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Wed Sept 16 2015 22:32:40

Amazon Responds to Concerns over Seller Crackdown

By: Ina Steiner

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Seller suspensions on Amazon have surged since June/July, and many people are pointing to two problems they say are getting some sellers into trouble unfairly:

1) Amazon is using bots to scan through every single product review and buyers' emails to pick up keywords that Amazon think is detrimental to buyer experience (for example, defective, damage, broke etc...) and is rating sellers' performance based on automated systems.

2) Amazon is putting some returned inventory back onto the shelves as saleable inventory that are, in fact, defective - when those items are sold for a second time, customers who receive the defective items complain to Amazon, harming the seller. 

Amazon took a recent hit when the New York Times harshly criticized its treatment of employees. What's striking about the issue with regard to sellers is that many of them are happy that Amazon is cracking down in order to weed out poorly performing sellers. However, there is a lot of concern over the methods and possible lack of transparency in the process.

One seller said she believes Amazon customer service isn't able to keep up with the volume of seller issues.

Amazon spokesperson Erik Fairleigh responded to our questions about concerns over seller suspensions. "We value sellers and see them as our customers. If sellers ever feel we've made a mistake, we hope they reach out to let us know. Sellers can always contact us through the Seller Central channels, or email us at seller-performance@amazon.com."

He also addressed specific concerns. You can turn to the news story in Thursday's EcommerceBytes Newsflash to dig into the meat of seller concerns where you'll also find Fairleigh's responses.

We'll post a link to the article shortly - read what sellers and Amazon have to say, and then let us know what you think.



Comments (16) | Permalink

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by: Chicago48 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 17 00:27:56 2015

Yes, if you visit the message boards there are lots of suspensions going on.  But it seems to be for the FBA sellers.  I betcha those sellers grab their inventory from AMZ and start to ship it themselves.

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by: Tiffee Jasso This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 17 00:55:32 2015

I would have to wonder if the FBA merchandise that was sent out even belonged to me. I have read many times that Amazon sends out merchandise from center nearest buyer and not particularly from the seller that sold the item. If this is true then a returned item may not even be one that was in seller's inventory. Or possibly a counterfeit item from another seller for the real item the actual seller had. Talk about not having control, that possibility alone, is enough for to me to realize I need to control my own stock, returns, etc.  

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by: mickeyfinn This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 17 01:20:32 2015

The level of trust required by a merchant in Fulfillment By Amazon is amazing - and the shortcuts (that always tend to find their way into any system) are recipes for disaster.

As a buyer, when I find a seller that supplies the type and quality of merchandise and service that will get me to part with my hard-earned money, I would expect any product I purchased from a them to be from THEIR inventory.  Am I now without such an assurance?  Is it now a lottery??

On the issue of Amazon staff assessing the saleability of returned goods - and to then repackage and put back into inventory has me mortified!  What if one particular function of an electronic item dies not work ... or a book is missing pages??  Will they check as thoroughly as is necessary?  I don't think so.

And then to have the Seller penalized for the resulting buyer dissatisfaction?  Good grief!  Is Amazon taking lessons from eBay?

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by: Moonwishes This user has validated their user name.
Web Site

Thu Sep 17 08:46:23 2015

For the next few days I will be doing what I can to get a seller suspended for life. While checking on one of my items I discovered this seller also had the item listed in a totally wrong category. As I investigated further I discovered he had been taking entire listings including the photos and dumping them in a new category with prices a good 3-4 times the items usual selling price. I understand that anyone can set their own prices on Amazon, but this guy I doubt even has the inventory to back him up. I wrote to the CSR yesterday and they acknowledged what he was doing is wrong and asked for further information which I will be happy to do. I know that when I make a completely new product page in the correct category because I am the first to list the item on Amazon, that other sellers will and should list their goods on the page I created. What shouldn't be happening, especially in light of Amazon stated desire to get the catalog 'cleaned up', is seeing another seller come along and taking the entire listing and repeating it. If indeed he has a copy of the item, then he should be listing his product on the regular product page, not putting it in an entirely new category which is completely wrong. To do this it also looks like he buys UPCs as that is the only way to list things on Amazon now. The reason I know for sure he is doing this is I recognize my work, product titles, photos, etc. It isn't guessing on my part.

This is the second seller in a month I've run into that is doing shanigans with the product catalog. There are many sellers that should have their business practices investigated.

I still haven't figured out how anyone makes money using FBA, especially the ones that sell in the same niche I am in. Some things just don't sell constantly and why pay fees for it to stored elsewhere (for possibly a couple years!) and shipped by a packer you don't know or have yours selling for 90% or less of the average posted prices in the listing. They sell for the cheapest, they pay Amazon to store and ship. How much money does that leave on an item that sells for $1.98?

I've also heard the rumor that Amazon sends out FBA products willy-nilly. I believe at one point Amazon has refuted that saying that all seller's items are kept by themselves and only their items are shipped when an item sells.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Bidonmine

Thu Sep 17 09:57:37 2015

I have an item that was returned just this week and Amazon has it marked in my reports as 'customer damaged' and they still put it back in my inventory as sellable (I only had one of these items on the initial listing). Fortunately I always keep an eye on return flow so I immediately marked it for return-to-me which pulled it from my inventory.  

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This user has validated their user name. by: FEEbay

Thu Sep 17 10:31:49 2015

We were suspended indefinitely from Amazon a little over a year ago, and it is the best thing that ever happened to us. Anyone who puts their business fate in the hands of either Ebay or Amazon needs to undergo Psych Evaluation. Amazon is gone, and we are working to free ourselves of Ebay/Paypal next.... It is a difficult undertaking, but it is the ONLY way

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by: Jester This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 17 10:52:19 2015

One problem I have had is when scanning product to sell or list on Amazon and having only one listing come up to place my offer under only to find out the listing is illegal in Amazons eyes. If they want to start cleaning up the joint why not start with policing themselves. Why do they allow gated item listings to be created in non-gated categories or worse prohibited or brand protected items with no limitation restriction warnings? It is impossible to keep up daily with all the updates to what is and what isn't allowed. It would even help if they sent out updates to sellers about such changes as they do ASIN changes and then eliminate listing that do not comply with these changes or show that they are restricted so we will know at a glance.

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This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Thu Sep 17 13:31:14 2015

Just like on eBay, there is no seller protection on Amazon. I doubt that those suspended will lose any sleep.  Both behemeth sized companies who are only concerned about their own bottom lines. We sell there, and for the most part have had no problems, but I prefer eCrater over any other venue.  The buyer is always going to be right on Amazon even when he isn't.

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by: shut1968 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 17 13:59:48 2015

FBA has always been a joke, sure, I want to pay MORE fee's to Amazon just so they can house my product and ship it. ''Co-mingling'' (mixing inventory of sellers together) has been going on for a while, if you buy a new item from seller ''Jo Blow''.. they will just go pull a  new one sent in by any seller from the warehouse closest to the customer and ship it out as long as it's new. You have to pay to ship your inventory to Amazon, then you have to pay to ship inventory back if it doesn't sell. Why in God's name would you want to raise the cost of your merchandise simply to have Amazon ship your item? For the glory of saying ''My items are FBA''? It doesn't improve sales, most of the time anything offered FBA can be found cheaper in the marketplace by a non FBA seller.

''Amazon Prime'' is a joke, NOTHING is free and your ignorant to think your getting a better deal just because you paid a ''membership fee'' to get great deals and free 2 day shipping.. 99% of the time you can get the item much cheaper from a non-FBA marketplace seller who actually has the item in stock in the condition described, it may not get there in 2 days but still relatively quick.

Amazon has no business repackaging items sent back by the customer and sticking it back in inventory, who are they to determine if the item is or is not damaged or defective? If they feel the customer was wrong and there is nothing wrong with the item that was returned they should credit the seller for the sale and put it in their own inventory, or pay to ship the item back to the seller since it's their ridiculous return policies that lead to the sellers loss of the sale anyways. Defective items are another story, if the seller sent in a defective item then yes, the seller should take that loss.

In regards to ''Bots Gone Wild''.. it's been going on for well over a year now, certain key words sent through the Amazon messaging system, product reviews and feedback can result in the restriction of a seller irregardless of what the reason those words were used for, forcing in many cases good sellers out of business or to send in invoices for their merchandise to try and beg to get their account unrestricted, and it can be something as simple as a question from a buyer after the sale that is trivial because they just didn't read the product description page which would have answered the question to begin with had they bothered to read it prior to making a purchase. We've pulled thousands of items out of Amazon over the past year and have been moving them over to eBay where our  own item descriptions allow us to the freedom to explain what the customer is buying, add our own photo's of the actual item they are purchasing so there is no excuse for the buyer to not know what they have purchased, and if a message comes in with one of those ''key words'' we aren't crucified for it and actually have the chance to deal with ''Our'' customer one on one in the off chance they didn't bother to read the item description.

Amazon peaked a few years ago, it's been on a downhill slide for a while now, falsely inflating it's bottom line to keep stockholders happy enough to not dump them. Sellers have been abandoning them and either moving to other marketplaces, their own websites, or just going back to a brick and mortar store front in order to keep alive and in business. We keep about 3500 products listed on Amazon and very rarely add any new items simply because it does still account for 1/4 of our sales, but over the past 8 months eBay has been just as busy with much less headaches and lower fee's.  and for those eBay haters out there who always respond with the ''freebay'', ''feebay'', etc etc comments... the fees are still less, and you get ripped off by Amazon customers far more than eBay customers or at the least just as much.. (I should not have to refund a customer who bought a DVD of ''Golf Tips and Drills'' simply because the customer watched it and didn't feel it helped their Golf game that much so now they want a refund.. Amazon would allow it, eBay won't)

I for one am glad you all despise the site so much, it keeps you out of the competition..  

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This user has validated their user name. by: White Rabbit

Thu Sep 17 16:09:08 2015

You have to wonder how all of this will play in the new Amazon Handmade Section? I tell you it is enough to make you scream and run with all the rules and complicated things to do. sounds scary

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by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Thu Sep 17 23:11:09 2015

Amazon and eBay are 2 totally different animals - but in my opinion - you need BOTH of them - since they are the 2 biggest players in ecommerce today.

Both platforms have TONS of issues for sellers. Each and every day, I spend 1/2 my time cleaning up messes caused by both companies - some easier to solve then others.

eBay was always "supposed to be" the anti Amazon. You list your goods, decide on your policies and ship when an item sold. Of course that all changed when JD came on board and turned eBAy from an ecommerce company into a "cash register" for eBay honchos. We cover eBay enough here - there are enough people (myself included) that have spoken of the ills of eBay and their THFT-TACULAR ways.

Amazon is another ball of wax ENTIRELY. Like the eBay of NOW - it too is "out to get you".

1) the customer is right - even when they admit to theft, abuse and misuse of items. They can say ANYTHING in a communication, exact and demand almost anything, and leave you deadly feedback if offended. eBays feedback as bad as it is - isnt as bad as Amazons.

2) Amazon WILL copy you eventually. Find a good item, make sales and Amazon via its computer program(s) will find you, that item, and undercut you. You will loose the buy box and the item usually ends up in PRIME.

2A) I saw someone mention PRIME ... FBA items get shown to PRIME customers (who are usually better then the generic customer) and they get higher placement in listings and search. That is the ONLY reason to do FBA - so your items sell faster (which they do - and to better customers).

3) Amazon AT WILL can and does block entire brands and items. All people (like SONY, Denon etc) have to do is ask Amazon to block items (for any reason they decide) and Amazon complies. Not so YET with eBay, though eBay has tried it before and is STILL playing with the "authorized dealer tag" to make it so that alot of sellers wont get sales based on what a customers thoughts/opinion would be about buying from a NONE authorized source.

Usually theres money involved (like what Amazon did with Sony and Monster)

4) Co-mingling goods. Popular skus get co-mingled all day, every day. People ROUTINELY send in fakes of items that are popular - since they get mixed up with the legit goods - and then either ask for items back a month later "washing the goods" (fakes go into FBA, originals come back) OR they just get sold as "original". Most cables (for example) on Amazon are fakes. People send in Chinese fakes as real into FBA.

5) Returns - they make eBay returns look like a walk in the park. You are LUCKY if you get back YOUR ITEM and its complete. Amazon does NOT check on completeness nor anything else. 30-45-60 days are standard. FBA goods are WORSE then standard goods as Amazon makes RETURNS a bellweather issue. Returns on eBay are MUCH better (as bad as they are).

You generally wont get a brick back on Amazon (as easily as you will on eBay) and if theres a SERIOUS issue - you can reason with Amazon and sometimes they will reimburse you (where as eBay says FU to sellers since they are  liars anyway.

6) Customer handling .... accusing buyers of bad behavior can and will get you into BIG trouble. eBay just treats buyers like snowflakes, Amazon treats buyers like they are the hope diamond. Bots can and will kick you for any thing they feel is "abusive" to their buyers.

7) Amazon is a race to the bottom and its encouraged by them via access to their APIs with programs like camelcamelcamel. I sell up against sellers to loose money on almost everything - just to turn goods - sometimes its IMPOSSIBLE to make money in certain SKUs.


There are lots of other Amazon issues - but its the devil you know and one that you need ... (or at least MOST of us need)

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This user has validated their user name. by: White Rabbit

Fri Sep 18 00:28:21 2015

Well I have an invite and link to sell handmade on Amazon. I really doubt i will be using it. It seems Amazon has taken Selling to the level of insanity.

Money is nice but why let them completely run you and every aspect of selling there except making the product. The TOU is totally bonkers and gives them every legal right.. I did not check but it may include the rights to your 1st born child?

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This user has validated their user name. by: White Rabbit

Fri Sep 18 18:13:25 2015

Well, i went over and tried it out Amazon. I was pleasantly surprised.

simple, Easy. I guess it pays to try things before saying they are hard. Of course the Handmade section may be a lot easier that other sections? and you get up to 30 days to ship out. The shipping was impressive as was the product form- no bar code things for handmade :-)

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This user has validated their user name. by: The End

Sun Sep 20 05:12:54 2015

To White Rabbit :
What is Amazon's total cut of your profit when it's all said and done ?
Thanks....

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This user has validated their user name. by: White Rabbit

Sun Sep 20 06:36:26 2015

15% right now but 25% later i think. This really is not an issue with me because i can greatly increase my prices if wanted- even double and still be in the realm of reasonable. I need decent sales. That is the thing Etsy and Ebay fail to provide to 90% of the handmade craftspeople because they decided to go the route of mass Junk. The Factory imports from Alibaba and even USA factories are distractions and run off serious buyers of Handmade. Quality Handmade commands a premium if displayed in the proper setting or site.

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This user has validated their user name. by: White Rabbit

Sun Sep 20 06:43:03 2015

It may be a little less but to be safe I raised the percentages somewhat. The first 8 months to a year the $40 a month fee is waived on Amazon Handmade and the fee is 12% for this time -  but later some categories are higher. I think to assume 25% total is safe for down the road total fee costs.



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