Chris McCabe, founder of eCommerce Chris, answers your questions related to Amazon Account Suspensions, Product Review Abuse, Listing Hijackers, Account and ASIN Reinstatements.
Chris McCabe worked for years on Amazon performance and policy enforcement teams as well as Bezos escalations. He now uses his knowledge and experience to help sellers think like Amazon and protect their businesses.
List of questions covered in this video:
00:21 Chris McCabe background and specialization.
02:00 How product review works?
05:09 Are inserts a good idea?
06:09 Why is it that some sellers don’t get suspended as soon as their metrics go over the limit?
07:25 What do you think about the product launch services? Are they against TOS?
11:53 Is Jump Send against TOS?
13:43 Is it true that Amazon will limit the number of messages you can send out?
15:36 Clarification to the previous question about bad metrics and sellers not being suspended. The metric is late shipping rate of 5.5% in the last 30 days and why the seller is not suspended?
16:49 What if one of the listing just got into review by Amazon because a competitor complaint about the product’s authenticity or a report that the product the buyer received does not match the detail page?
17:47 Question: I got a suspicious negative review with photo of my damaged product. Then this photo appeared in a competitor’s listing. Isn’t this against Amazon’s Guidelines? How do I report this to Amazon?
18:55 A person was talking about competitor was complaining about authenticity and then the question was how can I avoid products authenticity complaints? Is there any certain procedures before we got shut by Amazon?
21:02 When sellers get suspended or they recently suspended. How long will they have to wait after they are sending their first plan of action and how long should they expect to wait from Amazon for that?
22:49 If you receive a performance notification from Amazon, should you be proactive and respond with a plan of action or avoid bringing more attention to the issue and just work swiftly to correct it?
25:14 What happen if plan of action is refuse and seller doesn’t know why it was refused?
27:22 Can you tell a little bit more about membership. Can briefly say what you’re offering to Amazon sellers and also talk a little bit with this membership. What they do? How can they sign up?
29:52 In case someone right now has problems with Amazon suspension and they want your company help. What’s the best way to approach you? Is it via email or through the website?
30:37 How can you protect your account against hijackers? Some brands are somehow gated. Can we still get that status somehow?
33:38 How do we get to the reasonable Amazon representatives, which you claim exists?
35:52 When should sellers use the chance to email email@example.com and what does it mean and how to approach it?
37:40 Is there an escalation matrix that you can share with? Which team can they contact in order to solve the product title change by Amazon? Is there some matrix or some structure which you can reveal to us?
41:34 Question: What to do if there is a competitor from China who keeps changing the photo on their listing. They compete on that listing but Chinese are changing the photo of counterfeits product is displayed and they changed back to their own photo? What to do if they already filed cases and nothing has happened.
45:11 Is there an email address he can just send his complaint now?
45:46 Is it safe to authorize a third party to log into seller central? Will Amazon link accounts?
47:30 Let’s say there’s an Amazon seller conference with maybe 200 people and there is a public WiFi. Is that a bad idea to log in to your seller account?
48:53 There is this even verified purchase person, who tries to make a review and he gets a message that it’s not possible to leave reviews. Is it possible to reset this or whom can you escalate the information?
52:42 What if they have never did anything against TOS, but their product is blocked from publishing reviews?
53:43 Do performance problems, like IP infringements or inauthentic claims, prescribe? If a new problem appear 1 year later, does the first one count?
55:43 Is having virtual assistant that is also a VA for other sellers can raise a problem about logging in by third-party people?
57:04 Can you tell more about ecommerceChris.com and how people can contact you and how can you help them?
Transcript – Amazon Review Abuse, Seller Account issues, Plan of Action, Hijackers with Chris McCabe
[00:03] Augustas: Hello, everyone! Welcome to another session which is called Expert Q&A. Questions and answers. Which you can give questions to an expert today. And today my guest is Chris McCabe. Hello, Chris!
[00:19] Chris: Hello. Thanks for having me.
[00:21] Augustas: You’re welcome. And maybe it will be best if you will tell your background and tell what you are specializing in and people will get your idea what can they ask you?
[00:32] Chris: Sure. So you have a mixture of US and Europe sellers, it sounds like for listeners and watchers. I worked in Amazon seller Performance for six years. I worked on the teams that were evaluating performance, enforcing policies, sending warnings, notifications, that sort of thing. Reading seller appeals, I tend to talk a lot about suspended accounts, how to get reinstated, what’s a good plan of action, how to write a good appeal that will be accepted by Amazon. And I also work a lot with avoiding suspensions in the first place, between my client consulting services. And I also have an online membership now to help people avoid all signs of trouble. Identify them before they become real trouble. And that’s ecommerceChris.com. It’s my site.
[01:28] Augustas: Yeah, ecommerceChris.com, this is what they wanted to hear. If anyone wants to read more about Chris, visit his website. And please send us questions to the live chat about seller performance issues, suspensions, anything.
[01:43] Chris: Listing violations, policy warnings. Some people are getting suspended for behavior type problems, like product reviews, manipulation of sales rank, product review abuse. They suspend really quickly for that now, if they are convinced that that’s what you’re doing.
[02:00] Augustas: Yeah. So, actually it is a great starting point. Let’s talk about product reviews. I was recently organizing an event meetup of Amazon sellers one week ago. And they were only talking about reviews. There’s somebody who got wiped out from 92 to 2 reviews.
[02:21] Chris: Yes.
[02:23] Augustas: Can you tell me what’s happening?
[02:25] Chris: The current update is a lot of sellers are seeing them refused and deleted by Amazon, which was not happening two months ago. You suddenly get several 5 star reviews overnight. They think it’s an unreasonable amount when your whole history is 40 reviews and all of a sudden you have 540, right? So they’re on the lookout for this kind of behavior and it won’t necessarily matter if you only have 4.5 versus 5 star. It’s not just the rating. It’s how you do it. If they think you’ve been offering discounting products, giveaways, especially people are getting suspended for giveaways now. Amazon understands just like I do, that people need reviews to be relevant, to be visible. That’s all understood. But seller still unfortunately trying to work around this with not necessarily compliant methods. Amazon is getting much, much better with tracking down bad behavior, let’s say in Facebook groups or if they think you’ve worked with a certain company that’s known for like black hat behavior or rule breaking behavior.
[03:31] Chris: Sometimes they go after the company now. They chase them and they might say something like, we’ve seen that you’re helping people break our rules. We’re going to sue you or we’re going to do something bad to you. Let’s say, they threatened them. And if the company says, we don’t want to be sued. Amazon might say, great. Give us all the sellers you’ve helped so far and we’ll go find them ourselves. So that’s one reason sellers are caught and they don’t think they’re going to be caught, but they get caught for that type of reason. It’s not common, but this is the future, right? This is the way things are going now because Amazon had a lot of bad press. I mean, in the US, lots of media around a story. Lots of buyers complaining about buying counterfeit products or having a bad buying experience based on product reviews that they read.
[04:19] Chris: We read the reviews, they were so good. Why is this product so terrible? Amazon knows why it’s terrible. It’s because the reviews weren’t legitimate in a lot of cases. So they go back in and they can delete your reviews, but just keep in mind they are also looking at your email sequence, right? And if they think that you’re trying to get only positive reviews and offering. You know like come to our website, we’ll take care of you there. Or even if you’re putting a card on the packaging, saying, leave us a nice review and we’ll give you some free or discounted product. Amazon is aware of all this stuff going on. And lots of times, your competitors are buying from you and they see the card in the packaging, that says, Hey, leave us a nice review and will do something nice for you. They take a picture of it and they report you to Amazon. That’s where a lot of the suspensions are coming from.
[05:09] Augustas: Inserts is not a good idea, right?
[05:13] Chris: It’s not a good idea if you have competitors buying from you for sure. If somebody complains, you’re going to get in trouble. It might be a legitimate buyer complaining about the insert. Simply because Amazon buyers love to complain about anything. They think they can complain in this package that doesn’t belong there. To Amazon that’s a valid complaint, that you’re trying to get a nice positive review. Instead of just asking for a review, you’re asking for a good review. And that’s what breaks the policy. The other problem of course is competitors are attacking each other all the time, round the clock. So if your competitor gets a card insert or they get a message from you, that sounds like you only want positive review, they’re going to report you immediately, right? And if it’s a valid complaint, Amazon will take action on it.
[06:09] Augustas: All right. I see questions are rolling in. Ivy is asking why is it that some sellers don’t get suspended as soon as their metrics go over the limit?
[06:18] Chris: Metrics suspensions that are automated are still relatively infrequent. That’s more likely to happen around the holidays. It also depends on how outside of the metric they are. So I’d be interested in knowing if she can provide some detail, but if not, human beings are still investigating accounts in seller performance. You’re not just picked up by an automated script that suspends you immediately without a review. And a lot of sellers don’t understand how much of it’s automated on the investigative side versus manual, humans investigating. A lot of times it’s both. Automation grabs a bunch of sellers, puts them in queue and then human beings are picking them off one by one and investigating them. Some of that, of course depends if your metrics are way out of range, then you are more likely to have an automated suspension. If you’re slightly out of range, it depends on what the metric is to. You’re not necessarily going to see that seller fall right away. So I think she is talking about negative feedback maybe that’s visible to the buyers.
[07:25] Augustas: I just asked her to specify the details, because it was a very general question. Shlomo is saying about reviews and is now worried. What do you think about the product launch services? Are they against TOS? Basically, I had a guest last week from the JudoLaunch, he’s giving the service of product launching and they are not promising any reviews. So do you think it is against TOS, product launching service?
[07:57] Chris: They’re not promising reviews? You mean they don’t do anything that might be seen as trying to lost the review.
[08:02] Augustas: Yeah, they say reviews are not included.
[08:10] Chris: Everyone’s staying away from reviews right now. It’s a very delicate, sensitive subjects because to give you some quick background from Amazon’s perspective, every seller should know what’s compliant and what isn’t at this point. They feel like they’ve suspended a lot of people for this. They feel like there’s a lot of good information out there that says what kind of methods you can use to try to get reviews and what you shouldn’t be doing. So for them, any seller who’s still doing something that they’ve already warned everybody for is way behind the times. So they are very unsympathetic and they’re very aggressive in terms of suspensions for this. Like I said, they know that everyone needs to generate reviews, but they needed to be within their roles in terms of asking just for review, not trying to induce behavior and some sellers are trying to.
[09:01] Chris: Here’s an example. They’re trying to get around this by saying in the message that they send to the buyer. We just want to review. We’re not going to ask you for any kind of specific review. Just leave us a review, but then in the background, they’re doing other things, like if you have a problem with your order, contact us. They’re trying to make it that you’re not really asking for a review. If they have a problem with the order, you’re only asking for a review if there’s no problem with the order. To you and me, that seems very minor and you shouldn’t be suspended for it. But to Amazon that’s breaking the rules. Of course if you’re trying to give discounted product offsite, some people are using sales generation service providers just to boost sales. Not necessarily asking for a review on their website, but if you’re giving discounts on your website or you’ve got ads running, you’ve got promotions running and somewhere in that sequence you say, by the way, here’s our Amazon storefront. A lot of people are doing this right now and I think Amazon’s starting to crack down on that. Even though you’re not really saying we want a nice review. You’re kind of guiding them towards your reviews page. At the same time you’re offering them 70% off your products. Not necessarily on Amazon. It’s offsite and then of course there’s the black hat services that are really just there to pay people on PayPal to leave you nice review. Which of course if you’re found to be associated with them you can expect to be banned, right?
[10:32] Augustas: Yeah, probably.
[10:34] Chris: It’s a hot topic.
[10:36] Augustas: Yeah, it’s a hot topic.
[10:38] Chris: It’s going to stay a hot topic. The problem is Amazon keeps narrowing. Eventually they’ll say, you can’t send any messages to buyers. We will send a message. It will say one thing which is please leave a review for this order. There won’t be any talk about what kind of company you are. A lot of people say like, we’re a small company. We’re a family owned business and you’re kind of trying to persuade buyers by making them sympathetic. Like, please leave us a review we’re small, we’re new, we’re growing. We need your help, right? This is all like kind of pushing the boundary a little bit. And part of the problem is that competitors love to report each other. So if you are kind of on the edge you could tip either way. But a competitor keeps blasting you on Amazon on the abuse cues. These people are abusing product reviews. Eventually they’ll find an investigator that agrees and says, this is like kind of not policy and they might not send a warning they might just suspend the account. So that’s what you’re risking.
[11:53] Augustas: And I see similar question. Is Jump Send against TOS? Well, Jump Send is provided by Jungle Scout company. I’m sure they’re trying to be within TOS.
[11:55] Chris: I mean I’ve talked to the Jungle Scout guys about this in other subjects. And I would expect that they’re not doing anything non-compliant. It’s not so much about the service, it’s about how you’re using a service. If you’re using whatever it is, Viral Launch, it could be Feedback Genius, could be a lot of things. If you’re using a service where it leads to a boost in sales within a tight timeframe. And Amazon thinks that associated with those sales is an unnatural amount of positive reviews because of how the sale was structured because of the language in the sale, because of the amount of the discount, all the details really matter. So it’s not so much like we can’t use this company. Amazon hates them. That’s not what it’s about. It’s about the nature of the promotion, the nature of the discount. What’s the connection between that discount and something that you’ve got on Amazon.
[12:43] Chris: Are you directing people to your store front. And suggesting that, hey, maybe you love the product that you got on my website. Here’s our Amazon store. It’s the same product… You know what I mean? If you’re trying to induce behavior, then you’re already heading in the wrong direction. The brand should speak for itself. The product quality should speak for itself. You shouldn’t have to push people too much to leave you a good review by sending them six messages through the Amazon messaging system. I’ve been working recently with a seller that resent six messages to people. I don’t recommend that. And some of the messages are really long too. I mean buyers on Amazon are kind of tired of getting these messages, that’s why they got the opt out last year. That didn’t use to exist but sellers were sending buyers to many messages about reviews and that’s why the opt out came into being.
[13:43] Augustas: We’ve heard rumors that Amazon will limit the number of messages you can send out.
[13:50] Chris: Yeah. What did they say it was going to be limited to two? That was one rumor. And then everyone heard about that and people were afraid and then they backed off. This is the way I heard it, they backed off on sending out an email to everyone saying you can only send one email, you can only send two emails. So maybe that’s next year. Maybe that won’t happen in Q4. But you have to prepare now for other ways of getting reviews without sending messages to buyers. You can no longer depend on messaging the buyers as your primary source of reviews.
[14:26] Augustas: And a few minutes ago we had the other question about why when metrics go off the limits and the seller is not suspended? We got a clarification from that person. She says that a seller had late shipping rate of 5.5% in 30 days and he or she was not suspended. Chris, are you there? I think on my side, connection is good. Chris is writing to me something. Okay. He’s coming back I see. All right, cool.
[15:18] Chris: Everything is okay?
[15:20] Augustas: Yeah, everything is okay. Maybe I know what happened. I know probably Amazon wiped out the reviews of somebody.
[15:30] Chris: It’s the same thing that happened with Prime Day the big outage yesterday, right? Same problem.
[15:36] Augustas: Yeah. So basically we have a clarification to the previous question about bad metrics and sellers not being suspended. So that person clarified that the metric is late shipping rate 5.5% in the last 30 days and this seller is not suspended.
[16:00] Chris: Yeah. They may have been reviewed by an investigator and they may have provided an explanation on their own by emailing Seller Performance. They may have explained the technical glitch. Amazon’s asking for a pre-plan of action. Maybe this is something we should talk about. They’re doing this more and more now. Where they say you are going to get suspended, we need a plan of action from you that addresses these criteria and you need to send it within 24 hours, sometimes they say seven days. They could have asked that seller for a plan and the plan may have been accepted once they submitted it and they weren’t going to be suspended for missing the metric.
[16:41] Augustas: All right, yeah. It can be a lot of things.
[16:44] Chris: It can be a lot. Maybe they have friends in high places.
[16:49] Augustas: Jazz is saying one of my listing just got into review by amazon because a competitor complaint about the product’s authenticity or a report that the product the buyer received does not match the detail page.
[17:09] Chris: Different items complaints. How does she know it’s a competitor?
[17:11] Augustas: Yeah. How do you know it’s a competitor?
[17:13] Chris: Everyone always assumes it’s a competitor. It might be. It might not be. But if it’s authenticity, you should be able to defend that very easily with your invoice plus unauthenticity letter. I don’t know what the product is or who the supplier is, but whoever your supplier is, whether it’s private label you make your own product or reselling, you should be able to get a letter. On the company letterhead from your supplier that explains the nature of your business relationship with that supplier. And you should be able to prove authenticity no matter who it is with complaints.
[17:47] Augustas: I hope it helps. And another viewer is saying â€‹I got a suspicious negative review with photo of my damaged product. Then this photo appeared in a competitor’s listing. Isn’t this against Amazon’s Guidelines? How do I report this to Amazon?
[18:11] Chris: I am not 100% sure understand what happen. But if your reporting abuse it sounds like marketplace abuse listings, violations. I guess the short answer is there are two main email queues. One of them is firstname.lastname@example.org and the other one email@example.com. I want to say don’t just send anything there. Put an actual report together to explain the abuse and why it’s breaking rules. Don’t just send them a link. Hey, can you look at this? you need to warn this guy. Because they won’t take action if you give them a very thin complaint.
[18:55] Augustas: Jazz’s continuation of that claim. This person was talking about competitor was complaining about authenticity and then the question was how can I avoid products authenticity complaints? Is there any certain procedures before we got shut by Amazon?
[19:10] Chris: You can definitely keep an eye on return reasons. Why buyers are returning products. If they say this doesn’t match the listing. It sounds like it’s not really about authenticity. Some people think that the detail page doesn’t match the product 100%. So I mean that could be the content. The bullet she’s got could have misunderstanding there. Maybe the images don’t look like the product people get. There could be an easy fix there. Doesn’t necessarily have to be about authenticity. Maybe the items are slightly different from their descriptions. You want to get as specific as possible in terms of the potential causes. If you’re really just getting hit with authenticity complaints by either competitors or buyers who don’t understand the product, you do have to kind of be prepared for those in terms of having the supply chain documentation ready to go before Amazon asks for it.
[20:00] Chris: At this point all of my clients, whether they’re private label or resellers, I asked them to have all their documentation ready in case there products are flagged for authenticity. Including authenticity letters from the supplier, not just an invoice and a lot of people don’t have the documents ready I suppose. They’re not ready if they’re accused of fake or counterfeit, which is very common. It takes them like three days to show me. It takes them a long time to give me more information to make the argument stronger that they’ve sourced it properly. I mean a link to a website for your supplier. Make sure anybody who’s making products for you or anybody selling you a particular brand, they have a real website like your wholesaler. If Amazon can’t find them online, if they can’t find the website. Out they go. They have no value to you because Amazon can’t verify your supply chain.
[21:02] Augustas: I see. There are few more questions related to reviews. Maybe we can change a little bit to that topic. I wanted to ask about the plan of action. So when sellers get suspended or they recently suspended. How long will they have to wait after they are sending their first plan of action and how long should they expect to wait from Amazon for that?
[21:26] Chris: This week, it’s Prime Day and it’s pretty busy. But typically if you haven’t heard back within a couple of days, you should send a follow-up. You don’t have to send something angry, you don’t have to send the same exact thing. You could send the POA again and add a note that says we sent this. I mean most people, The first POA they send using the appeal button in Seller Central. Typically, there’s a response right date and time stamped. We’ll get back to you within 24 hours at this time, this date. And a lot of those deadlines are missed by Amazon, right? So it’s really easy to send something two days later and say, you said you were going to respond at this time. We haven’t seen the response. We know you’re busy, but here’s our plan of action. Again, it’s complete. Obviously, if you think your plan of action is like a template or it’s really weak or you’re guessing, then maybe you don’t want to shove it in front of their faces as much, but if you think it’s really solid and it’s 100% what it means to be, you can send a request for a follow up answer from them.
[22:23] Chris: If there’s no response. If you get a response asking you for more information and probably means they don’t like something in the POA or they think it’s missing content.
[22:38] Augustas: Right. I see we have one question which is not related to reviews. Review related questions only, will touch a little bit later.
[22:43] Chris: Let’s just talk about reviews all day.
[22:49] Augustas: But John is interested. If you receive a performance notification from Amazon, should you be proactive and respond with a plan of action or avoid bringing more attention to the issue and just work swiftly to correct it?
[23:03] Chris: There’s already attention on the issue if they’re sending you a warning, there’s no way that you’re drawing more attention to yourself if they sent the notification you’ve already drawn a certain amount of attention to yourself. Typically with our clients and our members in the membership, we recommend that they respond to those. It’s still some case by case in particular situations. If it’s like say a rights owner retraction, then you can’t get the attraction. It’s a notice of claim of infringement. They told you they’re never going to retract it. They’re never going to contact Amazon. That’s one example. We usually tell people to email Amazon and say, we deleted the listing. We pulled the inventory out of FBA. Assuming, it’s FBA and we’re never selling this again. So you’re not necessarily resolving it, but you’re getting the account annotated, right?
[23:47] Chris: Ideally you get the notification resolved. If they took away your listing, you get it reinstated then it’s resolved 100%. The annotation will be there forever, but you’ve handled the issue and any investigator that goes back into your account sees that you got that ASIN reinstated. Let’s say it’s ASIN restriction. You’ve got the ASIN back, so the problem is considered solve, so that’s not necessarily going to count against you. Ignoring notifications. Really bad idea. Even if you think it’s minor to you, if they take away some listing and it’s like, I sold one of these in the last two years, what do I care? You know, there should be some. You don’t have to send a plan of action unless they ask for it, but you should send plan of action style, language covering what steps you took to resolve whatever the problem was.
[24:36] Chris: So if you’re not selling that item, again, you don’t need to send them a full plan of action. But send them something that indicates we’ve reviewed this inventory for this product. We’ve decided not to sell it again and if you want. You can say you’ve done a full inventory check for all similar items or all items that came from the same supplier. It depends on the situation, but make sure you get some annotation on your account so it won’t look like you ignored the problem. That’s what they’re afraid of sending notifications and you don’t care. You ignore it.
[25:14] Augustas: You mention again plan of action and what happens if plan of action is refuse then. Seller doesn’t know why it was refused. What to do? What’s happening? How to find out?
[25:18] Chris: Typically they won’t. This is a lot of what the membership is about. The first course we solve was how to build a plan of action. And a lot of people came back and said, I don’t know why I was suspended. And then I wrote a POA and I don’t know why they rejected it and they’re trying to prompt you to do the digging. They don’t want to lay it all out for you. You have exactly these complaints. We suggest that you use exactly these solutions, right? They couldn’t do that because they already know what they want to see from you, but they want you to do the work and they want you to go through the pain and they want you to research Seller Central. If it’s an item quality problem, they want you to go to your supplier and say, Hey, by the way, we had a lot of returns for the items you sold us.
[25:57] Chris: We had a lot of complaints about the quality of the items you gave us. And then ultimately we changed suppliers because we did like the answers we got back. They need you to identify the causes to show that you know what happened what went wrong to begin with. If they don’t think you’ve identified the true root causes, then they won’t accept the POA. They’ll ask you for another one or they’ll just send a denial. And they also want to know that you’ve showned them exactly how to fix it, step by step. Each measure, each method that convinces them that it won’t come up again. Right? Amazon sent this general messaging. I understand they are just saying we need more information, they don’t necessarily tell you what is missing on your plan and it’s very kind of confusing for people because they feel like they have to guess at what’s missing.
[26:45] Chris: The good news is if it’s documentation, if they don’t like your invoice or if they don’t like your supplier, they’re getting much better at telling you that, that is the problem, not the plan of action itself. But if your documentation is acceptable, they’re likely to say, we need more information about the plan. So what do you do if you’re stuck? Obviously you can show it to somebody like me and tell me how it happened and I can give you some advice or suggestions on what might be missing, but if you don’t have me around, take another look at it. Go over it with your team, your staff, figure out what might have gone wrong that you didn’t address in the solutions section.
[27:22] Augustas: Okay. You mention membership. Can you tell a little bit more. I’m sure some people joined us a bit late and didn’t hear the introduction. Maybe you can briefly say what you’re offering to Amazon sellers and also talk a little bit with this membership. What they do? How can they sign up?
[27:38] Chris: Right. So obviously my consulting services are based on my work at Amazon. People hired me directly to work on things. If people want to learn the best way to do it themselves because they don’t want to hire a consultant every time. That’s why we created the online courses. And the first was how to build a plan of action. We added one about an account review, conducting your own account review. Which long story short is identifying problem ASIN’s, problem performance, operations. Whatever it might be causing you to miss metrics before Amazon notices. You’re noticing yourself because you’re looking for signs of trouble. You’re looking at going back to item quality, you’re looking at return reasons. You’re looking at feedback, buyer messages, any product reviews. Of course, any indication that people don’t think you’re selling what you say you’re selling, the quality isn’t what you promised, or maybe the functionality isn’t quite clear to them.
[28:36] Chris: And they weren’t able to use it to the full effect. So ecommercechris.com/membership. We’ve got a lot of information on that page. We have the courses, but we also have a closed Facebook group for members only where we answers a lot of questions. Myself and Leah McHugh is working on this with me and collaborating with me. She and I run the Facebook page. We answer people’s questions. Also, members of the group answer each other’s questions if they had a previous experience which is very similar. They usually weigh in and then we have exclusive content. Like I do certain interviews, I do certain videos on different topics. And I put that in the members only content on the Facebook group.
[29:19] Chris: Since I think I first mentioned it to you one year ago. In the last 12 months we’ve developed it. We now have multiple courses and we’d also have engaged the community a bit more since last summer. So happy to answer any questions people have about that. We’re trying to make it as interactive as possible. It’s not just about I’m suspended, I need a plan of action. We’ve grown quite a bit past and we’re focused on trying to prevent suspensions from ever being a part of your life at all, as much as we can.
[29:52] Augustas: Okay. In case someone right now has problems with Amazon suspension and they want your company help. What’s the best way to approach you? Is it via email or through the website?
[30:05] Chris: Different people, prefer different methods. The website of course ecommercechris.com. My homepage lays it out very clearly. ASIN reinstatement and account reinstatement. Once you click through those, you’ll see how to get to me, whether scheduling a call or simply hiring me directly. But firstname.lastname@example.org is my email address. Some people just prefer email. I’m always checking my emails, day and night. So I’ll see your message and I’ll respond pretty quickly in most cases.
[30:37] Augustas: Great. Let’s take one question about hijackers. Mark is asking, how can you protect your account against hijackers? Some brands are somehow gated. Can we still get that status somehow?
[30:48] Chris: Yeah, gating is harder to get now than it was a year ago or maybe in 2016. You have to establish a pattern of faking counterfeit versions of your product over a certain defined period of time. You have to define the period of time. They need to believe that this is a constant problem. It’s best to work with a well trained intellectual property and trademark infringement attorney. So that you can have legal backing to the complaints you’re making. And you can’t necessarily just apply for gating. That would be a dream world, we’re not living there yet. You can participate in Amazon exclusives and the Transparency Program, we’re learning more about these things every day. I’m happy to take some questions on that. I’m still learning a little bit about Amazon Exclusives myself. But the bottom line is you need a multifaceted strategy. I handle a lot of listing hijack cases, not in terms of preventing them by gating the product, but in terms of getting hijackers, taking the bad information they added to your private label, branded listing, getting that information off as quickly as possible by reporting it the right way to the right teams.
[32:01] Chris: I encourage all of your watchers to not depend on Seller Support for this. That’s a terrible waste of your time. Don’t be trying to do this over the phone, that’s never going to work. Don’t be doing it by reporting through Seller Central. This is like the lowest of the low ways of reporting it. Understand how to report abuse. If it’s true listings abuse, come up with some proof, make it a short report, something an investigator can easily review and send it to the right place. So what you write and where you send it is crucial. I’m happy to take more questions on that because it’s not the same thing every time. Sometimes it’s resellers reporting other resellers for changing a listing somehow and making the information all inaccurate for a totally different item. That’s a different kind of listing hijacked from. I’m assuming your friend asking the question is a private label branded seller who has somebody who’s trying to change the title, change the brand name takeover listing that’s already launched and has lots of good reviews, right? You’ve got to take that to catalog. You have to protest the catalog. Sometimes the captive team is making these moves and they shouldn’t be. Some hijackers are very savvy now. They know how to game the system and you have to understand how to report them. If you can’t get them off of your listing and if you can’t get the listing change back you have to focus on getting that seller suspended for abuse by recording them consistently for abuse.
[33:38] Augustas: Ivy is saying thing that you keep talking about Amazon personal being reasonable and knowledgeable, but that is far from my experience and it is very difficult to get anything explained or resolved. How do we get to the reasonable Amazon representatives? Which you claim exists.
[33:56] Chris: It depends on what teams you’re talking about. Some teams are well staffed to have good SOP’s and a good process and then you have teams like Seller Support, which are borderline useless. So if he’s talking about Seller Support, I would spend as little time trying to get anything done with Seller Support as possible and for most of the issues that I deal with as a consultant, which are my former performance in and policy enforcement teams, there is no phone call. It has to be done in writing. So it’s not just about Amazon. Also consider what you’re sending them. Don’t assume that what you’re sending them as 100% clear. And you’re requesting the actions you want them to take in a manner that reflects actions that team that you’re contacting is able to take on your behalf. So you might want to follow up just quickly and ask him what teams he’s talking about.
[34:47] Chris: If you report things the right way and they don’t take action, if they’re not reasonable, like he said, then you should be able to escalate to a higher team. It doesn’t have to be Executive Seller Relations writing to Jeff at Amazon. Some people do it that way. But you can escalate to another team and say, I went to the team you sent me to. They told me what to do. I did all of it. I sent it in this message and nothing happened or they sent me a message that had nothing to do with my problem. You can go to another team and complained that the first team didn’t do what they’re supposed to do. That’s what an escalation really is in effect. So did he follow up with anything about who he’s trying to contact? Maybe he’ll come back. I hope he’s not talking about Seller Support because there’s very little to say when it comes to Seller Support, sometimes you get good people, sometimes you get nothing. In my experience I spend very little time to seller support because they can’t help with most of the things I work on. They’re just not equipped for that sort of assistance.
[35:52] Augustas: You mentioned Jeff. This classical or legendary email address email@example.com. When should sellers use the chance to use it and what does it mean and how to approach it?
[36:09] Chris: Seller use it for everything. So you can’t expect any faster replies from Jeff anymore. Maybe five years ago you could get a fast reply from Jeff. It’s not like that now. It’s not just for account suspension. It was supposed to be just for major big issues like account suspension and you gave a POA and nobody read it and you need to get reinstated. Now people are sending everything there. It’s not Jeff. Jeff is a busy guy. He’s got a lot of money to spend and he needs all the time in the world to spend his money and go into space. Executive Seller Relations is the name of the team and hopefully when you get Executive Seller Relations, you don’t have them delegated down back to the same team that took the action on your account. You should be getting a fresh independent review of whatever you sent previously.
[36:54] Chris: I just encourage people not to go straight to Jeff hoping for a different answer and sending the same POA. If there’s something wrong with your POA, you don’t want to escalate with it because you might only get. You might only get one, maybe two chances at a real escalation, and if you burn the first one by sending a plan of action that had no hope of success, then you’re only hurting yourself at that point. You’re not doing an escalation, you’re just burning through an appeal opportunity. So it depends on what you’re sending. Think about what you’re sending before were to send. A lot of sellers are like, where do I send it now? Who do I talk to next? It’s not so much about where. Make sure if you’re sending something, it’s good.
[37:40] Augustas: Actually there are two questions related exactly to that. Mark is saying is there an escalation matrix that you can share with us? Because it’s hard to know whom to address in order to get a problem fixed. And also another person is asking which team can they contact in order to solve the product title change by Amazon. They do not know how to solve. So is there some matrix or some structure which you can reveal to us?
[38:16] Chris: For product titles, they need to deal with the catalog. If the Catalog Team isn’t doing it, then they’re going to have to work through Policy Teams and Seller Performance and get somebody there to assist them with changing titles back. I’m sorry, not Seller Performance, the Policy Teams that will act on listings abuse. It sounds like there’s listing violations going on that needed to be turned back. If it’s brand registry. If your brand registered, you need to go through them and to do an escalation. You can escalate within Brand Registry too. If your titles are being changed by a listing hijacker that’s your first stop actually, even before you have your lawyer jump in and say we’re losing revenue because you’re failing to take action on this or making any kind of notice claim of infringement to get to get your listing back after it’s been taken away from you.
[39:11] Chris: There’s no who in terms of people when you say, Dear Jeff, it doesn’t go to Jeff. It goes to a team and it would be somebody different on that team. Obviously most people at Amazon work 5 to 6 days a week, but you’re not going to get the same person every time. So you’re writing to a team and you have to send them two things. You have to send them to the escalation letter, which gives them a reason why you needed to escalate it in the first place and explain some of the merits of your case, but you’re giving them the plan of action too. That’s why I say the plan of action must be really good before you bother with the escalation. Otherwise, you’re wasting your time. So escalation letter and the plan of action, two things that you want and hopefully a manager or a senior investigator.
[39:54] Chris: You want them to read it with new eyes to look at what happened in the past, to look at the investigations that are annotated on your account and decide for themselves. If you’ve given them everything they needed to reinstate you. If investigators should have reinstated you but they’ve been ignoring you, then the escalation specialist should be reinstating you based on the information you’re giving them. They should appreciate your escalation letter for what it is, which is I need more help. The teams that suspended me are not giving me enough help and I’ve given them what they need, and then the plan of action. Like I said, plan of action can stand alone as fully addressing all the problems that led to the suspension in the first place. So Amazon’s main concern is that they’ll reinstate you and you’ll go right back to what you were doing.
[40:42] Chris: You’ll have the same problems and they have to suspend you all over again and they have to do at least two investigations on your account probably more. And they don’t really want to see your account ever. My former teams, they want you to sell and not have problems and they never know you. So if you keep coming up because of problems either with item, quality, policy issues or performance metrics that you’re missing. You’re making work for my teams and you’re creating headaches and it’s not even just time. It takes time, but you’re creating a risk for Amazon and they see you as a high risk account and that’s where a lot of this ends up in a nightmare, unfortunate situation. Where they think you’re high risk. Too much of a risk to reinstate. The question of perspective.
[41:34] Augustas: We have a very specific question. Jerry, the seller,he says that they have a competitor from China who keeps changing the photo on their listing. They compete on that listing but Chinese are changing the photo of counterfeits product is displayed and they changed back to their own photo. They don’t go to Chinese when they change their own photo for them it’s easier to sell counterfeits products? It has been going for two weeks and they have reported and test bought the item.
[42:11] Chris: So they did test buys, which is good.
[42:14] Augustas: Yeah. They filed cases and nothing has happened.
[42:18] Chris: Don’t file cases not going to resolve. That’s a waste of your time doing one case, one time and hat’s it. Report abuse where abuse. There are whole teams dedicated to abuse now and Amazon doesn’t come out and advertise these teams like MPA (Marketplace Abuse) Here are the people on the teams, here are all the email addresses. They’re never going to do that because they don’t want to encourage thousands of emails everyday. This teams do exist. Amazon created them because this problem is 10 times worse than it was one year ago or two years ago. It’s the same with product reviews. PRA (Product Review Abuse). This team did not exist in 2016. That team did not exist when I was at Amazon and neither did Aarketplace abuse. Why? Because this problem is 10 times worse.
[43:12] Chris: 100 times worse now. So these people exists. You just have to make sure to don’t listen to what Amazon tells you about reporting things in Seller Central. Yes, it helps for a paper trail. Do it once and don’t waste time. This is not on the phone. Stop calling people. If you want to call someone, call your friends or call your mother. Do not call Amazon. They will not resolve anything like this on the phone with you. You’re wasting your time. I gave to email queues earlier. It’s a good place to start. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed they will take action if you send them a bunch of crazy text and pictures and it goes on for miles. Then the email queues I said earlier probably won’t help. But if you tighten it up, it’s something quick that they can review easily. Give them some links.
[44:01] Chris: Maybe attach a couple photos, hopefully they take the time to look at them. But summarize it well and if you’re not good at organizing your thoughts or writing things well then find a good writer and keep it short and send it to the right place. If you want, you can send things to Seller Performance Policy, the main policy queue. Maybe they’ll transfer it to the proper team once they have it. There are a couple people were kind of arguing, don’t try to contact the Abuse Teams directly, go to Solid Performance and let them forward into those teams because those teams aren’t supposed to be well known and they’re not supposed to be public facing and so forth. The problem is we haven’t seen a lot of success with just sending it to Seller Performance and hoping that they send it to the right place for obvious reasons. So it depends on how aggressive you want to be about it. You might want to ask Jerry, where is he reporting it so far? My guess is that he’s using lower level means of reporting it and that’s why it keeps going back and forth over and over. He needs to try to get that seller suspended. If they’re abusing policy.
[45:11] Augustas: What could you suggest for this person? Is their an email address he can just send now?
[45:19] Chris: The two I gave before, firstname.lastname@example.org. You can put this at the end of the podcast if you want. And email@example.com. Those are good place to start. I’m not saying it’s guaranteed. I mean you might have to do an escalation. There are some abuse cases that people hire us and we ended up escalating those ourselves. Because no one’s taking action on them. We’re not sure exactly why they won’t act on it, but clearly we have to push a little harder.
[45:46] Augustas: Okay. We have a completely different question. Bingwu, wants to know is it safe to authorize a third party to log into seller central? Will Amazon link accounts?
[45:58] Chris: It depends on who’s the third party. If it’s a seller managing accounts of other sellers and it looks like the accounts are related and that’s not a good idea. We can talk about different ways of doing it, VPN and so forth. The bottom line is you don’t want it to look like you’re attached to other seller accounts that you share no business with, that you have no operations with, that you don’t share warehouse space with. If it looks to Amazon in their tools, like you’re all together and you’re sort of sharing. And that’s why you’ve got different accounts is just to kind of have more accounts selling the same stuff, that’s not going to look good. Most of the time, like for a programmer or engineer, if they’re signing in once a month and it’s just an IP hit, normally that’s not an issue.
[46:46] Chris: It’s not a problem because that IP is associated with hundreds or thousands of accounts and they’re not closely related. Extremely weak relations. They see them, but they know that they don’t matter. So it’s not just a question of silence. It’s a question of how will you appear related to all these other accounts or businesses. Are you associated by region? Are you associated just by signing this? Do you share an address? Do you share a supplier? Then it starts looking like it’s the same company and the same business or the same operation. You might have different companies, but that’s not enough to prove that you’re two different operations. So that’s kind of a big topic, but that’s my quick answer.
[47:30] Augustas: There is a follow up question. Let’s say there’s an Amazon seller conference with maybe 200 people and there is a public WiFi. Is that a bad idea to log into your seller account?
[47:39] Chris: That happens all the time. That’s not what it’s about. That’s not how investigators link accounts. Those questions usually come from a misunderstanding of how Amazon’s tools work and how the investigators are trained. Logging in at the public WiFi at the very most, you’d have ISP (Internet service provider) hit with a bunch of other people who also happened to be sellers. But that is just onetime sign in, one day. They’re looking for patterns of sign in and not just looking for a one time relationship. Like Hotel WiFi, I answer a lot of questions about this. It’s a much bigger picture.
[48:18] Augustas: So it’s important not to overthink.
[48:21] Chris: Well, I mean people are afraid and I understand the fear because sometimes accounts are closed for someone that you’re not related to. It does happen. So I understand the fear. But there’s different kinds of fear, I guess. There’s smart fear and there’s uninformed fear. And signing in to public WiFi, there’s no precedence for that. Otherwise, there’d be suspending all 300 accounts for everyone who signed in. So never heard of that happening.
[48:53] Augustas: We have few more minutes and let’s come back to the review related question. There is this even verified purchase person, who tries to make a review and he gets a message that it’s not possible to leave reviews. So Mark, seller is asking is it possible to reset this or whom can you escalate the information?
[49:25] Chris: You can’t really escalate that right now. The problem is they’re having too many positive reviews on that ASIN over too short of a period. Another reason is sometimes there are reviewers and Amazon suspends or gets rid of the reviewer and they find all the reviews that there were fewer left. This is one reason why review deletions are so popular. If they killed the reviewer, then all of those reviews vanish on all products, not just the one ASIN. And if they see that too many reviewers that they’ve gotten rid of have left reviews on that particular ASIN, then they lock it down. Because they see a pattern of abuse on that one ASIN. And they considered the reviewer to be a bad actor or a bad player. They don’t just delete the reviews, they also close it off. Typically, you’ve been talking about reviews a lot, isn’t it? Like three weeks later, two weeks later they opened it back up. I think you just suddenly have it unlocked. Isn’t that what people have been saying?
[49:25] Augustas: Yeah, they just suddenly get unlocked.
[50:27] Chris: Yeah, but it’s like it varies, right? It’s two weeks or three weeks. I don’t know. Your event in Prague was a lot of talk about reviews?
[50:38] Augustas: The event in Prague was just a local meetup of handful of sellers. They were just basically worried that their reviews are wiped out for all those reasons and now they want new reviews and don’t know how to get them.
[50:53] Chris: Well, here’s something. I’m aware Amazon investigators are spending more time in Facebook groups and they’re spending more time trying to identify some of the services they shouldn’t be selling any of the services they sell to people because they know it breaks the rules. They know sellers know, it breaks the rules. I think Amazon’s kind of sick of the subject. They’re sick of being accused of having too many fake reviews on the site and investigators don’t have that much time to go searching Facebook, but they’re getting more interested and dedicated people to the social media bad behavior to the point where you might just get caught doing something way off of Amazon. And it’s very high risk behavior because what if they say, we’ve caught you for this before, you’ve been suspended for this before, so we don’t even want you to appeal.
[51:42] Chris: We want you to go away and then you can appeal. Then all of a sudden you’re emailing Jeff and Seller Performance and they don’t even answer. That’s where we’re going with this because I know there’s going to be more bad stories, more public information out there where people say, look at this group, look at what they’re doing. I mean, it’s kind of obvious. People are very sloppy about it and it’s easy to find. Somebody sent me a list of like 10 groups the other day and it was completely obvious that it was outside of TOS (terms of service) It’s just a matter of time before Amazon hunts down your group and takes your group leader and says, by the way if you don’t want to get sued, give us some names. So if you’re on that list, I mean, I have some people who were suspended and they said, we think we showed up on a list.
[52:42] Augustas: So we talked about this review publishing possibility of being disabled. John, the viewer, he says that they have never did anything against TOS. One day, they just collected organic reviews. I understand, but their product is blocked from publishing reviews. Can you comment on that?
[52:55] Chris: I would have to know a lot more about the situation. I mean he’s free to contact me with some details. But I would need to know more about what they’re doing on their own website, where they doing certain kinds of ads, discounts, promotions, giveaways. And I also need to know about their email sequence if they’re sending messages to buyers. He’s telling you that he never broke any rules and so forth, but maybe unintentionally he is saying something in his email text that got flagged for trying to promote only good reviews and you’re trying to take people unhappy and having them contact you, for example. It depends on what the language is. I know it seems very fussy, very nitpicky, but that’s the way Amazon wants it now.
[53:43] Augustas: Let’s take one of the last question which is not related to reviews. So Christian says it’s a great discussion. Thank you, Chris. Do performance problems, like IP infringements or inauthentic claims, prescribe? He means, if a new problem appear 1 year later, does the first one count?
[54:05] Chris: There’s no one year so much. If they see a pattern of inauthentic. Is that what you said?
[54:16] Augustas: Yes. IP infringement and inauthentic claims.
[54:21] Chris: Okay. IP Infringement, as a side note make sure you’re not selling any brands that really don’t want you selling their stuff on Amazon. Because obviously they have weapons to do bad things to you and you’re not going to sue the brands for making an intellectual property argument against you. I don’t think you’re going to sue the brand. Amazon won’t help you really, unless you can prove that the infringement is 100% false. So the one year it’s not so much. If you get one infringement each year, which you’re probably not. I I don’t know, it depends on your volume. Probably won’t have that much of an effect on you. But it depends on the nature of the complaint. And you’re saying the last one was not resolved? No retraction.
[55:01] Augustas: I think he is just asking if it’s a compound effect or something.
[55:05] Chris: Everything is a compound effect. Yeah. It’s not so much about the timeline you don’t want, you don’t want notifications to sit unresolved in your account. If you get accused of being inauthentic, you want to counter that. If you get accused of a rights owner issue, you want to get a retraction from the rights owner or if it’s a false infringement claim, you want to dispute it with the notice teams, so take action. Don’t sit there silently hoping it will go away. Take some kind of an action every time you get a notification. Eventually, yes, you pile up and pile up and then an investigator reviews the account.
[55:43] Augustas: And let’s take the last question. It’s again from Christian. He’s just wanting to clarify about this logging in by third party people. He says having virtual assistant that is also a VA for other sellers. Can it raise a problems?
[55:59] Chris: Not usually. VA’s are common. I would just make sure that you understand how they’re signing into all these accounts. Are they using the same computer or different computers. Again, if it’s just an IP hit and if it’s obvious that it’s a third party service provider who’s signing into a bunch of different kinds of accounts, you’re probably okay. Make sure when you hire a VA company that none of their employees have their own seller accounts that are selling similar stuff to you. I mean that’s where you have to get into the details, ask a lot of questions when you’re hiring VA companies. I’m not sure who he uses his VA. I’ve talked to Nathan in FreeUp and I’ve talked to Urtasker and I’ve asked them a lot of these questions myself because you have to make sure that VA’s are not signing in with their own seller accounts and hopefully not with a block seller account. That could create problems if they sold similar items or if other information overlaps and it looks like you’re related to them.
[57:04] Augustas: Thank you very much. Can you just one more time, tell your websIte and how people can contact you and how can you help them?
[57:13] Chris: So the website is ecommerceChris.com. ecommerceChris.com/membership is the membership which I talked about earlier. Happy to answer any questions. And finally, if you want to email me chris@ecommerceChris.com. Especially, it’s Prime Day today. If you have anything or any emergencies you may want to send a contact form to my site. I’ll see that right away. You can always email me. I’ll get it pretty quickly.
[57:42] Augustas: Thank you.
[57:43] Chris: Thank you.
[57:45] Augustas: Good luck in your business. Bye.