Season 1, Episode 67

Amazon Mad Libs Their Template Responses

The Seller Performance teams on Amazon have shown their incompetency and disinterest in solving seller issues time and time again. In this episode Chris and Leah tackle this topic and discuss what needs to be done internally to improve this dismal situation and what to expect when appealing your case to these teams.

Show Notes


[00:00:07] Chris: Hello everybody. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions, our wonderful podcast. This is Chris McCabe, I’m here with Leah McHugh, We are talking about a sort of darkly funny, scary topic today.

Scary for sellers who get these messages from my former team, seller performance, usually it’s about related accounts, but we’ve seen this problem across a multitude of messages.

[00:00:34] Leah: I think I’ve seen it in all kinds of messaging.

[00:00:35] Chris: Every kind of message, which is the brackets that the employee at Amazon was in such a rush and doing such a poor job.

Clearly messaging doesn’t get flagged and quarantined in some sort of outbox to be reviewed if it’s this bad, but the message itself will just have empty brackets or it will have insert key information here within the brackets, which is obviously their internal jargon to the investigator to say, Hey– if you’re saying that this seller is related to another seller, you have to tell them the first few words or the first few letters of the related account name. That’s just one example that we’ve seen.

[00:01:11] Leah: Yeah. I also see where they’re saying you’re infringing on somebody’s trademark and then they don’t tell you what trademark you’re infringing on or they tell you an ASIN has a problem, and then they forget to fill in the ASIN.

[00:01:22] Chris: They don’t tell you the ASIN. It’ll just say ASIN brackets or sometimes I’ve seen empty brackets where there’s just something was supposed to go in there. The investigator obviously didn’t care, didn’t put the time into it to double check it before it went out.

Sometimes there’s a wrong ASIN, which is like a right click error from the previous investigation they were doing. Again, keep in mind, they call it IPH they’re rushing investigators through these investigations. Well, haste makes waste, right? Lots of mistakes, lots of errors. That’s the first problem.

Second problem is like I said, messages that have empty brackets or Amazon language that’s supposed to be deleted inside the brackets, not being quarantined or dumped into some outbox with, Hey, there’s errors on this page. Right? We’ve all seen that when we’re trying to buy something or looking at stuff online that we’re trying to do. That should happen. I’m not a software tools expert seems like that’d be an easy thing for them to execute or institute.

[00:02:16] Leah: That’s kinda like when you’re in Gmail and you mention attachment, and then if you don’t have attachment ,Gmail will be like, Hey, did you forgot to put an attachment on here?

[00:02:23] Chris:
 Excellent example. Well, it’s a hundred percent unprofessional and it’s embarrassing to Amazon and managers and VPs and anyone who manages the marketplace should find this professionally embarrassing that this is happening publicly because what does sellers do? They throw it back at Amazon and they say, is this how you value us? Is this how little you care about professional communication? And of course currently we’ve seen this going on for weeks. So the answer is yes.

[00:02:48] Leah: I mean, those aren’t even the worst examples that I’ve seen.

[00:02:50] Chris: Yeah. Well what about dear blank, dear comma.

[00:02:53] Leah: Yeah, but I also just see them send like the completely wrong template. So out of nowhere they’ll be like, your products a drug, and then every other notification you’ve gotten about it has absolutely nothing to do with that and then it just turns out that they sent you the wrong template. Which we know, because we deal with this all the time, but if you’re just dealing with your own account, then you’re just like, oh no, now it’s flagged as this as well.

[00:03:12] Chris: Right. She’s speaking with such exasperation I’m guessing thinking of this one example we saw where they said your product’s been flagged as drug paraphernalia. I think there were stickers or ?

[00:03:23] Leah: Right. Well, so in actual fact it was flagged as potential IP infringement, but they just sent the wrong template response.

[00:03:29] Chris: 
So lots of right click errors, lots of empty brackets.

[00:03:33] Leah: I’ve also had links to Amazon’s internal tools in emails, which is always fun.

[00:03:38] Chris: Yeah. Talk about that for a minute. I think our audience will find that very interesting that they were sending you something that should have been sent to another employee and not to an external.

[00:03:47] Leah: Well, so they just replied saying to follow the directions on this page and then the link linked to Paragon, which is Amazon’s internal tool, which then said you don’t have access to this.

[00:03:57] Chris:
 Right. Sellers don’t have access to Amazon’s internal tools.

[00:04:00] Leah: They also regularly refer to Paragon just on the assumption that sellers know what that even is.

[00:04:05] Chris: Obviously we know what it is, it’s the name of a tool, but that’s basic mistake type stuff where we get the sense that whoever is managing those teams, managers have direct reports, sometimes it’s a dozen, sometimes two dozen, sometimes it’s dozens or hundreds, depending on what it is. It doesn’t look like there’s any meaningful quality assurance, there’s no meaningful oversight. And I mean, I think some sellers have thrown these messages back at Amazon trying to shame them for not caring and not even meeting a basic level of competency, but I honestly haven’t seen any sign so far that they care. They’re kind of like, yeah, well, that’s a mistake.

You know, these things happen. It’s a big company, big marketplace. Sorry, we’ll we’ll try better next time.

[00:04:48] Leah: Or they just don’t respond at all.

[00:04:50] Chris: 
Well, that’s kind of their key game plan now seems to be like silence is one of their heaviest weapons to use in the communication wars with sellers, because they’re not interested in admitting their mistakes.

They’re not interested in being called out for things that are chronic, for things that are constant. And going back to what I said a moment ago, messages that say dear and a big empty space and a comma that’s unprofessional, right? That’s something that if you hired an intern, If you hired somebody on Craigslist to do some basic email responses for you, let’s put it that way. And they had a high school education or they didn’t have an education and they did that, you’d be upset with them. Wouldn’t you? If you were paying the money and if you were having them manage your communications, you’d turn around and say, you know what? You’ve done this a couple times. What’s the deal? Amazon’s not doing that. So the minimum bar of like what you want to have for professional business communication or professional period isn’t being met currently by these teams.

[00:05:49] Leah: Well, I think it’s just one thing to not supply the information you need, which is bad enough.

I just think it’s a lot worse when they supply just completely incorrect information because potentially you’re sending the seller down a wild goose chase, right? To address something that doesn’t even need to be addressed because you just happen to choose the wrong template to send them.

[00:06:09] Chris: 
Or some of these people are suspended for relations to another account. We’ve worked on a lot of these appeals in many cases, it’s groundless and baseless. It’s a mistake. But,. what you’re doing when you’re publicly, you know, professing to take care of your sellers, to care about your sellers, to treat them well.

Amazon’s got a conference coming up in Seattle soon, right? Accelerate. They’re going to invite lots of sellers to come and to meet with executives and so forth.

[00:06:34] Leah:
 Hopefully it’s not as hot as the one in new Orleans. Yes.

[00:06:36] Chris: The one in new Orleans in June was well, something we’d like to forget, but it’s an emotional experience to be suspended, right? Your business life could be on the line and they’re sending you a message that should have key information that you need. You cannot appeal without knowing which account they think you’re related to, like Leah mentioned. We’ve seen lots of these empty bracket messages that don’t deal with an account suspension, but in this case it does, and people are showing us these message

Every day, multiple times an hour lately. That’s terrible, just because you’re telling somebody you’re suspended, you need to do something to get your account back, you may never get your account back if you can’t appeal successfully and we need to tell you blank or we need you to do blank. And there’s a message that doesn’t include the pertinent information that seller needs in order to do an appeal, they have to call account health reps who have almost nothing to say on this issue, because they’re not the ones who sent the message and they’re caught in the middle kind of between a team that sent a message that shouldn’t have gone out. And the suspended seller, which is an unenviable place to be.

[00:07:40] Leah: Well, and we’re not even talking about the poorly written templates that even when sent correctly, don’t give you the information you need, right? Brand registry, for example, has one denial template, which says that you have engaged in abusive behavior, no matter what, the reason for denying your brand registry, you get that message.

It doesn’t tell you what abusive behavior, right? And then it sends you to an appeal form, which has a box where you can put your email address and a box where you can put the role that you would like in brand registry and that is it.

[00:08:07] Chris: That’s laughable.

[00:08:08] Leah: And so that’s them sending the correct template.

[00:08:10] Chris: Right? Seems like that’s the only template they were given permission to use. I don’t know why they used that for every thing.

[00:08:14] Leah: But also what is the point of that appeal for?

[00:08:16] Chris: Yeah. Yeah. Don’t steal my thunder. We’re gonna save this. Sorry. We’re gonna save that for a different episode because I think it’s a long template.

I think the part that always sticks up to me is it says you have engaged in illicit fraudulent or abusive conduct. These are strong words, and these are major league accusations for one business partner, if you wanna call them a partner to levy at another partner or business that’s associated with their marketplace

[00:08:42] Leah: And also account health can’t see any of the reasons for brand registry’s decisions, right? So you can’t even call or contact anybody for more information. Brand registry won’t give you more information, account health can’t, seller support can’t.

[00:08:54] Chris: Right, right. And a good second or third example of template messaging that has just gone haywire. We know they get complaints about it. We know they’re aware of it. They don’t seem to have any control over stopping people from sending these incomplete templates, they don’t seem to, we know they’re aware of it. They don’t seem to have the ability to create the tools.

[00:09:15] Leah:
 I mean, even just outside of the template, like what SOP are they using? Because that SOP is not working.

[00:09:20] Chris: Yeah. Well, the SOP is at Amazon sometimes we’ve seen messages where they’ve copied and pasted parts of the SOP into the outbound message I saw that once, maybe three, four months ago, this is just embarrassing stuff. I mean, anyone with any respect for themselves managing these teams has to take a cold, hard, look at this and, and say if I’ve lost my love for Amazon, maybe I don’t belong in this role because I don’t care about something that’s professionally embarrassing.

We encourage Amazon to reverse that and correct it. We encourage sellers to show us more examples of this, even though we’ve seen a sheer tonnage of them so far, because that’s something that has to stop. If you have to appeal something and you need information in that message, whether it’s an ASIN or you’ve gotten an obvious right click error, where they’re talking about a totally different seller, that’s another thing it’s like, what about privacy concerns when they send a warning to the wrong person?

[00:10:10] Leah: With the other person’s information.

[00:10:12] Chris: Well, I keep seeing messages to, you know, Dear auto store 75. And it’s like, okay. So that’s obviously an active seller or a storefront that lost a listing. Does it make sense that you’re compromising that privacy by messaging a totally different seller about a totally different ASIN, right? What if you happen to be writing that to another automotive seller? And they’re like, oh, so those guys are circling the drain.

Great. All I have to do is buy from them and say that the product’s unsafe or it’s inauthentic, and then I can push Amazon to make yet another mistake by suspending that person.

[00:10:44] Leah: Also don’t do what he just said.

[00:10:45] Chris: Yeah, don’t do that. So wrapping up on that point. If you have messages that you don’t understand what they’re trying to tell you, you need us to act as interpreters or translation experts.

We’re happy to do it. Hopefully this is a temporary blip and this will not persist, but I’ve seen this empty bracket stuff going on with the related account suspensions for going on two months.

[00:11:07] Leah: I been seeing wrong information being sent for years at this point.

[00:11:10] Chris: 
Yes. The IP claims where they accuse you of violating a trademark, they don’t give a complaint ID. Don’t give contact.

[00:11:16] Leah: or the Trademarks so you don’t even know which trademark they think you’re infringing on.

[00:11:19] Chris: Yes. Well, and then you saw one the other day, which was just a jumble of numbers so I think they copied the– was that the complaint ID being mentioned?

[00:11:26] Leah: No, I actually, I figured that one out myself. That was the trademark registration number with the USTPO.

[00:11:31] Chris:
 Right– so the investigator made, compounded the error by putting the trademark registration number.

[00:11:36] Leah: 
So could figure out what the trademark was.

[00:11:38] Chris: But my point is not everyone can figure that out.

[00:11:40] Leah:
 Most people don’t spend as much time on the USTPOs database as I do.

[00:11:43] Chris: That’s true. That’s true. So contact us. Thank you again. Thank you, Leah, for joining, We’re happy to hear any comment, suggestions, feedback, positive, negative, constructive, hopefully about seller performance solutions and have a great summer.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh



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