Has Amazon Become a Giant in Money Laundering?

  Has Amazon Become a Giant in Money Laundering?

   Now, I'm only asking a question, mind you. I really don't have enough information to make an outright accusation nor do I have the detective skills to find such things out. Let me take you down my twisted path and see if you come to the same conclusions that I do. Be careful, the way is bumpy and frought with pitfalls.

   I started this journey of owning a bookstore a few years ago when I was working in Lufkin, TX. I drove by an old used bookstore with an unbelievably beautiful and ornately carved pump organ in the front window. Being a sucker for all things gothic and an unashamed bibliophile, I stopped in. Much to my dismay, the door was locked; every single day. It had been long closed.

   Okay, I'm strying now. Long story short: 1 I bought the old book store. 2. I didn't have enough resources or business to keep a used book store alive. 3. I wound up with a colllcetion of 50,000+ books.

   What to do with so many books? Well part of my exit strategy according to my bunsiness plan was to bring the bookstore online and sell them here. After years of hard work and a STEEP learning curve, we have what you see here. Now, an online business is very different from a brick and moarter store. I learned early on that each individual product needed a little more TLC. So, I was forced to find individual prices for these used books and I wanted to be sure and beat the competitors prices. So where do we go? eBay and Amazon. I started checking the price of every single paperback I sold on Amazon and what I found has utterly and completely baffled me. The only logical conclusion I can come to is that Amazon must be being abused to launder money.

   Okay, lets look at a title I just added to the website. "Scarlet Kisses" by Stephanie Blake is an unnasuming historical romance novel from 1981. It may be a wonderful read, but there's nothing particularly fascinating about this book. Its a paperback about a seductive heiress and a governor. Sounds pretty cut and dry. It wasn't a blockbuster nor did it start any wars. So, in pricing this book, I find that Amazon has it listed for right around $10 to (get this) $487.62. For a paperback. Not autographed, not gold plated, not endorsed by divine providence: just a plane Jane paperback. What the actual fuck? eBay is selling the same thing for $3.99. I'm selling it for $3.74.  

   The seller is Oasis1270. This seller has 5 stars and a 100% feedback rating. So, I looked at his (or hers, I don't know) page. This dude is selling rubber nipples for $49.91 plus S&H! 7 ounces of Johnson's Baby shampoo for $23.77! That's insane! And evidenly people are buying this shit or they wouldn't have the stars and ratings? Who in their right fucking mind is paying almost fifty bucks for rubber nipples? 

   Don't just take my word for it, go look for yourself. Amazon is chock full of crazy shit like this. there are millions of used trade paperbacks of no real significance being sold for sometimes thousands of dollars apiece! On what world would this make any sort of business sence whatsoever? Given the scope of Amazon, we're talking millions and millions of dollars!

   So, why would someone do this? I plugged this into my ADD brain and turned it over for a couple of months. The only logical conclusion I can come up with is that it has to be money laundering. Come on, we've all seen "Breaking Bad." Okay, so let me take you down this path.

   I do a lot of sourcing at garage sales, estate sales and Goodwill stores. I buy used books and antiques and all the stuff you see listed here. There's absolutely nothing stopping me from buying a copy of "Scarlet Kisses" at a garage sale, listing it for $500 and then setting up a dummy buyers acount to buy it and giving myself 5 stars. 

   Again, I honestly don't know if that's the case but where there's smoke there's fire. I'm just a used book store owner from East Texas and the pattern is so unbelievably mother-fuckin obvious I can't beleive that someone in law enforcement hasn't shut this down already. 

   In the days when drug cartels are becoming more and more sophisticated and human traffiking has reached unheard of levels, why is no one looking into this? If I'm right, and I hope to God I'm not, Amazon is going to have a lot of explaining to do.


  • Some of these reviews are paid for by sellers (https://www.npr.org/2018/07/30/629800775/some-amazon-reviews-are-too-good-to-be-believed-theyre-paid-for) I believe Amazon’s algorithm allows higher rated sellers to charge higher, even ridiculous, prices for goods.

    Gregory Rowe
  • That’s a really interesting hypothesis. I can’t say one way or the other if you’re right, but it would make a good book.

    Ian Totten

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