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Amazon toy policies: they see you when you’re cutting corners

It’s that time of the year. Amazon starts making moves and shifting things around seemingly out of nowhere to sellers who aren’t fully tapped into the madness that is Amazon’s ever-changing policies. Here’s what you need to know about Amazon toy policies so you don’t get stuck this holiday season.

The holiday season is the most lucrative for Amazon. Hundreds of millions of items will pass through Amazon warehouses, onto trucks, and into the homes of millions of customers. Amazon is forecasting $80-$86 billion in sales for Q4 of this year alone.

This means Amazon will do what it feels is necessary to ensure those sales (especially toys, the hottest category) don’t end up as returns in Q1 of next year. Toy policies are generally stringent as it is, but Amazon’s turning up the heat in a couple of areas this time around and Amazon will know when you’ve been bad or good if you, as a seller, cut corners.

(ed: That’s the last Christmas song reference, I promise.)

Seller-fulfilled criteria: are you worthy?

As a means to uphold the toy-buying experience and the reputation that brings, Amazon toy policies instill specific requirements for sellers wishing to fulfill their own orders of toys during Q4. If you haven’t met these requirements before certain dates this year, you may not be able to do FBM toy sales on Amazon until the lockout period expires.

  • First Amazon sale before September 1, 2019. This applies to any category, not just Toys & Games.
  • Process and ship 25 or more orders (FBM) between August 15, 2019, and October 14, 2019.
  • Have less than a 1.75% pre-fulfillment cancel rate between September 15, 2019, and October 14, 2019.
  • Have less than a 4% late shipment rate between the same period of time as above.
  • Have less than a 1% order defect rate as of October 14, 2019.

TIP: the Order Defect Rate is the number of orders that receive an A-to-Z claim, negative feedback, or service chargeback / total number of orders for a period of time. Amazon changed the ODR methodology a couple of years ago at the dismay of may FBM-focused sellers.


Barcode all the things

(ed: This section won’t apply to those doing Seller-Fulfilled Prime or Fulfillment by Merchant (FBM).)

At least when it comes to toys. Every toy that makes its way to Amazon from third-party sellers will require an Amazon barcode. This rule change took effect on September 1st of this year but wasn’t broadly announced, so far as I could tell.

This means sellers will have to make a choice: start labeling the products themselves or have a prep center/Amazon do it. From a cost perspective, doing it yourself might be the cheapest maneuver, unless you don’t have the hardware already in place.

Photo by NeONBRAND
All these products have barcodes. Yours should, too.

Decent thermal printers will set you back $80-$100 to start, though they don’t require ink–only label rolls which can be ordered from Amazon, of all places, for a few dollars apiece. If you had to buy a thermal printer, say a Dymo 450 Turbo and a dozen rolls, you’ll be set to print up to 6,000 labels at $0.016/each. Being more realistic, I’d expect the cost breakdown to end up closer to $.20/each–considering labeling 500 units and you bought the printer just for this purpose.

A prep center will run anywhere from $.50-$1.50/unit, depending on the prep required. Amazon will label your products as they’re received for $0.20/each, a price that’s still relatively competitive, especially for sellers that don’t run their own shops or typically do their own prep work.


Think of the children: specific child safety regulations

If you’ve sold toys on Amazon before, chances are you needed to provide a Children’s Product Certificate (CPC). Amazon requires sellers have these for the toys that they’re selling. In addition, toys sold should meet federal regulations, as well. A couple of resources include this list of standards aggregated by The Toy Association and this summary of The Consumer Product Safety Improvement Act. Failing to meet these requirements (looking at you, private label sellers) could mean big fines, loss of selling privileges, lawsuits, etc.


As with all things Amazon, the rules are a plenty and it’s up to the seller to know they exist and what they mean.