Season 1, Episode 33

Amazon’s New Appeal Forms

Amazon has been “simplifying” the appeal process for some policy violations, in order to lighten the caseload for their investigators. Chris and Leah discuss this change, and what sellers need to know before you submit these new types of appeals.

 

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00:07] Chris: Hi everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Seller Performance Solutions. I’m Chris McCabe of ecommerceChris, former Amazonian, current Amazon seller account consultant. And I’m here with another seller account consultant, Leah McHugh. Always a pleasure to talk about good news in the Amazon seller space.

We have some news today. Some of it’s good, some of it’s bad, but let’s start with the good news on these appeal templates for ACE and reinstatements that Amazon started pumping through Seller Central for the so-called used sold as new condition complaints. These were baffling for years, people were only selling, used only selling new items and constantly being asked to appeal or hit an appeal button in seller central to submit a plan of action or other kinds of appeals to prove they weren’t selling used items.

But these are really conditioned complaints that were being misinterpreted because of the category name of the complaint.

[00:01:08] Leah: We’ve talked about that before. It’s essentially a condition complaint. They just use weird language because it’s Amazon.

[00:01:15] Chris: So people who probably had items that were damaged in transit or had inventory for whichever reason that didn’t appear a hundred percent knew when the buyer opened the package, were sending invoices showing see, we only get new items, or we only sell new items that are authentic, that are from reliable sourcing. The traditional mismatch of bad communication from Amazon, but then people were communicating the wrong content back.

[00:01:39] Leah: That doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer didn’t complain that it was used, but I mean, the question is if you’re only selling new products, why would somebody think it’s used?

And a lot of sellers weren’t answering that question, they were just coming back with documentation or even just the statement. We only sell new products. We saw that a few times and obviously you just get a denial right away.

[00:01:57] Chris: Yeah. I’ve seen those right through October and they were burning through appeals to the point where Amazon wasn’t even responding to them anymore.

Of course, give Amazon a chance to ignore you they’ll take it every time. The good news here is that they’ve got this checklist, right? You promise to do certain things, you verify that you’ve taken certain quality control steps that you’ve inspected packaging and so forth. And then you can essentially submit that and reinstate yourself.

Where did this come from? Why are they doing it? Some of that’s just correcting past history. They shouldn’t have really flagged these the way they had in the first place. But the other reason is that Amazon was drowning in appeals and re-appeals and plans of action and revise POAs. They couldn’t handle the load of all the emails that essentially they created themselves.

So they had to create a system for you to be able to promise that you’ll do certain things without writing a plan of action that you would have emailed in or submitted through Seller Central. Somebody at Seller Performance would have either looked at or not looked at, not really reviewed, not taken seriously, declined, kicked back to you with generic copy and paste messaging like you haven’t sent us enough information or you haven’t proven you’ve implemented remedies or greater details. These aren’t details that we can accept, we need more details from you without saying what those details might include. So they’re trying to reduce the amount of work they’re creating for themselves.

[00:03:20] Leah: 
And I’m actually interested to see if this is just something that they’re doing for Q4. If they’ll go back to the old way, once things slow down for their teams, maybe it’s just like a short staffed, overworked stop gap solution. So I’ll be interested to see what they actually end up doing with this, because I think the danger here is that it makes it very easy to ignore if you’re just ticking off the boxes and be like, yup, yup, yup. Done it. Everything’s fine. Then it encourages sellers to not take it as seriously and to not necessarily actually look into the issues that caused the complaint in the first place, just tick off the boxes and keep operating the way they’re operating.

And it’s not just something you have to tick off. It’s still a warning a nd it’s still something you need to take seriously, because same as any other policy warning or any other blocked listing, if it keeps happening, they’re eventually going to do something else and take greater action against your account.

[00:04:22] Chris: Initially, we had a lot of people contacting us. We always ask what was the notification? What did it say? What did it ask you for? Show us a screenshot. Some people were telling us, oh, I don’t have that anymore. It’s gone. I already checked off all the boxes and submitted it.

[00:04:35] Leah: Right. So interested in fixing the problem right away that it’s not actually being considered or taken seriously or even investigated or implemented.

[00:04:44] Chris: Was anything actually changed or did they just do it because they had to get the ASIN back up and they wanted to get it over with and they had the opportunity? I don’t think that everyone making these promises understood that they were pledging to never have these problems again based on those boxes they were checking. Then is this temporary or permanent? We saw that they started doing it recently with expired items. So now we’ve got the used sold as new and the expired items. Will they be doing it with authenticity?

[00:05:15] Leah: I’ve been seeing them doing that with authenticity. They’re just asking for invoices.

[00:05:19] Chris: Jury is still out on authenticity because they still want to reserve the right to force sellers to prove their listing and selling the same stuff that they’re advertising, but also the supply chain documentation needs to be accepted and if you’re reselling you need to provide proof of genuine, legitimate sourcing of the items or relationships with the brands. But I think it’s trending in that direction of permanently keeping these because they realize that this is a fool’s errand to begin with. They’re just flagging something to show that they took an action, but they know it’s a road exercise and they’re training sellers to get into the rope routine exercise of just checking these boxes.

[00:06:01] Leah: 
Actually I disagree. I don’t think it’s going to work out and I think they’re going to have to change it back because similar to the pre-POAs, Sellers just didn’t take it as seriously. So when they make these changes to make it easier, unfortunately what happens is that the things don’t actually get done.

I’m not saying that the sellers are always at fault, but I’m saying that this is giving them a very easy out and it makes it less likely that actual issues are going to be resolved. And I think that Amazon will find that they have designed more of these by having it this way.

I’m not saying that they won’t send them in part, but I don’t think it’s going to be an across the board checklist for everything going forward, because they’re going to find that they’re just going to have the same problems over and over again.

[00:06:44] Chris: Maybe not. I can explain my logic. The reason I think it might stick around longer than you anticipate is because they’re going to see the reduction in appeals and queue levels. It’s going to help them catch up and they’re going to see that it eases their workload, whether it’s entirely out of self-interest or not.

[00:07:01] Leah:
 If they see an increase in customer dissatisfaction then they’re not going to keep it to keep their queue levels down.

[00:07:07] Chris: Oh, sure. The chicken and egg stuff will continue. It’s gone on for years. We experienced this when I was working there, they’d say everyone has to speed up. Everyone’s going too slowly, more investigations per hour, more contacts handled per hour, etc. Then of course, everyone raced through the work and then they started seeing bad investigations and poor quality investigation work.

And then they said, wait, wait, wait, we’re getting too many complaints from buyers, we’re getting too many complaints from sellers. Slow it down, do better quality work. I think there’s at least a sign of recognition on Amazon side that the way they were doing it was broken, which I think is positive. It needs to be fixed. And maybe they’re willing to experiment a little bit with solutions, which is also positive. But the downside is, do we trust them to be able to implement a fix properly?

Because we’ve seen them do this in the past in a very haphazard way. And we’ve seen the results, right? I think sellers are kind of uniformly in agreement about how these things have been handled in the past. So hope Springs eternal, but it’s Q4. And we caution everyone listening to this. Against just saying I can’t have this ASIN down for more than a few days. It’ll cost me too much money. So I’m just going to check these boxes, whether or not I’m implementing these solutions.

[00:08:21] Leah: I think it also would potentially give Amazon an excuse to be quicker to suspend accounts. If they say we warned you about this three times, three times you told us you’d fix the problem, the problem isn’t fixed. Well, that’s an account suspension. I can’t imagine that they’re just going to keep sending these and just dealing with issues continuing.

[00:08:43] Chris: Yeah and I have a case that is currently in front of us where the same ASIN was suspended for the same reason. Twice.

[00:08:51] Leah: Right. We’ve seen that before, so now it’s just that much easier for that to happen.

[00:08:56] Chris: 
When the client called account health or where they were asking, when they were appealing it on their own before they came to us, hit a brick wall. It was because account health said, well, you sent a similar plan of action last time. So why should we believe this one? It’s the same stuff. And of course the POA was similar because it was the same reason. All that means is Amazon believes you haven’t implemented those solutions.

[00:09:16] Leah: That’s something that we’ve been telling our clients or people who are looking to hire us if you’re resuspended for the same reason, you now need to address why your last plan of action didn’t work in your new plan of action.

It’s not just, we already did this. There’s clearly still an issue. Something needs to be improved. That’s what Amazon expects. There are gaps in your last plan, or it wasn’t implemented properly.

[00:09:41] Chris: It’s interesting that you brought up the pre POA because I think part of the problem was account health was calling people saying you MAY be suspended in 24 hours.

[00:09:50] Leah: They’re still doing that.

[00:09:51] Chris: You MAY have 72 hours. You have 72 hours that parts consistent, but people were submitting them within 72 hours and then sometimes not hearing back for a couple of weeks.

[00:10:03] Leah: Or at all. Sometimes they would just never hear anything about it again, but the account didn’t go down. So I guess they accepted.

[00:10:08] Chris: I’d say we had a good dozen people who just never heard about it, it never came up again. So it was completely forgotten. And maybe they called into account health to say, am I okay now?

Am I not? Am I waiting? Am I doing something else? And some of the account health reps were like, oh, well it hasn’t been reviewed yet. So you’re not okay. And then others. Oh, if they haven’t done something by now than I think you’re okay. Which are two diametrically opposing responses. So part of the pre POA fiasco was communication was just extremely poor in that whole process.

I don’t know if this is analogous or not yet. Time will tell.

[00:10:45] Leah: Are you saying Amazon had a process with extremely poor communication? Whaat?

[00:10:50] Chris: Well, it was weird that people were told you got to submit this or you’ll be suspended within 24 hours. And some of them didn’t get the calls or didn’t get the message within 24 hours. So obviously they didn’t write and do the pre-POA within that time. And nothing happened. There was such a backlog.

[00:11:08] Leah: That was my joke.

It’s dark comedy, right? It’s a joke, but it’s potentially threatening someone’s account. So in summary: first of all, if you’ve got some of these templates, you’re not sure whether or not you should over commit or over promise and under deliver, feel free to show some of these to us.

[00:11:25] Chris: 
We’re happy to weigh in. And this is a fluid situation. It’s Q4. They might roll out some other templates. If you see something other than you sold as new or expired or any of the things we’ve mentioned. Listing variations, feel free to show them to me or to the variation expert guru/professor, Leah.

[00:11:47] Leah: Don’t call me a guru.

[00:11:47] Chris: You hate the word guru right now. That was my little joke, but dead pan. Feel free to ask us questions about any of this stuff, because obviously lots of stuff is interesting and jumbled around in Amazon land, especially this Q4. So thanks again for listening. Thank you, Leah. And I’ll talk to you soon.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh

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