Amazon: The million-knot of dealers

Online trading The million-stitch of Amazon dealers

Christoph Giesen, born 1983 in Berlin, is a correspondent of the Süddeutsche Zeitung in China and reports from Peking on the economy of the People’s Republic. From 2012 to 2016 he was a member of the SZ-Wirtschaftsredaktion in Munich and worked on the international revelations Offshore-Leaks, Lux-Leaks, Swiss-Leaks and the Panama Papers. Prior to his traineeship at the SZ he studied Journalism, Political Science and a subject called “China in Comparative Perspective” in Leipzig, London and Shanghai. For his work, he was awarded, among other things with the Guardian Prize of the German daily press and the Helmut Schmidt Journalists Prize.

Vanessa Wormer, born in 1987, is part of the SZ team that uncovered the Panama Papers and was honored with the German Reporter Award and the Nannen Prize. As a data journalist, the native of Badia works on the interface between the Investigative Research department and the development editorial office on the challenges of large and small amounts of data. They can be handed in encrypted at any time (for example by PGP to vanessa.wormer@sz.de).

For tax fraud, it is often no more than a few clicks with the computer mouse. Openly, and on one of the most visited websites worldwide. The damage goes into the millions. Who buys at the online retailer Amazon, ordered in truth only a fraction of the goods directly from the American mail order. The majority comes from third-party providers. Amazon “Marketplace” is the name of this platform. Amazon collects an agency fee. But that’s worth it. In 2016, according to the Cologne Institute for Trade Research, revenues totaled around twelve billion euros, in Germany alone.

If you imagine the German marketplace as a weekly market, you will be surprised how many of the stands are operated by Chinese traders. Approximately one in four sellers on Amazon.de comes according to dealer imprint from China or Hong Kong. Not only do these retailers sell electronics, but they also sell clothing, baby clothes, jewelery or housewares. Often the customers do not even notice where the ordered goods originate from: the name of the dealer usually does not give any information about the location of the seller. The traders from China call themselves, for example, “Clothing Trading EU”, “Intefax” or “Diamond candy”. Only a glance at the imprint reveals where the companies are located: in Hong Kong, Shenzhen or Shanghai. And that’s where the problem starts.