Season 1, Episode 138

If you can’t dispute, you can’t reinstate

Recently, there’s been a significant uptick in suspensions on Amazon due to ASIN creation misuse, notably without the option for sellers to submit a plan of action, only allowing for disputes if Amazon made an error. This change marks a pivotal shift in how Amazon handles policy violations, particularly concerning ASIN variation misuse. In this episode, Chris and Leah explore the nuances of these policy changes and how they affect sellers, especially those previously warned about potential violations.

Show Notes

Transcript

[00:00:00] Chris: Hey, everybody. Welcome back to Seller Performance Solutions. I’m back with Leah McHugh, who’s back from Japan. We’re back into our normal everyday flow. And interestingly enough, on your long flight back to the United States, we saw a major uptick in the account level suspensions, not just ASIN, account suspensions for ASIN creation misuse. Right?

[00:00:22] Leah: Yeah, I’ve been seeing a lot of these in the last few weeks, but they seem to have had a big intake while it was on the plane.

[00:00:30] Chris: Yeah, so we’ve dealt with these over the months and years prior, but there’s a spike or there’s a new cycle of these. The difference this time seems to be, the biggest difference seems to be there’s no option to write a plan of action, right? This is their new thing of not even giving you the option of appealing it and admitting something. Dispute only, Amazon made a mistake only, it’s an error. That seems to be what you’re seeing in the messaging, correct?

[00:00:58] Leah: Yeah. So the only appeal path we’re seeing for these ASIN variation misuse account suspensions is to dispute it. So you have to provide proof that you didn’t violate Amazon’s policy. And that is the only path that they are giving for reinstatement. I will say that all of the ones that I have seen so far. Had been previously warned about variation misuse. So it’s not like the account suspension came out of nowhere. They had previously been warned about ASIN misuse and then received the suspension saying that they could only dispute that they had violated the policies.

That’s the only path available for reinstatement. And it’s something that we also saw, I would say in the last few months for restricted product account suspensions as well. I’ve worked on a number of those now where the only path for account reinstatement for restricted products was to prove that the products you listed weren’t restricted under Amazon’s policies.

[00:01:49] Chris: This is a trend across all suspension appeals. And this is a big topic that we’re covering at Seller Velocity in New York in a couple of weeks, because brands have very little margin for error in making mistakes in the first place. I mean, you can’t go back in a time machine and undo some of the things you’ve done before you hear this podcast.

[00:02:08] Leah: Well, right. And I’m still hearing a lot of advice in the Amazon seller arena around, well, just do this hack and then if you get warned, don’t do it again. The problem is now if they’re suspending an account and the only way to reinstate it is to prove that you never did it, you’re putting your entire account at risk for what may or may not actually improve your sales.

[00:02:30] Chris: Right. And this is just not our comments and observations on cases that we see anecdotally. Account health reps, and compliance team members, and if you’re paying for an account manager for SAS core, they will all say the same thing, which is I checked with so and so or I checked with the team, they came back with this is dispute only, you need to prove that you didn’t violate the policy. And of course, if you did violate the policy, everyone’s immediately stuck. And that’s why we are getting all the queries.

[00:02:59] Leah: Right. And I, unfortunately, have had to have a number of conversations where I reviewed their variations and they were violating Amazon’s policy. And so I had to say that there is no path to dispute this. You were violating the policy and that’s all Amazon is accepting at this point.

[00:03:15] Chris: I mean, some people are throwing themselves on the mercy of the court saying, because they can’t prove that they weren’t violating the policy because they were violating the policy, they still attempt to appeal it, you know, through other means. But the objective right now should be making sure that you never get suspended for this in the first place, and you observe full compliance on ace and creation policy. So I guess the question to you, since you see a lot of these kind of train wreck variation creation setups, after they’ve been suspended is how you can recommend that they go through, do a compliance scrub before they really get caught doing something. Because so many sellers we talked to lead with, comments about how wonderfully compliant they are, and then you take two seconds of looking at it and you realize they’re not compliant at all. So where how do how do we fill that gap in knowledge?

[00:04:12] Leah: Yeah, so first of all don’t acknowledge policy violations for variations misuse, and then just recreate the variations exactly how you had them before. I see a lot of people do that. Don’t do that, amazon seperated those listings for a reason. Secondly, a lot of sellers read the variation policy kind of with their own intentions in mind. So they read it and they’re like, well, these products are similar, so they can be listed together under a variation family. And Amazon is very literal in their enforcement and their reading of the variations policy. So the variations can only vary by the variation theme that you’ve selected. And the variation themes that you can select are different for each category. So you need to check your category to see which variation themes are available for that category of products. But if you’re saying that your products vary by color. Those products can only vary by color. They can’t vary by color and maybe like one comes with an extra accessory and one doesn’t, or they can’t vary by color and size, or color and weight. They can only vary by color if you’re saying it’s color. And same for size, and size refers to dimensions, not quantity. So if you’re saying something varies by size, you can’t say one is a three pack and one is a two pack. That’s not size. That’s quantity. Quantity is only available in subcategories. But by misusing the variation themes, and usually what people do is put additional information in those attributes to try to make it make sense on the consumer side, that’s actually a second violation because you’re misusing the attribute as well as misusing the variation family. So you’re now violating multiple policies to try to make your listing make sense within the framework that Amazon provided because you’re not using it properly, which is why it doesn’t make sense if you’re using it to use those attributes correctly.

[00:05:55] Chris: Yeah. And I’ve seen different WhatsApp groups and chatter about like seller hacks. And I think I understand where some of these ideas are propagating and coming from.

[00:06:04] Leah: They’ve been around for years. I’ve been seeing these for as long as I’ve been working with clients with you.

[00:06:10] Chris: But even recently, well, of course, but in the past you could appeal it, admit wrongdoing, and lay out a plan to be compliant in the future. This is different. If that’s still going on now, which I don’t see any difference in chatter now from two years ago. Never any discussion of the risk, never any discussion of the consequences.

[00:06:30] Leah: Well, and I think it’s because Amazon has been so inconsistent in enforcing this. You know, we won’t see any account suspensions for this for like six months, and then suddenly we’ll get a whole slew of them and then we won’t see any more for another six months. So, you know, I regularly have this conversation with sellers who are like, I had it like this for years and it was fine and it’s fine until it isn’t. It’s fine until Amazon decides to start enforcing it again. And in this instance, they’re enforcing it without giving you any kind of appeal path, only a dispute path. So one, if you’re knowingly breaking the policy, you’re putting your entire account at risk. Two if you don’t know the policy very well, you could potentially be putting your account health at risk. So it’s definitely worth checking the policy checking your variations if you’re not sure. Email me and ask. I will be very blunt about whether it is a valid variation.

[00:07:21] Chris: Well you know within moments. I mean Leah tends to know for those of you listening, within moments whether or not the claim that you’re following policy or aware that you’re not following policy, you know, will be vetted and understood quickly. That also means that anyone at Amazon that has any comprehension of their own policies or of what’s a good variation, what isn’t, will understand that as well. It won’t take them day and night to figure this out. You’re not really hiding from anybody. I understand, Leah understands, everyone understands that you are going to go on Amazon and see lots of variation violations.

[00:07:54] Leah: Right, including Amazon’s own brands. Amazon’s listings are actually my favorite example to use for listings that are violating policy, because most of them are. So you can’t go off what you see, you have to go off how the policy is written.

[00:08:07] Chris: Well. Some people who are violating the policy are submitting disputes and trying to get their accounts reinstated on the basis of, let me show you a bunch of Amazon’s own listings that are violating policy. I mean, if that actually works, let us know. Power to you. Because I haven’t seen it work.

[00:08:25] Leah: Nope.

[00:08:26] Chris: Any more than I’ve seen people submitting a plan of action and having that work. Sellers are still obsessed with this idea of I’ll get suspended for this, but I know people who have, they wrote a POA, they got reinstated. That’s what I’m going to do. I’ve still heard.

[00:08:41] Leah: Yeah, because that’s how it used to work. But that’s no longer how it is working, at least currently. And you have to adjust to that. The fun thing is, or not so fun for the sellers, is that they’re only accepting a dispute.

[00:08:54] Chris: And that’s worth talking about for a couple of minutes before we wrap up this episode, which will be wonderfully short to give you a chance to get back through your post Japan inbox. And of course, Seller Velocity is two weeks away. So, so many wonderful things to do. I hope you can join us in New York, May 1st.

Account health reps, and I know people have gotten better. I hope they’ve gotten better at speaking to reps in terms of what they can get out of those conversations. But account health reps are still telling people to write a plan of action, even if it’s not a plan of action situation. Keep an eye on that. Take it with a grain of salt.

[00:09:30] Leah: Well, just question it. If, the form isn’t asking you for a plan of action and account health says you didn’t submit a plan of action, ask them where it says that is required.

[00:09:40] Chris: And scrutinize the original performance notification to see whether or not, A, you were sent the correct message or B, did they actually ask you for a plan of action? Maybe you got an old message that asked you for a plan of action, and then you should rectify that. Call account health and say, I see that I’m supposed to appeal this as a dispute only, but this message asks me for a plan of action. Amazon’s never going to take responsibility for this disorganized, incompetent sloppiness.

[00:10:04] Leah: Right.

[00:10:05] Chris: And the fact that their own people are telling you to do the wrong thing.

[00:10:08] Leah: Well, and honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there are people in Seller Performance that haven’t been told that they’re not accepting plans of action for this either.

[00:10:15] Chris: Or that. Or people who don’t even know that a major change like that has been made. That will not serve as an excuse later. Make sure you call in, talk to somebody. I mean, if you get some random person, the same as any problem with any company you have, where there’s a phone number that you call in. If you get somebody who sounds like they don’t know what they’re talking about, you don’t continue the conversation, and you don’t assume that the information is gold. I understand that it’s a dicey situation, and if they sound authoritative and confident, you might want to believe it. Don’t do that. Make sure you get this one particular appeals path, method, or strategy clear before you start submitting anything.

[00:10:55] Leah: Well, and particularly, if you aren’t actually violating policy and it has been incorrectly flagged, too many sellers are just in the habit of, well, I just have to admit that I did it wrong and then I’ll get reinstated. The thing here is that if you’re admitting wrongdoing, and then you didn’t do anything wrong, and then you’re reversing that and disputing wrongdoing, you’ve now given Amazon Very good reason to deny your dispute because you previously told them that you did violate their policies.

[00:11:22] Chris: And I’ve, I mean, we can close on that note because do not knee jerk write a plan of action and do whatever you did last time. I have a theory that I’m working on that some of the sellers we hear from have a previous POA that worked. And so that’s why, like it’s already been written and they want to modify it. And that’s why they’re sending it.

[00:11:40] Leah: Yep.

[00:11:41] Chris: But some people are just doing it because they see crazy old articles that mentioned write a plan of action and how to do that. And it’s just a knee jerk response to a bad situation. Amazon’s changing appeals. A lot of the seller central appeal button options have changed a lot in the last 60 days.

[00:11:59] Leah: Right at this point I’m making everybody send me a screenshot of the appeal form before we start work. And I realized for some people that probably seems weird because we work on this every day and I should know what the appeal form looks like, but I’ve had five different appeal forms for the exact same violation across different accounts. They’re trying out new things right now. Every appeal is different. You need to make sure that you’re reading what they’re asking you to submit before you submit anything. And you need to make sure that you’re following the instructions that are explicitly laid out in that specific appeal form. Not what you’ve done previously, because they’re testing all kinds of stuff right now.

[00:12:33] Chris: Yeah, and I’m sure you’re creating a couple of wonderful slides for your presentation at Seller Velocity in two weeks that will address this particular topic. All right. Thanks everybody. This is third rail stuff. Be very, very careful with base and variation creation and also how you appeal it if you’re suspended. If you have questions on that, let us know.

We’re happy to help and, happy springtime. We’re back in East coast time zone. So reach out to us anytime. Thank you. Bye.

Hosts & Guests

Leah McHugh

Chris McCabe

 

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