More

Visit the Simple Monitor website for more information. You can also reach me on Twitter @reifman or email me directly.

Please feel free to share this with others on Twitter and elsewhere.

(Note: I have no affiliate with Pushover – although I will receive small commissions for Pushover sales through iTunes).

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Rayah Abby Aladdin of Chicago is an Internet Scammer Fri, 14 Mar 2014 21:47:40 +0000 returned-appletvRayah Abby Aladdin is an Internet scammer living in Chicago. Aladdin purchases items on Amazon Marketplace and has them shipped to 4667 West 82nd Street, Chicago, Illinois 60652. In my case, Aladdin is guilty of product laundering – ordering one product and returning a different product, but claiming a refund. Do not do business with this person.

Aladdin purchased an Apple TV Second Generation Unit Model # MC572LL/A from me for $200. Then, Aladdin filed a false claim with Amazon to get a full refund, but returned a used Apple TV Third Generation Unit Model #MD199LL/A (valued at $70) to me.

My original purchase order from Apple of Model #MC572LL/A

My original purchase order from Apple of Model #MC572LL/A

Above right, you can see the less valuable used model #MD199LL/A which Aladdin returned to me. To the right, you can see the invoice which I purchased my MC572LL/A from Apple in 2010. Click to enlarge these images.

Here’s how Aladdin manipulated the Amazon system to scam me.

1) After I shipped the item, Aladdin requested a return saying “Better price available. i brought this off someone on craigslist for way cheaper but you had already shipped it,i received it yesterday and didnt want to refuse the delivery because i need a return tracking number.”

Amazon requires sellers to issue refunds for any item returned within 30 days for any reason.

Click to enlarge. Return reason: Better Price available

Click to enlarge. Return reason: Better Price available

2) Aladdin filed a false, fraudulent Amazon A-Z Claim saying that the item delivered was not as described in the listing; a different reason than his return explanation.

As soon as Aladdin alleged that I had sent a different item, Amazon insisted that I accept the return and refund him or they would withdraw the funds from my account. I had no choice but to comply.

Click to enlarge: A-Z Claim Item Not As Described

Click to enlarge: A-Z Claim Item Not As Described

3) In reality, it was Aladdin who had switched the item and returned to me a different Apple TV model, less valuable.

4) Although I plugged in the unit to verify that it worked, I did not notice that he had returned to me a different unit until a few hours after issuing him a refund.

Be warned that Rayah Abby Aladdin of Chicago is an Internet scammer. Do not do business with him.

I will be blogging later about the failures of Amazon Seller support to respond to the facts of this case. Seller support says it is there to help resolve disputes between buyers and sellers but in practice, it allows dishonest buyers like Aladdin to defraud honest sellers and wreck the reputation on their accounts. On Amazon’s marketplace, it is seller beware. More on this later.



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Social “Media” Bankruptcy: Like! Wed, 12 Mar 2014 06:49:43 +0000 )

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Comet Seen from Chennai February 2014 Sun, 09 Mar 2014 22:26:20 +0000 For a few minutes each morning at sunrise over Chennai, India, this object would appear, I think it’s a comet. Is it possibly comet ISON seen over Chennai in late 2013?

Possible Comet Seen Over Chennai, India January 2014 During Sunrise (zoomed)

Possible Comet Seen Over Chennai, India January 2014 During Sunrise (zoomed)

comet (1)

Distant View of Possible Comet Seen from the Beach

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The Plethora of Lightswitches in India Sat, 08 Mar 2014 19:35:53 +0000 hut

One of the unexpected things about Indian hotels was that many of them were loaded with lightswitches. In many rooms, only a few had any function – most were just a confusing, useless presence.

The funniest example of this was in my small hut (shown above) at the Manaltheeram Ayurveda Beach Resort in Kovalam, Kerala. It had seventeen switches - see video on the right.

It’s a good example of poor design. More isn’t always better. Separating out each bulb or outlet with its own switch in a small room is pretty annoying in the end.


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