2018/11/27: Dropshippers are online sellers who don’t keep any products in stock. Instead, they advertise a product and, if it is purchased, they buy the item from overseas and ship it directly to the customer.
I was not prepared for the way a simple question about some mysterious packages would spiral into a dizzying network of Amazon storefronts, web domains and badly written “About us” pages. But the more I looked into it, the more it seemed they were being run by a handful of people, each operating in different capacities depending on the needs of the moment. More surreal was how these websites were linked to the physical world.
In this case, it seemed that Valley Fountain LLC and other companies were posing as traditional retailers — usually by setting up Amazon storefronts like Sendai Book Store — and were just reselling items from other Amazon storefronts at inflated prices. It sounds confusing, but ultimately, it’s pretty similar to scalping concert tickets: A middleman makes money by ratcheting up the price.
The items in many of the storefronts associated with 235 Montgomery, Suite 350 had an unusually long shipping time and consistently low stock, so it made sense that items purchased from them might be coming from elsewhere.
Thinking about that one office at 235 Montgomery Street, I pictured 141 Olivet alumni, each at a tiny desk, carefully minding his or her Amazon storefront. After all, a 2011 Olivet University news bulletin stated that students from the Olivet Institute of Technology and Olivet College of Business were collaborating “to explore features in E-Commerce websites.” Or maybe it was Jonathan Park, the registered officer of many of these stores, alone in there with a laptop? Or no one at all — just a humming, automated system trawling retail sites to make listings of random products on Amazon pages?