The Winners And Losers of Solar Eclipse Glasses

Among sellers it looks like Lunt Solar Systems was the biggest winner. They went from receiving a dozen or so feedback reviews in a month, to now being the top 50th seller overall. Lunt Solar Systems designs, assembles, and tests solar telescopes and solar filters out of Tucson, Arizona. Their solar glasses were on the American Astronomical Society (AAS) list of reputable vendors.

However many more sellers who tried to participate ended up getting caught off guard when Amazon emailed customers with a message saying “Amazon has not received confirmation from the supplier of your order that they sourced the item from a recommended manufacturer. We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse.” The recommended manufacturers referred in the message is the list advised by NASA and AAS.

This has flooded sellers with thousands of negative reviews. Many of these sellers are now suspended as a result.

These glasses were junk. I ordered them to view the solar eclipse and got notification they were not safe to wear. Shame on the seller for sending me something that could have damaged my vision forever! Thank goodness Amazon made things right and was looking out for my vision safety! I will NEVER order from this seller again!

Everything seemed fine until I got email from Amazon saying not to use this product because of safety concerns. my money was to be refunded. Thus because of time constraints I did not get to view eclipse which was nearly 85% in my city.

Okay, these arrived wayyyyy ahead of time. I had done all the research to make sure that I got the actual solar eclipse glasses. Then I get an email from amazon saying the seller did not confirm that they were not fake.

Received an email from Amazon stating the glasses could not be verified as safe. Could not get others in time for the eclipse. Ruined our eclipse experience. Worst experience ever with an Amazon recommend seller. Rating F- Awful

I purchased this item to use for the eclipse. I received a note from Amazon weeks later telling me not to use this product as they could not insure they were okay to look at the sun during the eclipse. I had no way of getting new glasses in time. Terribly disappointed.

For many sellers what looked like a great opportunity has turned out to be a business disaster. With frozen inventory (all solar eclipse glasses stored in FBA were frozen), frozen funds, refunds to customers, and suspended Amazon marketplace accounts.

It is unclear though how Amazon executed the research to determine which suppliers failed to confirm who manufactured their glasses. While some definitely sourced anything they can get from an unverified factory in China, it looks like legitimate sellers got suspended too as many publications have reported. Manish Panjwani’s Los Angeles-based astronomy product business AgenaAstro said to KGW that they have provided documentation to Amazon weeks before the event, yet received no response. Then as recalls started they were one of the companies affected, with thousands of units still left unsold.

This event showcased the problems a marketplace like Amazon faces. Some categories like Jewelry on Amazon are already restricted, and require pre-approval, all to avoid counterfeits. But managing this on a product-level is a much bigger undertaking. In this case some products were made by approved manufacturers, some rebranded, but still certified, and approved, and then dozens of counterfeits, and fakes. Rick Fienberg, a spokesperson for the American Astronomical Society (AAS), said “Amazon is not an expert in astronomy or solar eclipses.” Suggesting to buy elsewhere.

There is already one class-action lawsuit against Amazon because of this, as a couple in South Caroline sued Amazon claiming that they “negligently advertised, marketed, and distributed defective, unsafe Eclipse Glasses.” Not only is this a PR nightmare, the problem is that there isn’t much Amazon could do differently next time. Searching for “solar eclipse glasses” on today still returns over 5,000 different products. The demand is mostly gone now, but it is unclear what verification have those received.

The challenge is thus how can Amazon host these type of products while not being an expert in the niche category. All while also managing counterfeits. Their response this time to issue a mass refund, and to alert customers while effective was also unquestionably devastating to many legitimate sellers. That’s why we think counterfeits are an unsolvable and yet the biggest challenge for Amazon.

In the end there are very few winners. And the biggest loser might just be Amazon because when asked about this their spokesperson said:

“Customers may have purchased counterfeit versions of legitimate products”

Amazon does not know.

Share it:
Get data-driven insights about online retail

Juozas Kaziukėnas

Founder of Marketplace Pulse, Juozas wears multiple hats in the management of Marketplace Pulse, including writing most of the articles. Based in New York City. Advisor to other startups and entrepreneurs. Occasional speaker at conferences.

Get Data-Driven Insights About Online Retail