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Wed July 18 2018 09:22:59

Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

By: Ina Steiner

Sponsored Link

Online sellers are buzzing about Amazon's treatment of Cheapskates Liquidators in this CNBC report. It's a familiar tale of merchants who build up a business on an online marketplace only to be shut out with no clear explanation of why, and with seemingly no recourse.

(Be sure to see the update below for Amazon's response to this post.)

CNBC published the article on Amazon Prime Day (July 17), writing:

"Since mid-March, Cheapskates has been suspended from Amazon for a few vague complaints related to the sale of inauthentic items, all of which Schappert and her husband, George, say can be easily explained. Amazon has refused to readmit them, despite multiple appeals. The July 9 email came after the couple escalated their complaints all the way to the CEO. CNBC has viewed extensive documentation, which seems to back up the Schapperts' tale."

As is the case with Cheapskates, the risks of selling on Amazon are multiplied when storing inventory in its FBA fulfillment warehouses. The marketplace continues to charge the seller storage fees, and it charges sellers significant fees to get their products back after a suspension.

Amazon provided some statements to CNBC - this one has the potential to keep sellers awake at night:

"When a business registers to sell products through Amazon's Marketplace, Amazon's systems scan information for signals that the business might be a bad actor, and Amazon blocks identified bad actors before they can offer any products for sale. Amazon's systems also automatically and continuously scan numerous data points related to sellers, products, brands, and offers to detect activity that indicates products offered might be counterfeit."

Amazon uses automated systems to flag problem accounts, but by all accounts, its communication with those sellers are inconsistent and inadequate. It's unclear how and when humans get involved in decision-making and appeals.

Several readers forwarded us a link to the article, with one calling it illuminating. Another said when one of his marketplace accounts was unfairly suspended years ago, an overseas employee never asked or gave him a chance to prove his merchandise was authentic.

CNBC also noted that the marketplace group has undergone a reorganization, with Sebastian Gunningham leaving the company in April, and Peter Faricy reportedly "stripped of most of his responsibilities."

Update 7/18/18: After publishing this post, an Amazon spokesperson provided us with statements about its investments in policing its site generally, and specifically addressing the case of Cheapskates:

"We strictly prohibit the sale of counterfeit products and invest heavily - both funds and company energy - to ensure our policy against the sale of such products is followed. The seller in question was found violating multiple Amazon policies, including our anti-counterfeiting policy. They were given multiple opportunities to address the situation but showed a repeated pattern of behavior that was not in our customers' best interest, so we took actions to protect our customers and stop their illegal activity."

It's surprising to have an online company comment on a specific seller, in this case adamantly stating the seller violated its anti-counterfeiting policy.

In addition to defending its enforcement procedures, it defended its support of sellers:

"Amazon has large teams dedicated to helping sellers - many of them small businesses - be successful reaching and delighting customers. We expect all sellers to comply with the law and our policies, and we take steps to protect customers if they do not. We are committed to providing a great shopping experience and work closely with customers and sellers to resolve any concerns they may have."

(Interesting comments below.)



Comments (35) | Permalink

Readers Comments

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: sasikat9 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 11:23:27 2018

And everyone thinks ebay is bad.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 11:35:19 2018

Some thoughts...

1. This is just a casualty of competitor sabotage. It happens every day all day on Amazon.

2. Amazon only officially allows OEM-authorized sellers to sell products on there.

3. Oopsies for Amazon. This exact scenario is brought up daily on the Seller Forums. Fun to see it hit cable news. Most viewers won't know any better and will accept that big bad Amazon screwed them.

4. Boo CNBC for not understanding Amazon's policies before reporting on this story.

5. Amazon's biggest mistake was to "ghost" the seller. It's what they do to almost everyone who ends up with any kind of problem like this. The Seller Performance team is anonymous and impenetrable. There's no sort of personalized service or communication.

6. Further to #5... If Amazon doesn't want this to happen, they could simply communicate with sellers. Give specific answers why there was an account issue. And their vague, canned responses are not good enough. As-is, when there's a problem like this, you can expect one canned response, and then you'll be ghosted.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 11:37:09 2018

Another note... Amazon's unofficial policy regarding liquidation sellers is "innocent until proven guilty". They'll let everyone sell without a review process. But if they're caught selling unauthorized merchandise, they'll be suspended.

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by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 11:42:34 2018

Also:

Inauthentic = non-authorized merchandise. If you're selling a TV, and you're not authorized from the OEM, the TV will not carry a warranty. This is what inauthentic means.

Counterfeit = counterfeit. In example, you're importing made-in-China rip-off sunglasses, printing and attaching a designer label (and/or box), and selling them as though they're real.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: Snapped This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 12:10:07 2018

Assaulting the 'appearance' of malfeasance, despite defending evidence, projects an appearance of robust prosecution processes in place to combat 'actual' malfeasance.

Then they are more free to 'eventually also evaluate' (and save prosecutorial expenses for) the actual glaring occurrances.  Especially if those are committed by sponsoring and endorsed participants in the venture.

It might be worth it for this seller to investigate the feasibility for them to recover damages for defamation without cause, and for iny interest on funds delayed in disbursement, and any 'penalties' for the otherwise appealable sanctions during Amazon's suspension closure foot dragging.



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by: Carol Is Here This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 12:57:52 2018

This is why monopolies are so bad.

This is why Wall Street has been focusing a lot of energy in putting together the Amazon retail (and more!) monopoly- CONTROL.

Control based on the few getting wealthier, and everyone else as dependent slaves with few assets, thus no ability to influence legislators. Including eventually the buyers.

People should be organizing and hitting legislators hard to break up this monopoly, instead of buying from Amazon and tying their own noose (and the nooses of their friends and neighbors.)

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

This user has validated their user name. by: Rexford

Wed Jul 18 13:16:15 2018

"Amazon's systems scan information for signals that the business might be a bad actor"

Don't argue with the machine.  Machines are like sociopaths--no heart, no feeling, no empathy. They'll take you out, with no afterthought.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 13:46:30 2018

"And everyone thinks ebay is bad."

They are - VERO is as bad or worse - even when the law(s) presented to them that are "established case law" say othewise.

As for Amazon - they are "brutal" when it comes to garbage like that.

All it takes is a few complaints - especially if its from a big company - and you are gone. It doesnt matter to them if the complaints are real, made up, or true - all answers are the same answers.

Its why alot of brands are gated - its backroom dirty Amazon deals and "protection" for the brand.

As for these people  .......

There are a few missing pieces - and I wold tend to believe the sellers here and NOT Amazon - knowing their over zealousness.

As mentioned above - counterfeit complaints or not authorized or grey market - what "true" category were these items in?

Second - who was shipping the items? ALOT of times (and its a scam that Amazon has NEVER caught on to) is to send fakes in to FBA and check "comingled". That mixes up all the inventory together. Amazon "swears" they know where each piece that comes in is - but if you are a long time Amazon seller - you know thats %100 BS. With 1000s of trucks and items going in and out ... your items get lost easily. In fact, Amazon themselves can "borrow inventory" from your FBA account if they so choose.

These people could have sent in %100 perfect items, and they could have gotten comingled with someone elses - cant tell from the story

Why werent the invoices (that Amazon usually askes for) good enough for proof that they items were "kosher". Why were they ignored?

This is another one of those "if it doesnt make the news and embarrass Amazon, nothing will happen", though Amazon is much less caring about bad news (as apposed to eBay).

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

This user has validated their user name. by: iheartjacksparrow

Wed Jul 18 14:03:50 2018

I agree with Troy Stiffler; I believe this was competitor sabotage based on the wide range of items that were claimed to be counterfeit. If the Schapperts were only selling, say, watches, I might believe they knew they were selling counterfeits. But to be accused of counterfeit light bulbs, Bluetooth speakers, cigarette rolling papers, and child's bedding, that sounds like a person, or persons, wanted them off Amazon.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: RL15 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 14:14:17 2018

amazon did the right thing.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: Troy Stiffler This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 15:45:31 2018

@RL15

Correct. I know this isn't popular (heck, go look at the sad stories on Amazon Seller Forums). But Amazon is designed for factory-authorized merchandise. That's their rules. And it's mentioned when becoming a seller. Within their rules, the seller should have been selling the products as "collectible - new" (if available for the product/category) or "used".

I don't quite understand why they're not more blunt about that 'no grey market' rule. It's almost like they're purposely misleading their users. Reminds me of the false security that PayPal has offered since they started.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

This user has validated their user name. by: Ming the Merciless

Wed Jul 18 16:23:16 2018

Due process is a concept unfamiliar to both ebafia and Amafia.

They are judge, jury, and executioner with the only recourse being a lawsuit which would bankrupt most online businesses.

It's past time for the government to enforce consumer protection laws and relevant federal statutes (RICO, Sherman, et. al.) to control these predatory corporations.

Until Citizens United is overturned -- which seems increasingly unlikely with the current Supreme Court -- corporations will continue customer abuse in the name of profits because elected officials want their campaign contributions.

The only alternative is continued, relentless bad publicity. Ebafia is now learning what ten years of seller abuse has wrought for them.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: NDrosos This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 16:56:11 2018

"And everyone thinks ebay is bad."

They are both bad. For completely different reasons.

Amazon is bad because their customer service systems are mostly automated, and it's not possible to speak to someone with any authority to fix problems you have. They just tell you to write an appeal, which 9/10 times gets auto rejected by the automated system, even if it hits all the points they ask for. Also, customer service agents tend to tell you what you want to hear, because they send you that silly little review after and want that good rating.

EBay is bad because they completely manipulate every aspect of search results, and don't allow users to have a fair marketplace, or any form of transparency on to why you do (or do not) appear in search.

I've had my issues with both.

On Amazon, I received a trademark violation notice from Eagle brand, on an item that was NOT eagle brand?

It should be an open and shut case, right? Took months to get resolved. Finally got someone on the phone who escalated it in a way that actually got back to the team.

A month later we had a case where one of our listing team, who was an intern from Korea who did not have the greatest english, said for "Apex" rather than "Apex Turbo", and this triggered an inauthentic violation.

We explained that Apex Turbo is correct, and there's no brand for this item named just "Apex". Provided information regarding this. We wrote up the requested plan of action for a double check of our listing procedures. We provided evidence that we were officially allowed to sell the brand.

We tried for months, and the appeal was auto rejected by Amazon every time. Supervisors helped us write it and made sure everything was good. They had notes saying to call the store and explain why. Seller performance updated a note on our account saying they were calling us to explain, we never received a call!

In the end, our store was permanently banned by Amazon for this.

Then eBay... I can give eBay a little bit of props because their customer service actually does have the ability to help you in most cases. But eBay's policies are more and more screwed up as time goes on.

We were #1 in our category on eBay for 4-5+ years. By far. Meaning more than 2x the sales of the next seller.

Then this year, there was only 2 months out of the entire year that we had normal visibility. For the rest of the year, our impressions plummeted. By more than half for the majority of the time. We lost hundreds of thousands of dollars due to this issue, and still are not back to normal yet.

I discovered a huge number of technical issues, and the CS team does not even have a way to connect you to the tech team (whileI spoke to the Amazon tech team several times). The tech team dismissed it, and most of these bugs still persist.

The market share according to Terapeak for top sellers dropped from 40% to 32% in the one year of these changes. Terapeak is owned by eBay now. Based on their own statistics, top sellers lost almost 25% of their market share in a year. In our category, only 1 seller has benefited from these changes, and that 1 seller does NOT follow eBay's best practices. All other stores have lost sales without explanation.

I've personally discovered a bug that still persists, where eBay miscalculates your listings, and after this bug happens, your listings suddenly lose visibility. You might have had 6000 listings last month, 7000 listings this month, and eBay tells you "Listings down 30%". Then your impressions plummet.

Once this bug works its way out, you might still have 7000 listings, and it says "Listings up 30%". Suddenly, your impressions return to normal.

I confirmed these results with 5 other sellers who have had the issue where they suddenly lost 50% or more in sales, and then they get this "listing up" notice when the problem is alleviated.

They have also had issues with search. It will say "14 results found", but only ONE single listing appears. One seller. No other seller will receive any impressions!

The seller forum is flooded with sellers who have this issue, and eBay has not recognized it public yet. A large number of sellers have had ZERO sales since June.

Regarding customer service, I was escalated to 3 different people who all suddenly disappeared after telling me they believe there's an issue. One of them was a supervisor. Then I finally got to speak to one after a month of not hearing from any of them, and he was extremely rude, claiming he told me things he never told me.

Then once I speak to him again, he tells me directly that he is no longer allowed to speak to me anymore, and eBay forum CSR's confirm that we were treated improperly by customer service, and now we will be treated correctly.



I could sit here for hours writing about the ridiculous amount of bugs I've seen in the last month alone. It's seriously a new one almost daily. Yesterday Guaranteed Delivery statistics suddenly developed 40 late items from July 6th, when as of July 13th they were marked on time, and we have the shipping records to prove it. The day before, listings that were ENDED were AUTOMATICALLY RELISTED, with best offer turned on!

Not to mention they changed their return policies and don't even offer adequate time for late items to be delivered - now it's 3 days past expected arrival date they can open an INR, and if there's no tracking updates for one week (NOT business days, just one FLAT week) its decided against the seller. No longer will they put it on a 10 day hold to see if the item shows up. And you will get a defect for "closed without seller resolution". You receive absolutely no protection for shipping on time. Even if you use guaranteed delivery which supposedly protects you from late shipments, this does not apply to INR's. They want you to immediately refund the buyer. Oh, but if the INR is delivered after the case is decided? Too bad. EBay has no policy that states they must send the item back to the seller! So they get the item, PLUS a refund, and seller gets NOTHING aside from money taken from their account.

They are encouraging users to offer free returns, and have directly stated public that high return rates can affect visibility???

So yes. EBay is bad. So is Amazon.

We might not be able to sell on Amazon anymore, and their automated system may make it near impossible to resolve certain issues.

But even with not being able to sell on Amazon anymore, we have not seen nearly the level of corruption, ill-willed intent, manipulation of search results, lack of transparency, and the sheer amount of ridiculous major technical bugs that eBay has had in the last year. Despite dozens of major bugs still persisting, they are moving forward at full speed implementing MORE broken things.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: maxmad This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 18:06:40 2018

ebay has done 10x worse . at least amazon gave a reason

and all the china sellers doing far more counterfeiting it's business as usual

never put all your business in control of any monopoly, one day it could all be gone,

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

This user has validated their user name. by: RKTOYS

Wed Jul 18 18:56:48 2018

Amazon is terrible with robots and not being able to reach a real person.  Even if you do reach a person, they just lie to get you off the phone.  That didn't change if I was a buyer either.  

I am absolutely not surprised that they allowed counterfeits to comingle with somebody's inventory and then lied about contacting them after being embarrassed on the nightly news.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 19:27:54 2018

Brand issues come from the brands themselves - not eBay or Amazon.

The issue is how they are handled and why.

In Amazons case - A) they are a juicy target for lawsuits aka allowing items the brands dont want sold and B) the brands threaten to take their brand OFF Amazon if Amazon doesnt "clean the brand up".

So Amazon gates, or gives you violations. Amazon doesnt care what you have to say, why it happened - they just look at the money aspect - the brand is BIG and you are small - so you get the shaft.

As far as eBay goes .... VERO was only created to get themselves out of trouble aka so they dont get sued again like in the Vitton case. eBay could care less about fakes and Chinese garbage - in fact they encourage, inspire, direct and help Chinese makers create "inspired works". They ONLY CARE when a lawsuit may be involved. VERO doesnt even look at the paperwork - it could say "your mom is a monkey" and that would be fine with them. They just want the issue to go away - and VEROing you is how they solve the issue.

Ive pointed out to them MANY times that some of their rules (VERO issues) are outright false and pointed them so settled case law. Only to have them email me back "we dont care to get into this issue with you, take it up with someone else" aka they wont stand by their sellers even when they are right.

Amazon (in general) in these situations are WORSE then eBay - as mentioned above - its all automated on Amazon - they dont care about you or your issue, at least on eBay you can get a half dead moron from the Distrust and Unsafe department to reply via email.

Both of these companies re out only for themselves - thats why I WHOLEHEARTEDLY take as much advantage of them both as possible - by making off site sales and more!

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: pace306 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 19:29:43 2018

Lastly - NO WHERE in currect case law does it say you must be an "authorized dealer" for an item you sell.

The law does say you cant say you are authorized when you are not, and that you cant use thier pictures or text in your listings.

So the excuse that someone is doing anything wrong by not being an authorized dealer is baloney.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: dander This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 19:51:38 2018

Pace I have been to not one but three Amazon sites as a field tech for a former company. They know who owns what from a $100k item to a penny item, even in the case of co mingled items. In the agreement anyone that sells on amazon signs you agree that you have approval from the supplier to sell the item, and you may have to prove it. People send in copies of a walmart receipt or an invoice from joe's liquidation and get busted. You violated Amazon's rules, its their site not yours. Same as when people violate pricing agreements. They may not sue you, but they sure as shit don't have to sell to you again. One of my vendors told me about a amazon seller boasting that he can sell her items at whatever price he wants, and she can't do crap about it. She told him point blank, you violate our pricing agreement we will cease to do business with you. What do the sidewalk lawyers have to say about that? Amazon also warns you before you get a permanent suspension, and they usually work with you the first time. So sorry Ming, Jack Sparrow and the other haters, there is no recourse here, If there was lawyers would be on in already. Life isn't fair and you have to play by the rules, if you don't you might caught. Don't whine about not knowing the rules.

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: comments This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 20:36:17 2018

@sasikat9

Ebay is a great company. I don't think they are bad. The only bad things ebay has done was copy amazon's bad policies.

Regarding this story. I am glad this seller got banned. Sellers of counterfeits kill off honest sellers and put harmful junk into the marketplaces.

I even saw reports in seller feedback where sellers of fake flea drops and/or reboxed overseas product repacked into US looking boxes were being repackaged incorrectly where dog drops made it into cat boxes killing or harming the customer cats. Counterfeiting can be very dangerous if not simply unfair competition against sellers of genuine.

Ebay's problem is that they simply are not listening to their customers. They decide what they "want" based on what amazon does rather then actually listening to us.

Before amazon reselling and the newer idiotic fee structure I used to buy everything on ebay. But since everything I buy comes in a walmart or smile box I only shop at walmart or the smile place directly. Seems stupid to me to have people middle man my purchases and steal my identity to buy products in my name.........and ebay thinks I want 3 day shipping? Sooooooo out of touch with our real needs.....

Perminate Link for Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business   Sellers Buzzing about Amazon Suspension of Family Business

by: kilogirl78 This user has validated their user name.

Wed Jul 18 20:56:13 2018

Been suspended twice on amazon.  First time had to show receipts of my own brand from the factories.  Second time it was because one of my employees used a work computer to purchase amazon prime and it violated something with my amazon business purchasing account.  So why my selling account was suspended... No idea.  

When you are suspended you lose all rights to see anything to do with selling.  And the customer service people don't have access to any data so they can just tell you "maybe its because of" and to be patient.  I had fba items too so the stress of not knowing why I was suspended (cause I just got a your suspended notice not a reason) along with how do i get my inventory back when I can't speak to anyone that knows anything stress has made me leery of amazon.  I ended up losing a few thousand in sales until my employee could fax pnoof that he did not reside at my work location. End result...  I enjoy amazon sales when I get them but not putting all my eggs in one basket.

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