With seven years of hunting down MAP violators under my belt, I have seen some crazy things. When I tell manufacturers and dealers about some of the ways MAP violators try to cheat, they find it hard to believe. With this in mind, I thought it might be entertaining as well as enlightening to describe some of the ways unscrupulous sellers try to hijack a brands reputation in order to put a little money in their pockets.
The obvious first attempt to get away with violating MAP is to only violate after hours. To computer savvy online resellers, it is simple to automatically lower prices after 5 p.m. and then raise them back up to MAP at 7 a.m. Unfortunately, this works far too often. Many brands do their own policing and are only searching for violations during business hours. I’ve heard from many people who said they had to work on weekends and occasionally set alarms to get up and do searches in the middle of the night. This does not sound like fun, but it does help deal with the unsophisticated violators.
On the other end of the sophistication spectrum is dealer sites that show different prices to different people! This is one of the most sophisticated tricks I have ever seen. Resellers actually flag certain IP addresses so that anyone doing a search from that computer will see the correct MAP price. But, when actual customers look, from a different computer, they see sub-MAP prices. Very sneaky. I would love to share how to get around this trick, but I don’t want to teach the violators any tricks!
The most common way sellers try to violate pricing policies is an attempt to hide their true identity. They figure, if no one knows who they are and no one can contact them then they can continue violating to their hearts content. This tactic comes in many forms. Most attempts at hiding can be overcome through simple internet searches.
Here is a good trick: If you have a rogue seller on eBay and do not know who they are, you can figure out where they are shipping from in their listings in the shipping section. Next step is to simply do a business search with the secretary of state. This will often give you enough information to find them.
If searching for contact info through Facebook, websites, LinkedIn, Google etc. strikes out, there is one more sure-fire way to catch them, the mystery buy.
When doing a mystery buy, there are a few things to keep in mind. The return address and/or the tracking number will either indicate who they really are, or it will show you which distribution warehouse the product was shipped from. After that is determined, it is as simple as calling that particular distributor and asking, “You shipped a part number 123 to 456 Main Street, last Wednesday. Who did ship that for?” That will work most of the time, but there is one more trick that sellers will try, and honestly, this is a tricky one to defeat.
This is someone who only sells on Amazon and only uses FBA (Fulfilled by Amazon). In this case, if you do a mystery buy, the return address will be from an Amazon warehouse. You are not about to call up Amazon and ask them who shipped your product. There are occasions when an FBA mystery buy will still work. Sometimes there will be a marking on the product indicating who the seller is. Normally, you need to use a little more finesse.
Here are some tricks to use when trying to catch the FBA violators:
- Back ordered product: If you can find a backordered product and order it, or order qty2 when the seller only has one in stock, they might need to reach out to you or the WD to get the order filled. In this way, you might find their contact info.
- Serialized product: If you have any products that are serialized or are marked in a way that will narrow down who could possibly purchase it, then that is a good product to use for a mystery buy.
- Product only one WD sells: If there are lines that not all of your WDs carry, you might be able to narrow down who a seller is getting their product from that way.
MAP Services Corp only works with powersports and automotive manufacturers and although this might be limiting is some ways, it does mean that we have the most complete list of reseller contact information. If you want to learn more tricks or have a hard time identifying sellers, please reach out to us at mapservicescorp.com.