Amazon Account Reinstatement and Suspension Prevention

Amazon Seller News You Can Use – Is Arbitrage Changing?

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There’s a lot going on with Amazon right now. Amazon is getting closer and closer to shutting down retail arbitrage and online arbitrage on the platform. The customer dissatisfaction metrics are due to go live at long last in October. A new paid Seller Support program promises better support for those willing to pay. Sellers have discovered new tricks to manipulate seller reviews…and Amazon is catching them.

We are opening new markets in China and the UK to help sellers learn and implement best practices in their businesses including a conference on August 29 (ShenZhen, China) and on October 26 (London). We hope to meet our international clients!

Lesley will be speaking at SCOE. Cynthia will be speaking at ShenZhen (Seller Summit at the Sheraton) and Hong Kong, CES IV, the Feedvisor Conference in LA on September 12 and at the Retail Global event the next week in Las Vegas – please join us for dinner or drinks!

The End of Retail and Online Arbitrage?

Four reliable sources informed us that Seller Performance will no longer be accepting receipts as proof for anything. This has already happened in the groups that ungate categories and it has been slowly happening in practice at Seller Performance as they refuse more and more receipts from retailers (online and brick & mortar), even places like Disney.com or Coach or Nike outlet stores.

While we have seen this coming for a while, what surprised us was that the rumored planned date for implementation is “sometime in October.” If true, that’s awful news as it would be happening right before the holiday sales season. What’s yet to be seen is how Amazon plans to enforce this new policy. It could be disastrous as many sellers have already sent inventory to FBA for Q4 that they purchased from retail stores. This gives sellers very little time to shift gears to wholesale or private label.

Officially, Amazon stated that there are no “immediate term plans” to change how they accept receipts.  This is the difference between a casual conversation and what a public company will say out loud before they are ready.  My hope is this also means that we are looking at Q1 next year rather than Q4.  Regardless, it is my opinion, based on observation and working with the seller performance team that this change IS coming.

Why is Amazon moving in this direction? To protect the customer experience. Basically, they don’t consider items bought retail and resold to be

By shutting down arbitrage, they will also have fewer complaints from rights holders and big brands. Goods will likely be in better condition as many will be shipped in pallets.

Regardless of WHEN it happens, here’s the implications for sellers as we see them today:

  • More buyers will go to eBay as they realize it is the only platform for USED, COLLECTIBLE, discontinued and hard-to-find/exclusive NEW goods normally only found in retail stores.
  • Long-tail sales items will disappear from the platform.
  • Sellers will be taking a high risk if they sell USED media on the platform. Used items will decline.
  • It will be harder for sellers to start an Amazon business because more capital will be required.
  • It will be even easier for evil sellers to take RA/OA sellers down. We expect there will be a lot of bad behavior for a while.
  • Brand restrictions will increase and become even more common. Sellers will need to be pre-approved for many, many brands and prove they are buying from authentic sources as a matter of course.
  • OA/RA sourcing and scanning tools won’t be needed. This will be a financial blow to the industry.

Our Recommendations:

This is based on what we know today. Things may change. It is possible that Amazon won’t actually start suspending on this new rule until next year (that would be so nice). In the past, they warn in Q4 and suspend in January. Let’s hope that is true.

  • Make sure all your inventory is perfect, pristine and packaged properly for rugged travel.
  • As long as you never get inauthentic or counterfeit claims, you should be OK.
  • If you get an inauthentic claim and it is your first claim, Amazon will likely forgive you even though they won’t accept your receipts. If you get a claim, you will need to remove your other RA/OA inventory at that time.
  • If you’ve gotten three or more inauthentic/counterfeit claims in the past year, you will want to consider moving your inventory through another channel like eBay once the changes take place. You may not have any chances left. You can still use Amazon to fulfill your off-platform sales.
  • Sell off your RA/OA inventory as quickly as possible or move it to another platform.
  • Find new sources from wholesalers/distributors or directly from the manufacturer. Make sure all invoices are detailed and your sources are legit.
  • Understand that USED books, CDs, DVDs, etc. are susceptible to inauthentic claims same as NEW items. Most USED sellers don’t have good receipts let alone invoices.

What about the first sale doctrine?

The first sale doctrine says that you are allowed to resell items you bought in stores and other places and that brand owners can’t stop you from doing this since you paid retail when you bought the item. If you buy Coach bags from the outlet store and resell them, that’s arbitrage and is perfectly legal.

Just because it is legal, doesn’t mean Amazon has to allow you to do it on their platform. All it means is that the rights holders can’t stop you from re-selling goods you bought from these sources.  Coach can’t forbid you from reselling a Coach bag you bought at their store.

Amazon has the right to not accept receipts as proof of authentic. After all, they have no way of knowing for sure where the other stores got their merchandise.

What about you? Do you see other implications? Have questions? My mind is still processing all this. Ask your questions below and I’ll try to answer them.

Colleagues who attended the Women’s Conference in Seattle this week indicated that Amazon still seemed supportive of the RA/OA model.  I imagine this is true. What we’ve learned in our work with Amazon is that Seller Performance is different from the rest of the company.  It is quite possible for one group to not know what is happening with another.

Paid Seller Support Program

At the women’s conference this week, Amazon rolled out some interesting ideas. One of them was a paid Seller Support Plus program that will allow you to escalate your issues for $400 a month. Here’s what they said:

Seller Support Plus (SS+): A value-added service that gives you access to an experienced single point of contact (Seller Success Manager) to simplify your selling experience and allow you to focus on your business.

For a monthly subscription fee of $400, you will be able to escalate important issues to your Seller Success Manager for advanced troubleshooting and time-critical resolutions. By understanding you and your unique business, the Seller Success Manager will seek to remove persistent technical barriers and offer coaching opportunities during the course of your escalations. For more information, please send any questions to Seller-Support-Plus-Inquiries@amazon.com.

I was able to find out more today and basically, this is still Seller Support which means they can’t help you with Seller Performance issues like suspensions, listings take downs, policy violations, etc.  They will forward your email to seller performance and act as a “liaison.”  I have not seen that be particularly helpful in the past.  It is possible that these guys have a special queue with seller performance, but I wouldn’t bet my account on it.  They will help you get ungated and get a faster response from Seller Support.

In addition to the subscription service, they are offering basic training for new sellers for $100 to help them understand FBA, creating listings and stuff like that.  They have three different training modules (each $100). In listening to the description (we talked with one of their coaches), it is VERY basic. I think this will be helpful for new sellers but not anyone who has been selling for a few months unless you have a gap in your business like creating new listings.

Dissatisfaction Metrics To Go Live

Since last year Amazon has been tormenting sellers with the metrics of customer dissatisfaction rate and return dissatisfaction rate. At first they were going to go “live” in January, then February and then May and now…October. We’ll see if they really mean it. I’m glad they waited because a lot of my clients were failing the two metrics for lack of enough responses to make a statistically valid ratio of negatives to positives.

Assuming this intel is correct, what does it mean to you? If you are a MF seller it means that you need to really be on top of these metrics. If your metrics are poor now, think about how you can bring them up by October. In other words, how can you get happy, happy customer responses?

We’ve been helping some of our MF clients to create customer service templates that encourage buyers to leave positive responses or at least not to leave negative ones if they are unhappy.  You can contact us at customerservice@onlinesalesstepbystep.com to learn more. It is part of our Get Clean Stay Clean services.

Product Review Manipulation Still Rising

We continue to see sellers suspended for using product review companies that violate Amazon policy – even when the reviews are off the Amazon platform. Amazon is very serious about cracking down on paid reviews of any kind, fake reviews, overly enthusiastic reviews, those that are written before the buyer gets the product and reviews that don’t use the disclaimer. As an example of what Amazon is suspending for, in the past few weeks we’ve seen sellers who hired writers to create hundreds of fake Amazon buyer accounts and write fake reviews.

This kind of behavior led directly to Amazon’s new rules about reviewers in that they CANNOT leave a review unless they have bought at least one full-price product on the platform for more than $5.00. One client had literally thousands of reviews from people who opened an account JUST to leave a hyped-up review for their product.

While those examples may seem obvious, sellers need to know that ANYTHING that smacks of gaming the system is suspect. AMZ Tracker has been directly named in numerous suspensions but that hasn’t changed their business practices. This is a letter they sent their sellers recently. See if you can spot the problems:

Hey,

I know that all the analytics in the world won’t help if you don’t have any sales or reviews for your product. That’s why we set out to create the ultimate review network for you. We knew that AMZ Tracker wasn’t enough. We knew we had to help our users kick start their sales and reviews, so they could start climbing the ranks and begin making money with their products on Amazon.

We’ve created an ethical review network for paid subscribers called Amazon Review Trader where you can offer heavily discounted and free products in exchange for reviews.

This is the perfect way to get reviews when you’re just starting out. We literally have thousands of potential reviewers just waiting to review your product. These reviewers have the freedom to leave any type of review they want, but 99% of them will always leave 4 and 5 star reviews.

We monitor our reviewers’ profiles, and boot them out if they leave too many negative reviews. We only want reviewers who are eager and upbeat about trying new products.

If you don’t have at least 15 reviews (or more for more competitive niches) with an average of a 4 star rating or higher, you could be suffering as a result.

Check out Amazon Review Trader now in your AMZ Tracker paid account, so those analytics start showing GROWTH in sales!

To your Amazon success,

AMZ Tracker Team

Our postal address: 20th Floor, Central Tower,, 28 Queen’s Road, Central, Hong Kong

Several things to note: 1) they seem to be moving away from AMZ Tracker to a new service that seems to be the same; 2) they kick out reviewers who leave negative reviews; and 3) they guarantee 4- and 5-star reviews. All of these are against Amazon’s terms of service. I have no doubt we’ll be seeing suspensions shortly from this new entity. Because they are located in Hong Kong, it is hard for Amazon to go after THEM, but they are certainly able to go after the sellers who use them. Beware.  Amazon has recently started suing sellers as well as service providers.

What everyone needs to understand about product reviews is that Amazon can see EVERYTHING. The data they have is breathtaking. It is pointless to lie or try to fool them about your reviews. When they ask for your non-compliant reviews, they already know the answer – they just want to see if you will be honest about it.

There are other reviewer groups that have the same rules as AMZ Tracker and we’ve had clients suspended for using private Facebook groups to giveaway product. While the client’s post may have been compliant, the instructions to the reviewers in the group by the administrator was not.

Be very careful who you work with. Don’t take anyone’s word for it that they are compliant. Instead, compare their programs and reviewer messages to Amazon’s terms of service. Ask questions. Find out what they are telling their reviewers. Be suspicious of anyone who offers you “guaranteed page one” and other rosy promises. To get you there probably involves gaming the system or manipulation of the platform as Amazon calls it.

People ask us constantly who we recommend.  There is enough gray language in Amazon’s TOS about reviews that I can’t declare that any company is 100% compliant and so I don’t name names or make guarantees.  However, there are plenty of companies who are clearly NOT compliant.  We see their customers suspended over and over again.

If you plan to use a service, be sure you see everything that they say to their reviewers and that their process meets Amazon TOS for giveaways and discounted products. Remember that paid blogs are not acceptable to Amazon and they are tracking them.  Next, if reviewers are coerced or “encouraged” to contact the seller first before leaving a negative review, get away from that service as fast as you can.

In case you missed them, here’s links to my previous blog posts on product review services. The second one has a comparison chart:  Safe Product Review Program and More About Product Review Programs.

New Product Review Audit Service for PL Sellers

Because we’ve had so many suspended sellers for product reviews, we’ve created a proprietary software solution and approach to help identify which reviews are non-compliant in our clients’ accounts. This is especially helpful for our clients who are suspended because we can give Amazon a detailed list of non-compliant reviews and tell them WHY they are non-compliant. It goes a long way to getting our clients reinstated.

For clients who are not suspended but are concerned that their reviewers may not be following policy, we have an on-going audit service where we check their reviews each week for compliance. It is part of our Get Clean Stay Clean services.

If you are interested, send an email to: productreview@onlinesalesstepbystep.com. We don’t have official sign up forms yet but will get back to you. Pricing is based on the number of orders you’ve had over the past 3 months.

International Events in China and UK

Cynthia will be in China at the end of August speaking at a huge Amazon seller summit on Monday, August 29 at the Futian Sheraton in ShenZhen and at a special Amazon sellers’ meet-up in Hong Kong on August 31.

Register to attend this free conference now – seats are filling up. An all-star lineup of speakers includes WorldFirst, Wal-Mart, Jet.com, SlickDeals, Anker, SellerLabs, Marketplace Ignition, MerchantWords and much more!: Cross Border Trade eCommerce Seller Summit

Let’s Meet!

In addition to these awesome conferences, you will find us traveling the US over the next two months:

  • Seattle – SCOE. Lesley is speaking on the latest suspensions from Amazon. Use code CYNTHIA for $175 off! Join Lesley for dinner at the exciting Crow restaurant downtown. RSVP required.
  • Nashville – CES IV. Cynthia is talking about risk management in your Amazon business. Join her and Lesley both for dinner at Flyte restaurant downtown on the strip! RSVP here. Space limited to 20.
  • Los Angeles – Feedvisor conference. Cynthia is talking about the latest challenges facing high-volume sellers with Amazon suspensions. Sign up here for a $75 discount! (First 20 signups only. Expires 8/28/16) Use CODE LAVFC75.
  • Las Vegas – Retail Global conference. Sign up for $100 discount with code: STINE100. We will be co-hosting a meet and greet happy hour and dinner Thursday night Sept. 22 with the ScannerMonkey group. Register here – it’s free!
69 Comments
  • Debranator
    Posted at 21:49h, 19 August Reply

    I spoke to seller performance at length at the womens conference due to my forum thread on seller viruses.
    and I was assured that receipts WILL be accepted in the future if they are direct.
    This was SP that told me this.
    Direct receipts are for example..coach to coach and disney to disney.
    but they HAVE to be direct.
    Although they did caution that if the brand contacts amazon about the listings..the listings will be removed.
    But if there is a counterfeit claim and your receipts are direct.
    they will be accepted.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 00:26h, 20 August Reply

      In practice that is not consistently true, unfortunately. We’ve had trouble with Coach, Disney, etc. receipts. They are not consistent even today, which goes to show how poorly trained and the fast turnover they are experiencing in seller performance. Time will tell about the policy change, but I don’t recommend new sellers go into RA today based on how difficult it is to get reinstated TODAY from inauthentic claims.

  • Allison Morgan
    Posted at 22:20h, 19 August Reply

    So will this apply to any items we have already purchased and sent in to FBA? They won’t just ask for a reciept for no reason will they?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 00:22h, 20 August Reply

      No. They will only ask for receipts if your item(s) is getting complaints from buyers of being inauthentic/counterfeit.

      Cynthia

      • J
        Posted at 11:02h, 22 August Reply

        I have a rights holder complaint but it is not clear why. My account manager said the complaint was made because the products should not be sold in Europe. I’ve also been asked to provide invoices/receipts, does this mean its possible someone also complained the items may be fake? None of these products actually sold.

        • Cynthia Stine
          Posted at 19:00h, 23 August Reply

          The rights holder caught up to you somehow. You are facing both an inauthentic and rights holder complaint. You are accused of buying from the gray market. You cannot sell this product in Europe for some reason. It could be because of regulations, ingredients, chemical composition – anything. It can also be because the distributor has territories to protect and you are not authorized to sell in Europe.

          Providing invoices may not help you in this case.

          Cynthia

        • Cynthia Stine
          Posted at 23:53h, 25 August Reply

          No. It is because you are selling gray market/inauthentic goods. You will need to work with the rights holder to resolve this isse.

  • Christy Crenshaw
    Posted at 23:02h, 19 August Reply

    Cynthia,
    Thank you for taking the time to write this article and pass on this valuable information.
    I have had my first inauthentic claim on a pair Dr. Scholls shoes….seriously…Dr. Scholls?! Anyway, when you say to remove the rest of my RA/OA product, do you mean the rest of the Shoes or anything I have gotten from RA? The complaint was on one pair, size 8.5 and that is the only size they have blocked the listing for. All the other sizes are fine. Should I respond to Amz about this claim? I only have Walmart receipts to back up my claim that they are in fact authentic Dr. Scholls.
    I am actively trying to move away from RA anyway but like many other RA/OA are my life line at this point. I attended ASD on Eddies recommendation and I wonder if closeout sources will be good enough? It seemed to me there are a lot of random companies that sell to whomever and the manufacturer will still not know who has the right to sell their products. It feels like I am arbitrating with a middle man. The wholesale brokers that sell truckloads of goods…returns and everything mixed in, will they be good enough?

    Thanks again,
    Christy Crenshaw

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 00:21h, 20 August Reply

      Christy, you ask great questions. First of all, Amazon is still accepting receipts today so your Wal-mart receipts should be OK and get you back in Amazon’s good graces with the right to sell Dr. Scholl’s. What I mean by removing the rest of your inventory is that if you get an inauthentic complaint AND YOU ARE SUSPENDED and they are not accepting your receipt, then you will have to throw yourself on their mercy and promise to never sell inauthentic items from that source again. They SHOULD let you back on, but now you have to remove ALL your inventory from that source – like Marshall’s for example – not just that one ASIN.

      Your 8.5 was targeted because there was a specific claim from a buyer on that size.

      Eddie does not buy from random companies. Most of his purchases at ASD are from the manufacturer or an authorized distributor. He vets his suppliers carefully. I know this for a fact. Closeout is fine if it the manufacturer’s closeout. I have plenty of clients who are selling overstocks and discontinued directly from the manufacturer or an authorized distributor.

      They guys selling truckloads of goods with returns mixed in are LIQUIDATORS. Their invoices are generally not accepted by Amazon already. You need to buy from authorized sources.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

  • Aykhan
    Posted at 02:33h, 20 August Reply

    Hi Cynthia, thank you very much for such a valuable information.
    As i’m a newbie on Amazon, i want to clarify for myself what is retail and online arbitrage ?
    It means now, Amazon can suspend soon (for a 2-3 months) who just only buy from manufacturer (in China, for example) products and resell them on Amazon for a higher price ? Am i understand, right?
    So amazon wants us to register brand right at the beginning of our sales, am i understand you right ?

    Thank you very much in advance.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 19:32h, 21 August Reply

      Retail arbitrage is when sellers buy products in retail stores for a low price and resell on Amazon for a higher price. Online Arbitrage is the same except you are buying from online retailers and having inventory delivered to your house or warehouse. If you are buying from the manufacturer with an invoice, you are fine. If you have a brand, you should protect it with the brand registry, yes.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • Andy
    Posted at 05:51h, 20 August Reply

    Hi Cynthia,

    This is a great article that really hits home for me since I just currently do arbitrage right now…and I feel like private label is becoming way harder to do too and runs it’s own sort of risks selling on Amazon as well. Anyways, I’m doing RA/OA for this 4th quarter, and reading this article made me very nervous and I have some questions if you don’t mind answering:

    1) If I get a counterfeit/inauthentic claim for just 1 arbitrage item, do I need to send a receipt to AMZ? Or can I just be proactive, immediately refund the customer, remove all items of that SKU out of Amazon warehouses, and delete my listing of that SKU, and then usually be good to go without having to worry about providing a retail receipt (Walmart, Target, etc) or having to deal with AMZ?

    2) As of August 2016, does Amazon still accept Target receipts, Walmart receipts, Toys R Us, other big box stores, for claims of authenticity of an item? What about big box online receipts, which often do not include UPC code? I try to keep all my receipts, but some SKUs I don’t have receipts for since I have so many different SKUs.

    3) If I get multiple counterfeit/inauthentic claims, you mentioned to clear my inventory for Amazon. Can I still use Amazon to fulfill off platform orders through ebay orders, even if Amazon suspends my account? Sorry, I’m just confused as to what best to do if I receive multiple inauthentic claims and not sure if I should clear out my inventory out of Amazon or still keep it in Amazon warehouses and sell it off platform to ebay orders.

    4) I have A LOT of arbitrage inventory (over 1000 units), do you recommend liquidating my arbitrage inventory before October? Or should I wait out the storm and wait until January 2017?

    Thanks so much for the help!

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 19:28h, 21 August Reply

      Andy,

      1) You don’t need to send receipts/invoices to Amazon until they ask for them.
      2) Yes, right now they accept invoices from most big box stores. Online receipts are trickier. I suggest you keep all your packing slips as well as online receipts to prove to Amazon that you did receive the goods. It is too easy to manipulate digital receipts which is why Amazon doesn’t like them.
      3) You don’t need to clear out your inventory until Amazon suspends you, technically. At that point, you will need to tell them that you won’t sell RA/OA any more and you’ll need to close your listings that come from those sources. You can still fulfill eBay/Craigs List/Jet.com/Etsy orders with that inventory rather than bringing it back.
      4) No. But I do recommend you try really hard to sell it all during 4th quarter. Don’t take a bath on it, but be aggressive in selling. Reprice often.

  • Scott
    Posted at 06:08h, 20 August Reply

    I applied to be ungated in health and beauty last weekend and was denied for only submitting a retail receipt. They told me they needed an invoice. Does this conversation umbrella being ungated also or is it just in reference to providing proof of purchase if returns and counterfeit claims come into play? Obviously I’d like to be ungated in as many categories as possible.

    I just started off doing RA a few months ago and I am disappointed that it sounds like I am way late to the party. I’d like to transition to PL sooner than later but was hoping to use RA to build up the funds to be able to do that. Any feedback or help is appreciated as I begin to try to find my niche.

    Thanks,
    -Scott

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 19:22h, 21 August Reply

      Scott,

      You have to have invoices to be ungated in health, beauty or grocery. They don’t accept receipts any longer. We don’t know exactly when Amazon implement/enforce the no receipt rule for proof of authenticity. I’m hoping it will be after Q4. If you are very careful about your inventory and make sure it is pristine and well-protected, you should be able to avoid inauthentic claims. Most of them come from buyer PERCEPTION rather than reality.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • sandy
    Posted at 06:19h, 20 August Reply

    If you are already authorized to sell in certain categories-health and beauty-grocery-etc. are you grandfathered in or will Amazon take your privileges of selling away requesting new invoices
    Thank you
    Sandy

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 15:53h, 21 August Reply

      Sandy,

      You won’t lose your category privileges, but they will ask for invoices if you have an inauthentic complaint. Currently, they are still accepting some receipts.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • Frank Critelli
    Posted at 06:19h, 20 August Reply

    I think any seller using fake review sites banned for life..

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 15:52h, 21 August Reply

      Most sellers can recover from one suspension for fake reviews. As long as they change their business practices and turn over all the manipulative/fake reviews, they can keep selling. Repeat offenders have a much harder time of it. Some don’t get back.

  • Susie
    Posted at 06:26h, 20 August Reply

    Hi Cynthia

    As always, I’m grateful for this information, even if it scares the hell out of me. I primarily sell used books on the .ca platform, and I wonder what ramifications these changes will have on me. I can’t visualize an Amazon without a robust used book inventory. Is it the end of used books too?

    Thank you
    Susie

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 15:51h, 21 August Reply

      I hope not, but now used book sellers have to think about authenticity and counterfeit in their items, too. If your books are in very good to like new condition, you should be OK. I polybag most of my books to keep them clean and safe in the warehouse. It is a pain in the @#$@ but it keeps my complaints down. Most complaints are PERCEPTION issues on the part of the buyer. The better your merchandise, the fewer your complaints and returns.

  • Greg
    Posted at 08:18h, 20 August Reply

    Cynthia, thanks for this article. A large portion of my Amazon business is used textbooks, which is a massive market, and includes multiple million-dollar sellers. It is also a market with a relatively high customer complaint rate (especially the bigger sellers, some of which hover around 85% feedback year-round). There are constantly problems with sellers listing books with inaccurate condition notes, missing media, wrong edition, etc. However, the customers in this market are generally pretty forgiving, up to a point.
    Do you anticipate Amazon treating this market the same as Disney and Coach resellers?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 18:16h, 21 August Reply

      Yes, especially textbooks, unfortunately.

  • Greg
    Posted at 08:22h, 20 August Reply

    Cynthia, have you ever considered starting a fully TOS compliant review service, if there is such a thing?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 15:48h, 21 August Reply

      I’m not sure there is such a thing. There is some vague language in Amazon’s rules and gray areas. In addition, sellers can find ways to abuse just about any program. One of the companies that I think tries very hard to do the right thing and is conservative in their interpretations is Snagshout. Even so, I’ve seen some of their clients abuse their rules and put up too many products for review on any given day (risk of “excessive”). I have clients who have tried them and leave because they feel they are too conservative and they (the seller) wants more reviews faster or they want to contact the reviewers who leave poor reviews and get them to change their reviews. So…no. I’m not playing in that sandbox. In the end, sellers need to understand that if they want to game the system, Amazon will catch them and put a stop to it eventually. Sellers who are willing to play by Amazon’s rules will be fine but they won’t have that overnight success they crave.

  • Ken
    Posted at 09:50h, 20 August Reply

    Hey Cynthia, thanks for your invaluable information as always. We have been ungated in most categories and we are strictly RA and some OA. Is it possible/likely that during fourth quarter Amazon will all of a sudden ask for invoices/ Proof of purchase?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:55h, 21 August Reply

      Ken,

      They might IF you get an inauthentic or counterfeit claim. Hopefully they will continue to accept receipts for a while. I just don’t know. If they don’t accept your receipt and it is a first-time problem, you should be fine, but you will need to assess your inventory sourcing at that point.

      Cynthia

  • Bruce
    Posted at 12:54h, 20 August Reply

    Cynthia, if I understand you correctly, are you saying that if Amazon implements this policy, maybe in about a year’s time, the only thing you will be able to do as a seller is private label and wholesale items?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:48h, 21 August Reply

      Not exactly. What I’m saying is it will be a riskier proposition to do RA/OA. I know of some sellers who have very clean accounts and who are very careful with what they sell. They’ve never had an inauthentic complaint or it was a long time ago. They could continue with RA/OA most likely. If they did get a complaint, their account could afford it. For many others, that isn’t the case and they will not be able to continue. It is my hope that Amazon will give us a long transition time so it is not such a hardship to sellers.

      • Russell
        Posted at 09:06h, 23 August Reply

        Cynthia,
        I think the problem is deeper than it first appears as without RA Amazon will take a hit on sales as you stated. Yet, if they think it is good for them than fine. I ran into an inauthentic claim and had to provide an invoice which I had. I was still allowed to sell the item but was told that further complaints can affect my seller standing blah blah.

        If you provide them an invoice and they let you keep selling your out of the woods or does that count against you? I ask as I know for a damn fact the person who purchased the item (I sold two big deal) was a competitor and I know their game. I am thinking of purchasing one from them and doing it to them but I believe in karma and don’t want to violate my selling account.

        Here is the note below am I good or is this a policy violation? You bring up a good point this wasn’t RA or OA and I had an invoice from the authorized distributor but if I hadn’t I would have taken a hit. I stay away from TJ Maxx, etc since reading your book :).

        Hello,

        You may continue to sell these items on Amazon.com:

        ASIN: Removed for privacy…
        If we receive more complaints about your listings, we may not allow you to sell on Amazon.com.

        Sincerely,

        Seller Performance Team
        Amazon.com
        https://www.amazon.com

        • Cynthia Stine
          Posted at 18:56h, 23 August Reply

          They’ve reinstated you on this ASIN. If you continue to get inauthentic complaints on this ASIN, they will take you down again because the problem is obviously not resolved.

          I would not retaliate against your competitor because what he is doing is a policy violation and you will be in violation too if you do the same thing. If you are confident it is a competitor you can turn him in for a policy violation.

          Sincerely,
          Cynthia

          • Russell
            Posted at 12:12h, 24 August

            Cynthia,
            I removed the ASIN 🙂 just glad it didn’t hurt my account and I did report them as your book says to do :). I didn’t retaliate I did in all honesty think about it :). Love you for being you

        • Cynthia Stine
          Posted at 23:52h, 25 August Reply

          Russell,

          This is the standard answer. You are good to go.

          Cynthia

  • Alice
    Posted at 14:34h, 20 August Reply

    Thank you Cynthia, as always, for imparting such useful, up to date information, and paramount information on the current landscape of what is happening with Amazon. With regards to Amazon no longer accepting RA/OA receipts as valid authenticity of new goods, I completely agree with Amazon. If Amazon were my platform, I would not want my brand and reputation to be so vulnerable to what so many resellers send in to sell to my customers. The return rate and amount of unsatisfied customers has been a growing problem, because there are so many resellers out there that clearly just do not grasp the importance of sending in pristine products, free of dust, box blemishes, sticky residue left from price stickers, etc. Quite frankly, when I was first learning about selling on Amazon last year, I was shocked that they were so lenient. So far, everything that I have heard about new rules from Amazon has seemed quite logical. Again thank you for keeping us current!

  • Jim Carruth
    Posted at 14:51h, 20 August Reply

    Cynthia,

    Was your source on this info about Amazon discontinuing RA from someone who works for Amazon? You said you had three sources. How reliable do you think they are? I was just curious as to how to weigh the info you provided.

    Thanks,
    jcarruth

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:31h, 21 August Reply

      I felt they were very reliable. I hesitated to write this post and made calls because I wanted to be sure. Nonetheless, there is no telling what Amazon will actually do until they do it. They could change their mind or delay the notice of the program until next year. Assuming that they move ahead, I hope they give sellers plenty of time to transition. Sellers who have not gotten any inauthentic claims in the past 6 months have a cushion and are less vulnerable to a future claim.

  • Wendy Owen
    Posted at 18:48h, 20 August Reply

    I closed my seller account last week. I have never felt happier. It was not for me.

  • Travis Olson
    Posted at 22:31h, 20 August Reply

    Hi Cynthia, first time vistor to your site and reading both your books for the first time now :).

    I’m a new drop shipping seller on amazon and ebay. If I understand your post correctly as it relates to drop shipping:

    1: In the future amazon sellers will not be able to sell high on amazon and buy low from an ebay seller.
    Instead I will have to find a drop shipping supplier directly to buy low and have them ship to my potential amazon customer. Is my understanding correct?

    2: Amazon is going to cramp down on fake reviews. (Never been a fan of buying fake review.) Correct?

    3: If I have questions about listing a drop shipping product what information do I need to have on hand to list my product so that I don’t get in trouble with amazon?

    Thank you for your time and help Cynthia :).

    To your happiness, health, and success,

    Travis Olson

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:28h, 21 August Reply

      Travis,

      You already are forbidden to buy from online retailers to drop ship on Amazon. You already cannot buy from an eBay seller to sell on Amazon. They do not accept eBay receipts as proof of authenticity. They are already coming down hard on sellers who abuse the product review system. Make sure your drop shipping partner is reliable and an authorized seller of the goods like the manufacturer or an authorized distributor.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • Travis Olson
    Posted at 23:34h, 20 August Reply

    Also how does the above article relate to their drop shipping policy as copied and pasted here:

    “Drop Shipping Policy

    Drop shipping, or allowing a third party to fulfill orders to customers on your behalf, is generally acceptable. If you intend to fulfill orders using a drop shipper, you must always:

    Be the seller of record of your products;

    Identify yourself as the seller of your products on all packing slips and other information included or provided in connection with them;

    Be responsible for accepting and processing customer returns of your products; and
    Comply with all other terms of your seller agreement and applicable Amazon policies.
    Examples of drop shipping that is not permitted:

    Purchasing products from another online retailer and having that retailer ship directly to customers; or
    Shipping orders with packing slips, invoices, or other information indicating a seller name or contact information other than your own.

    Failure to comply with these requirements may result in the suspension or removal of your selling privileges.”

    https://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html?ie=UTF8&nodeId=201808430

    Thank you Cynthia

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 14:25h, 21 August Reply

      The receipt news is about retail and online retailer receipts. If you are drop shipping directly from the manufacturer or authorized distributor, you should be fine. It is already against terms of service to drop ship from another online retailer.

      Hope this helps!
      Cynthia

      • Travis Olson
        Posted at 23:24h, 21 August Reply

        Thank you for your time and feedback I really appreciate that Cynthia!

        That makes since Amazon wants the best experience for both sellers and buyers. I was thinking of using authorized distributors directly since I’m sure amazons drop shipping policies will continue to evolve.

        1: Just out of curiosity what does amazon look for in an invoice to make sure it it’s violating their policies? I’m sure this is a basic question, but I’d rather be on the safe side of knowing.

        Thank you for your time and help :).

        To your happiness, health, and success,

        Travis

        • Cynthia Stine
          Posted at 00:08h, 22 August Reply

          Travis,
          Your invoice needs to be unadulterated, NOT a spreadsheet and have the UPC code and a detailed description of the product on it. The shipping address needs to match the one that Amazon has on file for you as well. The date of the invoice needs to be within 180 days of the warning/notification you get from Amazon for inauthentic or counterfeit.

          Hope this helps!
          Cheers,
          Cynthia

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  • Giles
    Posted at 03:03h, 21 August Reply

    I happen to be in Shenzhen on the 29th and would love to come – but the link you posted is all in chinese – do you have one to a link in English?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 12:41h, 21 August Reply

      I’ll get one and send to you ASAP. I’m delighted!

  • Dave
    Posted at 10:30h, 21 August Reply

    Cynthia:

    I am just starting with used books and wondering if it will be worth the effort. Your statement “Understand that USED books, CDs, DVDs, etc. are just as susceptible to inauthentic claims as NEW items” concerns me. Do you believe this will be as serious a problem for used books as it is for RA/OA of new merchandise.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 12:36h, 21 August Reply

      Dave,

      I’ve not seen it nearly as often as inauthentic claims on new items, but it does happen. I think if you plan to sell textbooks you need to educate yourself on the ways to tell a fake from a genuine so you won’t sell counterfeit by accident. If you find a CD/DVD/Video that is not already on the platform I would be cautious about adding it. These are the most counterfeited items in media. Some items are really hard to tell if they are counterfeit. Be sure to check your item against the image and description in the catalog before sending in. This is particularly true of books that have lots of versions (vintage cookbooks for example). You want to make sure you match exactly. This will reduce the chances of you selling a counterfeit by accident. If you can buy from sources that will give you a detailed receipt, all the better. I DO buy from used bookstores, etc., where I have a receipt with the name of the book on it. With the changes I’ve heard are coming, I’ll have to stop that as well…but not yet. It hasn’t happened yet that they refuse receipts.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • Max
    Posted at 17:56h, 21 August Reply

    Hi Cynthia,

    I have a few thousand dollars invested in OA inventory and I am a new seller by the way.
    So far haven’t had any counterfeit claims but like you are saying, even Wallmart and Disney receipts are not being accepted if someone makes a counterfeit claim? Is that starting right now or in Q4 ?

    Secondly, I do OA from certain stores such as shopko.com or boscovs.com which are not very well known. At this present time – are their invoices being accepted or should I stick to more known stores like Nike/Adidas/Wallmart/Kmart etc.??

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 19:00h, 21 August Reply

      Max,

      Right now Amazon is accepting receipts from some online sites but not others. My suggestion to you is to keep all your receipts AND all your packing slips that come with the boxes to prove that you got delivery of the inventory. If your listing is taken down for inauthentic, the more back up you have, the better.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • Alex Smith
    Posted at 18:15h, 21 August Reply

    I have a question for you about Inauthentic claims. Back in January of this year, I received the notice below from seller performance. I removed the name of the item and the asin. It was a toy and it was purchased through OA. Would you consider this an inauthentic claim? The item was never restricted and I did not have to provide any type of proof of authentic to get it restated. Or do you consider inauthentic claims where Amazon restricts you from the listing and you have provide evidence to prove the item’s authentic?

    The reason I asked is because this notice is different from the inauthentic claim that I received several years ago where the seller performance emailed me and stated that I was no longer allowed to sell the item. The message said it was due to customer complaints and that all items must be authentic to sell on amazon. I am restricted from the item. I never attempted to get the item restated because I realize the brand was restricted.

    Hello,

    We have removed your listing because of a buyer complaint about the condition of one of your FBA items. Your listing will remain inactive until you relist the item. However, we would like you to resolve this concern in order to avoid additional complaints.
    Complaint Type ASIN Title
    Inauthentic

    To maintain a trusted marketplace for buyers and sellers, we take immediate action when we identify a buyer complaint regarding the condition and authenticity of products.
    What you can do

    Review your listing. Make sure the item you are selling:

    Exactly matches the product description shown on the detail page.
    Is listed accurately according to our Condition Guidelines.

    You can edit your listings in the Inventory section of Seller Central
    What happens next

    Please remember that additional complaints about your listings may result in the removal of your Amazon selling privileges.
    Learn more

    Sellers should understand our policies regarding product condition. To learn more, search “Prohibited Seller Activities and Actions”, “Product Detail Page Rules”, and “Condition Guidelines” in Seller Central Help.

    Still have questions? You can ask our Seller Support team: Contact us

    We appreciate your cooperation and thank you for selling on Amazon.

    Seller Performance Team

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 18:19h, 21 August Reply

      This was a warning. If you had gotten another inauthentic it would have been more serious.

      • Alex Smith
        Posted at 18:53h, 21 August Reply

        To be clear when you say if I had gotten another inauthentic claim it would have been more serious do you mean a claim for this particular item? Or for any of the items that I sell?

  • Lacey Sanders
    Posted at 15:41h, 23 August Reply

    I don’t think I have ever gotten an inauthentic claim but do you have steps in Seller Central to check for this?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 18:53h, 23 August Reply

      Lacey,

      You need to check your returns reports and look for buyers who are returning items and claiming “inauthentic.” Amazon will notify you through the performance notifications when you get more than one on an ASIN as well.

      Cynthia

  • Jessica
    Posted at 07:33h, 24 August Reply

    I want to use multiple prep centers for wholesale orders to get items faster and to save on shipping. Would you not recommend this since then my account address will not match my shipping address if I ever need to provide an invoice? Or do you think since it is wholesale (sourced from authorized source) that the addresses matching is not an issue then?

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 23:48h, 25 August Reply

      It is ok to use multiple prep centers as long as they are set up in your Seller Central to send in shipments for you, it won’t be a problem.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

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  • Vincent
    Posted at 20:37h, 25 August Reply

    Cynthia,

    Can I still get a seat for the Amazon seller summit on Monday, August 29 at the Futian Sheraton in ShenZhen? I’ve tried to register but it looks like it’s closed already. Thx.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 23:47h, 25 August Reply

      I will do my best. I’m sending your request to one of the show organizers.

      Sincerely,
      Cynthia

  • James
    Posted at 10:27h, 26 August Reply

    Hey Cynthia,
    Ive always found used media to be low risk and generally safer than RA. For which reasons do you feel it will become high risk?
    Thanks

    • carlo
      Posted at 19:22h, 13 October Reply

      It is higher risk than it was. Used was safe from the robots for a long time, now it isn’t. I’ve had clients suspended for selling counterfeit textbooks (unknowingly) and I’ve even gotten an inauthentic complaint on one of my old books. Naturally I can’t prove authenticity on any of them to Amazon’s satisfaction. This increases the risk in selling in that category. Compared to Health or Beauty, books are MUCH less likely to get complaints.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

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  • Bobbi
    Posted at 18:32h, 28 August Reply

    Cynthia,

    Why do you say that scouting/scanning tools won’t be needed anymore?

    Thanks,

    Bobbi

    • carlo
      Posted at 16:10h, 13 October Reply

      They won’t be as widely used because retail arbitrage won’t be as widely practiced. I know some folks still scan when they are at wholesale shows, but many wholesale sellers simply buy from catalogs or use the Amazon seller app for a quick look up.

  • Daniel
    Posted at 04:54h, 25 September Reply

    I work at Amazon and also sell FBA, and there is no reason that Receive cannot inspect merchandise for dust/dirt, etc and reassign ‘conditions’ that may mismatch what went in the box vs what arrived at the warehouse.

    Moreover, ICQA (Inventory control Quality Assurance) does extremely simple tasks at the moment, including simple bin counts and record counts, but should also extend their practice to make sure that items are stored correctly in bins and remove the damaged ones. Having worked as an order picker for a time, I’ve seen hundreds of items fall on the floor from problems with the KIVA machines or sloppy pickers. A picker could literally just toss an item on the floor if they are frantically digging through a bin looking for the right ASIN, UPC, LPN or whatever, with literally zero consequences. Amnesty (KIVA problem-solvers) are required to pickup everything on the floor or in bins and either take it to Damageland or give it back to Stow at a later time.

    Not to get too far off track, the point is that items are treated with a bit too much blasé in the warehouse, so even ‘New’ items we might get from a bookstore may ‘look’ worn, beat-up, and tattered when the receivers, stowers, pickers, packers, and shippers are done with them, especially if it went through Amnesty and Problem Solve channels. While the point with their flow is to have 6-10 human beings actually inspect the merchandise as it passes through the fulfillment engine, usually with that many hands on it it ends up with more damaged than not.

    My advice? Don’t buy anything not in shrink wrap or in a VERY sturdy container that can’t easily be dented or mis-shaped (such as, a metal lunchbox as opposed to a used cardboard board-game). The way items are treated in the warehouse is nothing short of appalling, and something needs to be done on AMAZON’s end FIRST, before they start blaming US for THEIR lazy F-ups.

  • Rusty
    Posted at 21:54h, 02 May Reply

    Cynthia,

    I just started selling about 6 months ago, and within the past two months discovered a few niches with online arbitrage that have offered great success. After doing some reading today, I’m fearful that I may not be what is considered “Authorized” to sell these products. Though I have purchased them all from legitimate distributors or wholesalers online, I am not directly authorized to sell them from the manufacturer. I am having trouble understanding whether or not I am ok to sell these items or not, and if Amazon would simply accept my invoices from distributors / wholesalers as proof and support, or if I actually need to get approval from each manufacturer in order to list. Could you share your thoughts? Thank you.

    • Cynthia Stine
      Posted at 21:09h, 05 June Reply

      Rusty,

      If your suppliers are buying direct from the manufacturer/brand owner AND they have permission to resell to you for sale on Amazon.com, then you are fine. You don’t need a letter from the manufacturer if you are buying through a middle man but you do need to conduct due diligence to make sure that your supplier is buying from a legitimate source.

      Cheers,
      Cynthia

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