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.)