Amazon Suspension, or the Importance of Diversification

If you’ve ever received the “your account is suspended” email from Amazon, you know the feeling. If you have yet to receive the email, the threat is ever-present. It is an unfortunate fact that a high percentage of sellers have a very real fear of having their Amazon account suspended, and of the appeals process that follows.

First you receive a cryptically worded email that isn’t even grammatically correct, and then you have to figure out what to say in response, what Amazon wants to hear, in order to get your account back. It’s annoying and scary. I don’t envy you, but I can help you.

My first piece of advice is more of an overarching idea, a plan… something to chew on: don’t put all your eggs in the Amazon basket. The Amazon basket is not filled with that fluffy Easter basket grass that they make out of shredded Sprite bottles. It is not soft and squishy. The Amazon basket is cold and unyielding and it doesn’t care about your eggs.

Amazon is NOT a nice squishy Easter egg basket

You should have your own website, Shopify site, Facebook ads, listings on Etsy perhaps, a strong blog, Pinterest pins that you promote with your products, etc. There should be many baskets so that if you find yourself without one for awhile, it won’t kill your business.

I once had a client who did nothing wrong. She really, truly did nothing wrong but Amazon had just implemented a new team with a new set of enforcement rules and though she was compliant in every way, we had to prove that. At first they weren’t hearing us, and then they just stopped listening. It took 3 months and several escalations to get her back up and running.

And again, just to be crystal clear, she did not do a thing wrong. She just got caught up in an Amazon-sized tangle. When you fall outside of the usual purview, they don’t have a plan for that. So they just brush you aside. Your situation takes time they don’t have.

This is not to say Amazon is not worth it. It is completely worth it. In fact, it is a must. But Amazon is huge, and truly the vast majority of their communications are through (typo-riddled) email form letters which are read and populated by call center-type workers. Their stats are everything where their performance reviews and pay is concerned, so if you don’t say the right things, and they don’t have time for your shenanigans that day, they will deny your appeal and move on to the next.

It is also hugely important to mention here that the people you are writing to are indeed people. They are just overworked people who don’t have time to really dive into your particular issue. Do not call them stupid or incompetent, do not type in all caps, and do maintain professional composure at all times.

It isn't personal; you're just one more in the crowd

Which leads me to my second piece of advice: be organized, be articulate, make it easy for them to say “yes”, and own whatever you did. Please know that Amazon does not shop around for people to enforce on, and they don’t “have it in for” you. What happened was you got caught up in a “sweep” of some sort. You might have had one too many negative customer experiences on a certain ASIN. Maybe you’ve been selling a restricted product. Perhaps you’ve received feedback that your products are counterfeit. Maybe you haven’t been answering customer emails in a timely manner.

Amazon’s systems are constantly sweeping the site for violations of its Terms of Service, among other things. If data in your account matches the data it’s looking for, down you go until the problem is fixed and you own it.

It is not personal, it’s just business.

So do your best to remove the emotion from it, and take a good look at your account and your business practices through an impartial set of eyes. Assemble your words, and your documents, as easily and succinctly as you can. Use bullet points. The person receiving your appeal often has less than 5 minutes to read it all, check your work, and make a decision. If you start making them look bad by costing them time with flowery words, superfluous attachments and finger pointing, you’ll just be denied.

Third piece of advice: know who you’re talking to. Pay attention to who sent you the notice. It will give you a window into what the problem is. If the notice came from Seller Performance, we’re probably talking about a policy issue, a rule you violated. If Product Safety, there was a complaint regarding the safety of one of your products, or perhaps a name brand product you sell. A letter from Product Policy is going to have something to do with your detail page, or the way you’re advertising your wares. Annoyingly, there is a difference between “Safety-Policy” and “Product Safety” – the first is responding to potential customer complaints of safety, and can often be resolved with warnings or label improvements with occasional required laboratory testing, but the second typically always requires third party laboratory testing.

Because there are so many teams, you really should not use a template. Amazon is on to the template thing, and they don’t take kindly to it. But that’s not to say you can’t be organized.

When I write appeal letters for clients, they always follow the same basic format:

  • I use the first paragraph to reference the product and recap the issue. I take responsibility for the issue and mention that it is fixed now.
  • Next I lay out all my attachments and explain what each is: it either is an example of the problem, or proof of the problem having been fixed.
  • Then I recap the problem and succinctly explain my solution. I mention that it won’t happen again, I thank them for their time and state what I want to happen now (“I look forward to the good news that my account has been reinstated”).

The templates I’m talking about are the ones you can download off the internet that are just “fill in the blank” sort of questionnaires. Amazon doesn’t like those because they don’t require that you put much thought into what you’re saying, or that you even take responsibility for what has happened.

In a way, it makes a mockery of something Amazon takes very seriously. An account suspension boils down to either customer dissatisfaction, or a violation of terms of service. Put simply, an account suspension is the result of making Amazon look bad.

Amazon’s whole purpose in life is to be the most customer-centric company in the world. If something you are doing runs counter to that intention, Amazon takes it very seriously. And you should too. They don’t take kindly to templates because it’s not viewed as you taking the issue seriously.

If it's not you, and it's not them, then it's just the situation

The most important thing to remember when dealing with Amazon through the appeals process, is that it’s just business. It is NOT personal, in any way, shape or form. A computer found something that doesn’t look right, and now you have to explain what they found.

You only have reason to worry if you did in fact do something wrong. In that case, the same rules apply. You must explain what was done, how you’re not doing that again, and what your new course of action will be. Even if you did something really wrong, they might reinstate you. It will come down to the strength of your case and the solution you’re offering.

At the end of the day, Amazon wants happy customers. If you want happy customers too, there’s no problem. Yes, it’s really that simple. In my years of helping sellers get out of trouble, there have been very few times when it wasn’t that simple. Even in the case of my client who remained suspended for months, that wasn’t complicated. That was just a matter of getting the facts in front of the right person.

And once she was reinstated? She immediately started working on diversifying so that all of her eggs weren’t in the Amazon basket. Instead of having a few large wholesale accounts on Amazon, she launched a custom branded product that she can sell on her own website, through social media, offline, and of course also on Amazon, but not exclusively.

Because really, Amazon’s just not that into you. Don’t take it personally; find other ways to find customers are who ARE into you.

Do you need help with any reinstatement issues today?
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