Struggling to pay rent in New York City and stuck at jobs they disliked, Jordan McDowell and William Bjork wanted a way out.
They found a podcast featuring Matt Behdjou and Mike Gazzola, normal guys who promised they could teach anyone to make thousands of dollars selling goods on Amazon.
The pair would explain everything: how to source and ship a product from China, how to list it for an attractive markup on Amazon, and how to get customers to leave good reviews.
All McDowell and Bjork had to do was pay $3,999 for an online course.
This included the class, inventory, and shipping and storage costs.
They’re convinced they were led astray by Behdjou and Gazzola.
Behdjou and Gazzola deny misleading their students, and say losing that much money while following their methods would be very difficult.
Many of their students have succeeded in selling things online, even though it’s a tough business, they say.
“There’s no such thing as get rich quick,” Gazzola says. “But it would be hard for you to fail if you literally worked your butt off.”
But more than half of what it sells comes from third parties, not Amazon itself.
For a fee, Amazon will let individuals sell pretty much anything.
The company will handle the shipping and storage—and overseas manufacturers are happy to supply cheap goods, if paid in advance.
Some sellers have struck gold selling products such as phone cases and travel pillows using these methods.
Many have not, and they are stuck with mounting bills and cheap products they can’t sell.
The real winners are the e-commerce “experts” who offer advice on how to game Amazon and charge thousands of dollars for their courses.
In 2018, nearly 50 people filed complaints with the Federal Trade Commission, saying these experts lied to them about how much money they could make selling on Amazon.
An Amazon spokesperson said the company worked closely with the FTC on two cases the agency filed this year against individuals behind Amazon-focused “business opportunity schemes.”
Entrepreneurs and small businesses are important to Amazon, the spokesperson said, “and we aggressively pursue those that attempt to harm their selling experience.”
No FTC complaints have been filed against Behdjou and Gazzola, and Amazon declined to comment on the two.
The coaches have no shortage of customers. After all, there’s something uniquely American about believing that, with a little bit of hard work, anybody can make money fast.
Writer: Andrew McGill
Original story: Alana Semuels
Editor: Ellen Cushing
Illustrator: Eric Chow
Art Director: Emily Jan
Designer: Angela He
Developer: Shaleila Louis
Engagement Editor: Julie Bogen