A reader wrote in, asking about Amazon’s pros-only disclaimer that he came across when trying to buy 3M hearing protection earmuffs.
I would love for you to discuss this oddity (or nonsense). To preface, I do welding and woodworking for commercial clients, mainly restaurants. While reviewing my past purchases specific to masks and hearing protection in my Amazon order history, I looked at these 3M ear muffs I bought years back and noticed the disclaimer “This product is intended for professional/commercial use. When you check out, you will be asked to verify that you are a professional/commercial user. Please review the legal disclaimer for this product.”
Last time I checked, hearing protection is available to everyone regardless of home use or work use. Why is there a disclaimer? Millions of people at home should use them to mow grass, run chainsaws, weedeaters, home wood shops, etc. I wonder if this is recent because of 3M PPE mayhem. Ironically it is listed under Tools and Home Improvement. Home Improvement is usually performed by the non professional.
At checkout, you must check a box that says:
I am a professional/commercial user and I have read the safety information.
Actually, this isn’t something new. I wrote about Amazon’s pros-only and industrial use disclaimer 7 years ago when I came across a listing for a 3M sander.
My guess is that certain tools have the potential to be misused, or improperly fitted or selected in the case of personal protective gear, and that in agreeing to the disclaimer users are relaxing the risk of litigation for Amazon and 3M should personal injury or property damage occur.
In other words, it seems to be more of a “sure you can buy it, but you’d better know how to use it and if not you’re on your own if something goes wrong” type of policy.
I have only ever seen this on 3M products, or if I saw it for other brands’ tools I quickly forgot about it.
Here’s Amazon’s description of the policy:
Intended for Professional/Commercial Use
An industrial, commercial or professional user is a person purchasing for use as part of a company, business, or self-proprietorship that manufactures products or sells services to others and who has formal training, on-the-job experience or professional certification in the performance of job duties.
Professional/commercial products generally include legal disclaimers and material safety data sheets from the manufacturer on the Amazon site and/or in the product packaging. In some cases, you may be asked to verify that you’re a professional user and have read the documentation from the manufacturer on the Amazon site before purchase.
It is also possible that the disclaimer is less for legal reasons and more as part of their distribution agreement, perhaps loosely related to how “add to your cart to see the price” circumvents MAP policies. 3M has very many divisions. Maybe the disclaimer is necessary for Amazon – a largely consumer-focused retailer – to be able to buy products from some of those 3M divisions that typically only supply industrial suppliers and other such distributors.
I would have assumed that this has nothing to do with the earmuffs being PPE, but other models of earmuffs now carry similar disclaimer requirements:
Other online retailers don’t seem to require disclaimers before you buy 3M products, but most consumer-focused retailers don’t have a wide selection of 3M hearing protection. Those that do are more focused on industrial, commercial, and pro customers.
Can you think of any other plausible theories or explanations? Unfortunately, we don’t know anyone in Amazon’s tools, industrial, or home improvement departments to ask for official comment.
It is strange indeed, but at least all you have to do is click a box that says you’re a commercial or professional user.
I added a Wera half-moon-style mini bit-holding screwdriver to my Amazon cart a while ago, and I tried to buy it when they had a price-drop earlier in the year. I couldn’t, because it has a whole different set of requirements:
Available with an Amazon Business account and healthcare license.
You can buy a 3M stethoscope no problem, and with a rainbow of color options, but a screwdriver bit holder requires a healthcare license?