Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?

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Herts, England United Kingdom
Andy
Kudos: 11,637
Joined: Jan 1, 2001
Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
8 Jan 2016
Amazon suspensions were a very hot topic last year, and I can see that continuing in 2016.

But I see a polarized discussion between those who are fearful of being banned, and those who think there's nothing to worry about as long as you provide good customer service.

How worried should sellers be? When should they be worried and when should they not?

[Last edited: 8 Jan 2016]
Andy Geldman, Web Retailer
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Midlothian, VA United States
Jax Music Supply
Kudos: 2,387
Joined: May 25, 2009
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
10 Jan 2016
@Andy

I'm somewhat fearful and it is a top priority for me to mitigate our risk as much as possible in 2016. We were banned from Amazon Canada at the end of November. The reason given was that we had like 6 late shipment orders. What had happened was that Thanksgiving was a holiday here in the US at the end of November. It counted as a business day in Canada, and thus we had less time than normal to ship, according to Canada. We appealed (based on this) and heard nothing. We didn't worry too much at the time as we were too busy with our US Christmas business and did not want to push too hard.

We followed up towards the end of December. Amazon Canada required a specific "Plan of Action" for correcting their perceived issues. I explained that this was a result of their Calendar versus the US calendar but that wasn't good enough. I provided a plan of action, which was basically what already do. In any case, this really motivated me to do several things this year.

I will pack and print labels for my Amazon Canada items even if they cannot go out immediately. I didn't ship due to the holiday and it probably cost me $3k in sales for December. Obviously this means fewer days off since I only take postal holidays. I will be shipping my Amazon orders to Canada on 01/18 even though it is a US holiday and nothing will be picked up. It is not a holiday in Canada so I have to be cognizant of this.

My other plan is to do whatever I can to get more website business. The marketplaces have kept me busy enough to this point to make websites secondary. This can no longer be a secondary consideration as the risk from suspensions is too great. If Amazon US suspended me, it would be difficult to cover my overhead (mainly my salary) as well as keep up with inventory needs. Ebay is stagnant and cannot support my business alone.
Ted
Germany Germany
Ted
Kudos: 104
Joined: Nov 26, 2015
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
11 Jan 2016
For my older business, I relied heavily on Amazon as they were my bread & butter, providing a steady stream of fixed-price sales for books. They were the best place to sell books - meaning the best prices for me the seller. I didn't even bother with the other online book services because I sold about 10% of my inventory off Amazon every month. eBay was only good for really unique wares or bulk auctions. The short of it is I would just do what they think needs to be done. Amazon is clearly trying to weed out the bad eggs so just show you are not one, take responsibility with any faults & be thankful for this great opportunity to make money.
United States United States
ScarfKing
Kudos: 333
Joined: Oct 7, 2014
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
12 Jan 2016
My impression was that most people get suspended because of sharp practices like trying to game the review system or misrepresenting items, but I see it can happen for petty reasons and be very difficult to correct.

We've grown quickly on Amazon and I appreciate what they do, but as we become more dependent on Amazon, I do fear their actions. We've been dinged for A-Z Claims that were either completely spurious or were 100% the fault of the buyer ("I gave you the wrong address. Now my shipment isn't here. You tried to rip me off!"). We've also had people leave negative reviews for no discernible reason other than that they woke up that morning looking for someone to punish. In all these cases, we end up being told that it's an automated process and there's nothing that can be done about it, or else we're pointed to policies that favor the buyer, no matter what.

We originally started with Amazon as a customer acquisition strategy, but this past year we're finding that customers still prefer to buy on Amazon and don't become clients of our site. This is similar to China, where the Alibaba-owned sites (Tao Bao, Tien Mao) dominate all ecommerce, and stand-alone sites barely exist. This may be the future of ecommerce in the West. Also, we're nervous about offering incentives on our website, as in the US, Amazon can suspend you for selling on another site at a lower price, even your own (Europe prohibited that policy as a restraint of trade issue.)

We try to deal with it by rigidly following the TOS and using FBA for most of our inventory, but it's disconcerting to know that Amazon can arbitrarily raise fees, commissions, change it's policies etc and there's nothing we can do about it. Realistically, squeezing their sellers seems like an inevitable growth strategy when a business achieves near-monopoly power. Hope I am wrong. I hate to see Ebay dying for that reason.

One interesting side note: when we added up the costs of hosting our site, Adwords, development fees, credit card fees (about 4%!) etc we ended up having a higher profit margin on Amazon. Go figure . . .

[Last edited: 12 Jan 2016]
Midlothian, VA United States
Jax Music Supply
Kudos: 2,387
Joined: May 25, 2009
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
12 Jan 2016
@ScarfKing

Interesting comment about the customer acquisition not working. I find the same thing on most marketplace sites. I have customers that ordered from me multiple times through several marketplaces. Eventually, they do convert, but when I looked it was like 6 orders in. Not that many customers will order 6 times in the first place. Hell, I've had customers call me for a question and then order from Amazon or Ebay. I had a customer call me 5 times about a $6 item. I even sent him a sample at my cost ($2.14) US. He then ordered from eBay even after I told him he could order through the website or I could take it over the phone. I am afraid to add up how much money I lost on that transaction!
Supplier
United States United States
eGrowth Partners
Kudos: 31
Joined: Jan 14, 2016
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
14 Jan 2016
Sellers should be worried enough to take action. There are specific things that sellers can do to avoid suspension and stay on top of the metrics that are getting most of them suspended these days - product quality. The real key is reviewing returns every week for product quality issues and trying to fix them when they accumulate on an ASIN. Product quality issues are when items are returned for inauthentic, used sold as new, not as described and more. Those are the ones sellers need to focus on to avoid suspension. Amazon won't give you their metrics for product quality problems but we (my reinstatement consulting firm) recommend that when you have 3 quality problems on an ASIN to stop selling it until you can figure out what the problem is and fix it. By being proactive and taking care of the problem before Amazon sends you a warning, you can help prevent suspension.
United States United States
ScarfKing
Kudos: 333
Joined: Oct 7, 2014
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
14 Jan 2016
@Cynthia Stine
Thanks, Cynthia. We are completely legit in all our merchandise, but I find that I sometimes get negative reviews for completely spurious reasons. We've had people give us 1 star reviews because they thought an item didn't look handmade (it WAS handmade). Some people are just idiots, and you're at their mercy. When we complain to Amazon about getting negative reviews for nonsensical reasons, they refuse to do anything to help us, at most they say they'll add a note to our file.

Do we need to contest every negative review? I think we have 3 out of 150 reviews total.
Supplier
United States United States
eGrowth Partners
Kudos: 31
Joined: Jan 14, 2016
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
14 Jan 2016
@ScarfKing Yes, you should dispute every negative seller review. Can't hurt and it might help. One of the pieces of information that Amazon uses to determine who gets the buy box and for how long is their positive feedback percentage. We tell all our clients that they want to be at 97% or better in order to get the most time in the Buy Box.

Cheers,
Cynthia
United States United States
ScarfKing
Kudos: 333
Joined: Oct 7, 2014
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
15 Jan 2016
@Cynthia Stine

Cynthia, we are already below 97% for this 90 day period for completely ridiculous reviews. One woman complained because her scarf had too many creases. It had creases because it was folded and ironed and shipped in a plastic sleeve, as we do for thousands of scarves! But this has lowered our rating. In another review, the person seems to have confused our item with something else they ordered, and claims it is not as described (it is exactly as described and pictured)

It seems there are a certain amount of crackpots out there who relish the chance to punish someone, and it's hard to keep that percentage below 3%, not matter how well you run your company.
Supplier
United States United States
ecommerceChris
Kudos: 37
Joined: Jun 19, 2015
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
17 Jan 2016
@Andy

I think any seller not running a tight ship operationally should be worried but also sellers who do not communicate well with Amazon must improve that this year. Even good sellers with good product are seeing policy warnings flow in from Product Quality teams. These are generated from buyer complaints and turn into automated warnings against sellers who may or may not have an actual inventory or product description problem. Typically, that only gets sorted out a bit too late once an account review is underway and manual investigations into the account weigh an account suspension.

Always be on top of the messages Amazon performance and policy teams send out to you. Research the matter internally and compose a worthwhile, informative response because you'll need to have your account annotated for future reference. More worry is better than less worry in terms of risk mitigation, especially when it comes to the topsy- turvy world of selling on Amazon. With their Transaction Risk Management Services teams, you never know when managers or processes will change. Some SOPs are not followed in the course of account investigations and generally chaos can intrude at any given moment to affect your sales.

Make sure you have instituted item quality checks for all products and that you know your suppliers well. Anything less than 100% matching products to your listings on the site could mean the end of the account for good.

The shorter answer to this is to be worried when you hear from Amazon regarding negative buyer experiences, authenticity concerns about your items, or regarding any kind of item condition complaints. Those teams aren't kidding and they aren't going away anytime soon. Respond in depth after your own internal operations review.
United States United States
ScarfKing
Kudos: 333
Joined: Oct 7, 2014
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
17 Jan 2016
@Cynthia Stine

Cynthia: thank you so much for this advice!

I contacted Amazon about each of the negative feedbacks that were applied to our account. I had read the Amazon guidelines but had misinterpreted them. It turns out if someone gives you negative feedback based on the product itself, rather than your service, it can be removed. Our few negatives were based on people's (generally unrealistic) expectations. These were removed by Amazon once we called attention to them.

On the other hand, Amazon distinguishes between Feedback and Product Reviews. Product Reviews are the opposite: they are not associated with a given order id and customers can berate you for anything they want. These cannot be taken down regardless of their content (barring obscenity, etc)

Very appreciative of your extremely helpful words. Thanks for taking the time to post.
Nottingham United Kingdom
Bigian13
Kudos: 2,304
Joined: Feb 21, 2014
Re: Amazon suspensions: how worried should sellers be?
19 Jan 2016
Anybody who has a decent turnover on Amazon should be worried about suspension, no matter how good they are.

Amazon will quickly suspend anybody who they feel is letting their customers down.

We were suspended for 3 days in July last year for selling ' counterfeit / fake goods ' until we pointed out to Amazon that we had sold over 2000 of this item and had only had this one complaint. This suspension cost around £3500 in lost sales for the 3 days and we were quickly reinstated. It does show though how quickly Amazon reacts to customer complaints and how you need to react to reinstate your business.
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