Amazon has started issuing refunds to buyers of filters out of an abundance of caution — they don’t want to get sued, obviously, by injured customers — but their suppliers may end up taking the hit, and not always with cause.
This week, I received a notice from Amazon that they’d be refunding the money I spent on a 9.5″ full-aperture solar filter from a reputable vendor which has been making high quality telescopic equipment for years. They also said I didn’t have to return it, which made me happy, in that now I have a free solar filter, but also disturbed because it makes me wonder what this will mean for the manufacturer.
I’ve been looking around, and now I’m finding stories that Amazon is casting its net awfully far and wide, advising people not to use perfectly good filters from highly reputable manufacturers (including Orion Telescopes!) just a week before the eclipse when users aren’t likely to be able to actually find any other filters – which means that in addition to harming the vendors, Amazon will also be needlessly ruining the eclipse for a lot of people.
What’s more, the refund notice claims that Amazon has attempted to contact the vendors but received no response, which according to this article is not true. Vendor AgenaAstro, which sells glasses made by Thousand Oaks and Baader Planetarium (both highly trusted manufacturers), provided documentation to Amazon weeks ago, and received no response. Then, yesterday, they started to get customer e-mails, and discovered that Amazon was withholding payments to AgenaAstro in order to cover refunds, and sitting on thousands of in-stock glasses that AgenaAstro now cannot sell before the eclipse. Since they hired extra staff to cope with volume, this could put them in a precarious financial position.
Now, there actually are counterfeit solar filters running around, and I’ve also read reports of people comparing two different filters bought off Amazon and finding one is blatantly less effective than the other. But it seems that Amazon is hitting legitimate vendors as well, and I doubt that fact will upset them much.