Season 1, Episode 79
Too Many Amazon Sellers Don’t Take Safety Complaints Seriously
[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody, this is Chris McCabe of ecommerceChris, welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m here with Leah McHugh, how are you doing, Leah ?
[00:00:14] Leah: Good, thanks. How are you?
[00:00:15] Chris: You’re looking well. Good.
[00:00:17] Leah: It’s clearly nighttime where I am.
[00:00:18] Chris: Yes. It’s nighttime where you are. We’ve got the 12 hour Asia America difference, which is kind of convenient or not depending on your perspective. We’re talking about safety complaints today. We’re in the thick of Q4. We’re seeing a lot of brands coming to us with, Hey, I gotta fill out this safety questionnaire. Sometimes they’re finding the complaints. Sometimes they have to call account health and say, where are the complaints? There’s some confusion over that, but overall, what do you think the biggest trend is in terms of just identifying where to begin this process?
[00:00:52] Leah: I mean, yeah, certainly. Well, actually a lot of times they give you some of the information that was reported to them in the actual notification itself.
[00:01:00] Chris: They’re actually giving you, in quotes, I believe the specific buyer complaint comments in the notification itself for those who are willing to read it, Correct?
[00:01:10] Leah: Yeah. And it’s surprising the number of people that come through our intake form on the website who are like, I have no idea what it this is about.
And it’s like, perhaps it is about these complaints that are in the notification that Amazon sent you. So that’s a good first place to start is thoroughly reading the the notifications sent to you by Amazon.
[00:01:31] Chris: That’s true. I think some of those sellers coming to us are saying that they don’t understand what it’s about because they see those comments and they’re like, I don’t know what these buyers are talking about.
But maybe that’s because they have a deeper understanding of the product than the buyer does. So it could be detail page content related as well, not just the quality of the product.
[00:01:53] Leah: I mean, Yeah. Yes and no. I think there is also a tendency to a knee-jerk reaction of this must be fake, or this must be a competitor, or they wanted a free return and they put in a bad thing to get the return for free.
I think there’s a combination of putting your head in the sand and then maybe you know more about your product than the end consumer does.
[00:02:14] Chris: Yeah. I mean, most sellers in this day and age are aware if they get like a negative review. They’ve got somebody getting eyes on it pretty quickly. So some of it’s from product reviews. Right?
[00:02:26] Leah: Right. But it’s not only from product reviews, I mean, there’s multiple ways that safety complaints can be made. I mean, certainly directly to Amazon, not in the form of a review or a fee or feedback to the seller. And then also other sellers are reporting sellers for unsafe products and they’re going through amazon’s abuse teams, channels, and Amazon’s legals channels in order to do that. So it’s not necessarily tied to a specific thing and voice at the customer because there’s only certain sources that are going to show up and voice at the customer. Often times, people can’t even find the quotes from the notification in their voice of the customer. It’s not necessarily from there.
[00:03:07] Chris: It could be from just direct to customer service complaints, right? A lot of people also assume that it’s a competitor buying from them just for the purposes of leaving nasty feedback, not necessarily looking and or reconciling those comments with other buyers who have bought from them and said the same stuff.
[00:03:26] Leah: Well, and just because it’s a competitor reporting, it doesn’t mean it’s not true.
[00:03:30] Chris: That’s what I mean, and maybe the competitor is, is guessing that you don’t have the right documentation together to show Amazon. Right?
[00:03:42] Leah: Yeah. Or they have actually tested the product themselves and found that it was unsafe. I mean, there’s multiple ways that it can be reported.
My point is just to not focus on the fact that you maybe can’t see it in your voice in the customer, or that, you know, it doesn’t show up in your reviews somewhere.
[00:04:01] Chris: Right. And it could be something that doesn’t hop to mind immediately, like the packaging of the product itself.
[00:04:08] Leah: Yeah, well, I mean certainly if it’s due to user error, then something is lacking somewhere, whether it’s the detail page or the product instructions or packaging. If the incident is because of user error, just saying that they used it wrong is not an appropriate defense. What you need to do is look at what needs to be improved in order to reduce the chance of user error in the future.
[00:04:29] Chris: Detail page corrections, amendments, they didn’t used to have the safety questionnaire. They used to just prompt you to review your detail page whenever it was clear that the buyer was confused or there’s a misunderstanding.
[00:04:42] Leah: They have had it for a while now, though The questionnaire. I mean, it’s been years.
[00:04:46] Chris: But I mean, I know I’m taking people back to before, potentially before you were selling on Amazon.
[00:04:51] Leah: The before times.
[00:04:53] Chris: The, like 2017, I guess this is rapidly becoming ancient history, but 2017, 2018, I remember we were helping sellers do appeals before the questionnaire was in. And also, before sellers were really familiar with how should I deal with this? My detail page accurately represents the product. They weren’t really understanding that there were confused people that weren’t necessarily nasty buyers who just wanted to take their bad day out on the seller. They didn’t understand maybe the dimensions of the product weren’t prominently displayed. Maybe the use. Instructions weren’t quite clear.
[00:05:31] Leah: Right, but you’re also talking about the days before multiple courts had decided that Amazon is liable for product safety on its platform. So of course they’re looking for more information.
[00:05:41] Chris: I was building up to that, and I hadn’t yet decided if I wanted to hand it off to you for the finishing of that thought. I assume you’re going back to that frontline episode, right?
It was kind of around that time. Late 2020, late 2019, early 2020, which isn’t that long ago. But, yeah, when Amazon realized that they had no good answers back in those days, they brought out Jeff Wilke, their retired senior executive.
[00:06:06] Leah: But I mean even before that frontline episode, multiple court cases had deemed that Amazon is also liable for product safety incidents if they haven’t done any due diligence to stop it from happening. So naturally they want more and more documentation from sellers, where sellers are essentially confirming that they are the ones responsible and providing information that shows Amazon, that Amazon can show a court that they said they fixed it.
[00:06:36] Chris: Right. A lot of people thought it went back to like the hover boards that were exploding all over the place. Mostly, I believe it was about the consumables products. The supplements in particular, which was almost entirely unregulated. And sellers were selling supplements, throwing stuff onto the marketplace that certainly wasn’t safe in a lot of cases, wasn’t accurately described on detail pages. There was a glut of sellers that thought this was the get rich quick scheme of the future, and the supplements space was where it all played out.
So naturally, if supplements had labels and the products didn’t have those ingredients, that’s a problem. And I think that’s one reason why Amazon’s hands were forced into doing something here. Amazon knew what that space was like.
[00:07:25] Leah: Yeah. And they’ve also been getting a lot of flack from the FDA and the CPSC. I don’t know if anybody else does this, but I like to read recall notices because it has a lot to do with what I do for work and like every other recall notice on the CPSC website mentioned Amazon at this point.
[00:07:40] Chris: Mm-hmm. Live listings on Amazon, yeah. And also I just think people were jumping into it as new sellers or new business owners who didn’t really know anything about compliance documentation for starters or FDA regulations.
And they weren’t interested in hiring. This isn’t like, you know, something that product safety compliance and setup isn’t something we do, but they weren’t interested in hiring an an agency or a consultant that knew that process backwards and forwards.
[00:08:10] Leah: Yep, exactly.
[00:08:13] Chris: So anyone has any questions about obviously Q4, tons of safety complaint enforcement actions, listing suspensions, appeal requests coming out of Amazon.
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