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Molson Hart, who runs a toy company in Texas, wouldn’t be as successful as he is if Amazon didn’t bring the world’s buyers to their doorsteps.

But he’s also frustrated that the company is getting so much in return and that he’s so dependent on Amazon for his complex, ever-changing decisions.

My recent conversations with Hart provided some insight into the often complicated feelings of those who run the companies that fill Amazon’s Everything Store. It felt like he was describing a mostly loving, but sometimes crazy, relationship with a domineering partner.

One company is not representative of the millions of product sellers on Amazon, but Hart reiterated the frustrations other sellers have expressed. I found our conversation a useful look at how a company organized around Amazon and became obsessed with it.

What happens to merchants like Hart’s Viahart not only affects what we buy and how much we pay, but also the health of the American economy.

I got in touch with Hart after reading his last blog post (and a clarification) that summarized 2020 sales for Viahart, which started 10 years ago and mainly sold toys in stores. Viahart’s revenue grew from $ 2,000 in year one to $ 7.4 million in 2020, according to Hart, and most of the recent growth came from Amazon. Viahart also runs its own website and sells toys on, eBay, and other places. But 93 percent of Viahart’s sales last year were on Amazon, Hart said.

You know why. Amazon is America’s largest digital mall by far. By selling there, Viahart doesn’t have to search for customers alone.

Viahart’s numbers also show that people buy from Amazon much more often, rather than just browsing, than buyers on the toy company’s own website. Hart assumes that Amazon Prime members are conditioned to purchase and know that they can usually get an order quickly with no additional delivery charges.

But as much as Amazon was his elixir of life, Hart has mixed feelings.

“It’s hugely frustrating to be tied to a company that sometimes makes decisions on a whim that can be unfair or over which we have no control,” said Hart. “But I can’t complain. I mean, I’m complaining, but it is what it is. “

One of the more revealing details to me was how much it costs Viahart to sell on Amazon.

According to Hart’s numbers, his company kept an average of $ 48.25 on products worth $ 100 that Viahart sold on Amazon last year. He says it is far more expensive to sell on Amazon than it is on Walmart’s website or eBay. The cut Viahart is paying Amazon has increased every year, according to Hart, although it decreased in 2020.

Business & Economy


Jan. 27, 2021, 4:14 p.m. ET

Amazon’s sales commission – around 15 percent – is roughly the same as that of other shopping sites like Walmart. Hart said the cost of additional services like paying Amazon to store toys in its warehouses and shipping products from there is mounting. Merchants don’t have to use Amazon’s warehouses or shipping, but the company creates great advantages for this.

Advertising on Amazon is optional, but like many retailers, Hart feels compelled to purchase ads that increase Viahart’s chances of being seen.

When retailers like Hart Amazon or Walmart pay more, it often means they have to increase product prices for their customers.

An Amazon spokesman said the company offers many optional services to merchants, making Amazon “cheaper for the value it offers compared to other retail markets.”

Hart also said he works on the whims of Amazon’s computerized recommendations, for good and bad. Around Halloween last year, Viahart saw a big boost in sales when Amazon recommended one of its stuffed tiger toys to people who bought costumes for the Netflix series “Tiger King”.

A few days ago, however, Hart was frustrated that when he searched for Viahart’s Brain Flakes product, the “Amazon Choice” label appeared on a similar competitor toy that Viahart had sued for trademark infringement. (After he tweeted about it and I asked Amazon for a comment, the label disappeared. There was an Amazon’s Choice label on the Brain Flakes product on Tuesday.)

Hart said people shouldn’t feel sorry for his fast-growing toy business, but he wanted to draw attention to some of the drawbacks of e-commerce. I asked him if he would pay just about anything to sell on Amazon. He replied yes. “That’s the unfortunate reality of selling toys,” he said.

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