When it comes to products we put in our mouths or on our skin, the last place you’d want to obtain them from is amazon.com.  Why? Because these sellers are not verifiable contrary to what Amazon portrays to consumers.

In December 2016, I created an account as a professional seller to represent our skincare line Seaside Medical Technologies, listing our topical healing gel Post-Traumatic Response Gel with MatrX B.  Anyone can list anything on Amazon by answering a few basic questions about their company and sign a waiver and promise to ship on time.  For providing this platform and service, Amazon will collect a percentage of your sales.  Simple enough.  There are two exceptions to this standard seller entry point, and that is when your products are classified into Health category or Beauty category.  If your products are to be taken by mouth such as a health supplement, aka vitamins, or applied to you skin such as a topical cream, then Amazon will require a secondary category approval process before you may list your products in these restricted categories.  For good reason, Amazon wants to ensure products with health risk potential is sold by a legitimate company with a solid background and stable sales history.  The process is not too complex and with a bit of technological finesse, and required documents, you should “ungate” Beauty category within a matter of days.  That certainly was not the case with Seaside, and having read through numerous amazon’s beauty category approval forums, we weren’t alone.  Our company’s plea for approval was deeply entangled into an abyss of category underwriters who only communicated through email, changed each time I submitted documents, and none were native English speakers. After a painstakingly long winded process, I reached NOWHERE.  Then out of the blue, I receive this email on June 12, 2017 from Omba Consultants Solutions LLC:

Hi,
My name is Mark and I am an Amazon seller consultant who has helped hundreds of sellers get approved in restricted categories like Beauty, Health and Personal care, Groceries, among others.
The approval for restricted categories is done within 24 hours or less after I agree working with you and the reason people work with me is because I take the payment of the service after I deliver the job as my service is 100% success rate which no one else can pull off, no invoices, no access to your account.
Over 600 satisfied clients last year and I am sure I can help you as well.
Please feel free to ask me any question you may have as you will be missing this opportunity to get approved 100% guaranteed as dealing with this is not easy at all more if you have tried multiple times to get approved and still are unable to get it done.
My contact details are at the end of this email if you want to call me or if you want to deal with this over email just reply to this email.
Looking forward for your response,
Mark with ombaconsultants.com Contact phone with Sarah 904 638 9142 From 8 am to 5 pm CT
Skype mark.5010

I reviewed Mark’s bare bones website and testimonials and decided to pay the $500 (discounted from the usual $600) fee for category approval.  He laid out his scheme as such: I was to open another case with Amazon support, make a statement about how we’re having difficulty listing our products, then after receipt of a case number I was to pass it over to him to handle the rest. I followed his scheme to the tee, and to my astonishment, a mere 24 hours later, we ungated the great wall of Beauty category.  More than 4 months of going through the proper channels, 40 emails with 10 “underwriters” resulted only in disapproval and frustration.  Here after one day and one support ticket, a nondescript company pulled the right strings and achieved the impossible. Of course, my suspicions only peaked after this encounter.  I began asking myself how Omba consultants is related Amazon, who are they and do they collaborate covertly with Amazon’s underwriters to obtain approval for restricted categories. How did they even know I tried to obtain Beauty category approval.   Was there a back door way other start-ups used to pass the scrupulous screening processes of these restricted categories?  These questions lead me on a search which unveiled a host of companies selling products that in my opinion lacked the sophistication and thoughtfulness of a competitive start-up in the skincare industry.

To illustrate my case, I will walk you through a simple quest for a common first aid product many of use may look for on Amazon. I entered the term “arnica gel” on the search bar of Amazon where I was instantly directed to Amazon’s Choice, Roberts Research Laboratories Arnica Gel for $9.27.

arnica gel amazon

Roberts Research Laboratories does not have its own website and appears to be sold through a distribution company, Demert Brands.   Roberts Lab is listed as a market research consultant on their official Facebook page, and an accessories manufacturer established in 1964 on Manta with an annual revenue over 2 million dollars, while their LinkedIn company page shows 2-10 employees.  As an advocate of clean beauty and nontoxic healing, it deeply concerns me that millions of such products containing harmful chemicals such as formaldehyde, paraben, dyes and fragrances with only a tincture of arnica water are being sold to the public under the guise of “a natural healer”.  Even more worrisome is that there is no mention of a teratogenic ingredient, a retinol derivative, widely known for its carcinogenic toxicity and that should be strictly avoided in pregnant women.  But the aim of this article isn’t about consumers choosing healthier, more organic options for their skincare supplies.  What I sought to investigate was the validity of companies who’ve gained healthy and beauty category approval from the largest online retailer in the United States and whether their products may be harmful to the health of Americans. And that is when I ran into a company known as Oxkom.  Who is Oxkom? A very popular seller on Amazon with over thousands of reviews and listings.

Oxkom Amazon Storefront, About Us and Privacy Notice on Oxkom.com

oxcom privacy notice oxcom about us page

oxcom on amazon

The entire site is undeveloped, with deliberate intention it seems.  As if its owners really don’t want you to dig deep into their history, contact information or from where their products are obtained.  In fact, in response to a buyer’s formal complaint filed with the  Better Business Bureau, attempts to contact the company with an address listed in Las Vegas, Nevada returned as undeliverable.  Further research led me to an apology letter from another disenchanted buyer, revealing Oxkom claims to be a small company based in New York, but with no phone, no address, and no website.  Only a massive presence on Amazon marketplace.

Who are the third-party vendors on Amazon and can they all be trusted?

Amazon’s large portion of third party sellers are “retail arbitragers who offer an ever-changing assortment of goods, often acquired from grey-market dealers” according to Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR), a nonprofit research and educational organization.  The most shrilling aspect of it all is most are sellers based overseas who’ve leveraged Amazon’s logistics network to beat the competition and get their products to U.S doorsteps.  These subpar factories have the ability to produce knock-off which may contain harmful ingredients such as arsenic, cadmium, and other carcinogens.  This doesn’t phase Amazon’s primary mission to deliver fast and cheap products to its 63 million Prime members, as they recently obtained an ocean shipping license from the Federal Maritime Commission that will allow it to move freight from China to U.S. ports.  From there it goes to their fulfillment centers strategically placed in the outskirts of cities, where reportedly warehouse temperatures sore to upward of 102 degrees, leaving employees and products smoldering in heat.

So the next time you press the yellow button on Amazon for the purchase of that bottle of day cream or omega-3 fish oil, picture it leaving from a random overseas location of a grey-market dealer, crossing the Atlantic, landing in a blazing hot warehouse, then sitting on your doorstep for several hours before you pour it on to your face or in your mouth.

It’s no wonder reputable companies are disengaging from Amazon one by one.

Birkenstock took a bold step in stopping all sales in 2016 as counterfeits poured onto the market.  CEO Kahen exclaimed, “The Amazon marketplace, which operates as an ‘open market,’ creates an environment where we experience unacceptable business practices which we believe jeopardize our brand. Policing this activity internally and in partnership with Amazon.com has proven impossible.”  According to Fast Company staff writer, Ben Schiller, Amazon “arguably, is a monopolist that hurts competition, kills jobs, and harms local communities.” ILSR compares it to a 19th-century railroad baron controlling the “underlying infrastructure of the economy.”  Amazon isn’t just an online retailer of books it once was 20 years ago.  It is an almighty power that steers us to buy what it wants us to buy, and when it comes to items that have potentially harmful impact on our health, I don’t think consumers would appreciate the invisible giant to control that fate.  Precisely the reason a prominent manufacturer of nutraceuticals, Xymogen, has quit Amazon believing the model often co-mingles authentic and counterfeit products.  The authority on clinical-grade skincare brand SkinMedica publicly express, that any of their products found on unauthorized sites is not to be trusted, of which includes Oxkom sold exclusively on Amazon.

Buyer Beware: XYMOGEN Not Sold on Amazon.com

Consumer Warning: Unauthorized Internet Resellers

The websites listed below who claim to sell SkinMedica® products have no relationship with our company and are not authorized resellers. Products sold through the below websites are diverted and therefore may be diluted, expired or counterfeit. Additionally, they may not be safe to use or perform as tested.

The company Omba, who forged Seaside Medical Technologies approval on a restricted category must have been involved with a network of bad players gating Amazon’s most sensitive categories.  I withdrew the approval as soon as I obtained it because the integrity of my company and reputation was far more important to me than selling a few products on Amazon.  I have since been a strong advocate against obtaining potentially counterfeit vitamins and topicals through Amazon.  I spend a great deal of time researching, educating and providing sound advice on the supplements intended to treat various health conditions or symptoms. As a provider, I want to derive at health outcomes based on authentic products, not hampered by imitation, expired or stolen ingredients.  To jeopardize that with unreliable or dangerous products from rogue sellers on Amazon is the last thing I intend for my patients.

Be wise when it comes to vitamins you put in your body or cosmetics you apply on your skin.

Shop local or buy from trusted online companies whose innovations and economies stimulate the communities they serve.  The risk you take may not be worth the few bucks you save.
To learn more about the fascinating story of Amazon’s stranglehold on US economy and how to implore change both in policy and mindset of the American people to avert unscrupulous practices of this trillion-dollar monopoly, read ILSR’s report.

In good health,
Yazdani, MD