Resources mentioned in the show:
Seattle Amazon Seller Event – March 9th, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM, Kneehigh Stocking Co, Seattle
Ecomengine Webinar: How To Talk To Amazon Without Losing Your Mind
How is Amazon getting rid of RA sellers?
Very slowly, and painfully for many.
Thousands of Amazon sellers have built their entire business model upon what’s known as the Retail Arbitrage (RA) model, but for the past year or two, things changed gradually. Arbitrage sellers are asked more and more often for documentation that they simply cannot provide, and “supplier verification” info that they cannot produce. While you may have only store receipts or online invoices, Amazon will want to see email addresses and phone numbers to have the option to contact your supplier and confirm the distribution channel.
If you have invoices from your supplier, does your supplier have an easily verifiable web site?
Can you prove that the quantities on your invoices match sales on Amazon, for the specified time frame?
If there’s no web site, or receipts or invoices are poor or hard to read, your odds of rejection rise dramatically. Many resellers now find that the days of yellow highlighters and circling things on folded over receipts are coming to an end in the gradual but inexorable slide out of arbitrage sales on Amazon.
Unfortunately we are unable to accept the order details that you have sent us. We only accept invoices from suppliers as valid documentation.
We still need more information about the items at the end of this email. Please reply to this email with copies of invoices or receipts that include the following:
— Supplier information (name, phone number, address, website)
— Buyer information (name, phone number, address, website)
— Invoice date (must be issued in the last 365 days)
— Item descriptions
— Item quantities
You can send .pdf, .jpg, .png, or .gif files. These documents must be authentic and unaltered. We may call your supplier to verify the documents. You may remove pricing information, but the rest of the document must be visible. We will maintain the confidentiality of your supplier contact information.
We will review your information and decide whether to reinstate your listings.
Why is Amazon getting tougher on invoices?
We’ve known for a long time now that Product Quality teams intended to protect item quality by requesting certain kinds of supplier or sourcing information from sellers. At first, sellers who received buyer complaints of “inauthentic” products saw warnings from Amazon pop up in their performance notifications. They sometimes requested a Plan of Action to address the complaints, but always requested copies of invoices and general supplier info, at minimum. For much of 2016, Product Quality began asking for very specific supplier information while also ruling out more and more invoices that they didn’t like.
In brief, Amazon decided long ago that items sourced from liquidation sources, retail and online arbitrage, and anything remotely similar to those acquisition methods are associated with much higher incidence of buyer item quality complaints.
Some sellers even submit viable POAs and expect reinstatement, only to be asked repeatedly who they will source from “in the future.”
To help with the review process, please send us the following information:
— Sources of future inventory
If you have not already done so, we encourage you to ask buyers to leave feedback on your account. To learn more about contacting buyers, search for “Communicate with Buyers Using the Messaging Service” in Seller Central Help.
We will send you an email when our review is complete.
Seller Performance Team
The not-so-subtle hint here is quite plain. Do you have something better to show for future sales that breaks with your past of buying from retailers?
Trends Among Arbitrage Resellers
Let’s back up for a moment to go over what we’ve seen in the past months.
#1 I’ve seen sellers receive messaging asking if they have already implemented their POA, and if they’re ready right now to return to the site. In the past, you’d answer this with an emphatic “yes” and they’d take you back, holding you to your POA. You’d be OK unless you failed to implement it in any meaningful way, or unless you continued to receive the same complaints you had before. Then you’d find yourself back where you started.
We received your plan to address the problems we identified. Please reply to this message after you have implemented all of the remedies outlined in your plan. Once we receive your email, we will review your account and decide whether you may sell on Amazon.com again.
We look forward to hearing from you.
Seller Performance Team
Instead, lately Amazon investigators accept that you’re “ready” but then ask for more or better supplier information. If they thought your POA worked, they wanted to follow up by making sure your supplier info checked out, too.
Did you have invoices or supplier info reflecting each of the above criterion?
Does your link to the supplier web site look like a real site?
If you’re just sending them the address for Costco corporate headquarters, or giving a general phone number to Best Buy, Amazon knows you’re an RA seller. If they ever came calling for any “authenticity letters” as we have seen in numerous cases of selling certain high-level brands, then you’d have nothing to document. Even sellers with invoices from established distributors with verifiable web sites are having trouble producing letters on company letterhead, depending on the supplier and/or brand. If they’re seeing reluctance by their suppliers to provide those letters, then what chances are there for sellers only carrying receipts?
#2 We have also seen a trend where investigators simply refuse to scroll through PDFs and identify highlighted or circled portions of receipts, and often it’s hard for anyone to tell if you are showing the same receipt when you take snapshots of certain clips of a receipt. Either way, those result in rejections more often now. If you only have Lot Sales manifests or receipts for documentation, let alone purchase orders, pro-forms invoices or anything else they’ve publicly identified as unacceptable, then you’ll need to show other supply chain info to pass muster. The day of piling up pictures of receipts and expecting to prove authenticity have long since past. How are you reacting?
What To Do About All This
We’ve seen this coming for two years. Hopefully you’ve put some thought into how to transition away from RA. The writing has been on the wall for some time, even if Amazon handles the entire subject in a “case by case” manner.
They aren’t planning to post a banner in Seller Central that states “Retail Arbitrage is no longer a valid sourcing model”. Instead they deal with it in policy team enforcement around buyer complaints of item quality. If you don’t have the new standard for “proof” of authentic and legitimately sourced product, then you’re shut out from the listing, or from selling (again) on the site.
It’s not about what you believe, or what you can promise at that point. It’s 100% about what you can prove. Are you on listings with several other sellers who have better supply chain documentation than you do? Then Amazon’s incentives to bring you back in diminish remarkably.
- If you’re actively selling now, why not take this time to establish new relationships with easily verifiable and established suppliers?
- While doing so, vet each one for their willingness to provide “authenticity letters” or any documentation showing their connections to the brand or manufacturer.
- Are those suppliers shown somewhere on the brand’s web site?
This will make your life a lot easier later on, if buyers somehow complain about “inauthentic” items and you don’t know what to show Amazon to prove otherwise.
There may be precious little you can do if you continue to rely on retail arbitrage. Investigators are only too happy to deny reinstatement of individual ASINs and entire accounts when they perceive a dearth of supplier information. Nothing looks as thin and unsubstantiated at this point than a collection of receipts or even invoices that do not come along with supplier letters of authenticity. Amazon will need emails and phone numbers as they leave open the possibility of contacting your supplier. If you don’t have any to give, or you don’t have specific people and actual supplier relationships to refer them to, you’ll find the future a very hard road indeed.
Remember, Amazon evolves just like any other business. What worked easily 2 or 3 years ago may clash quite a bit with how policy and item quality enforcement teams operate these days. All sellers must evolve as well because those who don’t will be left behind. Think about the future a lot, because Amazon sure is..
Please reply to this email with a plan that explains
— The issues that caused the complaints.
— The actions you have taken to resolve the issues and prevent similar complaints.
— Future inventory details.
— Future Supplier details and sample invoices for these items you wish to sell.