Seller Performance Solutions
Bulletproof Your Amazon Listings Against Suspensions & Defect Claims in Q4
November 9, 2023
Recently, there’s been a noticeable uptick in listing suspensions particularly related to condition complaints—damaged, defective, used sold as new— triggering a flurry of suspension notifications. In this episode, Chris and Leah examine the murky waters of these suspension notifications exacerbated by the chaotic frenzy of this busy sales period.

[00:00:00] Chris: Hey everybody, welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I'm Chris McCabe here with Leah McHugh. Leah, how's it going today? 

[00:00:06] Leah: All right. How are you?

[00:00:08] Chris: I'm fantastic. 

[00:00:09] Leah: I know we're just progressively more tired as we get 

deeper and deeper. 

[00:00:12] Chris: Not true. I had an excellent night's sleep.

[00:00:15] Leah: Oh lucky you. 

[00:00:16] Chris: Yeah. After working late in appeals. Anyway, today we are talking about a recent phenomenon, it's an unfortunate time of year for all these damaged, defective, used sold as new type complaints to be coming in. We have had, maybe six or seven people in the last 24 hours asking us about this, showing us the suspension notifications, blaming potential competitor attacks. But also they are finding, in my experience, some buyer complaints of defects, consistent patterns of return comments saying, Hey, this item looks like it may have been opened.

Then we get in that whole, you know, FBA game of, are they putting returns back into resellable inventory that we used to talk about two years ago? But I had questions for you [00:01:00] because I know some people need to update their listing content, either images or detail page bullets, or both? And of course, when the listing is suspended, they cannot just go in there and update it.

They have to update content on their side and then get in touch with catalog teams to update it on Amazon's side. Do you wanna explain that for a couple minutes? 

[00:01:19] Leah: Yeah I think I've mentioned it before. When the listing is blocked, it doesn't ' behave correctly. So what you see on your end of the listing isn't necessarily what Amazon sees within their internal tools.

And they're just going to be looking at their internal tools when they're assessing your appeal. They're not looking in your seller central account to see what you see. So manual changes rarely go through when a listing is blocked, you have to upload a flat file. And even if the flat file goes through without any errors, you still need to call the catalog team and just confirm that your changes are actually visible on their end.

Because sometimes it's not visible on your end, but it's visible on their end, or vice versa. Sometimes you can see the changes on your end, but [00:02:00] they can't see them on their end. So you just need to call into catalog, it's really the only way to confirm it. And don't send an email because they'll send back an email telling you how to upload a flat file because they just respond with templates.

[00:02:10] Chris: So what's the best way, what's the best way to get on a call with Catalog? 

[00:02:14] Leah: You go through the like ten freaking prompts in Amazon's help menu to connect. You go through the inventory, add a product issue, and then you click through a bunch of options, and then you get an option for a phone call, and half the time that connects you with catalog, and half the time it doesn't connect you with catalog, and then you have to ask to be transferred to catalog.

[00:02:33] Chris: Right. 

[00:02:33] Leah: Because Amazon improved their help menu by making it way worse. 

[00:02:37] Chris: For those of you who cannot see me, I'm sort of biting my lip or suppressing a smile because it's just so preposterous how many hundreds or thousands of appeals they're getting that use the phrase, I can't fix this, you have to reinstate my listing and then I will fix it.

And those are summarily rejected. And I also see some SAS core or account managers, [00:03:00] which is the paid account management program. I see some account managers who don't understand that either. Who are further creating confusion by misguiding their sellers. So, make sure you do this step before you appeal. I'm reading bunches of appeals that lead with, or somewhere inside, contain the words, We can't do this yet. You keep rejecting us. Why are you denying us? We can't fix the listing. That's because you have to fix it on that side first, before you do all the appealing. And unfortunately, we have people coming to us who have been rejected two, three, five, six times, because they misunderstood this.

And so we're trying to prevent a listing suspension that could go two days going two weeks into Black Friday right now. 

[00:03:42] Leah: Yeah, there is also a known issue, at least it's known on my end, I assume it's known internally to Amazon since it's so prevalent. But there is a known issue currently where if your listing is PCRP restricted, if you try to update your listing, the system will block you because it's PCRP restricted.

And then you get into [00:04:00] a fun back and forth with Amazon about how their system will not let you fix the listing, but they will not reinstate it until it is fixed.

[00:04:06] Chris: Right. 

So that's the first point we wanted to make. Secondly, consider maybe disputing it isn't the right way to go. I understand that most sellers start with, this is BS, you took us down wrongfully, reinstate our listing, we don't have any buyer complaints. I understand why a lot of people are doing that because maybe they've done it successfully in the past. If that gets rejected, we'll assume in most cases 60, 70, 80 percent of those first appeals will be rejected.

Consider that you could improve your detail page content, your images, The text, the language in the instructions, whatever you need to do to educate buyers before they buy it. Consider that that could be part of the solution, and that maybe you should appeal it saying you're going to clarify the language or improve the text on the detail page because I believe in most cases that's what these teams want to see in the appeal.

[00:04:58] Leah: Also similar. [00:05:00] No, I do. But I would also say similar to what we were talking about last week. A lot of condition complaint appeal forms do give you the check boxes. 

[00:05:07] Chris: Yes. 

[00:05:07] Leah: Make sure you're reading what they say before you check them off. 

[00:05:11] Chris: Right. That's awesome. You gave me a great lead into my next point without us discussing it in advance.

If you've just been randomly checking these boxes and agreeing with everything Amazon says you were doing, or says is wrong with your products, whatever it might be, agreeing that you violated policies. And then you turn around and start disputing all of these ASIN takedowns. You look like you're changing your story every five minutes, and that undermines their confidence in your appeal, right? Fair to say it's not logical to do that. So as Leah was saying a moment ago, think twice before you check all these boxes because they might say, Oh really there's nothing wrong with this product? There are no buyer complaints about defects? A, that's interesting because we just looked at all your checkbox appeals that you went through because you didn't feel like going through any other appeals process.

[00:06:00] So, that's part of what you're committing to when you check all these boxes, right? 

[00:06:04] Leah: Yeah, and I would say somewhat basic advice, but the foundations of your account are important as well. Make sure you're not using commingled inventory, so somebody else's bad inventory isn't negatively impacting you.

[00:06:17] Chris: Right. 

[00:06:18] Leah: Opt out of Amazon's repackaging service. And I believe you can now opt out of their replenishment service. So you can actually opt out of them deciding whether your returns are resellable or not. Consider opting out of that as well. If you're consistently getting used-sold-as-new or condition complaints on FBA specific items.

[00:06:38] Chris: Yeah. And the next point I wanted to make was do not waste time, especially at this time of year, early to mid November. Do not waste time going round and round in circles with Seller Central. If you have an appeal that's rejected. You need to hound the account health reps, not for their advice or their general suggestions.

I know that varies between one rep and the next. You need to find out [00:07:00] exactly why previous appeals were denied. And if they try to feed you this garbage that we can't, for privacy reasons, tell you are proprietary processes and we can't read to you from the annotations on the account for that investigation. First of all, find out if there are any annotations.

They love to deny appeals with nothing at all annotated, which proves absolutely nothing in terms of an investigator actually looking at your appeal or reading it at all. Number one, let's assume there are some annotations. Find out why they rejected it. Denial notes or rejection reasons. You should not be resubmitting appeals at all or through Seller Central if you can't get quality information. If you can't get a U. S. Rep, call back again. As we always say. But make sure you get a U. S. Rep whose giving you some consistent logical info in terms of why it was rejected. You might not agree with the rejection reasons, but just get the rejection reasons because those will inform your revised appeal.

Maybe it'll tell you something you didn't [00:08:00] think of or know before, and you'll revise the appeal using better quality info that you could have had earlier and just didn't have because you had less info. Or maybe you'll find out it's complete, baseless, erroneous, investigator mishap, which is common, right?

[00:08:17] Leah: Right. 

[00:08:17] Chris: And you will escalate it based on the fact that they barely read it or reviewed it, didn't take your appeal seriously from the get go. But that may mean that you're appealing outside of Seller Central. You're taking the primary email associated with your account and emailing management, senior management.

We can all thank the antitrust lawsuit, which is out there making lots of executives. What they do fully public and obvious information at this point. Use that to your advantage because those are people you can send appeals to.

[00:08:48] Leah: To those who have read the 173 page document. Yeah.

[00:08:53] Chris: Which the 172 antitrust lawsuit filing document. While some of it's been redacted and a lot of [00:09:00] it's been redacted, I have conclusively proven that you can read, or at least read through some of it, without spending a week doing it . 

[00:09:08] Leah: I read the first one in a day, or less than a day. 

[00:09:10] Chris: Yes. Not everyone needs to speed read in the way that Leah did, but you can get to the salient points and the pieces that are relevant to you as a seller and Amazon business owner without reading every passage like it was your last will and testament. What else can we tell people in terms of item defect claims? Obviously, buyers make complaints and competitors can buy from you and make complaints. But, if you can put an acceptable appeal in front of Amazon, whether it's a competitor attack or not, you should get that ASIN reinstated, right?

You can deal later with whether or not it's a competitor attack. If you keep getting attacked right? More than once? You can start saying, look, we appealed it. You reinstated us. Now there's more complaints that are similar? Don't we see this across your compliance cases and the performance issues that I'm working [00:10:00] on?

[00:10:00] Leah: Kind of less so on my side, but I see them on the ones that you're working on. I think it's very easy to just assume it's an attack. If you're getting the same complaints consistently, that doesn't necessarily mean it's an attack. I mean, that could just mean that you have a consistent issue with their product.

But if you do look into it and you do find weird anomalies, or you can actually prove that it is a competitor, that's a different story. But as I always say, you have to start with yourself. You have to look at your own products and your own operations first before you assume malice. 

[00:10:30] Chris: Yeah, you could have a bad batch.

And maybe because of the time of year, you were trying to get more product quicker. Your manufacturer rushed some of it. Maybe it's a bad batch. 

This is why we always say, when you're having your inventory shipped to FBA get some samples sent to you so you can pop them open and double check. Quality control it. And do some due diligence. Make sure your manufacturer isn't straying from the script in order to get you more product faster, because sometimes there are consistent buyer complaints because there are [00:11:00] item deficiencies or defects that that buyers are legitimately complaining about.

I think if you have a series of buyer complaints, you can't just say, well we had seven buyer complaints in a row all saying the same thing. Clearly, this is a competitor piling on, trying to get as many complaints against us at once. That does happen, but that should not be your assumption. 

[00:11:20] Leah: No, and I would say generally when we see an influx of condition complaints, we do also see an influx of authenticity complaints, depending on the product. Because those very often get confused on the buyer side of things.

So again, depending on the product, but just in general, it's good practice to make sure you have all of your invoices organized and ready in case you need them. Because someone often thinks that a bad product is actually a fake product. So worthwhile just having that ready to go so you're not then scrambling while your ASIN is taken down to try to find the right documentation. 

[00:11:53] Chris: And that's unfortunate that some brand owners just have slapped together bad looking unprofessional invoices [00:12:00] from their manufacturer. And Amazon just asks for an invoice as a course of, Hey, it's an inauthentic complaint probably means the quality wasn't great, or it might be a condition complaint like you were saying. And the reason the appeal is rejected is that the invoice just looks terrible.

[00:12:15] Leah: Or can't be verified yeah.

[00:12:17] Chris: Right. I mean, what an awful reason to have an appeal denied at the busiest time of year. So any questions on this? Let us know. We're happy that we're working seven days a week. Very popular within ecommerceChris through the end of December. So let us know if you have any questions on this, and if you have seen an ASIN takedown for item defective condition complaints and so forth, there is a recent mountain of these that sellers are reading through and sifting through. So you need help appealing those, put it in front of us, get a quick pair of eyeballs on it and a quick assessment, and then we'll figure out what we do from there.

Thanks, Leah. 

[00:12:51] Leah: Thanks, Chris.

[00:12:52] Chris: Bye, guys.