New visitors to AutographsForSale.com may be surprised by my warnings about buying autographs from Amazon.com. After all, Amazon's customer service is consistently ranked #1 among all shopping websites. So what's the problem?
First, some buyers don't understand that not every product listed on Amazon.com is sold by Amazon. Most are, but many aren't. The ones that aren't are sold by individuals or companies on the Amazon Marketplace, which is very similar to eBay.com. And Amazon Marketplace products are seamlessly mixed in with Amazon products -- you have to really be paying attention to notice any difference.
Everyone knows that with eBay merchandise, it's buyer beware. Ironically, eBay may actually be a safer place to buy autographs than Amazon. That's because Amazon's reputation makes people think that its Marketplace sellers must be exhaustively screened by Amazon, or are somehow more legitimate than eBay sellers. This is completely FALSE, at least regarding entertainment autographs. Amazon has in recent years cleaned up its sports autograph category but still has a LOT of work to do with Hollywood, music and other non sports autographs. Be especially wary of buying cast autographed full size movie posters, which are almost all forgeries.
Not to say that all autographs on eBay are real, but countless sellers of fake autographs have been kicked off the site. I am proud to say that I have personally reported countless thousands of bad listings on eBay and had them removed. In some ways it's actually EASIER to defraud customers on Amazon than eBay. If you open a seller account, you can list almost anything for sale that you want, including autographs, provided that the product is already listed on Amazon.
Let's say you see a LeBron James autographed basketball for sale on Amazon.com for $500 or $1000 -- the price is irrelevant. If you want to sell one, all you have to do is click on the "Have one to sell? Sell on Amazon" link button right underneath the "Add to Cart" and "Add to Wish List" buttons. You can then offer your basketball (whether real or not) for sale for whatever price you want, and you don't even have to show a photo of it. All buyers see is the existing product's photo(s).
You don't have to be a genius to see how these "competitive listings," as Amazon calls them, are ripe for fraud. This system may work OK for DVDs, but for autographs, it's a disaster. I was interviewed by eCommerceBytes about this issue. When asked about fraudulent sellers, Amazon always points to its A-to-z Guarantee program, which allows customers to file claims and get refunds if they are unsatisfied with what they receive. With fake autographs, the catch obviously is that for a customer to file an A-to-z claim, they have to be aware that they've bought a forgery.
In fact, human psychology is such that buyers of fake autographs have an incentive to disbelieve any suggestion that they've been taken. This especially applies when their purchase was made from a huge company like Amazon which has such a sterling worldwide reputation. And yet, I can assure you that hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of dollars is spent every year on fake autographs on Amazon.com, probably sold by a relatively small number of crooked companies and individuals.
But don't just take my word for it. Several veteran autograph collectors and dealers noticed numerous fake autographs on Amazon last month and posted their findings here. By the way, I had absolutely nothing to do with this, I just stumbled upon it. I can only hope that the FBI and other law enforcement agencies eventually crack down on this serious criminal activity taking place on Amazon every day, because it's hurting legitimate autograph dealers like myself and defrauding who knows how many unsuspecting customers.