ADI's 'Elves' Selling Direct on Amazon

By IPVM Team, Published May 15, 2017, 12:00am EDT

Buy from Amazon, get delivery from ADI. What?

Recently, we bought a part from Amazon and the shipment came from ADI. We dug into the relationships involved and found 'elves' making this happen.

In this note, we examine the details of the operation, the pros and cons plus feedback from ADI.

Executive *******

*** *** ** ********* with ***********.*** [**** ** longer *********], ***** ** part ************** **********, * ******* **** specializes ** ********** **** companies **** *** ** make ***********'* ******** ****** available *** **** ** end ***** ** *** Internet. *** ******* ***** highlights *** ****:

Distributors **********

************ ********** (***** ******** / *********** **** ** ElvesSupply)******************* **** *** ** the ******** **:

************ ********** ******* *** aspects *** *** ************ including *** ******* **********, e-commerce, ***** *********, *** analytics, ****** ****** ************, rich ***** ***********, *** everything ****'* ********** ********

**** ********* ******* ************ products ****** ** * who's *** ** ***** ecommerce *****, ****:

************ ********** **** ****** to ************ **** *** inventory ***********:

*** ********* **** *********** / ************ ********** *** a ******** *** ******** comment ** ******* **** provided **** **** ******. However, ** ** ****** clear **** *** **** since *********** *** * detailed **** ** * Box ********, **** **** on ***, ********* ******** status:

Workflow - ***** **** ******, *** *** ********

*** ******* ** **** started ************ **** ** ordered *** ********* **** from ******:

**** *** ******* *******, it *** *** **** Amazon *** ***** *** from ************ ********** **** the ******* ** ** ADI ******** ** *****:

*** **** ** ******* was *** ***,***+ **** ***** ***** on ******,*,***+ ** ***** *** cameras, ********* ****, *********, etc.

ADI ********

*** ********** **** **** of ***** ******* **** online, ******:

***** *** ********* ********* of ******* *** **** some **** ** *** store ** *********** ********. Just ******* *** ** our ********* ******* ** market *** ******** ****** does *** **** *** is ******* ** *** users. **** ***** ** like ****** **** ***** televisions ****** ** *** users ******* **** *** has **** *********** ** line.

********, **** ********** **** *** drop ******** **** ************ Emarketing **** **** *** is * ****** *******, available ********:

** ***** ***** ****** the ******* ** **** shipping ***** ***** ******** to ***** ********. **** includes *** ******* ******* out ***** *** **** ship ****** **** / fire / ****** ******* systems, ****** ** ***** job ****, ** ** simple ** *********** ********* for * ******** *********** to * **** *****, to ******* * ***** roll, ***** *** ******* is **** ***********.

Concerns *** / *****

*** **** ******** ** see **** **** ************ is:

  • ***** / ************ ********** exists ************ ** **** online ** ******. ** is *** ** ** they **** * ****** selling * *** ***** parts ** ****, ****** they *** * ******* that ****** ** **** around *******.
  • ***** ******* *** ****** integration / ****** **** normal ******* ** ** lists ********* ** ***** from ***, ********* '*********' W *** ********, ** Elves' *** *******.
  • *** ********* *** ******** to ** ******** ********** (*** *** ***********). ************ ********** ***** nationwide. *** *** *** respond ** ************ ********** was ******** ********. 

*******,*** *** * *** better ************** ***** **** *****************, ***** ******** **** selling ****** ** *** users ** **** *****. *** ******** ******* how **** ** ** issue ** ** *** distributors **** *** ** sell ** ********* ***** fundamental business ** ******* ******.

Vote / ****

Comments (47)

How are the prices compared to dealers buying direct from ADI?

The Amazon Prices from these grey market dealers is somewhat higher than ADI would sell to legitimate dealer/integrator/installers, but way below what a legitimate integrator would sell to the end user. Clean-up your act ADI!

Assuming Elves is a for-profit company and as does not have owners in common with ADI (which it certainly could), what is the concern?

Elves' margin (and taxes) should provide some buffer between ADI cost and end-user pricing.

The major concern is that it seems like ADI has given a database file to this elf company to upload thousands of their products, including exclusive brands, to a company that merely exists to resell, not install. This is a flagrant "loophole" to sell "indirectly" (direct) to end users. The excuse about Sony is complete BS since ADI claims you must be a licensed installer to buy from them. This sets a dangerous precedent that the two largest low voltage distributors are bypassing their customers.

...ADI claims you must be a licensed installer to buy from them.

Even in Ohio?

Not only a database,  ADI and other distributors provide product images, descriptions, pricing, and stock levels daily. They drop ship from stores or ADI warehouses often with free shipping.  They also usually ignore any MAP pricing policies and when they get cut off from buying, they use a different name to purchase under.  That is why Elves used to be called Surviellent, to get around MAP blocks and they had such bad reviews. 

Maybe its because we dont buy enough from ADI, but that price on the amazon screengrab is approximately $30 less than our cost for that part at ADI (which is part of the reason we dont ever buy that part from ADI).  chicken or egg?

 Distributors Emarketing, LLC out of MN has an F rating with BBB. I don't think they like people.

We had a run-in with ADI a week ago, after two decades of doing business with them my father is ready to leave them behind. I have been slowly moving our business elsewhere over the last 4 years. This is disappointing and will not help them. We pay them hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and I'm disappointed. Rather than trying to sell to consumers they should be working on fixing how they sell to the companies who buy from them.

If ADI want's to move to 100% e-commerce and sell through amazon to their existing client base, I would be OK with that. I would want our dealer pricing intact and I would want a strict MAP policy that didn't hurt integrators. 

ADI is struggling right now (or at least the branches in my area) my guess is some hotshot at ADI thinks this is what's going to save them.

my guess is some hotshot at ADI thinks this is what's going to save them.

The Elves thing has been going on for some time. For example, we first noticed this in early 2015 with W Box products, and presumably it has been going on before that.

#5, what are your specific issues with ADI right now? 

Over the last couple of year's, we have noticed the quality of system design support go down hill. We mostly use it for fire alarm systems, we've had several occasions where we have gotten the wrong equipment, and then they had to special order the right equipment, and it took weeks to come in holding up our projects. Most recently we had several unpaid invoices which we never received or showed up on a statement from last November. Without warning they shut our account down, that day we had several long time subcontracts and employees (including myself) attempt to pick up parts for jobs and were not allowed to. When we called to inquire someone told us we have an unpaid balance (again this was from 6 months ago and it never appeared on our statements and we never received the invoices). We cut checks to ADI twice a month every month and for two decades and have never been late. During this same time, they moved us to a sales taxable account, so we ended up getting billed sales tax on dozens of invoices. We have always paid our bills on time with everyone. For 25 years we have paid our subcontractors immediately upon work completion. This is why they've been with us so long and will drive 2 hours at 2 AM to do a service call for us no questions asked. This incident was not only frustrating and took almost two weeks to resolve, but it was embarrassing. The unpaid invoices were negligible, and we paid them as soon as they were brought to our attention. ADI screwed this one up. The most annoying part is they haven't done anything to mend the relationship other than turning our account back on. Now that I'm reading this post I have little love for ADI right now. If it weren't for the regional manager, we would go somewhere else altogether. If he left (and he should), we wouldn't hesitate to go with him. I realize this isn't a huge deal, and we're not one of ADI's biggest customers. However, we've been with them for a long time, and we're buying more than most of their clients. 

If it weren't for the regional manager, we would go somewhere else altogether. If he left (and he should), we wouldn't hesitate to go with him.


you should hire that person.

I just checked out their prices (Elves) on a Honeywell Vista 20P, $116.00.  That's slightly more than my cost at ADI when I don't buy during a sale, which is seldom.  However, I noticed Amazon has a Vista 20P V10.23 for $54.00.  ADI periodically promos a bundle, or kit, combining a panel with a keypad, PIR, battery, RJ31X, cord, and the cost of the panel matches the Amazon price.

Online price shopping by customers just means you need to sell your services rather than just the equipment.  I do not install equipment that I did not acquire through my company.

I'm curious to hear what others say in protest to the online sales.

Btw, the Elves about us page makes it weirdly sound like they are ADI: fills orders from our closest location or partner location to our customer from 100+ locations here in the lower 48 United States. With over 100+ shipping locations can get the product to our customers faster while the customer only paying the shipping cost via UPS/FedEx ground rate.

The major concern is not that ADI has given away their data base file, the real concern is ADI may have loaded the file with heavily discounted pricing for ALL ITEMS.  ADI will give the master parts list file to any dealer that asks, but all prices from that list default to column 1 prices (the highest "wholesale" price offered).  In order to get better pricing, the dealer has to negotiate each line-item (or kit package) and it is assigned a new part number and adjusted price for that dealer/group.  Normally done for items that are purchased the most or if the dealer is part of a larger buying group (Moni/ADT etc).  If you are a small operator that does not know the "multi-column pricing game" chances are you are paying 30-40% more that your competition (or online seller).

So, the real major concern is if ADI is giving Elves (or other online only sellers) a multi-column discount for ALL ADI ITEMS.  Even the largest of buying groups do not get global discounts on every line item, just those on their pre-negotiated parts list.  



We can get this reader $5.00 cheaper from ADI than Elves.

To be competitive we increase mark up on Services and decrease markup on Materials. A lot of customers are getting savvy and shopping prices online anyway. 

When the customer can shop technical labor online is when we need to be worried.

When the customer can shop technical labor online is when we need to be worried.

We also hired an Amazon tech to do an IP camera install for us. Post on that later this week.

UPDATE: Amazon Techs Installing IP Cameras Tested


We also hired an Amazon tech to do an IP camera install for us. 

Sneak preview:

Amazon Installer: The first thing to decide is on a good outdoor cable; a lot of guys think category 2 or 3 is enough, but I always recommend category 5, if you want it to last.

Ethan: What's the difference?

Amazon Installer: Basically it comes down to wind speed, category 2 you could taken out by a nor'easter, but category 5 was designed to survive "Sandy" or even "Andrew".

Ethan: Hmmm, interesting...Anyway, do you think these cameras are made in China?

Amazon Installer: Heck, no, look they're UL listed... Hey, this is a nice setup here, what do you guys do exactly?

Ethan: Actually we're the world's leading resource on video surveillance, providing reviews and test results on cameras, recorders, and everything in between... this is our lab.

Amazon Installer: No shit?

They kind of do already Amazon Install Services

It is disingenuous for ADI to sell to a direct distributor.  ADI is playing both sides of the fence.

ADI claims their customers must be licensed installers.  But then they agree to partner with a direct reseller, just so ADI can technically say 'we don't sell direct', yet count direct sales as a channel for them anyway.  

Statements like this are false, not because of some vague grey market, but because ADI willingly stocks and even dropships on behalf of direct resellers:

The question of tech support and warranty fulfillment then comes up again, but for every brand Elves resells direct on ADI's behalf.  Do manufacturers have the willingness and resources to support product bought through Elves?

Btw, in response to our email mentioning W Box for sale on Elves, ADI did say:

It is not our intent to have Wbox product advertised on the internet

I believe them, though it is not as if anyone would really clamor for Wbox gear that is not being pushed at the ADI counter anyway...

Is it not just another result or indication that they are firmly entrenched in the race to the bottom? With low cost low margin products it the quantity that counts as I'm sure the manufacturers are looking for larger orders all the time. This juts looks like another way to 'shift boxes'.

The issue is as much with the manufacturers as it is with ADI. If the mfr's don't wish to protect their installing dealers by enforcing a MAP policy or restricting online sales, then ADI is within their rights to sell to any legitimate reseller (within each vendor's agreement). It's a loophole and it sucks and I hate it, but blame goes beyond ADI. If you don't like it, send more business to Silmar or whoever your small local distributor is. But when they get bigger or get bought out, you may be in the same boat again.

If you don't like it, send more business to Silmar or whoever your small local distributor is.

The same Silmar who will compete against you on bids...?

Does ADI honor Amazon Prime through the ELVES setup?  Prime is AUsome as far as delivery issues.  The only benefit to Prime using the USPS is that if the item is not delivered on the day the USPS says it will be, you will get a full refund, no questions asked.  The USPS in my area is HORRIBLE!!!  Every once in a while, the item gets delivered a few days after my refund comes through.  "BONUS POINTS" 

Does ADI honor Amazon Prime through the ELVES setup?

No, from what we have seen, the shipping charge from Elves on Amazon tends to be high, $15+ commonly. I do not why it is set that way.

I suspect the shipping charge to be high as that is the gravy for ELVES.  Amazon gets what, a per-item 8%-15% referral fee with a $1 minimum?  Tag on a $15 shipping charge and drop-ship from ADI for less....

supply & DEMAND!

This is becoming widespread practice - manufacturers are using large distributors' logistics capabilities to serve as sort of master distributors to the vast array of internet retailers. Ingram Micro is the largest of them - we have ordered IT components from provantage, newegg, etc and the shipping labels read Ingram Micros warehouse address. 

The fact that manufacturers pretend to have "partner programs" and "restricted product" and then peddle it to internet retailers indirectly through supposedly wholesale suppliers is a sad state of affairs to be sure. 

I guess we haven't negotiated a good enough price on that reader (have never bought it previously and we only do a small amount of business with ADI right now). Our price is $30 more than Amazon/Elves.

P.S. I have seen other items show up on Elves by doing a Google search. They are usually only a few dollars more than our ADI price on the majority of cameras, access control panels, etc.

Most decent manufacturers take MAP seriously. Elves has been out there for a number of years as one of the worst and most visible MAP violators. Manufacturers expect their distributors to help them enforce MAP, sometimes contractually. Distributors should be free to sell to online resellers provided they comply with MAP. They would be foolish not to. But in this case ADI clearly knows that Elves is not complying with MAP and that this works at odds with both their manufacturers and integrator customers. But if you are a manufacturer with 30-40% of your business going through ADI then I think you have a big problem getting ADI to cooperate and help enforce MAP. Pretty tough to tell them you will take your business elsewhere.

"Pretty tough to tell them you will take your business elsewhere."

I agree, but Sony did it. I don't know if it was over MAP, I forgot what the story was. But I am just saying they were a major brand that walked away from ADI.

I believe that was more that ADI walked away from Sony. From what I was told when that happened, Sony was demanding that ADI stock a ridiculous amount in each branch. The market at that time didn't warrant that, and it probably still doesn't. That could be ADI/Honeywell spin, but that is what was told to me a the time.

And I could have very well have heard it incorrectly. Thanks.

Lot of anger on this site about so many topics. we've been dealing with ADI for 20 years. Anything we've ever needed they have accommodated us. ADI is an integral part of the security industry. 

If they want to recapture the segment of the market that went DIY by selling product to internet retailers - what do I care? but then again I dont do 4-camera installs at convenience stores and residences. Plug and play technology has rendered the integrator to be an optional condition in such installs. That ship has sailed. No point in complaining about it.

I read a lot of people on here bitterly complaining about market conditions, thinking that enforcement of licensing and wholesale models can protect them from evolving markets. It wont. Licensing is purposed for consumer protection, not job protection. If a trunk-slammer is taking away low-end small jobs, then maybe focus on larger higher end jobs in which the trunk crowd are excluded instead of calling up your local licensing agency and howling about it.  

We dont use Hikvision as we see it as a low-end non-secure solution, regardless of the technical specs it boasts, however the hysteria regarding Hikvisions self-destructive pricing model and the invoking of jingoism and patriotism as a means to foil it is also ill-advised. Hikvision will kill itself off. Nobody can stay in business by giving its product away.

stay the course. Provide value-add. Exceed expectations. Thats what will keep you in business as an integrator. 


I agree. We don't go after the self installer / convenience store business either, unless its a large corporate chain like quik trip etc.  Bottom line of all of this is, in the end, all businesses exist to make money. Any integrator could very easily upload the ADI catalog or monthly sales flier and specs to amazon and drop ship, I suspect some do. ADI is not without its problems, but neither is Anixter or any other smaller distributor. I know from personal experience that the smaller distributors sell product directly to state and local municipalities, which cuts out a revenue stream for their dealers. Elves can sell all the W BOX crap they want on Amazon, if you're not getting a better price at ADI, show your sales rep the ad and ask them to beat it, they usually will. Other than that, know your vertical, develop relationships, and secure your seat at the table so that customers look to you for the products, and not amazon. Be prepared for the conversation and to make adjustments when you do get price checked.

We have seen Elves and other online only places compete on  school and city bids. They bid literally 1-3% above cost and have seen  50k deals have a $500 margin.  They can just drop ship and make a few dollars and never provide warranty or other support. I have talked to purchasers and they say they would rather save money then have to put info on RFp saying has to be authorized sources. 

You probably don't want that job anyway if that is the case. Wish them luck and walk away.

If I am going to compete with my supplier, I will find a new supplier!

Can we do the Distributor poll again, please?

Can we do the Distributor poll again, please?

Which poll? The favorability one or? 

What do you think will change?

For years manufacturers have been blamed for selling direct to end users.  The manufacturer I worked for at the time didn't but we had several distributors that did.  This is nothing new, nor anything that the manufacturer can control.  Once a product leaves the manufacturer's dock, what happens to it is only the business of the purchaser.  Since these are often very large companies, their prices can be lower than the dealers are used to buying the products for on a direct from distributor basis.  HOWEVER the problem comes when it comes to warranty.  When consumer A buys a product from the "dealer", the warranty is through the dealer, not the manufacturer.  If you have a problem with the e-commerce site, your problem is through them.  Your tech support is through them, everything is through them.  Buy at your own risk.

This is nothing new, nor anything that the manufacturer can control. Once a product leaves the manufacturer's dock, what happens to it is only the business of the purchaser

I have been told by a number of manufacturers that they can and sometimes do tell distributors not to sell to a certain customer. (1) The manufacturer can trace back the sales route by buying a product through the problematic channel and then (2) determine what 'master' distributor it came through. Then the manufacturer can then go that distributor and ask them not to do it. I am not sure how often it happens but it can work if pursued.

I've also had manufacturers (its been awhile, so don't remember exactly who... might have been Samsung once), tell me they occasionally buy one of their products found online so they can trace back who is selling it and which distributor it came from. How often they do or the lengths they go through to enforce it, you only have their word on.

People who want to DIY will find a source to buy their equipment. And saying ADI doesn't sell directly is incorrect. Ask any Fry's Electronics store where they buy their gear. I keep my customers by providing levels of service and support that can't be bought at any distributor or reseller location.

Maybe they read this article. I checked both on Amazon and on the Elves' websites and found no mention of cameras or everything being out of stock.

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