How rogue Amazon sellers are destroying Dum Dum lollipops

Red lollipops falling stock photo.
Photo credit Getty Images

Since 1924, candy lovers have been able to enjoy Dum Dum lollipops – small candies on a stick that are a staple of Halloween hauls and candy counters.

Recently a rash of “drop-shipping” accounts on Amazon has made it harder for Spangler Candy Co. of Bryan, Ohio, to sell the lollipops. Although the practice is against Amazon’s policy, they seem unable to stop it.

“We’ve been trying so hard to solve this with Amazon,” Mitchell Owens, head of e-commerce for Spangler, told Bloomberg this week. “It’s just too bad they don’t work more closely with manufacturers. I wish there was a better relationship.”

The Takeout summed it up this way: 'When you come for my candy, it’s personal.'

According to the Bloomberg report, sellers who engage in “drop-shipping” search the internet for products listed on Amazon, but at lower prices. They open an account and post the items on Amazon. Once someone places an order, they purchase the product from the other retailer and ship it direct to the customer, pocketing the price difference.

These sellers never touch the product and can find information about how to drop-ship on YouTube, Instagram and TikTok.

“It costs you zero dollars to list a thousand items on Amazon,” explained one TikTok tutorial, according to Bloomberg.

When Owens did some research into the mysterious sellers of his company’s product and bought from one of them, a 500-pack of lollipops soon arrived on his doorstep. It had been shipped directly from Walmart Inc.’s Sam’s Club.

Members of Sam’s Club pay just $15 for a 500-pack of the suckers, said Bloomberg. On the other hand, Spangler sells its exclusive 400-pack for about $26. Amazon shoppers who receive the Sam’s Club package get 100 extra lollipops and are often charged $25 – less than the Spangler offer – while the drop-shippers make a profit around $10.

While drop-shipper accounts used to be rare, they multiplied in the past six months to the point where Spangler has trouble keeping track and making complaints to Amazon. Even when they are able to get the sellers booted from the site, more pop up in their place.

“It became a tsunami we can’t control,” said Owens, who added that Amazon is too big to listen to small companies. “There’s an entire cottage industry encouraging people to start their own business selling on Amazon and drop-shipping from other retailers.”

Bloomberg identified around 20 merchants selling 400-packs of Dum Dums on Amazon late last month.

The outlet said Matt Priest of Sandy, Utah, was selling the lollipops on Amazon under the business name MattP Store. He told Bloomberg July 6 that he was not aware his Amazon store was selling the product, as he paid a service that helps people set up online businesses.

Joseph Mesi of Sewell, New Jersey, was also selling Dum Dums on Amazon. He told Bloomberg that he drop-ships items from Sam’s Club.

In an emailed statement cited by Bloomberg, Amazon spokesperson Nathan Strauss said the company has long banned drop-shipping. He declined to provide further details about how Amazon enforces the policy or how many merchants have been suspended for violating it. Sam’s Club declined to comment.

Owens said some of the sellers agree to stop when contacted by Spangler and others refused. He believes that the proliferation of Dum Dum drop-shippers may have been inspired by a Dragons E-commerce YouTube video posted in April demonstrating how to find deals on Sam’s Club.

Ali Haider makes the Dragons E-commerce videos in Pakistan. He told Bloomberg he teaches drop-shipping methods to clients in the U.S., Mexico and Canada for $250 per class.

“You can do this from anywhere in the world,” he said. “Following this model is not a problem.”

But Dum Dums is fighting back as best it can. When they were introduced by the Akron Candy Co. nearly 100 years ago, Dum Dums they came in seven flavors (lemon, lime, orange, coconut-pineapple, cherry, grape, and butterscotch). Since then the brand was bought by Spangler and the flavors were expanded to include 16, including the “Mystery” flavor.

“The Mystery Flavor pop is a mixture of two flavors that come together when the end of one batch of candy meets the beginning of the next batch,” Mental Floss explained in 2012. “Rather than shutting down to clean out the candy equipment between flavors, Spangler turned lemons into lemonade and made pops out of the combination of flavors – the tail end of the old, and the beginning of the new. The candy lines keep running continuously, and the Mystery Flavor pops are a surprise treat every time.”

While Spangler continues to struggle with the drop-shipper boom, he might be able to make lemonade out of this situation as well.

The company has enrolled in Amazon’s “transparency” program, which allows tracking of products throughout the supply chain. More than 23,000 have joined and now pay for a unique QR code for each item sold on the marketplace.

“Spangler, which pays 5 cents per QR code, has spent thousands of dollars so far and is seeing some improvement,” said Bloomberg. Owens just hopes that drop-shippers won’t be able to find a work-around.