I recently told my readers that a company called FBA Stores* was being sued by both Amazon and The State of Washington for, among other alleged crimes, charging people up to $35,000 for bogus coaching on how to sell products on Amazon. Here's a copy of the Washington State civil suit, and the whopper from Amazon too.
When you thought it couldn't get any worse for FBA Stores, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) charged them for running the alleged scam. (See the court documents here.) The alarming report from the Better Business Bureau - which also references the governments' actions against FB Stores - is equally scathing.
I had at least 3 readers contact me and say "Yeah, I paid them $30,000+ and got nothing, too." (More recent horror stories from aspiring Amazon sellers here.)
Here's a summary of what happened:
The Federal Trade Commission has charged FBA Stores principals Christopher Bowser and Adam Bowsers for allegedly running fraudulent workshops with the claim that participants can make thousands of dollars selling a variety of goods on Amazon.
The allegations brought forward by the FTC are similar to the Amazon and Washington State suits. The federal agency is alleging that the Bowser brothers have used a business called FBA Stores to run a scam for several years. The FTC has also filed charges against Jody Marshall, a person believed to be working as a coach for FBA Stores.
According to court filings, the alleged scam has been in operation since 2009. The brothers used free in-person workshops and webinars related to becoming a seller on the Amazon marketplace in an effort to lure people into signing up for three-day workshops at a cost of $1,000. The brothers have regularly used Amazon's logos in their promotional materials, even though they weren't affiliated with the company in any way.
Those who registered for the workshops were subjected to various high pressure sales tactics encouraging them to register for additional coaching programs or seminars. The costs depended on which package the participant chose and ranged from $4,000, all the way to $35,000.
The FTC is claiming the Bowser brother misled participants by advertising that they could earn from $5,000 to $10,000 by selling on Amazon. In reality, the vast majority of purchasers weren't able to achieve such results. The state suit is also alleging that many techniques taught in the workshops went against Amazon's terms of service, which could result in the company banning the accounts of sellers implementing them.
The 3 readers of my newsletter who got bilked asked me "How do I join the lawsuit"? I'm not sure if there's a way to do that. But the FTC invites you to contact them. Keep in mind that often there are little to no reparations available to victims of alleged scams like these. If you feel you were a victim of that scam, you can call the FTC at 1-877-FTC-HELP (382-4357), or file a complaint on the FTC's site.
Are there some lessons in this? Yes, and I wish I was able to talk to all those victims before they shelled out (in many cases) their life/retirement savings:
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
- If the company makes income claims, they are required to show you their earnings claim statement and the disclosure documents required by law (An example of the alleged bogus income claim is the '$10,0000' claim on page 34 of the FTC filing). If they hesitate to do this, go elsewhere
- Do your research on the organization offering such programs. Google the owners' names, the company names, the Better Business Reports, etc. For instance, poor reviews for FBA Stores' system were posted in 2017 (before any lawsuit occured) on this site as well as the Better Business Bureau.
- Ask the company for verifiable customers you can talk to/email, to get their feedback on the program. If the company hesitates, go elswehere
- If possible, use a major credit card for your purchase. The card companies' policies vary, but if the service you buy turns out to be bogus, you may be able to file a request for reimbursement because the "product was not provided as described." If in doubt, call your credit card company - before you buy - and ask them for their policy for such a purchase
- When you see "free" events advertised (like this one) locally, be careful. Most of these events will, at some point, subject you to some moderate- to high-level sales pressure tactics to buy an 'exclusive-just-for-today' training package at an extraordinarily high price. Buyer beware!
Finally, if you need reliable, trusted coaching for your Amazon business:
Two coaching services I trust are Jim Cockrum Coaching and Robyn Johnson Coaching. They are legit and very helpful to customers. In fact, if you Google them, and search high and low, you'll find nary a single negative review. My readers tell me Jim Cockrum's coaching starts at approximately $3500, and if you hire a coach and you are not having success, you have the option to be reassigned to another coach at no additional charge. My readers tell me Robyn Johnson's coaching's fees are very affordable. I am an affiliate of each, so I may receive compensation if you decide to hire them.
Got some coaching horror stories? Post them below. And keep me posted, too!
* Other company names named in the FTC lawsuit (all affiliated with the same principals as FBA Stores): AWS, FBA Distributors, Info Pros, Online Auction Learning Center, Inc., Christopher F. Bowser, Adam S. Bowser, and Jody Marshall