When engaging with Amazon's Seller Performance team, sellers must tread carefully. One pitfall many fall into is the checkbox appeals. While these forms might seem like a quick fix for sellers who find themselves in hot water, hastily clicking through them without understanding the full implications can lead to even bigger issues. In this episode Chris and Leah unpack the intricacies of checkbox appeals and offer advice on how to navigate them effectively.
[00:00:00] Chris: Hey everybody. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I'm your wonderful host, Chris McCabe. I'm here with my co host, Leah McHugh. Leah, how are you feeling?
[00:00:10] Leah: Awesome.
[00:00:11] Chris: You've been better. We apologize to our listeners in advance for Leah's congestion today.
[00:00:18] Leah: We will edit out any coughs.
[00:00:19] Chris: Right. We will edit out the sneezes and coughs. She's a trooper. We're here because we see lots of sellers going into these checkbox appeals and just not reading what is written there. Not understanding what they're acknowledging, just checking a bunch of boxes and passing through to resolve the issue. And Leah's here to tell you why maybe that's not the best thing in the world to do.
[00:00:45] Leah: Well, you know, there's different kinds of these appeal forms. So it really depends on which one, but I have been seeing on the compliance side. One, they're using different forms for the same issue. So sometimes the checkbox just says that you've acknowledged it and you've fixed the detail page. And sometimes it says that you acknowledge it, and by checking this box, you understand that the ASIN will not be reinstated. And I've had a number of sellers check these boxes without actually reading it, and then that removes it from the account health dashboard, but naturally when it says it won't be reinstated, it doesn't reinstate the listing. What it does do, and I haven't seen this on all of them, I've only seen this on some listings. Sometimes it doesn't really do anything and they can still appeal and it's fine. But sometimes what it does is it tombstones the listing. So it basically makes that listing deactivated. So when you contact the catalog team because you think it's still PCRP restricted, the catalog team comes back saying, no it's Tombstone, you need to delete it and re list it. However, anytime you try to make a change to that ASIN, you get an error message back saying that it has restricted claims that need to be removed, but you can't remove them because you can't edit the listing.
[00:02:01] Chris: I think one reason people aren't reading these is they're afraid of something worse happening. And they believe that simply because they're seeing, it means they have to admit to it because that's how Amazon works. Nothing goes forward until you admit that you've done something wrong, which of course you and I have no such belief. We think that you never admit to something, especially since Amazon makes lots of mistakes, and takes down lots of ASINs for the wrong reasons. Sometimes the wrong message is sent.
[00:02:30] Leah: Well, I think the format of the form as well. So, there are these very prominent checkboxes and then way down the bottom of the screen, a little link, not a button just to hyperlink says, "If this was an error, appeal it here."
And so a lot of people don't even notice that they just think that the only appeal path is to submit those checkboxes. And I also think a lot of people are hypersensitive about just getting it removed from their account health. Like, Amazon has told sellers now that you just need it off of your account health so you don't lose the entire account. And so they're not really reading it or they're not seeing the whole thing. They just see the checkboxes and they're just like, "ah, I just need to get rid of it." And there are use sold as new cases where they do just check the checkbox and that gets rid of it. Still, if you keep getting those checkboxes and you keep admitting that you have condition issues, eventually Amazon is not going to just let you continue to check off checkboxes.
They're going to say "you have ongoing issues, you've admitted to that. We're suspending that ASIN."
[00:03:28] Chris: That's the counterintuitive part. If you keep doing the checkboxes thinking that's how you'll maintain your account health, they're eventually going to say, "we've had to contact you about this too many times. Where's your plan of action just to keep selling?" So, you're working against yourself if you just capitulate every single time and turn your brain off and just think, they got me, so I just have to admit it, just to get rid of it and the stress of it. I suppose that seller psychology 101 is, if I don't do this right now and admit to this, I'm going to have to be worried about having my account suspended for the rest of today, this week, this month.
[00:04:08] Leah: Yeah, I've had a lot of sellers say that they think that it's intentionally misleading. I tend to err on, assume it's incompetence and not malice. So I just think, similar to the email templates that you get back from support or catalog, somebody dashed them off and that just became the official templates and nobody really reviewed it again, and no one really cares if it's user friendly. Because we are seeing them using different messaging for the exact same issue. So it looks like they have multiple templates internally, but there doesn't seem to be clear rules as to when one is used rather than the other. But again, not having that appeal at an error thing being prominently displayed, I assume that's just poor design rather than intentional malice on Amazon's part.
[00:04:55] Chris: Right. The best example being we've seen way overuse of the temp template that says you've engaged in illicit deceptive or fraudulent practices.
[00:05:04] Leah: Abusive, they love the word abusive.
[00:05:07] Chris: Just kind of how they were putting everything under code of conduct violation whether or not it had anything to do with that. Abuse, the word abuse gets used in multiple contexts, often misused by Amazonians themselves.
Message number one, don't just click through these things without considering the consequences. Another point I wanted to bring up, number two would be, sometimes if you admit to certain product compliance or product safety issues, they'll say, great, this will be resolved in your account health, but now your inventory is unsellable.
You got to pull it all out of FBA. I don't think sellers understand that they're putting themselves in position to perhaps give Amazon what they want to resolve the account health issue, but render their inventory a hundred percent unsellable.
[00:05:55] Leah: Right, we are seeing that as well. So it either gets all of your inventory marked as defective, or like I said, it deactivates that ASIN. And then, you know, catalog, they're like, "oh, you just have to create a new ASIN for that listing", which seems to be their, like, favorite phrase at the moment, which is driving me a little bit nuts. Similarly, you know, I've heard from sellers who are like account health just told me to check off the boxes, so I checked off the boxes, and now I can't get my listing back.
So again, read it yourself. Please read.
[00:06:22] Chris: In fairness to some of the catalog, and support, and occasional account health reps, we have been to conferences where people who worked at Amazon said from the stage, go ahead and create a new ASIN.
[00:06:34] Leah: Yeah, no, I mean, I hear it all the time.
[00:06:35] Chris: We also see agencies, various consultants, and third party services out there sometimes telling sellers we'll get your listing reinstated or we'll get your listing back up quote on quote.
What they mean is they're not going to help you appeal the ASIN suspension. They're going to find a creative workaround to get your product relisted under a different guise.
[00:06:56] Leah: What will be interesting is when Amazon decides to enforce its duplicate product policy again, because we do see them enforcing that every so often.
And all of a sudden you're going to have all of these people who were told to just make a new ASIN suddenly get flagged for duplicate listing creation.
[00:07:12] Chris: Then they'll just do a merge, right?
[00:07:15] Leah: Well, you can't do a merge if the other one's deactivated.
[00:07:19] Chris: Amazon loves merging listings that don't belong merged, even if you're just trying to get a bunch of reviews out of it, right?
So, yeah, I can imagine a creative solution to that. That'll be a giant mess that we'll deal with maybe next year or down the road. Not during Q4.
[00:07:37] Leah: Maybe.
[00:07:38] Chris: We'll see. Any other thoughts, tips, or advice for people who are experiencing this checkbox phenomenon? Because there are different templates, I suppose. Do they vary between whether you check one box or several?
[00:07:54] Leah: Yeah, they do. But then there are also ones that have the same number of check boxes, but the wording is slightly different.
[00:07:59] Chris: Right.
[00:08:00] Leah: So very important to read it. Even if you just look at it and are like, Oh I know this form. Make sure you actually comprehensively read it because a lot of them do look very much the same, but they just have slightly different wording. And also look out for that link to appeal an error, particularly if it is an error. And I also understand that with restricted claims, it does seem counterintuitive to appeal an error if you are making restricted claims and you've then removed those claims. But you need to appeal it in error. You need to remove the restricted claims and then appeal it as an error because now the listing is fully compliant.
[00:08:35] Chris: I think the main problem is sellers are disputing it poorly in error. And it's getting rejected because they just write some basic thing. Saying, "you guys screwed up. This is a mistake. We want to dispute this in error." And there's no real text and somebody just reads it and says, "what the hell is this?" and rejects it. And that starts all these other wheels turning. So some people are disputing it properly, in terms of disputing it as a mistake, but they're writing garbled, jumbled, poorly written text. And Amazonians are so used to seeing badly written appeals and just rejecting them and throwing them away because they're unintelligible or they're badly written and not considering whether or not it's a mistake. Do you think that's possible?
[00:09:26] Leah: I mean, it's less of a writing thing with compliance and it's more, you have to actually correct. Especially like PCRP. So when it's specifically around restricted claims on your listing, the main thing that they want is those restricted claims removed. So your appeal is essentially that there aren't any more restricted claims. But the main thing is getting them removed, and we've talked about this before, when a listing is blocked, what you see in Seller Central isn't necessarily what Amazon's team see in their tools. So you not only need to edit the listing, and for supplements in particular, you need to add photos of all sides of the packaging, but you need to confirm with the catalog team over the phone. Don't do an email, you will just get a template.
Call the catalog team and confirm that they can see the changes in their tools because the compliance team are going to be looking in their tools, they're not going to be looking at what you see in Seller Central.
[00:10:20] Chris: Right
[00:10:20] Leah: And that's very important because even if you do a flat file upload and it goes through without errors, it still may not push through to their tools while it's blocked. So that's really the most important step of that appeal process. And then submitting the appeal itself, you're not really writing a plan of action there.
[00:10:35] Chris: No.
[00:10:36] Leah: You're just saying, "Hey, we made the changes, the photos are up, check it, should be good." Obviously, I'm paraphrasing.
[00:10:42] Chris: And I think that's one reason why people contact us saying we've been rejected six times. They're not following any of these steps. They're just appealing and saying "we can't change the listing until it's reinstated, but this is what we'll change it to." They automatically reject that because you're not following the process that we had just outlined.
[00:11:01] Leah: Well, and like I said, if you've already checked off the check boxes and then you try to edit your listing, it won't accept your edits and the catalog team can also not push through those edits with their tools.
So you're making their life harder by checking those boxes before you remove the restricted claims. So, remove the restricted claims, don't check the boxes, appeal in error.
[00:11:19] Chris: Exactly. You're making their life harder and your own life harder. And what you just mentioned is the key part of this whole episode, which is they have to do it with their tools.
If you've checked through, you've sealed yourself off from making those changes. You cannot just appeal saying, "well, once you reinstate us, then we'll fix this." Doesn't work. That'll be an automated rejection.
[00:11:43] Leah: And also, catalog have less access to their own tools than they used to. So where they used to be able to relist items for you, or put things back into your catalog when you weren't able to. They don't have access to those tools anymore. So, don't expect to be able to rely on catalog to make the changes. You still have to make the changes, ideally by flat file, because then they can access that information in their system.
But, you just need to confirm with them that the changes have gone through. And if they're already in the system, then they can push them, but they can't just do it themselves without you putting some of that information into the system. They no longer have those tools because of issues.
[00:12:26] Chris: Exactly. Exactly. Words to live by. Very well said. Well, thanks for joining me during your illness. Thanks everyone for listening. Questions on this, of course during Q4, you want to ask us sooner than later. Thanks again for listening to Seller Performance Solutions. We will see you next time.