Appeagle Repricing Glitch Causes Penny Listings on Amazon
By Ina Steiner
It's every seller's nightmare - a glitch that results in products being listed - and sold - for a penny instead of their regular price. It happened for about 15 minutes on Tuesday to some Amazon sellers, but the third-party vendor whose clients were affected said it's making good.
Appeagle was pushing an update to Amazon in order to conform to the marketplace's new requirements for repricing software when it noticed a problem in one line of code. It affected all listings in which sellers had left the "minimum price" field blank, dropping prices for those listings to a penny. Spokesperson Zee Mehler said it noticed the glitch within 15 minutes and corrected it, but not before some savvy shoppers on Amazon spotted some of the penny-listings and purchased them.
Mehler said Appeagle immediately contacted Amazon and was able to work with the marketplace and have it cancel all FBA orders (those orders that Amazon ships out on behalf of the merchant). All other orders had to be cancelled by the merchants themselves.
A merchant reported the problem on the Ecommerce EKG board on Tuesday afternoon. Another Amazon merchant who wished to remain anonymous emailed EcommerceBytes. He said Appeagle repriced his listings to one cent and said it stayed that way for over 20 minutes - during that time, over a dozen orders came in, several of the items worth hundreds of dollars.
"The listings that were affected were the ones I did NOT want appeagle to touch and did not set up pricing rules," he said. "I left them blank and they priced them to .01 today."
He forwarded a copy of an email he received from Appeagle that stated, "The Amazon Seller Performance team has made notes in the accounts of our users acknowledging that the error belongs to Appeagle and not the sellers. Your cancellation metrics may still be affected in your backend but due to this notation, Amazon will not hold you responsible or suspend your account for canceling these orders.
However, the seller said his Amazon account was suspended today. "No one at Appeagle would give me a straight answer. I got in-touch with amazon seller support and about an hour later my account was re-instated."
Online merchants live with the constant worry of meeting marketplace's seller standards. Appeagle's Mehler said merchants were understandably upset by having to cancel orders because they want to fulfill - "they don't want to lose their standing" with Amazon, he said. "No one affected (by the glitch) will have it affect their seller reputation," he said.
Amazon would not confirm how it would count cancellations resulting from today's glitch in merchants' performance metrics.
Repricing software is designed to automate the process of price adjustments, especially on Amazon.com where prices are extremely dynamic as many merchants vie to win the Buy Box for their products.
Repricing has become so prevalent, in fact, that Amazon has begun prohibiting third-party developers from scraping data to power their repricing engines and is making them use its MWS API to programmatically exchange data. (See last year's EcommerceBytes Newsflash story, Amazon Asks FBA Sellers and Developers to Migrate to MWS.)
Amazon began taking steps to enforce the MWS policy in June of this year (EcommerceBytes has been researching the issue for an upcoming article).
Tuesday's glitch shows just how powerful repricing software is, and how important it is for merchants to be actively engaged in using and monitoring the tools.
Mehler said 100 users were impacted by the glitch, and only for those profiles in which the sellers had not set minimum prices. Appeagle will issue about $25,000 in credits towards future usage, he said.
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About the author:
Ina Steiner is co-founder and Editor of EcommerceBytes and has been reporting on ecommerce since 1999. She's a widely cited authority on marketplace selling and is author of "Turn eBay Data Into Dollars" (McGraw-Hill 2006). Her blog was featured in the book, "Blogging Heroes" (Wiley 2008). Follow her on Twitter at @ecommercebytes and send news tips to email@example.com.
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