Season 1, Episode 83

Mysterious Product Recalls

A lot of sellers have been receiving mysterious product recall messages from Amazon, when their product hasn’t actually been recalled. The messaging states that all products need to be removed from FBA before the listing is eligible for reinstatement.

So what is causing your listing to get incorrectly flagged like this? Is it somebody hitting the wrong button in Amazon’s system or is somebody trying to sabotaging your listing? And how do you get your listing reinstated, without removing all of your inventory?

Show Notes


[00:00:07] Chris: Hey everybody, this is Chris McCabe. Welcome back to another wonderful, lovely episode of Seller Performance Solutions.

I am here today, as always with Leah McHugh. How are you doing, Leah? 

[00:00:17] Leah: Good, thanks. How are you Chris? 

[00:00:18] Chris: Good. Good.

[00:00:19] Leah: We get like progressively more tired sounding as we get further into Q4.

[00:00:23] Chris: Yeah, we’re doing this one. If you can’t tell late in the day people, so just hang, hang with us. Hang loose. 

[00:00:28] Leah: 8:00 AM where I am. 

[00:00:30] Chris: Yeah, sure. Late in my day. Today we’re talking about these interesting mysterious product recall messages that a lot of clients and brands that we’ve talked to keep receiving. In a lot of cases there is no recall present. I think it’s fair to say, and it’s bizarre that they were reading that message.

And in other cases it looks like it might be an abuse tactic. So, first off, if you have your products being recalled, isn’t there an agency or a government notification? When I worked at Amazon, I would process some of these notices that these agencies would send to Amazon. Hey, there’s a product recall, take these listings down. Inform the sellers of this. Like I was involved in the Amazon process but since we’ve been consulting, I don’t remember anyone getting a recall notice that wasn’t there or didn’t exist? 

[00:01:21] Leah: So yeah, so usually CPSC is the government agency that would be notifying. Whoever about the recall, right?

Or the seller itself. So you as the manufacturer are supposed to be the one notifying people of the recall. And if not you, then the CPSC. This is one of those cases where, you know, my favorite Amazon game is this incompetence or abuse . Where products are being flagged as being recalled.

Is it somebody hitting the wrong thing in the system or is it somebody sabotaging you’re listing. And honestly, at this point, it could go either way. And then it’s probably a mixture of both. Some cases are probably somebody doing the wrong thing internally by accident, and some of it is probably people sending false reports regarding recalls.

[00:02:05] Chris: Right. Right. I think it’s an abuse tactic. It’s hot right now. I think people are, yeah, some of them are right click errors and the investigators are just screwing up the messaging as they often do. The rest of it is competitors, abuse and competitors making false allegations about recalls.

This is kind of a theory I’m working on since we’ve seen so many of them. We are in the thick of it in November. So of course we’re looking for black hat tactics and abuse all over the place because that’s what this month, unfortunately, is all about for a lot of brands, just defending themselves and defending off these attacks.

But I’m starting to wonder if competitors are making fake allegations of a product recall. Would they be what, falsifying paperwork? They’re putting this in front of Amazon and saying, Hey, this product should be recalled, and for some reason, I think Amazon’s believing that and then taking action against their competitor.

I mean, what are the odds that that’s actually what’s happening? 

[00:03:04] Leah: I mean, I think it’s probably a little bit more involved than that, having reported safety concerns about products to Amazon myself, just telling them that something is unsafe doesn’t usually result in anything. It usually takes a little bit, a little bit more work than that.

Sure. So I think it probably is more involved, but I mean, we are certainly seeing it. We’re seeing it too often now, I think for it to just be user error internally and particularly this time of year, whenever we see a spike in anything that seems a little bit odd, chances are it’s an abuse tactic.

And honestly, like, not to encourage the black hats, but it’s a good way of, of getting somebody’s listing taken down for a longer period of time because you either have to convince Amazon that your product was not subject to a recall or you have to try to convince them that the inventory that they have is not subject to a recall, and otherwise they want you to remove all inventory before they’ll even consider reinstatement.

So first of all, you know it’s going to be confusing to whoever’s getting that notice. These product hasn’t been recalled, so that’s gonna take time for them to process. And then it’s a matter of. Checking to make sure that it isn’t actually subject to recall, and then getting documentation that says that it is not subject to recall, which, if you’re the brand owner, isn’t that hard to get because it’s really just you’re sending in a letter, but certifying that it isn’t subject to recall. But if you aren’t the manufacturer or Amazon doesn’t accept that letter immediately, Amazon then expects you to remove all inventory before they even consider reinstatement. So it’s potentially can slow somebody down for more than a day that’s getting that reinstated. 

[00:04:42] Chris: That’s what it’s about, right? This is to create disruption and to distract the competitor from selling and marketing and running ads and doing all the things they do to win sales from the Black hat seller. 

[00:04:56] Leah: Well, yeah, and I think similar to any sort of notification that somebody gets, that doesn’t make sense.

I think a lot of sellers kneejerk reaction would just be to send an email saying this wasn’t subject to a recall, what are you talking about and you know that’s not going to get you anywhere with Amazon. So just that back and forth of like, no, you’re wrong. No, we’re right. No, we’re not like that can slow a lot of sellers down, not realizing that they do need to provide that letter certifying that it’s not to a real recall. 

[00:05:22] Chris: Of course, as a brand, your attackers know that Amazon is going to send you copy and paste gibberish, worthless messaging and that they’re not gonna read what you send them. Like they’re counting on their being friction and back and forth when you try to appeal it, they know, I mean, this is what the fake IP complaints are about. It’s the same exact thing, right? Oh, I’m gonna take copies, my own copies of your images and put them on the internet somewhere, and then claim that you stole my photos.

[00:05:49] Leah: Like they don’t think it’s gonna work forever, but they’re just trying to get you down for as long as possible. 

[00:05:53] Chris: it sounds like a circus, It is a circus, but it works because Amazon is so slow to understand these concepts and so behind the curve, and by the way, I wouldn’t worry about encouraging or discouraging black hats. I mean, fraud and crime is their profession. 

[00:06:10] Leah: So yeah, I know they’re always, sometimes I’m like, I don’t want other people to know, you know?

[00:06:15] Chris: No, they’re already, first of all, they’re already stress testing and trying these things out before they become a thing. Then there’s a second round. I mean, we can have another episode just about Black hat operations in terms of how they think and what they’re after. But it’s pretty obvious, then a tactic works and they share it around their, you know, masterminds and their BS groups and their little fraudster shows.

[00:06:41] Leah: I have had cases where it is actually just like confirmed user error on Amazon’s part where they just like sent the wrong template . 

[00:06:50] Chris: That’s what I said. Well, that’s what I meant by a right click error. Like they’re just sending you the wrong damn thing. 

[00:06:54] Leah: Right. But I’ve had people internally on the phone with seller support saying that somebody internally had also like, accidentally marked the product as subject to a recall. So there are definitely user error issues with that. 

[00:07:09] Chris: That goes without saying, that goes without saying. Amazon could always, we don’t assume it’s black hat attacks, we just observe what we see. Suddenly there’s a spike and we start interpreting it just so everyone knows how, how we work. But, The errors on Amazon could easily respond and say, sorry, we sent you a message about a recall. There is no recall. Sorry about that. I mean, that is extremely common. Whether it’s a right click error or a one time right click error is possible or it could be a group of sellers who got the wrong message too. So the first step is identify which basket this problem belongs. And is it an attack? Is it abuse? When you’re talking to account health reps, make sure they’re really sharp and on the ball and with it in terms of was this just a mistake? Was it an error? Because reporting it as a complete and total Amazon mistake is one thing. Reporting abuse and demanding that Amazon step up to the plate and prevent abuse while fixing your listing and reinstating you, those are two different things and two different approaches. 

[00:08:14] Leah: Yeah, and it’s unfortunate because you don’t necessarily know which one it is. 

[00:08:19] Chris: Right. I understand you might need help interpreting that, which is one reason we’re talking about this today. A lot of times in mid to late November, you don’t really have time to spend sifting through all these details and trying to figure out what’s happening to you and that is one reason why we respond, you know, extra quickly during this high revenue holiday peak. But we do discourage people from guessing or supposing things or looking on the forums and saying, Hey, that sounds like what happened to me. I’m just gonna assume it is, and I’m gonna start drafting an appeal on that basis. A little more research and a little more work goes into it.

[00:08:58] Leah: Yeah, and I should also mention as well, these are handled by the product compliance team, not seller performance, so the usual three part plan of action with root calls, immediate step, future prevention, isn’t actually what they’re looking for here. The compliance team, they don’t want a plan of action. They just want documentation and proof that the product is in fact compliant. So don’t waste your time putting together a plan of action for this. It’s not going to the team that wants a plan of action and honestly, like what would the root causes even be? 

[00:09:31] Chris: No, disputes and protesting an action Amazon’s taken, you don’t do that in plan of action format. A lot of people do that, I think, right? Because they’re listening to the wrong thing, or they’re reading some whacked out article, or they’re on the forums getting bad advice. 

[00:09:44] Leah: And It’s just on the account health dashboard. It doesn’t show you which team it’s being routed to, so if you’re not handling these all the time like we are, you don’t necessarily realize that it’s going to a different team.

[00:09:54] Chris: True. And it’s a good occasion to remind people, read the message. Very closely. Don’t assume they want a plan of action, they might not even be asking you for one. We’ve seen a few people write a POA and send it to us to review it before they send it in, and then we look at the original notification and there’s no mention of plan of action in there anywhere.

 So I think they were just making assumptions. Make sure you know, you’re not blowing half a day writing a plan of action if it’s not even what’s being asked for?

[00:10:21] Leah: Right. Exactly. 

[00:10:22] Chris: Outside of compliance, I mean even for other, even for other things. So again, we know Q4, Peak holiday, you’re distracted, you’ve got a lot going on, but the details matter on these cases and whether or not it’s a complete Amazon screw up and they sent you the wrong template or a black hat attack. Two totally different outcomes, two totally different things. Do not waste time writing the wrong kind of thing and sending it in because Amazon could just respond saying, we have no idea what you’re talking about. 

[00:10:57] Leah: Actually, they’ll probably just respond with the original notification.

[00:11:00] Chris: right? Or they might just copy and paste the original. They love doing this, at this time of year, especially just to get some of these emails out of the queues so that they can stay within their SLAs, their service level agreements. 

[00:11:12] Leah: Yeah. And additionally, compliance are looking for documentation here. That doesn’t mean they want all documentation about absolutely anything. They want specific documentation showing in this case that the product has not been subject to a recall. Potentially, they may ask you for test reports depending on the type of product. Don’t send them a bunch of extraneous documentation that has nothing to do with anything that they’re asking for because once again, the investigators have a limited amount of time to review this.

If you send a bunch of extraneous information, chances are they’re just gonna reject it to get it off their desk and to keep within their KPI. 

[00:11:46] Chris: And take with a grain of salt, whatever you hear from an account, health rep or a seller support. 

[00:11:51] Leah: Oh, account health reps can’t really see anything to do with the clients.

[00:11:53] Chris: Well, I’m noticing more guessing and more maybe it’s this , maybe it’s that. I can’t really see. I don’t really know. And those are the only people you can call and talk to. . 

[00:12:05] Leah: Right. And even though it is on the account help dashboard, they don’t have access to the notes like they do for seller performance cases. 

[00:12:11] Chris: Take it with a grain of salt.

[00:12:12] Leah: Whatever they say is most likely going to be a guess.

[00:12:15] Chris: Right? We know this is vaguely frightening and somewhat confusing in some respects. If you have any questions on it, please let us know. thanks again, Leah. I’ll talk to you soon. 

[00:12:24] Leah: Thanks Chris.

Hosts & Guests

Chris McCabe

Leah McHugh


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