I compulsively check my Pending Orders in Amazon Seller Central. A Pending Order is an order placed by a customer that has yet to be paid in full (Merchant fulfilled) or shipped (Amazon fulfilled). There are a number of reasons why an order may be stuck in the Pending limbo, and you can read up on them over at Amazon's Order Timeline. Generally, it boils down to whether the item is fulfilled by the merchant or by Amazon. After an order is placed and payment is verified, there is a 30-45 minute wait before the merchant fulfilled order is escalated from Pending to Unshipped. The merchant will receive a "Sold, Ship Now" email from Amazon when the payment and waiting window is completed. For Amazon fulfilled orders, an item will remain Pending until it is shipped out. This could happen immediately or indefinitely. Amazon does provide an Expected Ship Date for FBA orders.
So, how can one check Pending Orders? Just change a few settings on your Manage Orders page.
The Importance of Checking Pending Orders
I recently sent in a shipment of books to the FBA warehouse. As soon as Amazon processes my shipment, I see my Manage Orders page populated with Pending Orders. Great! It's nice to see that this whole arrangement works. Something about one of the Pending Orders caught my eye, and I clicked on it. It revealed that the item was selling for $4.00, but it was supposed to be selling for $44.00! I quickly called Seller Help and had them cancel the Pending Order. I explained that I must have dropped a digit when I entered the price into my Excel spreadsheet. They were able to cancel the order before it shipped, preventing a loss of $30+ in profit. Of course, that also benefited Amazon, because 15% of $44.00 is much better than 15% of $4.00. Had the item shipped at the $4.00 price point, I would have lost about $7 on the transaction when I figured in the cost of the item.
If that same item had been Merchant fulfilled, I could have canceled the order and correctly priced my inventory. However, canceled orders are one of the metrics that determine your Account Health and viability as a third-party merchant on Amazon. If you cancel too many orders, your selling privileges may be revoked.
Time to hit refresh on my Manage Orders page!