Can You Sell the Free Products You Get From Amazon Sellers?

US currency on table

I get this question a lot: If a company sends you a product for free in exchange for a review, can you sell it? Can you sell it on Amazon? At a consignment shop? Or elsewhere? Good question.

The answer is not as black-and-white as one would think.

What does Tristan do?

I give most of them away; keeping only a handful of items. For awhile I was filling up bags with anything that I didn’t want to keep and dropping them off at the local Goodwill. Now I take the vast majority of the items to work and give them away—my teammates are pretty stoked on that! Some items we give to friends.

I have never sold a product that was given to me in exchange for a review. It’s a personal policy I have.

It’s certainly not against the law. In the vast majority of review-in-exchange agreements the item is yours, you own it free and clear. It’s just, in my opinion, unethical to sell it on the very platform (be it Amazon or Newegg or Etsy) you get it from for free. Maybe unethical is a bit strong, but the purpose behind giving away products is more than the reviews.

What’s the point of companies giving products away then?

The reviews aren’t the only thing the business is after. By sending out 100%-off coupon codes to dozens of people, they are inflating sales which—in Amazon’s case— can trigger the algorithm to showcase their product with other products. A week or so after the free products are shipped, a flood of reviews come in and that buoys the product in Amazon searches, too. Organic sales usually rise because of this, repeating/buoying the cycle. It’s a great way to jumpstart organic sales: give X-number of products away in the hopes that even more products are purchased organically at full price.

How does selling it online hurt the company and the reviewers?

If the reviewers all sold their free products in the same space, it negates the boost the company is looking for. This can backfire by sending the wrong signal to the company that giving away products doesn’t help sales, and companies could abandon the practice of review-in-exchange, leaving us reviewers with far less companies asking us to review.

Like my dad used to say, “Don’t throw the trout’s guts back into the lake: it scares away the other trout. Feed it to the land animals while you fish for more trout.”

Is it illegal to sell the free products on Amazon?

This is where things are in a bit of an ethical gray area more than legal grounds. In my opinion it depends on how you got the product to how light/dark that gray area becomes:
I am a reviewer for I Love to Review, where some of the products offered are not free but at a deep discount. (Recently a $99 product was offered at $15.) In this case, one could make the argument that they bought it and can therefore resell it whenever and however they want.

In this case, I refer to the section above: I believe it hurts the companies and reviewers to flood the platform with a bunch of used product. This is a zero-sum game, and to be honest you don’t make enough money to be worth it (see below.)

I have to sell this stuff to live! Where and how can I do it?

Ok, some of you will ignore the advice above and feel you really must sell the stuff you get. My recommendation is simple: do NOT sell it on the platform you received it from. AND, out of respect, please do not sell it on any platform the seller does business.

If a seller on Etsy or Amazon asks for a review-in-exchange, and that is the only place they sell, then you should consider selling it on ebay or elsewhere.

If you really must sell it, I HIGHLY recommend you consider selling it at a local consignment shop, a yard sale or in your local Craigslist.

Truth is you don’t make much money (or any money, for that matter)

The truth of the review-in-exchange ptractice is that the vast majority of the products offered are either not able to be resold (consumables such as food, supplements, beauty supplies, or intimate items such as socks/underwear, sex toys, pillows and anti-snore devices) or items of low-quality and or low resale value (cheap Bluetooth headphones, and just about everything in the $5-15 range.)

While I have gotten items that retail at over $100, these are rare or uncommon for the vast majority of reviewers. Most of the items I have been asked to review are rarely over $30, mostly in the $5-15 range. To resell these items means you would net about 10-50% of the retail value, again due to them often being from obscure companies/brands or of cheap quality and appearance.

Again, if you are looking to get into the review-in-exchange game to make money, I HIGHLY recommend you stop before you get disappointed. Here’s how much time it takes (on average):

  • 5-10 mins to handle the initial email and purchase of the product
  • another 5-15 mins receiving, unboxing and (sometimes) setting it up
  • (depending on the product) another hour to a few days (or more!) to use the product enough to be able to understand it completely and write a good review
  • then about 10-45 mins writing a good, solid review (not those crappy one-liners!)
  • If you add in the time to post and sell the product, that could tack on another 10-60 mins, or more!

As you can see, a $15 set of headphones will take you at least an hour and 20 mins to fully and respectfully review, but some products can take longer. Even if you were to sell them for $10 (good luck on that), you would effectively be making $7 an hour on your review work (even less since when you factor in how long it takes to post, sell and ship an item.) And for products you can’t manage to sell, you make $0 an hour. There are far easier ways to make more money.

9 Comments

Drew

Selling a product that you’ve reviewed is less unethical than the company giving away a free product to get a more favorable review.

Reply
Leland

Drew, there is absolutely nothing unethical about giving away free samples as a means to receive feedback on the quality of your product or service involved in providing the product. Sounds like you’re trying to justify you selling of review products yourself.

Reply
Adam

As a reseller of products i get in exchange for reviews i’ve run into sellers using the Vero program on eBay to take down my items “temporarily” as well as have had them report me to the places you get the items from initially at discounts then through them. (ie i lost my ability to get items from that review place)

In my experience yes this is a gray area and up-to each person individually on whether they want this to be their business model or not, However legally it is perfectly acceptable its along the lines of what people do with arbitrage & drop-shipping. Granted creating false reviews breaks Amazon TOS and you run the risk of losing your reviewing privileges (has happened to me before) that is as far as it can be taken.

The First Sale Doctrine allows the re-sale of any item you legally purchase “At Asking Price” if it is in your possession and you are not in any way trying to harm the copyright owner. Its a write-off in general for the initial vendor as they manipulated Amazon search engines in the first place by getting sometimes false reviews as most review programs ask you to review something within 72 hours of receiving it, (so when you get 10 types of pills from different companies you are expected to take them all? you would be dead if you were truthful about each individual items affects on you)

The first sale doctrine, codified at 17 U.S.C. ยง 109, provides that an individual who knowingly purchases a copy of a copyrighted work from the copyright holder receives the right to sell, display or otherwise dispose of that particular copy, notwithstanding the interests of the copyright owner.

In the end, It actually if the re-seller uses their own pictures, re-words what is on the box or amazon listing etc and does not infringe on any rights or copyright of the seller beneficial for that original seller of the copyrighted product. As its free advertising on a market they are not on (i do not ever sell on a market a company is on), And anyone who ever asks where the product was gotten is given a truthful response and link to get more – end result they become a loyal customer to a company they otherwise would have never known exists.

I do not understand the dislike of people re-selling products as it is only beneficial as long as the reseller is selling a legitimate, unaltered, product and helping their business grow.

Reply
Tristan

Thank you for taking the time to write an in-depth response to this. I know there are MANY people out there wanting to know the truth about the legalities around this practice.

Personally, I am not selling any products I get. It’s a stance I chose to take long before I heard about any legal constraints on this matter. I can also empathize with the strong desire in being able to make some money off this.

Reply
Eveyln

With the recent review rule changes on Amazon, and at review websites, does this change things a bit for selling them as used?

For Example: A Review of product is not required, you are just purchasing items that have discounts.

With no exchange agreement of review for discount, and the fact that these items have now gone up in price, why can’t I make money back from my purchase? Thanks.

Reply
Tristan

I see your point, but the review-in-exchange part is not the biggest reason, in my opinion. I go back to what I wrote above: “I believe it hurts the companies and reviewers to flood the platform with a bunch of used product. This is a zero-sum game, and to be honest you don’t make enough money to be worth it.”

Even at a discount (and not spending time writing a review), you are going to either break even or only make a couple bucks. The more people start doing this, the chances of you being able to sell it for more than you paid are close to zero. In order to sell yours you undercut the lowest price, and then they do the same…and it’s often just a race to the bottom.

If making money off this is your primary concern, I highly suggest looking elsewhere. Honestly, the return on this is not worth it, and likely less than minimum wage.

Reply
Jennifer

so because of the change of policy in Amazon now companies are asking us for our PayPal accounts to transfer us the price of the item they want us to review so we can purchase it on Amazon. Can we do that, accept a money be transferred to our PayPal accounts to make the purchase on Amazon and review it? Also could we sell those items on 5miles app locally, Facebook market, yard sell, if we find no use for them, or even list them on eBay as used? Is that legal? Thanks for the help!

Reply
Tristan

DO NOT accept the PayPal/Venmo ‘refunds’!! This goes against the Guidelines for Amazon.com Community participation, and could get your account suspended.

Please reply to Sellers and tell them No thanks, this goes against Amazon policy. And send them the link above. This new surge of Sellers trying to get you to do this refund thing is getting out of hand and we need to all try and nip it in the bud to help unsuspecting Reviewers from getting burned.

Plus, more importantly, some of these are just a scam. There is no guarantee nor is there any recourse from Amazon should the Seller not pay you. PLEASE DO NOT do this.

Reply

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