- Amazon sellers have been offering items sourced from the trash, according to the new report from The Wall Street Journal.
- The Journal found sellers who admitted to dumpster diving, and also ran a successful experiment where it set up its own Amazon store offering items its reporters found in the trash.
- In response, Amazon has updated its policy to forbid selling items that came from the garbage.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
It turns out you really can buy just about anything on Amazon — even garbage.
That’s according to a new report from The Wall Street Journal’s Khadeeja Safdar, Shane Shifflett, and Denise Blostein, who not only found sellers offering items sourced from the trash, but were able to set up their own Amazon store with products they found in dumpsters.
Amazon sellers the Journal spoke with described finding discarded items, cleaning them and sometimes shrink-wrapping them to look new, and putting them up for sale on Amazon’s website. One seller told the Journal he sold products like humidifiers and keyboards that were salvaged from dumpsters for over a year through Amazon Prime.
To test the rigors of Amazon’s screening process for itself, the Journal sent reporters dumpster diving behind stores like Michaels and Trader Joe’s, finding new or unopened items they could resell on Amazon — and it worked. The Journal was able to sell multiple items through Amazon, including a jar of Trader Joe’s lemon curd.
In response to the Journal’s reporting, Amazon updated its policy to specifically forbid sellers from offering items that came from the trash, which it said “has always been inconsistent with Amazon’s high expectations of its sellers and prohibited by the Seller Code of Conduct on Amazon, which requires that sellers act fairly and honestly to ensure a safe buying and selling experience.”
“Sellers are responsible for meeting Amazon’s high bar for product quality,” an Amazon spokesperson told Business Insider. “These are isolated incidents that do not reflect the high quality customer experience provided by the millions of small businesses selling in our store every day. Any negligent and potentially illegal activity by a few bad actors is unfair to the vast majority of exceptional sellers. We have expanded the scope of our existing supply chain verification efforts including increased spot checks of source documentation to ensure seller compliance with our policies. We will take appropriate action against the bad actors involved, including possible legal action.”
This isn’t the first time Amazon’s moderation process has been called into question. Earlier this year, another Journal investigation found more than 4,000 items for sale on the platform that had been “declared unsafe by federal agencies.” Of those products, about half of them were toys and medications that were missing labels warning of health risks.
Part of the reason why these issues run rampant is the sheer scale of Amazon’s seller platform: the company says more than 50% of its total unit sales come from independent sellers. Amazon polices items for sale using “a combination of artificial intelligence and manual systems,” it told the Journal. But clearly some products — even those from a dumpster — have found ways to slip through the cracks.