Today we are happy to share an actionable story which we received from one of our Amazon Pro seller, Chantelle Thomas. Hopefully you'll learn practical things related to seller account suspension. If you have anything to share with the community of sellers feel free to reach out to us, here at Bindwise. Enjoy reading!
So your Amazon Seller Account has been suspended. Welcome to the club. You know you’re successful when it happens.
You wake up one morning and check your Amazon sales. Except instead of dollar signs, you see the dreaded email “Hello, You currently may not sell on Amazon and your funds have been temporarily held…” You frantically scan the email for reasons as to why your business got shut down in a matter of hours, and wonder how could this happen without even a warning?!
Most commonly, immediate suspensions happen as a result of inauthentic or Infringement on Intellectual Property claims.
You know your items are authentic and were purchased from a major retailer or are private label so you immediately hit the reply button and start typing up your defense in a desperate attempt to get your account back up, and access to money that’s rightfully yours. Except, instead of reinstatement or more information, you are met with a canned auto-bot response that denies you, tells you nothing, and holds your money hostage. So you try again. And again. Same response. Your frustration builds as you can’t call, you can’t ask questions, you can’t even talk to a live person!
The Amazon Seller Forums are overrun with confused and suspended sellers, both new and seasoned, asking “what did I do wrong?” A quick google search brings up thousands of articles and companies almost guaranteeing to have your account reinstated for a hefty fee ranging from $500 USD to $7500 USD. Curiosity and frustration got the best of me, so I reached out to several of these companies for help.
Many 3rd party companies claim to have been former Amazon staff or have insiders at Amazon who can review your account. After these inquiries, I was convinced that Amazon had a side business charging sellers to reinstate their accounts! If they don’t, maybe they should but I digress. Hesitant about to give my account information to anyone, and not seeing any value in having someone write a 10 minute appeal on my behalf for an entire weeks worth of pay, I was determined to fight the suspension myself, but had to be careful about it as you only get so many chances.
The more you appeal back and fourth unsuccessfully with Amazon, you are one step closer to the “kiss of death” email the Seller Forums refer to. This is when Amazon tells you that you are permanently suspended, and they will no longer reply to your emails. Once this happens, you’re done. There is no one else to reach out to unless you know CEO Jeff Bezos personally ;-)
Before you start paying 3rd party companies to help you with your appeal, you need to know that you can do this completely on your own, and about 97% of account suspensions are reinstated according to MySilentTeam’s leader, Jim Cockrem. In the case of your goods actually being counterfeit, or not having a paper trail, then no one can help you and your business is probably under water, rightfully so. Selling items bought at yard sales as “brand new” won’t bode well in suspensions. For the rest of us, read on.
Formula for successfully appealing a suspension
Amazon emails don’t tell you much, but they tell you everything. You need to read between the lines. Before you do anything, you need to:
Gather your receipts for the ASINS that Amazon has advised are the issue somewhere in that email;
Review your entire account. It may mean deleting the ASINS in question, reviewing all customer feedback, complaints or policy violations;
Review the restricted brands list and every item in your inventory to ensure they match the pictures and descriptions;
Review Amazon’s policies as quoted in their email. Their US policies are all listed here https://sellercentral.amazon.com/gp/help/external/G521?language=en_US.
Only once you’ve done the above, you are prepared to formulate a response and a plan of action. Your response needs to include the following:
- Reply only to the email they requested you to. Do not send your email to every known Amazon email address! There is a specialized Seller Performance Team who handles suspensions and getting other departments involved will slow your response time and confuse the situation even more;
- Open your response by addressing the complaint in clear, concise wording;
- Provide receipts or invoices for the item(s) in question. Highlight the item and the UPC or SKU if applicable and provide the supplier name, address and phone;
- Ensure your plan of action has the action you took to resolve the complaint, and the action you will take going forward to ensure no further complaints about this issue;
- Even if you are not at fault and have done nothing wrong, you need to admit fault that someone thought your goods were inauthentic. The customer is always right in Amazon’s view.
Keep in mind while writing your appeal, that you cannot reach the Seller Performance team by phone, and emails from them are robotic and pre-written. Calling Seller Support will just add to your frustration as they do not have access to your suspension. They can see what you see, and many reps will give you bad advice or completely incorrect information. To give you an idea of just how much you need to bend over for Amazon, let me tell you about one policy violation we received and successfully appealed.
When the complaint is Amazon’s fault
We sell only FBA (Fullfillment by Amazon). Amazon is 100% responsible for the shipping and delivery to the end customer. All of our goods are inspected twice before being sent to FBA warehouses, and come from reputable sources that are inspected by government agencies.
We received a safety complaint, stating the item was opened before receipt, and were accused of selling an open and used bag of food. Not only is that disgusting and completely unsanitary, but it was totally false. Obviously the bag had been opened somewhere in transit after it left the warehouse, or the customer was lying to get a freebie.
In the first appeal, the finger was pointed at Amazon, reminding them they were in charge of the shipping to the customer and this was not seller fault. Such a newbie error. Amazon’s auto bot employee fired back and our account was hit with poor seller metrics and bad feedback.
In the second appeal, we admitted fault. We took responsibility for not thoroughly inspecting the item before it was sent to FBA, and that going forward, we will double check every item and ensure compliance with packaging policies. We’ve been doing this all along, and know the complaint had nothing to do with us, but we owned it anyway. Not surprisingly, Amazon was satisfied with that response and we were back up and running within 2 days but we still had the bad metrics which eventually fell off the account in 180 days.
When the complaint actually is seller fault, just follow the same guidelines. We are human, and humans make mistakes. Learn from them, be diligent, and you shouldn’t have the same problem going forward. Amazon tends to be more forgiving on FBA sellers than merchant fulfilled, but FBA has its own downfalls we won’t discuss here.
The customer is always right
Sellers often forget or don’t realize they are a dime a dozen on Amazon. There’s thousands of new seller accounts being created daily, especially by the Chinese market. Amazon is a giant money making monster with a huge database of customers that everyone wants access to. It’s not the sellers they want, it’s the customers they want. To acquire and keep them, they need to make them happy which usually involves refunding their (and your) money. This means any customer, at any time, can accuse any seller of wrongdoing, and they will win, you will lose. That’s a whole other blog post for another time.
If you follow the format above, you have the best chance at winning your appeal, usually within 2 or 3 emails to Amazon. Rarely do Sellers get reinstated after the first email. It almost seems like a requirement that you go back and fourth a couple times before anyone actually looks at it.
Anytime you communicate with Amazon, remember you are a small fish, in a big pond, with several sharks lined up behind you. Your communication with them should be clear, concise and factual. Don’t fill your appeal with fluff and emotion. Amazon doesn’t care how the suspension affects your business or livelihood. They don’t care how valuable you are or how much money you have invested or will make them. They review thousands of emails a day, and yours is just another in the ever growing pile. You need to get the teams attention in the first paragraph, so they can see you’ve provided what they want, and that you pay attention to what they are telling you. Only when they are satisfied, will they consider reinstating you and giving you your money being held hostage.