Amazon — Singlehandedly Destroying the UPC System [Do they even know the UPC code was designed as Point of Sale and not ‘Unique Product Identifier for all eternity’?]

 I’m trying to sell products that have 10-20 duplicates of items, most with fake UPC codes or an ‘exemption’ for UPC codes [despite the fact that Amazon states even with a UPC exemption, beauty products from major manufacturers STILL require UPC codes.  Some of the beauty products don’t have UPC codes which complicates things because the only way to list them is by generating a UPC code with a checksum calculator or using valida barcodes from products not listed on Amazon [the l atter is not something I do]. 


When I see 15 of the SAME exact product listed [from $.89 to $189, I don’t even know which one I’m supposed to use.  [They have the same pictures, shade names, sizes and I’m familiar enough with the product lines to know their identical.


For the most part, I liked to selling on an existing listing.  As Amazon’s ‘featured seller’/’buybox’ and [likely] search rankings are intended to discriminate against smaller businesses [I only have about 1200 different products on Amazon right now] I like the idea of piggy-backing off the existing listings that appear higher in the search rankings and being able to sell my products at competitive prices. 


When there’s dozens of duplicate listings of the SAME brand/shade/size/tube/design lipstick [with the SAME photo used to sell all] I think its confusing for buyers and offers some sellers an unfair advantage.  I’ve often reported the IDENTICAL DUPLCIATE listings to Amazon and they tell me that all of the items have different UPC codes so they’re not the same item.  I tried explaining that some of the items DON’T have UPC codes [usually the full size promotional items offered by cosmetic companies when making purchases] only to be told that I shouldn’t be listing items if they don’t have UPC codes.  There seems to be a lack of common sense where if there’s a photo of an unboxed lipstick [and the title says its unboxed] Amazon is unable to accept the concept that the UPC codes entered by sellers ARE PHONY.  I’ve even TOL D them people make up fake UPC codes and sent them to the website where the prefixes issued by GS1 are all listed [showing the prefix for all of the duplicates products are ‘reserved’ – ie: never issued to a company to use on their products & they still refuse to accept the idea that the [unboxed] product[s] being sold don’t actually HAVE UPC codes.  [I’ve been rejected for exemption on listing products without UPC codes, so I can only sell items that OTHER sellers – with exemptions have already listed.  Any colors or shades that other sellers don’t have can only be listed if I make up a fake UPC code.].  If they don’t want the non-UPC coded items sold on their site, they need to uniformly get rid of and enforce the non-sale of those items.  Instead of discriminating in regards to WHO can list new items [or virtually forcing sellers to make up UPC codes]


Another issue with their UPC requirements is sellers that are too lazy [or don’t understand] a UPC checksum so they just take the UPC code off ANY valid product not currently listed on Amazon.  Amazon ONLY validates the checksum [they don’t even verify that the prefix is a prefix that was issued by GS1 – something that would be very easy to do]  or better yet validate the manufacturer of the product matches the assigned prefix [not applicable to all products, but definitely applicable to the major brand cosmetic items they’re REQUIRING the UPC codes for].   As long as the UPC meets the checksum and isn’t being used, sellers can create new items with UPC codes of OTHER items.  Suddenly I’m entering in the valid UPC codes of items that someone else MISUSED and trying to get an exception or additional listing [even when the original UPC code is for a product no longer available].  I have to go through significant efforts to PROVE to them that MY product DOES indeed have the UPC code I am claiming it has, when the person who entered the WRONG UPC code doesn’t have to do anything to validate their product.




 In addition to cosmetics, I also sell some collectible music and it’s quite common for sellers to have 12” vinyl from really small record companies or labels [that NEVER had UPC codes on them] use a UPC code from a major label record company [the same song/artists but issued AFTER the rights were purchased by the major record label].  I was trying to sell off some of my vinyl by holding onto the original label records and selling off the mass produced major label versions of the songs, only to find out the valid UPC codes from the major labels were being used to sell the original [non bar-coded records]. 

I tried to explain to Amazon I can’t sell mine if photos and description are for the original non-UPC version of the same record – buyers would expect the original [more expensive] version of the song.  Even after taking photos of the items, Amazon sent me links to an ‘external’ website showing the UPC code DID indeed match the EXACT photograph of the item the other user was selling.  Which led to another issue Amazon refuses to acknowledge….


 Many UPC lookup database website utilize AMAZON’s database as the basis for their data.  Site which haven’t yet realized the significant degree of inaccuracy on the site due to phony and incorrect UPC code entry due to their UPC code requirements.  The site Amazon was showing me with the UPC code and photo was a site that got their information FROM AMAZON!  And their customer support [easier to get a hold of than eBay’s support but]  lacks the  ability to understand a concept like this. 


Then there’s the issue of products with BARCODES that aren’t necessarily UPC codes.  [As long as the POS store selling a product can match a barcode to product information the POS system will work.  A lot of smaller manufacturers for specialized items with limited distribution / sales points will utilize their own barcoding scheme and provide the barcode-to-product-data for POS systems.]  Victoria Secret is an example [I have a lot of their beauty / cosmetic products I’m trying to sell].  They only sell through their own stores so their  barcodes only need to be interpreted by their own POS systems, there’s no reason for them to pay GS1 for UPC codes.  While these all have unique barcodes, they’re not actually standard UPC codes [less numbers & will not meet UPC checksum validation when padding with 00’s] These don’t have actual UPC codes but they do have unique numbers.  These products [usually discontinued shades] come from the same distributor as many of the department stores cosmetics but technically can’t be sold on Amazon because they don’t have valid UPC codes.  They’re beauty products so they require a valid UPC code which means sellers either need to MAKE up UPC codes or once again use existing barcodes from VALID products not on Amazon [or do whatever it  is sellers with exemptions do to get approved for such exemptions].  Even Amazon’s reply to inquiries about these types of items lacks common sense.  “Go to GS1 and BUY a UPC code for those items”.  [1] I didn’t manufacturer the items, so GS1 will not even issue me a barcode [I need to go through one of their resellers if I ACTUALLY were going to pay for one] and they cost MORE than the price of the product I am selling [which  I may only have 2-3 of each shade for].  [Then anyone else selling theirs can use my listing without having to have paid for the UPC code]. 


I understand what they were TRYING to accomplish by requiring UPC codes but they’re not [1] refuse to acknowledge the ability to circumvent these efforts and [2] Do nothing [even when informed] about multiple duplicate listings of products – the very thing they claim the UPC code requirement was intended to prevent. 


Then there is the issue you brought up & Amazon’s refusal to acknowledge the concept that NOT ALL UPC codes are unique.  I’ve seen CDs now where smaller music labels [due to the high cost of UPC codes] will reuse a UPC code for COMPLETELY different products, once discontinuing the earlier product.  As long as the POS systems receive the updated information [most smaller labels only sell through specialty stores and limited distributors] there’s no issue with reusing the UPC codes.  Until [a consumer] having purchased both CDS wants to sell them on Amazon and can’t.   A lot of CDs are collectible with their collectability depending on when they were issued.  A UPC code doesn’t need to reflect information about if a CD is a first pressing, second etc etc.  It just needs to have basic product information and the price.  Often represses of CDs [to make more, not the remastered ones] for major labels will have the same UPC code as the original.  But there could be differences on the CDs that a collector may care about.  [Song name changes due to licensing issues etc].  NOT on AMAZON.  It’s not possible.  Their idealology is that all variations of a product can’t possibly utilize the same UPC code.   [Forgetting the intent of the UPC code in the first place – POS, NOT unique product identification]. 

I’ve even got CDs that have packaging differences with the same UPC code.  [A moot point for POS systems, a big difference for collectors].  For example…  the highly collectible CD LONGBOX.  [Remember when CDs at Sam Goody & other record stores came in those 12” tall boxes  [intentionally oversized in order to fit into existing vinyl retail displays and used as a theft deterrent]  They often contained additional or variation artwork – highly collectible, but when CD retail displays and those plastic lockboxes used at record stores came out, there was no reason for the excessive packaging.  Space was limited so the CDs weren’t repackaged in long boxes.  Since the CD content itself [usually] didn’t change, there was no reason for any record company to [pay for the] reissue of NEW UPC codes. 

Want to sell long box CDs on Amazon?  Just stick them in the standard listing and hope someone might read your condition notes.  They won’t show up in searches for long box cds.  Amazon refuses to acknowledge the variation in packaging could warrant an additional product with the same UPC code be listed.


The worst thing with Amazon’s CDs & vinyl is that they don’t even bother requiring or displaying the information about records that IS unique [for most issues].  They don’t even bother displaying the UPC code for buyers to see despite their belief that it uniquely identifies CDs.  Things like the LABEL CATALOG number, production year , # of tracks and [more often than not] the actual track listing isn’t REQUIRED [it should be] to be entered for sellers.  So when multiple CD singles of the same song come out [with various remixes] how is a buyer supposed to know which is which?  [If, as a seller, I fill out the fields for the label catalog number – it won’t display on the product listing page].  The UPC code isn’t shown.  Amazon accepts customer images from ANYONE without ANY validation and since they don’t[require or provide] any distinguishing information, customers often post photos of the WRONG products just to make it even MORE confusing.  Then customers [and often sellers] will post reviews arguing about which remixes / tracks ARE on the CD/record.  An endless debate in the reviews/comments ensues about which version it is.  As many sellers [who don’t understand there is actually a UPC code associated with the CD] aren’t selling the right one anyway it could be either.  Some of the CDs do contain a track listing [without the lengths – sometimes helpful] however this is done via another system that sellers have no access to, so they’re unable to add track listings [the same way] to CDs they’re selling. 


But lo an behold a seller buys something expecting something else [despite the unpublished UPC code – never provided to the buyer – being correct] and suddenly I have to take it back, pay for return shipping and give them all their money back.  EVEN when I REPORTED the items TO AMAZON as confusing to potential buyers because they DON’T provide enough information to distinguish the product from similar products with different UPC codes. 


I don’t personally even buy [specialty] CDs or vinyl on Amazon because I don’t know what I’m getting, but I don’t blame the seller who is helpless to provide this information, as Amazon just doesn’t display the information when filled in by the seller. 


I asked Amazon about why they HIDE the UPC codes from buyers and they claimed something about record companies not wanting consumers to have access to this information.  Which is quite odd since when I attempt to list CDs without UPC codes [or with a UPC code that was already ‘used’ – on a totally different item] Amazon’s response is to go out to the manufacturer’s web site and find the UPC code for the product.  [Information which is usually not available for discontinued items.  Manufacturer consumer websites are intended to promote currently available releases].  If the information WERE on the manufacturer website [as they’re asking me to provide] WHY WOULD AMAZON need to HIDE the information from CONSUMERS?  Or why would they ask me to provide information from the manufacturer that they previously told me the manufacturer [supposedly] didn’t want me to know?  There is just an overall lack of common sense or logic within their customer support staff. 

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