Which Amazon Suspensions do you Really Need a Former Amazonian For?

I’ll be the first to admit that you don’t necessarily need a former Amazonian to work on every single obstacle you face with your seller account.  Some people who leave Amazon and go into consulting never spent a day working with Seller Performance. They may not know how accounts are evaluated for reinstatement, nor understand how policy enforcement teams decide which sellers will succeed on a suspension appeal.  But when it comes to ASIN or account suspensions, it helps to have the right kind of Amazon expert to form your appeal. That person needs an intimate understanding of the ins and outs of Seller Performance, Product Quality, and Notice teams.  Nothing less.

If you don’t plan to write a POA yourself because you prefer to invest your time working with competent experts, understand the advantages a former Amazonian brings to the equation. Your consultant’s knowledge of internal team processes tends to give you the edge needed to identify the real root causes of the suspension.  They’ll also help you figure out the inside track to present your POA of viable solutions to Amazon.

These details can make the difference between a reinstated account or weeks of denied appeals.  Make sure you investigate the skill level of any consultant before you begin working with them, ex-Amazonian or otherwise.  

As a former investigator on Seller Performance teams, I’ll be the first to encourage you to check out my background and past successes in this field.  Marketing and self-promotion are a part of the game, but ask pertinent questions, really listen to the answers, then make up your mind regarding who you can trust with the fate of your ASIN or account.

Where do former Amazonians excel where others come up short?

  1. They know how to message Performance teams effectively. Why? Because they used to be on the other end of seller correspondence and made critical decisions based on their use of Amazon’s Standard Operating Procedures.  
  2. They know what kinds of POAs internal teams need to justify reinstatement of an ASIN or account.  Investigators need to think about audits of their work, too.
  3. They understand how Notice teams view unresolved complaints, and how to effectively communicate with them.  They also know what Notice teams ignore.
  4. They understand what Amazon complaint categories actually mean. (E.g. Used Sold As New doesn’t necessarily mean the customer received a Used product)
  5. Ex-Amazon employees know the risks of black hat tactics! So we avoid sellers using them. Do you know the risks?

So what are the best ways to write to Seller Performance, Product quality or Notice teams?

Anyone can write an email, of course.  Not everyone knows the best way to make their voice heard effectively in appeals to Amazon teams, though.  Be certain to have your consultant explain the differences between the various kinds of investigations, including the amount of time investigators spend reading what parts of the appeal. Do they know how to position your POA the right way to make it convincing?  Emails from Amazon may seem to make the appeals process straightforward, but that’s in theory. Is it like that in practice? If it were, I doubt I’d work with as many sellers as I do on these exact problems.

Emails to Seller Performance regarding performance  

Don’t make excuses for metrics misses! While they do want explanations for poor performance, they don’t need a litany of finger pointing at your own employees, or your own broken online tools.  Take responsibility for a lack of oversight of your automated processes and a lack of a contingency plans, then make your way through solid fixes to those problems. Otherwise, Amazon will just assume you’re going to have the same breakdown again and again! That will trigger more metrics-related reviews or even automated suspensions, if you’re way off the mark.

Emails to Product Quality

Amazon tasks this team with aggressive action around item item quality concerns.  If buyers return your products in high numbers (and sometimes, even if they don’t) you’ll want to understand how Amazon will assess the accuracy of your listing content, the effectiveness of your Quality Control processes and your ability to communicate positive results back to them when improvements are needed.  

If you don’t have an Amazonian advising you on these matters, ask yourself:  Are you able to walk Amazon’s walk, and talk their talk? Many account suspensions that we work on come from Product Quality teams and their peculiar ways of believing all buyer complaints.  Know what they’re looking for in terms of root causes, and have some bold new strategies to prevent future complaints along the same lines. Any pattern of quality complaints that is clear to Amazon will attract a suspension.  Product Quality teams are hard to deal with because their degree of responsibility is enormous.

Amazon needs to prevent sellers from pushing counterfeit items, to prevent unsafe or badly described items from being sold, and to scrutinize your supplier info to make sure you’re not using suppliers who have no real ecommerce presence at all.  They cover a lot of ground and have a very limited amount of time to examine both your POA and your supply chain documents. If anything is missing, they’ll just annotate, message you back with a generic reply, and move on. Make your POAs as perfect as possible.

If you’re not sure if your POA is perfect, show it to me before you send it to Amazon.

Emails to Notice Teams  

Ever since brands (and abusive sellers) realized different ways to use the email queues to enforce rights ownership, sellers have had to watch their performance notifications daily for new Notice complaints.  Both resellers and private label brands selling their own products had to strategize Amazon’s “new normal” surrounding the variety of complaints or outright IP attacks. Some sellers reach straight out to attorneys, some of whom may not be able to obtain a Notice claim retraction letter from the other party.  In the cases of valid infringements, the rights owner often intended to end your whole account, not only assert their rights ownership, when they submitted the complaint to Amazon. Therefore, unless you’re willing to do everything they ask, they won’t reply or help you out, whether or not you have the help of a lawyer.

Some sellers assume theses complaints are a bogus anti-competitive attack no matter what the situation is.  They handle it themselves by deleting the listing, or appealing over and over to Amazon to dispute it. Do those sellers really know their legal standing in those cases? Do they understand the Notice team position?

In these situations, you’ll want someone who knows what to do when Notice investigators reject your POA and simply send the same exact message as last time.  

  • Are you trying to dispute a counterfeit complaint by sending a copy of your invoice, and they don’t react? Add an authenticity letter from your supplier and send it in again, requesting an escalation to a Notice team manager.  
  • The Notice teams keep asking for retraction letters from the brands accusing you, but Amazon won’t check that they’ve already received them? Again, know how an escalation works within Notice! Don’t keep sending the same thing in over and over, or simply writing to Jeff repeatedly (as many non-Amazonians recommend).  In many cases, the doesn’t even make sense within the confines of a notice claim investigation, and your appeal will dead-end quickly. You stay stuck.

Find someone who knows these Notice email queues, and how investigators work those cases.  And talk to someone who understands both the SOPs the investigators use for Notice claims, and grasps how those teams are managed.  They’ve changed things around a bit since I left the company. But I understand the major differences between messaging them effectively to give what they need to reinstate you, and what someone else will wrongly guide you to do.  

Do you know how to decipher Amazon performance notifications? You might need an Amazon translator.

There would seem to be a lot of overlap between “Not As Described” and “Not as Advertised” not to mention between a counterfeit complaint and a report of inauthentic items. And what does a “Used Sold as New” complaint even mean?

Know the right way to translate Amazon performance notifications, since the teams behind those messages often haven’t thought through or tested the language themselves. Unfortunately, Amazon appears unaware of the confusion they create when they warn private label brand owners that their items were reported to be “inauthentic” because those sellers have no idea how they could be suspended for selling their own brand, which they manufacture themselves.  To Amazon, an inauthentic complaint can mean anything from an “item quality” complaint to differences, however subtle, between the product detail page and the items. You may just have a listing that poorly describes the items, and your buyer expected that they were getting something else. Nothing fake or counterfeit about that, at all.

Additionally, many sellers get confused once Amazon tells them they’ve sold “used items” as new, when they only source or sell new product.  Immediately they assume that the items returned to FBA and were placed back into “Re-sellable inventory” by staff, creating a new buyer’s complaint in the process.  Of course, any buyer who expects a new item and receives one that looks somehow “other than new” will complain. That’s just common sense.

The problem is, many sellers simply latch onto Amazon’s recent encouragement to dispute the suspension if they feel they’ve been taken down “in error,” fully believing an email back confirming they only sell new items, plus an invoice, will seal the deal.  Almost all of those attempts fail, and for a reason not often easy to understand. “Used Sold as New” doesn’t necessarily mean Amazon’s accusing you of selling used items. In my experience, they are simply referencing item condition complaints buyers made against your products. The products could have been damaged in transit, or defective due to poor handling of the packaging.  They may only seem “not new” because of those kinds of reasons, not because you sourced an open box product that a buyer tried out already.

Amazon black hat tactics are not worth the risk

One good reason to go with a former Amazon employee is because people like us understand the internal workings of the teams, and the tools.  We understand them so well that we wouldn’t jeopardize the employment of someone who works there, or even worked with us, simply to find an added edge in the account reinstatement business.  Investigators leave a trail when they jump in and out of accounts. If an account is reinstated with a token POA that looks like it was written on the back of a napkin, or with no POA at all, any proper audit will uncover such behavior.  Black hat consultants may not know how this works and probably won’t care, if they consider their “inside contacts” to be people they can use and abuse. They likely have no past working relationships or personal connections to any of them other than when they want something.  

Ultimately, the recklessness associated with i could come back on you, the seller, if you’re hiring the wrong consultant to help.  We’ve already seen some seller accounts that were blocked permanently when bad behavior linked to undue influence of an Amazon employee was uncovered.  It’s inadvisable to hand over fees to a consultant, let them do the rest, and ask them not to tell you how they get the work done. If your account reinstatement looks like a bad or mistaken reinstatement to an auditor who knows where to look, they’ll wonder where the magic came from.  

Did you induce another party to reinstate you without composing a proper appeal? Does that person claim to work with internal Amazonians to resolve your problems? You’re playing fast and loose with the fate of your Amazon business, if so.  Make sure if you choose this path that you’re OK with losing all final funds and your inventory, too.

No matter what team you need to appeal to, remember that you’re the one deciding what you will need from a consultant in terms of expertise and reliability. My guess is that you won’t want a few simple Google searches to determine the fate of your Amazon business.  Eyeballing a number of ads and absorbing language around “100% reinstatement success” may make you feel better in the short term, but in the long term, only actual success solves the problem. Make sure you do your homework unless you can afford to say goodbye to the account if it comes to that.

Chris McCabe
Chris McCabe, also known as ecommerce Chris, worked for several years on Amazon’s performance and policy enforcement teams and in recent time he's helped compose appeals in the reinstatement of hundreds of sellers. His expertise as an ex-Amazonian positions him to complete successful reinstatement early and often.

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