Season 1, Episode 59

Protecting Your Account with the Correct Documentation

Amazon has been amping up their requirements for supply chain and product information in order to push back on counterfeit products and bad actors. In this episode Chris and Leah go over the correct documentation and invoice information needed to confirm to Amazon that your products are legitimately sourced from verifiable suppliers.

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions, I’m here with Leah McHugh. Hey Leah, how you doing?

[00:00:12] Leah: Hi Chris, good how are you?

[00:00:13] Chris: Good. Talking about kind of an unnerving, frustrating topic that private label sellers and resellers are experiencing both the constant demand for supply chain documentation and the constant denials and rejections, without explanation on the Amazon side, right? The appeals teams, we think we find or found some quotes from Amazon executives that may explain why they’re rejecting everything insight. Right. I mean, we’ve been talking about this–

[00:00:44] Leah: I mean, yes and no. I think that what the executives are saying are one, for PR and two, I think, you know what they’re saying explains the request for documentation. It doesn’t explain how badly they then handle it on their side.

[00:01:03] Chris: Oh no, that’s fine. We can explain why they’re handling it badly because we see constant rejection we have just to give people a quick sketch background, we have clients and sellers that were guiding through this process constantly asking us why would they reject?

I mean, these are private label sellers for the most part that we’re working with, but also resellers. Sometimes people buying from authorized distributors could be a private label seller. They might have licensing agreements in hand. A lot of them have authorization letters in hand, all the wonderful things Amazon keeps asking for. And in a moment, we’ll explain why Amazon is obsessive asking for these things, but all the rejections that we see clients are calling account health, talking to them, asking why, there have been really poor shoddy explanations if there even is an explanation from the Amazon teams on why an invoice gets rejected and why a supplier is considered non-verifiable and that’s what we’re going to be covering today.

[00:02:02] Leah: Well, and some of it, we know, documentation is something that we’ve been talking about for years at this point. And we still see sellers who don’t have adequate documentation.

So that one is self-explanatory. I think the parts that makes less sense, at least on the surface is the people who are submitting documentation that fully complies with Amazon’s unwritten rules, because they don’t actually lay that out anywhere but it still gets rejected for no apparent reason. So people who are working with authorized distributors who have websites, who they provide the link to, and they provide a direct contact and their invoices have all of the information are still just getting denied as unverifiable and it’s like, once it’s marked as one unverifiable. There is no going back from that, it seems if you try to submit the same invoices again for a proper review, they just are like, we already rejected this as unverifiable, despite the fact that it is 100% verifiable.

[00:02:59] Chris: It’s an knee jerk reaction. And we can get into that.

Obviously they’re trying to save themselves the time and the work when they reject something that’s been previously rejected, but quick caveat here, we’re not talking about dropshippers who have no invoices, unless there’s an order today. We’re not talking about sellers who, for whatever reason, don’t even have an invoice because that’s already been covered and that’s not a way to sell on Amazon anymore. It hasn’t been for awhile. We don’t understand why people are still doing it beyond paying some sort of membership fee or buying into a course that gives you bad advice. We’re not–

[00:03:31] Leah: But Chris– you could make a million dollars in a weekend.

[00:03:34] Chris: I can make some YouTube videos.

[00:03:36] Leah: Haven’t you seen those ads?

[00:03:37] Chris: Yes. In my garage poorly produced. But we’re not talking about that today because I frankly believe that’s a waste of time. Those appeals just get automatically rejected. If you send an appeal where they ask for an invoice, along with an appeal, doesn’t matter how. Shakespeareanly well your appeal is written. If there’s no invoice, it’s automatically rejected unless dumb luck they just don’t even read it and they just accept it.

But that’s very, very rare. we’re not talking about sellers who for whatever reason don’t maintain or don’t have invoices, invoices aren’t enough anymore. And in many cases they’re asking for a letter of authorization or they need to make sure that your supplier, whether it’s your manufacturer, whether it’s your factory in China, whether it’s here in the US, your supplier has to have a website that they can verify along with the invoice. So your invoice–

[00:04:30] Leah: An Alibaba store doesn’t count as a website,

An Alibaba storefront never counts, never counts and there are some really terrible looking websites that it looks like either the seller built for the supplier or the supplier put up at the insistence of the seller, just because of this. And it looks like it doesn’t even work as a website.

That is sort of an industry thing, you know, wholesale suppliers traditionally have not had websites. It’s interesting because Amazon is almost like forcing, forcing that part of the industry forward, but it isn’t actually that uncommon for a wholesaler not to have a website.

[00:05:05] Chris: That’s true but it’s 2022.

[00:05:06] Leah: But it doesn’t mean they’re not, it doesn’t mean they’re not a legitimate wholesaler. It just means that Amazon is not going to accept it because they’re looking for the easiest way of verifying information. And for them, that’s like finding a website.

[00:05:19] Chris: And why is Amazon so obsessed with this website stuff? It’s because they need on their own to independently verify that you’ve got a legit source of that product. It could even be your own product, but it is an independently verifiable, not just you showing them stuff, they can do a Google search. They can look at the website on their own and see the kinds of items that you’re selling, or maybe the same exact SKUs that you’re selling on that website.

If you’re a reseller you’re buying from an authorized distributor and hopefully the distributor is listed on the brand’s website, ideally. But what is this all about? Excuse me. I found a recent quote from David Zapolsky. So David Zapolsky’s Amazon’s lead counsel, one of the S team executives. I’ll read this: "Since opening our doors in 95. Trust has been at the foundation of everything we do. Nearly 27 years later we are more effective than ever *wink, wink* at protecting customers, brands, selling partners and our store while we are proud of the progress we have made, we will not stop until we drive counterfeits to zero in our store, and we will continue to invest and innovate until we get there." That’s what this is about.

It’s their own KYC internal process of making sure counterfeits aren’t sold. Everything’s authentic. Everything’s as advertised. That’s the theory. That’s the goal. In practice, not in theory. In theory, it’s great to have zero counterfeit. In practice, that means constant rejection of invoices. Possibly without any explanation or reasoning behind it and consistently rejecting suppliers or their websites as non-verifiable, that’s the part that Amazon hasn’t explained why it’s working so poorly.

And that’s why sellers are so frustrated.

[00:07:04] Leah: Also, If there are so interested in getting counterfeits to zero, why do they regularly ignore abuse reports, showing counterfeit products being sold on their website?

[00:07:14] Chris: Right. And we should note that we’ve got sellers approaching us almost every day, showing us fake positive reviews that haven’t been deleted, right? I mean, that’s a form of fraud, to have fake positive reviews.

[00:07:27] Leah: 
Well, or just people selling counterfeit versions of their product or hijacking a listing so they can tell a knockoff version of a product that has many many fantastic reviews.

[00:07:37] Chris: Right? Knockoffs and counterfeits with five-star reviews. Mostly lately, we’ve been approached by sellers who aren’t winning the buy box and are angry that knockoffs and counterfeits are winning the buy box.

So they have a lot more innovating to do before they get to zero counterfeit but hypothetically, that’s why they’re grinding up both private label sellers and resellers looking for invoices they can accept. Obviously, if the invoices are dated over a year, that’ll be automatically rejected unless the investigator just doesn’t notice that it’s over a year.

[00:08:09] Leah: Right? So there are certain things that your invoices have to have. One of which it needs to be within that timeframe. Two, it needs to be for the right quantity of goods over that period of time. So you can’t send in an invoice for 10 products when you’ve sold like a thousand products during the period of time that Amazon’s asking for. Your information on the invoice needs to exactly match your information in seller central. That’s one that we see people run into issues with a lot, particularly if they have multiple entities and maybe one entity is buying from the supplier rather than the same entity that’s on their seller account. You also need to have item numbers. I always recommend using a UPC on the invoice because that’s universal. Whereas the manufacturer SKU is not necessarily universal. You want a number on there that makes it very, very easy for Amazon to match it to what they have in their system. You could also use an ASIN, but, I think a UPC looks better in terms of it doesn’t look like you got this invoice just to please Amazon.

[00:09:10] Chris: Yeah. So there’s a lot of people who don’t understand the whole UPC situation, right?

[00:09:15] Leah: Well, I mean, that’s a whole other topic that I don’t want to get into here, but a universal identifier that Amazon can check is what you want on the invoice. And it needs to be an itemized invoice. I mean, so, so it can’t be like I bought a lot of products and it included all of these different things. It needs to be itemized and it also needs to have the contact information of your supplier. So not just their address, but also direct contact of whoever your sales person is. So their direct email address, their direct line, phone number. Ideally it has their website listed on the invoice as well. You need to have all of this information. Otherwise Amazon rejects it as unverifiable and yes, we will inevitably have people tell us that they submitted something that didn’t have it and it was accepted. We’re not saying Amazon’s consistent. I think we are consistent in saying that Amazon is not consistent, but overall, this is what they’re looking for in order to accept your documentation.,

[00:10:13] Chris: There are so many different facts and details that obviously they could miss that one or two are there and reject it or miss the one or two things aren’t there and accept it.

I mean, that’s always going to be the case. Not having a link to the supplier website on an invoice has been used as grounds for rejecting an appeal and rejecting the suppliers as unverifiable. So imagine if they’ve accepted your supplier as verifiable in the past, but they suddenly say it’s not, then they’ve set a precedent for rejecting that supplier going forward. What if it’s your only supplier?

[00:10:46] Leah: Right. Well, and a lot of people are like, oh, I’ll just add that. Don’t you add that to the invoice, go back to your supplier and say you need this information on your invoices and have them reissue the invoices don’t make changes to the invoices because of Amazon thinks that you’re tampering with any of the documentation that’s just asking to be permanently deactivated because essentially that’s fraud in terms of Amazon.

[00:11:10] Chris: That is fraud and it’s risking the entire account. It’s not just risking the ASIN.

[00:11:15] Leah: Don’t add information. Have your supplier add correct information to the invoices.

[00:11:20] Chris: You know what? There’s so many people that have been permanently banned for doing that. And haven’t gotten reinstated, at least the ones that have contacted us. I kind of forgot about it because I assume that’s become common knowledge. I shouldn’t assume that. Any tampering with documentation is a deal breaker. They assume you’re not safe around their buyers, right? They assume that you’re a bad faith actor. It is kind of striking how many people we talk to that are surprised at that, but it’s a code of conduct violation.

[00:11:49] Leah: Well, it is essentially fraud. Especially, you know, there are those services where they’ll get you a real invoice that was issued to somebody else and then change the information to your information. It’s amazing how many people don’t realize that that is actually fraud.

[00:12:03] Chris: Right. And we’re aware that Amazon’s aware of some of those websites, they just haven’t knocked them off or reported them or sued them yet.

[00:12:11] Leah: And I mean, honestly, It’s pretty obvious. We’ve seen them. They’re pretty easy to spot. Other ones we’ve seen is where people put a fake address and you look up the address and it’s like a church or something else. Well, this is obviously fake.

[00:12:25] Chris: That’s what I mean. I don’t see that as much anymore because I think that failed a hundred percent of the time. Amazon, if you want to use the word tightened up, I mean, not really, but change their SOPs to teach the investigators, to look at this stuff faster and in a bit more detail. They miss details all the time, but really they’re trying to motor through this work as quickly as possible. In terms of why would this be rejected? And then you call account health and account health has absolutely no explanation for why they rejected it and nothing’s been annotated, it’s because they took a quick look at something or they pretended to take a quick look at something. It’s one of those two things. Clearly there’s no audit trail. Clearly there’s no specialized team to go back and review investigation quality. I’m sure Amazon will dispute that anytime they hear me say it, but there’s no evidence of a quality process. There might be a process.

[00:13:17] Leah: No, it seems that the only thing that anybody is being judged on is speed. So it’s a lot faster to say no, than it is to actually investigate and reinstate somebody whose listing or account or whatever. It seems that more and more of the teams are just being judged on how quickly they resolve cases and resolve often just means rejecting for no reason, with no notes.

[00:13:41] Chris: Yeah. And I don’t think a lot of people who approach us with help wanting help writing an appeal. I don’t think they understand it’s not just how you write the appeal. That’s why a lot of people are kind of just grabbing templates online and copying and pasting it. It’s not just what’s in the appeal and supply chain documentation doesn’t matter. We’re still hearing from people who think, oh, well it’s just an invoice. An invoice is an invoice. I don’t have to think about that anymore. Yeah, three or four years ago. It was kind of like that. It’s been years since that change, you need three things. Verifiable supplier, complete detailed acceptable invoice and the appeal written along the lines of what they expect. If you’re missing any of those three things, you could be denied. And as you can imagine, Leah and I hear from people who are rejected five, six times doing this, you know, on their own.

[00:14:30] Leah: Well, and we’re not just seeing it on inauthentic items or conditioned complaints or IP complaints anymore. We’re also seeing it in terms of getting approved for brand registry. If you don’t have proper invoices, we’re seeing them deny brand registry applications. So, it seems to be more and more often, they’re just defaulting to supply chain documentation in their processes.

[00:14:53] Chris: 
And just to conclude, I’d love to say we throw open the doors and you’ll look at invoices for our listeners. And so with I, we do look at some and we are quick to identify the flaws, but scrutinize these things yourself if Amazon’s rejecting it and they’re not telling you why, and you’ve really done your research in terms of calling account health or going over the invoice yourself with an expert. And you’re still not coming to any real answers or solutions, let us know and we’ll take a look, but generally speaking, don’t wing it and keep a keen eye on this stuff. Have internal compliance officer or manager who goes over your documentation, make sure you have documented. Do not be caught off guard or surprised when Amazon asks you for this stuff. Letters of authorization, we talked to resellers every day that don’t have these things. So yeah, we’re here for you, but get it as close to completed as you can first before you put it in front of us.

[00:15:50] Leah: Right.

[00:15:51] Chris: All right. Thanks Leah. Talk to you soon.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh

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